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Video: Francois Fillon wins Republican party’s presidential primaries in France

In a year of political upsets, the French primaries are now also sending out shockwaves. The Republican party has chosen its candidate for next...

“Good Cop, Bad Cop:” Democratic Mayors, Republican Governors, and Us

“Don’t pay any attention to the landlord behind the curtain.” I just heard the dude with the nice midwestern accent, Tim Ryan, say on NPR...

The Long Con: How the Republicans Played Trump Voters

Donald Trump speaks as his running-mate, Mike Pence, looks on at his election night party early Wednesday morning in New York, November 9, 2016....
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Video: Mission complete? France shuts down peacekeeping op in war-torn Central African Republic

The UN has been urging lawmakers in the Central African Republic to take action as conflict rages throughout the country, with rebel groups trying...

Here’s how against the Republican Establishment Trump is:

Eric Zuesse The following is a reprint (excluding the footnotes) of the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_opposing_Donald_Trump_presidential_campaign,_2016 List of Republicans opposing Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016 Public officials Former Presidents Former President...

How Republicans Game the Concept of Democracy Through Disenfranchisement

Polling booths at an early voting location on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, October 12, 2016. Voter disenfranchisement is just...
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Video: Putin: ‘America is a great nation, not some banana republic. Correct me if...

Russian President Vladimir Putin is speaking at the final session of the Valdai International Discussion Club's 13th annual meeting in Sochi. More than 130...

61% of Americans don’t feel represented by either Democrats or Republicans

Despite the current US electoral landscape, which again sees a Democrat and a Republican leading the...
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Video: The Real Vote Rigging: Republicans Make It Harder for Millions to Vote in...

http://democracynow.org - As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump urges his supporters to be vigilant against widespread voter fraud and a rigged ... Via Youtube

North Carolina Republican party office ‘fire bombed’ and daubed with swastika (PHOTO)

Police are investigating an arson attack on the Orange County Republican Party headquarters which destroyed part...

#WomenWhoVoteTrump unite behind Republican candidate despite lewd comments

Despite Donald Trump’s derogatory “locker room talk” about women and sexual innuendo, a trending Twitter hashtag...

How Republicans Politicized Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew didn't become the national disaster many Americans feared (although the country of Haiti is once again reeling from hundreds of deaths and...

‘P***y-grab’ comments don’t represent ‘real’ Trump – Founder of Muslim Republican Coalition

The anti-Trump camp may be surprised that the Republican candidate’s controversial remarks about Muslims and women...

Could the Republican Party oust Trump as their nominee?

Revelations of Donald Trump’s taped sexist remarks have prompted heated debate among Republicans on how to...

College Republicans Scrawl ‘Build the Wall’ at Painting Event, Are Reported to ‘Bias Incident...

The University of Minnesota held a “Paint the Bridge” event this past Friday at the Washington Avenue Bridge, and the school’s College...

Republicans Issue Good News About Obamacare

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org To Republicans, good news about Obamacare (the American President’s ‘legacy’ healthcare-reform program, called officially “The Affordable Care Act”) is...
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Video: Will SCOTUS Let Investigation Continue into Alleged Illegal Fundraising by Republican Scott Walker?

http://democracynow.org - We go to Wisconsin to get reaction from The Nation's John Nichols to a new report on possible illegal fundraising by the...
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Video: ‘Catalan republic built on the streets’: People rally to push for break from...

Catalans have taken to the streets of five cities for rallies aimed at speeding up the process breakaway from Spain. Demonstrators carried national flags...

Clinton bought old BlackBerrys on eBay – top Republican congressman

Hillary Clinton bought used BlackBerry phones on eBay, as she preferred the older versions of the...
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Video: How Disenchanted Democrats and Republicans Together Can Break the Two Party Duopoly

Sam Husseini says he has a way to get voters out of the lesser evil mindset while avoiding the 'spoiler problem' Visit http://therealnews.com for...
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Video: Republicans call for perjury charges against Clinton over emails

The FBI has reportedly dispatched its investigative report on Hillary Clinton, explaining why charges were not recommended against the Democratic presidential ... Via Youtube

Detroit Republicans And The RNC

Recently I traveled to Cleveland to take part in what would be a historical event as Donald J. Trump was nominated the...
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Video: Protests Against Republican Party “War on Women”

Hours before Trump's acceptance speech, direct action group CODEPINK danced in the street to call for an end to GOP anti-women rhetoric and policies. Via...

Trump Will Destroy the Republican Party

We have something special to share with you over the next couple days. Instead of our usual market commentary, we’re featuring a recent interview...

Populism Even Republicans Can Get Behind

What if organizers and volunteers joined forces to run a nationwide campaign to replace today’s corporate-owned congress — all at once? Yes, one sweeping campaign...

Uninvited to the Party: Laura Flanders at the Republican National Convention

Mainstream media were all over the Republican National Convention -- but what didn't they show you? What about the people, the movements,...

Trading Places: Swapping the Roles of Police and Military Is Bad for the Republic

Lately, the tactics of local police departments have been in the news because of mass shootings at Orlando and Fort Myers nightclubs,...

Trump outflanks Hillary after Republican convention – poll

If the US presidential elections were held this week, Donald Trump would win, according to research...

Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans

  Joseph Sohm | Shutterstock.com   Hillary Clinton’s strategy for the general election is to try to peal away anti-Trump Republicans. That’s why we are seeing her move to...

The Far Right Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform

The Republican Party platform is a wish list for what Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump would like to impose on America. What's surprising...

Trump Brand Republicans

The Republican convention recently concluded with Donald J Trump accepting his party’s nomination for president. Featuring marginal politicians, unemployed athletes and a roster of forgotten celebrities,...

Farage shows up at US Republican National Convention, denies Trump invited him

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has denied being invited by Donald Trump to attend the...
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Video: Muslims Debate Donald Trump, Immigration Ban and Islamophobia in Republican Party

http://democracynow.org - For months Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Via Youtube
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Video: Debunking Republican Claims Linking Immigration to Crime

http://democracynow.org - Immigration has been a common theme throughout the first two nights of the Republican National Convention. On Monday, speakers ... Via Youtube

Ohio University Offers ‘Safe Space’ for Students Triggered by Republican National Convention

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio has offered students a safe space for those triggered by the Republican National Convention this...
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Video: Make America Straight Again? A Debate on What Could Be the Most Anti-LGBT...

http://democracynow.org - As the new Republican platform has been described as "the most anti-LGBT platform in the party's 162-year history," we get reaction ... Via...

Trump Isn’t the Only Republican with a Woman Problem

Long before he set his sights on the White House, Donald Trump was showing his misogynistic colors. He became notorious for using the press and...

Las Vagueness: Nevada Republican Party chief gets name of own state capital wrong

Michael J. McDonald, the state chair of the Nevada Republican Party had a night to forget...

‘Lock her Up’: Christie raises hell at Republican convention over Clinton

Chris Christie’s “Guilty!” speech squarely directed at Hillary Clinton has swiftly started a ruckus on Twitter...
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Video: Republican ticket goes to Trump? ‘People feel he’s giving voice to those unheard’

Donald Trump is set to become the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party at its national convention set to kick off in the...

FBI, Police ‘Visited’ Activists’ Homes Ahead of the Republican National Convention

In another step towards the fascist state Donald Trump has warm dreams envisioning, FBI agents and Cleveland police officers “visited” the homes of local...

Republican ‘Hunger Games’: Comedian Stephen Colbert crashes RNC stage (VIDEO)

“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert has kick started the Republican National Convention (RNC) in eccentric...

Republican convention

The head of Cleveland’s police union has called on Ohio Governor John Kasich to temporarily halt citizens’ right to openly carry firearms for the...

#RepublicCon Roll Call: Inside the process that will officially make Trump presidential nominee

This week 50,000 people including 2,472 delegates, 15,000 journalists, thousands of protesters, and one billionaire candidate...
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Video: Mass Arrests Expected at Republican and Democratic Conventions

Activist and author Kris Hermes and ACLU's Steve David discusses a recent victory against free speech restrictions on protests in Cleveland, and the long...

What the Trump Happened to the Republicans?

An attendee wears a Donald Trump mask at the presumptive Republican nominee's campaign rally in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, June...

Florida Republican giving away AR-15 assault rifle just week after deadliest US mass shooting

A Florida Republican running for Congress has launched a Facebook competition to give away an AR-15...

After Orlando, Democrats and Republicans Clamor for Expanded Police State

The horrific massacre in Orlando has once again thrust the specter of domestic terrorism into the limelight, and into the media space.  Pundits and...

Republican AGs protest climate fraud probe into big oil, threaten fraud lawsuits of their...

Facing a fraud probe over whether ExxonMobil misled the public on climate change, Republican attorneys general...

Zoned out: ACLU sues Cleveland for fencing protesters out of Republican convention

The city of Cleveland has drawn a 3.3 square mile zone around the site of the Republican National Convention, banishing any public gatherings in...

The Real Reason Republicans Are Going after the IRS

It’s no secret that House Republicans don’t like the Internal Revenue Service. They’ve once again proposed cutting the agency’s already beleaguered funding, and they recently...
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Video: Chechnya: Republic Of Contrasts (RT Documentary)

Russia's Republic of Chechnya has undergone a revival after two military operations in its recent post-Soviet history. Today, the region is home one of...

Ann Coulter – Republicans “betrayed America”, “Why can’t we have a home?”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obXQ0IzIjs8] Ann Coulter was on BBC Radio 4, where she spoke about how Republican and Conservative leaders have betrayed America, and...

Baseball Without the Umpire: The Republicans' War on Regulations

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California, May 27, 2016. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee,...

House Republican reads ‘death to gays’ Bible verse before vote on LGBT rights

A GOP congressman has called on the Bible for help with a verse condemning homosexuality –...

US election: Trump wins enough delegates for Republican nomination

The US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to secure the party's presidential nomination. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMegcjv46JE]...

House Republicans vote down LGBT rights measure

The US House of Representatives voted down legislation that would have protected the rights of homosexual...
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Video: Republicans Would Rather Lose the 2016 Election than Win with Donald Trump

Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report says Trump's candidacy is throwing both Democratic and Republican parties into crisis. Via Youtube
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Video: Chomsky: Today’s Republican Party is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human...

http://democracynow.org - We speak with world-renowned political dissident Noam Chomsky about the Republican party, the rightward shift in U.S. politics and ... Via Youtube

Irish republican terror threat to Britain raised to ‘substantial’

Britain has raised its threat level from Northern Ireland related terrorism from moderate to substantial,...

On the News With Thom Hartmann: Zika Is Headed for the US, but Republicans...

In today's On the News segment: Climate change is reducing the amount of oxygen in the oceans; the Zika virus is coming...

Republicans Only Care About Children Before They're Born

Middle school students eat lunch in a school cafeteria. (Photo: Woodleywonderworks) When it comes to children, Republicans are hypocrites. They go on and on...

Bush Republicanism Is Dead and Gone

“The two living Republican past presidents, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, have no plans to endorse Trump, according to their spokesmen.”...

Clinton set to assemble ‘Republicans for Hillary’ to lure Trump skeptics

Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton is planning to form a “Republicans for Hillary” group in an attempt...

Republicans Have Rejected the Republican Party

Video ads for Donald Trump run on a digital screen before a rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort...
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Video: Why Did the Former Republican Gov. of New Mexico Join the Libertarian Party...

http://democracynow.org - We are on the road in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we speak with the state's former two-term Republican Governor Gary ... Via Youtube
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Video: Democratic Republic of Congo Government Fails to Investigate Targeted Killings

DR Congo president Joseph Kabila may remain in power past his constitutionally mandated two-term limit if the December election is delayed, say Jason ... Via...

BBC coverage of Queen’s 90th birthday is ‘out of touch with reality’ – Republic

BBC coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday is “out of touch with reality,” according...

Killing the US Republic — and Empire

Through its dysfunctional politics and over-reliance on military force, the United States is destroying both its Republic and its imperial...

Why the Vilest Republicans Have Come to Love Hillary Clinton

Eric Zuesse The 1964 “Goldwater Girl” Hillary Rodham (Clinton) is now viewed as a possible savior by the same Republicans that loathed her husband: she’s...

The Dominican Republic Is Deporting Its Haitian Residents

The Haiti - Dominican Republic border, on September 25, 2012. (Photo: Alex Proimos) They called it the Parsley Massacre. Directed by the ruthless Dominican...

It’s Really Happening: The Dominican Republic Is Deporting Its Haitian Residents.

Haitians at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. (Photo: Wikipedia) They called it the Parsley Massacre. Directed by the ruthless Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo,...

British Republic by 2030? Historian predicts dying days of UK monarchy

Britain’s monarchy will be embattled and in its dying days within 15 years because current...

Who Would Be Stronger Against the Republican: Clinton, or Sanders?

What the Key Data Show: Eric Zuesse NET FAVORABILITY Black line is "Favorable" http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/hillary-clinton-favorable-rating http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/bernie-sanders-favorable-rating GENERAL ELECTION MATCH-UPS http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_presidential_race.html — Clinton beats Trump by 10.8% Sanders beats Trump by 16.0% — Clinton beats Cruz by 3.1% Sanders beats...

Sanders Soars: The Democratic Race Is Closer Than the Republicans'

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaking at a town meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Sanders remains an underdog, but...

Noam Chomsky: The Republican Base Is "Out of Control"

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump during a rally at the Savannah Center in West Chester, Ohio, March 13, 2016. (Photo: Mark Makela...

The Republican Party Has Become the Humpty Dumpty of Political Institutions

Is Donald Trump's presidential bid terrifying you? Try to relax. The bullying billionaire probably can't make it to the White House. He needs to win a...
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Video: Trump warns of ‘mass unrest’ if doesn’t get Republican Presidential Nomination

With Trump moving closer to winning the Republican Party nomination, securing another series of wins in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, and with his...

How Obama and Congressional Republicans Intend to Pass TPP Into Law —

After the November Elections Eric Zuesse Back on 10 December 2015, the head of the U.S. Senate, the pro-Obama-trade-deals Republican Mitch McConnell, said that Obama shouldn’t try to...
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Video: Merrick Garland and Judicial Restraint: How A ‘Moderate’ Judge is A Gift to...

The Real Capitol Hill examines Obama's Supreme Court nominee's record, from campaign finance reform to labor issues. Via Youtube

Trump or Cruz: Republican Choice

In the steamy summer of 2012, at the Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate, Rafael Cruz summoned followers...

Republican pres candidates: Ground war with ISIS now!

(RT) - The four remaining Republican presidential candidates clamored during their latest debate to be considered...

A 'different' Republican debate

(RT) - Five days before major primaries in Florida and Ohio, the Republican debate took on...
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Video: Tech CEOs & Republican Leaders Met Last Weekend to Plot to Stop Donald...

http://democracynow.org - As Donald Trump won three out of four states on Tuesday, Republican efforts to derail his candidacy are increasing. The Huffington ... Via...

At Secretive Meeting, Tech CEOs And Top Republicans Commiserate, Plot To Stop Trump

Karl Rove shared focus group findings that give hope to the GOP establishment. Described unimaginatively but accurately as "opulent," Sea Island, Georgia, hosted a gaggle...

Meaning Behind the Republican Bile

There has been little inspirational about the U.S. presidential race, especially on the Republican side where insults have replaced argument...

Meaning Behind the Republican Bile

There has been little inspirational about the U.S. presidential race, especially on the Republican side where insults have replaced argument and bigotry has become...
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Video: Triumph Trump: Republican candidate wins Nevada with 45% of votes

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSc9O_ksvBI&w=580&h=385] Polls favoring a Donald Trump victory in Nevada proved to be correct, according to first results. With 30 delegates at stake, the second...

Republicans Rebuked for Utter ‘Perversion of Constitutional Duties’

Groups say GOP blocking Supreme Court justice nominee 'would cause a constitutional crisis that would shake the very foundation of our democracy' Andrea Germanos Scores of...

All Polls Show Sanders as the Strongest Candidate to Win Presidency, but Democrats Likely...

Eric Zuesse The latest report by RealClearPolitics, which includes all polls this month on hypothetical Presidential match-ups in the November general election, indicates that of...

Hillary Clinton Is Backed by Major Republican Donors

Eric Zuesse An analysis of Federal Election Commission records, by TIME, which was published on 23 October 2015, showed that the 2012 donors to Romney’s campaign were...
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Video: Guilt Abounds: Democrats and Republicans Struggle to Clean Up Their Image Over Flint’s...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUe8KLQmEzQ&w=580&h=385] Executive editor and founder of BlackAgendaReport.com was back with his Ford Report discussing the political calamity that is Flint Michigan's water crisis. Via Youtube
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Video: Ban Trump from Britain: UK govt outraged by Republican’s comments on Muslims

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbnHhbVC1fg&w=580&h=385] Some of Donald Trumph's controversial comment about Muslims have theatened to stop him getting to the UK. The British Parliament has held a...

Leading Republicans Are Promising to Commit War Crimes – and Their Base Loves It

(Photo: mashleymorgan / Flickr) They’re back! From the look of the presidential campaign, war crimes are back on the American agenda. We really shouldn’t be surprised, because...
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Video: Top Military Lawyer: Army Bowed to Republican Political Pressure in Court-Martialing Bowe Bergdahl

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0HXhm5krk&w=580&h=385] Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was arraigned this week on charges related to his disappearance from a U.S. base in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl...

Republican Candidates Defend Killing Civilians to Fight Terrorism–and So Do Democrats

Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan courtesy of US Embassy Kabul via Flickr There has been a lot of consternation expressed in the media at a series...

How Republicans Shred the Republic

The anti-government ideology that drives today’s Republican Party claims to support the U.S. Constitution but is actually its antithesis. Rather than “We the People” providing...

The Top Six Republican Candidates Take Economic Policy Into the Wilderness

Fact: too many Republican candidates are clogging the political scene. Perhaps what's needed is an American Hunger Games to cut the field to size....
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Video: Republicans Push to Privatize Disability Insurance Despite 99.9% Payment Accuracy

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkQ04rGpre4&w=580&h=385] After the GAO finds $11 billion in disability payment fraud, some members of Congress push for privatization to solve a problem which accounts...
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Video: Low-Wage Workers to Target Republican Debate in Milwaukee

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO3zr3tuP1g&w=580&h=385] 15 Now's Ty Moore explains why fast-food workers and supporters are striking nationwide on Tuesday, the impact of phasing in a $15 minimum...

