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Friday, February 21, 2014

Raise the Wage? GOP Leader Would Prefer His Own Death (But That's Just Half the Story)


Though a $10.10 increase is likely going nowhere fast, city of Seattle shows why bolder $15 hike shows promise

- Jon Queally, staff writer 

“I’ll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill,” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner once said. But as the minimum wage fight hits Washington, DC, fight between the regressive economics of the GOP and the timid proposals of the Democrats is shown an alternative in the city of Seattle. (Photo: AP) 

Though Democrats now seem determined to push a proposed minimum wage increase this year, lifting the federal rate from $7.25 t o $10.10, the chances of giving millions of workers a raise—even an increase that progressives see as not nearly enough—is likely dead in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

And speaking of 'dead'—and according to The Hill on Friday—that's exactly what Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) would prefer to be, if forced to choose between ending his life and giving low-wage workers even in the most minimum of wage hikes.

With the headline, 'Boehner: I’d rather kill myself than raise the minimum wage,' the newspaper reports that the GOP leader's opposition to the measure is so strong historically that he once told The Weekly Standard he would "commit suicide" before voting 'Yes' on a clean minimum wage increase for workers.
The story serves as a reminder of a typical—yet not to be forgotten—scenario in Washington. In this case, a minimum wage increase that would still leave workers barely scraping by is put forth by Democrats in order to give them electoral leverage going into the mid-terms, but even that half-measure is categorized as leftist, anti-business fanaticism by their Republican counterparts (also scoring points with their base). Likely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate—where it heads to floor as early as next week—but not even receive a vote in GOP-controlled House, currently led by Boehner, the increase remains stranded and workers continue to suffer under wages that haven't budged in nearly forty years.

That's Washington.

In Seattle meanwhile, a spirited grassroots campaign to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour is receiving growing popular support. A recent poll by a city business alliance showed that 7 out of 10 local customers favored the dramatic increase, one which economists says gets workers much closer to a truly living wage.

(Click for larger image)

As The Stranger, a local newspaper, reported: "These numbers may be off the charts, but they're rock solid."

"We were certainly surprised," admitted Andrew Thibault, whose company conducted the survey, about the unexpectedly positive results, "but it seems that there is a tipping point."

What's additionally striking is that the poll found support for a straight up increase to $15 with people saying that workers shouldn't wait for the wage to be "phased-in" and that exemptions should not be made. Proving that bold is better, it seemed to analysts that one of main driving forces behind the support for a more aggressive increase in the city was the corresponding fact that people in Seattle are riding a wave of political optimism in which they think the city's moving in the right direction. As The Stranger exlpains:
Thibault suspects another factor may have come into play, one beyond the control of either side of the debate: Seattle's surging sense of self-confidence. According to the survey, 63 percent of Seattle voters believe the city is "going in the right direction," up from 53 percent in September and 43 percent in 2011. "That's a crazy number," says Thibault.
But perhaps more impressive is the "wrong track" number, which has plummeted to just 19 percent. "There's a tremendous amount of optimism in the city," says Thibault.
And that optimism may help explain why even when a narrow majority agree with one of the leading talking points against raising the minimum wage, it doesn't move the dial very far. For example, 51 percent of voters actually agree that "increasing the minimum wage will hurt local small, minority owned, and family owned businesses." But at the same time, 71 percent of voters also agree that a higher minimum wage would "help" local businesses "because more workers making more money means they will have money to spend at local businesses."
Seattle voters aren't ignoring the concerns of small businesses; they have simply determined that the benefits of a higher minimum wage outweigh the costs: 82 percent agree that raising the minimum wage "ensures more families can make ends meet and get ahead," while only 40 percent call it a "job killer." Seattle voters simply aren't moved by the classic argument that a higher minimum wage would shutter businesses and destroy jobs. "People right now aren't buying it," says Thibault.

Monday, February 10, 2014

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection

This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.

Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

No one knows how much the Kochs have given ALEC in total, but the amount likely exceeds $1 million—not including a half-million loaned to ALEC when the group was floundering. ALEC gave the Kochs its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award, and Koch Industries has been one of the select members of ALEC’s corporate board for almost twenty years. The company’s top lobbyist was once ALEC’s chairman. As a result, the Kochs have shaped legislation touching every state in the country. Like ideological venture capitalists, the Kochs have used ALEC as a way to invest in radical ideas and fertilize them with tons of cash.

Take environmental protections. The Kochs have a penchant for paying their way out of serious violations and coming out ahead. Helped by Koch Industries’ lobbying efforts, one of the first measures George W. Bush signed into law as governor of Texas was an ALEC model bill giving corporations immunity from penalties if they tell regulators about their own violation of environmental rules. Dozens of other ALEC bills would limit environmental regulations or litigation in ways that would benefit Koch.

ALEC’s model legislation reflects parts of the Kochs’ agenda that have little to do with oil profits. Long before ALEC started pushing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers, for example, the Koch fortune was already underwriting attacks on public education. David Koch helped inject the idea of privatizing public schools into the national debate as a candidate for vice president in 1980. A cornerstone of the Libertarian Party platform, which he bankrolled, was the call for “educational tax credits to encourage alternatives to public education,” a plan to the right of Ronald Reagan. Several pieces of ALEC’s model legislation echo this plan.

The Kochs’ mistrust of public education can be traced to their father, Fred, who ranted and raved that the National Education Association was a communist group and public-school books were filled with “communist propaganda,” paranoia that extended to all unions, President Eisenhower and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court. Such redbaiting might be ancient history if fifty years later David were not calling President Obama a “hard-core socialist” who is “scary.”

The Kochs have not just multiplied the wealth of their dad; they’ve repackaged and amplified his worldview. David’s latest venture, Americans for Prosperity, subsidizes the Tea Party movement, which repeats this “socialist” smear. Charles is a member of the exclusive Mount Pelerin Society, inspired by Frederic von Hayek’s antisocialist polemic The Road to Serfdom. Through the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies administers the Hayek Fund for Scholars and sister programs to fund academics and staffers for like-minded groups across the country. “Charles G. Koch Fellows” and interns stock ALEC, and have gone on to direct ALEC task forces.

Another David Koch project, Citizens for a Sound Economy—which launched the effort to repeal Glass-Steagall protections keeping banks from gambling in securities—helped fuel the fight for “free trade,” an unpopular policy in the 1980s. The North American Free Trade Agreement passed with help from CSE and its corporate allies. ALEC resolutions for state legislators have long supported such trade agreements in the face of local concerns about job losses, and today the Koch free-market fantasy is reflected in ALEC’s support for free trade pacts with Korea, Georgia, Colombia and other countries. On just about every issue taken on by Koch’s CSE, ALEC has provided legislative tools to carry them through to state legislatures, from privatizing “federal and state services and assets,” as CSE put it, to blocking common-sense caps on unlimited credit card interest rates.

ALEC and the Kochs often pursue parallel tracks. Just as ALEC “educates” legislators, Koch funding has helped “tutor” hundreds of judges with all-expenses-paid junkets at fancy resorts, where they learn about the “free market” impact of their rulings. But ALEC also operates like an arm of the Koch agenda, circulating bills that make their vision of the world concrete. For a mere $25,000 a year, Koch Industries sits as an “equal” board member with state legislators, influencing bills that serve as a wish list for its financial or ideological interests.

It’s a pittance for the Kochs but far out of the reach of working Americans. Ordinary citizens rely on our elected representatives’ efforts to restore what’s left of the American Dream. But through ALEC, billionaire industrialists are purchasing a version that seems like a real nightmare for most Americans.

GOP’s corporate front group or it's heart and soul


GOP’s corporate front group


The Republican Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council are about to establish an official "partnership"

GOP's corporate front group 
George W. Bush speaks to the American Legislative Exchange Council in July, 2007. (Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing)

After a long flirtation, the GOP and ALEC are taking steps toward making their relationship official. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a controversial advocacy group that helps corporations and conservative interest groups write bills to be introduced in state legislatures across the country. ALEC “model legislation” includes rollbacks on environmental and labor regulation, voter ID laws and pro-gun laws, such as the “stand your ground” law that became infamous after the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida earlier this year. Recently, ALEC has come under increasing scrutiny, leading at least 38 major corporations to drop their sponsorship of the organization, including GE and Sprint, which pulled out just two weeks ago.

