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When Robert White opened his water bill last month, his jaw dropped: $250 for a month’s worth of water and sewer service. The 63-year-old construction contractor, who shares a three-bedroom home with his wife in the bucolic Springbrook Centre subdivision, said he likes to keep his lawn green and expects hefty water bills. “I just don’t want to be hijacked,” he said.
White’s water service is provided by a private utility owned by California-based SouthWest Water Co. LLC. Just across the four-lane Pflugerville Parkway, where White’s neighbors in the Springbrook Glen subdivision — a nearly identical grid of neatly arranged brick-faced homes — get their water from Pflugerville, rates are on average about 60 percent less.
And White’s bill for water service may nearly double soon, if SouthWest Water gets the latest rate increase it has requested. “I have never felt so helpless,” he said.
He’s not alone. Across the state, a growing number of suburban Texans are getting their water from large, private corporations owned by investors seeking to profit off the sale of an essential resource. State figures show private companies are seeking more price increases every year, and many are substantial.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates water and sewer rates for nonmunicipal customers, doesn’t keep numbers, but “their rate increases tend to be 40 and 60 percent,” said Doug Holcomb, who oversees the agency’s water utilities division.
For years, small private companies have played a crucial role in Texas, providing water and sewer service in new developments outside of cities. Analysts say private companies will continue to fill an essential need in the future, when public money is projected to be insufficient to make the billions of dollars in costly upgrades needed in water and sewer systems.
Increasingly, however, the companies are neither small nor local. Over the past decade, multistate water utilities have expanded aggressively in Texas, drawn by the state’s booming population and welcoming regulatory environment. A September report prepared by utility analysts for Robert W. Baird & Co., a financial management company, identified Texas water regulators as the most generous in the country for private water companies. Today, three out-of-state corporations own about 500 Texas water systems that serve more than 250,000 residents.
I’m going to go ahead and disagree with my friend Steve Pearlstein on this one: If Washington isn’t working the way you want it to work, the very last thing you want to do is pick up your proverbial toys and head home in protest.
Steve is endorsing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s campaign to convince “concerned Americans” to “withhold any further campaign contributions to elected members of Congress and the President until a fair, bipartisan deal is reached that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing.” If enough Americans took that pledge, Steve says, it might just be “the significant shock” needed to upset Washington’s current gridlock.
I’m skeptical. Consider the difference between a primary election and a general election. In primary elections, much of the middle is absent, and so politicians swing further left or right in order to pick up the remaining pool of voters. In general elections, the middle is present, and so politicians drift back toward the center. What Schultz wants is for politicians to pay more attention to the center, much as they do in general elections. But he wants to do this by making the money race less like a general election and more like a primary election.
So take a moderate senator who needs to raise $8 million to retain his seat. Imagine that he could normally raise about two-thirds of his total from the sort of middle-of-the-road voters and interest groups that Schultz is targeting. Now imagine that Schultz’s pledge is wildly successful and our moderate senator can only raise one-third of the $8 million from voters and interests in the middle. To make up the funding gap, he now needs to raise twice as much money from the ideological, polarized sources that Schultz believes are ruining Washington. Our moderate senator is about to become a lot less moderate.
There is, after all, money to be made in extremism. Earlier this year, Justin Buchler, a political scientist at Case Western University, developed an “infamy index” for American politicians.He measured infamy “through the frequency with which internet users conduct searches of legislators’ names, paired with epithets attacking their intelligence or sanity,” and then looked to see the effect that that infamy had on, among other things, political fundraising. The answer? It strongly affected political fundraising — but positively. “Infamous legislators raise more money than their lower-profile colleagues.”
Schultz’s idea, in other words, doesn’t “starve the beast.” It just gives the more extreme elements of the political system sole responsibility for feeding it, and as such, encourages politicians to rely on them, and govern in a way that keeps them happy. Schultz would be better served by identifying the politicians he considers to be the problem and lavishly funding their challengers.
“In the minds of most experts, the chief worry is not that the carbon in the permafrost will break down quickly — typical estimates say that will take more than a century, perhaps several — but that once the decomposition starts, it will be impossible to stop.” That’s Justin Gillis in the New York Times.
Back in 2008 both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John McCain and Mitt Romney all seemed to agree, in principle, that it ought to be a high priority to enact some kind of binding limit on American greenhouse gas emissions. Even given that, the path to a binding workable global agreement was clearly frought with peril since there’s a divergence of perspectives between newcomers to the high emissions party (China) and those who’ve been there a long time (United States). But in the intervening three years, the politics of this have been totally transformed in a way that’s not even slightly backed up by the scientific information that’s come in over this time. Instead of debating whether or not emissions will be limited or reduced, we’re debating the Keystone XL pipeline as a kind of proxy war over fossil fuels.
His new proposal is less radical than his last one, and it just might pass if Obama loses.
Say what you will about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but he knows a thing or two about how to shift the Overton Window. If 18 months ago he’d unveiled a plan to drastically cut Medicare spending and also partially privatize the program, nobody would have thought it was in any way bipartisan or a compromise. Yet at a Dec. 15 press conference, Ryan was able tounveil the plan in partnership with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and get it—accurately—described as a major leftward shift in his own thinking.
To understand how, we need to walk back to the incredible radicalism of the budget proposal he unveiled at the beginning of the year and—remarkably—got the vast majority of Republicans to vote for.
Ryan’s original plan had a number of astounding elements, but the most politically salient element dealt with Medicare. He offered, in essence, a sleight of hand. His goal was to produce massive long-term savings in Medicare spending relative to current projections, in order to show a way to sustain the United States government consistent with never raising taxes from the Bush-era level. This is the budgetary equivalent of Mission Impossible, since one important thing the federal government does is pay for old people’s health care. That’s an expensive task, and it’s a task that grows more expensive over time. Ryan’s solution was to simply wave his hand and decree that in the future federal expenditures on old people’s health care would increase at no more than 1 percentage point higher than the overall rate of consumer price inflation. It’s a great solution, except it’s not a solution at all. It’s an aspiration, and a totally unrealistic one.
In parallel, Ryan offered a massive structural change. Instead of getting Medicare, seniors would get a voucher to purchase privateinsurance. This change is, obviously, great for health insurance companies but does nothing to save money. All the savings come from the fact that the vouchers grow at an implausibly slow rate.
The plan was politically toxic—a dream come true for Democratic messagers—and even Newt Gingrich denounced it. Ryan’s new plan co-authored with Wyden represents a major walk back from the ledge in two ways.
One is that Ryan-Wyden (sort of) preserves Medicare, saying that seniors would have the option of taking their voucher to buy private insurance but also could use it to buy into traditional Medicare. It’s the equivalent, essentially, of the “public option” idea that liberals wanted in the Affordable Care Act. The other is that it caps spending growth at the aggressive, but not totally insane, rate of GDP + 1 percentage point rather than CPI + 1 percentage point. But make no mistake, this is still a very conservative plan. It’s a compromise only relative to the goalposts Ryan himself set. It combines one conservative priority (turning Medicare into a vehicle for subsidized private health insurance) with a second conservative priority (cutting government spending) and continues to protect the key conservative electoral constituency of people born in 1956 or earlier. There’s no real concession to liberals made on any point and no reason to think Democrats will rush to embrace it.
A more plausible way forward might be to drop the sleight of hand and simply address the issues of Medicare’s structure separately from the question of capping its overall cost.
For Republicans, conflating structure and cost is a convenient way to pretend that their pet privatization schemes save money. But the Democrats, the exact same conflation becomes an excuse to avoid grappling with costs. Reasonable people can and will disagree about how much of America’s total economic output should be dedicated to purchasing health care services for retirees, but the basic idea that it should be finite is clearly correct. Ryan’s initial proposal on this score was absurd, but GDP+1 percentage point is a defensible figure that I, for one, am happy to accept on the merits. Unless Medicare is constrained to a budget it will crowd out all other priorities,stampeding indiscriminately over conservative ideas on taxes and liberal ideas on infrastructure and public services alike.
Wyden is extremely well-liked in the wonkier precincts of the progressive movement, but nobody is leaping to have his back on this deal, which is seen as giving away the store on substance and complicating Democrats’ messaging efforts. Democrats on the Hill and in the White House are busy denouncing it. If Ryan wants to make Democrats an offer they might not refuse, he should agree to add aMedicare buy-in or robust public option to the new exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives believe that introducing private competition to Medicare will improve quality, while progressives believe that introducing public competition to the market for the non-elderly will do the same. Trading the one for the other is a reasonable logroll. What was announced this morning is pointless. It doesn’t erase the politically dangerous votes that Republican members already cast for a much more radical plan, and it doesn’t do anything to bring Democrats onboard.
But while Ryan-Wyden isn’t going anywhere as a compromise, it is a window into what might realistically happen if Republicans win everything in 2012. The original Ryan plan is far too right-wing to implement, but you could certainly imagine an emboldened new Senate Republican majority backed by President Romney or President Gingrich going for Ryan Lite. If it happens, a large share of the credit will belong to the original Ryan plan—an unworkable and politically risky proposal that’s nonetheless done a tremendous job of shifting the conversation to the point where this new proposal suddenly looks like a moderate alternative.