Hillary Clinton Scores with Republican Donors

Eric Zuesse An analysis of Federal Election Commission records, by TIME, shows that the 2012 donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign have been donating more to Hillary Clinton’s...

Video: Anti-Monarchy Group “Republic” On Why It’s Time For The Queen & The Royals...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx7V76gUXSk&w=580&h=385] Please Support The Show — http://richieallenshow.com/donate/ http://www.Republic.Org.UK http://richieallenshow.com/ ... Via Youtube
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Video: “The Questioning Was Clearly Sexist”: Rep. Brenda Lawrence on Republican Planned Parenthood Hearings

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYeFtWU2fNU&w=580&h=385] Democracynow.org - Ending weeks of infighting, lawmakers voted Wednesday to avert a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline. Via Youtube
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Video: What Pope Francis’ Call to Abolish Death Penalty Could Mean For Republicans

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FONziVlZcVE&w=580&h=385] Via Youtube
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Video: ‘Republican party & Democratic party are machines without heart, soul’ — John McAfee

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcZstP0mvQ0&w=580&h=385] A new name has been added to the list of those running for the US top job in 2016. And that name is...

There is no escape from the Republican warmongers

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - There is not a peaceful person among the Republican candidates. Even the female is heartless. Carly Fiorina positioned herself alongside...
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Video: George Jackson Mixtape & Mass Deportations in the Dominican Republic

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCR_6y1pcMg&w=580&h=385] We look at a new mixtape on the Black Panther George Jackson and an update on the crisis in the Dominican Republic. Via Youtube
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Video: Senate Republicans Fail to Stop Iran Deal for the Second Time (2/2)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBqejdv0X8E&w=580&h=385] Mehdi Sarram, author of Nuclear Lies, Deceptions and Hypocrisies, says it is scientifically impossible for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon if the...
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Video: Senate Republicans Fail to Stop Iran Deal for the Second Time

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izZtsWhMqB0&w=580&h=385] Mehdi Sarram, Author of Nuclear Lies, Deceptions and Hypocrisies say, that Republicans have mastered the art of deception when it comes to the...

President Obama is a Muslim, Republicans say

A new opinion poll shows a majority of Republicans believe that the first black president of the United States Barack Obama is a Muslim. The...
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Video: Republicans To Let Obama Take Your Passport Without A Trial

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4vIVPZyJiw&w=580&h=385] In a radical attack on the due-process rights of Americans that received virtually no media attention, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted ... Via...

Which Republican Will Call Out Trump For Rationalizing This Hate Crime?

Donald Trump’s ability to say offensive things and continue to rise in the polls has cowed other Republicans from attacking him directly for his...

The Two Core Beliefs of the Republican Party

Eric Zuesse 1: One core Republican belief is spread by religious fundamentalists, and it’s a conviction to do war against others by outpopulating them – reproducing more...

Little-Known Facts About the Fox News Republican Debate

Eric Zuesse TIME has posted the transcript of the August 6th Fox News Channel Republican Presidential candidates’ debate, and there are a number of interesting features...
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Video: First Republican Debate of 2016 Presidential Race Kicks Off on Fox News with...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKv0ZzV4I_A&w=580&h=385] http://democracynow.org - Ten leading Republican presidential candidates faced off in the first debate of the 2016 presidential election Thursday night. Via Youtube

Republican Party Gave First Presidential Debate to Fox News as Political Payoff

Eric Zuesse Millions of especially non-Republicans on Thursday night were disappointed to find that they couldn’t access the first Republican Presidential debate because they don’t...

The Deceit About Being a ‘Republic’ versus Being a ‘Democracy’

Eric Zuesse One of my recent articles at several sites, "Jimmy Carter Is Correct That the U.S. Is No Longer a Democracy” generated many reader-comments (such as here) saying things like,...
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Video: Republican Rank-and-File Line Up Against Financial Regulation

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej4Tt5HrZ90&w=580&h=385] Former financial regulator Bill Black mocks Republican claims of 'bigotry' against 'the success of CEOs' Via Youtube
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Video: Netanyahu, Republicans call Iran deal ‘mistake & weakness’

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eGmc4iW6Rs&w=580&h=385] However, the deal may prove to be a hard sell for the Republican congress. With senators promising a rough ride for the agreement,...
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Video: Ukraine: Self-proclaimed Donbass republics call for UN war crimes probe

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVeg6wGIwOU&w=580&h=385] The heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in eastern Ukraine have asked the United Nations Security Council to establish an ... Via...

US Republican candidates guarantee WWIII: Former CIA contractor

Republican presidential candidates do guarantee a third world war by losing the White House to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, says a former CIA contractor. “It’s...
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Video: The Global African: Extreme Xenophobia in the Dominican Republican

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amRo_DSj6oI&w=580&h=385] The Global African takes a look at the prejudice currently in the Dominican Republic, the history of segregation in public spaces, and a...
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Video: The Dominican Republic’s “Ethnic Purging”: Edwidge Danticat on Mass Deportation of Haitian Families

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiBInynz6KI&w=580&h=385] http://democracynow.org - The Dominican Republic is set to begin what some are calling "ethnic purging," placing the fate of hundreds of thousands of...

Republican House Members Receive Rubber Stamps from Fight for the Future Ahead of Plans...

The package included a satirical letter from the President and an actual rubber stamp with the words, “I approve President Obama’s secret trade deal” WASHINGTON...

More Top Heavy, More Republican: The 1% of the 1% Over Time

One lesson of the 2014 election cycle was that more money came from fewer people. And a look at the political One Percent of the One...

How Democratic & Republican Party Chiefs Work to Deceive the U.S. Public

Eric Zuesse An organization that typically promotes the Republican propaganda agenda received information from the Democratic Obama Administration, and they publicized information from it that...

‘Before Long It Will All Be Over’ – Lights Out, Republic!

By Susan Duclos, via All News PipeLine





Author's Note - While I do not agree with all of what Glenn Beck says, in fact, I probably disagree  with him as often if not more often than I agree, the video below is a must-see..... listen closely because what he describes is the end of America as we know it.

We have heard warnings time and again about the militarization of law enforcement across the country, how protests and riots we have witnessed over the past few years have each been used by the US government to bring us one step closer to full government control, turning America in a police state. We have seen calls for more "gun control," seen demands that we federalize the local and state police forces, military and battlefield assets being used here on US soil, seen the Obama administration label veterans, Christians, constitutionalists, survivalists, preppers and others as "threats," or "extremists," all in preparation for this government takeover so that these patriotic Americans can be treated as enemy combatants when the time arrives to implement the end game agenda.

Transcript can be found at this Glenn Beck  link and a partial transcript of the relevant portion will be shown below the video.

This is perhaps one of the best, most important monologues to date, on what is happening in America. Please listen.






Partial Transcript:

You have to know what’s really going on. Because nobody is going to tell you. Next week, we’re going to show you, the stuff I found with Al Sharpton yesterday, I’m telling you, that’s right. With Al Sharpton saying, we fought against states’ rights in the ’60s so we had the right to vote, and in this century, we have to fight states’ rights, it’s time for the Department of Justice to take over policing in America. That’s what’s happening. That’s why they’re sending all the MRAPs and everything else to these cities because the intent is that the government — when the bottom rises up, the people will cry out for help. And the government will come top-down, and they’ll control your policing. That’s what’s happening. And local police departments, police officers, please, please, learn this. Please.

Next week, we’ll show you all the connections. We’ll show you — once you tie it all together in your head, you’ll go, oh, my gosh, that’s exactly what’s happening. And only an understanding of this and then a peaceful informed public can stop it. Otherwise, we’re going to be played. I mean, this is the biggest show ever. That’s all that’s happening right now. This is a show. We’re watching a script and a play play out in front of us. None of this stuff is real.

Those riots in Baltimore. That wasn’t real. How many times do we have to be told, most of the people are from out of town. All they need is one thing to get it started, that’s real: The shooting. Then all the people come from out of town, and they manipulate it and they wind everybody up and they get it rolling. Then they leave town and they go to the next one. And they go to the next one. And they go to the next one. And before long, it will all be over. And nothing will truly be solved. Is Ferguson solved? Has there been reconciliation in Ferguson? The answer is no. And because no reconciliation, there is a wound on both sides. Same thing in Baltimore. Is anything going to be solved in Baltimore? No. It will just calm down a bit. But there will be wounds on both sides. At some point, there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back, and it will set the whole country on fire. And what happens? We will cry out for police help.

The police will be overwhelmed. The DOJ will say, we’re going to take over policing. We’ll coordinate it from here. And you’re done. It’s lights out, Republic.




Obscenely Wealthy Republican Congressman Kicks The Poor While They’re Down

California’s Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, worth an estimated $500 million in personal wealth, says that poor people in America really have it good. In an interview with CNN, Issa actually said, “Our poor people are the envy of the world.” Issa is apparently more heartless, cruel and tone-deaf than the average Tea Party idiot. Or maybe he’s just stupid. Even if a public official believes that the poor are a privileged class in America, it is politically unwise to express it aloud. Much better to shut up, luxuriate in your millions, represent an all-white constituency, and quietly do everything you can to pass legislation which extends government handouts and tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy like yourself. But Issa is not content to be rich, smug and imperious; he has to rub the noses of the poor in it.

Issa is also the moron who has wasted taxpayers’ money for years trying to hang the blame for Benghazi on Hillary Clinton. Spurred on by the liars at FOX News, Issa’s committee tried desperately to found any evidence of Obama/Clinton incompetence or corruption in the deaths of U.S. embassy employees. The investigation has turned up absolutely nothing. But Issa did get the satisfaction of publicly grilling Hillary in his congressional hearings. In so doing, he proved himself to be a misogynist lout, treating our Secretary of State with disrespect, disdain, and derision. In the end, though, Issa’s work was eviscerated by a bi-partisan Senate Intelligence committee which found that the State Department was not to blame for the attacks on our foreign embassy and the deaths of American diplomatic employees. There was no stand-down order at the time of the attacks, and no cover-up of the facts ensued. To wit: "There was no singular 'Tactical Warning' in the intelligence reporting leading up to the events on September 11, 2012, predicting an attack on U.S embassies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review found that no specific warnings predicted the attack in Benghazi…[and]there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes…[and] there were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend The Temporary Mission Facility."

Issa should resign in disgrace for wasting millions of dollars, money which could have been used to assist the poor. Oops, I forgot. American poor people don’t need our help because they already have it so good.

http://www.amazon.com/Presidents-Mortician-Tim-Fleming-ebook/dp/B00I6GNPD4

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Much of what ails society today is the proliferation of sociopaths. I’m not just talking about hardened criminals either; sociopaths are everywhere, in all walks of life. In fact, the traits they possess are the very traits which impel one to succeed and rise to positions of power in a capitalistic society. CEOs, Wall Street billionaires, politicians, military chiefs, intelligence operatives, and right-wing talking heads are among those who have used their sociopathological personality disorders to rule America.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could identify a sociopath before he/she comes to power? Think of how much better our lives and our country would be if only we knew who the conscienceless bastards really were before we voted for them, came under their employ, listened to their cons, fell prey to their manipulation. The problem is, they are not easily identified because they wear masks. They try to fit in by mimicking normal behavior in public. Some are even charming. They seduce us with their outward appearance of normalcy, but inside they are godless devils bent on perverting the greater good for their own means.

In the past 35 years America has slowly been transformed from a nation of common purpose to a nation of the rich, by wealthy, and for the sociopathic few. That’s because many of the people in power (mostly Republicans) have been crass opportunists concerned with self- advancement at the expense of the greater good. In the age of Reagan, the self-centeredness was heightened to a virtue. The 1980s gave rise to a rogue’s gallery of Gordon Gekkos and their “greed is good” philosophy. It wasn’t just Reagan and his policies though, it was the sociopaths he ushered into public service—the Bushes, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, William Casey and a whole band of despicable criminals. The country became more selfish, less communal, and more cynical. It was then that we started letting the Almighty buck rule all facets of American life. The more money you had, the more admired you were. Fuck generosity and compassion for the less fortunate.

Since then, sociopaths have started illicit wars, drained the national treasury, raped Mother Nature, ruined the climate, and given rise to Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, et al. There seem to be more sociopaths than human beings in positions of power. Maybe that was the whole point. Now the Extreme Court (uh..er…Supreme Court) has gotten in on the act, by making it easier for sociopathic billionaires to control (read subvert) the democratic process. Smarmy Vegas casino operators (like Shel Adelson) and fascist industrialists (like the Koch brothers) have far more say in how our government operates than 99% of us.

As a public service then, I am herewith giving you tips on how to spot a sociopath. If you recognize them in someone, alert authorities and resist the urge to succumb to their wiles.

Traits of a Sociopath (based on the work of psychologists Robert Hare): While some experts believe that sociopathy has a genetic origin, Hare believed that a sociopath’s behavior “is shaped by social forces and is the result of a dysfunctional environment.” Hare formed a list of traits common to sociopaths. Here are the most prevalent:

--Sociopaths are manipulative and very skilled at taking advantage of the good intentions of others . Allen Dulles, former CIA chief, is a good example. He was appointed by President Eisenhower in 1953 after promising Ike that the CIA could avoid WWIII by overthrowing socialist and communist countries around the globe via bloodless coups. Eisenhower, a decent man shaken by the horrors of the second World War, turned over foreign policy to Allen and his brother Foster. The Dulles brothers, sociopaths of the worst kind, turned America into quasi-fascist Orwellian state by using their enormous power to control the media, murder innocent citizens, evoke hatred of America around the globe, and cover up the assassination of JFK. All the while, the Dulleses were enriching themselves and their corporate partners—the Forbeses, the Browns, the Rockefellers, the DuPonts, the Hunts—the oldest, richest families in the country. And Kennedy haters all.

--They have a grandiose sense of self; they think they are better than everyone else, and if they have more money or power than others they use this to their constant advantage. Moreover, the fact that a sociopath may be wealthier than others or in a position of power over others merely confirms in the sociopath’s mind that he/she is better than others. In the modern age, who feels more entitled than the richest among us? The Koch brothers, desperately trying to buy the government, runs roughshod over the poor, the elderly, minorities, and social safety nets. They care only their own profits. We should have carved a big “S” in their foreheads at birth, just as Brad Pitt marked Christoph Waltz with a swastika in “Inglourious Basterds.” Our lives would be much better if we knew whom we were dealing with upfront.

--They are pathological liars; when they are committing acts that harm the greater good of society, they never tell the truth, even if they are caught in a lie. To this day, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their lackeys still deny that the Iraq war was about oil, despite all evidence to the contrary.

--They have no remorse or guilt, regardless of how heinous their actions are. When recently asked if he would do anything differently, if he had to do it all over again, Cheney responded, “No.”

--They lack empathy and are callous in their treatment of others. Mitt Romney dismissed 47% of the country with one glib comment.

--They are contemptuous of those who seek to understand them. One of Allen Dulles’s protégés, Frank Wisner, head of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird in the 1950s, once famously bragged, “The press claims to be free and open in America. But they are nothing but my personal puppets. I can pull any string I want and they will follow along.”

--They do not perceive that anything is wrong with them. Even if they are proven wrong, and even if all about them acknowledge their wrongdoing, the sociopath will never admit to wrongdoing. See Dick Cheney quote above.

--They are authoritarians; in many cases, they were raised in authoritarian homes where the appearance of uniformity and conformity far outweighed love, compassion, empathy, and charity as laudable qualities. Henry Kissinger once said of Richard Nixon (a raging sociopath), “Imagine what he could have been if anyone had ever loved him.”

--They are secretive; at all costs they strive to keep their true behaviors and thoughts hidden. Allen and Foster Dulles, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Richard Nixon, and Oliver North were nothing if not secretive.

--They are paranoid. Can you imagine anyone more paranoid than Dick Nixon?

--They diligently present a “normal” outward appearance when engaging others. This is what confounds us about all sociopaths. Usually we don’t unmask them until it is too late.

--They experience pleasure from enslaving their victims. And all people they encounter are potential victims, even loved ones. “Loved ones” is a misnomer, because sociopaths are incapable of love. Again, Dick Cheney is the perfect example of someone who seemed to derive pleasure from inflicting pain. Witness the detainees at Guantanamo. Cheney does not consider what he did torture, yet a 600-page nonpartisan report says he did exactly that.

--When they collaborate, they feed off one another, and their actions become even more diabolical. No better example of this than the Cheney-Rumsfeld partnerships during the two Bush presidencies.

http://www.amazon.com/Presidents-Mortician-Tim-Fleming/dp/098882907X

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For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

The big news is it’s starting to backfire. 

Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them” — lazy, dependent on government handouts, and overwhelmingly black — in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks), and white.  

It was a cunning strategy designed to split the broad Democratic coalition that had supported the New Deal and Great Society, by using the cleavers of racial prejudice and economic anxiety. It also conveniently fueled resentment of government taxes and spending. 

The strategy also served to distract attention from the real cause of the working class’s shrinking paychecks — corporations that were busily busting unions, outsourcing abroad, and replacing jobs with automated equipment and, subsequently, computers and robotics.  

But the divide-and-conquer strategy is no longer convincing because the dividing line between poor and middle class has all but disappeared. “They” are fast becoming “us.”

Poverty is now a condition that almost anyone can fall into. In the first two years of this recovery, according to new report from Census Bureau, about one in three Americans dropped into poverty for at least two to six months.

Three decades of flattening wages and declining economic security have taken a broader toll. Nearly 55 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line). Half of all American children have at some point during their childhoods relied on food stamps. 

Fifty years ago, when Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” most of the nation’s chronically poor had little or no connection to the labor force, while most working-class Americans had full-time jobs. 

This distinction has broken down as well. Now a significant percentage of the poor are working but not earning enough to get themselves and their families out of poverty. And a growing portion of the middle class finds themselves in the same place — often in part-time or temporary positions, or in contract work.

Economic insecurity is endemic. Working-class whites who used to be cushioned against the vagaries of the market are now fully exposed to them. Trade unions that once bargained on behalf of employees and protected their contractual rights have withered. Informal expectations of lifelong employment with a single company are gone. Company loyalty has become a bad joke. 

Financial markets are now calling the shots — forcing companies to suddenly uproot, sell out to other companies, transfer whole divisions abroad, liquidate unprofitable units, or adopt new software that suddenly renders old skills obsolete.

Because money moves at the speed of an electronic impulse while human beings move at the speed of human beings, the humans — most of them hourly workers but many white collar as well — have been getting shafted.  