Despite this, the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of over 160 conservative lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, which functions like the official in-house think tank for House Republicans, is taking steps to establish a “partnership” with the corporate front group, Roll Call’s Janie Lorber reports. The RSC has been working quietly with ALEC to host an event with federal and state lawmakers at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Friday. Paul Teller, the executive director of the RSC, was happy to embrace the ALEC. “Frankly, this gathering is long overdue … As Washington encroaches more and more into state and local spheres, it’s important that conservative legislators at the federal and state levels collaborate on policies to stop and roll back the ever-expanding federal government.”

RSC Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, is a member of ALEC, along with several dozen other Republican congressmen. ALEC has only a single Democratic member from the U.S. House, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma. Jordan’s campaign paid dues of $100 to ALEC in 2001 and 2011, and possibly other years, according to documents published by ALEC Exposed, a  project of the Center for Media and Democracy.  A handful of GOP senators, including Marco Rubio and Jim DeMint, are also members, along with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. While many ALEC events serve as a forum for corporate representatives to meet with lawmakers, there will be no corporations represented at Friday’s event, which will feature at least six federal and 18 state lawmakers.

ALEC has also come under fire from good government groups, who argue that it is in clear violation of tax rules governing nonprofit organizations. Unlike 501(c)4 groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which already skirt the legal boundaries of political activity allowed for nonprofits, ALEC is a 501(c)3 charity. These groups, which include every major charity, are even more strictly limited in the political activity they can engage in. According to the IRS, “In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).”

Critics argue that lobbying is the sole purpose of ALEC’s work, as it hooks up corporations and lawmakers. Marcus Owens, the former head of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations division, which handles nonprofits, has asked the agency to revoke ALEC’s tax-exempt status.

“To the extent that ALEC officials themselves are at this event, they are having lobbying contacts. … It seems to me that it’s probably a slam-dunk,” Joe Birkenstock, a lawyer who works with Owens told Roll Call.

But perhaps it is no surprise that the federal Republicans and ALEC have finally gotten a room, and that it’s at the Heritage Foundation. Republicans and ALEC have long held similar beliefs and worked together on the state level. President Bush and other top Republican leaders have spoken to ALEC. The group, which used to be a nonpartisan corporate front group, happy to advance legislation to either party, as long as it served its corporate backers, has increasingly become the state-based arm of the Republican Party’s progressively more conservative legislative agenda.

Alex Seitz-Wald Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

ALEC is the heart and soul of the Republican Party

A journey into the depths of conservative deception and failures on the Ice Planet Wisconsin...by John Peterson

ALEC; exempt from the law!!! Republicans State Sen. Leah Vukmir; exempt from the law!!! See a pattern?

ALEC is not only the heart and soul of the Republican Party, keeping them alive for its own quest for power, it is now claiming god like status: It’s above the law.
ALEC is claiming that its documents aren't subject to state records laws because they
were stamped with a disclaimer claiming they were exempt and because they were distributed through Internet file sharing sites called “drop boxes.”

