Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
News of US politics
Another big fault line in the Republican Party: the Tea Party wing is rabidly anti-immigration, and they seem to be setting policy. The Agribusiness wing just wants to harvest their crops like they always have, with sketchily documented migrant workers.
California is home to an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants, more than in any other state. Perhaps nowhere else captures the contradictions and complications of immigration policy better than California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them living here illegally, according to estimates from agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis.
That reality is shaping the views of agriculture business owners here, like Mr. Herrin, who cannot recall ever voting for a Democrat. In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them. A work force that arrived in the 1990s is aging out of heavy labor, Americans do not want the jobs, and tightened security at the border is discouraging new immigrants from arriving, they say, leaving them to struggle amid the paralysis on immigration policy. No other region may be as eager to keep immigration legislation alive.
The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association, a group based in Irvine, Calif., that represents hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, says many of its members may withhold contributions from Republicans in congressional races because of the party’s stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
“We’ve had secure borders with Mexico for the last decade; we don’t have that argument at this point,” Mr. Nassif said. “Now we want people to see the real damage of not doing anything, which is a declining work force, and it means losing production to foreign countries.”
After the 2012 presidential election, as Republicans spoke enthusiastically about the need to court Latinos, Mr. Nassif was optimistic that immigration would become a top priority. But exasperation has replaced his confidence in recent months, and he said his group could withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races in which it has usually supported Republicans.
“I can tell you if the Republicans don’t put something forward on immigration, there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture,” Mr. Nassif said. “We are a tremendously important part of the party, and they should not want to lose us.”
(click here to continue reading California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience – NYTimes.com.)
Of course, if the Agribusiness wing of the GOP paid higher wages, they might be able to get some Americans to work picking crops, maybe. It is back-breaking labor, much harder than flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. And if farmers had to pay a living wage, produce would suddenly skyrocket in price, more than limes I’m guessing. Doesn’t matter anyway, the Steve “Cantaloupe” Kings of the party are opposed to any immigrant being let in.
And speaking of class warriors, Rachel Anspach has a good piece on the Republican One Percenter, Bruce Rauner, including:
Rauner’s stance on financial issues is in line with his own interests–Rauner’s wealth is estimated at $500 million. He made around $53 million in 2012 alone. And it is not clear where much of the income at his private equity firm in Winnetka came from; although he has run into criticism for his company’s deals with nursing homes, which were sued multiple times for patient neglect and wrongful death.
Although Rauner has flip-flopped on the issue, he originally stated that he was in favor of lowering Illinois’ minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25–a stance that is quite rich coming from someone who made over half-a-billion dollars in one year. Thus, his election could devastate the legislature’s current opportunity to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.65. At the same time as he supports further squeezing the working class, Rauner wants to lower the state’s personal and corporate income taxes, and is against a implementing a graduated income tax. Increasing the minimum wage would inject more cash into the economy, as those at the bottom of the income spectrum spend most of their income. On the other hand, lowering the tax rate on the wealthy would only put more money into their pockets while increasing our state’s budget woes.
Rauner constantly touts his business experience as enabling him to address the state’s budget issues. Yet he has offered little in the way of specifics (beyond cutting taxes, which clearly will not help budget shortfalls). A state is not a company, and the Republican claim that being a CEO prepares one to run a government has become trite and tired. The purpose of government is not just to turn a profit; it is also to govern in a way that maximizes the human rights of all.
(click here to continue reading The 99 Percent in Illinois Cannot Afford Bruce Rauner as Governor – Gapers Block Mechanics | Chicago.)
Sadly, Pat Quinn, the incumbent Democratic Governor, is in real danger of losing to this Mitt Romney clone. For the sake of Illinois, I hope that doesn’t happen, but Quinn is tepid dishwater, at best, so he might very well lose.
As mentioned by Ms. Anspach above, running a company, especially a private equity firm, has next to zero similarity to running a government. You can’t just fire your non-productive citizens, sell off your troubled bridges and other assets, and make Wall Street happy. Governments don’t work that way.
You ran one of Chicago’s biggest private equity firms, GTCR, for years. How does that prepare you to be governor? Being a successful CEO, where I’ve driven a bottom line, assembled teams, driven results, that’s a critical benefit to running the state government. A CEO’s job is leadership, problem solving, and team building. I’ve done that my whole career.
(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner Answers 13 Questions on Running for Governor of Illinois | Chicago magazine | June 2013.)
Sometimes I forget that the Chicago Tribune is a Republican-friendly newspaper. On many topics, they are decent source of non-biased news, but every so often, the visage slips. Last Friday, the print edition of the Chicago Tribune had this inflammatory headline:
“Democrats up class war ante”
The online version available today has slightly toned down the headline, but not much
Illinois Democrats went all-in Thursday with their election-year class warfare theme as Speaker Michael Madigan pitched the idea of asking voters to raise taxes on millionaires, Senate President John Cullerton advanced a minimum-wage increase and Gov. Pat Quinn compared wealthy opponent Bruce Rauner to TV villain Mr. Burns.
(click here to continue reading Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme – Chicago Tribune.)
Either way, calling Democratic Party initiatives to reduce income inequality, slightly, as class warfare is offensive, and straight out of Frank Luntz’s dictionary. Circa 2008, Frank Luntz started labeling every economic-related Democratic Party position “class warfare” whether or not it actually applies.1 Raising the tax on millionaires isn’t going to bankrupt the millionaires. Increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to force Bruce Rauner to sell off one of his many, many mansions. No Democratic politician is calling for the guillotine to be rolled out, though plenty of us peons chuckle at the idea.
As Senator Bernie Sanders has been saying for many years, the real class warfare is being waged ruthlessly by the 1% on the rest of us. Focusing on tax breaks for corporations, flat tax proposals, allowing someone like Mitt Romney (or Bruce Rauner) to pay tiny amounts of income tax; these are tools of the rich, these are actual battles of class warfare. Cutting food stamps is class warfare, cutting education assistance is class warfare, cutting Social Security is class warfare, eliminating the minimum wage is class warfare, you could make a big, long list.
“What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sen. Bernie Sanders asked on Monday. He was reacting to a new report that more than 18 percent of Americans last year struggled to afford food. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for deeper and deeper cuts in food stamps, a program that provides help mostly to children and seniors. We are living in “a very ugly moment,” the senator told the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Later Sen. Sanders ripped Republicans for claiming that the problem is that children get too much help from the federal government, “These are the same people who want to eliminate the estate tax, which applies to only the top three tenths of one percent of all Americans, which is the richest of the rich, then they are going after kids. The politics of this, Al, is what they are trying to do is deflect attention away from income and wealth inequality. Attention away from the fact that the rich are doing extraordinarily well, and tell their supporters that the real problem in America is that children are getting too much help from the federal government, and that’s the kind of mentality that we have got to fight back against.”
(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Quivers as Bernie Sanders Outs the Dirty Secret Behind His Poverty Propaganda.)
Speaking of wealthy class warriors, check out this list (from the Tribune, in fact) of some of the properties that the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, owns
There’s the 6,870-square-foot Rauner mansion on a half-acre lot in Winnetka; two units, including a penthouse, in a luxury high-rise overlooking Millennium Park; a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys with a 72-foot-long pool; ranches in Montana and Wyoming; and a condo in an upscale Utah ski resort.
Most carry price tags well into the seven figures. But topping the list is a penthouse in a landmark co-op building along New York’s Central Park, which property records show Rauner bought in 2005 for $10 million.
Rauner has amassed a larger stable of high-end residences than Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee whose plentiful and opulent homes lent ammunition to foes who portrayed him as an out-of-touch elitist.