This means sudden and unexpected poverty has become a real possibility for almost everyone these days. And there’s little margin of safety. With the real median household income continuing to drop, 65 percent of working families are living from paycheck to paycheck. 

Race is no longer a dividing line, either. According to Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of those below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.

This new face of poverty — a face that’s both poor, near-poor, and precarious working middle, and that’s simultaneously black, Latino, and white  — renders the old Republican divide-and-conquer strategy obsolete. Most people are now on the same losing side of the divide. Since the start of the recovery, 95 percent of the economy’s gains have gone to the top 1 percent. 

Which means Republican opposition to extended unemployment insurance, food stamps, jobs programs, and a higher minimum wage pose a real danger of backfiring on the GOP. 

Just look at North Carolina, a bell-weather state, where Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, up for re-election, is doing well by attacking Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits and social services. The state Democratic Party is highlighting her Republican opponent’s “long record of demeaning statements against those struggling to make ends meet.”  (Tom Tillis, the speaker of the State, had spoken of the need  “to divide and conquer” people on public assistance, and called criticisms of the cuts as “whining coming from losers.”)

The new economy has been especially harsh for the bottom two-thirds of Americans. It’s not hard to imagine a new political coalition of America’s poor and working middle class, bent not only on repairing the nation’s frayed safety nets but also on getting a fair share of the economies’ gains.

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They are hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act in Americans’ minds.

A document circulating among House Republicans (reported by the New York Times) instructs them to repeat the following themes and stories continuously: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.”

Every Republican in Washington has been programmed to use the word “disaster” whenever mentioning the Act, always refer to it as Obamacare, and demand its repeal.

Republican wordsmiths know they can count on Fox News and right-wing yell radio to amplify and intensify all of this in continuous loops of elaboration and outrage, repeated so often as to infect peoples’ minds like purulent pustules.

The idea is to make the Act so detestable it becomes the fearsome centerpiece of the midterm elections of 2014 — putting enough Democrats on the defensive they join in seeking its repeal or at least in amending it in ways that gut it (such as allowing insurers to sell whatever policies they want as long as they want, or delaying it further).

Admittedly, the President provided Republicans ammunition by botching the Act’s roll-out. Why wasn’t HealthCare.gov up and running smoothly October 1? Partly because the Administration didn’t anticipate that almost every Republican governor would refuse to set up a state exchange, thereby loading even more responsibility on an already over-worked and underfunded Department of Health and Human Services.

Why didn’t Obama’s advisors anticipate that some policies would be cancelled (after all, the Act sets higher standards than many policies offered) and therefore his “you can keep their old insurance” promise would become a target? Likely because they knew all policies were “grandfathered” for a year, didn’t anticipate how many insurers would cancel right away, and understood that only 5 percent of policyholders received insurance independent of an employer anyway.

But there’s really no good excuse. The White House should have anticipated the Republican attack machine.

The real problem is now. The President and other Democrats aren’t meeting the Republican barrage with three larger truths that show the pettiness of the attack:

The wreck of private insurance. Ours has been the only healthcare system in the world designed to avoid sick people. For-profit insurers have spent billions finding and marketing their policies to healthy people – young adults, people at low risk of expensive diseases, groups of professionals – while rejecting people with preexisting conditions, otherwise debilitated, or at high risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And have routinely dropped coverage of policy holders who become seriously sick or disabled. What else would you expect from corporations seeking to maximize profits?

But the social consequences have been devastating. We have ended up with the most expensive healthcare system in the world (finding and marketing to healthy people is expensive, corporate executives are expensive, profits adequate to satisfy shareholders are expensive), combined with the worst health outcomes of all rich countries — highest rates of infant mortality, shortest life spans, largest portions of populations never seeing a doctor and receiving no preventive care, most expensive uses of emergency rooms.

We could not and cannot continue with this travesty of a healthcare system.

The Affordable Care Act is a modest solution.  It still relies on private insurers — merely setting minimum standards and “exchanges” where customers can compare policies, requiring insurers to take people with preexisting conditions and not abandon those who get seriously sick, and helping low-income people afford coverage.

A single-payer system would have been preferable. Most other rich countries do it this way. It could have been grafted on to Social Security and Medicare, paid for through payroll taxes, expanded to lower-income families through Medicaid. It would have been simple and efficient. (It’s no coincidence that the Act’s Medicaid expansion has been easy and rapid in states that chose to accept it.)

But Republicans were dead set against this. They wouldn’t even abide a “public option” to buy into something resembling Medicare. In the end, they wouldn’t even go along with the Affordable Care Act, which was based on Republican ideas in the first place. (From Richard Nixon’s healthcare plan through the musings of the Heritage Foundation, Republicans for years urged that everything be kept in the hands of private insurers but the government set minimum standards, create state-based insurance exchanges, and require everyone to sign up).

The moral imperative.  Even a clunky compromise like the ACA between a national system of health insurance and a for-profit insurance market depends, fundamentally, on a social compact in which those who are healthier and richer are willing to help those who are sicker and poorer. Such a social compact defines a society.

The other day I heard a young man say he’d rather pay a penalty than buy health insurance under the Act because, in his words, “why should I pay for the sick and the old?” The answer is he has a responsibility to do so, as a member the same society they inhabit.

The Act also depends on richer people paying higher taxes to finance health insurance for lower-income people. Starting this year, a healthcare surtax of 3.8 percent is applied to capital gains and dividend income of individuals earning more than $200,000 and a nine-tenths of 1 percent healthcare tax to wages over $200,000 or couples over $250,000. Together, the two taxes will raise an estimated $317.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation

Here again, the justification is plain: We are becoming a vastly unequal society in which most of the economic gains are going to the top. It’s only just that those with higher incomes bear some responsibility for maintaining the health of Americans who are less fortunate.

This is a profoundly moral argument about who we are and what we owe each other as Americans. But Democrats have failed to make it, perhaps because they’re reluctant to admit that the Act involves any redistribution at all.

Redistribution has become so unfashionable it’s easier to say everyone comes out ahead. And everyone does come out ahead in the long term:  Even the best-off will gain from a healthier and more productive workforce, and will save money from preventive care that reduces the number of destitute people using emergency rooms when they become seriously ill.

But there would be no reason to reform and extend health insurance to begin with if we did not have moral obligations to one another as members of the same society.

The initial problems with the website and the President’s ill-advised remark about everyone being able to keep their old policies are real. But they’re trifling compared to the wreckage of the current system, the modest but important step toward reform embodied in the Act, and the moral imperative at the core of the Act and of our society.  

The Republicans have created a tempest out of trivialities. It is incumbent on Democrats — from the President on down — to show Americans the larger picture, and do so again and again.

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The Democrat’s Version of Health Insurance Would Have Been Cheaper, Simpler, and More Popular...

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will seek to delay a requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that all Americans obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. ”With so many unanswered questions and the problems arising around this rollout, it doesn’t make any sense to impose this one percent mandate tax on the American people.”

While Republicans plot new ways to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to forget that for years they’ve been arguing that any comprehensive health insurance system be designed exactly like the one that officially began October 1st, glitches and all.

For as many years Democrats tried to graft healthcare onto Social Security and Medicare, and pay for it through the payroll tax. But Republicans countered that any system must be based on private insurance and paid for with a combination of subsidies for low-income purchasers and a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up.

Not surprisingly, private health insurers cheered on the Republicans while doing whatever they could to block Democrats from creating a public insurance system.

In February 1974, Republican President Richard Nixon proposed, in essence, today’s Affordable Care Act. Under Nixon’s plan all but the smallest employers would provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, an expanded Medicaid-type program would insure the poor, and subsidies would be provided to low-income individuals and small employers. Sound familiar?

Private insurers were delighted with the Nixon plan but Democrats preferred a system based on Social Security and Medicare, and the two sides failed to agree.

Thirty years later a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, made Nixon’s plan the law in Massachusetts. Private insurers couldn’t have been happier although many Democrats in the state had hoped for a public system.

When today’s Republicans rage against the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, it’s useful to recall this was their idea as well.

In 1989, Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with a plan that would “mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance.”

Insurance companies loved Butler’s plan so much it found its way into several bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in 1993. Among the supporters were senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa (who now oppose the mandate under the Affordable Care Act). Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker of the House in 1995, was also a big proponent.

Romney’s heathcare plan in Massachusetts included the same mandate to purchase private insurance. “We got the idea of an individual mandate from [Newt Gingrich], and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation,” said Romney, who thought the mandate “essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need.” 

Now that the essential Republican plan for healthcare is being implemented nationally, health insurance companies are jubilant.

Last week, after the giant insurer Wellpoint raised its earnings estimates, CEO Joseph Swedish pointed to “the long-term membership growth opportunity through exchanges.” Other major health plans are equally bullish. “The emergence of public exchanges, private exchanges, Medicaid expansions … have the potential to create new opportunities for us to grow and serve in new ways,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen J. Hemsley effused.

So why are today’s Republicans so upset with an Act they designed and their patrons adore? Because it’s the signature achievement of the Obama administration.

There’s a deep irony to all this. Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the public. And Republicans would be hollering anyway.

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Guest Post: What A Republican Civil War Means For Gold

Submitted by John Rubino via The Dollar Collapse blog,

In one sense, the past couple of weeks’ debt ceiling debate was just one more in a long line of annoying-but-otherwise-pointless pieces of bad political theater. But in another sense it was a turning point, one that may have put the democrats completely in charge. Consider:

In a system with two viable parties, each side has to pretend to be more reasonable than it really is in order to attract just enough moderate votes to win the next election. So democrats pay lip service to fiscal responsibility and deficits – occasionally even signing bills like welfare reform that they find repugnant – when they’d much rather spend their days indiscriminately tossing other people’s money at new entitlement programs. Republicans, meanwhile, pretend to empathize with people they privately view as prey when they’d rather be cutting taxes and invading places that have oil.

We only rarely get to see the major parties’ true selves because the 20% of voters in the middle are turned off by displays of naked avarice, and in a two-party system elections go to whoever carries a majority of that block.

That’s why the latest debt ceiling debacle is such a big deal. Government shutdowns and related turmoil have become a standard bargaining chip lately, without affecting the make-up of either party. But this time the main conflict was not between republicans and democrats, but between mainstream, log-rolling, back-scratching, career-politician republicans and a handful of representatives and senators elected with Tea Party – i.e., highly ideological – support. The latter have no interest in raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances and see a government shutdown as a positive end in itself. Defunding Obamacare was just the excuse.

They got rolled, of course, as regular republicans chose to raise the debt ceiling without condition (as everyone always knew they would). But the cost of reopening the government is a republican civil war with only two likely outcomes: 1) The two groups stay in the big tent but challenge each other in primaries and intrigue over committee seats, etc., making a united, coherent policy front impossible and handing the next few elections to the democrats. 2) The Tea Party/libertarian republicans leave and either join the existing libertarian party or start one of their own, siphoning just enough votes from republicans in future elections to keep the democrats in charge.

Already, it has started. See this from today’s Bloomberg:

Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party

A battle for control of the Republican Party erupted today as an emboldened Tea Party is moving to oust senators who voted to reopen the government, and business groups began mobilizing to defeat allies of the small-government movement.

“We are going to get engaged,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness.” The chamber spent $35.7 million on federal elections in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks campaign spending.

Meanwhile, two Washington-based groups that finance Tea Party-backed candidates said today they’re supporting efforts to defeat Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, who voted this week for the measure ending the 16-day shutdown and avoiding a government debt default. Cochran, a Republican seeking a seventh term next year, faces a challenge in his party’s primary by Chris McDaniel, a state legislator.

McDaniel, who announced his candidacy today, “is not part of the Washington establishment and he has the courage to stand up to the big spenders in both parties,” Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a statement supporting him. Read more

Once the civil war costs the republicans control of the House of Representatives (November 4, 2014), the democrats will be relieved of the need to fool the middle about their commitment to fiscal sanity. The incoming Clinton administration and its congressional majorities will ramp up domestic spending and finance it with higher taxes, more borrowing and way more money printing. Janet Yellen (the perfect Fed chair for this transition) will expand QE and make it permanent. The Fed’s balance sheet will grow in trillion-dollar chunks as it buys up all the bonds issued by the government and the mortgage packagers and pretty much anybody else with paper to sell.

The resulting tidal wave of hot money will swamp emerging markets and drive Europe and Japan crazy, but the democrats won’t care because they’ll be favored by 20 points in the polls and in any event will be too busy hiring more staff to handle the upcoming legislative season to listen to non-believers. Oh, and they’ll counter any dissent with capital controls and stepped-up surveillance.

Could there be a better environment for gold? Not at first glance. But then almost the same could have been said two years ago when the Fed started buying $85 billion of bonds each month and bubbles began to form in stocks and houses. Some of that cash certainly should have found its way into precious metals. Instead the result was an epic correction. So logic isn’t necessarily our best guide here.

Still, the republican implosion/democrat ascendance comes after a two-year precious metals correction (during which China, India, and Russia bought something like 4,000 tons of gold, an amount greater than Germany’s entire gold reserves). So coming when it does, the combination of democrat dominance, an even more accommodating Fed and a growing shortage of Western gold to be shipped East…well, at the risk of being wrong again, this really does look like precious metals paradise.

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Republicans Have Done Real Damage to the Economy

Republicans believe that a bad economy works for them at election time. The thinking is that the public will turn on Democrats for not making things better. So they do what they can to make the economy bad. But maybe they went too far this time. This hostage-taking episode has done real, serious, lasting damage to the economy on top of the ongoing damage Republicans have been doing. Will the public still blame Democrats, or will they finally see what is going on here?

The Damage Last Time

Look what happened the last time (2011) Republicans threatened to force the country to default on its debts.

The 2011 hostage-taking hit jobs. In Debt-Ceiling Deja Vu Could Sink Economy Bloomberg reported that, "Growth in nonfarm payrolls decelerated to an average 88,000 a month during the three months of the debt-ceiling impasse, compared with an average of 176,000 in the first five months of 2011." Consumer confidence plunged to a 31-year low. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell from 59.2 to 44.5.

In November, 2012, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a "Debt Limit Analysis" estimating the costs of the 2011 hostage-taking:

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing additional costs to taxpayers as a result of the 2011 debt limit increase

  • A substantial cost to taxpayers stemmed from elevated interest rates on U.S. securities issued in 2011 prior to when the debt limit was increased in August
  • GAO conducted an economic analysis to estimate the resulting change in interest rates
  • For Fiscal Year 2011, GAO estimated additional interest costs to taxpayers of $1.3 billion

The cost of the event to the federal government, however, continues to accrue because many of the bonds issued during that period remain outstanding

  • BPC extended GAO's methodology to analyze the long-term cost to taxpayers stemming from the elevated interest rates
  • Estimate of the ten-year cost to taxpayers of the 2011 debt limit standoff = $18.9 billion
  • To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the "Doc Fix" to prevent the scheduled 27% cut to Medicare physician payments for 2012 cost $18 billion over ten years

That is serious damage. And, of course, the 2011 fight resulted in a downgrading of the US credit rating.

(See also: Think Progress, CHARTS: How The Debt Ceiling Debacle Hurt The Economy)

The Damage This Time

In this hostage fight the immediate damage is much worse than 2011. Consumer confidence, for example, has plunged even more dramatically than during the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking. But these measurements were taken only a week into the fight.

Standard & Poor's ratings agency has done some early calculations of the damage and says, "the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6% off of annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24 billion out of the economy." Note the words "at least." This is an early estimate and does not count direct costs to government and costs to government contractors.

The NY Times today summarizes some of the damage from this hostage-taking, in Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running,

Containers of goods idling at ports. Reduced sales at sandwich shops in downtown Washington. Canceled vacations to national parks and to destinations abroad. Reduced corporate earnings forecasts. Higher interest payments on short-term debt.

Even with the shutdown of the United States government and the threat of a default coming to an end, the cost of Congress's gridlock has already run well into the billions, economists estimate. And the total will continue to grow even after the shutdown ends, partly because of uncertainty about whether lawmakers might reach another deadlock early next year.

One example of the damage from this fight – just one,

Residential real estate, which has been one of the brightest points of the recovery, suffered. An index of sentiment among home builders fell in October from a month earlier, according to data released on Wednesday from the National Association of Home Builders. The decline was greater than analysts had expected. One cause for the decline is that the approval process for government-backed mortgages has slowed with the shutdown.

The Damage From Cutting Instead Of Investing

Republicans have forced the country into an austerity mode, instead of an invest and job-creation mode. Everything is being cut, so that the billionaires and their giant corporations can have lower taxes. Aside from the sequester cuts there have been trillions in other cuts.

Paul Krugman writes about this ongoing damage today in a blog post, What A Drag, estimating that just two of the cuts we have experienced (not counting other cuts and the sequester) have cut "about $200 billion of fiscal contraction at an annual rate, or 1.25 percent of GDP, probably with a significant multiplier effect."

That's just those two pieces of Republican damage to our economy. Looking at the overall effect of austerity on our economy,

"Add this to the effects of sharp cuts in discretionary spending and the effects of economic uncertainty, however measured, and I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that extortion tactics may have shaved as much as 4 percent off GDP and added 2 points to the unemployment rate."

Damage: 4% off GDP and 2% added to unemployment.

The Sequester Damage

Then there is the ongoing economic damage done by the sequester cuts. Republicans hail the sequester's cuts as a great victory, an accomplishment in their ongoing fight to destroy government, but in reality the cuts are costing jobs and hitting the economy.

The 2013 job-loss from the sequester cuts is estimated at only 800,000 jobs, but the 2014 job loss is estimated to be 1.6 million.

These job-loss and slow-growth numbers do not include the ripple effect into the larger economy, nor the longer-term cost to our economy from the cuts to scientific research, education, child nutrition and other cuts.

And these cuts don't even save the government money! One example of the costs of the sequester cuts comes from the effect of cuts in the Meals On Wheels program. Because of the cuts, many elderly end up in hospitals with malnutrition-related problems, and/or are forced into nursing homes because they can no longer live at home. Aside from the cruelty and resulting human suffering (not considered a "cost") this costs money from government services including Medicare and Medicaid.

The Ongoing Damage From Obstruction

Republicans have been obstructing ... everything. The ongoing economic damage has been just incredible but because it gradually worsens things the public is not as aware as they should be. There are two obstructions taking place. In the Senate Republicans have been filibustering every bill, every nominee ... everything. In the House the "Hastert Rule" prevents the majority of the Congress from being able to vote. By preventing bills from coming up for a vote if they might be passed by a majority that includes Democrats and some "RINO" Republicans, anything that could help the country and economy is blocked.

