Thursday, May 31, 2012





Wanted:    Honesty


Again, the cowardice.

The House of Representatives on Thursday failed to pass the euphemistically named Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act (or PRENDA).      Yesterday, Talking Point Memo's Sahil Kapur had explained it "would subject doctors to a fine and imprison them for up to five years if they knowingly perform a sex-selective abortion. It would also require medical professionals to 'report known or suspected violations' or otherwise face fines and up to one year in prison."

The bill was brought up virtually entirely to give the GOP, which knew it would not prevail, a political soundbite and to throw a little red-meat to the party's popular base.      There is no evidence that gender selection is common in the U.S.A., where the male-to-female ratio is 1.05 to 1.0, which the National Academy of Sciences terms the "biological norm."  

House Speaker John Boehner claimed, however,  “This type of sex-selection is something most Americans find pretty repulsive. And our members feel strongly about it. That’s why it’s being brought to the floor.”   HR 3541 did give Republicans an opportunity to take a cheap shot against workers, whether doctors or other medical professionals.      They would face prosecution for being involved in an abortion chosen for purposes of sex-selection or for even being a bystander.

House Republicans find these abortions so "repulsive" that they didn't bother to admonish, criticize,  or much less threaten with prosecution the individual who decides upon an abortion, seeks a provider, and pays money to a medical professional to conspire in this abomination.      Bill sponsor Trent Franks,  Republican of Arizona, let the cat out of the bag when he argued "Sex selection is violence against women, and it’s the truest kind of a war against women."  

Franks' remark was nearly as ludicrous as it was incomprehensible.   The sex selection, as rare as it is, so upsetting to supporters of the measure would be prompted by the woman herself.    Yet to the Arizona congressman, "sex selection is violence against women," precisely the individuals who would be pursuing it.     Perfectly logical.

No one will point that out, of course.   Both opponents (implausibly) and supporters of abortion rights maintain their highest allegiance is to women, with opponents determined to alleviate their image as foes of the reproductive rights of women.    Supporting abortion rights, contraception, or even the health care provided by Planned Parenthood would be just too difficult- easier to charge liberals with "violence against women" for supporting their outrageous bill.

With any sense of decency, pro-life advocates would hold the woman no less accountable than the medical professional.    Otherwise, the options are two- either they are unconvinced abortion ends a human life or they are demonstrating extraordinary cowardice.


Next Up:    John Edwards, of course.


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Only The Right Kind Of People


Pretty slick, that Mitt Romney.    In Las Vegas on Tuesday, the former governor who will never admit he was governor told a crowd

I was speaking with one of these business owners who owns a couple of restaurants in town.And he said 'You know I'd like to change the Constitution, I'm not sure I can do it,' he said. 'I'd like to have a provision in the Constitution that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the Constitution, I'd like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States.'    You see then he or she would understand that the policies they're putting in place have to encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow.

Romney will seize whatever opportunity there is to plant a seed of doubt into voters' minds about President Obama's birthplace.      He is especially eager if he does not have to leave his fingerprints- such as having Donald Trump do it for him or dropping an anecdote about "one of these business owners" reminding us there is "a provision in the Constitution" pertaining to "the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president."

But the candidate's remarks were notable also because of his advocacy (channeled through a restaurant owner) of limiting the opportunity to become president based on one's career.    You can grow up to be anything you want, parents traditionally told their children, even President of the United States.     But not, apparently, if you're a school bus driver, fundraiser for the Ford Foundation, a physician's assistant, orderly, or janitor at a community hospital,  teacher, nurse for the American Red Cross, police officer, or lobbyist for the NRA.       (The list is nearly endless; your selections, as with your mileage, may vary.)     Or not if you were the guy who out on a bombing mission was

Shot down, he plunged into a lake, was dragged out and set upon by a mob, which left him with three broken limbs. His captors threw him into the notorious Hanoi Hilton prison, tortured him, and left him to die in a cell with two other Americans, including the US Air Force's most decorated officer, Col Bud Gray.

ThinkProgress notes that the presidency would have been closed off to former Admiral John McCain, as it would have been to those with whom he served, unless they went on "to spend at least three years working in business," however that would be defined.     So, too, would Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and possibly Ronald Reagan have been barred from the highest office in the land.

No doubt the mainstream media will ask the exquisitely elitist Romney why he believes law enforcement officers and military veterans, if they don't otherwise gain the requisite experience "working in business" as approved by the state, should be precluded from becoming president.     Then they will also ask Mitt Romney why he's so anxious to keep rabbis and Christian members of the clergy from becoming president.    But, oops!    That would be raising the issue of religion- and we wouldn't want to do that unless it's about Jeremiah Wright, would we?


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012






Not Even By Scripture


Everyone finds 4-year-old boys just so cute- especially when they're singing, and especially in church.    This video, from Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana via Crooks and Liars, may change your mind:





The boy sings "The Bible is right, somebody's wrong.    Romans 1 and 27, ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven."

That might be a bit harsh.... or perhaps viciously nasty.      David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement, capturing the sentiments of most Americans, tweeted "They are teaching hate to an entire new generation. This makes more (sic) more sad than angry. I fear for these children's future."     One of his followers had a similar, common reaction, sarcastically remarking "another example of true christian love."

But the song not only reflects hostility; it is factually incorrect, even by its own standards.

The young fellow is no doubt referring to verse 27 of chapter 1 of the Romans, especially because there are only 16 chapters in Romans.   Chapter 1, verse 27 reads, according to the English Standard Version

and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

What would that "due penalty" be?    An evangelical (Zondervan) publisher argues "the 'gay' face is a thin veil for deep-seated frustration.    The folly of homosexuality is proclaimed in its inability to reproduce the human species in keeping with the divine commandment" as Zondervan interprets Genesis 1:28.    A "reformed" (overlapping, but not synonymous with,"evangelical") publisher, Ligonier Ministries,  remarks only "the harvest reaped is related to the crop sown" as inferred in Galations 6:7-8. (These verses appear related to general benevolence rather than sexual deviance.)

Paul, who wrote the Book of Romans, mentions neither heaven, hell, nor salvation in the context of homosexuality.   But he does, in that portion of the Bible itself, write

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.   For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."   (1:16-17

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of 
God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.     For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.    (3:21-24)

For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.   For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.    (10:3-4)


... because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.    (10:9)


.... and on and on and on.      Put aside, for a few seconds,the mean words in the short song. Neither the state of homosexuality nor the sexual behavior that flows from it gives one a pass to hell according to the standards (Paul's words in Romans and elsewhere) of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle itself.    Nor do the gospel authors, Jesus, or any authoritative New Testament figure maintain that being gay dooms one to eternal fire and damnation.

