There aren’t many Republicans who actually served in VIetnam, despite being gung-ho for that war, and any other. George Bush the Stupider served, half-heartedly at best, in the Texas National Guard, but Dick Cheney and other Chickenhawks just evaded military service.
Like Donald Trump:
The suggestion that Trump, the son of a wealthy and well-connected developer, might have cut corners to avoid military service could conceivably hurt his standing with the Republican Party’s base — where reverence for the military tends to be particularly pronounced. In that sense, it’s notable that the issue is being flagged by someone at the National Review — another sign, perhaps, that elite, opinion-shaping conservatives are eager to marginalize Trump.
Whether Trump’s lack of service actually turns into a big story remains to be seen. But that it’s come up at all provides an excuse to point out that the 2012 campaign cycle might be the last one in which candidates have to worry at all about being tagged as “draft-dodgers.”
Besides Trump (if you want to count him as a serious candidate, which we are not inclined to), the prospective GOP field contains three men who would have been old enough to serve during Vietnam: Mitt Romney (who was born in 1947), Newt Gingrich (1943), and Mitch Daniels (1949). None of them actually served — and each has faced his share of questions on the subject over the years.
Romney, for instance, received a two-year draft deferment because of his stint as a Mormon missionary in France; when he returned to the United States, he then received a high lottery number and was never called to serve. When he was a first-time political candidate in Massachusetts back in 1994, Romney explained that “I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.” This story seemed perfectly suited for the electorate of the only state that voted for George McGovern in 1972. But when he set out to run for the GOP presidential nomination more than a decade later, Romney changed his tune, claiming that not serving was “one of the two great regrets of my life…I’d love to have.”
Gingrich, meanwhile, received student and family deferments (he married his first wife in 1962, at the age of 19), and Daniels got a student deferment and then — like Romney — caught a break with his lottery number and was never compelled to serve. Mike Huckabee, who was born in 1955, was technically old enough to serve toward the very end of the war, but no one from his birth year was drafted and forced to serve.
There’s a database of a few listed here (they haven’t updated to include Trump)
When an American male (or an especially belligerent female) makes the challenging transition from late adolescence into early adulthood, he is faced with many decisions. One certain, specific combination of choices will result in his becoming a chickenhawk: choosing to “support” war, while also choosing not to serve in the military. His motto becomes: “Let’s you and him go fight; I’ll hold your coat.”
Depending on external circumstances, such an individual may become one of three varieties of chickenhawk: • If there is no draft, and the nation is at peace, the individual becomes a Common Chickenhawk; • If there is a draft, and the nation is at peace, the individual becomes a Chickenhawk First Class; • If the there is a draft, and the nation is at war, the individual becomes a Chickenhawk First Class with Distinguished Fleeing Cross.
We currently have 154 Chickenhawks listed in our database.
Santorum by and large stayed on message but was tripped up a bit when a student asked him if he knew that the choice of his slogan, “Fighting to make America America again,” was borrowed from the “pro-union poem by the gay poet Langston Hughes.””No I had nothing to do with that,” Santorum said. “I didn’t know that. And the folks who worked on that slogan for me didn’t inform me that it came from that, if it in fact came from that.”
Though walking down lower Broadway near Wall Street, I did see a not uncommon New York City street scene with a man pulling down his pants and underwear and adjusting his clothing naked while everyone just hurried by. Given it was so close to Wall Street, I also took it for a metaphor for what the country’s financial center has done to the average person.
Yes, the GOP won, in the short term. But I’d argue we all lose if the air we breathe is tainted with toxicity, if the water we drink is full of carcinogens, if the soil our food is grown is destroyed with heavy metals, or worse. So I wouldn’t want to start doing a jig in celebration. I’d rather mourn that so-called conservatives have no interest in conserving the only planet we have.
In negotiating the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, Democrats and the White House claimed a big victory in preventing Republicans from blocking a set of environmental regulations. But as details of the compromise became known Tuesday, it was clear Republicans had won deep reductions in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the deal headed to House and Senate votes by the end of this week, the EPA’s 2011 budget would be reduced by 16% from 2010 spending, taking it to $8.7 billion.
That reflects the kind of tradeoffs each side made in the negotiations over the bill. The legislation doesn’t include most of the policy provisions that Republicans proposed to block funding for key administration priorities on health care, the environment and other issues. But Republicans found Democrats moving more than halfway in the compromise over how much to cut spending in the $1.05 trillion bill for the remaining six months of the 2011 fiscal year.