Rauner dismisses any such comparison to Romney…
Rauner said he likes recreational properties where he can practice land or water conservation. He often buys and pastes parcels together in areas he thinks are beautiful to “have an investment that appreciates over a 20- to 30-year period.”
That includes his property in Wyoming, he said, where he grows barley, alfalfa and winter wheat.
When he takes his family West, they most often go to his New Moon Ranch in Livingston, Mont., near Yellowstone National Park. It sits on hundreds of acres of grazing and cropland and includes a nearly 6,000-square-foot home, according to property records. It has five bedrooms and four baths and is currently valued by the Park County, Mont., assessor at $2.2 million.
In the winter, Rauner and his wife, Diana, have their pick of both hot and cold weather getaways. For snow sports they have a condominium in the luxury Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, east of Salt Lake City, purchased in 2003 and currently valued by the assessor there at $1.75 million.
The Rauners also own an oceanfront home in Key Largo, Fla., currently worth almost $7 million, according to property records there. It has a private boat dock, four bedrooms, four baths, 5,370 square feet of ground-floor living space and a patio nearly half that size.
The Rauners also have a New York penthouse on Central Park in a century-old Beaux Arts style building known as The Prasada. They paid $10 million for it eight years ago. A billionaire neighbor recently put the adjoining penthouse up for sale and is asking $48 million, according to realty postings.
In Illinois, Rauner holds title to three homes in Cook County, including two condominium units on East Randolph Street. Records show Rauner paid more than $1.2 million for the smaller unit in late 2008, where one of his daughters now lives.
The Rauners bought the penthouse unit a couple of months earlier, in August 2008, for $4 million, according to county records. …
The Rauners still own their Winnetka house and consider it their primary residence. Its current market value is estimated at $3.3 million by the Cook County assessor’s office.
(click here to continue reading Bruce Rauner has many million-dollar homes and a campaign that touts frugality – Chicago Tribune.)Footnotes:
- I’m not sure Frank Luntz is the first to use this talking point, but he came up with Death Tax, and other Republican “hits”, so it stands to reason [↩]
The Supreme Court inexplicably ruled recently that corporations are people when it comes to spending political money; now this same court is going to rule whether for-profit corporations have religious rights as well. Rights that then would trickle down to the employees, squashing the employee’s rights. If this law passes, the religious affiliation of businesses will have to become a factor for workers deciding where to work. Will the corporation have to disclose the religious affiliations of each and every shareholder? Just the C.E.O. and President? The Board of Directors? Who controls the “Corporate Personhood”? How does Hobby Lobby take communion wafers and confession? Does Hobby Wine only drink grape juice like some Protestants?
Buzzfeed needs to make a listicle: 23 Odd Religious Practices Your Boss Might Insist Upon. I can imagine some of them now, like what if your boss was a Rastafarian, and insisted you treat cannabis as a sacrament each and every day? A Christian Scientist? You couldn’t go to the doctor at all, only pray for God to intervene. Orthodox Jewish boss? Better keep kosher, including paying attention to Shatnez- meaning you cannot mix wool and other fibers in the same clothing. If you worked for Staples when Mitt Romney owned it, would you have to wear the magic underwear? And be forbidden from drinking coffee? How about if your company’s board has members of Digambara Jain? Would you have to be nude all the time after you reached a certain age? If you worked for a Jehovah’s Witness like Prince, could your boss prohibit you from getting a blood transfusion? A Scientologist boss would prohibit you from Prozac and other psychiatric drugs and treatment. A Quaker corporation might not want its taxes to go to support building of war machines, would that be ok for the Court? What about wearing ornaments? God has railed against the wearing of ornaments in Exodus 33.
These are jokes, almost, but depending upon how the Supreme Court rules, the joke might turn to ashes in our mouths. I know the prospect scares me, and I’m self-employed. I really don’t want to live in the Christian Theocracy these zealots are trying to create…
God Is Ugly
Some coverage regarding this scary, scary issue that I read today, including this overview from Adam Liptak, New York Times:
In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, ruled for Hobby Lobby (PDF), a corporation owned by a family whose members have said they try to run the business on Christian principles. The company, which operates a chain of arts-and-crafts stores and has more than 15,000 full-time employees of many faiths, objected to a requirement in the health care law that large employers provide their workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception.
Hobby Lobby told the justices that it had no problem with offering coverage for many forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery. But drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb are another matter, and make it complicit in a form of abortion, the company said.
The law presents companies with difficult choices, Hobby Lobby told the justices. Failing to offer comprehensive coverage could subject it to fines of $1.3 million a day, it said, while dropping insurance coverage for its employees entirely could lead to fines of $26 million a year.
The Tenth Circuit ruled that Hobby Lobby was a “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and that its religious beliefs had been compromised without good reason.
Kyle Duncan, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said he was pleased that the justices had agreed to resolve the split among the federal appeals courts. “We hope the Supreme Court will vindicate the rights of family business owners,” he said.
Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that “the right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions.”
“These for-profit companies,” she said, “are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”
In July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (PDF), which makes wood cabinets and is owned by a Mennonite family that had similar objections to the law. The Third Circuit concluded that “for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise.”
David Cortman, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the company and its owners, said the ruling was misguided. “The administration has no business forcing citizens to make a choice between making a living and living free,” he said.
The Third Circuit rejected an analogy to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech. Though the First Amendment also protects the free exercise of religion, Judge Robert E. Cowen wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel, “it does not automatically follow that all clauses of the First Amendment must be interpreted identically.”
But a five-judge majority of an eight-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit, in the Hobby Lobby case, said that “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United” extended to religious freedom.
“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the majority.
(click here to continue reading Justices to Hear Contraception Cases Challenging Health Law – NYTimes.com.)
Amelia Thomson-Deveaux notes that neither of these businesses are even Catholic, so why would they object to contraception?
Oddly enough, neither of the business owners involved are Catholic, even though the first objections to the contraception mandate were raised by Catholic leaders, who didn’t want religiously affiliated hospitals and schools to provide birth control, which the Catholic hierarchy considers taboo. One case—Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, documented extensively for the Prospect by Sarah Posner earlier this summer—deals with an arts-and-crafts chain owned by evangelical Christians. The other—Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius—hones in on a smaller, Mennonite-owned cabinet door manufacturer.
Neither of the plaintiffs’ arguments mention doctrinal objections to contraception. That’s because Protestants, unlike Catholics, don’t believe that birth control is immoral. In fact, the denominations’ divergent views on the two issues created a kind of intra-Christian culture war throughout much of the twentieth century. Haunted, in part, by neo-Malthusian fears about the world’s rapid descent into overpopulation, the Church of England officially moderated its stance on contraception in 1930. Over the course of the following decade, most American Protestant denominations followed suit. The Mennonite Church does not have an official stance on birth control.
When evangelical Christians decided to throw in their lot alongside the Catholic hospitals and schools seeking an exemption from the contraceptive mandate, their argument was, to put it mildly, a stretch. When Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois, asked the Obama administration for an emergency injunction against the contraception mandate last year, it emerged that the college was not eligible because it had “inadvertently” been including emergency contraception in its student health plan.
It should also be noted that neither of the cases that will appear before the Supreme Court are founded on sound science; both allege that emergency contraception—and, in the Hobby Lobby case, the IUD—is a form of abortion. This relies on the notion that pregnancy begins when the egg is fertilized—not, as the medical community contends, when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall. This means that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the facts of the case will be based on junk science, not theology. The Catholic Church, whether you agree with it or not, has consistently maintained that birth control is a fundamental evil. Protestant attempts to overturn the contraception mandate aren’t about theological objections to birth control—they’re an effort to dramatically expand religious freedom rights for conservative Christians.