So along with the series of manufactured crises there is a constant, ongoing drag because people have come to believe government will generally continue to hamper rather than boost economic progress. They see no jobs programs coning down the pike, see the infrastructure crumbling, and see the corporate/billionaire-favoring trade deals killing jobs.

Krugman again, from his blog post, What A Drag,

The now widely-cited Macroeconomic Advisers report estimated the cost of crisis-driven fiscal policy at 1 percentage point off the growth rate for three years, or roughly 3 percent now. More than half of this estimated cost comes from the "fiscal drag" of falling discretionary spending, with the rest coming from a (shaky) estimate of the impacts of fiscal uncertainty on borrowing costs.

The Damage Next Time

So what will the damage be next time, and how can we fight it? Yesterday's "deal" only puts off the fight for a few months. With more of this on the horizon companies will be hesitant to hire or invest. Consumers will remain wary and distrustful.

Republicans still have one power: the power to destroy. And they will use that power until we take it away from them.

Rachel Maddow On Federal Shutdown: Republicans Got NOTHING

October 18, 2013  |  

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With the federal government standstill finally coming to an end, Rachel Maddow explained on Thursday night’s show just what exactly the Republicans got out of it: Zero!

Maddow went through the long list of Republican demands, from changing federal employee pensions to denying birth control pension, in exchange for re-opening the government, only to conclude that from that entire list, the GOP came up completely empty.

"Through this process, Republicans said they would shut down the government, or, once it was shut down, they would refuse to open the government unless they got each one of these things. Of all of these things that they demanded, they got none of them! None...these have been sixteen bad days for the country and the economy,” she said. 

She added, “It may be true that nobody won, but someone definitely lost here.” 

Watch the video:

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.

Closure of coal mine near Ostrava in Czech Republic threatens 3,000 jobs

 

By Markus Salzmann
18 October 2013

The closure of the Paskov coal mine in Frydek-Místek near Ostrava in northern Moravia has put thousands of jobs in danger. Politicians and trade union officials fear a “social explosion” in the region, which lacks infrastructure and is marked by high unemployment.

The closure is part of a massive budget-cutting programme by the pit owners OKD. OKD declared in September it intended to close the unprofitable mine by the end of 2014 if the Czech government did not show its readiness to support coal mining at Paskov with public money.

Referring to this, OKD chief Ján Fabián mentioned a figure of between 4 and 6 billion Crowns (€160 to €240 million) to continue operations until 2018. After this was rejected by the government, Fabián confirmed the planned shutdown on Czech television, saying, “We cannot keep something going which is making losses.” Petr Bartek from the Erste Group bank AG in Prague calculated Paskov’s annual losses at 1.5 billion Crowns.

NWR, the majority owner of OKD, is one of Europe’s leading mining firms and one of the largest companies in the Czech Republic. A large portion of NWR belongs to the Czech billionaire Zdenek Bakala. NWR has made losses over the past two years due to the decrease in coal prices.

OKD management have been cooperating closely for months with the trade unions to impose an austerity programme at the expense of the workers. The trade unions have stated their readiness to take responsibility for large wage cuts. They have offered in negotiations to cut wages by 7 percent.

When it emerged that management wanted to cut wages by 20 percent, the trade unions were confronted with the anger of the workers, and declared that the workforce would strike if their wages were cut by more than 10 percent. In September, 2,000 protested in Ostrava against the possible shutdown.

OKD is now trying to force through the cuts by eliminating additional benefits. Company spokesman Marek Síbrt stated, “We want to discuss the wide range of additional benefits. That includes wages for the 13th and 14th month.”

The average wage for miners is around €1,300. That is approximately 50 percent higher than the average wage in the Ostrava region. However, the working conditions are so bad that most workers develop severe health problems by the time they retire.

OKD is the only remaining producer of black coal in the Czech Republic. At four locations in the Ostrava region, it extracts 11 million tons of black coal and employs 13,000 people.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the introduction of capitalist relations, drastic job cuts took place in the mining industry of Czechoslovakia. State-produced black coal declined from 26.4 million tons in 1985 to 14.9 million tons in 2000. Those employed in mining fell from 113,000 in 1990 to 47,000 in 2005.

At the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded an intensification of the attacks on social benefits in the Czech Republic. In this context, the ability of miners to claim support when pits are shut down was done away with when the country joined the EU.

The privatisation of the Czech coal mining industry had to be in place before it joined the EU in 2004. The privatised OKD took over all coal production. In 2006, the firm still made a profit of €127 million, and made concessions to the miners to maintain labour peace. A 5 percent wage increase was agreed for 2007. Close to 80 percent of Czech miners are organised in trade unions. The OKD explicitly praised the effective collaboration with the unions at this time.

But the time for concessions changed rapidly. One year later, plans for spending cuts were being worked out in the company headquarters and the offices of the trade unions. In addition to the 3,000 workers who are employed full-time, there are 500 temporary workers and contractors from other firms who would be affected by the shutdown. There is also the supply industry. According to Ján Sábel, chairman of the miners’ trade union, up to 10,000 jobs in the region will be affected by the closure of the mine.

Ostrava, situated in the east of the Czech Republic, is marked by high unemployment and poverty. Of the 77 districts in the country, it has the fourth highest rate of joblessness. Already more than one in ten residents in the city of 300,000 are without a job. Now, the whole region is threatened with collapse. As Sábel warned, “They want to take the clothes off our backs. A social time-bomb is ticking across the whole region, which could explode soon.”

Despite this, the Czech political elite have made clear that the miners can expect no assistance. Apart from empty appeals to company management to keep Paskov open until 2016, they have rejected all other requests for assistance.

President Milos Zeman and his predecessor, Jirí Rusnok, strongly opposed state subsidies and agreed to severe cuts for the workers. “The government cannot be expected to save indebted industrial companies,” Rusnok said. “It is a private firm, and the state cannot solve its problems with a magic wand. Let’s not have any illusions, this issue will be very painful.”

Faced with parliamentary elections at the end of October, which the social democratic CSSD is expected to win, they have also declared that help for Paskov could not threaten the austerity programme that the new government would strive to pursue. “To demand a further 4-6 billion Crowns from the state to delay the closure of Paskov is outrageous,” said Lubomir Zaoralek, vice chairman of the CCSD.

On the News With Thom Hartmann: Five Million Low-Income People Will Go Without Basic...

In today's On the News segment: Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors; in the debt...

On the News With Thom Hartmann: Five Million Low-Income People Will Go Without Basic...

In today’s On the News segment: Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors; in the debt ceiling standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded; California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot; and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. Only hours before the debt limit deadline, Congress finally passed a temporary measure to avoid default. The plan was approved 81 to 18 in the Senate, and 285 to 144 in the House. The Continuing Appropriations Act funds the government through January, suspends the debt limit until February, and directs both parties to agree on a long-term budget by December 13th. After two weeks of Tea Party hostage-taking, Republicans only got a continuation of the sequester and an Obamacare income-verification rule in exchange. But, they caused serious harm to our nation in their effort to extract more demands. Because of the standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded. After both chambers approved the legislation, President Obama made a short statement. He praised Congress for passing the measure, but said, "We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis." However, the temporary measure that Congress passed could simply have scheduled the next one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the deal "is far less than many [Republicans] hoped for, quite frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals." Presumably, those goals include trying to dismantle Obamacare, and slash the budgets of other social net programs. In addition to the economic consequences, the debt-limit standoff produced record-low approval ratings for Republicans, so it's unclear why they would want to have the same fight over again. The American people want to see Congress move on to working on ways to improve our nation, and stop this governing-by-hostage-taking.

In screwed news... Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors. These are some of the poorest people who live in red states, where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid. And, these Americans can't get subsidies under Obamacare, because their income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. Twenty-two states have refused to expand the low-income health program, despite the fact that it would be completely funded by the federal government until 2016 – and 90% federally funded thereafter. In those states, many people are stuck in a "gap" between extremely harsh state guidelines for Medicaid, and the minimum income required to get subsidies to buy health insurance. These Republican governors would rather see people suffering in the cracks, than do anything that could be seen as supporting the president. Some red states have come around to accepting the Medicaid expansion, and there's at least five million people around our nation who hope that their governors will accept it as well.

In the best of the rest of the news...

California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Supporters of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 are circulating a petition to get the measure before voters in 2014. And, the bill is an open-source creation that was drafted by a group of activists and supporters. Last year, the initiative's sponsor, Dave Hodges, came up with idea to collaborate on a proposal with others. So he created a website, email list, and Google document, which activists and supporters used to exchange ideas. Although the process did provide some edits and suggestions that weren't very useful, it eventually led to the creation of a final propsal. Medical marijuana is already legal in that state, but the new initiative would give "Californians the freedom to use, grow, transport, and sell cannabis, subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol." The proposed bill would also prevent cities from banning medical marijuana dispensaries, which has prevented owners from opening stores in some areas. Hopefully, Mr. Hodges will get enough signatures to put the measure before the voters of California, and they approve this common-sense legislation.

It turns out that ensuring access to birth control doesn't only benefit women. A new paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey explains that family planning services actually help society as a whole. Ms. Bailey examined contraceptive policies as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, and found that expanding access to birth control has long-term positive effects, like higher family incomes and better college graduation rates. In fact, women being able to chose when to give birth actually benefited their kids much later in life. Ms. Bailey found that "individuals' access to contraceptives increased their children's college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later." By deciding when to have kids and how many kids to have, women were more likely to have more time and money to devote to each of their children. Thus, their kids had a better chance of succeeding all the way through life. Those benefits translate into better workers, higher average incomes, higher education levels, and more tax revenues for society as a whole. It isn't only women who benefit from being able to plan their families as they choose, it turns out that we are all better off when women have access to contraceptives.

And finally... Ted Nugent is making threats again, but not in his usual Second Amendment fashion. This time, the Nuge is threatening to run for office. In an interview with Florida-based CBS host Chad Tyson, Ted Nugent said, "The threat of me running for public office is alive and well because obviously our government has been overtaken by gangsters and America-haters." He then went on to add a few nonsense talking points about President Obama being a racist, the need to run the federal budget like a family budget, and the "engineered obsolescence" of federal employees. Just in case that wasn't enough to make you want to contribute to his campaign, Ted added "I have a message for Harry Reid and the president, 'Eat Me!'" Glad to see Ted Nugent's keeping it classy – I'm sure his campaign ads will elevate the political debate.

And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Republican Sell-out: White House Wins on Budget, Debt

The Republican congressional leadership capitulated completely to White House demands for full funding of the federal budget at fiscal 2013 levels and a suspension of the debt limit through February 7. 

In the October 16 votes, the House of Representatives voted 285-144, with 144 Republicans voting nay, and the Senate voted 81-18, with 18 Republicans voting nay. President Obama signed the bill into law shortly after midnight after the evening votes.

“We fought the good fight,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a press conference after the House Republican leadership capitulated. “We just didn’t win.” Boehner and his leadership team, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Ohio), shown in blue tie, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted in favor of the bill that failed to make any cuts to federal spending and gave a blank check to the White House to rack up new debt. 

The New York Times accurately summarized the bill in “The Republican Surrender,” a house editorial: "The health care reform law will not be defunded or delayed. No taxes will be cut, and the deal calls for no new cuts to federal spending or limits to social welfare programs.”

The bill funds federal government appropriations at fiscal 2013 levels through January 15, confirms that many federal employees have just finished a two-week paid vacation and suspends the national debt limit until February 7 in a provision of the bill called the Default Prevention Act of 2013. It would also require — in a sop thrown to Republicans — that President Obama verify that those qualifying for subsidies under ObamaCare are indeed qualified to receive those subsidies. The White House panned the provision as symbolic only, and stressed that it would in no way interfere with the funding or implementation of ObamaCare. 

The bill also includes a variety of pork barrel projects, including a $174,000 gratuity to the widow of the recently deceased Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (who was one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with an estimated personal wealth of more than $50 million) and more than $2.1 billion in new money for work on a dam on the Ohio River, which borders Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky. (McConnell voted for the capitulation and is running for reelection next year.)

Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), elected with Tea Party support in 2012, was among the majority of House Republicans opposing the bill, noting that the law “will increase our nation's debt limit by hundreds of billions of dollars while simultaneously refusing to make a single cut or reform to address our nation's spending problem.” He noted in a Facebook post, "The only sustainable way to avoid a debt crisis is to balance the federal budget." Massie was among the House Republicans who voted against the bill.

Only in America are the ones who want to balance the budget and make raising the national debt limit unnecessary labeled terrorists, and those who want to raise the national credit card limit to infinity deemed “reasonable.”

The debate over the budget and debt limit was symptomatic of the sickness that is infecting both American politicians and mainstream media:

• On the budget, the debate was largely about what was not in the spending bills (specifically, funding for ObamaCare), rather than what was in them.

• In the budget debate, the dysfunction in the system has now become the only function. It was once a sign of the failure of the appropriations process that an omnibus “continuing resolution” was needed to fund several of the regular 12 annual appropriations bills. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted that the budget be funded in a single bill, rather than through 12 different appropriations bills, as the rules of both houses of Congress require.

• Most of the budget is on autopilot; Congress does not vote to spend most of the budget any more. As a result, the vast majority of entitlements such as most of ObamaCare are automatically funded annually without a vote from Congress.

• The media and most politicians trumpeted only one option as a metaphysical necessity throughout the debate: They must raise the debt ceiling. Only a few Tea Party-supported congressmen ever discussed the alternative — balancing the budget — which would have made raising the debt ceiling unnecessary.

• The deadline over the debt limit extension seemed phony. Consider that the government shutdown, which stopped funding of 16-18 percent of the federal government during the first two weeks of October, matches almost exactly the projected deficit level for the same fiscal year. Why, if government spending was cut at the same level of the deficit, would the U.S. continue to accumulate debt? Why didn't the spending reductions, even if temporary, move the deadline needle at all?

Photo of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: AP Images

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Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all. 

Since Barack Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he’s caved, using the entire government of the United States as their bargaining chit.  

In 2010 he agreed to extend all of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Were they satisfied? Of course not. 

In the summer of 2011, goaded by an influx of Tea Partiers, they demanded huge spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. In response, the President offered an overly-generous $4 trillion “Grand Bargain,” including cuts in Social Security and Medicare and whopping cuts in domestic spending (bringing it to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product in over half a century). 

Were Republicans content? No. When they demanded more, Obama agreed to a Super Committee to find bigger cuts, and if the Super Committee failed, a “sequester” that would automatically and indiscriminately slice everything in the federal budget except Social Security and Medicare. 

Not even Obama’s re-election put a damper on their increasing demands. By the end of 2012, they insisted that the Bush tax cuts be permanently extended or the nation would go over the “fiscal cliff.” Once again, Obama caved, agreeing to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000.

Early this year, after the sequester went into effect, Republicans demanded even bigger spending cuts. Obama offered more cuts in Medicare and a “chained CPI” to reduce Social Security payments, in exchange for Republican concessions on taxes.

Refusing the offer, and seemingly delirious with their power to hold the nation hostage, they demanded that the Affordable Care Act be repealed as a condition for funding the government and again raising the debt ceiling. 

This time, though, Obama didn’t cave — at least, not yet. 

The government is shuttered and the nation is on the verge of defaulting on its debts. But public opinion has turned sharply against the Republican Party. And the GOP’s corporate and Wall Street backers are threatening to de-fund it. 

Suddenly the Republicans are acting like the school-yard bully who terrorized the playground but finally got punched in the face. They’re in shock. They’re humiliated. They’re trying to come up with ways of saving face.

With bloodied nose, House Republicans are running home. They’ve abruptly turned negotiations over to their Senate colleagues.

And just as suddenly, their demand to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act has vanished. (An email from the group Tea Party Express says: “Are you like us wondering where the fight against Obamacare went?”) At a lunch meeting in the Capitol, Senator John McCain asked a roomful of Republican senators if they still believed it was possible to reverse parts of the program. According to someone briefed on the meeting, no one raised a hand — not even Ted Cruz.

It appears that negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again, and presumably Senate Republicans will insist that Obama and the Democrats give way on taxes and spending in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for at least another year. 

But keeping the government running and paying the nation’s bills should never have been bargaining chits in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn’t begin to negotiate over future budgets until they’re taken off the table.

The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them.

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Republicans Fulfill Their Cruel Ayn Rand Obsession With the Sequester

The cruel reality is that those who can least afford it will bear the brunt of the impending social experiment.

March 4, 2013  |  

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The following article first appeared in ColorLines.

The chaos set to be unleashed over the next month through the implementation of sequestration budget cuts is not an accident. For a large part of the Republican Party and the secretive billionaires that fund them, the disruptive shockwave that will be caused by investing less in historically marginalized communities is the point.

Since the 1970s—through ideas which can only be thought of as flawed and eccentric—an ideological band has championed an end to the education, health, transportation and housing programs that have made America more economically fair.

Now at the heart of the GOP, this group argues that these very economic justice initiatives have instead created a “culture of dependency” which they want to dissolve by using sequestration.

In point of fact, sequestration is just an extension of a broader strategy which they call “starve the beast.” The aim of “starve the beast”—a rather unfortunate metaphor given racial stereotypes from the worst of America’s past—is to deny the federal government capital in order to bring about its collapse. So to fully evaluate where we are and what comes next, it’s sadly necessary to spend time considering this off-beat philosophy—and the bizarre way it’s come to rule our lives.

Making and Taking

Adherents to “starve the beast”—which include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan—believe that America is divided between “makers” and “takers.”

In their world view, the “makers” are the drivers of the nation’s economic growth. But they’re being held back by the “takers”—increasingly black and brown—who’ve misused the democratic process to hijack the government and funnel money away from the “makers” through taxes. Cantor himself echoed this very point during the fight over the debt ceiling in 2011.

This may sound strange to the rest of us, but to them it’s the truth.

“Starve the beast” followers argue that the economic interests of the country and of the “makers” are one in the same. They want the government to fall back and they want the “takers” put in their place. Only then will America truly prosper, or so the thinking goes.

In order to reach this anti-democratic future, their plans call for the federal government to return to its basic core functions, similar to those at the time of nation’s birth in 1776. Sticking to the areas of defense and foreign affairs, 80 percent of the federal government would disappear.