The EPA was also a major focus of both parties. The deal didn’t include a Republican-backed measure that would have stripped the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants. But the bill cuts $1.6 billion from the agency.
“The Obama administration has dumped money into the EPA over the past two years, and what the American people have seen as a result is a slew of new regulations pouring out of the agency,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho). Mr. Simpson, chairman of the Interior subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, helped fashion the EPA cut in the spending deal.
On Mr. Obama’s watch, the EPA’s budget has risen sharply, to $10.3 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, after years in which its funding hovered between $7.5 billion and $7.7 billion.
Most of the EPA cuts will reduce aid to help states implement health and environmental-protection laws. Mr. Obama had proposed cutting those programs, but only by about $200 million.
“These federal cuts make our job to provide a clean environment that much harder,” said R. Steven Brown, the agency’s executive director, who said the practical effect would be to derail roughly $1 billion in improvements to sewage-treatment and drinking-water plants.
The deal also cuts by $149 million, or 33%, a federal fund for buying land for environmental purposes. Programs related to climate change would be cut by $49 million, or 13%.
The position of the president’s special adviser on climate change would be eliminated.
Sickening. The EPA is already short-staffed and underfunded; intentionally gutted so as to not be able to enforce existing regulations. Now big businesses will have even less of a fear of being cited for destroying the environment. Again, we all lose.
Obama’s quick and easy capitulation to every budget cut the GOP asks for is symptomatic of a larger problem, namely that neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party cares much about the citizens of the US. Where is the party who represents you and me?
For instance, as The Hill reports, most of the cuts affect people more than corporations. For instance, slashing 16% out of a an already underfunded EPA seems to encourage polluting corporations to continue doing what they want without fear of fines. I don’t see any cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget, don’t see any elimination of corporate tax cuts. Instead, nutrition programs for low-income families is deemed less important.
Compared to 2010 levels, there are big cuts to cherished Democratic-backed programs. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is cut $504 million, foreign food assistance by $194 million and assistance to state and local law enforcement by $415 million.
The Environmental Protection Agency is cut by $1.6 billion, a 16 percent reduction, and lawmakers from Western states were able to include a rider allowing states to de-list wolves from the endangered species list.
The Homeland Security Department sees significant cuts as well: $226 million is cut from the southern border fence at the suggestion of the Obama administration, and the number of Transportation Security Administration workers is capped. FEMA first-responder grants are cut by $786 million.
Health funding also takes a serious hit. Community healthcare centers lose $600 million while HIV and other disease-prevention funds are cut by $1 billion. But Democrats noted that the health centers would not have to close altogether under a cut of this size.
On the other hand, Democrats were pleased that the Pell Grant award remains at $4,860 and there is a modest increase for Head Start. They also highlight that Race to the Top education awards continue.
The Food and Drug Administration will be able to implement last year’s new food-safety bill, and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be able to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform under the levels spelled out in the bill, Democrats said. The Clinton-era COPS program is cut by $296 million. Low-income heating assistance is cut $390 million, while Community Development Funds are cut $942 million.
Contributions to the U.N. and other international institutions are cut $377 million; federal highway investment is cut $650 million.
The largest cut in the bill is from the Commerce Department, but this is something of an accounting trick since it relates to unspent Census money totaling $6.2 billion.
Now it’s getting a little clearer: Obama will throw his support behind the bipartisan effort in the Senate to turn the Simpson-Bowles plan into legislation. This will raise as many questions as it answers — if Obama is such a fan of this approach, for instance, why didn’t he say more about it during his budget? — but it is, at base, a more realistic plan both in terms of policy and politics.
For one thing, it’s plausibly bipartisan. Ryan’s budget was almost a calculated effort to appall Democrats, which means it has little chance of passing through the Senate. Simpson-Bowles was an effort to attract votes from both parties. The reason it can be bipartisan is that, unlike the House GOP’s proposal, it doesn’t use deficit reduction as cover to sneak in ideological changes to the state: there’s no effort at privatizing Medicare or block granting Medicaid, no decision to go after programs for the poor while exempting both revenues and defense cuts. The plan’s theory is that cutting the deficit is hard enough without also engaging a couple of long-running ideological wars about the shape and responsibilities of the America state. So it dodges those wars, and in endorsing it, Obama will too.
