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Veto threat is made on GOP debt bill

President Obama says he’ll veto the conservative “Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011,” which links a debt limit vote to spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment, if it comes to him.

“Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility,” the White House said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Increasing the Federal debt limit, which is needed to avoid a Federal government default on its obligations and a severe blow to the economy, should not be conditioned on taking these actions. Instead of pursuing an empty political statement and unrealistic policy goals, it is necessary to move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground.”

The futility of cut, cap and balance in one graphic

The Republicans’ cut-cap-and-balance plan — perhaps better know to readers of this blog as The Worst Idea in Washington — will get a vote this week. The proposal would, among other things, cap federal spending at 18 percent of the previous year’s gross domestic product. The last time we were anywhere near there wasn’t during George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. It was in 1966. The Center for American Progress has an informative graphic tallying up some of the changes between now and then:

Moody’s wants the debt ceiling gone

Moody’s wants the US to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely. This is very, very good policy. Denmark is the only other country with a comparable setup, and other developed countries seem to get on fine without it. Indeed, the U.S. got on fine without it between 1979 and 1995, when the “Gephardt rule” meant that spending bills that increased the debt automatically increased the debt ceiling as well.

But it’d also be smart politics for Obama to insist on full elimination of the debt ceiling, rather than a temporary increase. The current setup means that every year he needs the House GOP to sign on to both a budget and/or continuing resolution AND an increase in the debt ceiling. That means two occasions every year where John Boehner has leverage to demand policy changes. Eliminating the debt ceiling would cut in half the number of standoffs like that.

Then again, it’s also possible that Obama wants Boehner to have leverage, as Obama’s policy preferences lie to the right of those of House Democrats, and giving Boehner more power allows him to sell cuts to his party that it otherwise would not support. In that case it would make perfect sense for Obama to not push to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely.


A New Way to Get Your Credit Score for Free


[…] Starting this week, that’s going to change. Consumers who are denied a loan or who have to pay higher interest rates because their credit scores aren’t high enough will get to peek behind the curtain. New regulations that kick in July 21 will require lenders to share your credit score with you if that score was the basis for the decision to deny you a loan or charge you more for it.

Currently, you can get a copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major bureaus at, but that information doesn’t include your score. You can buy a copy of your score, but it might not have been the one the lender was using. They might have been using a score issued by a different bureau, or the score itself might have been different.

Here’s where it gets a little confusing: Lenders can ask a credit bureau to generate a score using a specific type of risk modeling, and the formulas for, say, a car loan are different from those for a mortgage, personal loan and so on. Since the calculations are slightly different, so are the final scores. Now, you’ll be able to see exactly what bank or finance department saw when they requested an inquiry into your credit score. You’ll also get information about credit scores as well as information about how to get a free copy of your credit report.

“They are going to see the score that the lender in fact used, which is nice because so many of the scores people buy aren’t what lenders use, which is confusing,” says Craig Watts, public affairs director for FICO. “This is going to be a boon for consumers, who can learn why they were declined and what they can do to change their credit rating.” FICO runs the website, which explains lenders’ new obligations in more detail.

There are a handful of exceptions to the new rule; if lenders use an in-house system for determining creditworthiness and bypass the bureaus, or if they don’t use a credit score to make their decisions, they don’t have to provide you with a score. Since the majority of mainstream financial institutions that rely on credit scores when originating loans, this new requirement will give borrowers with less-than-perfect credit access to a previously unavailable trove of information.


It’s not jobs vs. deficits

Ezra Klein:

On Friday, President Obama made the case for why the left should be concerned about deficits:

If you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you’re a conservative. And the reason is because if the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, two years, five years is debt and deficits, then it’s very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained. How do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure.

If you care about making investments in our kids, and making investments in our infrastructure, and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order so that every time we propose a new initiative, somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say “more big spending, more government.”

Brad DeLong thinks that he should have made the case for why conservatives should care about jobs:

If you are a conservative, you should be even more concerned about reducing unemployment and speeding growth right now than if you are a progressive. And the reason is that rapid economic recovery is the only thing that could materially reduce the burden of the debt over the next one, two, or three years. Policies adopted to reduce the deficit will largely fail without a strong recovery.

So if you care about reducing the burden of the debt in the future, you should care very much today about making investments in our kids, making investments in our infrastructure, and making investments in basic research to boost the long-run growth rate of the American economy — and you should care most of all about using active expansionary fiscal, monetary, and banking policies to boost aggregate demand, because without strong demand growth we will not get the strong revenue growth needed to reduce the deficit.

Seems to me that they’re both right. The most frustrating fact about our political system right now is we’re missing a huge opportunity for a solution that simultaneously cuts deficits and creates jobs because Republicans have decided, wrongly, that only deficit reduction through spending cuts will create jobs.


Conversations With Great Minds: Global activist Van Jones – Part 1

Conversations With Great Minds: Global activist Van Jones – Part 2


Plastic purge: The poo problem

I mentioned my dog, Hank, when I wrote about my epic two-hour trip to the grocery store. Anyone who has a dog probably read that and knew right away about a major source of plastic waste in my life — poo bags.

I did a quick Google search and found that there are about 77 million pet dogs in the United States. So, let’s see … 77 million times two or three poops a day … well, you can just imagine the staggering number of plastic bags that wind up in our landfills due to pet waste.

This is a time when paper bags can’t come to the rescue. Realistically, I think picking up dog poo with paper bags would just be too gross. But that doesn’t mean we have to use nonbiodegradable materials which will hang around forever. So on Friday after work I set out to find other options. Also, I wanted to find treats that don’t have plastic packaging. Because who could deny Hank his treats? Look at that face!