The Raw Story:
Seattle police officers used excessive force over the last two years and were too quick to resort to using their batons and other weapons, but were not guilty of systematically victimizing minorities, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
The city’s police have been criticized for their practices, especially after a native American woodcarver was shot dead by an officer without appearing to pose a threat. Police were also caught on video stomping on and threatening to beat a prone suspect.
A review by the Justice Department found that when Seattle police used force between 2009 and April 2011, nearly 20 percent of the time it was excessive and when they used their batons, more than half the time it was unnecessary or excessive.
The review did not cover the recent use by police of pepper spray against “Occupy” protesters around the city.
“The problems within SPD (Seattle Police Department) have been present for many years and will take time to fix,” said Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. The Seattle police force was already implementing reforms, the department said.
A 40-page letter detailing the Justice Department’s findings were presented to Seattle’s mayor and police department on Friday by Perez and U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan.
Neither the police nor the mayor’s office immediately returned calls seeking comment.
This is the second finding of systematic police misconduct in as many days. The Justice Department issued a scathing report on Thursday that said the sheriff’s office in Phoenix, Arizona regularly engaged in racial profiling and unlawful arrests.
In Seattle, the Justice Department said there were deficiencies in oversight, policies and training for police officers on how and when to use force and make use of weapons like batons and flashlights.
It found the unnecessary use of force appeared to be confined to a disproportionately small number of officers.
It did not find evidence that the police engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing against minorities, but noted “serious concerns” on the issue.
After Seattle’s police department has had time to digest the report, Perez and Durkan said the next step would be sit down with police to craft a framework to make the necessary changes, which would be enforced by a court order and independent monitoring.
“These findings are undeniably serious, and we have discussed a number of ways in which we think SPD is broken,” Perez told reporters. “We will indeed be able to fix the problem because the will is there at the highest level of the department.”
Twenty police departments across the United States are under review by the Justice Department, including Miami; Puerto Rico; Newark, New Jersey; New Orleans; and Maricopa county, Arizona.
The Justice Department’s investigation into Seattle’s police practices started after complaints from community groups following a rash of highly publicized altercations, chiefly with minorities.
Seattle appointed a new police chief, John Diaz, in August 2010.
David Williams threatened to kill President Obama and to blow up a hospital that refused to perform surgery on his wife.
Secret Service agent Ronald McCormick said in a sworn statement filed in court records that Williams called the hospital July 19 to schedule surgery for his wife. Williams was told the hospital wouldn’t do the surgery, and he threatened to blow up the hospital and kill Obama, using a racial epithet to describe the president, McCormick’s statement said. Williams made the threats during a conversation with hospital operator Alfreda Fairley.
The Reid Report:
Earlier this year, an historian and writer named Larry Goldsmith wrote a scathing article in CommonDreams, faulting the established gay advocacy groups for not going to bat for Pfc. Manning, who is accused of leaking classified info to Wikileaks. His argument went like this:
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign, having invested millions lobbying for “gays in the military,” have no comment. Of course not.Bradley Manning is not that butch patriotic homosexual, so central to the gays-in-the-military campaign, who Defends Democracy and Fights Terrorism with a virility indistinguishable from that of his straight buddies. He is not that pillar of social and economic stability, only incidentally homosexual, who returns home from the front to a respectable profession and a faithful spouse and children.
No, Bradley Manning is a poor, physically slight computer geek with an Oklahoma accent. He is, let us use the word, and not in a negative way, a sissy. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family in a small town in the South, he is that lonely, maladjusted outsider many gay people have been, or are, or recognize, whether we wish to admit it or not. He broke the law, the President says. And he did so–the liberal press implies, trying terribly hard to temper severity with compassion–because he wasn’t man enough to deal with the pressure. He did so because he’s a sissy and he couldn’t put up with the manly rough-and-tumble that is so important to unit cohesion, like that time three of his buddies assaulted him and instead of taking it like a good soldier he peed in his pants. And then of course he was so embarrassed he threw a hissy fit and sent Wikileaks our nation’s most closely guarded secrets, like some petulant teenage girl who gets her revenge by spreading gossip. This is, of course, the classic argument about gays and national security–they’ll get beat up or blackmailed and reveal our secrets.And NGLTF, Lambda, and HRC, with their impeccably professional media and lobbying campaign, based on the best branding and polls and focus groups that money could buy, have effectively demolished that insidious stereotype.
They have demolished it by abandoning Bradley Manning.
Yep. Pretty scathing.
And now … here’s Manning’s defense strategy:
FORT MEADE, Md. — The young Army intelligence specialist accused of passing government secrets spent his 24th birthday in court Saturday as his lawyers argued his status as a gay soldier before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” played an important role in his actions.
Lawyers for Pfc. Bradley Manning began laying out a defense to show thathis struggles as a gay soldier in an environment hostile to homosexuality contributed to mental and emotional problems that should have barred him from having access to sensitive material.
Wait, isn’t that kind of like arguing that a gay soldier couldn’t handle the pressure and so he got pissy and leaked government material and therefore he shouldn’t have been trusted with our secrets? Am I the only one who’s confused???
But wait, there’s more:
The basis for the charges Manning faces are transcripts of online chats with a confidant-turned-government-informant in which Manning allegedly confesses his ties to WikiLeaks and also reveals he is gay.
Maj. Matthew Kemkes, a defense lawyer, asked Special Agent Toni Graham, an Army criminal investigator, whether she had talked to people who believed Manning was gay or found evidence among his belongings relating to gender-identity disorder. The condition often is described as a mental diagnosis in which people believe they were born the wrong sex.
Graham said such questions were irrelevant to the investigation. “We already knew before we arrived that Pfc. Manning was a homosexual,” Graham said.
Prosecutors objected several times to the questions. Kemkes responded that if the government can argue that Manning intended to leak secrets, “what is going on in my client’s mind is very important.”
Well there you have it. The government is now arguing that Manning should not be judged according to his sexual orientation, but by his character and actions alone — the exact argument that proponents of lifting the ban against open service have been making for decades — while Manning’s own lawyers are arguing that sexual orientation is central to their case.
The defense also attempted to argue that the materials weren’t even really classified, which seems like a pretty big reach, since it’s the government itself that decides what is and isn’t classified. But the argument that after all, Manning was beaten down by homophobia so he lashed out and leaked, is so counterproductive, and should be so offensive, to every gay serviceman, 99.9999% of whom never leaked classified information, even when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was in place, and even when an outright ban on gay service was in place before DADT, I can’t believe the defense is even going there.
I mean, it wasn’t long ago that we weren’t supposed to mention Manning’s sexual orientation, because it was seen as implying that gays can’t keep secrets if people are mean to them. But damned if his lawyer isn’t arguing exactly that.
An edited video of Carl Levin claiming that Obama wanted the language in the NDAA caused outrage among many Americans, but the full Levin video reveals the opposite.
The YouTube video claimed to be proof that Obama is going to sign a citizen imprisonment law:
However, in the first 30 minutes of the debate Sen. Levin stated that the NDAA provisions do not apply to US citizens:
Hours prior to the YouTube proof video Sen. Levin stated on the Senate floor that the Obama administration requested that the provision be changed so that it does not apply to American citizens, but he explained the provision wasn’t changed because it already didn’t apply to American citizens, “The administration officials reviewed the draft language for this provision the day before our markup and recommended additional changes. We were able to accommodate those recommendations, except for the administration request that the provision apply only to detainees who are captured overseas. There is a good reason for that. But even here, the difference is relatively modest, because the provision already excludes all U.S. citizens. It also excludes all lawful residents of the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution. The only covered persons left are those who are illegally in this country or who arrive as tourists or on some other short-term basis, and that is a small remaining category, but an important one, because it includes the terrorists who clandestinely arrive in the United States with the objective of attacking military or other targets here.”
People need to stop believing everything they read from certain pundits and every claim made in a two minute video.
Yes, NDAA as poorly written originally and even after the changes is a crappy bill; it was written in the Senate Armed Services Committee (McCain/Graham- hello), and as such is a nod to Republican authoritarian stances of the Bush administration. It was co-authored by a Democrat, whom many saw in the above shortened video from C-SPAN claiming the President had asked for “this language”.
Of course, the President did not ask for this language, and this is a matter of record, see the November Senate Armed Services Committee mark up of their original NDAA bill with objections from Obama:
The new bill would also clarify a number of provisions addressing detainee matters in an effort to address concerns raised by the Administration and others. As requested by the Administration, the new bill would clarify that the section providing detention authority does not expand the existing authority to detain under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Forceand make Guantanamo- related restrictions one-year requirements instead of permanent restrictions.
The new bill would also modify a provision requiring military custody of al Qaeda members who attack the United States (subject to a national security waiver) to clarify the President’s authority to decide who makes determinations of coverage, how they are made, and when they are made. As modified, the provision makes it clear that these determinations will not interfere with any ongoing law enforcement operations or interrogations. Under the modified provision, the Executive Branch has the flexibility to keep a covered detainee in civilian custody pursuant to a national security determination, or to transfer a military detainee for trial in the civilian courts. The Administration agreed to have military custody apply to al Qaeda members captured outside the United States (subject to a national security waiver) but disagrees with the committee decision not to preclude the application of the provision inside the United States.