How could this come about? Through huge tax cuts and massive debt.

“Starve the beast” adherents contend that tax cuts would deprive the government of revenue, and gradually shift resources to the “makers.” With less income over time, the government would rack up enormous debts. The combination of tax cuts and a pile of IOUs would eventually force the government to eliminate most of its activities.

This may sound like a zany economic manifesto from a fake political novel, but it’s in fact from a real one. Shockingly, that novel, Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” plays a pivotal role in the argument over sequestration, and we’re playing out her quirky theories in real time.

Weird and Powerful

Ayn Rand, whose white supremacist views were woven throughout her writing, attracted a band of towering intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s who felt increasingly out of touch with an America that was diversifying in every single way.

One of Rand’s most devoted and successful proteges was Alan Greenspan. Greenspan—part of Rand’s intellectual circle called the “Collective”—would go on to be chair of the Federal Reserve under four presidents.

Kathleen Parker: Republicans Can’t Give on Taxes Because It Would Damage Their Brand

Republicans have done a whole lot of things to damage their "brand" and still haven't figured out what to do to quit being the "stupid party" after their losses in the last election, but note to Kathleen Parker -- refusing to raise taxes in order to lower the budget deficit is not one of them. The majority of their own constituents don't agree with them on this issue, but that didn't stop Parker from pretending it would damage them on this Sunday's Meet the Press:

GREGORY: What's striking to me is that these issues are still so hard and that the elections didn't seem to solve them completely enough. […] Is that true? I mean, why didn't it?

PARKER: Why didn't it? Because, look, the Republicans cannot give on taxes. They simply can't. It would damage their brand permanently and the President is unwilling... he is insisting on raising revenue through taxes. There's no way for them to have a meeting of the minds when those differences exist and that's not going to change.

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On the News With Thom Hartmann: 131 Republicans and 60 Corporations Submitted Friend-of-the-Court Briefs...

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TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. After two failed attempts on Thursday to prevent the sequester, Congress gave up on their efforts to stop the austerity measures, and headed out of town for the weekend. One day before the deadline, two rival bills to prevent the $85 billion in spending cuts failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote. The Republicans only got 38 votes on their bill, which would have forced President Obama to manage the spending cuts. The Democratic bill, which would have replaced the sequester with $55 billion in spending cuts and $55 billion in new revenues, received 51 votes. Unfortunately, the Progressive Causus's Balancing Act approach wasn't even considered, despite a recent Business Insider poll that showed bipartisan voter support for the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there won't be an agreement without additional tax revenues, and he believes the Republicans want the Sequester to happen. He said, "we cannot solve the problems of this country with cuts, cuts, cuts. We've cut $2.6 trillion. We need to do more, but we're going to do it in a balanced approach." But Republicans refuse to accept any plan that includes new revenues. So for now, our country must brace for drastic cuts, which will wreak havoc on our economy. Democrats will attempt to undo the sequester during the budget debate coming at the end of this month, but by then many of the Republican austerity measures will have already begun. If Republicans don't back down on tax increases, there's little chance a replacement plan will be accepted. Now it's up to us to let Congress know that we won't stand by while Republicans use our economy to play political blame games against the President. Call Congress today and tell them to stop these insane austerity measures now!

In screwed news... Arkansas's Democratic Governor Mike Beebe tried to block a sweeping abortion ban in his state, but the Republican-led State Senate managed to override his veto. On Thursday, Arkansas lawmakers passed legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and then immediately backed a separate measure which would prevent abortion after just 12 weeks. Governor Beebe vetoed the so-called "fetal pain bill", saying he believed the law violates Roe v. Wade. He hasn't said yet if he will try to veto the more extreme anti-abortion measure, but he told reporters that "it's on even shakier legal ground than the 20-week ban." Arkansas joins seven other states with similar 20-week restrictions, and may soon have one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in our nation. The Arkansas ACLU's executive director, Rita Sklar, said, "We are going to do everything within our power to protect the health and reproductive decision-making abilities of women." Obviously Republicans didn't learn anything from the last election. They're not just moving forward with their war on women, they're pushing full-steam-ahead.

In the best of the rest of the news...

Just this week, 131 prominent Republicans and 60 major corporations submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of gay marriage to the Supreme Court. And, the Obama Administration made history yesterday with it's own amicus brief in favor of LGBT equality. President Obama is the first president in U.S. history to push the high court to expand marriage rights to people of all sexual orientations. Two major LGBT equal rights cases will come before the Supreme Court later this month – California's Prop 8 case and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If they're overturned, the Supreme Court rulings could pave the way for the recognition of same-sex marriages in every state in our nation. The new brief from the Administration says LGBT families "establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death." Marriage equality advocates, like Chad Griffin of The Human Rights Campaign, praised the President's legal position, saying, "President Obama and the solicitor general have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation's history." Let's hope the Supreme Court takes the next step towards equality, and overturns Prop 8 and DOMA.

After almost one year of delay, the House passed the Violence Against Women Act yesterday by a vote of 286 to 138. The bill, which received support from 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans in the House, was held up by GOP House members who opposed additional protections for Native American, LGBT, and undocumented victims of domestic abuse. All of yesterday's 138 "No" votes were Republicans. The bill will soon head to President Obama, who said, "Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk." The re-authorization of this historic law is a big victory against the Republican war on women, but the on-going attack on reproductive rights shows we have a long fight ahead!

And finally... Zookeepers in Scotland want to get their pandas in the mood for love. It's difficult to get pandas to reproduce in captivity, as females are only fertile for about two days each year, so employees at Edinburgh Zoo turned on romantic music to set the mood. Tian Tian, the zoo's female panda, will soon enter her fertile phase, so her caretakers have switched off her normal radio station, and switched on an easy listening station to help set the mood. The station they selected was so excited to be part of the process, they started to take song requests from the zoo staff. What song did zookeepers pick for their special lady? Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Zoo said it's impossible to know what panda's are thinking, but the music appears to sooth their male panda Yang Guang. Not sure what song zookeepers will pick next, but "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate is a top suggestion among panda-fans.

And that's the way it is today – Friday, March 1, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Big Corporations Put Up Seed Funding for Republican Dark Money Group


Just a sample of the State Government Leadership Foundation's work.

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

Some of the nation's biggest corporations donated more than a million dollars to launch a Republican nonprofit that went on to play a key role in recent political fights.

Like the nonprofit groups that poured money into last year's elections, the decade-old State Government Leadership Foundation has been able to keep the identities of its funders secret. Until now.

A records request by ProPublica to the IRS turned up a list of the original funders of the group: Exxon, Pfizer, Time Warner, and other corporations put up at least 85 percent of the $1.3 million the foundation raised in the first year and a half of its existence, starting in 2003.

The donor list is stamped "not for public disclosure," and was submitted to the IRS as part of the foundation's application for recognition of tax-exempt status. If approved, such applications are public records.

The foundation and other similar nonprofits are allowed to take anonymous and unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. That's because they are classified as "social welfare" nonprofits, which are supposed to benefit the community at large, and not just one group or political party.

Last year, we reported how the State Government Leadership Foundation paid for Republican redistricting consultants to draw new congressional district maps in North Carolina. The resulting gerrymander helped flip the state's congressional delegation to Republicans.

In recent years, the foundation has also funded TV ads targeting Democrats during the 2011 Wisconsin showdown over collective bargaining rights; attacking President Obama in Virginia over his energy policy; and accusing teachers unions of "destroying our children's future."

The foundation also gave $1.25 million in 2011 to the Indiana Opportunity Fund, a state-level nonprofit that ran anti-union ads featuring Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. (That group was founded by attorney Jim Bopp, who has long fought against campaign finance regulation.)

The foundation's single-biggest early donor was the now-defunct mortgage lender Ameriquest, which gave more than $260,000. (We contacted a number of the companies on the list; they did not respond to requests for comment.) Corporate trade associations including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Edison Electric Institute, and the American Tort Reform Association also pitched in, each giving between $50,000 and $100,000.

The foundation's affiliated organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, focuses on winning state-level elections for the GOP and also gets corporate money, including from tobacco and insurance giants.  As an explicitly political organization, the committee has to disclose its donors.

By contrast, the recent funders of the foundation, which took in $2.5 million in 2011 including a single donation of $1 million, are still secret.

The foundation applied for IRS recognition as a social welfare group in late 2003 but was initially rejected. The IRS concluded the foundation was "a partisan organization" that "operated primarily for the benefit of a select group" – the GOP. Social welfare groups, the IRS' rejection letter noted, must promote the "general welfare of the whole community" — not a particular group.

The foundation's lawyers from the firm Arent Fox fired back in an appeal, arguing that the foundation was not a partisan outfit.

The foundation, according to the 2005 appeal, "was created to promote public debate" about issues including pharmaceuticals, securities regulation, and asbestos litigation.

"It may be useful to describe what the SGLF is not," the appeal says. "The SGLF:

• Is not affiliated with the Republican Party in any way;

• Does not meet with or coordinate its activities with the Republican Party;

• Does not make contributions to, or accept contributions from, the Republican Party;

• Does not participate in political campaigns, elections or publish electioneering messages on behalf of any candidate or party;

• Does not invite Representatives of the Republican Party to speak at its events, and

• Does not participate in the Republican Party platform, does not recruit or train Republican candidates, does not fundraise for Republican candidates, and does not coordinate its issue selection or policy positions with the Republican Party.

In 2007, more than three years after the foundation's application, the IRS ultimately recognized it as a tax-exempt social welfare group.

But the group's protestations that it has nothing to do with the GOP seems at odds with its recent activities. Besides running ads attacking Democrats, the foundation was involved in redistricting in several states to, as the foundation put it in a letter to Republican legislators, draw "legislative lines that we will have to defend in 2012 and beyond."

Foundation spokesperson Jill Bader told ProPublica that since its creation the foundation's "activities have evolved in some ways from those that were originally contemplated and conducted by the organization."

Bader continued: "SGLF's present activities are in strict compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code and all future SGLF activities will be in strict compliance as well."

Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

It is bizarre that Chuck Hagel, a war hero with a long record of sensible views on the deployment of military power, gets blocked as the president’s nominee to run the Pentagon, while Jack Lew, steeped in Wall Street greed, sails through as Treasury secretary. Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska and President Obama’s choice for Defense Secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Senate panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary. (Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

There is, of course, nothing new about a Treasury secretary having profited from high-level Wall Street connections. After all, Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, two former honchos at Goldman Sachs, headed the Treasury in the Clinton and Bush administrations, respectively. And Timothy Geithner, whom Lew would be replacing, was head of the New York Federal Reserve when it acted to bail out the too-big-to-fail financial hustlers led by AIG and Citigroup. The revolving door between Wall Street and the Treasury is the key cause of the Great Recession.

So, what’s the big deal that Lew ran two divisions at Citigroup for three years when homeowners were swindled out of their life savings? What’s a $2 million payout to Lew compared with the well over $100 million that Rubin got at that same bank during the years he helped steer it to disaster? In Lew’s case there was also the matter of his investing in one of Citigroup’s offshore schemes on the Cayman Islands that President Obama had roundly condemned, but the few Republicans who brought it up at the nominee’s confirmation hearing this week offered only a mild rebuke for such chicanery.

The big deal, ignored by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee and underplayed by the Republican critics, is that the Treasury Department, under two presidents during this financial crisis, has bailed out the banksters while doing next to nothing to help the victims of those institutions. Even now, in the third stage of a “quantitative easing” that will leave $4 trillion in taxpayer debt, the Federal Reserve, with the Treasury’s blessing, continues to bail out the banks by taking toxic assets off their books while the banks refuse to undertake any serious mortgage readjustments. 

The appointment of Lew might make sense if he had learned from his Wall Street experience that the era of unfettered greed ushered in by the deregulation mania of the Clinton and Bush years has proved a disaster. But Lew is anything but a Wall Street turncoat and continues to feign ignorance as to the causes of the banking disaster. Even though he profited mightily from his years at Citigroup—whose merger between investment and commercial banking was made legal only by the reversal of Glass-Steagall—he denies that deregulation had anything to do with that bank’s ruinous practices.

Asked at a previous confirmation hearing by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whether deregulation had contributed to the crisis, Lew responded: “I don’t personally know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don’t think deregulation was the proximate cause.” Yet Obama now inexplicably turns to Lew to help reregulate the system. Why look to a perp rather than a victim to redress the crime?

The irony in the simultaneous rejection of Hagel by some senators is that he has been a victim of the irrational application of military power. Hagel, severely wounded during the Vietnam War that few today would argue ever made any national security sense, has long urged caution in foreign military involvement. Hawks complain that he opposed the surge in the U.S. presence in Iraq after having at first gone along with the war. Hagel should be admired for having honored the “fool me once” maxim in not wanting to escalate an invasion justified by blatant lies, but instead his prudence has been scorned.

The case is the same with Hagel’s courage to dare to suggest that Israel’s outsized influence on U.S. Mideast policy may be counterproductive to efforts to find a way to end almost a half-century of occupation of the Palestinian people. There are plenty of well-informed citizens on the front lines in Israel who would agree, but few in ruling U.S. political circles.   

The Republicans have turned on Hagel because he dared turn on them in the 2008 election when he refused to endorse Sen. John McCain. All other objections to his nomination are just noise, and what is really at issue is the failure to consider the national interest in its most dangerous manifestation: the waging of war. In contrast to their tepid objections to Lew, who will be easily confirmed, the Republicans still seem determined to derail the Hagel nomination. It is clear that their motivation in both confirmation processes is nothing but partisan and that the public interest will once again be ignored.

© 2012 TruthDig.com

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

US in jeopardy? Republicans block Hagel’s appointment as Defense Sec

Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.(Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Republican lawmakers have delayed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s candidacy defense secretary, defying President Obama’s nomination. Democrats decried the Republicans as jeopardizing US national security by delaying Hagel’s appointment.

In a near-party-line vote, a majority of Republicans moved to filibuster Hagel’s nomination. The vote tallied 58 in favor to 40 opposed, falling just short of the 60 votes necessary to escape a filibuster and move Hagel’s nomination through the Senate for final approval.

Republicans justified their decision by saying they required the release of further information on the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

The Republican move was met with fury by Democrats, who slammed it as “tragic,” and an attempt to obstruct the political process. It was the first time this political tactic had been used to delay the appointment of a US Defense Secretary.

"Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said while addressing the Senate after the vote. He stressed that Republicans were embarking on an attempt at “filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied.”

President Obama echoed the anti-Republican sentiment in a question-and-answer session organized by Google+, in which he expressed regret that the politics of the vote “intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan.”

"My expectation and hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary," Obama said.

Since President Obama announced ex-Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, the Republican Party has been up in arms over his nomination.

The Vietnam veteran is a known anti-war activist, and had previously clashed with Republican lawmakers over his criticism of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington, and for refusing to push for a strike against Iran.

Additionally, his performance at his confirmation hearing raised doubts over his nomination. Critics said that Hagel reacted poorly under aggressive questioning, and appeared unprepared at times.

Hagel severed his links with the Republican Party over ex-President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, angering many party members.
Despite being known as an anti-war advocate, since his nomination, Hagel has made warmongering remarks such as claiming the US should be prepared for a possible strike on Iran. He also stressed the importance of the US-Israel relationship, contradicting his previous opposition to Washington’s “Jewish lobby.”

This about-face in policy has led to confusion amongst US lawmakers, as well as speculation that he may be pandering to his former Republican colleagues.

Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

Senate Republicans Take a Stand Against the Public Interest

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska and President Obama’s choice for Defense Secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A Senate panel on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, abruptly postponed a vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary.

By Robert Scheer

It is bizarre that Chuck Hagel, a war hero with a long record of sensible views on the deployment of military power, gets blocked as the president’s nominee to run the Pentagon, while Jack Lew, steeped in Wall Street greed, sails through as Treasury secretary. 

There is, of course, nothing new about a Treasury secretary having profited from high-level Wall Street connections. After all, Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, two former honchos at Goldman Sachs, headed the Treasury in the Clinton and Bush administrations, respectively. And Timothy Geithner, whom Lew would be replacing, was head of the New York Federal Reserve when it acted to bail out the too-big-to-fail financial hustlers led by AIG and Citigroup. The revolving door between Wall Street and the Treasury is the key cause of the Great Recession.

So, what’s the big deal that Lew ran two divisions at Citigroup for three years when homeowners were swindled out of their life savings? What’s a $2 million payout to Lew compared with the well over $100 million that Rubin got at that same bank during the years he helped steer it to disaster? In Lew’s case there was also the matter of his investing in one of Citigroup’s offshore schemes on the Cayman Islands that President Obama had roundly condemned, but the few Republicans who brought it up at the nominee’s confirmation hearing this week offered only a mild rebuke for such chicanery.

The big deal, ignored by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee and underplayed by the Republican critics, is that the Treasury Department, under two presidents during this financial crisis, has bailed out the banksters while doing next to nothing to help the victims of those institutions. Even now, in the third stage of a “quantitative easing” that will leave $4 trillion in taxpayer debt, the Federal Reserve, with the Treasury’s blessing, continues to bail out the banks by taking toxic assets off their books while the banks refuse to undertake any serious mortgage readjustments. 

The appointment of Lew might make sense if he had learned from his Wall Street experience that the era of unfettered greed ushered in by the deregulation mania of the Clinton and Bush years has proved a disaster. But Lew is anything but a Wall Street turncoat and continues to feign ignorance as to the causes of the banking disaster. Even though he profited mightily from his years at Citigroup—whose merger between investment and commercial banking was made legal only by the reversal of Glass-Steagall—he denies that deregulation had anything to do with that bank’s ruinous practices.

Asked at a previous confirmation hearing by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whether deregulation had contributed to the crisis, Lew responded: “I don’t personally know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don’t think deregulation was the proximate cause.” Yet Obama now inexplicably turns to Lew to help reregulate the system. Why look to a perp rather than a victim to redress the crime?

The irony in the simultaneous rejection of Hagel by some senators is that he has been a victim of the irrational application of military power. Hagel, severely wounded during the Vietnam War that few today would argue ever made any national security sense, has long urged caution in foreign military involvement. Hawks complain that he opposed the surge in the U.S. presence in Iraq after having at first gone along with the war. Hagel should be admired for having honored the “fool me once” maxim in not wanting to escalate an invasion justified by blatant lies, but instead his prudence has been scorned.