Paul, whose words are thought to be divinely inspired (and whom a few revisionists have claimed himself may have been gay) did disapprove of homosexuality.     But it is up to each individual to determine for himself/herself the veracity of the Bible.  And if a person cites Scripture as the ultimate authority, the latter shouldn't be grossly manipulated.     One suspects God would not be amused.



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Tuesday, May 29, 2012





Inoffensive Cause


In the past week, we've gotten rare insight from David Sirota and Michelle Goldberg- not rare at all from them, simply insight that has come from perhaps no one else.

Sirota writes of the political confluence of gay marriage and economics; Goldberg speaks of the confluence of gay marriage and abortion.     Both arguments, however, provide greater understanding of the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage and the related influence of corporate power.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo, to the delight of most liberals/progressives, pushed through a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.     However, he is not as favorably inclined to efforts by Democratic legislators to increase the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, despite popular support that far outstrips that for gay marriage.       Sirota, a supporter of both, explains

As the New York Times reported, despite lukewarm public support, Cuomo was able to get the state legislature to legalize gay marriage after Wall Street financiers dumped cash into the campaign for equal rights. Knowing that marriage doesn’t threaten their profits, these moneyed interests opted to help their ally Cuomo notch a strategic win — one that allows the governor to preen as a great liberal champion to the state’s left-leaning voters, all while he simultaneously presses an anti-union, economically conservative agenda that moneyed interests support.

Now, of course, the situation is reversed. With New York’s recession-battered voters supporting a minimum wage hike, the greed-is-good crowd is firmly aligned against the initiative. Why? Because unlike gay marriage, which requires no corporate sacrifice, the modest minimum wage boost may slightly reduce corporate profits — and that’s something the fat cats in the executive suites never permit without a fight.


Knowing this, a hack like Cuomo — a guy who asks “how high?” when his campaign contributors say “jump” — is using his power to undermine the popular minimum wage initiative. In this case, he is cooking up a self-fulfilling prophecy about the measure being a political non-starter.


Alex Macgillis, writing in The New Republic of the sharp decline in support of hedge fund managers who had supported Barack Obama in 2008, quoted Barney Frank lamenting that so many, "after playing a pivotal role in supporting gay marriage in New York, are now shoveling money to help elect people 'who are making gay people miserable.'"

Sirota's post is not intended as a diatribe against New York's governor, whom rumor has it is a Democrat, given that it is becoming a clever strategic gambit of a portion of the privileged class.   Sirota identifies Colorado governor John Hickenlooper as a supporter of "same-sex civil unions, all while he loyally shills for oil and gas corporations" and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as Human Rights Campaign’s national spokesman for gay marriage while "failing to acknowledge" wrongdoing by the financial service sector.

While lamenting "bought-off politicians (who) employ social issues as an excuse to ignore economic justice," Sirota can be excused for not observing that the gay community tends to be well-educated, affluent, and not averse to voting.  

Those factors are largely absent with the community of individuals who have undergone abortions.      On Sunday's Up With Chris Hayes (video of segment, below), the host pondered the (gradual) decline in support of abortion rights (drastic decline in identification as "pro-choice") with that of the dramatic increase in support of same-sex marriage.    Goldberg, who has demonstrated an understanding of reproductive rights issues second to almost no one, responded

Part of that is that gay marriage ends in something to celebrate, a wedding once you kind of...get under, over the kind of underlying bigotry, there's, you know there's kind of just it's just good, whereas an abortion isn't something to celebrate, right, it's much more morally fraught and so it's not just I think kind of bigotry against women or patriarchy that makes people uncomfortable with abortion- the reason, my suspicion for why the numbers are going down in terms of identification with being pro choice, especially since they're not going down on a policy level.   It's not that more people want to criminalize abortion. We're so far away from illegal abortion in this country, you know, one reason I feel so strongly about this is I've spent a lot of time in countries where abortion is illegal and I've spent a lot of time in hospitals that are full of victims of botched abortions. For most people in this country, that's something lost to the mists of time.   They hear the question, do you like abortion, not do you want abortion to be criminalized...

One thing that the polling, the polling I think can't quite get at this, I think you're right that people have this idea that there are women out there having abortions, kind of willy nilly or as a form of contraception as they want to express their disapproval of this.  There will be exceptions for those women, people who do abortions or work in abortion clinics, will often say that everybody believes in three exceptions, rape, incest, and me. You often see people in clinics saying I don't really believe in abortion but you have to understand my situation.


Goldberg went on to argue there are "many women who have been arrested and imprisoned all over the country for trying to end pregnancies illegally."   But, she pointed out, "these are marginal peoples" and "the people going to prisons now are at the margins of society."

They are therefore not the subject of empathy for most affluent Americans and contrast sharply with gay friends and relatives.    Goldberg, in another segment, observed that, unlike that for abortion rights or women's rights, the thrust for same-sex marriage does not threaten the power structure.     It accounts for a portion of the recent success of the latter movement, and one that should give the left pause in its enthusiasm.




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Monday, May 28, 2012





Walking The Walk


A few days ago, Politico's Patrick Gavin reported

Washington has a strong contingency of New Orleanians frequently rooting for their hometown. And, when news broke Thursday that the local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, would shrink its publication schedule and face cuts, those politicos were taken aback.

“When a friend from Baton Rouge emailed me today with the news, I confess I was dumbfounded,” said the National Journal’s Charlie Cook. “It sounded like a bad April Fool’s joke about seven weeks late. Part of it though is the metropolitan area has shrunk so much so quickly after Katrina that I am sure the economics of a legacy newspaper radically changed. I remember well in 1973-75 when I was an intern in a Louisiana Senate office. Part of my job was to hand deliver press releases over to the Louisiana reporters in press galleries and to clip the papers when they came in the mail every day."


“The TimesPic is a staple of the city,” said Betsy Fischer, executive producer of NBC’s ”Meet the Press.” Growing up, the paper was the centerpiece of the breakfast table - its sections divvied up like servings of food. The front page, with its bold headlines, always focused on the three main topics of any New Orleans conversation: The Saints, Politics or Scandal. The inside - full of what we call ” lagniappe” - the extra good stuff. And the journalism - top notch. Knowing the folks in New Orleans and what this paper means to the community, there is not a chance they will allow this to happen..."


The Democratic National Committee’s Donna Brazile, a Louisiana native said: “Many of us natives grew up on coffee with chicory and a copy of The New Orleans Times Picayune. I cannot imagine what this will mean to the psyche of a city still in an era of renewal.”