I started by heading over to Petco because I figured this was a place that lots of people have access to in their towns. Check it out! A doggy treat salad bar! So, Petco delivered on the treats without plastic wrapping. They provided plastic bags but had no problem with me using one of our cloth grocery bags from home. Hank can now have treats again!

However, Petco failed to deliver in the more eco-friendly poo bag options. None of their plastic bags appeared to be biodegradable and the plastic bags were all packaged in — yep, you got it — plastic bags.

Too bad. So I hopped back on my bike and rode over to Whole Pets to see what options they had. What I found was that Whole Pets came through in both areas. They had baskets full of unwrapped bones and treats, plus they also sold pet waste bags made from biodegradable cornstarch. Is this an ideal solution? I don’t know. But it’s better than millions of plastic bags being pitched into the trash each year.

My conclusion: Eliminating unnecessary plastic from Hank’s life was pretty simple. Which is nice, considering how difficult it was to eliminate it from MY life. Even if you don’t have access to a place like Whole Pets, I’m sure you could order the biodegradable bags online or ask your local pet store to carry them.

So go ahead and purge your pup’s life of plastic. It’s easy!

“Dog Doogity” [awesome song!]


Thom Hartmann: The Truth on the “Real” Lifespan of Medicare


Put a stop to the HALT Act

The Hill:

[…] Undocumented immigrants often have U.S. citizen spouses, children, and parents. It’s impossible to know exactly how many families are “mixed-status,” but an estimated 4 million U.S. citizens are the children of at least one undocumented immigrant parent. When immigrants in these families are deported, U.S. citizens also suffer grievously.

Current immigration law often disregards the human right to family unity, as Human Rights Watch has documented in “Forced Apart” and “Why Immigrant Stories Matter.” But a few provisions in U.S. law allow the government to acknowledge the importance of family ties and to use its discretion to prevent unfair results in extraordinary cases. This power to provide discretionary relief not only helps undocumented immigrants, but provides unquestionable help to their U.S. citizen families as well.

Last week, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced legislation that would eliminate these discretionary powers and harm the U.S. citizens and legal residents that he claims to be protecting. Chairman Smith is planning a hearing on this act before the end of this month. The Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act, or HALT Act, would eliminate the discretionary power of the Obama administration — and only this administration — to grant relief to immigrants in compelling cases, such as by suspending deportation or granting temporary legal status. Smith, who had requested that a previous administration use discretionary powers, now attempts to demonize such powers through his bill.

The HALT Act would bar relief known as “cancellation of removal,” which cancels deportation and grants legal status if an undocumented immigrant has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or child who would be seriously harmed if the immigrant were deported. The hardship caused must be “exceptional and unusual.” The immigrant must also have lived in the U.S. for 10 years and be of good moral character. In real life terms, it may protect a U.S. citizen child with a serious illness from being deported to a country where she will not get adequate medical care, or prevent an elderly U.S. citizen parent from being left destitute due to the deportation of the family’s primary breadwinner.

HALT would also end the administration’s authority to allow a select few U.S. citizens to avoid 10 years of separation from their immigrant family members. For example, U.S. citizens who are married to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. without a visa cannot sponsor their spouses for a visa within the U.S., but must send their spouses back to their home countries. Those who spent more than a year in the U.S. without status must then wait 10 years to be allowed back in the U.S. A waiver of the 10-year bar can be granted, however, if the U.S. citizen demonstrates that the separation would cause the citizen extreme hardship.

Recently, military personnel have found help getting legal status for their undocumented spouses through a provision called “parole.” HALT would suspend this “parole” power of the government to permit a temporary stay “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” The act would also bar “deferred action,” which temporarily suspends deportation. Such suspensions have been granted recently to a parent of U.S. citizen children who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, and to a gay man in a same-sex marriage with a U.S. citizen.

Rep. Smith accuses the Obama administration of “legalization temptation.” But if anyone is succumbing to political temptation, it is Smith, whose bill seeks to deny to this administration the authority to help families across the country. Instead of wasting time over mean-spirited legislation that will harm U.S. citizens, Smith and the rest of Congress should get back to work on enacting comprehensive immigration reform. Millions of U.S. citizens, and their undocumented family members, are desperately waiting.


SenJohnMcCain Tweeted: “It may surprise you to know that I completely agree with Paul Krugman’s column.”

Letting Bankers Walk

Paul Krugman:

Ever since the current economic crisis began, it has seemed that five words sum up the central principle of United States financial policy: go easy on the bankers.

This principle was on display during the final months of the Bush administration, when a huge lifeline for the banks was made available with few strings attached. It was equally on display in the early months of the Obama administration, when President Obama reneged on his campaign pledge to “change our bankruptcy laws to make it easier for families to stay in their homes.” And the principle is still operating right now, as federal officials press state attorneys general to accept a very modest settlement from banks that engaged in abusive mortgage practices.

Why the kid-gloves treatment? Money and influence no doubt play their part; Wall Street is a huge source of campaign donations, and agencies that are supposed to regulate banks often end up serving them instead. But officials have also argued at each point of the process that letting banks off the hook serves the interests of the economy as a whole.

It doesn’t. The failure to seek real mortgage relief early in the Obama administration is one reason we still have 9 percent unemployment. And right now, the arguments that officials are reportedly making for a quick, bank-friendly settlement of the mortgage-abuse scandal don’t make sense.

Before I get to that, a word about the current state of the mortgage mess.