(click here to continue reading The Contraception-Mandate Cases Aren’t Really About Contraception.)
Jessica Valenti writes
Today the Supreme Court announced it will hear two cases concerning the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies’ insurance plans cover birth control. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties claim the mandate violates their belief against certain kinds of contraception—pitting female employees’ right to a nondiscriminatory health plan against a company’s religious freedom. (I also fervently hope these companies are fighting as hard to ensure that their unmarried male employees don’t have access to sin-pills like Viagra.)
Most American women—99 percent—will use birth control at some point in their lives. Twenty-seven million women are being covered by this provision right now. So I have to wonder what companies that don’t want to cover birth control will tell their female employees should the contraception mandate be struck down. Abstinence? Aspirin between the knees, perhaps?
There’s also an incredibly slippery slope here—if employees’ health plans have to adhere to company owners’ religious beliefs, what happens if your boss doesn’t believe in vaccinations? Or as Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic tweeted, “What if your blood transfusions violate your employer’s religious beliefs? No surgery coverage?” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement, “Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their bosses opens a door that won’t easily be shut.”
(click here to continue reading Birth Control Coverage: It’s the Misogyny, Stupid | The Nation.)
“The corporations that brought these cases have views that are far outside the mainstream, and the outcome of these cases could have extreme consequences for millions of Americans,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in response to the news. “For the first time ever, the court could decide that corporations have the right to opt out of a legal requirement — based entirely on the personal beliefs of their owners.”
“The right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “These for-profit companies are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”
But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, suggested it believes that the Supreme Court will rule to protect the so-called religious expression of for-profit corporations, citing the 2010 Citizens United decision as an example of the court defining corporate personhood. “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” the court wrote.
(click here to continue reading Supreme Court to hear cases challenging contraception mandate – Salon.com.)
The president of Hobby Lobby is a member of the Christian Taliban if there ever was one:
Among his more controversial beliefs: Gothard thinks he can determine a person’s character simply by staring into their eyes, that disease has spiritual causes and that men are the sovereign rulers of the household. His books provide detailed instructions on how women ought to stand, in addition to diagrams of the appropriate length of men’s pants and illustrations of suitable female hairstyles.
In 2002, Green, acting through his family trust, purchased and then leased a vacant college campus to Gothard’s ministry. A year later, Green, this time acting through Hobby Lobby itself, purchased a shuttered hospital in Little Rock, Ark., and donated it to Gothard for the purposes of building a local training center.
These weren’t mere business transactions, either. The website of one of Gothard’s many ministries features video of Steve Green describing Hobby Lobby’s “desire to share Christ and Disciple others.” And in a review of Gothard’s book, The Amazing Way, David Green, father of Steve Green and founder of Hobby Lobby, wrote that, “Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business. It is as we take those lessons from God s Word that Bill clearly articulates that we live the full life that God intends.”
Objective courses about the Bible are permissible in public schools, but Sunday School lessons are a different matter entirely. Green’s past statements and Religious Right connections indicate that he’s actually trying to promote a specific perspective on the Bible: his own.
(click here to continue reading Curricular Controversy: Hobby Lobby President Proposes Bible Elective in Okla. Public School | Americans United.)
I know I’m never setting foot in a Hobby Lobby again:
Hobby Lobby, the giant craft retailer known for providing knitting wool, holiday trinkets, fake flowers, and just about any other craft-centric material one could need, balks at providing certain types of medical care for its employees. That is because the company, which has 559 stores across the country and brings in $3 billion in revenue each year, is owned by the Green family—devout Christians who believe that human life begins at conception and that using certain types of birth control violates their religious beliefs.
The Greens, who often have Hobby Lobby buy newspaper ads encouraging people to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” also think that their religious beliefs should be imposed on Hobby Lobby’s 22,000 employees. Because of their religious convictions, the Greens have asked a federal court, in a case called Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, to exempt their for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer health plans covering contraception.
In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that minimum standards for employer health plans would include preventive care for women, including mammograms, cervical-cancer screenings, prenatal care, and contraceptives—all services that are vital to women’s health and well-being. The Obama administration provided an exemption from the contraception-coverage requirement for “religious employers”—churches and nonprofit religious organizations—but not for for-profit, secular corporations such as Hobby Lobby.
Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius is one of 40 lawsuits filed across the country asking federal courts to exempt a for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement. It is also one part of a coordinated effort led by conservative legal groups to undermine the Affordable Care Act and avoid complying with other laws.
(click here to continue reading Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius: Crafting a Dangerous Precedent | Center for American Progress.)
Iota Eta Sigma
So if a for-profit corporation is religious, is it based on its board members? Share holders? Founders? Who gets to decide what religion a company is?
Even if one assumes that the mandate represents a “substantial burden,” another problem with the argument being made against the mandate is that the free exercise of religion is an inherently individual act. As Sarah Posner argued, the idea that a secular, for-profit corporation can “exercise” religion is a strange concept that would be inconsistent with a substantial body of precedent. Some have argued that the Court’s Citizens United decision should be seen as changing the legal context, the issues involved are very different. Corporations must have some free speech rights because the dissemination of speech often involves corporate entities—Congress cannot ban the showing of Masters of Sex just because it’s distributed by Viacom. Religious exercise, conversely, is inherently personal. Some shareholders in the Hobby Lobby may have religious beliefs that contradict the religious mandate, but the corporation itself cannot.
What about closely held corporations?
One potential argument, recently made by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is that a corporation itself cannot exercise religion, but a corporation’s owners can. Since one argument made by Conestoga Wood is that the religious rights of the company’s owners have been violated even if those of the company cannot be, the case is presumably a vehicle for the Court to examine this legal question as well. In my judgement, this argument is no more convincing than Hobby Lobby’s. The owner of a business cannot obtain the advantages of a corporate form (including substantial insulation from personal liability) while remaining an individual when it is advantageous to do so. Nonetheless, it would not be surprising for the Supreme Court to split the baby by rejecting the Hobbby Lobby’s claim while accepting the ones raised by the owners of Conestoga.
(click here to continue reading The Affordable Care Act v. Supreme Court, Round 2.)
Jill Filipovic of the Guardian, U.K.
On its face, it seems odd to even consider the question seriously. After all, no one is forcing the owners of the company to take contraception or purchase contraception. The belief in question – that certain types of contraception are “abortifacients” – is also far from scientific fact. Also, the company owners issue their employees a pay check and have no say over how the employees spend it; they have no say over the activities their employees participate in on a vacation day.
It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use the money paid to them by the company for a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including buying contraception. It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use a company-issued vacation day to enjoy a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including, say, a full-day contracepted sex-fest, a trip to Mecca or a pork barbecue.
So why is it a problem for employees to use their health insurance for the care they and their doctors agree upon?
The cases the supreme court will hear were brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which bars the government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is justified by a “compelling reason”. Free religious exercise is burdened when the government forces an individual to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs, but not every infringement on religious beliefs is a substantial burden. As the ACLU points out in their amicus brief to the supreme court, the contraception law doesn’t force the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store to violate their own religious beliefs. It requires them to cover health insurance, which may subsidize someone else’s activities that violate the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious values – but again, the same could be said for issuing a pay check.
By refusing to cover contraception, the Hobby Lobby owners (and the owners of the other companies claiming the healthcare law infringes upon their religious freedom) are in fact using their own religious beliefs to deny benefits to their employees who may not share those beliefs at all. That’s not religious freedom; it’s religious tyranny.