The case is the same with Hagel’s courage to dare to suggest that Israel’s outsized influence on U.S. Mideast policy may be counterproductive to efforts to find a way to end almost a half-century of occupation of the Palestinian people. There are plenty of well-informed citizens on the front lines in Israel who would agree, but few in ruling U.S. political circles.   

The Republicans have turned on Hagel because he dared turn on them in the 2008 election when he refused to endorse Sen. John McCain. All other objections to his nomination are just noise, and what is really at issue is the failure to consider the national interest in its most dangerous manifestation: the waging of war. In contrast to their tepid objections to Lew, who will be easily confirmed, the Republicans still seem determined to derail the Hagel nomination. It is clear that their motivation in both confirmation processes is nothing but partisan and that the public interest will once again be ignored.

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s new book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Republican War on Woman Went into Overdrive in...

Here's Thom for Thursday...

You need to know this. It may comes as a surprise to Wayne LaPierre, but the NRA is not a political party. Apparently no one's informed him of that, as he'll be delivering the gun-group's official response to the State of The Union tonight. Talking Points Memo is reporting that LaPierre will respond to the President's Tuesday night speech from the annual convention of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The news of LaPierre's speech was released in conjunction with an op-ed he published on The Daily Caller. The op-ed, which the Think Progress Blog called a "bizarre, paranoid screed," outlines some strange, unlikely reasons why LaPeirre thinks every American should own a gun. The fear-mongering gun advocate listed reasons ranging from violent Latino gangs - to the end of police protection - to the complete collapse of civilization. Apparently, Wayne LaPierre is very afraid, and he wants you to be to. In his column, he wrote, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are the perils we are sure to face – not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival." Thankfully, the NRA has lost the power it once knew, and voters are now less inclined to support a candidate because they're backed by the organization. In his address Tuesday night, Obama said gun violence victims deserve a vote. Wayne LaPierre and the NRA deserve to fade into obscurity, where they belong.

In screwed news... Leaders in the Republican party are speaking out against paying workers a living wage. Two days ago, President Obama called for increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, but at least two GOP top-leaders, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio, have spoken out against Obama's proposal. According to Paul Ryan, the pay increase wouldn't actually help people. He said, "I think it's actually counterproductive in many ways. You end up costing jobs from people who are the bottom rung of the economic ladder." And Marco Rubio echoed those thoughts, saying, "The question is, is a minimum wage the best way to do it? And history has said the answer is absolutely not. In fact, the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people." In fact, both of those statements couldn't be further from the truth. According to multiple studies by the Review of Economics and Statistics, there was "no detectable employment loss" in response to a wage increase. And another study by economists David Card and Alan Krueger, found that increasing the minimum wage actually strengthened job creation. As Obama said Tuesday night, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, it's unacceptable that anyone who works full-time should live in poverty. If Republicans want to keep the minimum wage below poverty levels, perhaps they should try living on it for a while.

In the best of the rest of the news...

The fight to keep toxic tar sands oil from being pumped through our nation just got some much-needed attention. After President Obama failed to mention the Keystone XL pipeline during his State of the Union address, a group of environmental activists gathered outside the White House to protest. During the protest, some of the activists tied themselves to the fence, while others refused to follow police orders to vacate the sidewalk. As a result, 48 activists were arrested, including environmental activist Bill McKibben, environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and actress-and-activist Daryl Hannah. As a crowd gathered to watch, Kennedy Jr. said, "Climate change is not just an economic issue, it is a moral issue. I do not believe that Keystone XL will happen. I believe that President Obama and Secretary Kerry will do the right thing. And we need to show our support." And environmentalists throughout our nation are hoping he's right. The recent appointment of Secretary of State John Kerry, who's been a leading voice on climate change during his 28 years in the Senate, provides some hope that the Keystone pipeline will be stopped. Let's keep up the fight to prevent Big Oil from pumping toxic tar sands through our communities. Go to TarsandsBlockade.org.

The Republican war on woman just went into overdrive in Arkansas. The State's legislature has passed one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bans. And the law could take effect regardless of whether or not the state's governor, Mike Beebe, vetoes the legislation. In Arkansas, a simple majority of legislators can override the governor's veto. So even if he's against the radical "fetal heartbeat" bill, women in the state would be banned from having an abortion after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The bill's sponsor, Republican State Senator Jason Rapert, is working to increase support for the bill, by removing the mandate for an invasive ultrasound probe, and taking criminal penalties for abortion doctors out of the legislation. Sen. Rapert hopes to gain enough support to avoid the threat of a veto, saying, "We feel like that we definitely now have a bill that has even broader support than it did a few weeks ago when it came out of the Senate." If Arkansas lawmakers really want to reduce the number of abortions, they'll increase access to birth control, and start providing kids with something besides abstinence-only sex-education.

And finally...Georgia Representative Paul Broun really, really wants you to forget about his record. As the Tea Party Republican prepares to run for Saxby Chambliss' Senate Seat, he's trying to convince voters he's a reach-accross-the-aisle-bipartisan kinda guy. This is the same Paul Broun who wanted to abolish the Departments of Energy and Education. He's also referred to evolution as "lies straight from the pit of Hell." And, as The Think Progress Blog points out, Paul Braun bragged to supporters about being the first Member of Congress to call Obama a "socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies," and accused the President of upholding the Soviet Constitution. Doesn't that just scream bi-partisan?? I guess Rep. Broun's idea of bi-partisan is bringing together the far-Right, and the crazy-far-Right.

And that's the way it is today – Thursday, February 14th, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Republic In Administration As Website Shuts

Fashion retailer Republic has gone into administration and closed its website, putting 2,500 jobs at risk.

The normal website was replaced with a headline saying "Site Unavailable", along with a message from the joint administrators. 

Customers vented their frustration on social media outlets.

The firm, which operates 121 stores across the UK with a stronger presence in the north of the country, has appointed administrators Ernst & Young to sell the business while it attempts to trade.

It has already made 150 employees at the head office in Leeds.

Speaking to Sky News about the Republic redundancies, Chancellor George Osborne said: "It is always very, very sad news when a retailer goes bust and people lose jobs.

"We are going to work hard to make sure they have jobs to go to."

Republic is owned by private equity firm TPG.

The investment firm's website still promotes Republic as "one of the United Kingdom's top young adult fashion retailers".

Staff tweeted a message after the move to administration.

It said: "Sadly #Republic is now in the hands of Administrators. We did all we could but it's simply too tough out there. Thanks for your support."

On Tuesday, Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman revealed the retailer was poised to enter administration.

But hours later it still promoted itself as a viable concern with a tweet about its all-in-one outfits.

The tweet said: "We are indeed your one stop Onesie shop. And if you play our #RepublicRomance game you can get 10% off."

Hunter Kelly, head of corporate restructuring team at Ernst & Young, said: "Republic suffered poor trading results in the autumn, and whilst sales picked up in December there has been a sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January.

"The impact on cash flows has resulted in the business being unable to continue to operate outside of an insolvency process."

Republic began as a men's denim retailer in 1986 under the Best Jeans brand, and sells brands including Diesel, Firetrap and G-Star Raw.

Republic's demise is the latest in a string of British high street casualties in the last six months.

Music and entertainment retailer HMV, DVD rental firm Blockbuster and camera specialist Jessops have all gone into administration this year.

In October, electricals chain Comet also called in administrators.

Mr Osborne is aware of the trend in retail of increasing web-based purchases and its affect on the retail sector.

He told Sky: "I think you are seeing changes on our high street, a lot of clothing is sold online now so we are seeing changes in the way people shop in this country."

Obama’s Call to Raise the Minimum Wage Met by Republican Howls and Disinformation

Millions of families being lifted above the poverty line is too much to take for the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio.

February 13, 2013  |  

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During his State of the Union address, President Obama called for  raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, up from its current $7.25, and indexing it to inflation so that it rises as the economy grows. If the increase were to happen, it would give the minimum wage its highest purchasing power since 1981, lifting millions of families above the poverty line.

But top Republicans are already coming out against it. During interviews last night and today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) both made clear that they oppose raising the minimum wage, citing its supposed effect on job creation:

RYAN: I think it’s inflationary. I think it actually is counterproductive in many ways. You end up costing job from people who are the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Look, I wish we could just pass a law saying everybody should make more money without any adverse consequences. The problem is you’re costing jobs from those who are just trying to get entry level jobs. The goal ought to be is to get people out of entry level jobs into better jobs, better paying jobs. That’s better education and a growing economy. Those are some of the things he talked about and I don’t think raising minimum wage — and history is very clear about this — doesn’t actually accomplish those goals.

RUBIO: I want to see people making a lot more than $9 an hour in the United States. And the way do you that is through rapid economic growth where people are being paid a lot more than that. $9 is not enough. I think we all would want that. The question is is a minimum wage the best way to do it? And history has said the answer is absolutely not. In fact, the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people. That’s the impact of it. They’ll just hire less people to do the same amount of work…We have a lot of history to prove that the minimum wage , raising the minimum wage does not grow the middle class.

Watch a compilation:

In fact, the history says that raising the minimum wage has little if any impact on job creation. A study published in November 2010 in the Review of Economics and Statistics, for instance, found “ no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.” Another published in 2011 “ found no impact on hours worked or employment levels.”

The seminal study of the minimum wage, done by economists David Card and Alan Krueger, found that job creation was actually strengthened by an increase in the minimum wage. This result has been found time and time again. So Rubio and Ryan have the history exactly backwards: raising the minimum wage results in higher wages and more purchasing power for workers, not job losses.

Pat Garofalo is economic policy editor for ThinkProgress.org. His writing has also appeared in the Nation, the Atlantic, U.S. News & World Report, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Garofalo.

Marco Rubio and the Republican Ibogaine Problem

Senator Marco Rubio was apparently high last night.

Yes, there was another Republican response to the State of the Union. And it was, yet again, a disaster.

After watching the President address Congress for more than an hour without taking a water break, the nation learned Tuesday night that Marco Rubio can't give a five-minute speech without awkwardly lunging off camera to wet his lips.

Most in the Republican Party cringed at the moment, muttering to themselves, "Oh no, not again."

And right away, the media jumped on the often-repeated meme that the Republican response to the State of the Union is a curse against any politician who offers it.

But I'm here to tell you that, in fact, there's a very real explanation – rooted in science – for why Republicans can't seem to get a State of the Union response right. It's highly likely it's because the politicians the Republican Party chooses each year to give the Republicans' response to the State of the Union are all using a drug known as ibogaine.

Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug extracted from the iboga plant that induces wild hallucinations. In 1972, noted Doctor of Journalism Hunter S. Thompson was on the campaign trail reporting on the race for the Democratic nomination for President for Rolling Stone magazine when he suggested that one of the candidates, Edmund Muskie, was acting erratically because he was using ibogaine.

Thompson described the drug as "an exotic brand of speed ... [that] nobody in the press corps had ever heard of." He added, "It is entirely conceivable—given the known effects of ibogaine—that Muskie's brain was almost paralyzed by hallucinations...He looked out at that crowd and saw Gila monsters instead of people . . . his mind snapped completely when he felt something large and apparently vicious clawing at his legs."

Thompson claimed he was "simply reporting on rumors" he heard on the campaign trail regarding Muskie and the ibogaine addiction. (He later admitted that he was also the one who started those rumors.)

And, in the great tradition of the late Hunter S. Thompson, I think it's entirely possible the Republican Party is full of ibogaine users.

How else can you explain their behavior?

Remember Bobby Jindal – the Republican picked to respond to President Obama's State of the Union in 2009? Go back and watch the tape, watch Jindal's eyes and inflection, and you tell me that guy isn't on ibogaine.

And then there was Michelle Bachmann giving the "Tea Party" response in 2011. Was she really just "looking at the wrong camera?" Or, was she distracted by a pack of Gila monsters clawing toward her just off camera?

Heck, Michele Bachmann looked to be on so much ibogaine after the 2010 midterm elections that Chris Matthews had to ask her if she was "

"No, Chris, I'm not hypnotized. I just feel like I'm talking to a giant squid in a suit."

But, here's where everything really falls into place.

One well known side effect of ibogaine use is "dry mouth."

Check out Paul Ryan, during the vice-presidential debate; he took a water break 22 different times. What's behind the sudden onset of dry mouth you ask? Ibogaine, obviously.

And then there's what happened last night. Remember all the sweat dripping from Marco Rubio's brow? Well, you'd be drenched in sweaty fear, too, if the camera was slowly morphing into a blood-thirsty spider. Between that and the dry mouth, Rubio couldn't take it anymore and had to dive off camera.

So, yet, another Republican politician, another bout of dry mouth, and another erratic response to the State of the Union.

And don't forget about Rand Paul's "Tea Party" response last night. If anyone doubts that Rand is addicted to ibogaine like the rest of his Party, I have two words for you: Aqua Buddha.

I know the drug warriors out there are calling for the Republican Party to drug-test their future State of the Union responders, just like they want to drug-test welfare recipients. But, instead, we should be doing the compassionate thing. We should realize that Republicans don't live in a "reality-based" or "fact-based" world because of ibogane. And we need to expand Obamacare to cover treatment programs for Senators, so these helpless Republicans can stop embarrassing themselves on national TV.

So, don't worry, Republicans. All those crazy things - people riding dinosaurs cause the world is only 6000 years old, global warming being a hoax, John Boehner looking like a giant carrot wearing a suit - all those things are just the result of your ibogaine use. Even the really crazy things, like Reaganomics, transvaginal probes, and Wayne LaPierre, will go away when you get some help for your medical condition.

We're here for you, working to help you with your problem. Colorado and Washington state have already thrown you a lifeline, legislating a much less destructive alternative, that might even put you in touch with mother Earth and help you see the errors of your ways. And there's always the Ibogaine Anonymous group that meets on Thursdays in the basement of the Reagan Republican building just down the street from the Capitol.

As President Obama said so many times, there IS hope! So don't give into those Gila monsters chewing on your legs - they're no more real than the Welfare Queen Reagan hallucinated or the illegal voters you're working so hard to stop. Chill out and get some help...

Did the Republicans Shoot Down the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Think of it as a prospective irony: in a spirit of pure, blind partisanship, the drill-baby-drill folks in the Republican Party may have done themselves in.  After all, their obsession with the Benghazi incident led them to launch a preemptive strike against the president's choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, for her statements on what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered there.  They sent her nomination down in flames.  In the process, it’s just possible that they took out something far dearer to them. Susan Rice, once Obama's top pick for Secretary of State, had large financial holdings in international pipeline companies but was forced to withdraw her consideration for the position following a vicious GOP crusade surrounding the assault in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. (File).

Though it didn’t get much attention during her disastrous nomination moment, we did learn that Rice and her husband had made significant investments in companies connected to the Canadian tar-sands industry and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring the resulting crude (and carbon-dirty) oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.  They reportedly had $300,000-$600,000 in stock in TransCanada, the company building the pipeline. 

In addition, “about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel,” including Enbridge, a company which hopes to build another tar-sands pipeline.  Had she been secretary of state, she might have had one of the great conflicts of interest of our time (or a major divestment problem).

Congress seems desperate to see that pipeline built.  More than half the Senate -- 44 Republicans, including key Rice opponent John McCain, and nine Democrats -- signed a letter to that effect, but it matters little.  Because of the international border Keystone XL crosses, only two people stand between us and its construction, the secretary of state and President Obama, who alone will make the final decision on whether the project should proceed. The president's second choice for secretary of state, who recently swept through the nomination process, is of course former Senator John Kerry, a “climate hawk” who has already said that he will be deeply involved in the State Department's review of the pipeline.  (It’s worth noting that TransCanada, trying to cover all its bases, hired one of Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign staffers as a lobbyist, along with “heavyweights” from past Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential runs, and that Kerry does have to divest himself of holdings in two Canadian energy companies which have supported the pipeline.)

No one, of course, can know what the new secretary of state and the president will decide.  They are, however, already being pushed hard by a growing coalition of environmentally oriented groups, fearful of what it would mean to get all those tar sands out of the ground and (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.  In addition, this coming Sunday, February 17th, an enormous “forward on climate” rally is to take place in Washington.  Originally organized by 350.org and Bill McKibben but now involving dozens of groups, it is expected to draw worried protestors (including this writer) from all over to demonstrate on the National Mall.  The goal is, in part, to push President Obama to make the necessary decision on the Keystone pipeline.  It’s remarkable that one man has the power to shoot this project down.  As energy expert Michael Klare explains in his latest piece, “A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World,” should he do so, the tar-sands industry might never recover.  That would lend a genuine hand to our over-heating planet, which means there has seldom been a situation where demonstrations to pressure a president were more in order.

© 2013 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

Did the Republicans Shoot Down the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Think of it as a prospective irony: in a spirit of pure, blind partisanship, the drill-baby-drill folks in the Republican Party may have done themselves in.  After all, their obsession with the Benghazi incident led them to launch a preemptive strike against the president's choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, for her statements on what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered there.  They sent her nomination down in flames.  In the process, it’s just possible that they took out something far dearer to them. Susan Rice, once Obama's top pick for Secretary of State, had large financial holdings in international pipeline companies but was forced to withdraw her consideration for the position following a vicious GOP crusade surrounding the assault in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. (File).

Though it didn’t get much attention during her disastrous nomination moment, we did learn that Rice and her husband had made significant investments in companies connected to the Canadian tar-sands industry and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring the resulting crude (and carbon-dirty) oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.  They reportedly had $300,000-$600,000 in stock in TransCanada, the company building the pipeline. 

In addition, “about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel,” including Enbridge, a company which hopes to build another tar-sands pipeline.  Had she been secretary of state, she might have had one of the great conflicts of interest of our time (or a major divestment problem).

Congress seems desperate to see that pipeline built.  More than half the Senate -- 44 Republicans, including key Rice opponent John McCain, and nine Democrats -- signed a letter to that effect, but it matters little.  Because of the international border Keystone XL crosses, only two people stand between us and its construction, the secretary of state and President Obama, who alone will make the final decision on whether the project should proceed. The president's second choice for secretary of state, who recently swept through the nomination process, is of course former Senator John Kerry, a “climate hawk” who has already said that he will be deeply involved in the State Department's review of the pipeline.  (It’s worth noting that TransCanada, trying to cover all its bases, hired one of Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign staffers as a lobbyist, along with “heavyweights” from past Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential runs, and that Kerry does have to divest himself of holdings in two Canadian energy companies which have supported the pipeline.)