Last fall, we learned that many mortgage lenders were engaging in illegal foreclosures. Most conspicuously, “robo-signers” were attesting that banks had the required documentation to seize homes without checking to see whether they actually had the right to do so — and in many cases they didn’t.

How widespread and serious were the abuses? The answer is that we don’t know. Nine months have passed since the robo-signing scandal broke, yet there still hasn’t been a serious investigation of its reach. That’s because states, suffering from severe budget troubles, lack the resources for a full investigation — and federal officials, who do have the resources, have chosen not to use them.

Instead, these officials are pushing for a settlement with mortgage companies that, reports Shahien Nasiripour of The Huffington Post, “would broadly absolve the firms of wrongdoing in exchange for penalties reaching $30 billion and assurances that the firms will adhere to better practices.”

Why the rush to settle? As far as I can tell, there are two principal arguments being made for letting the banks off easy. The first is the claim that resolving the mortgage mess quickly is the key to getting the housing market back on its feet. The second, less explicitly stated, is the claim that getting tough with the banks would undermine broader prospects for recovery.

Neither of these arguments makes much sense.

The claim that removing the legal cloud over foreclosure would help the housing market — in particular, that it would help support housing prices — leaves me scratching my head. It would just accelerate foreclosures, and if more families were evicted from their homes, that would mean more homes offered for sale — an increase in supply. An increase in the supply of a good usually pushes that good’s price down, not up. Why should the effect on housing go the opposite way?

You might point to the mortgage relief that would supposedly be extracted as part of the settlement. But if mortgage relief is that crucial, why isn’t the administration making a major push to reinvigorate its own Home Affordable Modification Program, which has spent only a small fraction of its money? Or if making that program actually work is hard, why should we believe that any program instituted as part of a mortgage-abuse settlement would work any better?

Sorry, but the case that letting banks off the hook would help the housing market just doesn’t hold together.

What about the argument that getting tough with the banks would threaten the overall economy? Here the question is: What’s holding the economy back?

It’s not the state of the banks. It’s true that fears about bank solvency disrupted financial markets in late 2008 and early 2009. But those markets have long since returned to normal, in large part because everyone now knows that banks will be bailed out if they get in trouble.

The big drag on the economy now is the overhang of household debt, largely created by the $5.6 trillion in mortgage debt that households took on during the bubble years. Serious mortgage relief could make a dent in that problem; a $30 billion settlement from the banks, even if it proved more effective than the government’s modification program, would not.

So when officials tell you that we must rush to settle with the banks for the sake of the economy, don’t believe them. We should do this right, and hold bankers accountable for their actions.


Of course it’s an American problem too


[…] John Nichols writes:

Just as Murdoch has had far too much control over politics and politicians in Britain during periods of conservative dominance—be it under an actual Tory such as former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and current Prime Minister David Cameron or under a faux Tory such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair—he has had far too much control in the States. And that control, while ideological to some extent, is focused mainly on improving the bottom line for his media properties by securing for them unfair legal and regulatory advantages.

Over the past decade, as media reform groups have battled to prevent FCC and Congressional moves to undermine controls on media consolidation, Murdoch and his lobbyists been a constant presence—pushing from the other side for the lifting of limits on the amount and types of media that one corporation can own in particular communities and nationally.

The objection was never an ideological one. Media owners, editors, reporters and commentators have a right to take the positions they like. Where the trouble comes is when they seek to turn politicians and regulators into corporate handmaidens—and when they build their empires out to such an extent they can demand obedience even from those who do not share their partisan or ideological preferences.

And the corruptions of the process created by Murdoch’s manipulation are not merely a British phenomenon.

Murdoch’s political pawns in the United States have been every bit as faithful to the mogul and his media machine as the British pols.

When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in May of 2003, at a point when he was the chief global cheerleader for George Bush’s war with Iraq (“We basically supported…I will say supported the Bush policy,” the media mogul would later admit), Murdoch was seeking to secure ownership of the nation’s largest satellite television company while pressing for FCC rule changes that would allow him to own newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same cities and for an easing of controls on the extent to which one corporation could dominate television viewership nationally.

Did Murdoch have a hard time of it?

Not hardly.

Back in the 90s the right wing laundered their Clinton hit pieces through the British tabloids so the US media could “report” it. In the aughts, Fox News dominated the American press and helped the Bush White House with its agenda and message. It exists to spread conservative propaganda and has become so powerful that the entire political establishment is cowed by it (or is keeping their professional job prospects open.) More recently it served as the public relations arm of the Tea Party movement. Murdoch’s empire has had perhaps the most profound effect on American politics and culture of any corporation or individual of the last 20 years. We certainly didn’t escape its malevolent ethos — it’s permeated our whole society.

If Murdoch’s empire is brought down because of its sleazy, tabloid ethics my faith in justice will be restored.


Dean Baker calls the Washington Post’s budget reporting “a great tragedy for trees everywhere”

Pointless death is always tragic. The Post’s budget reporting is a great tragedy for trees everywhere. Today it tells readers about plans to consider a balanced budget amendment to the constitution in Congress. It would have been useful to tell readers something about this amendment, which does not just require a balanced budget. It also restricts spending to 18 percent of GDP, requiring a super-majority of both houses of Congress to exceed this level of spending. This implies a reduction in spending of more than 10 percent going forward (compared with its average over the last decade), even as health care costs and the aging of the population are pushing up spending on programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. It would have been useful if the Post had pointed this fact out to readers.

Later the article refers to a proposal by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn to cut $9 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. It would have been useful to tell readers that this is approximately equal to 20 percent of projected spending or 4.4 percent of projected GDP over the decade. Few readers are able to assess the meaning of $9 trillion over a decade without some context.