You might be wondering why the video was edited to lead you to believe that he did. That’s a great question.
You might also be asking yourself if the same people who were so willing to believe the author of the bill, Carl Levin, will be as willing to believe Levin’s full statement, in which he clearly says that the President did not want this language.
Had Obama not objected to the language, we would be stuck with the original bill since 83 senators voted yes on the original bill which also passed through the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously.
People should be asking themselves about the agenda behind not holding the authors of the bill and indeed the Senate accountable for the language in this bill, as it is the same Senate who refused to fund Obama’s executive order to close Gitmo. We note their attempt to run an end-game around Obama’s push for civilian courts and their attempt to slide in permanent changes to restrictions regarding Gitmo. The President objected to those permanent changes.
One would think that anyone who cared about the issue of closing Gitmo would be up in arms at the Senators attempt to use a funding bill to get around Obama’s attempts to get around their refusal to fund the closure of Gitmo.
We are in no way defending NDAA. However, the language was changed, and when taken in total (instead of parsed), courtesy of Mother Jones:
It does not, contrary to what many media outlets have reported, authorize the president to indefinitely detain without trial an American citizen suspected of terrorism who is captured in the US. A last minute compromise amendment adopted in the Senate, whose language was retained in the final bill, leaves it up to the courts to decide if the president has that power, should a future president try to exercise it. But if a future president does try to assert the authority to detain an American citizen without charge or trial, it won’t be based on the authority in this bill….
The language in the bill that relates to the detention authority as far as US citizens and permanent residents are concerned is, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”
The bill is still rotten. It takes us in the wrong direction, moving us toward the militarization rather than the civilian courts this President and the majority of the American people desire. The bill represents the Republican approach to national security; one that the American people soundly rejected in 2008. Luckily the President got the language changed, because even if he chose to veto it, it would be for naught, as the Senate had 83 votes for it and it takes only 67 to override a Presidential veto.
The real focus should be on why this bill was written in this way in the first place, when we the people were very clear about wanting civilian trials, and this president has been clear about his desire to close Gitmo.
In the meantime, we urge you to watch the entire C-SPAN video of Levin, lest we all be Breitbarted, because it matters that we are all clear on exactly who is trying to take our country in the wrong direction.
Crooks and Liars:
During this Sunday’s Meet the Press interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann, it looked like we were going to get some push back from host David Gregory on zombie lie we keep hearing from Republicans and that Gregory himself has repeated, that President Obama is responsible for the bulk of nation’s debt.
But sadly the only rebuttal we got from Gregory was to say that “For accuracy the debt exploded under the Bush administration” and then allow Bachmann to continue to lie about which administration’s policies was responsible for most that debt.
Steve Benen took Gregory to task back in July of this year here — The latest in non-existent equivalence and followed up here — Blame where blame is due and he finished the latter post with this update:
John Cole reminds me that NBC’s David Gregory, just last week, passed along the GOP line uncritically: “It’s the Democrats who have run up the debt since President Obama got into office.” Here’s hoping someone let’s Gregory know about the chart, too.
Judging from his prior interview I linked above with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and this week’s interview with Bachmann, I’d say he still hasn’t looked at it. I also find it extremely ironic that someone from the political party that seems determined to turn us into a banana republic has the nerve to be accusing anyone else of doing that, but projection seems to be the one thing Republicans are really good at, as Bachmann continues to prove almost every time she opens her mouth.
Rough transcript below the fold.
BACHMANN: When I came into Congress in January of 2007, the country was $8.67 trillion in debt. Today it’s $15 trillion. Next year it will be $17 trillion. We’re acting like Greece and like Italy and that’s what people are frustrated with. They want us to act like a first world nation, not like what President Barack Obama is doing. He’s acting like we’re a banana republic. We’ve got to get our act together and stop spending money that we don’t have.
GREGORY: You’re seriously calling the United States acting like a banana republic, compared to the sort of debt issues that the Euro-zone countries have had?
BACHMANN: What I’m doing is saying that the decisions that Barack Obama is making is acting like a banana republic. It’s absolutely irresponsible what President Obama is doing to get behind measures to increase spending to such a level that we’re going into debt $1.5 trillion every year. This compares to President George Bush. Back in 2007 our debt for the entire year was $160 billion. (crosstalk)
GREGORY: For accuracy the debt exploded under the Bush administration.
BACHMANN: David, do a comparison. I agree with you that there was too much money spent under George Bush, but for the year 2007, the debt for the year, was $160 billion. The debt for this last year was about $1.5 trillion. That’s almost ten times more in debt than George Bush and just for the month of, I think it’s November this year, it was more than the entire year for 2007. So there’s no question that the debt has just skyrocketed under President Obama in comparison to George Bush.
And here are those charts published by the New York Times, the first of second of which Steve Benen linked to his post.
For weeks, Occupy Wall Street has been talking about occupying a vacant lot next to Duarte Square in SoHo. On Saturday, it walked the talk. At about 3:30 p.m, several hundred marchers left the square along with two large wooden ladders concealed beneath banners. They circled the block and converged at the lot’s northwest corner, where they hoisted one of the ladders up to a tall chain-link fence. The first person over was retired Bishop George Packard, who writes at Occupied Bishop. Here’s a video of him entering the lot:
After Packard tumbled over the fence, he climbed onto a wooden bench and waved for the crowd to follow. Other priests mounted the ladder while the the crowd yanked up the base of the fence to make a large opening. Someone cut the lock on a gate, and dozens of people streamed inside, talking, dancing to rap music from a boom box, and urging the rest of the crowd to join them. But the party couldn’t last. The police, taken off guard at first, came pouring through the gate with flex cuffs and arrested everyone who didn’t flee, including Packard. The New York Daily News reported that about 30 occupiers were loaded into police vans. Here’s my video of the first arrests:
Here’s Packard discussing it all with fellow occupiers while riding to jail in a paddy wagon:
That morning, things had gotten off to an ominous start when police detained and arrested Zach, one of the organizers, while he was walking across a nearby public park. Witnesses said that Zach has just delivered some t-shirts to the park and wasn’t doing anything illegal, or even protesting. Police told a Democracy Now reporter that Zach was arrested on a warrant, suggesting that they’re targeting key organizers for their role in planning new occupations.
Occupy Wall Street had a variety of motivations for occupying the lot, which is owned by Trinity Church but not currently being used for anything. Many occupiers desperately want to establish another physical occupation, believing that it will give them a better platform for outreach and organizing. The Trinity lot is one of the few unused parcels remotely near Wall Street, and the occupiers hoped that letters of support from prominent clergymen such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu might sway the church to their side. They’ve also leaned on the church by highlighting its ties to Wall Street interests.
Organizers chose December 17th to move on the lot because it marks the one-year anniversary of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi–the Tunisian fruit vendor who is credited with sparking the Arab Spring–and the three-month anniversary of OWS. Organizers told me that it’s likely to be their last major occupation attempt until the spring, and the whole thing felt nostalgic even before it was over. “I left my heart in Zuccotti Park,” one sign said. After marching through the streets to Times Square–and getting kettled along the way–some organizers gathered at a popular OWS meeting spot in TriBeCa to watch video clips from the movement’s early days.
“It was really incredibly optimistic of us to think that we were going to take that space and hold it,” tactical team member George Machado told me afterwards. But for a moment it seemed possible: “We got the clergy in first, and we had that space, and I thought for a second that we might be able to do it.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into law a spending bill that Congress approved to keep the government running, the White House said on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, the Senate had passed the $915 billion bill to fund most federal activities through next September and avert a government shutdown. It had cleared the House of Representatives on Friday.
A number of government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency and Labor Department, faced the possibility of shutting down this weekend without the legislation to replenish their funding.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “flatly rejected a short-term, bipartisan Senate measure to extend a payroll tax break and unemployment insurance, setting the stage for a bitter year-end Congressional collision and the potential loss of benefits for millions of Americans,” the New York Times reports.
“The surprising setback threatened the holiday plans of lawmakers and President Obama, deeply embarrassed Republican leaders in both chambers and raised the specter of a year-end tax increase that economists have warned could set back the already fragile economic recovery.”
Washington Post: “The White House and congressional Democrats responded that if the House does not proceed on the compromise that overwhelmingly passed the Senate, Republicans will be to blame.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) does not plan to bring the Senate back in session next week, even if the House rejects a compromise bill to extend the payroll tax holiday, said his spokesman.
When asked whether Reid would call senators back to town next week if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuses to schedule a vote or the House defeats a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman, said: “No.”
“There is absolutely no reason the House should not pass the overwhelming bipartisan compromise passed by the Senate,” said Jentleson.
The Senate approved the legislation, which includes a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and a two-month freeze of scheduled cuts to Medicare payments to doctors, by a vote of 89-10 on Saturday.