Cook, Fischer, Brazile have one thing in common:  they don't live in New Orleans.   Or anywhere in Louisiana.    They all chose to leave the area, presumably to advance professionally.    This is no crime but does get a little tedious- elites, in media, or otherwise, waxing nostalgic about their ol' hometown (or one of its institutions) from the comfort of considerable distance.

Credit, therefore, goes to James Carville/Mary Matalin, the latter of whom said the Times-Picayune "drives the agenda and conversation" and "is indispensable to the cultural and entrepreneurial capitol New Orleans is."    They at least understand the current situation or, in modern lingo, are experiencing it "in real time."     Matalin and Carville in 2008 moved to New Orleans, a city troubled even before Hurricane Katrina hit and an uncommon destination for a well-situated couple.       Carville does teach at Tulane University but evidently made a conscious decision to leave the Beltway, the center of political power and high-profile parties, to return to the backwater of Louisiana and the virtually unparalleled humidity of New Orleans.

The Carville and Matalin act, jointly or even individually, has grown tiresome.     But they did move to southern Louisiana, from which James Carville hails and to an old East Coast city, with all the complications that entails.     Now, perhaps, they can tell us why any newspaper would ever have wanted to be thought of as "picayune."


                                          "HAPPY' MEMORIAL DAY



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Sunday, May 27, 2012





Not In The Welfare Business


When Rush Limbaugh says something untrue- roughly speaking, when his lips move- he is not always lying, manipulating arguments, or even distorting the truth.    Sometimes he is simply misinformed.

The latter may have been the case on Wednesday when Limbaugh repeated Something Everyone Knows Is True but is not.    Complaining about Christine Romans responding to the Bain Capital controversy, Rush stated  

Christine, I'm gonna tell you: If it keeps up, CNN's gonna need a private equity firm to come in and bail it out and save it.  Your job, Christine, may depend on a private equity firm down the road. You never know.  But, by definition, private equity comes in and buys failing companies.  Why?  Not to hammer the final nail in the coffin.  They want to save them.

Although it is clear that private equity firms are not in business to create jobs or even to save companies but to enrich investors and themselves, that is a judgement call.    Much of the defense of their anti-social behavior hinges on the truism "private equity comes in and buys failing companies" or, as Limbaugh oddly puts it, "by definition, private equity comes in and buys failing companies."     And that is simply not true.

Don't take it from me.      Josh Kosman, author of  "The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis,"     was interviewed on January 18 by Judy Woodruff of PBS News Hour and asserted

there's just one thing that I needed to jump in and say. I think it's a fallacy -- and it's what the Mitt Romney defenders are trying to throw up in the air -- that private equity firms buy troubled companies. They're almost always buying profitable businesses, not troubled businesses.

But don't take it from Kosman.   Take it from Stewart Kohl, interviewed simultaneously by Woodruff and whom she describes as "co-CEO of The Riverside Company, a private equity firm that manages more than $3 billion in assets."      Kohl, who generally defends the business, a moment later remarked "We collect money from pension funds and endowments for colleges and foundations and the like. And firms like The Riverside Company invest that into, as Josh says, mostly healthy companies..."

Woodruff, recognizing the critical concession being made, followed up by asking "But you agree it's mostly healthy companies that are invested in?"   Kohl replied

Yes.  There's a subset, a segment of private equity they focuses on troubled companies, companies that are struggling. I have a lot of respect for those firms. That's hard work, and it is not something that The Riverside Company does. But it is a small, but important part of private equity.

If people are left to believe, as most have, that the companies buy only troubled or failing companies, they might buy the line, as Limbaugh seems to, "if not for the private equity firm moving in, everybody would lose their job."     And most of the media, Judy Woodruff and a few others excepted, are content to leave that impression.


                                           HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY
                                           (or at least a reverent one)
 

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Creating A Storyline



Asked by CNN's Christine Romans "why is it not hypocrisy for the president to take campaign donations from private equity when he's attacking private equity and making that a central part of his campaign?" Democratic National Committee chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded in part

Accepting a contribution from a particular person involved in venture capital and criticizing Mitt Romney who has made his record as a venture capitalist at Bain the central focus of his credibility and his qualification for being president are completely different things.    Who contributes to Barack Obama has little to do with that because those contributors are not running for president.

"Who contributes to Barack Obama" would pertain to the President's "attack" on venture capital and taking "campaign donations from private equity when he's attacking private equity" would be hypocritical.... if Obama had attacked venture capital.   Initially, he stated

...And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining. Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how do we set up an equitable tax system so that everybody's paying their fair share, that allows us then to invest in science, and technology, and infrastructure, all of which are going to help us grow.

And so if your main argument for how to grow the economy is "I knew how to make a lot of money for investors," then you're missing what this job is about. It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity. But that's not what my job is as president...


Later clarifying his remarks, the President commented

My view of private equity is it is set up to maximize profits.  And that's a healthy part of the free market. That's part of the role of a lot of business people. That's not unique to private equity.  I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries.

Now it's not only Republicans, but also members of the mainstream media who are wrestling with the English language.       The primary objective of private equity, to maintain profits, "is a healthy part of the free market" which is "not unique to private equity."    In so doing, "there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries."
The President could have said "private equity is set up to maximize profits while incurring massive debt, generally cutting workers' benefits and jobs."    But he didn't.   He took pains not to criticize private equity, not to criticize Bain, and not even to criticize Mitt Romney.    Rather, he simply explained that the skills those managers display are not transferable to the role of a president, which "is to make sure the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now."

Or Obama could have proposed that Bain Capital make public (which, as a private company it is not required to do) a list of the companies it has purchased.    The President might have noted, as one union official has, that Romney's "entire management experience at Bain Capital is buying companies and loading them up with debt and then looting the balance sheet.    It's the very model that drove the American economy off the cliff then left other people to manage the wreckage."  

But President Obama decided, in part so there would be no contradiction between his analysis and acceptance of money and advice from the industry, to take the high road.    So, too, did Wasserman-Schultz, accusing Romans merely of "not just comparing apples and oranges (but rather) comparing apples and coconuts."    It was an accurate and polite response from someone who might have begun by observing that the premise of Christine Romans' question should not have been a simple restatement of a Republican talking point designed to excuse the looting of American jobs and pensions by multimillionaires.



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Friday, May 25, 2012






Paging North Carolina


Representative Brad Miller has it right.