Lawrence O’Donnell Scolds Firebaggers For Their Obama Ignorance

Here is the transcript of the relevant segment:

Outrage notes have been struck today in the liberal blogosphere and elsewhere that the president was entertaining modest modifications in Medicare and Social Security that could save trillions, even though liberal democrats in the past have done exactly that. the president’s willingness to discuss raising the retirement age in Medicare or Social Security has met rage from some who don’t know that the eligibility age of social security has already been raised, that a gradual increase of a retirement age was enacted in 1983, increasing the full retirement age from 65 to 67, and that increase had the support of liberals in the House and the Senate.

Now, if raising the retirement age is in principle bad, then it would follow logically that people who even oppose discussing it would be in favor of repealing the increase in the retirement age that has already occurred, yet none of them have ever proposed repealing the current increase in the retirement age. Some of the new-found liberal defenders of Social Security that will reject any discussions in the program were voting Republican back in the ’80s when the retirement age was raised or not voting at all, not even bothering to register to vote. Some, of course, were not yet of voting age. They are all capable of getting up to speed on these issues reasonably quickly, but until they know more history, until they know where we have been, they will not have any comprehension of where we might be going.

The president’s been attacked today for considering the means testing of Medicare, as you heard him describe, the possibility of rich people like him paying a little more on premiums and co-pays on Medicare. As rich people on Medicare already know, that’s nothing new, they already pay more. The president is willing to entertain a discussion in which they might pay even more, and suddenly some liberals have found what is, in effect, a small tax increase on the rich that they can oppose. All such objections from the president’s base of supporters are actually — this is a bit counter intuitive, they are actually helpful to the president.

Adam Green, the head of the progressive change committee and a friend of this show has been among the loudest and most effective progressive objectors to the president’s consideration of cuts in Medicare and Social Security spending. Today his group delivered 200,000 petitions to President Obama’s campaign headquarters warning about entitlement cuts. These are 200,000 people saying they will not contribute money to or volunteer hours to an Obama reelection campaign if he agrees to any cuts in Medicare, and social security spending during these debt negotiations with the republicans, and these are people who have contributed to president Obama before and have volunteered for him before. These protestors are actually helping the president’s negotiating position, strengthening it, as well as his public appearance of being reasonable in the eyes of independence and swing voters by adding credibility to statements like this.

Apparently, Lawrence O’Donnell has also grown tired of the firebagger and far left’s ignorance of both history and politics. The problem is that the far left doesn’t understand political language. If you go back and read exactly what President Obama said at each of his press conferences, he never said that he would cut Medicare or Social Security. He simply said he would listen. He never has said that he would actually cut anything.

I too do not wish to demean the achievement of the PCCC. A couple hundred thousand people is a nice number, but these fine citizens are so misguided that they actually believed they were putting pressure on Obama or making him stand up to the GOP. What they are really doing is providing Obama with political cover. As O’Donnell said, the PCCC has just validated Obama’s claim that he is taking heat from his base.

In reality, Adam Green has just done Obama a gigantic political favor. The president now has evidence for his illusion that he is actually giving something up. Thanks, firebaggers. We owe you one. It is really interesting that when these people say they want nothing changed, they are helping the rich collect Social Security and not pay their fair share for Medicare. Talk about progressive values!!!!

The one thing that the far left and far right both have in common is that they are so attached to their emotion and ideology that they sacrifice facts and history to the altar of their feelings. As we already know the Tea Party and the firebaggers already share a common leader, so it is not surprising that their unity of heart is also a unity of mind.

Who would have guessed that both the baggers tea and fire would have the shared goal of not raising taxes on the rich?

I admire the passion of the firebaggers, no matter how misdirected it may be, but in the Democratic family they play the role of the weird cousin who at every holiday dinner manages to embarrass the rest of the family with their ignorance and antics.

Lawrence O’Donnell did his best to enlighten them but if there is one universal truth about firebaggers, it is that they never learn.


Phone-hacking whistleblower found dead


Fox News host: Romney ‘obviously not a Christian’


How To Be a Hack

Balloon Juice:


For months, I had assumed that the Republican leadership would be able to find support within its caucus for option No. 2. Based on John Boehner’s brief flirtation with a “grand bargain” that would have included tax reform, the speaker of the House thought so as well.

But based on how quickly he abandoned that flirtation, it appears we were both mistaken. The result was a hanging curveball for President Obama, who spent last week posing as the Last Reasonable Man in Washington, contrasting his willingness to compromise on entitlements with the House Republicans’ intransigence on taxes.

To conservatives, this has been a galling spectacle. A president who spent his first two years in office taking spending to a historic high is accusing them of fiscal irresponsibility? A president who spent the spring demagoguing House Republicans for their willingness to restructure Medicare is citing a much more modest set of cuts as evidence of his fiscal seriousness?

But this fury misses the point. Obama has been playing the reasonability card so successfully because his opponents won’t (or can’t) play one of their own.

Did you see the sleight of hand? Obama’s not really reasonable, he’s just pretending to be, and Obama is to blame for the economic disaster created by Republicans, and no mention of the fact that the GOP was eased into power by… demagoguing Medicare in 2010 then immediately voting to end it. Once again, Dave Leonhardt (really Ross, he works in the same building. I’m sure he could fill you in on this stuff):

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

Back to Douthat- that is how it is done. Lie through omission about the cause of our financial woes, claim the President’s policies aren’t really reasonable and that he is just pretending to be, and completely ignore the fact that the Republicans are batshit insane. Last week’s Ross Douthat, still fluffing the crazy party, assured us this was all GOP strategery. Today’s Ross Douthat, while continuing to apply unflinching suction to the GOP, wonders what went wrong.