The Senate is not scheduled to return to regular session until Monday Jan. 23 although it has planned cursory pro-forma sessions before then to stop President Obama from making recess appointments.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remained silent Sunday morning about the prospect of senators returning to Washington next week.
Reid on Sunday morning called on Boehner to bring the payroll holiday extension to the House floor for an immediate vote.
“Instead of threatening middle-class families with a thousand-dollar tax hike, Speaker Boehner should bring up the bipartisan compromise that Senator McConnell and I negotiated, and which passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority of Democratic and Republican votes,” Reid said in a statement.
“I would hate to think that Speaker Boehner is refusing to act on this bipartisan compromise because he is afraid it will actually pass, but I cannot imagine any other reason why he would not bring it up for a vote,” he added.
Reid noted that he and McConnell negotiated the compromise at Boehner’s request.
Senate aides said Boehner was kept apprised of the talks and was fully expected to support the Senate agreement.
But the House speaker declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that neither he nor rank-and-file House Republicans would accept it, raising the possibility that what had seemed a done deal on Saturday is about to unravel.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who handled the Senate Democrats’ political strategy during the payroll tax debate, said Sunday that the decision of whether middle-class taxes go up rests entirely with the House GOP.
“There are only two choices for the House Republicans at this point: pass this bipartisan compromise or else they alone will be responsible for letting taxes rise on the middle class,” Schumer said in a statement.
Schumer said Boehner would be breaking his word to Senate leaders if he did not schedule a vote on the Senate compromise. He said Boehner empowered McConnell to negotiate for him.
“Last week, Speaker Boehner sat in a meeting with Leader Reid and Leader McConnell and he gave Leader McConnell his proxy to negotiate a bipartisan compromise,” Schumer said. “He made public comments promising to live by whatever agreement the Senate reached. He said, ‘If the Senate acts, I’m committed to bringing the House back—we can do it within 24 hours—to deal with whatever the Senate does.’
“The Senate came to a deal, and now Speaker Boehner must keep his word,” Schumer added.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, disputed Schumer’s characterization of the meeting.
“That is not true,” he said in response to Schumer’s claim that McConnell was acting as Boehner’s proxy.
A House GOP source told The Hill that Boehner had spoken approvingly of the Senate legislation during a Saturday conference call with members of the House GOP conference.
A Boehner aide said Sunday that the Speaker only lauded inclusion of a provision forcing the administration to speed up consideration of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The aide said Boehner did not commend the Senate deal as a whole.
The Edge of the American West blog:
[…] Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a liberal president, allowed by crisis to go further in turning the purpose of the United States to the aid of the least among Americans than any president before or since. He spoke frankly of his commitment to the poor and downtrodden.
Tonight I call the roll—the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today.
Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance—men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms.
Written on it are the names of those who despaired, young men and young women for whom opportunity had become a will-o’-the-wisp.
Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure.
Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans of all parties and all faiths, Americans who had eyes to see and hearts to understand, whose consciences were burdened because too many of their fellows were burdened, who looked on these things four years ago and said, “This can be changed. We will change it.”
We still lead that army in 1936. They stood with us then because in 1932 they believed. They stand with us today because in 1936 they know. And with them stand millions of new recruits who have come to know.
Their hopes have become our record.
Before he had campaigned on hope and now he campaigned on achievement. And he won, thumpingly. He promised to go further and do more.
I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful, law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
And yet within less than two years his program stood dead in the water. Indeed if it weren’t for the obviously impending war, Roosevelt probably would have lost his campaign in 1940, if he had even run for a third term, and it would now be harder than it already is to point out the success of his New Deal.1
What stalled the New Deal and nearly killed FDR’s presidency? Why, a campaign for true democracy and ideological purity within the Democratic Party.
For starters, Roosevelt came into his second term determined to skirt the obstreperous Supreme Court by, as you almost certainly know, enlarging its membership. Roosevelt lost this fight, which consumed almost the entirety of a Congressional session. He called Congress into special session, asking for more New Deal legislation—a renewed AAA, labor laws, and an expansion of the TVA model of regional planning. None passed, and instead the session produced the “Conservative Manifesto,” a document in which Southern Democrats joined other conservatives to ask for lower taxes and protection for private enterprise as well as, of course, respect for “states’ rights.”
Conservative white supremacist southerners, bulwark of the Democratic Party, had as the Depression lessened become enemies of the New Deal. Roosevelt wanted the Democratic Party to become the party of the New Deal.
So in 1938 he campaigned against conservative southern Democratic senators “Cotton Ed” Smith and Walter George. In opposing them, he proposed an agenda of his own: in that summer’s “Report on Economic Conditions of the South,” the President’s men identified problems specific to the region that New Deal policies could fix.
But Roosevelt did not prevail. Instead of debating Roosevelt’s policies, southern Democrats turned the elections instead into a referendum on outside agitation in their affairs, depicting Roosevelt’s intervention as “a second March through Georgia” or part of an effort to secure a federal anti-lynching bill. And so Roosevelt lost.
What defeated Roosevelt in 1938? In part the peculiar southern fear of federal interference, which flourished in the night soil of white memories that preferred night riders to black voters.
But in part, too, the general conditions of American politics that favor the overrepresentation of rural voters and the local over the national. Because such a variety of diverse local interests must be represented at the national level, no competitive national political party in the United States has ever been ideologically pure, and the Democrats have generally been even less pure than the Republicans (see under Rogers, Will).
Neither Roosevelt’s eloquence, nor his personal popularity, nor the success of the New Deal could overcome such opponents. Instead, by ineffectually attacking them, he made them stronger and ensured that the roots of modern conservatism struck deep into the earth of the South. Returned to his position, Cotton Ed Smith faced reporters who wanted to know if Roosevelt was his own worst enemy. “Not while I’m alive,” Smith answered.
All day yesterday and today, the House Judiciary Committee has been debating its controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The Senate Judiciary Committee has already passed a similar bill. Copyright holders, including the music and film industries, say the new legislation is utterly essential for battling rampant Internet piracy. Opponents of the bills, including a diverse array of law professors and tech companies, have been shouting themselves hoarse arguing that the new bills will trample online speech and potentially “break” the Internet. So how problematic are these new piracy bills? Here’s a brief rundown.
What do the House and Senate bills do? At a basic level, SOPA — and its Senate analogue, the Protect IP Act — would enable copyright holders and the Justice Department to get court orders against sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement.That could include, say, sites that host illegal mp3s or sites that link to such sites (the revised House bill focuses primarily on foreign sites like, oh, Pirate Bay). Courts could bar advertisers and payment companies such as PayPal from doing business with the offending sites in question, order search engines to stop listing the accused infringers, or even require Internet service providers to block access entirely. The bills contain other provisions, too, like making it a felony to stream unauthorized content online.
Wait, aren’t there already laws against online piracy? Yes. In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), under which any site that’s hosting or linking to pirated material must promptly take down the offending material once notified. Google, for instance, says it has complied with more than 5 million takedown requests. Yet companies like Google or Facebook aren’t currently obliged to actively police their sites for illegal content, and, under the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provisions, service providers aren’t held liable for the content on their sites — so long as they make good-faith efforts to remove offending material when asked. Yet copyright holders say the current regime doesn’t go far enough.
Why do copyright holders need more drastic tools? As Tim Lee explains here, file-sharing has become increasingly decentralized as the record and movie industries have cracked down on infringers in the past decade. First they killed Napster, then went after more dispersed sites like Grokster, and now record labels are suing file-sharing individuals. But various hosting and link sites for pirated goods have been moving outside the United States, making it harder for the federal government to take them down. Essentially, copyright holders are asking for a really enormous sledgehammer to play this game of whack-a-mole.
Who’s for and against these piracy bills? The bills garner staunch support from groups that rely on copyright, such as the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, which has been convinced that online piracy cost jobs. The opposition forces include tech groups such as Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, eBay, and Wikimedia, as well as civil liberties groups such as the ACLU.
Why are tech start-ups so vehemently opposed? These companies have argued that the bills are tantamount to Internet censorship. Rather than receiving a notification for copyright violations, sites now face immediate action — up to and including being taken down before they have a chance to respond. Intermediary sites like YouTube and Flickr could lose their “safe harbor” protections. Nonprofit or low-budget sites might not have the resources to defend themselves against costly lawsuits. And, meanwhile, larger companies like Google and Facebook could be forced to spend considerable time and money policing their millions of offerings each day for offending material.
Do these online piracy bills threaten free speech? Plenty of law professors, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, think so. The original version of the bill would have allowed copyright holders to block advertising and payment services for an accused Web site before a judicial hearing even took place. The new version of the House bill would require a hearing first, but, as Julian Sanchez notes, the bill “still makes it far too easy for U.S. corporations to effectively destroy foreign Internet sites based on a one-sided proceeding in U.S. courts.” Other critics have worried that the bill’s language is far too broad, threatening all sorts of potentially benign Internet uses. What’s more, the Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that the bill cracks down on electronic tools to circumvent government blacklists that are essential to human rights activists and political dissidents around the world.