One day after attending in October what The Huffington Post termed "a general assembly meeting of Occupy Raleigh, the local offshoot of the national protest movement against Wall Street greed and abuse," the North Carolina Democrat  introduced the Freedom and Mobility in Consumer Banking Act.    The effort, Miller suggested, to "introduce real competition into banking," appears to have gone nowhere in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. Occupy Raleigh emerged in part because, HuffPost reports

major banks employ a variety of tactics to make it difficult for consumers to walk away when they jack up fees, as Bank of America did recently by announcing a new $5 monthly debit fee, blaming Wall Street reform for necessitating the hike. Congress can pass legislation countering abusive fees, but without a real free market, banks are able to figure out new ways to wring money from customers. Instead of focusing on regulation, said Miller, the goal should be to create a true free market.

North Carolina is widely known as the "Wall Street of the South" and Charlotte, venue for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, is ground zero of the financial industry south of the Mason-Dixon line.   Recognizing that President Obama will be giving his acceptance speech at a podium at a field named for Bank of America, Miller believes it should be for his party "a moment of mild embarrassment.  There'll probably be a night of wincing.    One of the Obama administration's greatest vulnerabilities is that they have been seen, correctly, as too inclined to accommodate the banks."

North Carolina is a right-to-work state and there is no union hotel anywhere in the state.     Nevertheless, the Democratic National Committee (no doubt with the President's approval) selected Charlotte as its convention site.   More than twelve unions in the building and construction field courageously decided to boycott the event, though others are participating. One organizer remarked "We find it troubling that the party so closely associated with basic human rights would choose a state with the lowest unionization rate in the country."

It is only fitting, perhaps, that a governor who "has tangled with the public-sector unions since his election in 2010," has resisted sending union representatives to the convention. Demonstrating again that the apple falls far from the tree, Andrew Cuomo

had tried to keep the heads of four major New York state public sector unions off the list of Democratic National Committee at-large delegates, finally agreeing to add three of them late last night after a string of negotiations, multiple sources told POLITICO.

A top Cuomo aide insisted that the issue was the number of available slots, adding that there are set quotas allowed by national Democrats in terms of how many people from specific political groups can make it on. Cuomo ultimately picks the at-large delegates who will attend the North Carolina convention this summer. Another source insisted Cuomo never tried to block anyone.


"Everyone wants to be on and there are only so many slots," the aide said. "We worked it out where most of the public and private unions that wanted to go are on and everyone seems happy."


The happiness question remains an open one, according to several New York-based sources. But the additions to the list were made late Wednesday after wrangling and phone work to the governor, the sources said. The four were initially expected to be on the list, after months of haggling and pushback by Cuomoland sources said. But they were removed within the last few days.


On Hardball Thursday, Chuck Todd argued the selection of a site is "an organizing tool, not for that week that the convention is, for the five months leading up to it."       But choosing North Carolina, which Senator Obama carried by only .4% (his lowest margin anywhere) over John McCain, may have been a little presumptuous.     The latest poll out of the state has Romney up by 2% over the President, who does not need North Carolina to get to 270.       In Virginia, as Todd has noticed, Obama is ahead of Romney and is a favorite to carry its 13 electoral votes (interactive map, here).    North Carolina has 15 and is likely to come into play only if Obama loses Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Ohio.    And in that case, the incumbent will not carry North Carolina, which currently has a higher unemployment rate than four of those five states.

On its face, then, selection of Charlotte was a mistake for the Obama team.     Todd observed "Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, those are all good if you wanted to worry about labor and making them happy."     But President Obama is not worried about labor and has virtually no interest in "making them happy," probably because they are a core Democratic constituency.    North Carolina is dominated by the interest group President Obama most adores- the financial industry- and hostile to one, organized labor,  which he generally has taken for granted.      Maybe Barack Obama is quite pleased, therefore, and the Governor of New York, rumored to be interested in the 2016 presidential nomination, will fit right in.




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Thursday, May 24, 2012




American Exceptionalism Doubted




Speaking before donors in Ebert County, Colorado recently, Representative Mike Coffman let slip "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that.     But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

When it was informed that the Representative's comments were recorded, the campaign issued a written statement:

I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence in President Obama's citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States.    I don't believe the President shares my belief in American Exceptionalism. His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals.    As a Marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles that make it superior to other nations.


The repetitive congressman was approached by a reporter for the local NBC station, which released this transcript:



KYLE CLARK: Congressman Coffman, how are you?

REP. COFFMAN: How are you doing? Good to see you.

KYLE CLARK: Good to see you. You're a tough man to find lately.

REP. COFFMAN: I am.

KYLE CLARK: Can we chat quickly before you go inside?

REP. COFFMAN: Sure.

KYLE CLARK: Alright, fantastic. Why don't we head right over here so we're out of the way. Thank you for your time. I apologize for showing up unannounced. I've been trying to call your staff. They won't return myphone calls. Let me ask you, after your comments about the President, do you feel voters are owed a better explanation than just, I misspoke?

REP. COFFMAN: I think that... Umm... I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: OK. And who were you apologizing to?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: I apologize, we talk to you all the time, you're a very forthcoming guy. Who's telling you not to talk and to handle it like this?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement, that I wrote, that you have, and I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County where folks are very conservative and you'd never say something like that in the suburbs?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Is there anything I can ask you that you'll answer differently?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Thank you, congressman.

REP. COFFMAN: Thank you.


If there ever were a doubt that when a public figure says "I apologize" he/she isn't apologizing, there should be none now.      The only doubt is what "misspoke" means, and there seems to be no high-profile instance in which a reporter has asked a respondent to explain "misspoke."   Certainly, the persistent Clark, had he asked the question, would have received only the creative "I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize."   Having received no retraction from Representative Coffman, we can merely assume that he still believes President Obama does not possess "a belief in American exceptionalism."

Evidently, Coffman believes American exceptionalism is rejection of the "philosophy that America is but one nation among equals."    "America" (would that include Mexico, part of the Americas?) is distinct and distinctly superior to all other nations.

It's a pity The Wall Street Journal doesn't agree with the guy from Colorado.     The Journal, which believes the USA must become "appealing and dynamic again," is offended that Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey have proposed that individuals such as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who wants to skip on taxes by renouncing his citizenship, be taxed at 30% tax on their capital gains.   The editors argue  

America was built on millions of similar individual decisions to come to our shores. It is precisely that ability to decide for oneself that has made America such a magnet for two centuries.

The way to continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest is not to impose Soviet-style exit taxes to punish people who want to leave the country. That is what oppressive and demagogic regimes do, and it's humiliating to see U.S. Senators posture in such fashion. The way to punish Mr. Saverin is to make the U.S. so appealing and dynamic again that he'll be sorry he ever left.


The editors of the Wall Street Journal, though terming Senators Schumer and Casey "envy specialists" and suggesting they are fellow travelers,  term Saverin's escape from the U.S. "a remarkable act of ingratitude toward the country that welcomed him as a child from Brazil."    Naughty, naughty, Ed- we'll scold you, then protect your billions from taxation.     That'll teach him.