The company heads bringing these claims want to have it both ways. By incorporating, owners and shareholders create separate entities and are not personally liable for their employees’ salaries or health insurance costs – the entire point of incorporating is to create a legal entity separate from the individuals who created it. Yet these owners and shareholders want the court to consider their personal religious beliefs indistinguishable from those of the corporation, and allow those beliefs to dictate the kind of healthcare coverage their employees receive.
(click here to continue reading Get real: covering contraception doesn’t violate employers’ religious freedom | Jill Filipovic | Comment is free | theguardian.com.)
At least my corporation is atheist (because I am)
Feeling lazy right about now1, so I’ll simply point you toward this…
For those who haven’t had the great misfortune of reading “Atlas Shrugged,” the book is premised on the idea that if the world’s “creative leaders,” businessmen, innovators, artists (i.e., the “makers”) went on strike, our entire society would collapse. These strikers hide out in a utopian compound in the mountains of Colorado while the rest of us despondently wail and gnash our teeth and beg for them to once again bestow their creativity upon us.
The book mirrors in many ways the more lefty “Elysium,” where to escape the environmental degradation they have wrought, the wealthiest go off to form their own society in the sky. The rest of the human population remains mired in slum-like conditions, because the only thing standing between humanity and savagery is Bill Gates. But have no fear! Rather than collectively solving our problems, humanity needs a salvific “Jesus” in the form of (who else?) Matt Damon to make us citizens of Elysium and thereby save humanity. These two, very disparate tales of woe both have common elements (what I will call the “Randian vision”): society relies on the wealthy; collective action through government is either meaningless or detrimental; and a few individuals (“great men”) should be the center of social change and innovation. But all of these assumptions are false.
The arts are largely supported by public funding, not private donations. And many businesses are less self-sufficient than they imagine, requiring bailouts and competition between states to support them. Many corporations, like Walmart, dump poor employees on to government largess rather than pay them enough to feed themselves. And who builds the roads and takes out the garbage?
Were the richest .01% to venture out and form their own society, the rest of us would not devolve into violent conflict; rather, without the expensive burden of the wealthy tapeworms siphoning our common wealth, we could begin to solve our problems. So to the rich who threaten to leave New York, I say, “go.” If the rich somehow manage to form their own planet, we can start fixing the problems on ours. We are the makers, they are the takers.
(click here to continue reading Ayn Rand’s vision of idiocy: Understanding the real makers and takers – Salon.com.)
If you hadn’t noticed, CBS hitched itself to the Tea Party, and the Daryl Issa / Lindsey Graham wing of the Conspirator-in-every-Corner GOP by airing a laughably implausible 60 Minutes piece narrated by Lara Logan, noted wife of Pys-Ops propagandist, Joseph W. Burkett of the Lincoln Group …
Turns out, most if not all of the 60 Minutes report was inaccurate. If this report had been about Ted Cruz, Lara Logan would already have been fired and headed to Guantanomo, but since Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were the target, Ms. Logan can keep her job with just a mealy-mouthed apology. Compare and contrast CBS’ response to Dan Rather’s reporting on the George Bush AWOL story, circa 2004…
A few choice responses to the whole SNAFU below.
On Sunday, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan issued a short and, many commentators felt, insufficient apology for her now-discredited 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi consulate attack. A year ago, Logan had publicly mocked the notion that the Benghazi attack was a protest gone awry and advocated for a stronger U.S. military response. Should CBS have given her this story? How can Logan or her network satisfactorily explain the botched report? And do you see a double standard at work between Logan’s fate (issuing a halfhearted apology, so far) and Dan Rather’s much harsher penalty for his questionable 60 Minutes report in 2004?
Lara Logan’s story was not a mere journalistic mistake, but a hoax comparable to such legendary frauds as Life magazine’s purchase of the billionaire Howard Hughes’s nonexistent “autobiography” in the seventies and Rupert Murdoch’s similarly extravagant embrace of the bogus Hitler “diaries” in the eighties. In Logan’s case, she perpetrated an out-and-out fictional character: a pseudonymous security contractor who peddled a made-up “eyewitness” account of the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The point seemed to be to further Benghazi as a conservative political cause (instead, Logan’s hoax boomeranged and extinguished it) and to melodramatically exploit the tragic slaughter of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues as titillating prime-time network entertainment. Logan’s phony source, who in fact was at a beachside villa and not on site to witness anything, cooked up violent new “details” for the Benghazi narrative that seemed to have been lifted from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
Here are a few questions that Logan’s “apology” — every bit as bogus as the story itself — failed to answer. (1) How could Logan (by her own account) have worked “for a year” on this report and not done the elementary cross-checking that allowed Karen De Young of the Washington Post to expose the fraud almost immediately after it aired? Indeed, what was Logan doing during that long year?
(click here to continue reading Frank Rich: CBS’s Benghazi Report Was a Hoax — Daily Intelligencer.)
Yes, one year working on this story. Does that mean 40 hours a week reading reports and interviewing witnesses? Or does that mean 15 minutes a week reading right-wing blogs or Threshold books on a smartphone waiting for her gluten-free pasta to be cooked in the CBS cafeteria? Because it Ms. Logan worked on this story for 12 months, you’d think she’d get more of the basic facts correct.
“Logan even called for retribution for the recent terrorist killings of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and three other officials,” wrote Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington in her coverage of the luncheon. “Logan hopes that America will ‘exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil. That its ambassadors will not be murdered, and that the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.’”
Seek retribution? Exact revenge? That may be the kind of language media activist Glenn Greenwald can fire off, but it isn’t what folks expect from a 60 Minutes correspondent. And it’s not what viewers should expect from Logan if she is going to report on Stevens and the highly charged political controversy surrounding his murder in Benghazi.
Adding to concern over Logan doing this story is that Threshold Books, which published The Embassy House, specializes in conservative nonfiction. Its authors are notable Republicans: Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, Mary Cheney, and Sean Hannity. Republican consultant Mary Matalin is its chief editor. None are friendly to the Obama administration, which has taken considerable heat from the GOP for Benghazi.
(click here to continue reading On the 60 Minutes/Benghazi debacle : Columbia Journalism Review.)
Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy found lots and lots of other problems with the report, and the ethics of Lara Logan. Here are a few highlights (lowlights?), but you should really read the entire article
But Logan’s mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast’s transcript reveals. McClatchy turned to LexisNexis, a legal research service, for a transcript of the broadcast because the segment no longer appeared on CBS sites.
The report repeatedly referred to al Qaida as solely responsible for the attack on the compound and made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack. While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims – al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state.
It is an important distinction, experts on those groups said. Additionally, al Qaida’s role, if any, in the attack has not been determined, and Logan’s narration offered no source for her repeated assertion that it had been.
Moreover, questions remain over how far in advance the attack on the U.S. compound had been planned. Rather than a long-planned attack, investigators have told McClatchy it was likely planned hours, rather than days, in advance.
Another questionable assertion in the “60 Minutes” report was Logan’s unsourced reference to the Benghazi Medical Center as being “under the control of al Qaida terrorists,” an assertion that McClatchy correspondents on the ground at the time and subsequent reporting in Benghazi indicates is untrue.
Two months ago, al Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi was captured in Tripoli by U.S. commandoes and brought to New York to stand trial for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The “60 Minutes” piece attempted to link al-Libi to the events in Benghazi, with Logan reporting that “Abu Anas al-Libi was captured for his role in the Africa bombings and the U.S. is still investigating what part he may have played in Benghazi.”