Could the bills actually “break” the Internet? Many tech experts think so. The bills would give courts the power to order rogue sites to be de-listed from the Domain Name System — basically, the Internet’s phone directory. U.S. service providers would be tasked with acting as if the site didn’t exist at all (although the newly revised House bill gives a little bit of flexibility here). A big potential pitfall here is that the Internet is global, and it’s possible that users could seek out foreign DNS servers to access blacklisted sites. Some experts have raised security concerns about this splintering of the Internet’s architecture.
Is all this even necessary? How big a problem is online piracy anyway? That’s unclear. Copyright providers often claim they’re losing huge fistfuls of money due to online piracy. $58 billion per year. $100 billion per year. Etc. Those numbers, however, are suspiciously hard to verify. And, at the moment, the content industry is doing better than the economy as a whole. What’s more, the whole point of copyright is, as the Constitution puts it, to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”As James Fallows argues, overly aggressive enforcement of those rules can do just as much to stifle innovation as an overly lax approach can. The question is where the proper balance lies.
So how is this fight likely to play out? That’s unclear. If the House bill makes it out of committee, it could have a decent shot of passage. The Senate counterpart, already passed through committee, has been held up by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Out in the larger world, companies like Tumblr and Reddit have used their reach to whip up a large and vocal opposition among Internet users, though it’s far from certain that angry public opinion can sway Congress.
Perhaps the best shot at derailing the bills’ momentum comes from an alternative bill drawn up by Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) that would provide more protections to Web sites accused of enabling infringement — they wouldn’t be cut off from ads and payment networks, for instance, until there was a full hearing by the International Trade Commission. Eric Goldman has a more detailed look at that alternative bill here.
Update: The House Judiciary Committee adjourned its hearings this afternoon without the expected vote on the bill. As David Kravets reports, no vote date has been set, which means the bill might not come up again until January at the earliest. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) motioned for the hearing to adjourn until technical experts could be brought in to testify on whether fiddling with the Domain Name System could pose security risks.
The incentive behind GOP obstructionism [a few months old but very relevant today]
Steve Benen, Washington Monthly:
At first blush, it’s tempting to think congressional Republicans are simply out of their minds to kill jobs bills during a jobs crisis. It seems insane — Americans are desperate for Congress to act; Americans overwhelmingly support bills like the one considered by the Senate last night; and yet GOP officials seem wholly unconcerned. Aren’t they afraid of a backlash?
Well, no, probably not. The reason probably has something to do with voters like Dale Bartholomew.
Now, my point is not to pick on one random voter quoted in an Associated Press article. He’s very likely a well-intentioned guy who’s simply frustrated with what’s going on in Washington. I certainly don’t blame him for that.
Consider, though, the significance of a quote like this one.
“If Romney and Obama were going head to head at this point in time I would probably move to Romney,” said Dale Bartholomew, 58, a manufacturing equipment salesman from Marengo, Ill. Bartholomew said he agrees with Obama’s proposed economic remedies and said partisan divisions have blocked the president’s initiatives.
But, he added: “His inability to rally the political forces, if you will, to accomplish his goal is what disappoints me.”
Got that? This private citizen agrees with Obama, but is inclined to vote for Romney anyway — even though Romney would move the country in the other direction — because the president hasn’t been able to “rally the political forces” to act sensibly in Washington.
That is heartbreaking, but it’s important — Republicans have an incentive, not only to hold the country back on purpose, but also to block every good idea, even the ones they agree with, because they assume voters will end up blaming the president in the end. And here’s a quote from a guy who makes it seem as if the GOP’s assumptions are correct.
It’s hard to say just how common this sentiment is, but it doesn’t seem uncommon. The public likes to think of the President of the United States, no matter who’s in office, as having vast powers. He or she is “leader of the free world.” He or she holds the most powerful office on the planet. If the president — any president — wants a jobs bill, it must be within his or her power to simply get one to the Oval Office to be signed into law.
And when the political system breaks down, and congressional Republicans kill ideas that are worthwhile and popular, there’s an assumption that the president is somehow to blame, even if that doesn’t make any sense at all. Indeed, here we have a quote from a voter who is inclined to rewardRepublicans, giving them more power, even though the voter agrees with Obama — whose ideas (and presidency) Republicans are actively trying to destroy.
As Greg Sargent, who first flagged the quote in the AP article, explained: “Voters either don’t understand, or they don’t care, that the GOP has employed an unprecedented level of filibustering in order to block all of Obama’s policies, even ones that have majority public support from Dems, independents and Republicans alike. Their reaction, in a nutshell, seems to be: The Obama-led government isn’t acting on the economy? Obama can’t get his policies passed? Well, he must be weak.”
The challenge for the president isn’t to teach Civics 101 to the populace; that would take too long. The task at hand is communicating who deserves credit for fighting to make things better, and who deserves blame for standing in the way.
Because if voters who agree with Obama are inclined to vote for Republicans because Republicans are blocking Obama’s ideas, then not only is 2012 lost, but the descent of American politics into hysterical irrationality is complete.
Just so we’re clear, this week, a leading presidential candidate articulated his belief that, if elected, he might (1) eliminate courts he doesn’t like; (2) ignore court rulings he doesn’t like; and (3) take judges into custody if he disapproves of their legal analyses.
I hope it’s unnecessary to note that Gingrich’s vision is stark raving mad.
I’ll just conclude with this observation: Newt Gingrich believes Barack Obama is a wild-eyed fanatic, guided by an extremist ideology, hell bent on overseeing a radical overhaul of the American system of government.
The irony is rich.
One of the most consequential questions for the 2012 presidential campaign may be this: Who will succeed in defining Mitt Romney’s years at Bain Capital in the public mind?
I just chatted with Paul Begala, an adviser to the pro-Obama group Priorities USA, and he previewed how Dems will use the issue to paint Romney as a symbol of the predatory, unfettered capitalism that landed us in our economic crisis — and is now the target of rising public anger at Wall Street. He explained how Dems will push back on Romney’s efforts to define the Bain years on his own terms.
As Mike Allen noted this morning , the most important moment at last night’s debate was Romney’s extensive defense of his Bain tenure.
The transcript’s in the link, but Romney acknowledged that not all the businesses Bain restructured ended up succeeding; that this has left him with a “real world” sense of what makes private sector companies succeed and fail; and that at bottom, his motives were similar to what drove Obama to try to save the auto industry.
In other words, Romney will turn the layoffs that happened under Bain into a positive: Proof that he understands how private companies tick and that he will bring a businessman’s fresh eye to the economy and job creation. If voters who are tempted to give up on government’s ability to create jobs conclude that Romney is someone who can tinker around under the hood of the economy and get it humming again, it could be very dangerous for Dems.
Begala suggested a Dem response that goes directly to the heart of voters’ perceptions of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable capitalist conduct — one that places a heavy emphasis on Romney’s self interest and on how he earned his enormous fortune.
“Obama can say, `I didn’t load all these companies up with debt, bankrupt them, lay off all their workers, and pay myself millions of dollars in the process,’” Begala said, referring to the contrast with Obama’s bailout of auto companies. “That’s where his storyline collapses. It doesn’t sit right to see companies go bankrupt and go through layoffs, and watch the layoff artist walk away with millions of dollars.”
Begala added that Dems would use this attack line to tell a larger story about Romney — and contrast it with Obama.
“The Bain years are central to Romney’s narrative,” he said. “If you think about the arc of his life, on a personal level, he seems to be an exemplary man. He was born with every advantage of wealth, power, and privilege. But he used all of those talents to enrich himself and his wealthy friends — and to screw the middle class. That feeds into his policy agenda.”
Begala contrasted that with “the contrary arc of Obama’s life.” He said ”Obama, too, went to the best schools. But he grew up poor, with a single mother. He graduated with the same platinum diploma.” Obama went into public service, while Romney “profited off the misery of others.”
“I dont think he can avoid the downside scrutiny,” Begala concluded. “This is not something he can buy a derivative to hedge against.”
We’ll see if it works. The state of the economy in November 2012 — and the voters’ conclusion about the efficacy of Obama’s policies in fixing it — may still trump all.
Twenty Senate seats have changed hands since 2006, the most competitive back-to-back-to-back election cycles since the 1940s. And it might only get more competitive in 2012.
The nature of the map and the high number of quality candidates who have stepped forward in the first year of the 2012 election cycle could put upwards of half of the 33 Senate seats in play.
Already, the Cook Political Report lists 10 Senate races as toss-ups — more than at this point in the 2010, 2008 or 2006 elections. Cook also rates 21 races as being at least somewhat competitive at this point, which is at least five more than any of the three preceding elections.
And if the Senate is indeed at stake — Republicans need to gain three seats for a tie and four for the majority — it appears as though it won’t be decided in just a couple states, but rather by competitive races all over the country.
Two of the seats that have long been at the top of the Line — North Dakota and Nebraska — both look like they are something closer to toss-ups today, especially if Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) seeks reelection.