Open records advocates insist that whether a record is on paper or in some electronic form doesn’t make it less open to the public, and that ALEC can’t exempt itself from the law.
Knowing ALEC legislation is used and passed by Republican lawmakers, it's mind boggling to think our government is being shaped by an "exempt" shadow government. 
Add to that this down-the-rabbit-hole concept by state AG, J.B. Van Hollen in defending against a lawsuit to turn over ALEC legislative documentation:
WSJ: Van Hollen said Tuesday that he believes in the open records law, but that doesn't mean legislators can be forced into court to make them comply with the statute.
That crazy twist in logic is Van Hollen’s defense against a lawsuit requesting ALEC material from another ALEC foot soldier Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir:
Van Hollen’s state Department of Justice filed a motion in Dane County Circuit Court last week claiming that state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, is immune from lawsuits — including a pending open records suit — while she is in office.
Any perceived impartiality just went out the window with that statement.
The state constitution says lawmakers aren't subject to lawsuits “during the session of the Legislature.” The advocates say that means just during a “floor session” when lawmakers are debating and voting. “It’s hard to believe that the legislative intent (of the constitutional provision) was to say the Legislature should never be subject to civil litigation,” said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
But constitutional purists, who believe the framers words put hard limits on government power, always find ways to expand power...using those same words:
“The framers of the Constitution inserted this provision — common among state constitutions — to give temporary protection to lawmakers from civil suits while they are doing the people’s work,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Whether the framers’ decision to provide this unique protection to legislators was a proper balancing of interests is a debatable question. What is not debatable is my responsibility to defend its application when it is invoked.”
Sen. Vukmir scurried away like your typical Republican rat for cover, completely unable to defend her own actions. Perhaps her constituents can ask her what she’s trying to hide. Could it be an ALEC agenda that’s not quite in sync with the priorities of Wisconsin voters?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why do Republicans hate poor, hungry people?


Why do Republicans hate poor, hungry people?


Pennsylvania's GOP governor announces plans to restrict eligibility for the federal food stamp program

Topics: Poverty,
Why do Republicans hate poor, hungry people?  
(Credit: AP/Pat Wellenbach)
It’s almost as if Republicans are actively striving to get a reputation for being mean to poor, hungry people. On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett plans to start restricting eligibility to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the food stamp program). Specifically, the state is imposing an “asset test” — anyone under 60 years old with savings of more than $2,000 is no longer eligible for assistance.

The news isn’t quite as bad as some outlets are spinning it. Pennsylvania’s proposed asset test conforms to federal guidelines for SNAP and doesn’t include the value of a recipient’s home, retirement savings or car. But what’s troubling is that the nationwide trend has been headed in exactly the opposite direction. Only 11 states currently impose asset tests for SNAP eligibility. Just four years ago, in fact, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, abolished the state’s asset test.

And with good reason, as we can readily learn from two new freshly updated informational fact sheets on SNAP coincidentally published on Tuesday by the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.

SNAP serves as the bedrock of the federal safety net. Ninety-two percent of SNAP’s $78 billion budget goes to benefits that can only be used to buy food. Seventy-five percent of SNAP participants are families with children. There are already plenty of restrictions in place that ensure that SNAP benefits primarily go to people who are legitimately poor. According to CBPP, “93 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line, and 55 percent goes to households with incomes below half of the poverty line (about $9,155 for a family of three).”

SNAP gets high marks for low levels of waste and fraud, kicks into action quickly and efficiently when the economy craters, and is rated by the Congressional Budget Office as one of the two most effective forms of federal stimulus. Perhaps best of all, the number of recipients usually declines just as quickly when the economy rebounds. According to a recent study by the USDA, in the mid-2000s, “More than half of all new entrants to SNAP in the mid-2000s participated for less than one year and then left the program when their immediate need had passed.”

As the U.S. economy continues to recover, SNAP outlays will surely decline. So why hurry it along? Could it be because conservatives think there’s something fundamentally wrong with providing nutritional support? Or is it the racial angle — the intersection of poverty and race that encourages people like Newt Gingrich to call  Obama “the food stamp president.”

The most charitable way to interpret Gingrich’s slur is as a critique of the president’s management of the economy: If he’d been a better president, fewer people would be eligible for assistance. But there’s also a deeper, darker level that connects the classic conservative antipathy to anything vaguely smelling of the nanny state. And the more one ponders that, the harder it is to fathom. The richest Americans skated through the Great Recession, while poor people lost their jobs and their homes and struggled to put food on the table. SNAP was there to help, to prevent the kind of pain and suffering that plagued American during the Great Depression, or that still afflicts citizens of less fortunate countries today. We should be thankful that Obama is the food stamp president; it’s a tribute to the progress inherent in becoming a civilized nation. We don’t let our citizens starve when Wall Street causes an international catastrophe. We should be proud of that.
Andrew Leonard Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