The Wall Street Journal accuses Schumer and Casey of being "envy specialists" wanting "Soviet-style exit taxes."      Less revealing than implying these senators are fellow travelers is the realization that this corporatist Repub organ wants our nation to become "so appealing and dynamic again."      Silly we Democrats- we thought the U.S.A. is "appealing and dynamic." Glad to be set straight by The Wall Street Journal.



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At Most, An Obama Network



Progressive blogger and (Hilary) Clinton enthusiast Taylor Marsh explains today why Barack Obama never has been a shoe-in for re-election.    One problem, she notes, is

That Obama hasn’t made solid relationships inside the Democratic Party and in the progressive community, beyond his die hard fans and supporters, makes it rougher for him. I don’t know anyone who thinks Obama runs the Democratic Party, with more evidence today that he doesn’t. He’s the un-Lyndon Johnson, a man who gets by on his own steam, not through relationships inside Democratic or progressive circles. The attitude of Robert Gibbs is brought to mind and just what a bad beginning the Administration made toward their base. Obama is another in a long line of presidents who don’t feel compelled to build the political party that made his rise possible. The feeling is Pres. Obama’s a one man ego band.

Tuesday, however, Marsh had slapped The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, who had mistaken MSNBC's Chris Matthews for an objective journalist and therefore was aghast at Matthews' criticism of Mitt Romney over his Bain Capital involvement.   Marsh similarly criticized Politico's Dylan Byers because he had naively slammed Matthews for exhibiting "partisan loyalties" when he "accused the Obama surrogate of 'sabatoge' and 'betrayal' of the campaign."

Matthews, Marsh argues, lost his journalistic credentials when he became an enthusiastic cheerleader for Obama's 2008 campaign, most infamously for his "thrill going up my leg" comment.        Marsh observes "Chris Matthews has been a die hard Barack Obama supporter for over four years now, which is his choice."   Then, however, she draws a false parallel, claiming

Fox News Channel is a ratings juggernaut doing partisan coverage. Are Friedersdorf and Byers really the only ones who don’t know MSNBC is now the bookend to Fox News Channel? 

Friedersdorf and Byers may be confused about MSNBC but, to a lesser degree, so is Marsh. MSNBC is not the Democratic alternative, nor is it the liberal or progressive alternative- that would be Al Gore's Current TV, especially with the Young Turks' Cenk Uygur. With little more than two exceptions (staunch liberal/progressive Chris Hayes on weekend mornings, populist Dylan Ratigan on weekday afternoons),  MSNBC is the pro-Obama network.     That is hardly synonymous with "liberal," "progressive," or (as Marsh obviously understands better than most) even "Democratic."  

Matthews' pro-Obama slant during the 2008 campaign was far more noble, with far more benevolent effect, than his approach to the 2000 presidential campaign, when he functioned as an unofficial surrogate for the Republican.   Bob Somerby describes Matthews' role in the Bush-Gore campaign:

Of course, it was Matthews’ remarks about Campaign 2000 which provided the comic relief. “I think he ran a terrible campaign in 2000,” Matthews said, skillfully keeping his straight face. Just last Friday, we gave you a small idea of what this big nut-case meant (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/17/11). What made Gore’s campaign so “terrible?” For one thing, he wore a three-button suit—and those buttons had Freudian meaning. Beyond that, he had hired a woman to teach him how to be a man. He was “today’s man-woman,” “a man-like object;” he “didn’t have his gender straight.” He would lick the bathroom floor to be president. Over and over and over and over, he was “Bill Clinton’s bathtub ring.”

Matthews behaved like a genuine demon for the campaign’s twenty months, offering ugly, bizarre complaints about Gore’s “terrible campaign.” He told Gennifer Flowers how hot she was when he dragged her out on the air; she then spent a full half hour denouncing the Clintons’ murders. Presumably, Matthews did this to serve the pleasure of Welch; his salary was $1 million in 1999, but it soon went up to $5 million. (This type of largesse cannot be explained by Hardball’s ratings, though the show was influential at that time within the mainstream press.)


Somerby typically is too harsh toward Matthews, who conducts some searing interviews which would (or should) put nearly everyone else on TV news to shame.    Still, Somerby's suggestion (there and elsewhere) that the host was doing the bidding of his corporate sponsor has its parallel in today's MSNBC.  

After the network's Rachel Maddow defended Obama's recent remarks about Bain Capital, she interviewed Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who had criticized the campaign (though, significantly, not Obama himself).      Maddow served as public relations flak for Booker, one of Wall Street's favorite Democrats, arguing that he had been misunderstood.    Fawning over Booker (whom Somerby says is a buddy of hers from Stanford), she chose not to emphasize the impact of the Bain Way upon the employees of the companies it took over.     Somerby commented

If Maddow would stop her absurd attempts to defend her appalling friend, maybe she could report on what Romney actually did at Bain! Maybe she could report the looting of those pension funds, in ways her viewers could grasp and pass on.

Or is she keeping her trap shut too? Despite what your lizard brain is saying, corporate-picked multimillionaires may not always be on your side.


Rachel Maddow does, at times, question corporate power, as does Ed Schultz.     (O'Donnell does so infrequently and Sharpton is little more than Obama's mouthpiece.) Other hosts, especially Matthews, on the network are hardly reticent about criticizing Democrats, a wise tactic for a pro-Obama operation intent on avoiding being typecast as "pro-Democrat." MSNBC surely is not impartial, and does not claim to be, but neither is it the partisan counterweight to the cable network representing the public relations wing of the Republican Party.




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Tuesday, May 22, 2012





A Minor Objection From Obama


No doubt you've read about, or heard, President Obama's brutal attack on Bain Capital and the free enterprise system when he defended his campaign's comments about the aforementioned company.   Obama explained

The reason why this is relevant to the campaign is that my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, I'm a business guy, and I know how to fix it, and this is his business.

And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining. Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so they can attract new businesses. Your job as president is to think about how do we set up an equitable tax system so that everybody's paying their fair share, that allows us then to invest in science, and technology, and infrastructure, all of which are going to help us grow.


And so if your main argument for how to grow the economy is "I knew how to make a lot of money for investors," then you're missing what this job is about. It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity. But that's not what my job is as president.


My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now.


If that wasn't vicious enough, the Socialist-in-Chief later reiterated

My view of private equity is it is set up to maximize profits.   And that's a healthy part of the free market. That's part of the role of a lot of business people. That's not unique to private equity.      I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries.