Meanwhile, other states that don’t appear on the Line are starting to look even more competitive. Republicans have new hope in states like Florida, Hawaii and Michigan, while Democrats say they could have a third bona fide pickup opportunity in Arizona and some hope in Indiana if Sen. Richard Lugar (R) loses his primary.
In any other year, all or most of those states would have a good chance at making the Line. But the top 10 Senate races this time around are genuine toss-ups at the moment.
So what does it all mean? Practically, it means the national parties and outside groups could have a lot of races competing for their attention.
If so many toss-ups remain on the map, Republicans will again have to decide whether to go after the cheaper states or the states that appear the most winnable. For example, are they going to go to great lengths to defend Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the Boston media market, or try to win an open seat New Mexico, which is much cheaper the play in?
Translation: it should be a fun cycle. And we shouldn’t lose track of the Senate races even as the presidential race heats up.
To the Line!
10. New Mexico (Democratic-controlled): Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) made very clear recently where her party stands in the contested primary between Rep. Martin Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas. “We recruited Rep. Heinrich, and we think he’s doing a great job,” she said at a recent press briefing. While that statement won’t make some in the Hispanic community happy, Heinrich is the more proven commodity and, at least according to recent polling, the stronger nominee against former congresswoman Heather Wilson, the heavy favorite in the GOP primary. (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Wisconsin (D): This is perhaps the most wide-open and interesting primary of the cycle on the GOP side. Former governor Tommy Thompson (R) has problems on his right, but he just got the endorsement of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, which should help (to what degree, we don’t know). Former congressmanMark Neumann, meanwhile, has got the backing of tea party-aligned Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jim DeMint(R-S.C.). And to top it all off, the National Journal recently argued that state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald also has a path to victory. The winner gets Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D). (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Ohio (D): This race has already taken a turn for the bizarre, with Democrats crying foul over a U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad that they say makes Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) look bad. State TreasurerJosh Mandel (R) has raised lots of money, but we’re still waiting to see what the 34-year-old’s campaign is all about. And as we’ve noted before, Brown is formidable. (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Virginia (D): In a race that hasn’t changed much since it became clear that former governor Tim Kaine (D) and former senator George Allen (R) would run, the recent early debate between the two amounted to big news. Post-game handicapping suggested that Kaine had won the day, although it’s far from clear that a debate nearly one year before the 2012 election will have any significant impact on the dynamic of the race. We continue to believethat this race will be the marquee contest of the 2012 Senate cycle for three reasons: the size of the two personalities involved, the competitiveness of Virginia at the presidential level and the likelihood that this race will be very, very close. (Previous ranking: 7)
6. Montana (D): Democrats gleefully moved around a poll conducted by the Montana Chamber of Commerce that showed Sen. Jon Tester(D) leading Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) 42 percent to 37 percent. Other data suggests that the race is closer and, given the state’s Republican lean, it’s hard to imagine Tester winning by more than a point or two. But the very fact that Tester is in the game — given the anti-incumbent sentiment in the country — speaks to the fact that his personal brand may be able to weather the problems the national Democratic Party will have in the Last Best Place. (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Nevada (Republican-controlled): Normally, the fact that Sen. Dean Heller was appointed to the job — on an interim basis — that he is seeking to hold full-time next year would be a major political blessing. Not so much in a year like this one. Democrats note that Heller is the only person in Congress to vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan twice — once in the House, once in the Senate — and Heller has been outraised by Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley of late. The whole shebang in this race is Clark County (Las Vegas). Berkley needs to win it — and win it big — to offset losses in the more rural reaches of the state that Heller represented in the House. Lucky for her, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) showed her the way during his 2010 win. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Missouri (D): Republicans continue to insist that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is in deep trouble while Democrats insist that she is inoculating herself from President Obama and her party — look at her recent call for a permanent earmark ban — and that a lackluster field of GOP candidates could save her. Of the GOP field, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) recently told the Wall Street Journal: “We have a three-way primary, and it really depends on who’s nominated, whether they are able to withstand what they know is coming at them in a general election.” (Previous ranking: 3)
3. Massachusetts (R): This race, more than any other, has been climbing up our list in recent months. That’s because a series of polls continue to show Democrats in better and better position. The most recent is a Boston Herald poll from last week that shows Elizabeth Warren taking a seven-point lead on Brown. More importantly, the poll showed Brown falling out of favor with Massachusetts voters, with his personal favorable and approval numbers dropping. And given the state’s heavy blue lean, he needs to remain a very popular Republican to win reelection. (Previous ranking: 6)
2. Nebraska (D): The question here is whether Sen. Ben Nelson (D) seeks reelection and that announcement is coming soon. If Nelson doesn’t run, this seat probably moves to the top spot on the Line with the GOP being heavily favored to pick it up. His exit may also open up the race to someone like Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who is so popular that he would be a shoo-in. As in Missouri, the GOP field here is something of a question mark. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. North Dakota (D): Democrats are convinced that the political handicapping world — or at least the Fix — has this race all wrong. Yes, they have a quality candidate and proven vote-getter in former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp. Yes, Rep. Rick Berg, the near-certainRepublican nominee, is nowhere near as popular as Sen. John Hoeven was when he swept to the Senate in 2010. But North Dakota is likely to go strongly for the Republican presidential nominee — no matter who it is — in 2012, and it’s hard to imagine Heitkamp overperforming Obama by 10 or more points. (Previous ranking: 1)
Almost 13 years ago, Mitt Romney left Bain Capital, the successful private equity firm he had helped start, and moved to Utah to rescue the Salt Lake City Olympic Games and begin a second career in public life.
Yet when it came to his considerable personal wealth, Mr. Romney never really left Bain.
In what would be the final deal of his private equity career, he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain’s profits ever since, bringing the Romney family millions of dollars in income each year and bolstering the fortune that has helped finance Mr. Romney’s political aspirations.
The arrangement allowed Mr. Romney to pursue his career in public life while enjoying much of the financial upside of being a Bain partner as the company grew into a global investing behemoth.
In the process, Bain continued to buy and restructure companies, potentially leaving Mr. Romney exposed to further criticism that he has grown wealthier over the last decade partly as a result of layoffs. Moreover, much of his income from the arrangement has probably qualified for a lower tax rate than ordinary income under a tax provision favorable to hedge fund and private equity managers, which has become a point of contention in the battle over economic inequality.
An examination of Mr. Romney’s public financial disclosures, as well as interviews with former Bain partners, business associates and counselors to his campaign, reveals the extent of his financial relationship with Bain Capital and how it has allowed him to continue amassing a personal fortune while building a political career.
Though Mr. Romney left Bain in early 1999, he received a share of the corporate buyout and investment profits enjoyed by partners from all Bain deals through February 2009: four global buyout funds and 18 other funds, more than twice as many over all as Mr. Romney had a share of the year he left. He was also given the right to invest his own money alongside his former partners. Because some of the funds and deals covered by Mr. Romney’s agreement will not fully wind down for several years, Mr. Romney is still entitled to a share of some of Bain’s profits.
During his political career, Mr. Romney has promoted his experience as a businessman while deflecting criticism of layoffs caused by private equity deals by noting that he left Bain in 1999. But records and interviews show that in the years since, he has benefited from at least a few Bain deals that resulted in upheaval for companies, workers and communities.
One lucrative deal for Bain involved KB Toys, a company based in Pittsfield, Mass., which one of the firm’s partnerships bought in 2000. Three years later, when Mr. Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, the company began closing stores and laying off thousands of employees. More recently, Bain helped lead the private equity purchase of Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio station operator, which resulted in the loss of 2,500 jobs.
Much information about Mr. Romney’s wealth is not known publicly. Federal law does not obligate him to disclose the precise details of his investments. He has declined to release his tax returns, and his campaign last week refused to say what tax rate he paid on his Bain earnings.
But since Mr. Romney’s payouts from Bain have come partly from the firm’s share of profits on its customers’ investments, that income probably qualifies for the 15 percent tax rate reserved for capital gains, rather than the 35 percent that wealthy taxpayers pay on ordinary income. The Internal Revenue Service allows investment managers to pay the lower rate on the share of profits, known in the industry as “carried interest,” that they receive for running funds for investors.
“These are options that are not available to the ordinary taxpayer,” said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado who studies financial firms. “You continue to take your carried interest — a return on labor, not capital invested — and you’re paying 15 percent on it instead of high marginal income rates.”
Mr. Romney is among the wealthiest candidates ever to run for president, with a family fortune that his campaign has estimated at $190 million to $250 million. In the years since he left Bain, much of his wealth has migrated into investments outside the company or into family trusts, including an additional $100 million set aside for his five sons.
But the family’s Bain holdings are still considerable: in his 2011 disclosure, Mr. Romney reported Bain assets between $12.4 million and $60.9 million, which provided between $1.5 million and $9.3 million in income. The blind trust for his wife, Ann, held at least another $10 million, generating income of at least $4.1 million. Because the campaign is required to provide only a minimum value for some Bain assets now held by Mrs. Romney, the total could be far more.
A spokesman for Bain declined to comment on the specifics of the arrangement, citing confidentiality agreements with Mr. Romney.
The Political Carnival:
Screen grab by Americans Against the Tea Party Facebook page.