No one, of course, can know what the new secretary of state and the president will decide.  They are, however, already being pushed hard by a growing coalition of environmentally oriented groups, fearful of what it would mean to get all those tar sands out of the ground and (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.  In addition, this coming Sunday, February 17th, an enormous “forward on climate” rally is to take place in Washington.  Originally organized by 350.org and Bill McKibben but now involving dozens of groups, it is expected to draw worried protestors (including this writer) from all over to demonstrate on the National Mall.  The goal is, in part, to push President Obama to make the necessary decision on the Keystone pipeline.  It’s remarkable that one man has the power to shoot this project down.  As energy expert Michael Klare explains in his latest piece, “A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World,” should he do so, the tar-sands industry might never recover.  That would lend a genuine hand to our over-heating planet, which means there has seldom been a situation where demonstrations to pressure a president were more in order.

© 2013 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

Republicans Take Abusers’ Side on VAWA

(Image: Screenshot via TPM media)It’s amazing to me that some Republicans and rightwing groups are intent on holding up the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Doing so shows not only boorish insensitivity but also a startling tone-deafness, since Republicans turned women away in droves last November by their Neanderthal comments on rape.

But that’s not stopping groups like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks from taking the side of abusive men right now.

As Talking Points Memo notes, the Heritage Foundation is bemoaning the fact that the reauthorization includes prosecution for “emotional distress,” and says that would lead to an increase in “fraud and false allegations.”

FreedomWorks also took the side of the stalker: “A man that raises his voice at his partner, calls her an offensive name, stalks her, causes her any emotional distress, or simply just annoys her can potentially be prosecuted under the VAWA. Calling your spouse a mean name is not advised or polite, but it isn’t the same thing as violence towards her.”

Wow!

For some Republican legislators, the main sticking point, at the moment, seems to be about Native women, who have been victimized by a ridiculous loophole in our nation’s laws, a loophole that makes it almost impossible to prosecute a white man who rapes a Native woman on tribal land.

I first became aware of this issue when one of our writers for The Progressive, Mary Annette Pember, came to me with a story idea about this jurisdictional nightmare. Pember, who had been the head of the Native American Journalists Association, said Native women were being raped with impunity.

She told me that Native women are raped at a higher rate than any other demographic group, and they often have no legal recourse because of jurisdictional issue. I found that hard to believe, but it’s true.

In her astonishing article, “Silent No More,” Pember reported that “86 percent of rapes reported by Indian women involve a perpetrator outside of their race.” Very few of these rapes are ever prosecuted. She wrote: “For American Indian women, however, these facts are old news—really old news. It has been open season on American Indian women in this country for more than 200 years.”

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act would empower Native courts to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes on Indian land.

Native women should no longer be stuck in “no woman’s land.”

That rightwingers are even fighting this is beyond reprehensible.

© 2013 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Republicans Take Abusers’ Side on VAWA

(Image: Screenshot via TPM media)It’s amazing to me that some Republicans and rightwing groups are intent on holding up the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Doing so shows not only boorish insensitivity but also a startling tone-deafness, since Republicans turned women away in droves last November by their Neanderthal comments on rape.

But that’s not stopping groups like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks from taking the side of abusive men right now.

As Talking Points Memo notes, the Heritage Foundation is bemoaning the fact that the reauthorization includes prosecution for “emotional distress,” and says that would lead to an increase in “fraud and false allegations.”

FreedomWorks also took the side of the stalker: “A man that raises his voice at his partner, calls her an offensive name, stalks her, causes her any emotional distress, or simply just annoys her can potentially be prosecuted under the VAWA. Calling your spouse a mean name is not advised or polite, but it isn’t the same thing as violence towards her.”

Wow!

For some Republican legislators, the main sticking point, at the moment, seems to be about Native women, who have been victimized by a ridiculous loophole in our nation’s laws, a loophole that makes it almost impossible to prosecute a white man who rapes a Native woman on tribal land.

I first became aware of this issue when one of our writers for The Progressive, Mary Annette Pember, came to me with a story idea about this jurisdictional nightmare. Pember, who had been the head of the Native American Journalists Association, said Native women were being raped with impunity.

She told me that Native women are raped at a higher rate than any other demographic group, and they often have no legal recourse because of jurisdictional issue. I found that hard to believe, but it’s true.

In her astonishing article, “Silent No More,” Pember reported that “86 percent of rapes reported by Indian women involve a perpetrator outside of their race.” Very few of these rapes are ever prosecuted. She wrote: “For American Indian women, however, these facts are old news—really old news. It has been open season on American Indian women in this country for more than 200 years.”

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act would empower Native courts to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes on Indian land.

Native women should no longer be stuck in “no woman’s land.”

That rightwingers are even fighting this is beyond reprehensible.

© 2013 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

On the News With Thom Hartmann: Another Republican Election-Rigging Scheme Bites the Dust, and...

In today's On the News segment: Republicans are pushing their latest austerity plan; new poll shows people trust Fox less than ever before; another Republican election-rigging scheme bites the dust; Senator Bernie Sanders is taking on corporate greed; and more.

You need to know this. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee will have a rare opportunity to question the Obama Administration's authority to bomb American citizens overseas without Congressional oversight, or Judicial Review. The hearing on John Brennan's nomination as CIA Director will be the first time, in over a decade, that an Administration could have to explain their reasoning for denying American citizens their right to due process in George Bush's so-called "war on terror." And, if Senators actually press John Brennan on the issue we could hear this questionable legal reasoning from one of the drone programs leading creators and implementers. They must demand the answers Americans have long-been asking for. Up until now, Congress has shown little interest in tackling the constitutionality of the "targeted killings" of suspected terrorists, and incredibly weak justifications have been accepted. Even after a major speech in 2012, when Brennan himself rationalized the program by saying, "Countries typically don't want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns." Congress did nothing to press for more information. But with NBC News' recent acquisition of a DOJ memo outlining that shaky legal justification, it's unlikely that the American public will allow Congress' willful ignorance to continue. Our Constitution guarantees the right to due process in multiple places, and many Americans are strongly saying that we should never accept the notion that some individuals are not deserving of this right. We can only hope that Senators won't waste this opportunity to get some real answers about the drone program. We're destroying our relationship with the rest of the world in the name of the so-called "War on Terror" - it's about time someone starts explaining why we should allow the program to continue...or bring it to an end.

In screwed news...Republicans are pushing their latest austerity plan. As a so-called alternative to the coming Sequester, members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees presented a new bill Wednesday, which would place the entire burden of spending cuts on the backs of middle-class Americans. In place of the $85 billion in sequestration cuts scheduled this year, Republicans, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, are calling for a 10% reduction to the federal workforce. Sen. Jim Inhofe called the bill "a way of doing this [budget cut] without cutting defense, without cutting domestically, and without raising taxes." This is a blatant attempt to both reduce the unionized federal workforce and shelter the defense industry from cuts, because if the Sequester kicks in, the defense budget would be reduced by 25%. So, it's not difficult to speculate why House and Senate Armed Services Committee members – who have been bought-and-paid-for by defense industry contributions – would rather kick so many non-defense people out of a job, rather than deny military defense contractors their enormous profits.

In the best of the rest of the news...

The American people are waking up to the fact that Fox so-called News is neither fair, nor balanced. A Public Policy Polling report released yesterday, indicates that people trust Fox less than ever before. And the reasons are obvious. Although just four years ago, 49% of people said they viewed Fox as a source for accurate news and reporting, the new poll shows that number has dropped to 41%. And, as the Think Progress Blog notes, there are plenty of recent examples of Fox's blatant efforts to mislead their viewers. These include manipulating a graphic to make unemployment appear higher than it actually is, repeating the disproven "live video feed" myth about Benghazi, blaming Obama for non-existent lay-offs, and continuing to deny the realities of Climate Change. Fox recently dumped two of that network's most offensive logic-deniers, Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, so perhaps there's some hope that Rupert Murdock is recognizing the American people don't like being lied to. But let's not expect Fox to join us in the "evidence based" world anytime soon.

Another day, and another Republican election-rigging scheme bites the dust. Virginia Republicans' pushed through a bill to change the state's electoral college while democratic Senator, Henry Marsh, was attending the Presidential inauguration. But William Howell, the Speaker of the Republican House of Delegates, has killed the bill, saying, "I am going to rule that the Senate amendments are not germane and out of order." Meanwhile, in Florida, The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that voters challenging the constitutionality of recent redistricting have uncovered Republican "brainstorming" emails about how to redraw district lines to nakedly benefit their party. All over our nation, outrage from voters is forcing Republicans to cave on their schemes to subvert democracy. There's still four year until the next presidential election, so Americans must keep up the fight for Democracy, take away Republicans' election-rigging ability, and push for a national popular vote. Go to NationalPopularVote.com.

And finally...America's Senator – Senator Bernie Sanders – is taking on corporate greed! Today Senator Sanders is introducing legislation to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs, and profits, overseas. With effective corporate tax rates – the actual rate that American corporations pay - lower than they've been in 40 years, and an economy that's still struggling to create enough jobs to bring us back from the brink, Senator Sanders' proposal could have a huge impact in our country. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Sanders' bill would raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade – eliminating the need for nearly half the proposed cuts in the looming sequester. Sanders wants to stop rewarding companies that offshore profits and ship our jobs to low-wage nations, and polls show most Americans agree with him. It's time to make corporations pay for their use of our commons, and for the huge profits they're making off hard-working Americans. Call your Senator and tell them to support Senator Sanders' Corporate Tax Fairness Act now!

And that's the way it is today – Thursday, February 7th, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Kristol: Republicans Should Stop Talking About Rebranding and Stick to Obstructing Obama

Someone needs to explain the definition of insanity to Bloody Bill Kristol. During a discussion on Fox' Special Report With Bret Baier, Kristol was asked about the Republicans and their recent efforts to "rebrand" the party, and it seems Kristol bel...

Republicans: Rebranding vs. Rethinking

Republicans: Rebranding vs. Rethinking

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Posted on Feb 6, 2013
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By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

WASHINGTON—Rebranding is trendy in the Republican Party.

Rep. Eric Cantor gave a major speech on Tuesday to advance the effort. Gov. Bobby Jindal wants the GOP to stop being the “stupid party.” Karl Rove is setting up a PAC (it’s what he does these days) to defeat right-wing crazies who cost the party Senate seats.

But there’s a big difference between rebranding—this implies the product is fine but needs to be sold better—and pursuing a different approach to governing. Here’s an early action report.

The good news: Some Republicans have decided the party moved too far to the right and are backing off long-standing positions on tax increases, guns and immigration. Their new flexibility, combined with President Obama’s new post-election aggressiveness, is producing a quiet revolution in Washington. The place is becoming less dysfunctional.

Congress has already passed a substantial tax increase, Republicans avoided a debt ceiling fight, and the ice is breaking on guns and immigration.

The mixed news: A lot of the rebranding efforts are superficial yet nonetheless reflect an awareness that the party has been asking the wrong questions, talking about the wrong issues and limiting the range of voters it’s been addressing.

This is why Cantor’s speech was more important than the policies he outlined, which were primarily conservative retreads. His intervention proved that Obama and progressives are changing the terms of the debate, much as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.

Cantor wasn’t making the case for smaller government or tax cuts for the “job creators.” He was asking what government could do for the middle class—“to provide relief to so many millions of Americans who just want their life to work again.”

No wonder Sen. Charles Schumer, one of the Democrats’ most subtle strategists, jumped at the chance to praise Cantor for taking “the first step towards finding common ground in agreeing on the problem you are trying to solve.” If the debate is about who will be nicer to business or who will cut taxes, Republicans win. What Schumer understands is that if the issue is providing relief for the middle class (and for workers, immigrants and low-income children), Republicans are competing over questions on which progressives have the advantage.

The bad news: In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build Koch Brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in laboratories of reaction.

As Neil King Jr. and Mark Peters reported in a Wall Street Journal article on the “Red State model,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has slashed both income taxes and spending. This drew fire from moderate and moderately conservative Republican legislators, whom he then helped purge in primaries. Jindal is talking about ending Louisiana’s personal and corporate income taxes and replacing the revenue with sales tax increases—a stunningly naked transfer of resources from the poor and the middle class to the rich.

This deeply anti-majoritarian, anti-populist approach explains the really bad news: Some Republicans show signs of no longer worrying about winning majorities at all. They have already put in place a gerrymander that has created a now-misnamed House of Representatives since it’s unrepresentative of how voters cast their ballots in congressional races last fall. Some are trying to rig the Electoral College in a way that would have let Mitt Romney win the presidency even as he lost by just under 5 million popular votes.

And they are willing to use the Senate’s arcane rules and right-wing courts in tandem to foil the policy wishes of a majority of Congress and the president—witness the precedent-less U.S. Court of Appeals ruling voiding Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The president took this course because intransigent Republican senators blocked the nominations. There should be a greater outcry against such an anti-democratic power play.

What’s the overall balance sheet? Level Republican heads seem to be pushing against the Electoral College rigging effort. The “Red State model” is likely to take hold in only a few states—and may provoke a backlash. The larger lesson may be the one Cantor offered: Republicans are slowly realizing that the nation’s priorities are not the GOP’s traditional priorities. If Republicans really do start asking better questions, they will come up with better—and less extreme—answers. 

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

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O’Reilly: Ted Nugent’s Kind of ‘Straight Talk’ is What the Republican Party Needs

I'm not sure what Bill O'Reilly's smoking this week, but during his Talking Points Memo on Tuesday's show, he seemed very enamored with wingnut Ted Nugent and his second appearance on CNN this Monday and his "straight talk" with anchor Piers Morga...

Republicans lash out at Ron Paul for tweet regarding Navy SEAL’s death

Congressman Ron Paul.(Reuters / Mark Makela)

Congressman Ron Paul.(Reuters / Mark Makela)

Former congressman and presidential contender Ron Paul is coming under attack from his own longtime political party after sending out a controversial tweet regarding the death of an ex-Navy SEAL sniper.

Rep. Paul, who only recently retired from Congress after over 20 years as a Republican representative for Texas, chimed in on Twitter over the weekend to comment on the tragic death of Chris Kyle, a 38-year-old former military marksman considered by the Pentagon to be the most deadly sniper in American military history.

Kyle was credited with 160 confirmed kills while on duty, but on Saturday was executed at the Texas shooting range where he regularly took fellow vets “as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars,” friends of the deceased tell the New York Times. Kyle was at the range near Glen Rose, Texas when fellow veteran Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine, opened fire and killed both Kyle and colleague Chad Littlefield with a semiautomatic handgun.

Routh served tours in Iraq and was reportedly brought to the shooting range as a means of treating his post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“Chad and Chris had taken a veteran out to shoot to try to help him,” a friend of Kyle’s adds to the Times, “And they were killed.”

Rep. Paul, a veteran himself, openly responded to the news on Monday, tweeting that afternoon from his @RonPaul Twitter account.

“Chris Kyle's death seems to confirm that ‘he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.’ Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn't make sense,” he wrote.

Less than two days after the congressman made the remark, Rep. Paul’s comment has been retweeted nearly 1,000 times. Addressing Kyle’s death only hours after the incident occurred, however, the quip caused a backlash of sorts by many, including fellow Republicans, who felt offended by the former lawmaker’s remark.

“Really?” responded conservative talk show host Doc Washburn. “You served in the US Air Force. So by your logic, why are you still around? @RonPaul You're not fit to tie Chris Kyle's shoes.”

“Hey @ronpaul have you lost you mind?” added Afghan War veteran and Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer, 24. “That sword protected your freedom. Guess since I live by it I deserve to get murdered as well? #wow”

In one report regarding the tweet published by the conservative-leaning Daily Caller, nearly 2000 people have posted responses to the congressman’s comment. As the blowback intensified, Paul’s camp clarified the lawmaker’s remarks in a separate post published on his official Facebook page:

“As a veteran, I certainly recognize that this weekend's violence and killing of Chris Kyle were a tragic and sad event. My condolences and prayers go out to Mr. Kyle’s family. Unconstitutional and unnecessary wars have endless unintended consequences. A policy of non-violence, as Christ preached, would have prevented this and similar tragedies,” Rep. Paul wrote.

Rep. Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), made a statement to Breitbart News that reads, “Chris Kyle was a hero like all Americans who don the uniform to defend our country. Our prayers are with his family during this tragic time.”

Republicans and Immigration Pinata

Republicans and Immigration Pinata

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Posted on Feb 4, 2013

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Charles Pierce: Republican Tactics During Hagel Hearing ‘Straight Out of the Cold War 1950s’

Esquire's Charles Pierce hit the nail on the head with his assessment of this Thursday's confirmation hearing of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense -- and you can watch part of Sen. Lindsey Graham's petulant display during the hearing in the clip above.

Today In Hagel Bashing:

It was a bizarre, devotional exercise. Hagel was not being asked for his qualifications to lead the Department Of Defense — which, it should be noted, is largely an administrative one when it comes to the country's foreign relations. He was being asked to engage in a vague kind of theological debate. He was not being asked to profess his faith to Israel so much as to recant his heresies against the policies of the United States that were produced by adherents of a certain sect. He wasn't being asked to endorse Bibi Netanyahu so much as he was being asked to recant his unorthodox opinions as regarding the good works of Bill Kristol or John McCain. He was being asked, en ensemble, by Republicans old and young, essentially the same question John McCain spent six minutes hollering into the wind.

Please admit that we were right.

No. You were wrong. You were wrong in 2003 and you were wrong in 2006 and the Iraq war was a murderous cock-up from start to finish and Hagel, at least, figured that out in midstream.

The whole hearing was nothing more than a show, and we all know that the easiest shows to sell are revivals. The Republican opposition decided to re-litigate the failures of the Bush administration in the context of the world view of Dean Acheson. It was a weird performance.

It was like watching Rent performed on the set of Show Boat. And very little of it had anything to do with Hagel's qualifications to be Secretary Of Defense. Most of the questioning would seem to have been more suited to the hearings earlier this week, when John Kerry sailed through the confirmation process to become Secretary Of State. Hagel's not running to be a diplomat and, frankly, given our experience with that steaming hunk of neocon man-meat, Don Rumsfeld, I'd just as soon not have the Defense Secretary involved in the formulation of foreign policy as much as he is in making sure the grunts who have to carry it out have sufficient body armor.