Democratic (the identification here used very loosely) Senator Mark Warner of Virginia echoed the President's statement, remarking (according to Talking Points Memo)

Bain Capital was a very successful business.     I think they got a good return for their investors. That is what they were supposed to do. I think when you’re in public life, though, what you’ve got is a different time horizon. The notion that everything in government is exactly the same way that it is in business, they’re different time horizons when you’ve got to invest for the long haul, when you actually do the kind of early stage investing, whether in preschool, whether it’s in K-12, whether infrastructure, that doesn’t pay back quarter to quarter.

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall told TPM there is, as the latter put it, "no daylight" on the issue between his boss and Obama.

Of course there isn't.   Warner, unoficially a Blue Dog Democrat, one thought to be interested in the 2016 presidential nomination, could hardly have been offended by the President's endorsement of rapacious corporate practices.

And endorse Bain Capital he did.    The problem, according to Obama, isn't the debt the private equity firm routinely created for the companies it took over.    Nor is it the individuals fired so as to finance the debt, nor the salaries reduced and the pensions often eliminated for the workers who remained.    And it certainly isn't the millions Mitt Romney and the Board of Directors scooped up as they were destroying companies.

No, none of that.    It is, well, simply not the place of a President to make millions.   That is better left to companies like Bain, which apparently provide a socially worthwhile service to the country.    Romney, in this framework is among those "folks who do good work in that area" who "identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries.  

It was kind of President Obama to vouch for his opponent's efficiency and effectiveness.Obama differs only in noting that Mitt Romney and other heads of Bain perform a different function, assume a different role, than does the President of the United States.  

Still, Mitt Romney wasn't satisfied.   Responding to the President's remarks, the presumptive GOP nominee issued a statement maintaining

President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against....

So Barack Obama nods and winks at Wall Street, assuring the 1% that Mitt Romney and the type of firm he headed are (in 1960s lingo) just Swell.   Neat.    Cool.   We don't wish any offense- looting is merely not what a President does.    Then Romney accuses Obama of attacking the "free enterprise system," an odd description of marauders periodically destroying companies while reaping millions, assisted by government subsidy (video below).

Admittedly, it's a little difficult for President Obama to be terribly critical of Mitt Romney when he himself is raising dough from private equity executives.      Still, Romney's extreme response- slamming an opponent for "attack(ing)" free enterprise when the latter is defending it- suggests that mild, tepid questioning of the opposition will get the Obama campaign nowhere.    It must respond in kind, and slamming politicians who became multimillionaires on the carcasses of American companies would be a good place to start.







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By The Man Who Previously Never Hated His Country



Has someone hacked Rush Limbaugh's website?    Last November 30, Limbaugh went off on a common theme of his, that Barack Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism and doesn't love his country.    He declared, according to what we are led to believe is a transcript of the major segments of his program

You talk about American exceptionalism, in one sense, the term doesn't mean we're better.That's how people like Obama look at it. "I'm sure the British think they're exceptional, too." Look, small mind, that's not what American exceptionalism means.American exceptionalism is not a braggadocious term.  American exceptionalism is not a superiorist term.  American exceptionalism is an acknowledgement that this country was an exception to the way people lived, to the way people were forced to live...

But it has never occurred to me to hate the country! It has just never occurred to me. But you take a guy like Obama and half of his administration if not all of it, and they run around and they look at America as exceptionally evil. They think that America became what it became by virtue of crime. We stole all the stuff that we have.


Limbaugh was talking about a President who wants nothing so much as to get along with his political enemies, although he has noted he would like to be a transformative president a la Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6), himself a Republican.     And about a senator who thrilled the delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention- and a national audience- by remarking (transcript here)

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. 
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Rush Limbaugh, however, claims "It has never occurred to me to hate the country!"   Except that, well, now it has.     Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has decided to renounce his U.S. citizenship, apparently in order to avoid paying $67-$100 million in post-IPO taxes.   Democratic Senators Schumer and Casey have proposed legislation which would tax Saverin and others similarly situated at the capital gains tax rate of 30% and ban them permanently from the U.S.A.    On Friday, Limbaugh reacted by telling his audience

The people who are saying Eduardo Saverin doesn't have the right to do this, he's shirking his responsibility as a citizen, this is a cowardly thing to do.  Well, I left New York state for the same reason.  Now, I didn't have to renounce citizenship, but I left New York state for the same reason. I moved to a state with no state income tax.  I'm sure that people think that I am not a patriotic New Yorker.  I spent eight years there.  I paid my dues, and they still follow me.  Every year I get audited under the premise I'm lying to them about the number of days every year I live and work in New York, which are zero.  I have to prove it 14 different ways every day of the year, where I am, where I say I was.  And I can tell you, I left New York for tax reasons.  I'm the first one to admit it, and I'm not the only one.  Talk to Trump.Trump will tell you he knows a lot of other people have done it, too. 

So if it's a more favorable tax haven that you can find elsewhere and you go there, why is it automatically that you are unpatriotic?  Why is it automatically that you are a coward, that you are not paying your fair share?  It's this whole class envy thing rearing its head again.So I just wanted to throw it out there.


Remarkably, Rush Limbaugh is comparing the decision by Eduardo Saverin to renounce his American citizenship to avoid unfavorable taxation to his own decision to move from New York State to Florida to avoid unfavorable taxation.     Limbaugh turned thumbs down on a state moving, as millions of Americans do every year, from one to another.    He did not renounce, reject, or repudiate citizenship.   Saverin is repudiating citizenship.

Eduardo Saverin can choose to be a citizen of Singapore, the United States, or whatever country he meets the eligibility requirement of.    But renouncing citizenship hardly makes one a patriot of the country he is repudiating.    And when defended by someone who had maintained it "has never occurred to me to hate this country," we have a classic case of dishonesty or someone who recently developed a distaste for nation.
    
If he believes that turning thumbs down on the U.S.A. is equivalent to turning thumbs down on New York State, Rush Limbaugh has an odd concept of American exceptionalism, especially compared to someone from whom we learned

My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.





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Sunday, May 20, 2012





Loyalty To Self

Somebody should be held accountable.  

On Meet The Press (transcript of roundtable discussion here) today, Obama surrogate Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, maintained

...As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it's just this--we're getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know. I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, it ain't--they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses, And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with.

Not satisfied that viewers wouldn't understand that the professional career of the (soon-to-be) GOP presidential nominee is irrelevant, Booker a few minutes later stated

But the last point I'll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity, stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It's a distraction from the real issues. It's either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it's going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.