But a U.S. law enforcement source involved in the Benghazi probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss a case that’s still under investigation, told McClatchy this week that al-Libi is not under investigation for the Benghazi attacks. Logan did not detail the source for her assertion that he was.
If there is new evidence that any of the men were involved, the segment did not detail what it was or how Logan knew about it.
The piece closed with a picture of a document outlining Stevens’ schedule for Sept. 12, “a day (Stevens) did not live to see.” According to the piece, “When a member of our team went to the U.S. compound earlier this month, he found remnants of the Americans’ final frantic moments still scattered on the ground.”
But the compound owner, Jamal el Bishari, told McClatchy on Wednesday that he began clearing debris in April from the compound’s four buildings and is still renovating the site. McClatchy visited the site in June and saw a pile of debris sitting outside the compound walls, but no documents were discernible among the broken concrete, clothing, furniture and soot.
Bishari said it is unlikely such a document could have been discovered recently.
“It is impossible to find a document now,” he told McClatchy.
Davies had claimed in the “60 Minutes” piece that he had gone to the diplomatic compound site during the attack, climbed a 12-foot-high wall and struck one of the attackers in the head with his rifle butt before discovering Stevens’ body at the hospital. All of the claims contradicted multiple reports that have emerged in the year since the attacks.
Since “60 Minutes” acknowledgement that Davies had lied in his interviews, CBS also has not explained how Davies came to play such a major role in the segment and what role if any his connection to CBS-owned Threshold Editions had in his prominence. Threshold, which also has published books by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Republican strategist Karl Rove and conservative commentator Glenn Beck, withdrew Davies’ book from circulation last week.
Media Matters has been collecting responses to the bogus story and the non-apology tour:
Following 60 Minutes’ tepid, incomplete apology for their retracted October 27 report on Benghazi, a broad array of media observers are criticizing the network’s response to the controversy.
After stonewalling critics of their report, CBS finally retracted the segment on November 7, long after it had become clear that there were serious questions about the credibility of the supposed “eyewitness” at the center of their story.
In a November 8 interview on CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan told viewers that “we were wrong” to air the segment and indicated that the network planned to “correct the record” on the November 10 edition of 60 Minutes.
But 60 Minutes devoted a mere 90 seconds to its correction and declined to adequately explain how the segment had made it to the air in the first place.
Numerous commentators and media observers are also harshly criticizing CBS’ report, with several pointing out that it leaves important questions unanswered.
(click here to continue reading Observers Rain Criticism On “Bogus” 60 Minutes Apology | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
Democracy in action, Texas style…
First, Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification for 52 years, did not exactly match her name on the official voter rolls.
A few days later, state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat who became a national celebrity after her filibuster over a new abortion law, had the same problem in early voting. So did her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
They were all able to vote after signing affidavits attesting that they were who they claimed to be. But not Jim Wright, a former speaker of the House in Washington, whose expired driver’s license meant he could not vote until he went home and dug a certified copy of his birth certificate out of a box.
On Tuesday, Texas unveiled its tough new voter ID law, the only state to do so this year, and the rollout was sometimes rocky. But interviews with opponents and supporters of the new law, which required voters for the first time to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, suggest that in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.
(click here to continue reading Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at Polls – NYTimes.com.)
Isn’t it amazing that one of the major political parties in the US would rather have less people vote than do the hard work to convince citizens the political ideas of that party are worth supporting? Or change the doctrines of the political party to comply with the wishes of the voters? The Republicans have spent billions of think-tank dollars figuring out how to disenfranchise as many people as possible instead of taking a chance on democracy. What does that say about the popularity of Republican doctrines?
And in Texas, this was a relatively minor election with low turnout; most participants were experienced, committed voters, not the casual voters who turn out in presidential and gubernatorial contests. Just wait until there are lines stretched around the block…
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, which opposed the new law, said that it was concerned more about voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from the polls altogether as a result.
“We have always felt there was anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 voters who would not be able to present the proper identification,” Linda Krefting, the group’s president, said. “The concern we have is that all this flap in the news may have discouraged people from turning out at the polls.”
Voter ID laws and other statutes that cut back on early voting or make it more difficult to register have proliferated in states dominated by Republicans since the party’s wave of governor and statehouse victories in 2010.
Proponents say they are needed to curtail voter fraud. Opponents point out that such fraud is extremely rare and say the laws actually target groups that have proven less likely to have the state-mandated identification: the poor, students, African-Americans and Hispanics, all of whom tend to vote more Democratic.
Under the new Texas law, the list of acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID and a concealed gun permit, but not a student photo ID. Voters who showed up at the polls with no acceptable IDs were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voters whose names were “significantly similar” on their IDs and the official voter rolls could sign an affidavit, which involved checking a box next to their name, then were allowed to vote normally.
(click here to continue reading Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at Polls – NYTimes.com.)
If I still lived in Texas, I’d have trouble because my drivers license spells out my middle name and my voter registration card only lists the middle initial. And I would vote Democratic…
Corporate welfare is an ugly practice. I’ve long been opposed to the sports stadium boondoggle, where the public pays for an expensive stadium, instead of the billionaires who own the team, but at least with those sorts of deals, the area gets to root for laundry with the city name on it. Some form of civic pride, some vague benefit. Corporate vampires like ADM draining the nearly bloodless corpse of the state government is much worse. It is as if Illinois was flush with cash – it isn’t – and a backwards state that no business wants to be located in – it isn’t. Notice too how Greg Webb of ADM won’t even guarantee that ADM will stay until the ink is dry on the bill.
So ADM basically says, “Give us money you don’t have, and maybe you’ll get something in return come election time. Or not”. What a crock.
State lawmakers Wednesday took a step closer to granting special incentives to companies seeking thousands of dollars per job created or retained in Illinois.
Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. is seeking $5,000 per job per year, chemical distributor Univar Inc. almost $3,000 and OfficeMax, which became Office Depot after its merger this week, $1,570.
All the companies are seeking to collect their employees’ tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The reason for the requests is that companies have years in which they have little or no state tax obligation and can’t take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state.
The ADM measure would tie incentives to 300 jobs: moving 100 jobs from Decatur, where it’s based, to the company’s new global headquarters, and creating 100 jobs at the headquarters and 100 jobs in Decatur. The company would also be required to fill 100 positions annually in Decatur for five years, including jobs created because of retirements. The incentive will total about $1.5 million a year for 15 to 20 years, a company spokeswoman said.
Sen. David Luechtefeld, of downstate Okawville, asked during a Senate committee hearing whether ADM would guarantee it would keep its headquarters in the state if the measure is approved.
“I don’t know about the guarantee part,” said Greg Webb, ADM’s vice president of government relations. He later added: “I’m going to tell you that we have a preference for Illinois.”
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
The corporate vampires have such a low tax burden, despite their profitability, they cannot “take advantage of incentives negotiated with the state”. Right, here is their great idea. Create even more incentives negotiated with the state, with a half-hearted promise to keep the headquarters in Chicago. There is no language in the bill that even requires ADM to create the jobs the $30,000,000 is allegedly buying. In other words, if the bill passes, and in 2014, ADM decided to move to Mississippi, well then, this was all for nought.
And then there’s these vampires, playing one area against another:
At the same hearing, Office Depot interim co-CEO Ravi Saligram said a new proposal requiring the company to create 200 jobs in the state, in addition to retaining 2,050, would cost Illinois $53 million over 15 years.
Saligram said the newly merged company is also seeking incentives from Florida before deciding where to locate its new corporate headquarters. Office Depot, which merged with Naperville-based OfficeMax, employs 1,700 at its Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters.
Office Depot already has a multimillion-dollar package of incentives with Florida and Palm Beach County based on job creation.