But if the president was actually interested in passing Simpson-Bowles, this was a bit of an odd way to go about it. Leaving it out of his budget and State of the Union speeches meant it didn’t become the central issue on the table. That gave Ryan room to make his proposal, and the early signs are that his proposal has turned many Republicans against Simpson-Bowles, as they’d prefer Ryan’s plan and don’t want to weaken their negotiation position. If the process then becomes a compromise between a centrist plan like Simpson-Bowles and a hardline conservative plan like Ryan’s, that’s not going to produce something Democrats are happy with, and Obama will be blamed for not taking the initative and forcing everyone to simply consider Simpson-Bowles when he had a chance.
Wow, didn’t even take a year for the Teabaggers to show their true GOP colors.
Tariff-free Asian paper may seem an unlikely cause for a nonprofit Tea Party group. But it is in keeping with a succession of pro-business campaigns — promoting commercial space flight, palm oil imports and genetically modified alfalfa — that have occupied the Institute for Liberty’s recent agenda.
The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.1Yet an examination of the Institute for Liberty shows how Washington’s influence industry has adapted itself to the Tea Party era. In a quietly arranged marriage of seemingly disparate interests, the institute and kindred groups are increasingly the bearers of corporate messages wrapped in populist Tea Party themes.
In a few instances, their corporate partners are known — as with the billionaire Koch brothers’ support of Americans for Prosperity, one of the most visible advocacy groups. More often, though, their nonprofit tax status means they do not have to reveal who pays the bills.
Mr. Langer would not say who financed his Indonesian paper initiative. But his sudden interest in the issue coincided with a public relations push by Asia Pulp & Paper. And the institute’s work is remarkably similar to that produced by one of the company’s consultants, a former Australian diplomat named Alan Oxley who works closely with a Washington public affairs firm known for creating corporate campaigns presented as grass-roots efforts.
The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.
That’s the talking point anyway. I’d argue the Teabaggers are not that skeptical of big business, because people like the Koch brothers are such big monetary supporters, and if you scratch the surface of any ten randomly selected Teabaggers, you’ll find nine Republicans and one Independent-Leans-Right.
For instance, Monsanto, the enemy of small farmers everywhere on the planet, is a supporter of the Teabaggers
Last year, the two groups also supported the effort by the agribusiness giant Monsanto to ease federal restrictions on its pesticide-resistant alfalfa. (In February, regulators agreed to do so.) Mr. Langer said he decided “to try out our grass-roots method on that, and frame it as a dairy issue and access to affordable food.”
He got a column published in July in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, talking up Monsanto’s product and asking readers to consider the value of bioengineered foods as they “stroll down the aisle of the supermarket.” The institute’s Web site urged members to speak up, and Mr. Langer filed a petition with the Department of Agriculture.
But a close look at that petition illustrates how a “grass-roots” campaign may be something else entirely. He submitted 8,052 comments he said were collected by telephone. The comments, under different names, were identical and began: “I was recently contacted by the Institute for Liberty and asked if I would be willing to lend my voice in support of moving these types of alfalfa to nonregulated status.” The New York Times examined a random sample of 50 names, and found that three of the people were dead when the comments were submitted. Others said they had no idea their names had been used.
“I vaguely remember responding to a survey as to whether or not the affordability of food for my family was important to me,” said Romeyn Jenkins of Iowa. “But that is far different than setting myself up as an authority on specific genetically engineered crops and authorizing my name for submission on form letters.”
and more data from Matt Yglesias:
The question of what, if anything, differentiates a “Tea Partier” from a conventional Republican has attracted a lot of attention over the past year and a half. Research from political scientist Chris Parker sheds light on one aspect of the situation: Tea Partiers are in the grips of apocalyptic fantasies such that “6 percent of non-Tea Party conservatives believe the president is destroying the country versus the 71 percent of Tea Party conservatives who believe this to be true.”
In ordinary times, you might think that an over-the-top grassroots base would be restrained by party elites. But Tea Party millennialism is reinforced, not constrained, by key conservatives. Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard published a long article this week accusing liberals of “paranoid” dislike of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have emerged as the leading money-men of the American right. But according to Continettit’s own reporting, it’s the Kochs who seem paranoid. David Koch said to Continetti, “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” he said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.” Koch attributed this to Obama’s admiration for his father, who, he explains “was a hard-core economic socialist in Kenya.”