The Sociopathy of Chris Christie

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The Sociopathy of Chris Christie

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The current scandals swirling around New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offer an interesting insight into a particular type of sociopathy, one that Christie has displayed since his days as a U.S. attorney.  Unfortunately for Christie, the very same sociopathic traits that often make for a successful federal prosecutor are proving disastrous for an elected official.
The ability to disconnect from the truth and create one's own reality is an effective tactic for career advancement in the U.S. attorney's office.  The "crimes" alleged by federal prosecutors need not necessarily bear a particularly strong semblance to the actual fact pattern, for more important than what actually transpired is the prosecutor's version of what occurred.  Embellishment, prevarication and outright deception have long proven to be powerful prosecutorial tools.  Christie's tenure as U.S. attorney was served well by these methods, allowing him to rack up a superficially impressive record as a crime fighting federal prosecutor.  Serving as the chief federal prosecutor for the district, with near limitless discretionary power, likely fed into his despotic/authoritarian tendencies which are often exhibited by sociopaths.  

(image by google images)
Governor Chris Christie find himself mired in a deepening scandal, yet pathologically insists all of the wrongdoing was accomplished without his knowledge     

While all sociopaths lie, falsifying and misrepresenting does not necessarily make one sociopathic.  Lying is often recognized as being sociopathic when those asserting the lies allow their fabrications to become their own reality.  A sociopath often cunningly lies in order to gain or achieve something.  In Christie's case, the over-arching goal was career advancement.  The rules in federal court, grossly stacked in favor of the government, allow federal prosecutors to routinely replace actual facts with their more self-serving version of events.  In short, insistence upon creating their own reality and ignoring inconvenient facts is rewarded with their subjective reality displacing the real one, at least as far as the relevant legal proceedings are concerned.  So it should come as no surprise that Christie continues to deny any wrongdoing, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.  It is a strategy that has served him well in the past.  Nevertheless, continuing to lie despite a growing body of contradictory facts reveals a significant element of Christie's sociopathy.  In many ways, this chronic mendacity is precisely what one would expect.     
Christie's blossoming feud with former appointee David Wildstein allows further insight into Christie's pathology.  Given that retaliating for perceived slights and subsequently upping the ante is another hallmark of sociopathy, Christie's actions in regard to Wildstein's perceived perfidy are practically textbook.  Christie, at his January 9, 2014 press conference, took to insulting Wildstein and claiming he was something akin to a passing acquaintance.  This despite the fact that they attended high school together and have been associated professionally for many years.  Ready for the pointing out of this inconvenient fact, Christie explained that while they were indeed at same high school, they were on disparate trajectories.  

(image by google images)
David Wildstein's apparent willingness to implicate Christie has been met with a bewildering response, including claims of alleged transgressions dating back to high school
"You know, I was the class president and athlete," Christie said. "I don't know what David was doing during that period of time."
While somewhat puzzling, Christie's tone and comment was dripping with narcissism, another recognized hallmark of sociopathy.   
On February 3, 2014, Wildstein's counsel alleged that evidence existed which would contradict Christie's shifting claims regarding the George Washington Bridge scandal.  Christie again fired back with a reference to Wildstein's high school days.  The governor's hit memo attempted to dismiss Wildstein's allegations by pointing out that Wildstein had while in high school "sued over a local school board election" and that his high school social studies teacher had publicly accused him of "deceptive behavior."  The Christie memo summed up by saying, "Bottom line, David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein."
Much of the media was quick to point out the amateurish nature of Christie's response and theorized that top media aides who would normally prepare such a release were simply unavailable for the task since having lawyered up.  Perhaps, but Christie's honing in on his target's alleged missteps while in high school is more revealing than many realize.  