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
and these one:
Separately, House lawmakers Wednesday approved a bill that paves the way for chemical distributor Univar Inc. to receive incentives worth $5 million over 10 years. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is considering moving its headquarters to Downers Grove, said Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, the sponsor of the bill.
Zalewski said Univar is different from other companies seeking incentives because it’s considering moving its headquarters to Illinois.
(click here to continue reading Lawmakers closer to granting special incentives to companies creating or retaining jobs in Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
Whoever came up with this system should be exiled to Somalia. There is exactly zero evidence any of these corporate welfare programs help the state government, in any tangible way. None! or as Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo said:
There is no evidence that this is a good deal for the state.
Sometimes that Koch dollar doesn’t spend as easily as expected. As a follow up to a previous post, turns out Coralville successfully tuned out the Koch agenda…
In a contest that attracted the attention of Vice President Joe Biden and spending by the national conservative group Americans for Prosperity, Coralville’s three incumbent candidates are staying for another term.
Unofficial results Tuesday showed John Lundell winning the mayoral contest and Tom Gill, Bill Hoeft and Laurie Goodrich winning seats on the council in an election with record-breaking turnout.
Shortly after Lundell’s victory became apparent, the City Council member said, he received a surprise phone call from Biden.
“He indicated that he was very proud of our city, that we took on the Koch brothers and successfully beat them by such a huge margin,” Lundell said. “That was another aspect of this election that was unanticipated, that after the polls closed that I’d be speaking to the vice president of the United States.”
(click here to continue reading Biden phones winner of memorable Coralville election | The Des Moines Register | desmoinesregister.com.)
This made me giggle today…
Quick backstory – Senator Rand Paul was found to be a serial plagiarist in his speeches, and in his recently published book. Not the greatest of crimes, but still, something that should be addressed with seriousness. Instead, Senator Paul got indignant, and blustery, and basically melted down, saying he would duel “hacks and haters” like Rachel Maddow, et al, if only the law wasn’t holding him back. Of course, Kentucky anti-dueling law only applies to State Senators, so technically Senator Paul is free to back his words up…
Anyway, Charles Pierce adds:
Uh-oh, Senator Aqua Buddha, noisy spalpeen of Crazy Uncle Liberty (!) apparently drifted onto the air of The Clinton Guy Shocked By Blowjobs in order to seek satisfaction upon the field of honor with friend of the blog, kindly Doc Maddow.
“I will admit, sometimes we haven’t footnoted things properly. In fact, I’ve given thousands of speeches and I don’t think I’ve ever footnoted any of those speeches… I’ve written scientific papers. I know how to footnote things. But we’ve never footnoted speeches. And if that’s the standard I’m going to be held to, yes, we will change and we will footnote things…But the difference is, I take it as an insult and I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting,” he added. “And like I say, if, you know, if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know, it would be a duel challenge. But I can’t do that, because I can’t hold office in Kentucky then.”
Up with this, I will not put.
On behalf of KDM, I offer myself as second, but not in a contest of crude firearms. No, my lad. We will be civilized. I will meet you in a place of your choosing and, since I will be representing the one challenged, I get choice of weapons, and we will duel with epees, my young buck. We can go to 15 touches, or to first blood. I care not. I say now, you are a cheat and an internet thief, and I proclaim it to the world. I accept challenge. I will hear from you within the week as to time and place or I will protest your cowardice to the ends of the kingdom. Now, young lackbeard, you know my mind. Dawn comes every day.
(click here to continue reading What Are The Gobshites Saying These Days? – Esquire.)
Steve Benen of MaddowBlog:
There seems to be some ongoing confusion on the senator’s part about the nature of the controversy, which may be causing him to lose his cool. Perhaps I can help by highlighting the basics:
1. Rand Paul presented others’ work as his own several times.
2. Rand Paul got caught.
3. Rand Paul has not yet explained why how or why he presented others’ work as his own.
I’m at a loss as to why this is proving to be so difficult for the senator. The issue shouldn’t have anything to do with his personal feelings towards those who uncovered his missteps. Whether or not he’d like to shoot – or shoot at – journalists who uncovered his wrongdoing shouldn’t matter, either.
As for Paul complaining about the “standard” he’s “going to be held to,” the sitting U.S. senator is facing the same scrutiny routinely applied to 14 year olds, who’ve been taught that copying and pasting text from Wikipedia without attribution is a big no-no.
What is it, specifically, that Rand Paul considers “unfair”?
(click here to continue reading Rand Paul: ‘If dueling were legal in Kentucky…’ | MSNBC.)
Enemies of Democracy, the Koch brothers and the various organizations they fund are trying to influence small scale elections now, elections that you won’t see covered on your cable news shows. Let us hope their schemes fail as more people realize the Koch anti-American agenda. Not holding my breath though.
The [Koch brothers funded] group, Americans for Prosperity, has jumped into the race to elect Coralville’s next mayor and City Council with an aggressive campaign, mailing fliers, advertising in newspapers, calling voters and knocking on their doors. Its latest leaflet hit mailboxes last week, denouncing the town’s growing debt and comparing it to the financial woes of Detroit. “Coralville is fast becoming Iowa’s version of Detroit,” it read.
Tuesday’s race here is not the only one that has drawn the interest of Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by Charles and David Koch. Local chapters have been involved in property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio and Texas, the group says.
In January, the group successfully fought an increase in a food and beverage tax in Fremont, Neb. And last spring, it opposed a tax increase in Gahanna, in central Ohio. Voters rejected the tax measure in May, but the City Council has put it back on Tuesday’s ballot.
Tim Phillips, the national president of Americans for Prosperity, said the organization could have a real effect on local races, where it does not have to deal with all the Washington special interests.
The main reason “we fight local issue battles is because they result in good policy outcomes, generally promoting economic freedom via less taxes, less government spending,” he said.
(click here to continue reading Koch Group Has Ambitions in Small Races – NYTimes.com.)
They haven’t been welcomed everywhere, for instance in Coralville, Iowa:
But here, in this town of fewer than 20,000 residents, the group has not been so welcome, and the nonpartisan campaign has become an informal referendum on the involvement of outsiders.
Even residents who agree with Americans for Prosperity’s core argument — that the city’s debt is out of control — question the group’s motives for wading into the race. That has forced the candidates who share the group’s beliefs to keep the organization at a distance.
Chris Turner, a first-time candidate for the City Council who has spoken out against the debt, said that although he disagreed with Americans for Prosperity on most issues, he could not seem to catch a break because his campaign platform aligns with the organization.
“Every time I go to a debate or anything, I’ve tried talking about the budget, and then they just go, ‘Koch brothers, Koch brothers, Koch brothers,’ ” he said of his critics, adding that he wished Americans for Prosperity “would just go away.”
One of the central players in the race, a coalition of business leaders called Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation, has a large disclaimer on its website that says it is unaffiliated with Americans for Prosperity.
The citizens group, which has given money and advice to candidates it supports, has been criticized because it is unclear who some members are. While most of them are said to own businesses in Coralville, many do not live in the town. The group also has the backing of General Growth Properties, a developer based in Chicago with 123 malls nationwide, including Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. That is the type of corporate, big-money affiliation that people here say they are uncomfortable seeing in their elections.
General Growth has not contributed money to any candidates in the race, but a spokesman, David Keating, said in a statement that the company “is like many other local businesses and homeowners in Coralville — very concerned about the astronomical levels of debt incurred by the city and the huge property tax hikes that have resulted.”
(click here to continue reading Koch Group Has Ambitions in Small Races – NYTimes.com.)