What went wrong? Maybe they listened to idiots like Douthat, or maybe they feel unconstrained by reality because they always know Ross will be there for them to give them a wet sloppy one. And he knows he will always get a check for his services, be that at the NY Times, or if that doesn’t pan out, there is always the Heritage Foundation or the Pacific Institute or some other wingnut welfare pub to push his drivel.

It’s all in the game.



Budget cuts may force Pentagon back to the draft, says vice chairman of Joint Chiefs

The Pentagon is considering massive changes to the force — including a draft — amid fears that new and far deeper budget cuts are looming just over the horizon, a top military official said Thursday.

Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, offered a timeline forhow deep cuts will affect the force during the next decade, including big reductions in operational budgets, slashing the size of the active-duty force and even scaling back entitlements such as retirement and health care, according to the Military Times newspapers.

President Obama has proposed cutting $400 billion from the defense budget over the next 12 years, but Cartwright said the military is bracing for even deeper cuts.


Petraeus Hands Over Afghan Command: Heads back to Washington to head CIA. 



Reuters: CORRECTED – Two-thirds of Obama campaign cash from small donors

Nearly two-thirds of the $86 million raised by President Barack Obama for his re-election effort in recent months came from small donations of under $200 or less, according to filings released on Friday.

Obama released top-line data on his campaign from April to June earlier this week which showed him breaking a prior fundraising record by former president George W. Bush. Obama’s campaign raised $47 million on its own and another $39 million was generated by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The data underscored the campaign’s promise of targeting small-dollar donations instead of powerful political action committees, as the Democratic incumbent seeks re-election in 2012.

More than 65 percent of the funds raised by the Democratic incumbent’s campaign, Obama for America, were from donations of $200 or less, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. On average, 61 percent of contributions made to the DNC were less than $200.

Obama’s incumbency has allowed him to raise more than his Republican rivals, who have to battle each other while seeking their party’s presidential nomination and who lack a national committee.

The Republican front-runner Mitt Romney raised $18.25 million in the second quarter, with just $1 million, or about 6 percent, coming from donations of $200 or less, according to campaign filings.

The fast-rising Michele Bachmann, a Republican Representative from Minnesota, raised $4.2 million in the second quarter, including a $2 million transfer from her House committee, her campaign said on Friday.


Obama’s campaign also on Friday disclosed a list of so-called bundlers, 244 wealthy people who commit to raise a certain amount of money, for example $100,000 or more, for the campaign.

None of the major Republican candidates choose to release such detailed lists.

Among Obama’s bundlers are hedge fund manager Orin Kramer, and Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour.

Romney, meanwhile, did not disclose a detailed list but he did spell out those federal lobbyists who raised money for him, which is required by law. Romney said lobbyists raised about $518,000 of his $18.25 million second quarter haul.

The Obama campaign has said it will not take money from lobbyists.

“President Bush disclosed his bundlers, but the current GOP field has not followed suit, raising questions about the extent to which special interests are funding their campaigns,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said that all of Romney’s donations have been disclosed, albeit in reams of documents filed with the FEC on Friday.


NPR: The Politics Behind New Voter ID Laws

[…] Seven states so far this year have enacted new laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering similar requirements, and several other states already have them on the books.

Other states have placed restrictions on voter registration drives, imposed new requirements for voters to show proof of citizenship, or reduced the amount of time for early voting.

“This is about putting up obstacles to legal voters being able to exercise the franchise,” says Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, an advocacy group that opposes the changes. “That is the scheme that the Republicans have concocted on this.”

Ross says tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters lack the photo ID that will now be required in that state. He says many of them will also have difficulty traveling to motor vehicle offices to get free ID cards available under the law.

All this, he adds, was created to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

“The bottom line is, in Wisconsin, there is no evidence of widespread voter impropriety happening at any point in time,” Ross says.

But supporters say, in effect, that’s beside the point and that the changes won’t hurt legitimate voters. They argue that any voter fraud — even the possibility of fraud — is a concern.

“Whether it’s one case, a hundred cases or a hundred-thousand cases, making sure we have legislation that protects the integrity for an open, fair and honest election in every single case is important,” said Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, when he signed the new law this spring.

And Republicans appear to be winning over public opinion. Polls shows that an overwhelming majority of voters back ID requirements.

In Tennessee, the Republican secretary of state, Tre Hargett, is preparing plans and public service announcements to make sure voters in his state adjust smoothly to the new rules. They’ll be required to show photo ID at the polls and to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

Hargett rejects opponents’ claims that the changes will discourage voter turnout. […]

Chapin says there’s not only no evidence of widespread fraud, but “you really haven’t seen, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, a whole lot of evidence that there are large numbers of people who are registered to vote, or want to register to vote, and don’t have the kind of ID that would be required.”

That’s one reason Democrats and voting rights activists will be on high alert over the coming year, as they try to gather examples of harmed voters for potential legal challenges to many of the new state laws.

One civil rights group, the Advancement Project, has already filed suit against a voter ID initiative in Missouri. The ACLU is fighting new voter restrictions in Florida, and there’s likely much more to come.


Why national Dems want Elizabeth Warren to challenge Scott Brown for Senate

Greg Sargent:

The DSCC is not commenting on whether its operatives are actively trying to recruit Warren for the race. But there are three clear reasons national and Massachusetts Dems want her to do it, according to a national Democratic operative involved in plotting 2012 strategy and a Massachusetts Dem familiar with the party’s thinking.