That, by all accounts, is what Hagel sees the job as being about. What some mullah may have mumbled about him may echo loudly among the stalagmites in Jim Inhofe's brain, but it has absolutely no relevance to the rest of us as far as Hagel's ability to run a Defense department. There is some criticism rising that Hagel was not properly prepared for his testimony. I'm not sure anybody could have been. How could anyone be properly prepared for Jim Inhofe and Ted Cruz in the same day? Those kind of mushrooms are still illegal.

Amen to that. More there, so go read the rest. I'm with Charlie. What a disgusting display we were treated to during this hearing yesterday. Sadly, I'm sure this performance and the others will be rewarded by the lot of them being handed a microphone on Sunday to spew more bile.

How Republicans Think: ‘Video Games Are A Bigger Problem Than Guns’

Ok, so not all Republicans think like this, but then again not all of them are U.S. Senators from Tennessee like Lamar Alexander. Here's his verbatim quote to Chuck Todd yesterday morning: LAMAR ALEXANDER: "I think video games is a bigger problem t...

Jon Stewart Eviscerates Republicans’ Logic During Gun Violence Hearings

Stewart revisits Wednesday's four-hour carnival of conservative contradictions.

February 1, 2013  |  

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Republicans invoked all kinds of insane logic during the Senate hearing on gun violence Wednesday. For Jon Stewart, the four-hour carnival was a gold mine for conservative contradictions. Wayne LaPierre invoked both governmental "tyranny" and "abandonment" as strong cases for second amendment rights, two scenarios completely at odds with one another. As Stewart put it, our government seems to be on "the verge of both fascism and impotence."

Stewart also took on Gayle Trotter, of the Independent Woman's Forum, who hilariously claimed that "the AR-15 is women's weapon of choice." Trotter used an anecdote about a young women who protected herself from intruders with a gun she kept at home. What she failed to mention was that her weapon, a Remington shotgun, would not be banned under the proposed gun control statute.

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Appointing Senators, Be They Republicans or Democrats, Is Wrong

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has rejected former Congressman Barney Frank’s request that he be appointed to fill the vacancy created by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. (Photo: Rappaport Center via Flickr)Senator John Kerry’s resignation to serve as secretary of state. Despite the fact that progressive groups urged the Frank pick for the temporary slot—arguing that the former congressman could play a critical, perhaps definitional, role in budget fights over cutting Pentagon waste and taxing speculators—the governor instead picked his former chief of staff.

The new senator, William “Mo” Cowan, has long been close to the governor, having formerly served as Patrick’s legal counsel. He’s experienced, capable and politically connected, a well-regarded lawyer who has worked not just with Patrick but also with former Governor Mitt Romney (whom Cowan helped identify judicial picks). He’ll be the state’s second African-American senator, after liberal Republican Ed Brooke, who served in the 1960s and 1970s. As a lawyer, Cowan has been active with the American Constitution Society—joining in the society’s “work  to advance the progressive values and principles of the U.S. Constitution”—which counts for a lot with Americans who seek to challenge right-wing judicial activism.

But, as with his selection of former Democratic National Committee Paul Kirk to fill the interim vacancy created by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, Patrick has gone with a connected insider rather than someone who is likely to shake things up in the Senate.

Patrick says he’s now got “a valued ally” in the Senate.

And there is no reason to doubt that this is the case.

But, of course, this is the problem with letting governors, be they Republicans or Democrats, appoint US senators. The Massachusetts circumstance is less troublesome than in states such as Hawaii and South Carolina, which will be represented for more than two years by recently appointed senators. A special election in June will replace Cowan with a senator chosen by the voters.

But gubernatorial appointments of senators, be they for a few months, or for a few years, make the United States Senate, never a perfectly representative body, a good deal less representative.

Cowan will join three appointed senators in the chamber during what Barney Frank correctly identified as a particularly critical period in the chamber.

Another new senator, Tim Scott, has been appointed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, rather than elected by the people of that state. The same goes for Brian Schatz, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie’s pick to fill the vacancy created by the death of Senator Dan Inouye.

Cowan, Schatz and Scott come from different parties and different ideological backgrounds. There is every reason to believe they will serve honorably, and ably. Progressives are already excited by some of what Schatz has done, while conservatives are enthusiastic about Scott.

But none of these details change the fact that a trio of unelected senators will be powerful, perhaps even definitional, figures in what is supposed to be a representative body. They will play critical roles in deciding whether to approve or reject cabinet nominees and Supreme Court selections, they will vote on tax policies and budget measures and they will decide whether to crack the “debt ceiling”—or send young men and women off to war. But they will do so without democratic legitimacy.

No member of Congress should serve without having been elected by the people of the district or state they represent.

Unfortunately, the new Senate will have at least three members who serve not as representatives but as mandarins—appointees assigned to positions by governors who have assumed dubious authority.

The point here ought not be to do disparage Cowan, Shatz or Scott.

The point is to raise a concern about the fact that more laws will be proposed, more filibusters will be sustained, more critical votes will be tipped in one direction or another by “senators” who never earned a single vote for the positions they are holding.

Why?

Because of a deliberate misreading of the vague 1913 amendment to the US Constitution that replaced the old system of appointing senators with one that said they were all supposed to be directly elected.

The Seventeenth Amendment sought to end the corrupt, and corrupting, process of appointing senators. But a loophole was included to give governors the authority to make temporary appointments. That meant that, while no one has ever been allowed to serve in the US House of Representatives without having first been elected, dozens of men and women have served in the Senate without having been elected. And those appointed senators often serve for two full years, as will South Carolina’s Scott and Hawaii’s Senator Schatz, both of whom will serve until at least 2015. To the end of the 113th Congress, senators chosen by individual governor in South Carolina and Hawaii will have the same authority as a senator elected by 7,748,994 voters (California Democrat Dianne Feinstein).

Former House Judiciacy Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), rightly points out that this is a fundamental voting-rights issue. It is, as well, a question of “basic consistency in how our Representatives in Congress are elected.” Says Conyers: “The Constitution has always required that House vacancies be filled by election. The Senate should not be subject to a different standard. Americans should always have a direct say in who represents them in Congress—in both Houses, all of the time.”

Conyers was a key House backer of former US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), when the then-chairman of the Senate Judiciacy Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution tried to amend the Constitution to address the problem.

Feingold’s proposal, which would have required special elections to fill all Senate vacancies, got a little bit of traction when Feingold was still serving in the Senate. In 2009, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution approved Feingold’s proposed amendment to end gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats.

Recalling a series of appointments following the 2008 election, Feingold said: “I applaud my colleagues on the subcommittee for passing the Senate Vacancies Amendment, which will end an anti-democratic process that denies voters the opportunity to determine who represents them in the US Senate. The nation witnessed four gubernatorial appointments to Senate seats earlier this year, some mired in controversy, and we will soon see another one in Texas. This will leave more than 20 percent of Americans represented by a senator whom they did not elect.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), was not enthusiastic about the amendment. He defended the appointment of senators, saying, “In the state of Nevada the governor appoints. Even though we have a Republican governor now I think that’s the way it should be so I don’t support his legislation.”

No one with a taste for democracy can possibly respect the majority leader’s position on appointed senators.

More thoughtful senators, including the number-two Democrat in the chamber, Illinoisan Dick Durbin, co-sponsored Feingold’s amendment.

Reid got that one wrong. Feingold got it right.

“It is time to finish the job started by the great progressive Bob La Follette of Wisconsin to require the direct election of senators,” the former senator from Wisconsin said in 2009. “No one can represent the American people in the House of Representatives without the approval of the voters. The same should be true for the Senate. I hope the full Senate Judiciary Committee will soon get the chance to consider this important constitutional amendment to entrust the people, not state governors, with the power to select U.S. senators.”

The worst deficit facing America is the democracy deficit.

It can be addressed, at least in part, by making the Senate a representative chamber.

Feingold can’t complete the process he began. But his former colleagues, led by Dick Durbin, should do so. As Durbin said several years ago when he chaired a hearing on the issue: “Over a half century ago, Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said: ‘No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ The same might be said of special elections to fill vacant U.S. Senate seats—they are the worst way to fill such seats, except for all the others.”

© 2013 The Nation

John Nichols

War in Africa: Countering China’s Influence. French Military oversees Power-sharing Deal with US in...

africamap

by Patrick O’Connor

After deploying several hundred troops to the Central African Republic late last month, the French government has overseen the signing of a peace agreement between President François Bozizé and leaders of the rebel militias that had threatened to overrun the capital, Bangui.

As well as agreeing not to nominate for another term as president after 2016, Bozizé has sacked his government and appointed rebel-nominated Nicolas Tiangaye as prime minister. Tiangaye will soon establish a so-called national unity government ahead of fresh legislative elections next year.

The political realignment underway is being driven by the French government, which aims to reassert control over its former resource-rich colony and counter China’s growing economic and diplomatic influence. The operation in the Central African Republic forms part of a wider drive by US and French imperialism to bolster their strategic domination over Africa through direct military interventions. The latest involves a French-led ground offensive in northern Mali and the stationing of US drones and French troops in neighbouring Niger.

Bozizé, a former army general, appointed himself president in 2003 after leading a coup that was backed by the French government. He subsequently depended on French support to maintain power in the impoverished and chronically unstable country. In 2006 and 2007, French military forces stationed in the country launched air strikes and ground attacks on rebel militias, halting their threatened takeover of the capital and overthrow of the government. Last December, the loose coalition of anti-government militias known as Seleka (“alliance” in the Sango national language) launched a renewed offensive, capturing swathes of territory in the country’s north and east.

The French government responded by more than doubling its existing 250-troop deployment in the Central African Republic to nearly 600. But unlike in 2006 and 2007, Paris refused to back Bozizé against the rebels. French troops—together with those in the Central African Multi-National Force that was formed between several neighbouring states—instead secured the capital from a further rebel advance while the French government demanded peace negotiations.

The January 11 deal, signed in the west African country of Gabon, involved Bozizé making the first significant political concessions of his 10-year autocratic presidency.

The French government is developing new political mechanisms in the Central African Republic (CAR). US diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, detailed the breach in relations between Paris and the Bozizé regime. Several cables in 2009 revealed French hostility toward various obstacles that were placed before French corporation Areva as it attempted to secure the rights to mine uranium at a site in the country’s south. On June 17, 2009, US ambassador Frederick Cook dispatched a cable, “French-CAR relations seriously strained,” that concluded: “Bozizé may believe that he has successfully rendered himself the least of the evils in the CAR political landscape. He thus appears to imagine himself indispensable to his neighbours and the French, an assumption that AmEmbassy Bangui believes may be badly mistaken.”

Another cable sent five months later was headed “Growing Chinese influence in the CAR evident.” It detailed the extent to which both American and French interests were losing ground to Beijing, which was “ramping up its military cooperation, public diplomacy and development efforts.” The cable noted that whereas there were only four resident diplomatic agents in the American embassy in Bangui, the Chinese embassy had about 40 employees. It added that approximately 40 CAR military officers were being trained in China every year, compared to the two or three officers who went to the US and 10-15 to France.

Making clear the predatory calculations behind the US and French presence in the Central African Republic, the cable referred to the country’s “rich untapped natural resources” and warned: “With French investments moribund and French influence in general decline, the Chinese are likely positioning themselves as the CAR’s primary benefactor in exchange for access to the CAR’s ample deposits of uranium, gold, iron, diamonds, and possibly oil.”

The US ambassador also cautioned that Bozizé “is welcoming this relationship as an alternative to more restrictive relations with the French and the West” and would likely “increasingly embrace the Chinese as an alternative to the French and other Western benefactors.”

On December 27, Bozizé gave a speech in which he hinted that French opposition to the earlier issuing of oil exploration contracts to Chinese corporations was behind the crisis. “Before giving oil to the Chinese I met with [oil company] Total in Paris and told them to take the oil,” he declared. “Nothing happened. I gave oil to the Chinese and it became a problem.”

According to Voice of America, at the same time that Bozizé signed the power-sharing agreement on January 11, he declared that he would “work to strengthen ties with China, and to promote oil exploration and development.”

Bozizé likely remains in power only due to the absence of any viable alternative for the imperialist powers. The Seleka rebels are a fractious coalition, comprising various militias with different agendas. Some of the militias were formed by supporters of former President Ange-Félix Patassé, some purport to represent the country’s Muslim minority, while others were organised by different tribal communities, defending themselves against Bozizé’s brutal security forces. It is unclear whether all the militias will accept the terms of the January 11 deal, which involves the rebels relinquishing control of the towns they captured to government forces.

Any breakdown of the so-called peace agreement could quickly trigger a wider intervention by France and the US.

Dear Republicans: It’s Not Your ‘Messaging’. It’s You.


Psst, Bobby? You can't stop 'being' the stupid party. You can only stop acting stupid!

Once, when I was embroiled in some relationship drama, I said to one of my male friends, "Why doesn't he just tell me if he doesn't want to be with me?" My friend paused and finally said, "Look, he's telling you in every way he can without actually using the words."

I never forgot that. Rejection is so painful, people tie themselves in knots just to avoid the soul-crushing reality. And it sounds like the Republicans are still in that stage where they just can't acknowledge the truth: It's not the way you look or that extra ten pounds. It's you. The voters just aren't into you!

But instead of real change, you just know they're going for the new hairdo. Jamelle Bouie writes in the American Prospect:

Mitt Romney didn’t just lose to Obama in the 2012 presidential election: He underperformed. The consensus projection from political scientists and election forecasters was that it would be a close election, with a slight advantage for President Obama. Romney wouldn’t win, but he would come close to breaking 50 percent. This, it turns out, was too optimistic for the former Massachusetts governor, who lost by 4 million votes. In the end, he finished with 47.1 percent of the vote, a small improvement over John McCain’s performance in 2008.

Fundamentals can explain Obama’s win, but they don’t account for Romney’s surprisingly small share of the vote—and they certainly don’t explain the GOP’s poor performance in Senate elections, where mainstream and Tea Party Republicans lost to their Democratic counterparts. Twenty-twelve began as the year Republicans would win a majority in the Senate, and ended as the year Democrats expanded their advantage.

Exit polls provide a few clues about why voters rejected the Republican Party at all levels. Thirty-eight percent of voters said unemployment was the biggest issue facing people like themselves, and of them, 54 percent voted for President Obama. Fifty-five percent of voters said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy (71 percent of them voted for Obama), and 53 percent said Mitt Romney’s policies “generally favor the wealthy” (87 percent voted for Obama).

If you weren’t well-off—if you were struggling—you didn’t vote for Romney; the GOP had nothing to offer you. Romney might disparage politicians who give “gifts” to the public, but the fact of the matter is that voters support leaders who provide—or can promise—tangible benefits. At most, Republicans promised greater “growth” from cutting taxes, slashing spending, and reducing regulations.

Americans didn’t bite, because those policies don’t work (they remember the previous administration) and because they don’t trust Republicans to govern (they remember the previous administration). The GOP brand is still reeling from the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush. To wit, 53 percent of voters last year said Bush was responsible for our current economic problems, compared with 38 percent for Obama. It’s no wonder voters gave Obama a second term—it takes more than four years to clean up a mess of that magnitude.

Any attempt to fix the problems of the Republican Party—to build a conservatism attuned to the needs of ordinary people—needs to start with an examination of the Bush years. So far, however, Republicans seem uninterested in self-reflection. The most prominent voices in the party—Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, Florida senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan, Texas senator Ted Cruz—insist on purity as the way back to power. If Bush failed, it’s because he spent too much. Unmentioned is everything else—the belligerence, the wars, the general incompetence.

“Shocking” Recess Appointment Decision By Republican Judges Will Be Appealed

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A penal of three Republican judges today knocked down the President’s three recess appointments last year to the National Labor Relations Board. The President appointed the three NLRB members following Republican filibusters of his nominees, intended to keep the agency from operating to protect the rights of working people to organize. This decision, if upheld, could invalidate hundreds of NLRB decisions.

The Obama administration will likely appeal the decision. Note that there were several similar decisions knocking down and supporting the Presidents health care reform act before it was finally upheld by the Supreme Court.

The ruling by the three judges might also invalidate Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after Republicans also filibustered his nomination in an attempt to kep that agency from operating to protect consumers. Republicans claim the ruling should also invalidate all of the consumer protections the agency has announced.

President Obama made these appointments following Senate Republican filibusters of these and other nominees, some of the more-than-380 filibusters by Senate Republicans in the last few years.

Reaction To The Decisions

Tom Donohue of the anti-union Chamber of Commerce business-lobbying organizationissued a statement saying he was “pleased” by the decision.

The blog of the anti-union National Association of Manufacturers business-lobbying organization said this is an “important moment” for “manufacturers that have been forced to deal with increased burdensome regulations.”

Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, another business-lobbying organization, said the decision is good because the NLRB is “a pro-union government agency.”

Republicans have claim that the NLRB, whose job is to protect union rights as well as business rights, is “pro-union.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tweeted, “Fully expect radical DC Circuit decision to be reversed, and that other courts will uphold the President’s recess appointment authority” and in an official statement called the 3-judge panel’s decision “shocking.”

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the NLRB Recess Appointments:

Today’s decision by a panel of Republican judges on the DC Circuit is nothing less than shocking. In a radical and unprecedented decision, the court has interpreted the Constitution in a way that would deprive both Republican and Democratic presidents of a critical tool they have used hundreds of times over the years – including 179 appointments by former President George W. Bush and 139 appointments by former President Clinton – to keep agencies functioning and make the government work. In this case, the affected agency is the National Labor Relations Board – a crucially important agency that enforces workers’ rights.

We strongly disagree with the court’s reasoning and decision. We fully expect this radical decision to be reversed, and that other courts addressing this issue will uphold the President’s recess appointment authority. In the meantime, the appointees to the National Labor Relations Board remain in their jobs and the NLRB remains open for business.

The rights protected by this agency are too important for the agency to have to operate under a legal cloud. We urge the Senate to promptly confirm a package of nominees to the NLRB.

The Judges

Nicole Flatow, writing at the ThinkProgress blog, in BREAKING: Federal Appeals Court Invalidates Obama’s Recess Appointments to NLRB, (click through for links and more),

The opinion is the latest demonstrations of the radical views of Judge David Sentelle, who authored this opinion and has previously suggested that all business, labor and Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect.

[. . .] The D.C. Circuit’s opinion, however, goes well beyond this technicality argument to invalidate at least a century of accepted recess appointments procedure. Acknowledging that then-Republican Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty had advised in 1921 that recess appointments constituted breaks of “substantial length,” Sentelle rejects &ldquo