(image by google images)
Michael Drewniak has long served as Christie's de facto minister of information, but has lawyered up as a result of the scandals and is likely unavailable for further service

Disproportionately zeroing in on matters that others would normally consider trivial is another recognized indication of sociopathy.  This is a favorite tactic of federal prosecutors who will use any available triviality to paint adversaries in as negative a light as possible.  Citing decades old murky "facts," as Christie is doing with Wildstein, is standard fare in federal criminal matters where no transgression is too small to warrant attention and subsequent punishment.  Accordingly, Christie's citing of Wildstein's misdeeds while in high school is more pathologically prosecutorial than amateurish.
The current dynamics of the Christie-Wildstein relationship offer additional insight into Christie's sociopathy.  The incapacity to maintain enduring relationships while having no difficulty in establishing them is another recognized sociopathic trait.  Christie's haste in not only renouncing Wildstein, but also minimizing and mischaracterizing their decades-long relationship, speaks directly to this element of his pathology.  Christie's unflinching willingness to jettison other aides, including Bridget Kelly, offers further evidence of his inability to fully appreciate personal relationships.  

(image by google images)
Senior aide Bridget Kelly was promptly fired and publicly criticized by Christie after her now infamously incriminating email calling for a "traffic problem" came to light    

Indeed, the fact that Christie's relationship with Wildstein goes back to his childhood offers additional insights into Christie's longstanding lack of fitness.  Marked readiness to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society is another recognized element of sociopathy.  In many ways, Christie's response to his recent scandals displays this propensity to rationalize and blame others.  Christie's haste in discarding a long-time, childhood friend and laying blame squarely upon him would appear to be a most egregious example of this element of sociopathy.
Another interesting element of Christie's Wildstein hit memo is the derisive reference to Wildstein's "anonymous blogging."  Wildstein had previously blogged under the pseudonym "Wally Edge" and was considered by some to have been New Jersey's premier political blogger.  Much of the blog's appeal came from its ability to break hot political stories.  Interestingly, the source for many of these breaking stories was the New Jersey U.S. attorney's office, then headed by Chris Christie.  
The impropriety of prosecutors leaking information to select media outlets has long been a source of contention, but Christie's U.S. attorney's office was recognized to have taken the practice to previously unforeseen heights.  Christie's willingness to disdainfully cite Wildstein's role in the scheme, which clearly benefited Christie and his fellow federal prosecutors, sheds further light on troubling personality traits.  

(image by google images)
The Newark U.S. attorney's office is where Christie's current delusive trajectory began to take form

Playing fast and loose with the rules has long been a Christie tendency, dating back to his tenure as U.S. attorney and evidenced by the aforementioned leaking to the media.  This corresponds with another sociopathic tendency, the gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.  As far as he is concerned, the rules have never applied to Chris Christie.  Their applicability is exclusively for others.  This disconnect was significantly heightened by Christie's zeal while U.S. attorney for disproportionately pursuing relatively trivial matters with the full force of the U.S. government.  Despite his own glaring violations, no crime was too small to warrant fervent prosecution by Christie.  
This excessive urge to punish corresponds with another powerful signifier of sociopathy, a marked lack of empathy and the callous unconcern for the feelings of others.  Christie's willingness to promptly sacrifice those around him, even longstanding loyal subordinates, would appear to directly square with this symptom.  It also speaks to the sociopath's aforementioned inability to maintain enduring relationships.        
As the scandal surrounding Christie deepens, he shows no sign of retreating.  He appears to be sticking to his time-tested tactic of deception, which has worked well for him in the past.  Given that sociopaths are typically incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse, only more of the same can be reasonably expected.  Sociopaths seek to dominate others and "win" at all costs.  They loath to lose any sort of argument or fight and can thus be anticipated to viciously defend their web of lies, even to the point of logical absurdity, which is how many view Christie's current dubious and widely contradicted assertions.  