Why don’t the Koch brothers just take their petcoke and their billions, and purchase an island off the coast of Somalia? They could do whatever they wanted there, and leave the rest of us alone…
Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign seriously considered adding Chris Christie, the NJ GOP governor as vice president, but didn’t mostly because Romney doesn’t care for fatties – Pufferfish was the code word for Christie, as example – and because there was a lot of potential baggage in Christie’s history. Amused that some back stabbers in the Romney campaign team have released all this opposition research on Chris Christie to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, prior to Christie’s announcement that he is running for the 2016 ticket. I’d guess these staffers won’t be running Christie’s campaign…
The list of questions Myers and her team had for Christie was extensive and troubling. More than once, Myers reported back that Trenton’s response was, in effect, Why do we need to give you that piece of information? Myers told her team, We have to assume if they’re not answering, it’s because the answer is bad.
The vetters were stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record. There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official—and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.” (Todd also oversaw a family foundation whose activities and purpose raised eyebrows among the vetters.) And all that was on top of a litany of glaring matters that sparked concern on Myers’ team: Christie’s other lobbying clients, his investments overseas, the YouTube clips that helped make him a star but might call into doubt his presidential temperament, and the status of his health.
Ted Newton, managing Project Goldfish under Myers, had come into the vet liking Christie for his brashness and straight talk. Now, surveying the sum and substance of what the team was finding, Newton told his colleagues, If Christie had been in the nomination fight against us, we would have destroyed him—he wouldn’t be able to run for governor again. When you look below the surface, Newton said, it’s not pretty
Four nights later, on July 19, Myers’ team put the finishing touches on the Pufferfish vetting dossier. Included was a DVD with some of Christie’s most outlandish or unnerving YouTube hits: his castigating a pro-gay-marriage New Jersey assemblyman as “numb nuts,” his angrily berating a constituent while chasing him down the Seaside Heights boardwalk, brandishing an ice cream cone. But the main event was the 35-page written report titled “Chris Christie memo 71912 FINAL.”
After 11 days of teeth-gnashing labor, several of the issues that the vetters had unearthed around Christie were still unresolved. Myers and her team were sticklers. Uncomfortable producing a final report they considered incomplete, they made a point of being meticulous about framing and flagging the problems, including a refrain in bold applied to a number of items.
On Todd Christie’s securities-fraud settlement: “[Governor] Christie has been asked to disclose whether Todd Christie incurred any monetary or other penalty as a result of the SEC/NYSE action. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.” On Christie’s defamation lawsuit: “Christie has been asked to provide the terms of the settlement of this matter. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.” On Christie’s household help: “Christie has been asked to provide the names and documented status of all domestic employees. This material has not been received. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, these items should be obtained.” On Christie’s lobbying clients: “Christie has provided only one of the twelve or so [public disclosure] filings made [in the time he was a lobbyist] … If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, these items should be obtained.”
Then there was this: “In response to the questionnaire, Governor Christie indicates that he has no health issues that would hinder him from serving as the vice-presidential nominee. Published reports indicate that Christie suffers from asthma and was briefly hospitalized last year after he suffered an asthma attack. He is also obese and has indicated that he struggles with his weight. ‘The weight exacerbates everything,’ he is quoted as saying. Christie has been asked to provide a detailed medical report. Christie has been asked to provide a copy of all medical records from his most recent physical examination. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.”
(click here to continue reading Double Down Excerpt: Mitt Romney Feared Chris Christie’s Baggage | TIME.com.)
Not surprising, really, the GOP political motivation has been transparently directed towards demagoguery and re-election for a long, long time. Why else the so-called Southern Strategy? Why else the anti-civil rights positions regarding same-sex marriage? Why else other than fooling the rubes and (theoretically) winning elections. What’s happened is the GOP schtick has gotten tiresome, antiquated, and a smaller percentage of the voting public is convinced that tax breaks for wealthy corporations is beneficial for the rest of us…
If the tea party faction thought that they could lay claim to the idea of representing “real America” by dressing up in colonial clothes and calling President Obama some sort of foreigner, that idea is now out the window. After the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to shut down the government in a desperate attempt to take away the ability of the less fortunate to get health insurance, their polling took a major hit. Over half the country now thinks that it’s a bad thing that the Republican Party controls the House; three quarters of Americans believe that Republican members of Congress don’t deserve re-election.
All of those numbers would be bad in their own right, but there’s one that’s even worse, as Steve Benen at MSNBC reports:
The results cover quite a bit of ground, but there was one question in particular that stood out for me: respondents were asked whether they believe the various officials in Washington are more interested in doing what’s best for the country or what’s best for themselves politically. It’s an interesting question because it speaks to something that isn’t often polled: perceptions of motivations. I put together the chart above to capture the results, which should terrify Republican officials. By a nearly four-to-one margin, Americans believe GOP lawmakers in Congress aren’t concerned with the nation’s best interests. That’s just astounding.
Given the revulsion that the American public feels toward Congress in general, it’s unsurprising that Democrats on Capitol Hill are operating at a deficit in this regard as well, even if it isn’t nearly as steep as that faced by their Republican counterparts. But what should scare Republicans even more than their own abysmal numbers? President Obama’s. Despite every single thing that Republicans have said and done to delegitimize the President, ascribe evil intentions to him, and impute that he does not share American values, a majority of Americans think that he cares about what is best for the country more than being motivated by selfish intentions.
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: The final blow: Americans think Republicans don’t care about them.)
The proof will arrive, or not arrive, in the fall of 2014 – all else is speculation until then.
Numbers 2013 sucks, by the way…
Read the rest of this entry »
Linda Ronstadt is one of those artists whose name is familiar, but I don’t have a deep understanding of their oeuvre. I own, and like, her California country-rock album Heart Like a Wheel, but I cannot say much about the rest of her output, other than Phillip K. Dick always raved about Ronstadt’s voice. That said, she sounds like an interesting cat, I’ll have to dig a bit deeper into her music.
Ms. Ronstadt was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and acknowledged her singing career was over because of it. Stephen Deusner of Salon asked her a few questions…
SD: The descriptions of your childhood in Tucson are very poignant, but also very melancholy in the way the desert has changed culturally, geographically and especially politically.
When you’re desert born, you love the desert. It’s a harsh environment. People ask me why I don’t go where there are trees and streams and mountains. But when there are too many trees around me, I can’t see and I think somebody is going to sneak up on me. It makes me nervous. And I love the desert. I love those big, wide, sweeping vistas. During the time I was gone, developers came in and scraped it all away with bulldozers. They put up the ugliest tract houses you’ve ever seen, which aren’t built to last. They’ll be tomorrow’s slums because people won’t be able to live in those houses very long. They’re starting another Dust Bowl era by scraping away the topsoil. People don’t realize how serious that is. The Dust Bowl was the biggest natural cataclysm of the 20th century, and it’s starting again and no one’s taking an interest in it. They just continue to scrape off the topsoil and turn the desert into a wasteland.
Is there anything that can be done?
They have to stop scraping up topsoil. We lose in topsoil the equivalent of the size of Texas every single year. Without topsoil you can’t even grow any food. But people are making money and they’re greedy. There’s no regulation because the Republicans who control those areas don’t want any regulation on anything. They want developers to be allowed to operate in a completely unbridled manner and make as much money as they can — even if that means taking it from other people. That’s wrong. If we’re going to have capitalism, we have to carefully regulate it.
That sounds very similar to the fracking controversy in Appalachia, where they continue to use this technique despite its horrible consequences.