(1) Dems think Warren is well suited to draw a very clear contrast with Brown on the economy and Wall Street. Warren, of course, is the force behind the centerpiece of Wall Street reform, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While Brown did ultimately vote for the Wall Street reform bill, he only did so after successfully watering down key reforms in the legislation that were opposed by the banking industry. Brown did this while simultaneously taking in big bucks from Wall Street firms — a concurrence that would figure heavily in a Warren-Brown matchup.

“There’s such a clear contrast on issues relating to the economy, and more specifically, Wall Street and consumer protection issues,” the top national strategist tells me, previewing attacks to come. “He has a record of doing the personal bidding of Wall Street lobbyists.”

The GOP counterargument: Despite her consumer protection work, Warren’s bio ensures that she would have trouble winning back the blue collar Dems from places like South Boston who enabled Brown’s victory. “Hard to see how a Harvard professor, originally from Oklahoma, takes those voters away from Brown,” a GOP operative says.

But Dems argue that the circumstances of the 2012 contest would be vastly different from the special election that Brown won against Martha Coakley. Statewide turnout could be at least one million voters higher because of the presidential race, and many of them could be more reliable Obama voters. And Brown would now have a record to defend and a GOPer at the top of the ticket. “He’s now got a record of voting with Republicans in Washington 90 percent of the time,” a Massachusetts Democrat familiar with the party’s thinking says. “And Brown will be more and more identified with the GOP presidential candidate.”

(2) Dems think Warren could rapidly wipe out Brown’s financial advantage. Warren’s work on consumer protection and her aggressive stance towards big banks has turned her into a populist champion of sorts among national liberals at a time when they are hungry for a more confrontational approach from Dem leaders. That, plus the fact that this would be a rematch for Ted Kennedy’s seat, would ensure that huge sums of national liberal cash would flow into the contest. “She immediately eliminates the financial discrepancy,” the national strategist says.

(3) Warren has experience facing withering GOP attacks. Dems really like the fact that as the architect of the consumer protection bureau, Warren has already proven herself capable of fending off the most aggressive and determined of GOP assaults. Warren’s bureau was a high profile target of the right for months and months, giving her invaluable experience in rebutting GOP arguments in Capitol Hill hearings and in the media.

“She’s proven herself able to address the most complex economic and financial issues in a common sense way and connect them to people’s every day lives — and she has done it in the face of very well funded attacks from the right,” the national operative says. “No one in the country has had to take that kind of fire, and no one has done it so successfully.”


Roll Call: Warren Talked With DSCC


Politico: Buddy Roemer 2012 presidential campaign to formally launch Thursday


John Ensign shells out for legal fees

Republican John Ensign’s campaign account shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses weeks after he resigned his seat and after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics Committee issued its damaging report about his sex scandal, according to new filings.

In the weeks after he resigned his Senate seat in early May, Ensign’s campaign committee dropped more than $50,000 on a number of firms who have handled the legal defense for the senator and some former aides who were ensnared in the case. The biggest check was cut on May 4 , $29,000, to Wiley Rein, which handled his case before the ethics committee, according to a campaign finance filings covering last quarter. […]

There’s nothing illegal about a senator using cash from campaign donors to pay personal legal expenses – and former lawmakers often keep their accounts to defray their expenses or to plan another run for office.

But the stepped-up activity in Ensign’s account could suggest that the door is not completely closed on the federal investigation into his extramarital affair with former campaign aide, Cindy Hampton, whose husband, Doug, was once the senator’s top staffer and closest friend. Doug Hampton was indicted earlier this year on charges that he violated a federal lobbying ban after leaving Ensign’s employ.


How they do it: Koch Brothers Spread Influence Via Blueberry Farmer


Gordon Colby, who manages 5,000 acres of Maine blueberries, says he’d never heard of any billionaire brothers being involved when he decided to join a group lobbying for less government regulation.

“I don’t even know who the hell David and Charles Koch are,” Colby, 63, said in an interview. “I don’t know about the Kochs, don’t know who is funding Americans for Prosperity. But I like what they are doing on the local level.”

Maine residents like Colby may not know it, but the Koch brothers have arrived in their state and in most others, moving well beyond their publicized involvement in Wisconsin and Ohio. Under the auspices of Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs have become one of the fastest-growing lobbying forces in U.S. politics, spreading the gospel of low taxes, no unions and small government one state at a time.

“The Koch brothers’ money puts them in a position where they can change a lot of players on the ground,” Ron Schmidt, head of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, said in an interview.

David and Charles Koch and Koch Industries Inc., the family controlled energy and chemicals company, helped found Americans for Prosperity in 2004 with three state chapters.

The group’s website now lists 32 chapters, which is an increase from 23 in April 2009, according to the Center for American Progress, a policy group in Washington aligned with Democrats that has criticized the Kochs’ political influence.

Helping Republicans

Donations to Americans for Prosperity jumped to $16.6 million in 2009 from $3.5 million in 2007, Internal Revenue Service filings show. Koch Industries’ spending to lobby on federal issues surged 40-fold to $8.1 million last year from $200,000 in 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

At the state level, Koch Industries and its employees spent $1.2 million on races in last year’s elections, up from $518,509 in 2008, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics in Helena, Montana. In both years, more than 80 percent of the money went to Republicans.

“The spending can make a powerful impact,” Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said in an interview. “There is a bottom-up effect. You only have to see what is happening in Ohio and Wisconsin.”

Walker, Kasich

The group’s support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich helped the two Republicans win legislation restricting public employee unions. In Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity organized rallies, set up a pro-Walker website and announced an ad campaign costing more than $300,000 to support him. Walker’s moves triggered weeks of protests that saw thousands of workers surround and crowd into the capitol in Madison.

“They were one of the larger contributors to Walker’s campaign and were supporting the shocking legislation where he was able to go after public employees,” Bob Edgar, president and chief executive officer of Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group that opposed Walker’s measures said in an interview.

Less visibly, the Koch-backed organization has been at work in other states as well, taking advantage of, and promoting the election of, candidates who embrace its ideals.

“We have had more success on the state level this year than we had in the past because of the change in sentiment and change in elective bodies,” Alan Cobb, vice president for state operations at Americans for Prosperity, said in an interview from the group’s office in Topeka, Kansas. “We’re now in a position where we can push through more policy.”

We’ve Been Vilified’

The Kochs’ contributions to Americans for Prosperity aren’t public because as a nonprofit group it isn’t required to disclose donors or most of the spending it devotes to state efforts.

Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Industries, didn’t comment, recommending a March 1 commentary by Charles Koch in the Wall Street Journal. Koch wrote he was concerned about the growing national debt and government that is “allowed to pick winners and losers.” Smaller government is needed for prosperity, he said.

“Because of our activism, we’ve been vilified by various groups,” Koch said. “Despite this criticism, we’re determined to keep contributing and standing up for those politicians, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who are taking these challenges seriously.”

Richest Americans

The Koch brothers tied for fifth on Forbes magazine’s ranking of richest Americans last year, with $21.5 billion each in net worth, reflecting their holdings in Koch Industries. The company, founded by their father, Fred C. Koch, is the second- largest closely held U.S. company after Cargill Inc., with estimated annual revenue of $100 billion, according to Forbes. Charles, 75, is chairman and chief executive officer, and David, 71, is an executive vice president.

Spending in the states has advantages because “it’s largely out of the limelight” and “it’s where the next generation of political leaders will come from,” Stephen Schneck, a politics professor and director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, said in an e-mail.

Americans for Prosperity opened an office in Montana in January, hiring Scott Sales, the state’s former Republican speaker of the House, as state director. Sales criticized the budget crafted by Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer, writing on the group’s website that “before Government can give to one citizen it must take it from another thus gaining control of both.”

Washington State

The group expanded last year to Washington state, where its supporters helped block the extension of taxes to fund a convention center expansion and arts activities in King County. The group also helped promote more than a dozen Tea Party rallies scheduled around April 15, tax day.

In Augusta, Maine’s capital, Americans for Prosperity is trying to benefit from the election last year of Republican Governor Paul LePage and Republican majorities in both chambers for the first since the 1973-1974 session.

In the legislative period that ended on June 29, the group lobbied successfully to have the estate tax exemption doubled to $2 million from $1 million, though it fell short in efforts to eliminate the tax completely. The organization also helped win changes to health care that will let Maine businesses buy insurance from companies outside the state, over Democratic objections that the law will make coverage unaffordable for rural and middle-aged residents.

Too Extreme’

Americans for Prosperity also is lobbying for Maine to quit the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program to cut carbon- dioxide emissions in the Northeast.

“They have been waiting in the wings for the right moment,” said Representative Emily Ann Cain, 31, the Democratic leader in the state House. The group’s agenda is “too extreme for the people of Maine,” she said in an interview.

Colby, the blueberry farmer, doesn’t think so. He is among more than 4,500 volunteers in Maine trained as activists by Americans for Prosperity, according to Carol Weston, a former state senator who became the organization’s director and its first registered lobbyist in February. Colby says he has 200 names on his own contact list that he can call.

“I’m a farmer and I just want to farm,” said Colby, who lives in Waldoboro and started a Tea Party group in his area last year. He said government regulations interfere with his farming, without providing specifics.

Staying Involved

Weston, adapting civics lessons she gave visiting schoolchildren as a state lawmaker, trains about 40 possible Americans for Prosperity volunteers at a time in four-hour sessions. She highlights skills for testifying at hearings, obtaining research and learning how to “maximize your time when engaging your elected officials,” according to the group’s website.

“It’s the only way you see change,” Weston, 61, said in an interview at a coffee shop near her office, across from an Applebee’s restaurant about a mile from the statehouse. “They stay very involved all the time.”

She also brought in guest speakers who urged support of Republican-backed legislation, including Secretary of State Charles Summers, who championed a successful measure to cut off voter registration on election day,

“They are actively supporting voter suppression,” Diane Russell, a Democratic House member, said after the chamber’s vote on that bill.

Diminishing Returns’

David R. Burns, a Republican representative, said that while he generally agrees with Americans for Prosperity, the group’s e-mail blitzes aimed at lawmakers may backfire in Maine, where politics has traditionally been lower-key.

It can lead “to overkill and diminishing returns,” he said.

Weston, who took her lobbying job after term limits ended her Senate career, said she operates largely with autonomy from Americans for Prosperity’s headquarters.

“Americans for Prosperity is clear about their priorities: less taxes, less government,” Weston said. “It’s easy for the state director. We agree on those principles.”



Bachmann Predicted The World Would End In 2006: ‘We Are In The Last Days’

Slate’s Dave Weigel has reported an audio recording of Bachmann praying for the notoriously anti-gay ministry You Can Run But You Can’t Hide, run by the radical preacher Bradlee Dean. Bachmann offered the prayer in 2006 (though the recording was uploaded in 2008). In it, Bachmann predicts, “We are in the last days,” and says, “The harvest is at hand” — a Biblical allusion to the Rapture when some believe God will take saved Christians from the earth and leave the non-believers to face several years of torment and tribulation before the second coming of Christ:

BACHMANN: Lord, the day is at hand. We are in the last days. You are a Jehovah God. We know that the times are in your hands. And we give them to you…The day is at hand, Lord, when your return will come nigh. Nothing is more important than bringing sheep into the fold. Than bringing new life into the kingdom…You have weeded that garden. The harvest is at hand.

Listen here:


When you have uninformed voters, it’s easy to lie

[…] Not only did Romney seemingly ignore the concerns raised by the question, his answer perpetuated the false idea that American corporations are subject to the highest tax rate in the world. In reality, those corporations pay an effective rate that is among the lowest in the industrialized world. Some of the nation’s largest businesses, in fact, had effective tax rates that were actually negative.

Meanwhile, the GOP continues to support cutting funding from programs that help the jobless and the poor. But for Romney, that’s easily justifiable: corporations, already earning record profits, need a tax break to go along.

Legendary Rightwing Vote Suppressor Honored by GOP Bigs in D.C.

The Brad Blog:

Several weeks ago at the UK’s Guardian, I wrote about rightwing democracy-hater Paul Weyrich and his 1980 speech to 15,000 preachers in Dallas (with Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell also on the bill), in which he called for massive vote suppression. The comments, from one of the “Conservative” Movement’s “founding fathers” and a Godfather of the Republicans’ now-peaking, long-waged voter suppression scheme, are worth getting out there again and again — particularly right now. The video of Weyrich’s 1980 comments (:40 seconds) is at right and the text is below…

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome – good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

As mentioned previously, Weyrich continues as a regular consultant to the top-tier GOP power-brokers to this day, and last night the man who so eloquently elaborated the Republican Rosetta Stone of voter disenfranchisement was honored “for Life, Work and Service” at a D.C. shindig that raised “over $330,000…for the Free Congress Foundation.”

“The highlight of the evening included an historic 21 gun salute video,” a press release issued this afternoon (posted in full below) crows. That salute “included 30 of the country’s top leaders such as author and columnist, George Will; national talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY), Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich; Ken Blackwell, 2008 Vice-Chairman of the Republican Convention Platform Committee and Former Ohio Secretary of State; Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq., Free Congress Foundation; Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum; Jerry Falwell, Jr., Liberty University; Rep. Edwin Meese, III,. Heritage Foundation and Former U.S. Attorney General; Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family; Don Wildmon, American Family Association, among many others.”…

Though comments as seen in the video above ought to make this man a pariah to any democracy-loving American citizen, he continues to be anything but to the GOP movement which has mainstreamed this guy, and his loathing for American values, and turned him into a movement demigod…

“With his commitment to traditional family values, he has consistently promoted a morally conscious culture,” explains the release, without clarifying what traditional or moral value is contained in fighting against democracy.

“As one step in this effort, he is credited for coining the term ‘Moral Majority,'” the release continues. “Today, Paul writes regularly for the Washington Times and Newsmax and continues to serve as an influential voice for the conservative movement through his leadership of the Free Congress Foundation and the weekly meetings of Coalitions for America.”

Just so good Americans, who actually put country ahead of partisan politics and power, realize who and what you’re up against between now and November.

The full press release from the Hamilton Strategies PR firm is posted HERE.






Poll: 71% shun GOP handling of debt crisis

CBS Poll:

Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders’ handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties’ conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their resistance to raising taxes.

President Obama earned the most generous approval ratings for his handling of the weeks-old negotiations, but still more people said they disapproved (48 percent) than approved (43 percent) of what he has done and said.



Pew: Obama Draws More Confidence than Boehner, McConnell or Cantor on Debt Ceiling

The public expresses far more confidence in President Obama than it does in congressional leaders of both parties when it comes to the debate over the debt ceiling. Nonetheless, only about half of Americans (48%) have even a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the debt ceiling, while nearly as many (49%) say they have not too much confidence or no confidence at all in the president on this issue.

[…] Confidence in Obama on the debt ceiling issue is sharply divided along partisan lines. Fully 82% of Democrats say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in him, while 83% of Republicans say they do not.

Most independents are skeptical of Obama: 42% express at least some confidence in him on the debt ceiling while 56% say they have little or no confidence in him. Nonetheless, this is more confidence than independents have in any congressional leader. Just 28% of independents say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Boehner to handle the debt ceiling issue, and the proportion is even lower for the other congressional leaders tested.


Pew: Public Split Evenly on Urgency of Debt Limit Deadline




Can you dramatically change people’s behavior with a smiley face?

In South Lanarkshire there are 226 Vehicle Activated Signs that don’t just tell drivers their speed, but show them a smiley or sad face, depending on whether they’re under or over the limit… Thanks to these little faces, the number of people exceeding the speed limit in the Lanarckshire area fell by 53%.  And when you realise that these things operate at about 2% of the cost of a speed camera, there’s even more reason to be cheerful.

Hat tip goes to an inspiring TED talk by Rory Sutherland which explains why details matter, big picture strategy can be overrated, and why we should sweat the small stuff:


What an embezzle! What an ultramaroon! – Bugs Bunny

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Info graphics are awesome! Ditto for van jones. I went to a house meeting at boulder and had a few interesting moments. My small group had a phd in medical school, a old lady who had been an activist for 60 years, and a concerned mother of 3. We got off on a tangent about social cohesion and how mandatory public service increased it to a point during and after WWII that the wealthy felt obligated to pay taxes and except lower ratio pay than today. The old lady informed me about how primaries worked and I decided to register as a dem becaue of that conversation. Going to a rally later today concerning citizens united.

Wind farms 10 times more efficient.