(image by google images)
The DSM V identifies and explains the sociopathic traits found in Chris Christie

Sociopaths like Christie never apologize.  In their minds they are never wrong and thus reticent to admit error.  Even if presented with evidence that they were in fact wrong, they will refuse to acknowledge their mistake and instead go on the attack.  A less pathologically addled individual would likely recognize that their appointment of someone as unfit as Christie attempts to make Wildstein out to be reflects negatively upon themselves.   Yet continued attacks by Christie are what can likely be anticipated as the scandals continue to multiply and unfold.
All of this begs the question of how it took so long for Christie to be recognized as being wholly unfit.  Part of the explanation may lie in the fact that sociopaths like Christie are often highly intelligent, charming and possess a great ability manipulate others.  Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to expect that Christie's unsuitability for public service would have been exposed at some earlier juncture.  Much of his career's longevity can be attributed to a woefully compliant press core that was reticent to subject Christie to meaningful scrutiny.  It is ironic that it is the same media which is now fixed to Christie's missteps and hastening the decline of the very individual they so successfully propped up for so long. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

R.I.P. Republican credibility: Why their latest blatant lies show they’ve given up


R.I.P. Republican credibility: Why their latest blatant lies show they’ve given up


From Obamacare to Keystone, here's why they're no longer a legitimate entity that deserves to be taken seriously VIDEO

R.I.P. Republican credibility: Why their latest blatant lies show they've given up 
Rand Paul, John Boehner, Ted Cruz (Credit: AP/Ed Reinke/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This post originally appeared on The BRAD BLOG.

We’ve long argued that the Republican Party is no longer a legitimate governing party. Never mind whether we agree with them on any particular policy issue, they are simply no longer a serious organization.

That fact was underscored again this week and over the weekend, in light of the release of two different official reports, one from the U.S. State Department on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project and another from the Congressional Budget Office on the economic outlook in light of the Affordable Care Act.

Never mind whether you agree with the Republican position on either of those two policies. The fact that the party feels it necessary to blatantly lie about what’s in each of those reports, specifically with regard to “job creation,” in order to advocate for their own policy positions, underscores yet again that these are simply not serious people are worth being taken seriously anymore …

Keystone XL Jobs Lie

If it receives approval from both the State Department and the White House, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would ship dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, down to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped overseas.

After years of claims by Republicans that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would “create tens of thousands of jobs,” we now have some hard numbers on that, at least from the U.S. State Department, if you choose to believe them.
Last year, while pushing for the KXL, House Speaker John Boehner released a statement claiming that the pipeline “will create over 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs.” On Friday, as the State Department released its “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” on the project, Boehner once again released a statement reiterating his previous claim that the pipeline would bring “more than 100,000 jobs.”

The trouble is, that’s not true. At least according to the actual State Department report, which was the occasion for Boehner’s Friday statement.

The report is long and in many pieces, so, naturally, it’d be too much to ask of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or anybody in his office to actually read it before issuing a statement about it. Nonetheless, it comes with a reasonably brief Executive Summary [PDF] (just 44 pages) in which it speaks directly to the issue of jobs in relation to KXL.

In the section on “Economic Activity During Construction” (page 26), the report estimates that “Construction spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 jobs throughout the United States for the up to 2-year construction period.”

That sounds pretty good! Until one bothers to keep reading. “A job consists of one position that is filled for one year. The term support means jobs ranging from new jobs (i.e., not previously existing) to the continuity of existing jobs in current or new locations.”

Approximately 16,100 of those temporary jobs would be “direct jobs at firms that are awarded contracts for goods and services, including construction” and the rest, “approximately 26,000,” would be the result of “indirect or induced spending.” In other words, that would be “goods and services purchased by the construction contractors and spending by employees working for either the construction contractor or for any supplier of goods and services required in the construction process.”

So, in addition to people who work for suppliers (where they may already be employed prior to the approval of KXL), people who work at restaurants or motels near the construction site or for any of the suppliers, also count as “jobs” in this estimate. For example, the report cites “ranchers providing beef for restaurants and construction camps.”

Fair enough. Two years of jobs for those folks, many of whom will be able to continue working in the jobs they already have (so those jobs are not “created,” per se, by the construction of the pipeline.)

After it’s built, however, either one or two years later, according to the very next section of the Executive Summary titled “Economic Activity During Operations,” the report states quite clearly [emphasis added]:

Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.

That’s it. The Keystone XL Pipeline will offer 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. for the life of the pipeline, according to the U.S. State Department’s final analysis.

That’s a far cry from Boehner’s claim on Friday, after the report came out, that KXL would bring “more than 100,000 jobs … with it.”