They’re going to do fracking in the Central Valley in California, and there won’t be any regulation. The pollution will get into the water and destroy the farmland. It’s a terrible thing to do, but people are only thinking in the short term and the Republicans are full of climate change deniers and science deniers. They don’t want to deal with inconvenient facts.
Early in “Simple Dreams,” you write very briefly about the immigration controversy in Arizona, comparing the border to the Berlin Wall.
What’s going on on the border is a disgrace. It’s just pure racism. They put the fence up as an affront to a country of incredibly rich cultural tradition. They didn’t put one up on the northern border. There’s no fence between the United States and Canada. So it’s just based on skin color. It’s racism.
Your diagnosis with Parkinson’s was so recent it didn’t even make it into the book. You’ve said that it has taken your voice. How else has it affected your day-to-day life?
I’m now experiencing life as a disabled person. It’s quite a shock. The hardest thing is that I just can’t get things done without depending on other people to help me. It’s hard to ask, and I feel like I’m always imposing. But I really am limited. Falling and choking are big danger for people with Parkinson’s. I’ve already had a couple of spills, and I don’t want to have any more. It’s not easy moving. You try to turn around, and you’ll fall down. So going through airports and just living in hotel rooms is difficult. When I came out on this press junket, I didn’t know how I was going to survive it, but it turns out I can do a little more than I thought I could. I won’t be doing it very much in the future. There is no cure. I don’t expect them to find a cure either, unless we get the Republicans the hell out of Congress so they stop holding up stem cell research. That’s what’s most promising in terms of finding a cure for diabetes, for Parkinson’s, for MS, for all kinds of things. It’s a shame to have to suffer from something that we don’t have to suffer from.That’s what’s most promising in terms of finding a cure for diabetes, for Parkinson’s, for MS, for all kinds of things. It’s a shame to have to suffer from something that we don’t have to suffer from.
(click here to continue reading Linda Ronstadt: “There are always predators around, and you have to keep an eye out for them” – Salon.com.)
and from Mary Jordan of the Washington Post:
A 67-year-old woman in a black hoodie stepped gingerly down from a golf cart at last weekend’s National Book Festival on the Mall. Battling Parkinson’s disease, she steadied herself with two walking sticks, and headed, one careful step at a time, toward the stage.
The applause started as a small ripple as the first few people in the audience spotted her. Then it grew into a full-throated ovation by more than 500 fans as she stepped up onto the stage, smiled shyly, and flashed the luminous chestnut eyes that made America fall in love with Linda Ronstadt.
“I guess I have friends here,” she said, to the roaring approval of a crowd that skewed a little gray, many still with a bit of a crush on the woman who sang such songs as “Blue Bayou” and “You’re No Good.”
As part of the festival program, I interviewed Ronstadt onstage about her new memoir, “Simple Dreams,” which focuses on her upbringing in a musical family in Tucson and the evolution of her career. One of America’s most popular recording artists of the 1970s and 1980s, she has been called the most versatile singer of her generation, a talent who could master rock and country and mariachi. Because of Parkinson’s, she’s no longer able to sing.
As we spoke before a crowd of fans, many of whom had lined up hours early, Ronstadt’s backstage shyness faded. Onstage, she seemed stronger, a force — and very funny.
“We weren’t all having orgies and smoking a big spliff,” she said, when I asked her to talk about the “sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll” lifestyle we all associate with rock stardom. Those stories are exaggerated, she said, and her nightlife was often cuddling up with her stuffed panda reading “Anna Karenina.” She admits that she did drugs, like so many others in her orbit then. But she said they weren’t really her thing: “My addiction was to reading.”
The jet-set days, a different city every night, were not always glamorous. Her luggage often didn’t arrive in time for the next gig, so she kept a favorite striped dress rolled up in her purse. She even wore it on “The Johnny Cash Show” and tossed it only because it was made of a “strange synthetic material that kept shrinking and shrinking” after so many washings in hotel sinks.
Millions of men in were in love with Ronstadt, but she never said “I do” to any of them. “I’ve had lots of nice boyfriends,” she said, describing herself as a devotee of “serial monogamy.” And, then to the delight of the crowd, she added, “with emphasis on the ‘serial.’ ” She was faithful to one boyfriend at a time, but never to one for all time.
“It just wasn’t a requirement for me. I’m not gifted that way. I have great respect for people who do make those kinds of compromises and really build each other up. The only reason to be with somebody is that they make you a better person and you make them a better person.”
Ronstadt famously dated California Gov. Jerry Brown in the late 1970s; they appeared together on the cover of Newsweek. In her memoir she said he was unlike many of the men she met through her music: “He was smart and funny, not interested in drinking or drugs, and lived his life carefully, with a great deal of discipline.”
Ronstadt said she is not political, per se, but she is a Democrat who gets fired up about the immigration debate, which hits close to home. Her father’s family has Mexican roots, and she told me she has many relatives in northern Mexico and Mexico City.
(click here to continue reading Linda Ronstadt, coping with Parkinson’s, reflecting on life in memoir, ‘Simple Dreams’ – The Washington Post.)
Oh, nothing to worry your pretty heads about
A series of agency PowerPoint presentations and memos describe how the N.S.A. has been able to develop software and other tools — one document cited a new generation of programs that “revolutionize” data collection and analysis — to unlock as many secrets about individuals as possible.
The spy agency, led by Gen. Keith B. Alexander, an unabashed advocate for more weapons in the hunt for information about the nation’s adversaries, clearly views its collections of metadata as one of its most powerful resources. N.S.A. analysts can exploit that information to develop a portrait of an individual, one that is perhaps more complete and predictive of behavior than could be obtained by listening to phone conversations or reading e-mails, experts say.
Phone and e-mail logs, for example, allow analysts to identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.
(click here to continue reading N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens – NYTimes.com.)
except, as reported by Maureen Dowd of all people, the NSA has built a monster in Utah
The Bluffdale sinkhole, which has quietly started sucking in mountains of data in the shadow of mountains, is the lockbox. This squat, ugly complex of four buildings is the creepy symbol of the N.S.A.’s remorseless reach deep into our lives. I drove onto the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams base to see the concrete data cloud up close.
Never mind puny terabytes. Or even exabytes, a handful of which can hold all knowledge from the dawn of man, according to estimates.
James Bamford, the chronicler of the untrammeled powers of the “Puzzle Palace,” as he calls the N.S.A., wrote in Wired that the Utah tower of Babel may be able to store a yottabyte. That is equal to a septillion bytes or about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
“It’s basically the N.S.A.’s external hard drive,” Bamford told me, noting that our phone call was no doubt being logged by the Bluffdale computers. “It holds more private information than anyplace else on earth.”
Bamford believes that the N.S.A. has transmogrified from an agency that “watched the Soviet Union to make sure it didn’t blow us up with nuclear weapons,” to one “that keeps collecting and collecting and collecting but doesn’t seem to do us any good.”
“They saw 9/11 and all these other terrorist attacks on CNN. They didn’t have a clue. The more electronic hay they stack on their haystack, the more difficult it is to find the needle.”
(click here to continue reading Creeping Cloud – NYTimes.com.)
because, in truth, the NSA doesn’t have to tell the truth about what it does, allegedly in our names:
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told me ruefully that on Thursday, “Alexander put in a lockbox information that he’s told the public he doesn’t have. This is what we’re dealing with.
“They think it’s O.K. to repeatedly say one thing to the public about domestic surveillance and do something completely different in private,” continued Wyden, who pressed Alexander about whether they’re collecting cellphone location information.
The senator is skeptical that the N.S.A. is open to reform, noting, “They’re just putting the same wine in a new bottle.”
We’ve always been at war with Eurasia, right?