Jules Manson, a California politician, a “libertarian Ron Paul supporter”, apparently called for the assassination of President Obama and his daughters. He did that on his now-defunct Facebook page:
“Assassinate the fucken nigger and his monkey children.”
He ran for a seat on a local city council out here, and lost. Can’t imagine why.
Now why would some racist nutcase want to kill the president, you ask? He was angry with President Obama over a policy matter.
UPDATE: Many have asked if this Examiner article is reliable. All I can say is that the screen grab seems to be.
On Sunday morning’s Fox News Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put on a veritable clinic on the dual pillars of his campaign: taking all sides of an issue, and taking no side of an issue. When host Chris Wallace asked him whether he would have invaded Iraq, given what we know now, Romney breakdanced around the question. He did reveal that it’s “fortuunate” the troops are out of Iraq, but that President Obamawas wrong to take the troops out of Iraq, but that, as president, Romney wouldn’t put troops back in Iraq.
This year’s Republican primary race has been marked by foreign policy positions that are a hotter mess than microwave barf, but at least Romney’s rivals have been consistent with the crazy. In his performance on FNS, the former Massachusetts Governor boldly went nowhere. Asked by Chris Wallace if, “looking back and hindsight is always 20/20,” the US should have invaded Iraq, Romney responded with a Saladworks-worthy response.
Gov. Romney began by helpfully restating the question. “Going back and trying to say given what we know now, what will we have done? Would we have invaded or not?” Romney said. “At the time, we didn’t have the knowledge that we have now.”
“At the time, Saddam Hussein was hiding. He was not letting the inspectors from the United Nations into the various places that they wanted to go. The IAEA was blocked from going into the palaces and so forth. And the intelligence in our nation and other nations was that this tyrant had weapons of mass destruction. And in the light of that — that belief, we took action which was appropriate at the time.”
In hindsight, then, Mitt Romney thinks the US should have…well, he doesn’t say, but in explaining the lessons learned, he doesn’t address the intelligence failures that led us to war. The logical conclusion is that a President Romney will not have benefited from that bit of historical wisdom, the same missing wisdom that has GOP sabers rattling at Iran.
Romney also parted ways with the conservative mythos surrounding that infamous “Mission Accomplished” photo-op, saying “I think there was a sense that when, on the ship it said Mission Accomplished, that the mission had been accomplished. Turns out it was just getting started and we had to pursue a surge very late in the process.”
But it was on the issue of the Iraq War’s end that Romney really dazzled. “Fortunately,” Romney said, “we’ve now been able to pull our troops out. We’re, of course, very happy to see our troops come out.”
He then turns right around and says “We should have left 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis’ own military capabilities. I’m very concerned in this setting.”
So, Mitt Romney is very happy the war is over, but he wishes the war wasn’t over? It’s “fortunate,” but also a disaster? Well, at least President Romney would set things right. Right?
“As president, would you send u.s. troops back into Iraq?” Wallace asked.
“I think the decision to send US troops into a combat setting is a — is a very high threshold decision. This is not something you do easily. You don’t send our troops around the world every time there’s something that goes off an untoward way.”
After some attempted followup from Wallace, Romney clarified. “I’m not going to say where I would send troops or not send troops.”
Romney often seems to be looking past his primary challengers, and campaigning to the general electorate. Saying everything and nothing is a tried-and-true political modus operandi, but it’s usually a good idea to take a breath now and then.
[…] 1. “Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
2. “I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville
3. “Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.”
4. “Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”
5. “Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.”
6. “Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wagethe better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
~Harry S. Truman
7. “Republicans are men of narrow vision, who are afraid of the future.”
8. “Latins for Republicans – it’s like roaches for Raid.”
9. “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
10. “A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits.”
11. “I like that about the Republicans; the evidence does not faze them, they are not bothered at all by the facts.”
12. “A conservative is someone who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt.”
13. “A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”
14. “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’.”
~William F. Buckley, Jr.
15. “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”
~John Stuart Mill
16. “Even as someone who’s labeled a conservative – I’m a Republican, I’m black, I’m heading up this organization in the Reagan administration – I can say that conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.”
17. “In the United States I have always believed that there was a big difference between Conservative and stupid. Boy is it getting harder to prove that one by the minute.”
18. “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
~John Kenneth Galbraith
19. “When a nation’s young men are conservative, its funeral bell is already rung.”
~Henry Ward Beecher
20. “I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who’s hitting you? It’s about time that the people of America realized what the Republicans have been doing to them.”
21. “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”
~H. L. Mencken
22. “A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.”
23. “Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.”
24. “The Republicans are looking after the financial interests of the wealthiest individuals in this country.”
25. “Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
~William E. Gladstone
26. “Republicans don’t like people who talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.”
27. “You have to have been a Republican to know how good it is to be a Democrat.”
~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
28. “Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party.”
~Walter J. Lippmann
29. “Herbert Hoover once ran on the slogan, “Two cars in every garage”. Apparently, the Republican candidate this year is running on the slogan, “Two families in every garage”.”
30. “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.”
31. “Democrats legislate; Republicans investigate.”
32. “A gathering of Democrats is more sweaty, disorderly, offhand, and rowdy than a gathering of Republicans; it is also likely to be more cheerful, imaginative, tolerant of dissent, and skillful at the game of give-and-take. A gathering of Republicans is more respectable, sober, purposeful, and businesslike than a gathering of Democrats; it is also likely to be more self-righteous, pompous, cut-and-dried, and just plain boring.”
33. “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then get elected and prove it.”
The typical conservative is one who opposes all progress. They are paranoid, enjoy using fear to control others, and in most cases have no clue what they are talking about. They hate facts, hate government, and do not believe in contributing to society. Conservatives cling to the failed policies and traditions of the past and are willing to use the threat of violence at times to return to them. Many of these quotes were meant to be funny, but it turns out the humorous quotes were quite accurate. The rest of the quotes were just bluntly truthful. In the spirit of this list, however, I’d like to add a quote of my own that describes today’s conservatives to a tee.
Conservatives remind me of Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, and Elmer Fudd. They bring the guns, the stupidity, and of course, the failure.
Ron Brownstein: “The most encouraging news for Obama in the generally sobering survey, however, is the hint of optimism about better times ahead. Compared with October, the share of Americans who say they are in excellent or good financial shape remains stuck at about two-fifths. However, the share who believe the economy will improve over the next 12 months has moved upward from 50 percent to 56 percent, and the share who expect it to decline further has fallen noticeably from 46 percent to 36 percent.”
PPP Iowa poll: Paul 23 (+2), Romney 20 (+4), Newt 14 (-8), Bachmann 10 (-1), Perry 10 (+1), Santorum 10 (+2)
The Daily Beast:
In 2000, the Supreme Court shockingly stepped into the disputed presidential election and all but declared George W. Bush the winner. At the time, some called Bush v. Gore a self-inflicted wound that would hamper the court for years to come. Yet as America prepares for the 2012 campaigns, the Supreme Court appears poised once again to exert an outsize influence on our national elections.
The court won’t directly decide a case that effectively determines the winner in the 2012 presidential race. Of course, that’s what experts said before November 2000. Like that fateful election, this one looks to be very close, with the winner potentially determined by a relatively small number of votes in a swing state like Ohio or Florida. And despite all the hand-wringing of recent years, our elections are still dependent upon unreliable methods of vote tabulation. According to a recent study of the 2010 elections in New York, up to 60,000 votes went uncounted because of a software glitch on the new optical-scan voting machines that were supposed to save us from the nightmare of hanging chads. While a reprise of Bush v. Goreremains unlikely, few election experts would be surprised if another dispute over uncounted ballots finds its way into the federal courts.
Even if the Supreme Court officially stays on the sidelines this time around, the justices will almost certainly affect the presidential election by their rulings on several hot-button issues. Over the past few weeks, the court agreed to hear major cases dealing with President Obama’s signature health-care reformand immigration, both of which are expected to be central issues in the 2012 campaign. If the court upholds President Obama’s health-care law, it will stimulate turnout by Tea Party conservatives who believe therequirement that everyone have insurance is the epitome of government tyranny. Many of those Tea Party adherents might otherwise stay home rather than vote for a fair-weather conservative like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.
In other words, if Obama wins in the health-care case, it may cost him his job.
The Supreme Court is also going to decide whether Arizona’s harsh anti-immigration law is constitutional. Again, Obama might win most by losing. If the court disagrees with the administration and finds Arizona’s law constitutional, that will surely agitate Latino voters, who lean Democrat. A strong Latino turnout in swing states like Nevada, Colorado, or New Mexico could be exactly what Obama needs to squeak out a victory in the Electoral College.
The court could also have a profound influence on which party controls Congress. The justices have agreed to hear an important case out of Texasinvolving a challenge to a court-drawn redistricting plan that buoyed Democrats’ hopes of winning back the House. The plan created three heavily Latino congressional districts that Democrats in the Republican-dominated state expect to win. Republicans claim the lower court exceeded its authority by adopting the plan and hope the Supreme Court will allow them to redraw the map. If successful, they are certain to establish new congressional districts in which Republicans have a greater chance of winning—and which, not coincidentally, will all but guarantee that Republicans hold on to the House.