Of course, Boehner’s hardly the only one in the Republican Party disingenuously making such unsupported claims about KXL. Last year, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus took to Facebook to claim that “The Keystone Pipeline would create thousands of jobs.” Last week, he took to Twitter to claim that “721,000 construction jobs have been lost, #Keystone remains unapproved.”

Perhaps Priebus was referring to something other than Keystone with that 721,000 number — it’s unclear from his tweet — but if his message was unclear, that would be no accident. His quarter of a million followers on Twitter heard it loud and clear. He, like Boehner, was willing to lie to them in order to advocate for the pipeline — a pipeline that would result in 35 permanent American jobs.

Again, whether you support or oppose the pipeline doesn’t really matter. Whether you feel temporary jobs are good enough, that’s fine. But knowingly lying about the jobs that it will or won’t “create” is what we find grotesquely offensive here.

Obamacare Jobs Lie

This one was a doozy. On Tuesday, a new report [PDF] on the economic outlook for the U.S. through 2024 was released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans couldn’t wait to mischaracterize lie about what it said.

As usual, Fox “News” led the charge on behalf of Republican officials (who repeated the lie all day), claiming that “ObamaCare could lead to loss of nearly 2.3 million US jobs, report says.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) was just one of dozens of other official GOP mouthpieces to echo the completely misleading claim.

 For the record, other non-right-wing outlets also badly mischaracterized the report. The Republicans were very happy about that, and couldn’t be bothered to correct the error.

No, the CBO did not claim Obamacare will lead to the loss of either 2.3 million or 2.5 million jobs, as the Republicans lied all day on Tuesday.

As the Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler explained in awarding three out of four “Pinocchios” to those who deliberately mislead about the CBO’s projection on ACA-related employment numbers, “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs.”

“This is not about jobs,” Kessler explains. “It’s about workers — and the choices they make.”

Here’s what all the nonsense is about. Buried on page 123 of the 182-page CBO report, it states: “CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.”

In other words, because premium subsidies and other incentives will be available, some workers will eventually be able to choose to not continue working, simply because they need the healthcare coverage afforded by their employment.

“Specifically, CBO estimates that the ACA will cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017–2024 period, compared with what it would have been otherwise,” the report says. “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment.”

As White House spokesman Jay Carney explained after the report was released on Tuesday: “At the beginning of this year, we noted that as part of this new day in health care, Americans would no longer be trapped in a job just to provide coverage for their families, and would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” he said. “This CBO report bears that out, and the Republican plan to repeal the ACA would strip those hard-working Americans of that opportunity.”

This is about people choosing to not work as long in life or as many hours. (Moreover, those jobs could then become available to others still seeking more work.) In short, the CBO’s numbers were not about the loss of jobs, at all. It’s really not all that complicated, unless you’d like to lie to the American people about it.

Now, you are welcome to disagree with the CBO numbers, or Carney’s or Kessler’s or our interpretation of them. (As usual, you don’t need to simply trust us. We’ve given you the links to the actual reports. Read them and decide for yourself.) You are welcome to think it’s an outrage that people might choose to work less when they are ill, because they don’t have to keep working in order to pay for healthcare. You are welcome to hate Obamacare all you like and demand its complete repeal, just as you are welcome to call for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, if you like the idea of shipping the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel product across a continent of drinking water in order to ship gas to China.

But when you’ve got to lie, repeatedly, about demonstrable, independently verifiable facts, then you are not a legitimate advocate that deserves to be taken seriously.

The Republican Party has given up on advocating seriously for whatever policy positions they believe in. They are far past that, and have now simply taken to lying in hopes of scamming Americans into voting for them and buying into their policies.

That is not the earmark of a serious policymaking organization, and it is for that reason that we — sadly — no longer regard the Republican Party as a legitimate political body.

That’s not good for America or for Democrats, for that matter. But it just happens to be the sad truth.

Investigative journalist and broadcaster Brad Friedman is the creator and publisher of The BRAD Blog. He has contributed to Mother Jones, The Guardian, Truthout, Huffington Post, The Trial Lawyer magazine and Editor & Publisher.