(Sarcasm Alert) Oddly enough, the American public cares about jobs.    Mitt Romney has claimed he and Bain Capital "were able to help create over 100,000 jobs."    He has offered no evidence to support the claim, nor has he clarified whether the job gain was net or gross.     In the unlikely event, the vulture capitalist helped create 100,000 jobs, it is as likely it helped lose 100,000 jobs.     The centerpiece of Romney's campaign is his claimed ability to bolster the economy- and not based on his record as governor of Massachusetts (from which he has run at every opportunity) but on his professed business acumen and experience.    And the mayor of Newark calls that "a distraction from the real issues."

But the Obamites shouldn't have been surprised.    Cory Booker's goal is not the promotion of the re-election of Barack Obama but the promotion of himself.     Booker once called charter school activists "modern-day freedom fighters," apparently confusing them with the likes of George Washington, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, and Fannie Lou Hamer.     He has periodically aligned himself with the right-wing governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, in word and in video, and is widely assumed in New Jersey to have his sights on a run for either governor or U.S. senator.     Salon's Steve Kornacki recognizes Booker's plunge into the sewer of false equivalence is not a gaffe and "hardly means he made a mistake, at least in terms of his own ambition."    He explains

Financial support from Wall Street and, more broadly speaking, the investor class has been key to Booker’s rise, and remains key to his future dreams.

It’s easy to forget, but before the world met Barack Obama in 2004, many believed that the first black president would be Booker. Armed with Stanford, Yale and Oxford degrees and all of the invaluable personal connections he forged at those institutions, he set out in the mid-1990s to craft a uniquely appealing political biography, swearing off lucrative job offers to move to Newark’s Central Ward and take up residence in public housing. Within a few years, he won a seat on the City Council, where he showed an early and consistent knack for self-generated publicity, most notably with a ten-day hunger strike in the summer of 1999.


That set the stage for Booker’s 2002 race for mayor, an ugly contest against incumbent Sharpe James, an entrenched icon of the city’s civil rights generation of black politicians. James, as any self-respecting Newark mayor would do, leveraged his clout for campaign contributions from city workers, vendors and those who aspired to be city workers and vendors.


Booker, meanwhile, had hardly lost touch with his old classmates, keeping one foot in Newark and the other in Manhattan, where he built on the connections to elite donors that he already had. He called the millions of dollars he raised for the race “love money.” The press – and James’ campaign – took note that almost all of it was from outside Newark, nearly half of it was from outside New Jersey, and a quarter of it came directly from Wall Street.


Booker lost that election, but was handily elected mayor four years later.       Six years later, the only cause Cory Booker is interested in is Cory Booker and he is lasciviously eyeing Wall Street cash.    If the Obama campaign was unaware of that, it has only itself to blame. |



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Saturday, May 19, 2012




Public To Private


The House of Representatives Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 299-120, with 77 Democrats supporting the bill, and all but 16 Republicans joining them.      The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider the bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, next week.

This year's version of the NDAA contains several controversial provisions, including banning same-sex marriages and 'marriage-like' ceremonies on military bases and authorizing indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects, including U.S. citizens, captured on U.S. soil.

But the bill is most notorious for breaking the Budget Control Act, a bipartisan agreement for controlling spending made when Republicans, during the debt ceiling debate, pretended to care about the deficit.   Daily Kos' Joan McCarter notes "It authorizes eight billion dollars extra, including " a new missile defense system on the east coast, keeping ships and aircraft that the Pentagon is trying to retire, rejecting the military's request for domestic base closings."

More money than the Pentagon wanted, for programs and hardware the defense establishment has rejected.   It's not about defense (or the debt) anymore- but it is about defense contractors.

Starving government and funneling more power and profits from to the private sector has become a major objective of Republican government.     The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Katz, often impersonating a PR flak for Governor Chris Christie, nevertheless wrote in April 

Interested in a piece of New Jersey's government? With Gov. Christie in office, now's the time to buy, buy, buy.


In recent months the Republican governor's administration has amped up efforts to privatize government services, which would generate short-term revenue and cut the number of benefit-receiving employees. State parks, public schools, and Atlantic City Expressway toll booths all have been opened to outside companies.


At least a dozen functions of state government are being filled by companies or are targeted for privatization, public documents show, with the Christie administration considering proposals from firms to maintain highways, repair state vehicles, cook prison food, and process child-support payments.


The twist from Chris Christie, atwitter with excitement at the possibility of joining Mitt Romney on the presidential ticket, is the urge to privatize a function which already provides a profit.    Katz continues

The next piece of New Jersey government that may hit the market could provide the biggest windfall - and the biggest controversy. The Treasury Department has sought information from vendors about privatizing the $2.6 billion state lottery.

But Christie is only one of several GOP governors, Walker, Kasich, Snyder, Scott, Daniels, and others, taking direct aim at the public interest by fronting for private interests.       Next door to New Jersey

The move mirrors what's happening in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Corbett this month issued a "request for qualifications" from companies that might want to manage its $3.2 billion lottery.

Other states are considering offering long-term leases on their lotteries. Such a move would bring an immediate infusion into New Jersey's coffers, expand gaming opportunities, and allow the state to tax profits.

And provide a nice little benefit to the company that gets the contract by providing a service the state was providing rather efficiently.   Moreover, as Paul Davies argues

Lotteries rely disproportionately on older and poorer players. In fact, there are often more lottery machines per capita in lower-income areas. Once a private operator takes over the lottery, it is a good bet the poor will end up even poorer. A private operator will be more aggressive about enticing new and existing gamblers to spend more money on the lottery.

That will likely mean more marketing, more retail outlets, more new games, and probably a push to sell tickets online. There will also likely be an increased effort to attract younger gamblers. The likely result will be a sharp rise in the number of problem gamblers, and less disposable income to spend on other goods and services. States don’t have much concern for problem gamblers as it is. Once a private operator takes over, look out.


Governors Christie and Corbett aren't motivated by a desire to exploit poor or elderly people (who provide a disproportionate share of gamblers) any more than congressional Republicans are out to weaken the military or impoverish the middle class (the last point being debatable). They are mere collateral damage to their efforts to turn government over to private contractors, well-connected law firms, and others only too happy to assist them in undermining government and the faith of people in the public sector.





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Friday, May 18, 2012





Don't Appeal; Suppress!


When Patrick J. Buchanan was unceremoniously dumped from MSNBC several months ago, he was not amused.    He has been, understandably, waiting anxiously for the opportunity to spring an "I told you so" moment on the network.

That time has arrived.     He explains   

Among the more controversial chapters in "Suicide of a Superpower," my book published last fall, was the one titled, "The End of White America."

It dealt with the demographic decline of the white majority and what it portends for education, the U.S. economy, politics and national unity.

That book and chapter proved the proximate cause of my departure from MSNBC, where the network president declared that subjects such as these are inappropriate for "the national dialogue."

Apparently, the mainstream media are reassessing that.

For, in rare unanimity, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today all led yesterday with the same story.

"Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.," blared the Times headline. "Minority Babies Majority in U.S.," echoed the Post. "Minorities Are Now a Majority of Births," proclaimed USA Today.

The USA Today story continued, "The nation's growing diversity has huge implications for education, economics and politics."

Buchanan argues as many liberal/progressive bloggers and mainstream journalists have argued, that these demographic trends spell almost inevitable doom for the GOP.      He maintains

The Democratic base is growing inexorably, while the Republican base is shriveling.

Already, California, Illinois and New York are lost. The GOP has not carried any of the three in five presidential elections. When Texas -- where whites are a minority and a declining share of the population -- tips, how does the GOP put together an electoral majority?

Western states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona, which Republican nominees like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan swept almost every time they ran, are becoming problematic for the party.

Fret not, Pat.    Your party is one step ahead of you.     The Huffington Post's Janell Ross notes 

Less than two months after a Florida effort to identify and purge ineligible voters from the state's rolls began, opponents say it seems likely to disqualify a disproportionate share of eligible Latino voters.

About 180,000 people -- a group roughly equal to the population of Tallahassee, Fla. -- are at risk of being purged from the state's voter rolls because they have been identified as possible noncitizens, the Miami Herald reported. Looking at a smaller sample of 2,600 suspect voters initially identified by the state, the newspaper found about 59 percent to be Latino. Hispanic voters constitute just 13 percent of the state's electorate, according to federal data.

Florida often grabs national attention because it's home to 11.3 million voters and wields 29 Electoral College votes. But Republican secretaries of state elsewhere, including Colorado and New Mexico, have also launched aggressive efforts to identify noncitizens on their voter rolls. Critics contend that many of these purges have relied on questionable methods and allow public officials to make inaccurate claims about the number of ineligible people who have actually obtained and used voting credentials.

The purges have significant legal and political resonance. Black and Latino voters have historically seen their right to vote restricted by law and by practice, making an amendment to the U.S. Constitution and, a century later, the 1965 Voting Rights Act necessary. Some states and counties, including five in Florida, remain subject to detailed federal oversight of their electoral systems.

Voters of color are also more likely to be registered Democrats. So voter roll purges that call into question the eligibility of large numbers of minority voters are generally thought to be helpful to Republican candidates.

The growing Hispanic population of Florida is now less than half of Cuban descent, with only 540,000 of 1.5 million Latino voters being Cuban-American.      That community itself is no longer overwhelmingly Republican, with the individuals born in the U.S.A. far more amenable to voting Democratic than those born in Cuba.    The ranks of Puerto Ricans, more likely to vote Democratic than Republican even in Florida, are growing in the state.    In 2000, Barack Obama captured 57% of Florida's Hispanic vote, no longer reliably Republican with the growth of the Puerto Rican population and attrition of Cuban-Americans born on the island.

It's not as if Republican Secretaries of State are virgins at purging voter rolls of likely Democrats.    Why, even a presidential election can be won by doing so and, not coincidentally, it has been done in Florida.    Sourcewatch.org reminds us

Prior to the 2000 election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Governor Jeb Bush hired Database Technologies to purge voters whose names mathced or were similar to those of ex-felons, which resulted in the removal of 82,389 voters from the rolls. An investigation by Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho revealed that 95% of those purged in his county were, in fact, legally entitled to vote. Greg Palast of the BBC found that more than half those wrongly purged were African-Americans, even though African-Americans represent only about 11% of the electorate and that the purge list contained almost no Hispanics, notwithstanding Florida’s sizable Hispanic population. (In Florida, Hispanics largely vote Republican, and African Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Buchanan concludes by asking "But how does the GOP appeal to them (Hispanic voters)?" The Repub Party may not need to "appeal" to Hispanic voters.    Keeping Hispanics from voting may be more important, as Republicans work overtime suppressing the votes of elderly people, college students, and minorities.



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Wednesday, May 16, 2012






Exposing 'Fair and Balanced'


The analysis in The Washington Post on April 27 by Thomas Mann of the centrist Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute now stands more remarkable for what it does not include than for what it does include.  

Achieving objectivity and accuracy at the expense of "balance," Mann (not this Thomas Mann) and Ornstein observe

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

They observe

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right.


Identified are the usual suspects.    It began with the civil rights revolution, which prompted an exodus (which continues to this day) of conservatives into the GOP, moved onto the mobilization of cultural conservatives following Roe v. Wade in 1973, the anti-tax ethos catalyzed by California's Proposition 13 in 1978, emergence of GOP TV and rightist blogs, and furthered more recently by Speaker Gingrich and single-minded anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

Perhaps because their article was published in early May, Mann and Ornstein, omitted reference to the Budget Sequestration Act,  passed by the Repub-controlled House on May 10

which effectively nullified the 2011 debt ceiling deal and set up a political catastrophe for 2013 that will make the previous debt crisis seem minor in comparison. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed with all 183 House Democrats and 16 House Republicans in opposition, the bill was designed to supplement the automatic defense budget cuts promised bythe Budget Control Act with cuts to the Obama health care law, slashes to Medicaid spending, cuts to block grants that funds social services such as Meals on Wheels, denial of the $1,000 per child tax credit to illegal immigrants, and assurances that food-stamp recipients are actually eligible for the benefits they receive. 

Automatic cuts were anticipated by the deal reached last summer to avert default on the debt.       A supercommittee would find $1.2 trillion in cuts to agencies over the next decade, half of them in domestic programs and half in defense.      If the committee failed to come to agreement, the cuts would be made automatically.    Now that the 2013 fiscal year looms, the GOP reneges- heads we win, tails you lose.

Nor did Mann nor Ornstein  assume that John Boehner again would put the fiscal health of this nation at risk in order to satisfy the extremists in his caucus.     They would have been attacked had they suggested  the Speaker would be so irresponsible as to threaten to bring the nation to the brink of disaster in order to satisfy GOP desires to cut programs for the poor, the elderly, and the sick.    But in remarks he

delivered yesterday in DC, Boehner demanded that the next debt-ceiling increase -- slated for early 2013 -- have commensurate spending cuts and no tax increases. “I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase," Boehner said, per NBC's Mike O'Brien.  "This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance."

Mann and Ornstein

.... understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?


Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.


Eventually, GOP leaders may decide to take "yes" for an answer.     Obviously, that time hasn't come yet, as the goalposts get moved continually by legislators and party leaders unconcerned about the future of the nation.





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