Regardless of the outcome of these controversies, the court is already assured of playing a major role in the 2012 election thanks to its decision nearly two years ago in the Citizens United case. The 2012 campaign will be the first presidential election in decades in which business corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money. We’ve already seen the emergence of hundreds of Super PACs– a special type of political action committee that, unlike traditional PACs, can accept donations of any size. Both Democrats and Republicans have formed Super PACs, but many political scientists predict that wealthy, Republican-leaning business interests will benefit the most.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is also likely to affect the makeup of the Senate. Last month, the Chamber of Commerce began running advertisements targeting Democrats in pivotal Senate races—part of the chamber’s grand strategy to spend more money than ever before in Senate and House races to promote pro-business candidates. Before Citizens United, the chamber was limited in how much corporate money it could raise and spend in the weeks prior to federal elections. Now, however, the chamber has been freed from such restraints, and an unprecedented amount of corporate money will flow through the chamber and other organizations with the goal of influencing the elections.
In 1962, Justice Felix Frankfurter cautioned against the Supreme Court entering what he called the “political thicket.” The justices never heeded Frankfurter’s warning. Indeed, with seemingly every political issue ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, Frankfurter’s belief that the court could stay above the electoral fray seems quaint and outdated. Heading into the 2012 election, it looks like the Supreme Court is once again set to play a powerful role in deciding who wins and who loses come Election Day.
Crooks and Liars :
[…] Republicans, led by Rep.John Mica (FL), who have been attempting to undercut workers rights in the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration received a stern rebuke from a federal court Friday. In 2010, the National Mediation Board set a new rule that discounted employees that don’t vote in elections to create a union, rather than counting them as no votes. Republicans charged that the Board overstepped its bounds in creating the new rule. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a lower court ruling that the new rules were legitimate.
“This court ruling demolishes the argument that the NMB overstepped its bounds in ensuring that NMB elections count only the ballots of those who actually vote,” said Candice Johnson, CWA Communications Director. “Just as importantly, today’s ruling means that the rationale used by many Republican leaders to continue to block the long-term FAA agreement is null and void. This ruling settles this issue once and for all: Republicans cannot continue to block the upgrades and job benefits of the FAA over a provision that has the force of law, fairness, and common sense behind it.”
As the D.C. Circuit’s majority opinion reads, “For seventy-five years, the National Mediation Board counted non-voters as voting against union representation, thereby requiring a majority of eligible voters to affirmatively vote for representation before a union could be certified. In 2010, the Board issued a new rule: elections will henceforth be decided by a majority of votes cast, and those not voting will be understood as acquiescing to the outcome of the election. Appellants challenge the new rule, claiming that it violates the statute and is arbitrary and capricious. Rejecting these arguments, the district court granted summary judgment to the Board.”
The judicial challenge was led by the Air Transport Association, primarily Delta Air Lines. With a district court already ruling in the NMB’s favor, today’s appellate court ruling severely damages the claim that the NMB did anything except bring its elections in line with basic democratic principles and the standard followed in every U.S. election.
“Republican leaders and others obsessed with union-busting are blocking the FAA Reauthorization needlessly over a provision that a series of courts have now declared as fair and valid. House Republican leaders should admit that their true motive is to deny workers’ their right to a union voice, rather than reach a sensible agreement over the FAA Reauthorization bill,” Johnson said.
The New York Times has a new profile out today about Attorney General Eric Holder, detailing how he has become a “partisan lightning rod” and frequent target of conservatives over his pursuance of issues like illegal immigration and gay rights.
In the piece, Holder claims that many of his critics are playing “Washington ‘gotcha games,’” viewing him as someone who takes “consistently progressive stands” instead of examining his record and seeing that he takes a more realistic view of law enforcement. The most powerful attacks against Holder have come in the wake of the ATF’s controversial “Fast & Furious” gunrunning scandal. In the interview, Holder admits that he regrets sending a letter to Congress assuring legislators that “agents always tried to interdict illegally purchased guns,” which turned out to be incorrect.
But Holder’s main focus in the interview is on the “hyperpartisan” nature of political attacks on the Justice Department, and he makes a rather interesting accusation about those targeting him and the president.
Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
SPRINGFIELD, MASS., December 15, 2011–Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading dictionary publisher, has announced the Top Ten Words of the Year for 2011. The list reflects the interests and attitudes of visitors from around the world to Merriam-Webster.com and LearnersDictionary.com and is determined by the volume of user look-ups on those sites.
Topping the list is pragmatic, meaning “practical as opposed to idealistic,” which received an unprecedented number of user lookups throughout 2011. Pragmatic is not associated with any one event but instead describes “an admirable quality that people value in themselves and wish for in others, especially in their leaders and their policies,” said Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster. “It’s a word that resonates with society as a whole; something people want to understand fully.”
Number two on the list was ambivalence, which like pragmatic reflects an overall mood rather than a specific event. Ambivalence is defined as “simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings toward an object, person, or action” and as “continual fluctuation between one thing and its opposite.” “We are struck by the unusually large volume of lookups for this word,” said John Morse, President and Publisher. “We think it reflects the public attitude toward a wide range of issues, including the economy, the ongoing debates in Washington, the presidential election, and most recently the race for the Republican Party nomination.”
Lookups are often influenced by economic and political policies and conditions. For instance, this year both capitalism and socialism appear on the list, with searches for capitalism in particular increasing in the wake of Occupy Wall Street activities.
Other event-driven terms are vitriol, frequently used in the national conversation about political rhetoric that followed the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in January, and après moi le déluge, a phrase used by an influential commentator after the congressional “super committee” failed to reach an agreement in November.
Crown Heights, NY – Speaking Motzei Shabbos at the annual Satmar dinner commemorating the escape of Grand Rebbe R’ Yoel Teitelbaum Zt’l from the Nazis in 1944, Satmar Rebbe R’ Aron Teitelbaum, from Kiryas Joel, NY, spoke passionately about how the Rebbe taught his followers to be proud of their Satmar heritage, to continue in their customs in America, the dangers of Zionism and strongly condemned those who speak out against President Obama.
R’ Teitelbaum told a crowd of thousands at the New York State Armory in Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, NY that we are obligated to make a public statement that religious Jews pray daily for the welfare of the United States, which includes a special blessing for its leaders wishing them continued success in their efforts to bring peace to the world and said that it is those leaders who support the state of Israel who are guilty of insulting President Obama in a public forum.
“We live in a malchus shel chesed,” said R’ Teitelbaum. “We enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But recently self-appointed Jewish leaders have gotten up and insulted the President in the worse way. Their words have been broadcast on the radio and television and all the media. Why should Jews come out in public with these sort of statements? It is provoking the nations to hate us and it brings danger upon Jews not only here but all over the globe. We mustn’t forget that this is exile. Who knows what the effects of this irresponsible behavior could be?”
The 21st day of Kislev is celebrated annual by Satmar chasidim worldwide as the day R’ Yoel Teitelbaum escaped from Hungary and this year marks the 67th anniversary of the Grand Rebbe’s escape from the Nazis. R’ Teitelbaum was among over 1600 people who were transported out of Hungary by train due to the efforts of Rudolf Kastner, one of the leaders of Budapest’s Vaadat Ezra V’Hatzalah, who brokered a deal with Adolph Eichmann to let the passengers leave in exchange for a large sum of money, diamonds and gold. While Eichmann reneged on the deal and had the train sent to Bergen Belsen, the train was finally released after four months of negotiations and the passengers finally obtained their freedom when they arrived in Switzerland.
To listen to the speech in Yiddish below:
It may seem obvious that the disproportionate political influence of the top one percent of the income distribution comes from their ability to bribe politicians with campaign contributions, but it’s worth noting that the economic elite are considerably more politically engaged in a fairly comprehensive way:
For example, 41 percent of the very wealthy reported attending a political meeting. Only 9 percent of Americans did so in 2008. And 68 percent of the very wealthy reported giving money to a political candidate, party, or cause in the last four years. In 2008–a year in which “small donors” were numerous–only 13 percent of Americans donated to a political candidate or party. Again, there are small differences in the wording of the questions between the two surveys, but they are not likely responsible for the 55-point gap.
Now needless to say, if I donate $50 and you donate $2,000 then your money is going to talk louder than mine. But in practical terms, the gap between $2,000 and $50 is probably much smaller than the gap between $50 and $0. The meeting statistics are even more telling in their way. And there’s considerable evidence that the rich have a much higher proclivity to actually show up and vote. I always liked the old Woody Allen line about how 90 percent of life is just showing up, and part of the story of the top one percent is that they show up. The median American household is economically struggling in a variety of ways, but isn’t so cash strapped as to be incapable of offering a political donation or two. Indeed, the American middle class is pretty passionate about donating to church groups and other charities. If more of that energy were directed into the political process, politicians would pay more attention. But as things stand, the wealthy are more highly engaged across the whole range of activities and so the political process is heavily tilted in favor of their preferences.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still and quiet in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal