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Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Bad News from Obama (Sadistic Chief)

The White House, Washington

Gas Prices

Good afternoon,

Surprised at how much it cost last time you filled up your gas tank? You're not alone. Millions of families and businesses across the country are feeling the pinch of rising gas prices.

Here's the thing: as long as our economy relies on oil and as demand in countries like China and India continues to grow, we'll be subject to these kinds of spikes in gas prices.

We've been down this road before -- just three years ago, gas prices rose to their highest level ever. There was no quick fix to lower prices then, just as there isn't one now.

For decades, politicians here in Washington have talked a lot about the dangers of our dependence on foreign oil, but this talk hasn't always been met with action. And today, Americans pay a price for that inaction every time they fill up their tanks.

Yesterday, we unveiled a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that sets a goal of reducing our imports of foreign oil. By 2025 -- a little more than a decade from now -- we will have cut that reliance by one-third.

Learn more about the Blueprint and watch President Obama's speech on energy security:

In his speech yesterday, President Obama outlined his plan to secure our energy future by developing and securing America's energy resources, bringing energy costs down for consumers, and innovating our way to a clean energy future.

  • Increase domestic energy production. Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And, because we can't just drill our way out of this crisis, we're reducing our dependence on oil by increasing fuel efficiency and increasing our production of natural gas and biofuels.
  • Reduce demand for oil. Transportation is responsible for 70 percent of our petroleum consumption, so one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to make transportation more efficient. That's why, in April of last year, the Obama Administration established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks that will save us 1.8 billion barrels of oil and save consumers thousands of dollars. We're also making investments in electric vehicles and the advanced batteries that power them to ensure that high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks are built right here in America.
  • Increase production of clean energy. In his State of the Union address, President Obama set a goal that by 2035, 80 percent of our electricity should come from clean energy sources including renewables like wind and solar, nuclear energy, efficient natural gas, and clean coal.

The concepts are straightforward, but the execution will be challenging. In order to make this happen, Republicans and Democrats in Congress must find common ground for a responsible and effective energy policy.

But no matter your views on this issue, I think we can all agree that the United States simply can't afford to leave this challenge for future generations to solve.


David Plouffe
Senior Advisor to the President

P.S. Check out our new Advise the Advisor video featuring Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and give us your feedback on how we can meet the President's goal of reducing imports of oil by one-third in a little over a decade:


Mike Huckabee Says He Wants Americans To Be Indoctrinated At Gunpoint


Mike Huckabee Says He Wants Americans To Be Indoctrinated At Gunpoint

Did Mike Huckabee just flush his presidential aspirations down the proverbial toilet? Well, if American mainstream media has an ounce of journalistic gumption remaining the answer most certainly would be “yes”. Huckabee has just been caught on video, at a Christian supremacist conference, stating that Americans should be forcibly indoctrinated at gunpoint. The organization which hosted the “Rediscover God In America” conference, United in Purpose, has edited Huckabee’s comment from footage of his speech, but not before People For The American Way’s Kyle Mantyla captured the unedited footage, in which Mike Huckabee states, “I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it.”

David Barton is the leading promoter of a brand of falsified American history altered to support the claim that America was founded as a Christian, rather than a secular, nation. As Chris Rodda, who has authored an entire book debunking Barton’s brand of pseudo-history, writes,

I was quite surprised… to come across a video clip from this conference on the People for the American Way (PFAW) Right Wing Watch blog with the headline “Huckabee: Americans Should Be Forced, At Gunpoint, To Learn From David Barton.” I had watched Huckabee’s speech. How on earth could I have missed a statement like that? Well, I didn’t. It had been edited out of the webcast that I had watched.

Kyle Mantyla over at PFAW’s Right Wing Watch had recorded Huckabee’s speech when it was streamed live on Thursday, and posted the ‘forced at gunpoint’ clip on Friday. By Saturday, when I watched the webcast on the United in Purpose website, that part of Huckabee’s speech had been edited out.

The webcast that I saw showed Barton leaving the stage as he ended his presentation, then the screen going black for a moment, and then what appeared to be the beginning of Huckabee’s speech. What was edited out was Barton returning to the stage to introduce Huckabee, and the first two minutes and forty-five seconds of Huckabee’s speech, during which Huckabee made his ‘gunpoint’ comment and praised David Lane, the man behind all of the American “Renewal” and “Restoration” projects that have popped up across the country during the past few elections.

[below: the unedited footage from Huckabee's speech, with the "joke" about indoctrinating Americans at gunpoint to be found at at 1:06. Footage courtesy of Kyle Mantyla of Rightwing Watch, who might have almost single-handedly consigned Huckabee's presidential hopes to the dustbin of history.]

I should also note that what Chris Rodda has to say about this has especial weight given that she’s arguably been the most indefatigable author to challenge David Barton’s sprawling falsified American history oeuvre, as a Talk To Action site search on Rodda’s extensive posts debunking Barton would suggest. Chris Rodda is author of the book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History which prominently features David Barton, head of Wallbuilders and arguably king of the “liars for Jesus”. Rodda is also Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The GOP's Absurd Plan for the Economy: Lowering YOUR Wages


The GOP is embracing some very dangerous voodoo economics.

John Boehner at the AT&T National golf tournament, July 2009.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Earlier this month, House Republicans laid out a perverse plan to lower working Americans' wages, supposedly in a bid to get employers to hire more of them (PDF). One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of the “race to the bottom.”

Republican staffers on the Joint Economic Committee released the study in response to widespread criticism that the deep public sector cuts they've advocated threaten to derail an already anemic “recovery” -- economist Mark Zandi estimated last month that if enacted, the spending cuts would cost the U.S. economy 700,000 jobs through 2012.

So, as Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley wrote in the National Journal, the GOP report “makes the party’s ... case that fiscal consolidation (read: spending cuts) can spur immediate economic growth and reduce unemployment.”

The paper calls for cuts that are “large, credible, and politically difficult to reverse once made,” and offers a typical conservative fantasy about shuttering entire federal agencies. But topping the list of what should be on the Republicans' chopping block is “decreasing the number and compensation of government workers,” which the staffers say will spur job creation because “a smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.”

“Labor costs,” of course mean “wages” – Americans' paychecks. So, a central plank in the GOP's economic recovery plan is to flood the market with yet more unemployed people in order to drive wages (which have stagnated for an extended period) further down.

That's part and parcel with a larger assault on the middle class. Cutting public employees also means laying off workers in a sector with a 38 percent unionization rate, and forcing them to compete against those toiling in corporate America with its 7 percent union density -- last year, more working people belonged to a union in the public sector (7.9 million) than in the private (7.4 million), despite the fact that corporate America employs five times the number of wage-earners.

With state and local budgets hit hard by the economic crash, and the right painting public sector workers as the 21st century-version of Ronald Reagan's mythic welfare queens, this process is already underway. Last year, Fed Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke estimated that the public sector had laid off a quarter million workers since 2007. According to a Labor Department report, state and local governments beat every other sector in terms of the number of workers laid off last summer. 30,000 were laid off last month alone, and, as the conservative noted, “the troubles at the state and local levels promise to be a fixture for some time to come.”

The GOP's paper is based on some remarkable voodoo economics. As Fernholz and Tankersley note, their response to critics “is that 'non-Keynesian' effects — increased business and consumer confidence that their taxes won’t rise as a result of government retrenchment—will provide immediate positive results across the economy.” This is based the popular and wholly false conservative meme that “uncertainty” about future taxes and regulations is keeping employers from hiring.

Numerous surveys have found that it is a lack of customers, and not “uncertainty” about future taxes that is leading employers not to hire. It's entirely consistent with a huge drop in demand in our consumer-driven economy following the housing market crash. As economist Dean Baker wrote last month, the recession “reduced consumption through what is known as the “housing wealth effect.”

The housing wealth effect is estimated at five to seven cents on the dollar, meaning that homeowners will on average increase their annual consumption by between five and seven cents for every additional dollar of housing they own. This means that the $8 trillion of housing-bubble wealth implied an increase in annual consumption of between $400 and $560 billion. Now that most of the bubble wealth is lost, so is this consumption.

The total reduction in annual demand as a result of the collapse of the bubbles in residential and non-residential real estate is close to $1.2 trillion, or 8 percent of GDP. There is nothing in the economist’s bag of tricks that easily replaces such a large loss in demand.

With consumer demand recovering very gradually – it was up 0.3 percent when adjusted for inflation in February, but much of that was simply a matter of households spending more for fuel – putting downward pressure on wages and sending more people to the unemployment line is about the worst thing lawmakers could do.

But the Republican staffers insist their plan is grounded firmly in empirical evidence. And they insist the evidence shows not only that the deficit must be reduced, but also that it has to be done through spending cuts rather than tax hikes (last year, the federal government collected the lowest share of the economy in tax revenues since 1950). “A growing body of empirical studies,” wrote the staffers, “proves that fiscal consolidation programs based predominantly or entirely on government spending reductions are far more likely to be successful” at stabilizing deficits than hiking taxes.

But the “evidence” they cite is dubious at best. Economist James Galbraith told Fernholz and Tankersley, “Much of this study relies on the growth performance of a few (very) small open economies — Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, notably — after 1994.” He added, “it’s easy to look good if you are a small country with a freshly devalued currency selling into a world boom. The ‘lessons’ will not apply to the United States, which cannot just contract domestically, devalue the dollar (sacrificing our reserve-currency position) and expect the rest of the world to bail us out by buying our exports.”Economists at the International Monetary Fund say that many of the studies cited in the Republican staffers' report are flawed. The IMF warned last year that cutting spending “typically reduces output and raises unemployment in the short term.”

Chad Stone, chief economist for the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy priorities, added that “one of the key deficit-reduction measures in the 1990s was raising taxes on top earners, over Republican warnings that that would wreck the economy. The JEC Republican report’s claim that spending cuts are the only way to reduce the deficit and that tax increases 'are the bane of economic growth' is deja voodoo all over again.”

The 8 Worst Governors in America: All GOP



The 8 Worst Governors in America

There are a lot of truly terrible executives in various state-houses these days.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The following piece was adapted from Keith Balmer's blog.

When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker rammed his union-busting bill through the legislature -- and then published it despite a judge's stay -- he seemed a lock for the honor of the Worst Governor in the United States. But then again, there are a lot of truly terrible executives in various state-houses these days.

So let's look at some of the others who might also vie for the title of America's Worst Governor -- to nobody's surprise, they're all Republicans!

Let's get started...

The Governor: Rick Scott (Florida)

Rick Scott was once the CEO of Columbia/HCA, a massive hospital chain. The federal government fined Columbia/HCA for Medicaid and Medicare fraud. That fine, a jaw-dropping 1.7 billion dollars, is the largest in American history.

But instead of going to jail, Rick Scott became the governor of Florida.

A guy scams the government and now is an elected official of the government. And in the three months since he's been in office he's doing his best to destroy the fourth largest state.

1. He rejected $2.4 billion in stimulus money to build a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando.

2. He wants to slash $4 billion in spending while cutting taxes for millionaires.

3. He tried to use state funds to build golf courses in state parks while cutting education by 10 percent and corporate taxes by 5 percent.

4. He's requiring 600,000 government workers (including police officers, teachers, firefighters, judges, and retirees) to contribute 5 percent to their retirement.

5. He just lopped off $2,300 a year in teacher salary to give massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.

He's also not a fan of black people. He proposed eliminating state support for two HBCUs (Historically black colleges and universities). He's shutting down a state agency that assists minority businesses, and he refuses to appoint an African American to any significant position in his administration.

Where's Kanye West when you need him? Someone needs to go on TV and awkwardly declare: "Rick Scott doesn't care about black people!"

Stephen King, a part-time resident of Florida, attended a rally to protest Scott's state budget cuts. Allow me to describe Rick Scott perfectly, using King's famous books as inspiration:

Rick Scott is a bigger clown than the clown from It. This Firestarter wants to turn Florida into his own personal Creepshow, a Dead Zone where his economic policies will have residents screaming "REDRUM!" Sorry Florida, but it looks like you guys are in for a whole lot of Misery.

The Governor: Paul LePage (Maine)

In January, LePage skipped Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations in Bangor and Portland. The NAACP criticized him. LePage responded by telling the NAACP, "kiss my butt."

When I first heard about this I was shocked! I turned to my friend and said, "Maine has black people?"

The irony of LePage's comment is that he has an adopted son who is black. Isn't it weird that he would diss the NAACP when it's because of them that he can even adopt a black kid?

But that's nothing compared to the controversy LePage received for his support of BPA, a common chemical additive used in some hardened plastics, such as reusable food and beverage containers. An estimated 6 million pounds of BPA are produced annually, although rising public concern about the potential health affects have prompted some manufacturers to drop the chemical. BPA has been linked to a host of health issues including reproductive problems, learning disabilities, cancer, and obesity.

Politicians in Maine are trying to ban it. But the governor is adamant in his support for BPA. If you thought his comment about the NAACP was tasteless, check out what he had to say about BPA:

"Quite frankly, the science that I'm looking at says there is no problem. The only thing I've heard is that if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards."

Do you really trust the science of this man?

What else is the governor up to? Well, he wants to bust unions, cut taxes while slashing public services, gut employee benefits and pensions, and raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.

And who will benefit from all of this madness?

Rich people, silly rabbit!

The 1 percent of households in Maine earning over $300,000 dollars will see their income taxes go down by $2,700. LePage is taking money from the middle class, so that the rich people in Maine can save $2,700.

Stephen King, a part-time resident of Maine, has spoken out against LePage (how many states does that guy live in?).

According to a recent survey, LePage's approval rating has dipped to 44 percent. Something tells me that when he's running for reelection in 2014, the people of Maine will turn Le Page and tell him to kisstheirbutt!

The Governor: Tom Corbett (Pennsylvania)

In order to deal with the state's $4 billion deficit, the residents of Pennsylvania want Corbett to raise taxes on the natural gas industry. Plus, they don't want him to cut funding for education.

And because Corbett is a man of the people, he plans to do the exact opposite.

WHUCK? (That's shorthand for "What the fuck?")

Corbett released his budget last week and it's a doozy. He's proposing massive cuts to education. He wants to cut state aid to public schools by a jaw-dropping $1 billion. He wants to freeze teacher salaries. And he wants to cut $625 million from higher education. That amounts to a 50 percent cut for the 14 state-owned universities and the four state-related schools (Penn State, Temple, Pitt and Lincoln University).

If this budget passes can you imagine all the services public schools will have to cut?

And I feel bad for the college students at these state schools. A 50 percent cut in state aid is horrifying. Those schools must find a way to replace all of that money. And you know what that means? It means the cost of tuition is going, in the words of Ralph Kramden, "TO THE MOON, ALICE!"

And if that wasn't bad enough, Governor Corbett has given a coal company CEO unilateral authority to overturn laws and pass out drilling permits as he sees fit.


Here's something I bet you didn't know. Because of natural gas drilling, there are certain parts of the state where the water is hazardous because it's flammable. There are videos on Youtube where people set fire to the water as it comes out of their faucets. Drinking that water is dangerous. Number one, it might kill you. Number two, when you go to the bathroom to pee, there's a good chance you might burn your house down!

You know what, Governor Corbett? This is an excellent idea. Let's make this a national movement. Let's appoint people to positions they have no business being within 100 feet of.

For example, let's make high school dropout Bristol Palin the head of the Department of Education! Or how about Amy Winehouse as head of the Department of Health and Human Services? Or what if we made Charlie Sheen the Drug Czar?


Last week Governor Corbett said, "Let's make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom!"

Yes, governor, let's do that. Let's give some coal executive power to pollute the state's water supply as he sees fit.

And since you want Pennsylvania to be Texas, let's cut billions of dollars in education so that the public schools disintegrate into barren wastelands. You know, just like in Texas!


Speaking of the Lone Star State . . .

The Governor: Rick Perry (Texas)

Everything is bigger in Texas: The football stadiums, the waistlines, the mosquitoes, the tornadoes, the number of teenage pregnancies, the number of high school dropouts....

Texas has a $27 billion shortfall. In order to balance the books, Governor Perry wants to slash education by $10 billion! And he wants to fire 100,000 teachers.

Perry has a few billion at his disposal to help when times get hard (like right now). It's called the Rainy Day Fund. He can dip into this money to alleviate the suffering from his proposed cuts. He initially refused to touch it. But after thousands of teachers and state workers protested in Austin, Perry started singing a different tune. Just the other day he announced that he would dip into the fund.

Now, for those of you who don't know, Perry hates when the big bad government intrudes on people's personal lives. So why is he trying to force women seeking abortions to undergo state-mandated sonograms? He wants to force doctors to show an ultrasound image of the fetus to these emotionally fragile women. Then he wants to force them to listen to the fetal heartbeat. And then he wants them to sit and listen to a lecture on fetal development.

But don't worry, ladies. You can avoid Perry's version of compassionate conservatism by simply choosing to not get pregnant!

Under Perry, Texas leads the nation in abstinence-only education. And, unsurprisingly, Texas has one of the nation's highest teen pregnancy rates. Because when you tell teenagers not to have sex, they decide to wait...until you leave them home alone for the weekend!

In other Perry-related news, he recently announced that states should have the option to opt out of Social Security.

I wish that all of these government-hating conservatives would opt out of using our roads and our police and our fire department. It would be nice if Perry opted out of using the government to watch over his border with Mexico.

And since Perry has talked of seceding from the Union, it would be nice if Texas just opted out of the United States.

The Governor: Jan Brewer (Arizona)

Arizona has no lieutenant governor. So when former governor Janet Napolitano joined the Obama administration in 2009, Jan Brewer, the Secretary of State, became the new governor.

Here's one thing you need to know about Governor Brewer: She's racist.

Ok, I take that back. That was too strong. Jan Brewer is definitely NOT racist.

She just doesn't care for Mexican people.

Though Hispanics own businesses, hold public office, and help support the local economy, the perception that immigrants do nothing but drain community resources, take away jobs, and increase violence is a reliable talking point for southwestern conservatives like Brewer.

In April of last year she passed an incredibly racist piece of legislation known as SB 1070. This is what it says in a nutshell:


The "illegal aliens" in Arizona are overwhelmingly Mexican and this bill legalizes racial profiling against Latinos. President Obama called the law "misguided".

I call it "racist".

But Governor Cruella De Vil was just getting started. During last year's gubernatorial campaign, she incredulously said that Mexican immigrants were beheading Americans in the Arizona desert. This was a lie. And when reporters cornered her after last year's horrendous debate (she was speechless for 32 excruciating seconds), she first ignored their questions, then she fled.

Here's some other fun facts about Cruella. She went to community college and received a radiological technologist certification (?????). Her top two lobbyists are from the private prison industry (the more Latinos you put in jail, the more money that industry makes). And her favorite book is "Arizona Governor For Dummies."

I made that last one up.

I just Googled "incompetent" and a photo of Jan Brewer came up!

There is no economic growth policy in Arizona, no education program, and no health-care solutions, just Hispanic-Hate 24/7. Cruella recently signed tax cuts that'll cost the state $538 million by 2018. She claims she has created jobs, yet the state has lost thousands of jobs under her term. She rails against the federal health-care program but will gladly take every federal penny tossed her way.

Cruella is taking a lot of heat, and rightfully so, for refusing to fund organ transplants.In October 2010, Governor Brewer cut funding for Arizona's transplant program, creating America's first real death panel, and putting many people's health and survival in grave danger. Without this assistance, patients in need won't be able to pay for their expensive medical bills associated with a transplant. Two people have already died since Brewer decided to cut this program's funding.

Governor Brewer's opinion on the issue is completely unfounded. How can it be wasteful to provide care to someone whose life depends on it? There are 98 patients in need of an organ transplant. And Cruella's advice to these 98 people is to drop dead!

The Governor: John Kasich (Ohio)

Before Kasich was elected governor, he made bank at Lehman Brothers. Now I don't know about you, but I think it's crazy to vote a guy into office who comes from Wall Street.

Kasich bashed unions during last year's election. Then he demanded unions take out full-page newspaper ads to apologize tohim. He's turned down federal money to build a rail line connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He doesn't like to spend money because he's fiscally conservative, unless he's spending it on his cronies. He has bumped the salaries for those in the top positions of his administration ($20,000 to $50,000 higher than his incumbent). He was chastised by police officers in the state after he publicly referred to an officer who pulled him over as "an idiot."

And he's the first governor not to appoint an African American to a significant state cabinet post since 1962. When an African American member of the state legislature confronted him with this fact, he responded with "we don't need your people!"

For your information, governor, it's not "your people", it's "you people." Didn't you learn anything from Ross Perot?

And if you still think John Kasich is not a huge jerk, then let me explain Ohio Senate Bill 5, Kasich's union-busting piece of legislation.

The Republican-backed measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees squeaked through the state Senate on a 17-16 vote.

Ohio Senate Bill 5 would ban strikes by public workers and establish penalties for those who participate in walkouts. Unionized workers could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. The measure would do away with automatic pay raises and base future wage increases on merit.

The legislation would also set up a new process to settle worker disputes, giving elected officials the final say in contract disagreements. Binding arbitration, which police officers and firefighters use to resolve contract disputes as an alternative to strikes, would be eliminated.

According to aJanuary Quinnipiac poll, voters in Ohio oppose such a bill 51-34 percent (15 percent don't know/no opinion). Only 50 percent of Republican-identified voters supported it. Fully 71 percent of Democrat-identified voters opposed it.

Did you know Kasich has no desire to run for a second term? If this bill passes (it arrives on his desk next month), he accomplishes his goal of destroying the public sector unions in Ohio. And this will satisfy his masters: The Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch (they supported his campaign for governor).

In just three months Kasich's approval rating has dropped to a LeBron James-like 35 percent. There is some serious buyer's remorse going on. A whopping 55 percent of Ohioans say they would now vote for Kasich's opponent (ex-Governor Ted Strickland).

In other words, the people of Ohio can't wait for John Kasich "to take his talents" elsewhere!

The Governor: Rick Snyder (Michigan)

Republicans in Michigan have come up with a revolutionary solution to the state's growing budget crisis: claim the right to auction off cities, counties, school districts, and water systems.

That's right. I saidauction offcities, counties, and school districts. Michigan is for sale, ladies and gentlemen! You guys better get in while the getting is good. I just checked Groupon and saw that Governor Snyder has a special sale going on. If you buy Ann Arbor at full price, you can get Kalamazoo for half off!

And I hear you can buy Detroit off the clearance rack!

This astonishing new bill pushed by Snyder gives the governor, or a company hired by the governor, the power to declare municipal entities insolvent. During a fiscal emergency, the governor would then be empowered to appoint an emergency manager to oversee all financial matters. That individual would have the power to 1) cancel any and all contracts: including collective bargaining rights for unions; 2) dis-incorporate whole cities; and 3) dismiss lawfully elected officials.

Corporations now have the right to take over cities and counties. Hmm, that's funny. I could have sworn that America was a democracy. Guess not.

But wait. It gets better. Governor Snyder also wants to tax the pensions of seniors as ordinary income. Last week 1,500 senior citizens protested in Lansing. The Web site Crooks and Liars sums it up quite nicely:

"The pension provision is part of thelarger efforton the part of Michigan Republicans and Governor Snyder to cut corporate income taxes by 81% by increasing taxes on the poor, elderly and middle class by 36%."

The most reliable Republican voters are seniors and Snyder's support among them has eroded. They put Snyder in power and he has thanked them by taxing their pensions so that corporations could get tax cuts.

You see, boys and girls. This is why it's pretty fucking stupid to vote against your own economic interests.

The Governor: Scott Walker (Wisconsin)

In a stunning turn of events, Governor Walker and his Senate Republicans split their hotly contested bill in two, allowing them to pass the provisions over which 14 Senate Democrats left the state. This allowed Walker to strip the public workers of their collective bargaining rights. He said for three weeks that this bill was about balancing the state's budget. But he removed all financing from the bill which allowed him to pass it, thus proving Scott Walker to be a liar.

This was not about financing, it was about busting unions and sticking it to the middle class.

The Saturday after this controversial bill passed, an estimated 100,000 protesters showed up in Madison, along with 50 tractors and one donkey who wore a sign that said, "Scott Walker is a bigger ass than me!"

OK. That donkey didn't actually wear that sign. I only wished it did!

If I had to describe Scott Walker in one word it would be "motherfucker."

Let me give you a couple of scenarios that accurately explains how teachers and their unions became scapegoats for the Wisconsin budget crisis (and for the budget crisis in states around the country).

Scenario #1: Citigroup, ahem, pardon me, I mean "Shittygroup" borrows money from the Federal Reserve at zero percent interest. Shittygroup lends to people who they know cannot pay them back. Shittygroup repackages these toxic loans as Triple-A assets. Shittygroup sells the loans to state public employee pension plans. Shittygroup gets rich and pays their management billions of dollars in bonuses. Then the toxic assets completely collapse and nearly destroys the world economy. State public employees lose billions of dollars in pension funds. Republicans blame the unions for the pension fund losses. To compensate, the states cut public employee salaries, benefits, and union rights. Meanwhile, back on Wall Street, Shittygroup gets a 50 billion dollar TARP bailout, and again pays their management billions in bonuses.

Scenario #2: Republicans need to pull the wool over the eyes of their loyal, but factually challenged voters. So, they have to divide and conquer. They have to make workers from the private sector hate the workers from the public sector.

First, we all know the difference between private sector workers and public sector workers. Private sector workers have the chance to make more money. But they could be fired at any time. There's no health care, no pensions and no unions in the private sector. The public workers (i.e. teachers, firefighters, police officers) choose their line of work in part because of job security and benefits. Over the last 30 years, workers in the private sector have not received a pay increase. Meanwhile, the pay of the public sector jobs are tied into the cost of living. Republicans don't mention the fact that it is their policies that have caused private sector wages to flatline. But they do mention how fat-cat teachers are living high off the hog. They're saying to their voters, "Look at these people! Your tax dollars are paying their salaries and their benefits, AND THEY'RE MAKING MORE THAN YOU! THIS IS NOT RIGHT! YOU SHOULD BE ANGRY!"

The true villains in this sorry saga are the monsters on Wall Street. Not the teachers. If private sector workers wanna be mad at something, maybe they should be mad at how much the top CEOs get paid. In 1980, the top CEOs earned 42 times as much as the average worker. In 2011, they earn 551 times as much as the average worker.

In an interview with Fox "News", Wisconsin State Senate GOP Leader,"Eff" Scott Fitzgerald, admitted that Walker's plan was to bust unions and weaken Obama in 2012.

Doing away with collective bargaining destroys unions. During last year's elections, seven out of the top 10 outside spending groups were all right wing. The other three were unions (the public employee unions, the SEIU, and the teachers' union). Without unions, all the big money donors would be right-wing.

This is what Republicans want. They want single-party rule. They want to be the only ones in charge so that they can turn America into a banana republic.

A banana republic (i.e. Nicaragua, Venezuela) is a country ruled by a small amount of wealthy people (the oligarchs and the plutocrats). It is a country of obedient workers, servants and peasants. It is a country where working people don't have a say in politics. It is the end result of trickle-down economics and it's the opposite of democracy.

Conservatives subscribe to this idea. They believe democracy is "mob rule." They believe the noble elite (i.e. rich white dudes) should run this country. Because of their wealth, conservatives believe the noble elite are people chosen by God. They don't want the working people to vote. That's why they went after ACORN, whose only crime was that it was an organization that registered poor people to vote. That's why Republican governors are trying to change laws to make it harder for college students, minorities and poor people to vote.

When Scott Walker told the fake David Koch that "this is our moment," this is what he was talking about. The very future of democracy is at stake.

Keith Balmer is the Dark Prince of Satire -- read more of his stuff here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How Republicans Tried to Silence a Professor Critical of Their Destructive Right-Wing Agenda


In America, it's dangerous to be employed by a University these days if you speak out and express any opinion that does not support the Tea Party Agenda. Because if you do come out of your academic closet to publicly express your opinions on the policies being pursued in state after state, the Republicans Gang of Teapots will focus on smearing you by any means necessary. In his column today, Paul Krugman describes the politics of personal destruction that the Republicans Gang of Cracked Teapots use to silence and marginalize any credible liberal voice who dares to explain to the masses where the destructive policies that the Gang of Teapots' elected officials have pursued since assuming power in many states across the US of A:

...William Cronon, a historian ... at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians.

In short they want to troll through all his emails hoping to find something with which to smear his reputation, even if they have to take what;s in any of those emails out of context to make their smear tactics work. But more significantly, by going after a hitherto unknown, renowned and reasonable moderate scholar they are attempting to intimidate anyone else in Academia or who works for any governmental body from expressing their opinions.

They particularly want to silence anyone who protests the Gang of of Tea Pots efforts to raise taxes on the poor, cut taxes on the rich and large corporations, eliminate collective bargaining and unions, destroy public education, eliminate the social safety net (Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Public Safety laws and regulations, etc.) and make health care reform a dead fish.

Sound familiar? Well, think back to the bogus Climategate scandal and the numerous attempts to discredit and persecute climate scientists based on quotes taken out of context from stolen emails. Remember that? Krugman does:

The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.

But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.

In short, the Great Right Wing Wurlitzer is in all out war against the expression of speech by anyone with whom they disagree, especially knowledgeable and educated people who have the guts to stand up and say that all the Gang of Cracked Teapot Emperors who have assumed power in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Michigan and elsewhere have no clothes. They have brazenly exposed their naked agenda to eradicate the middle class and eliminate essential services for the poor and middle class alike for the benefit of their Puppet Masters (e.g. the Koch Brothers, Exxon, et cetera).

And they will take any action, no matter how outrageous, immoral and illegal(Hi Mr. James O'Keefe in your pimp costume) to silence opposing voices. They control the radio. They own and operate a propaganda factory masquerading as a news organization. And they have the funding to pursue any attack on anyone they choose if they think it will distract the American public and further their their real policy goals. Just ask Shirley Sherrod. She's seen first hand how the Republicans Gang of Cracked Teapots operates to destroy the lives and reputations of innocent people.

Now Professor Cronon has indicated he hasn't used his university email for anything other than sending the most banal and mundane messages. And he is a highly respected figure in his field. But that's not the point of this latest attempt by the right to rifle through someone's emails in the hopes of manufacturing a scandal against a liberal opponent of their agenda. In a sense it doesn't matter if professor Cronen has nothing to hide, for the real purpose of the attempts to obtain his emails is to frighten other government employees like him from speaking out

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.

Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

Yes, the Republicans were shameless back in the McCarthy era, and they are shameless now. The country they want to save is the one where children go hungry, people become permanently unemployed, unions are outlawed, public safety hazards are ignored, profits ion stocks soar while people struggle to make ends meet (or die) and they and their paymasters can lead a life of luxury behind their gated compounds. A country where bigotry and discrimination against minorities can again reveal its ugly face for all to see. A country where they can live without fear of legal prosecution for their crimes of fraud and theft. A country where they can steal our money, our hopes and dreams and our way of life.

Let me remind you of this familiar (well familiar once upon a time) question that was asked of thousands of Americans in the 1950's, and which was also used to serve the interest of that era's Cracked Tea Pot politicians on the extreme right to ruin the lives of thousands of American in ordr to advance their own political power:

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

Back then, the Extreme right wingers who resorted to these tactics lied openly about their motives:

“This Committee is the grand jury of America....

What this Committee is trying to do is save the country.”

— Congressman John E. Rankin, 1947, 1948

Well, we sure as hell know today that the Republican Party Gang of Cracked Teapots has no intention of saving the country, except for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. So they have revived the witch hunts that worked so well for them in the late Forties and early Fifties.

Except this time, they aren't hunting "communists" they are hunting you and me, and anyone else who opposes their reckless and naked abuses of power. To them, we are all "Communists" or "Fascists" or whatever other term they can throw around to make it seem as if we, the progressive voices in this country, the voices that stand for reason, for science, for human rights and justice and economic equity are the enemies of their "Republic," one they assume belongs to them and to no one else.

They won't stop unless we all stand together to denounce these scams and con jobs for what they are: an attempt to limit the political discourse to the views and issues of the most extreme political party in my lifetime. Until they too have their moment when someone says to them:

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

We all know the answer to that question. I can only hope that someday something similar will be said that triggers the vast American public who now stand on the sidelines, unwilling to stand up for their rights, to purge our body politic of this disease that goes under the name of the Republican Party, but is in fact a party of greed, avarice, arrogance and tyranny. And Cracked Teapots.

By Steven D. | Sourced from 1410

Posted at March 28, 2011, 7:19 am

4 Biggest GOP Lies About Jobs (And Why Obama Must Repudiate Them)



Republicans figure if their big lies are repeated often enough, people will start to believe them.

March 23, 2011 |

And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became the truth. – George Orwell, 1984 (published in 1949)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was in the Bay Area on March 21 (specifically, at Stanford’s Hoover Institute where he could surround himself with sympathetic Republicans) to tell this whopper: “Cutting the federal deficit will create jobs.”

It’s not true. Cutting the deficit will creates fewer jobs. Less government spending reduces overall demand. This is particularly worrisome when, as now, consumers and businesses are still holding back. Fewer government workers have paychecks to buy stuff from other Americans, some of whom in turn will lose their jobs without enough customers.

But truth doesn’t seem to matter. Republicans figure if their big lies are repeated often enough, people will start to believe them.

Unless, that is, those big lies are repudiated – and big truths are told in their place.

What worries me almost as much as the Republican’s repeated big lies about jobs is the silence of President Obama and Democratic leaders in the face of them. Obama has the bully pulpit. Republicans don’t. But if he doesn’t use it the Republican’s big lies gain credibility.

Here are some other whoppers being repeated daily:

Cutting taxes on the rich creates jobs.” Nope. Trickle-down economics has been tried for thirty years and hasn’t worked. After George W. Bush cut taxes on the rich, far fewer jobs were created than after Bill Clinton raised them in the 1990s.

To his credit, President Obama argued against Republican demands for extending the Bush tax cut for those making more than a quarter million. But as soon as Republicans pushed back he caved. And the President hasn’t even mentioned that the $61 billion Republicans are demanding in budget cuts this fiscal year is what richer Americans would have paid in taxes had he not caved.

Cutting corporate income taxes creates jobs.” Baloney. American corporations don’t need tax cuts. They’re sitting on over $1.5 trillion of cash right now. They won’t invest it in additional capacity or jobs because they don’t see enough customers out there with enough money in their pockets to buy what the additional capacity would produce.

The President needs to point this out – not just in Washington but across the nation where Republican governors are slashing corporate taxes and simultaneously cutting school budgets. President Obama says he wants to invest in American skills, but many states are doing the opposite. Florida Governor Rick Scott, for example, says his proposed corporate tax cuts “will give Florida a competitive edge in attracting jobs.” They’ll also require education spending be reduced by $3 billion. Florida already ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending and has one of nation’s lowest graduation rates. If Scott’s tax cuts create jobs, most will pay peanuts.

Cuts in wages and benefits create jobs.” Congressional Republicans and their state counterparts repeat this lie incessantly. It also lies behind corporate America’s incessant demand for wage and benefit concessions – and corporate and state battles against unions. But it’s dead wrong. Meager wages and benefits are reducing the spending power of tens of millions of American workers, which is prolonging the jobs recession.

President Obama and Democratic leaders should be standing up for the wages and benefits of ordinary Americans, standing up for unions, and decrying the lie that wage and benefit concessions are necessary to create jobs. The President should be traveling to the Midwest – taking aim at Republican governors in the heartland who are hell bent on destroying the purchasing power of American workers. But he’s doing nothing of the sort.

Regulations kill jobs.” Congressional Republicans are using this whopper to justify their attempts to defund regulatory agencies. Regulations whose costs to business exceed their benefits to the public are unwarranted, of course, but reasonable regulation is necessary to avoid everything from nuclear meltdowns to oil spills to mine disasters to food contamination – all of which we’ve sadly witnessed. Here again, we’re hearing little from the President or Democratic leaders.

Look, the President can’t be everywhere, doing everything. There’s tumult in the Middle East, we’re suddenly at war in Libya, Japan is struggling with the aftermath of disaster, and surely Latin America is an important trading partner.

But nothing is more central to average Americans than jobs and wages. Unless the President forcefully rebuts Republican’s big lies, they’ll soon become conventional wisdom.

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama's transition advisory board. His latest book is Supercapitalism.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Biggest Threat Facing the Country Today Is Fast Creeping Ignorance



The Biggest Threat Facing the Country Today Is Fast Creeping Ignorance

It's reached epidemic levels in government. Isn't wanton ignorance among those we trust with nuclear policies, war, famine, jobs, the national debt and more, a concern?

I am old enough to remember the days when what Americans were told to fear most was "Creeping Communism."

There were even hearings. There was a blacklist. There were arrests and even a couple of executions.

In the end all communism turned out to be creeping toward was its own extinction.

We may not be as lucky with the new creep we're facing today: Creeping Ignorance.

As a story from AlterNet put it, "3/4ths of Senate GOP Doesn't Believe in Science: The Tea Party and its allies had made it unacceptable to the GOP base to be anywhere except pandering to the anti-science crowd." (Full Story)

The Right, which hated and feared commies and their (largely imaginary) infiltration into government, not only don't seem to care about creeping ignorance in government, but have come to embrace this new breed of government infiltrators.

The explanation for this embrace is simple as the minds of the infiltrators: science, and for that matter any other factual analysis, tends to flatly contradict many of the Right's most cherished fictions, such as:
  • The more you cut taxes the more tax revenue flows into federal coffers.
  • History proves America is a Christian nation.
  • Climate change is either not happening at all or, if it is happening, it has nothing to do with our use of fossil fuels. ("I personally believe that the solar flares are more responsible for climatic cycles than anything that human beings do. ..." - Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin)
  • Slashing regulation of business and high finance is good for business, good for the nation and good for the American public.
  • If the rich are allowed to keep more of their earnings they will share it with everyone else, (trickle down.)
  • School science classes should be "fair and balanced," like Fox News, when teaching the origins of life on earth by teaching the biblically-inspired "creationist" version alongside Darwin's scientific theory of evolution.
  • President Obama "may not have been born in America" as he claims.
  • President Obama is "a secret Muslim."

And the list of Creeping Ignorance goes on and on, growing longer with each passing month. Michelle Bachmann believes that the founding fathers "didn't rest until the put an need to slavery." She also believes the first shot "heard around the world" that started our war of independence was fired in New Hampshire. It wasn't. Did she care? Nope. Pointing out that it was fired in Massachusetts was, to her and her kind, just further proof of how the mainstream media picks on conservatives.

So, where are the hearings on Creeping Ignorance in the halls of Congress? I mean, I remember the time, not so long ago, when it was held as a matter of national policy that "a mind is a terrible thing to lose." It seems to me it's reached epidemic levels in federal and state government. Shouldn't someone hold hearings? Isn't wanton ignorance among those we trust with nuclear policies, war, famine, jobs, the national debt and more, a concern?

If there were hearings they could begin by taking a page from the popular Jeopardy quiz show:

Question: "They were the first major documents enshrining human rights since the Magna Carta."

Answer: "What's the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights?"

Question: "The US Civil War was fought over it."

Answer: "What was slavery?"

Question: "A process used by researchers to prove theories."

Answer: "What is the scientific method?"

Suspects should put under oath and asked directly:

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of any group that believes, or claims to believe, such things as that the US government was behind the 911 attacks or that President Obama was born in Kenya?"

And so on. Each suspect would be grilled until it could be established that this member of Congress was or wasn't a certified ignoramus.

Now, I'm plenty glad that Creeping Communism turned out to be a -- excuse the pun -- red herring. But I am not at all convinced that Creeping Ignorance will be as benign a threat to the US.

For the nation that has, for a couple of centuries, been not only a beacon of freedom, but also a beacon of knowledge and science, Creeping Ignorance at the heart of our government threatens to turn us into a nation only Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, et al., could love: one big festival of stupidity.

Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, which was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Indiana prosecutor told Wisconsin governor to stage ‘false flag’ operation

The Raw Story

Indiana prosecutor told Wisconsin governor to stage ‘false flag’ operation

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, March 24th, 2011 -- 7:32 pm

An Indiana prosecutor and Republican activist has resigned after emails show he suggested Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stage a fake attack on himself to discredit unions protesting his budget repair bill.

The Republican governor signed a bill on March 11 that eliminates most union rights for public employees.

In an email from February 19, Indiana deputy prosecutor Carlos F. Lam told Walker the situation presented "a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation."

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism discovered the email among tens of thousands released to the public last week following a lawsuit by the Isthmus and the Associated Press.

"If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions," Lam said in his email.

"Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest," he continued. "Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions."

Lam resigned from his position after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism published an article about his email.

On February 22, an alternative paper in Buffalo, New York managed to trick Walker into taking a call from their editor posing as tea party tycoon David Koch.

When the editor posing as Koch suggested planting some troublemakers in the protests, Walker responded that "we thought about that," but said it was not necessary "because sooner or later the media stops finding ’em interesting."

"My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems," he said.

Walker had promised to lay off 1,500 state workers if the bill to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees didn't pass.

In mid-February, 14 Democratic state senators left Wisconsin to stall a vote on the bill. There are 19 Republican senators, but the Senate needs a minimum of 20 members to be present to debate and vote on any bills that spend money.

While the 14 Democratic senators remained in Illinois, Republican state senators removed all references to spending from the bill and passed the proposal to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin citizens upset withWalker's attack on public employees' collective bargaining rights have launched a boycott campaign aimed at his campaign contributors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 6 Needless and Absurd Things Republicans consider more important than job creation

The Raw Story

Top 6 things Republicans consider more important than job creation

By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 -- 8:46 am

WASHINGTON – Republicans won dramatic victories last November by promising to mitigate high unemployment. "This coming election is about one issue: jobs," to-be Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said weeks before election day. "It's about jobs that were promised to the American people by the current administration, and were never delivered."

But in the three months since taking over the House and expanding their voices in the Senate, Republicans have yet to pass a jobs-focused bill, instead prioritizing numerous social and cultural issues that are unrelated to job creation -- and have little or no chance of becoming policy.

Here are six such legislative goals they've been hard at work on.

1) Curtailing Abortion Rights

A top priority for Republicans, H.R. 3, "The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act" is on its way to passage in the House after successfully maneuvering through the Judiciary and Ways And Means Committees.

Though the GOP stripped out some of its most controversial provisions -- such as denying exemptions to a woman even in cases of rape, incest and when her life is in danger -- the measure raises costs for businesses by eliminating tax deductions on employee health insurance plans that cover abortion.

2) Defunding Planned Parenthood

The House last month approved a measure 240-185, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), to cut off all $317 million in Title X funding for Planned Parenthood and all other health care providers that offer abortions.

Under the law, Title X money cannot be used for abortion, so -- beyond the shot across Planned Parenthood's bow -- Republicans effectively voted to strip funding enjoyed by mostly low-income women for medical services like cancer screenings, breast exams and HIV tests.

3) Defunding NPR

In the wake of James O'Keefe's highly edited video sting that defamed National Public Radio executives, House Republicans last week called an emergency session to push through legislation that eliminates taxpayer funds to the radio-based news agency. It passed 228-192 on a partisan vote, winning over no Democrats and losing 7 Republicans.

4) Investigating American Muslims

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) held a controversial hearing two weeks ago about the extent of radicalization within the American Muslim community. Though even critics admitted that the xenophobic undertones were relatively mild compared to what they expected, the hearings had their fair share of bizarre statements.

5) Declaring English As America's Official Language

Liberating Americans from ever needing to learn another language, Republicans this month introduced the "English Language Unity Act," which would declare English as the official language of the U.S.

The bill declares that "all citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution."

6) Reaffirming The "In God We Trust" Motto

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved a GOP resolution reaffirming the motto of the United States as "In God We Trust" -- you know, just in case people forgot what America was all about.

[Image via Speaker Boehner, Creative Commons licensed]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rewind: McCain mocked nuclear safety in 2008

Raw Replay

Rewind: McCain mocked nuclear safety in 2008

With Japan in a desperate struggle to keep a series of nuclear reactors from total meltdown, the words “nuclear safety” have been on everyone’s lips.

But it wasn’t always this way: During the 2008 presidential campaigns, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took to mocking then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) for saying he would “consider” offshore drilling and that nuclear energy would need to be safe.

“Bla, bla, bla,” he said, eliciting cheers from a crowd gathered in Cedar Falls, IA.

Some 70 percent of Americans said they were worried about the safety of nuclear energy, according to a recent poll. That figure was up from just 57 percent a week before the Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

This video was broadcast by CNN on Oct. 25, 2008.

Rand Paul’s budget eliminates agency that regulates nuclear safety

The Raw Story

Rand Paul’s budget eliminates agency that regulates nuclear safety

By Sahil Kapur
Friday, March 18th, 2011 -- 1:57 pm

WASHINGTON – As radiation particles from the nuclear hazard in Japan send residents fleeing and make their way across the Pacific Ocean, one U.S. senator introduced a plan to get rid of the agency that regulates nuclear safety.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) unveiled his five-year budget plan Friday, a radical and ambitious proposal that would -- among other things -- eliminate the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the two federal agencies charged with overseeing America's nuclear capabilities.

The proposal comes as fears remain regarding the possible meltdown of a nuclear reactor in Fukushima, which was crippled by a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan and ensuing tsunami. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated as radiation leaked into the atmosphere. Trace elements of the radioactive fallout made it all the way to the U.S. by Friday.

In response, China, Germany and France ordered safety checks on their existing reactors, even shutting down some nuclear plants temporarily and halting production of new nuclear energy. President Barack Obama also ordered a safety review on U.S. nuclear plants, though he maintained that the U.S. must continue developing nuclear energy.

Paul's proposal to balance the budget by 2016 would also kill the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development. It would cut military spending by 6 percent while leaving Social Security, Medicare and war funding in tact.

The tea party favorite, first elected to public office last November on a mantra of cutting spending, announced the plan alongside fellow Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (SC) and Mike Lee (UH).

Photo credit: facebook.com/RandPaul2010

To Right, Citizens United Just a Start


by Kenneth P. Vogel

Not satisfied by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate-sponsored election ads, conservative opponents of campaign finance regulations have opened up a series of new legal fronts in their effort to eliminate the remaining laws restricting the flow of money into politics.

Lawyer Jim Bopp is working on what could be the next big campaign finance case. (AP Photo) They have taken to Congress, state legislatures and the lower courts to target almost every type of regulation on the books: disclosure requirements, bans on foreign and corporate contributions and – in a pair of cases the Supreme Court will consider this month – party spending limits and public financing of campaigns.

The sustained assault, combined with the Supreme Court’s rightward tilt on the issue, has some advocates for reducing the role of money in politics fretting about the possibility of an irreversible shift in the way campaigns are regulated and funded that would favor Republicans and corporate interests in the 2012 presidential race and beyond.

“We’ve already passed the danger point, and if you put all (the challenges) together, we could lose almost all of what we’ve had historically as campaign finance reform,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the non-profit group Public Citizen, which pushes to protect or expand campaign restrictions in Congress, at the Federal Election Commission and in the courts.

“These types of lawsuits against campaign finance measures have been flooding the courts for years,” said Holman, “but now they’re finding more success with these five justices on the Supreme Court taking very anti-campaign finance reform stands – or, more appropriately, pro-corporate stances – and so the cases are reaching further than they ever did before.”

Case in point was the court’s sweeping 5-4 decision in January 2010 in Citizens United vs. FEC, which allowed corporations and unions to fund independent election ads, overturning decades of law and demonstrating the court’s tendency to view campaign cash restrictions as infringements on free speech.

The decision sparked an explosion of attack ads – many anonymously funded – that targeted Democrats and boosted Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections. It also fueled a push by congressional Democrats to tighten disclosure rules, which has yet to gain traction, as well as a partially successful effort to sway the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the few left-leaning groups to support Citizens United and other challenges to campaign restrictions.

But, perhaps more significantly, Citizens United emboldened increasingly well-funded conservative small-government groups to pursue more aggressive attacks on other regulations that were previously considered beyond reach.

“It’s premature to say we’re near a tipping point, but there is the possibility there,” said Brad Smith, a former Republican appointee to the FEC who co-founded a group called the Center for Competitive Politics that opposes campaign regulations on the same free speech grounds that the ACLU cites.

It filed a brief supporting the Citizens United challenge, and also litigated a related case in which a federal appeals court last year struck down contribution limits for independent groups airing political ads, spawning a new breed of major-donor-funded committee known as Super PACs, including American Crossroads, which spent tens of millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats in the 2010 midterms.

Smith’s group is now pursuing federal lawsuits seeking to overturn other political money restrictions, including a closely watched case challenging a rule barring political action committees from giving to candidates if they raise unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals for ads.

“The vehicles are moving through the system by which we could see more rapid change,” said Smith. But, he added, “most of these cases could also lead to changes that we wouldn’t even notice very much.”

The outcome of a case challenging Arizona’s public financing system, which is scheduled for a March 28 argument before the Supreme Court, “will be the first big play on this,” Smith predicted. “It could set the tone on whether the Supreme Court is still moving in the deregulatory direction and it could indicate new targets to go after.”

Brought by a pair of small government groups – the Washington-based Institute for Justice and the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute – on behalf of an Arizona state lawmaker who rejected public funds, the case, McComish v. Bennett, only challenges a specific provision in the Arizona system.

But it could have wide-ranging implications, particularly since it comes as advocates for reducing the flow of money into politics have been placing their hopes for dialing back the impact of Citizens United on proposals to publicly fund political races, including a bill that would set up such a system for congressional campaigns.

“Depending on its scope, an adverse ruling from the high court could undermine public financing systems across the country and increase still further the grossly disproportionate voice given to corporations and unions in our elections,” warns a memo by Gerry Hebert and Tara Malloy, lawyers at the pro-regulation Campaign Legal Center, which filed a brief defending the Arizona law.

“Just a year after the controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Court is once again poised to issue a ruling that could make it harder for ordinary citizens to compete with big money in our democracy,” their memo predicted.

Opponents of campaign rules argue that removing restrictions allows more voices to compete in the political marketplace. And they have a slew of other suits pending that could dramatically alter the political money landscape, including one challenging a rule that limited how much the Republican National Committee could spend supporting the unsuccessful 2010 reelection campaign of former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.).

The Supreme Court is set to decide on Friday whether to hear the case which is being handled by Jim Bopp, a Republican lawyer and leading opponent of campaign restrictions. The impact of the Cao case “could be real big,” if the court overturns the so-called coordination limits at issue, predicted Bopp, who has dozens of cases pending in courts around the country.

One seeks to advance the Citizens United ruling by challenging an Iowa law banning direct corporate contributions to state candidates, while a pair of others dispute whether non-profit groups called the Committee for Truth in Politics and The Real Truth About Obama that aired ads critical of then-candidate Barack Obama had to disclose their donors or activity.

While liberals have framed the assault on campaign spending restrictions as part of a vast corporate conspiracy, funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, to elect Republicans, it’s not just conservative groups challenging the campaign laws.

A Democratic donor is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a law prohibiting people from reimbursing others for donations. The donor, prominent Los Angeles lawyer Pierce O’Donnell, was charged with violating that law by reimbursing 13 employees of his firm and other associates who combined to contribute $26,000 to the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign of since-disgraced former Sen. John Edwards.

And a suit challenging the foreign contribution ban is being brought on behalf of a Canadian who wants to support President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen who wants to contribute to Obama’s opponent and also to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), to help prevent a “government-takeover of the health-care system in the United States,” according to the suit. It says both plaintiffs are legally authorized to live and work in the United States, but are not permanent residents.

Then there’s the ACLU, often a leading champion of liberal causes which nonetheless over the years has been among the most effective and best funded opponents of many campaign finance restrictions, deeming them unconstitutional infringements on free speech.

The group filed a brief supporting the Citizens United challenge and has suits pending challenging a provision in Connecticut’s public financing law, as well as a Maine law used to fine a blogger who failed to disclose his identity after spending $92 on a blog opposing a gubernatorial candidate.

But less than three months after the Citizens United decision, the ACLU hosted a vigorous debate on its campaign finance stances, ultimately voting to continue its support for the ruling, but to relax its opposition to certain types of public financing programs and to drop its opposition to contribution limits.

“I wanted to go further – I wanted them to change their position on Citizens United,” said Burt Neuborne, a former ACLU legal director and official at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who debated the matter before the board against noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams. (The Brennan Center opposed Citizen United, while Abrams argued for the winning side before the court).

“These are my friends and I told them ‘you put us in this position,’” said Neuborne. “You’ve got to help us get out of it. And the way to get out of it is to at least relax your position on (public funding) subsidies so that we can do some practical and significant work on public funding that will provide an alternative to a world in which private money controls everything.”

The debate did not once touch on partisan political considerations, Neuborne said, asserting the board “knew that their policy in the first place was not a policy that was going to help liberal candidates. They knew that it was policy that was in the long run going to help people with money.”

ACLU legal director Steve Shapiro said the “reexamination began before Citizens United” and “wasn’t a response to Citizens United.” Plus, he said “I cannot speak to what Republicans and Democrats are thinking. You’ll have to ask them. For us, it has never been about partisan politics.”

Even if campaign finance legislation opponents were motivated by partisanship, there’s no way to know which side will benefit from overturning a given restriction, according to Bopp, the Republican lawyer.

“It’s too dynamic to predict that. People don’t know what the future will bring, and how the constellation of forces will come together,” said Bopp, citing his challenge to the party limits on behalf of Cao. If it’s successful, Bopp said “coordinated expenditures will go down for the Democrats just like they will for the Republicans. And I don’t know who will benefit more. I have no idea. It’s just wrong that it’s there, as far as I’m concerned.”

Nonetheless, the ACLU’s shift is significant in that, in some cases, it could deprive campaign regulation opponents of a key ally that gave their effort a veneer of ideological diversity that sometimes made it an easier sell in the court of public opinion.

In the post-Citizens United world, though, opposition to campaign regulations is starting to come almost exclusively from the right, asserted Fred Wertheimer, president of the non-profit group Democracy 21, which filed briefs opposing the Citizen United and Arizona public financing challenges.

Calling out Republican congressional leaders who blocked proposed disclosure enhancements after Citizens United, the Republican appointees to the FEC, who have generally opposed vigorous enforcement of campaign rules, and Bopp, Wertheimer said “the longtime opponents of campaign finance laws are going to test as far as they can go, but we are going to be on the battleground at every stage.”

And Wertheimer, the dean of the campaign finance advocacy community, sees signs that the Supreme Court may be dialing back its deregulatory binge, including its refusal to hear a case challenging the ban on unlimited contributions to parties, as well as its upholding disclosure rules in the Citizen United decision.

“It’s a mistake in my view to assume that because there are five justices who have been hostile in some very important cases, that you can assume that the court is on the path to knocking out all campaign finance laws,” he said, though he would not go so far as to predict the court was done overturning regulations.

“I’m not saying that. I’m just saying this is a more subtle set of decisions playing out than people focus on.”