I love when Eric Alterman really gets his back into flaying a story into shreds, like the idea that the ridiculousness that is Michelle Bachmann would be a viable candidate for president. Even for the Republican Party of 2011, filled as it is with morons, and ignoramuses, Bachmann is an extreme long shot.
This is one of those articles that I’d post the entire thing if I could, there are so many quality zingers. Instead, just click through and read it yourself. You’ll laugh out loud. At least I did. Ok, maybe I’m weird. Don’t answer that. Anyway…
Michele Bachmann is “reportedly” ready to form a presidential exploratory committee in early June. Shame on me (and this website) for paying the slightest bit of attention to this foolish and ridiculous spectacle, but here we are.
It’s a challenge to decide what, exactly, is silliest about this story. First is the generic issue, independent of Bachmann. “Ready to form a presidential exploratory committee?” What the hell does that amount to? Imagine, sitting down at a restaurant, calling the waiter over, and explaining that you may be ready, at some future point, to form an “exploratory committee” to discuss what you might like to order for dinner. My guess is you might get a bottle of Perrier poured on your head.
OK, now let’s assume for the sake of argument, some actual content to this announcement. Let’s say Bachmann actually does, one day, form a presidential exploratory committee and even runs for the Republican nomination for president. After all, she has recently made multiple visits to key states like Iowa and New Hampshire and has been telling people that she will be filling out the necessary forms to be included in the party debates, which begin May 2 at the Reagan Library in California.
Bachmann has about as much chance of actually getting the nomination as Lindsay Lohan. Does anyone in the world, even Bachmann herself, sincerely believe that this would be anything other than an exercise in vanity and self-delusion?
Why does the GOP have so much vitriol on hand for its policy, ready to direct at the topic du jour? Especially when these policies benefit corporate profit over average citizens, where does the support come from? Well, it might be fake; manufactured by cynical political consultants working for Fox News, and its minions.
When the country has rejected, one-by-one, the antiquated principles of the Republican party; when two cops at the ballgame in Clearwater today come up to me and say “we’re Conservatives but this crap with our unions here and in Wisconsin has gotta stop”; when enough Republicans have already rejected Scott Walker that if another election were held today he’d be voted out of office two months after he assumed it – how does the Right Wing/Media/Industrial Complex continue to throw around so much weight?
They do what Bugs did to Rocky. Every five or six rabid Conservatives we hear on talk radio, or see at protests, or read online, may not actually exist. They are just Bugs Bunnies, wearing different hats.
The latest evidence to support a brilliant but heinous effort to forcibly swing public opinion via the use of phony advocates? A remarkable piece by a website on Jewish faith called The Tablet nonchalantly reveals that the same company that syndicates the shows of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity has also employed actors to call in to those shows and pretend to be real people with real opinions and real problems.
To be fair, there isn’t a word of documentation in the post that confirms that Premiere Radio Networks’ “Premiere On Call” actually has stooges supplying the outrage and umbrage that seemingly instantly inspires the flights of outrage and certitude which propagandists like Beck and Limbaugh take. The one documented breaking of the confidentiality agreement all the phony callers evidently signed, reveals how one of the actors permitted the host of a personal help call-in show resolve a bizarre and unlikely scenario about a groom inviting his bride to the bachelor party.
Extrapolated by desperate and uncaring men, the logical conclusion is simple: If you can’t beat ‘em, simply create imaginary support. An old cynical view of mob mentality is to populate an undecided crowd of almost any size listening to a guy trying to sell them rat poison as the elixir of life, with as few as a half a dozen supporters. Have each of the six scream his or her support at different intervals and as loudly as possible (“Howard Johnson is right!”) and soon you’ll be getting harrumphs of support from people who don’t even know they are agreeing with plants and shills – and that they’re about to willingly hand over their money to Bugs, wearing six different hats.
Parenthetical note: I never once watched Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show (I don’t have time for any of the televised chattering face shows, besides Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert’s hour of news-esque satire), except for a few YouTube bits linked from elsewhere, but his new blog, FOK News Channel, is pretty good. Check it out if you can.
Wouldn’t this be sweet? Roger Ailes to be indicted for lying to federal investigators?
Here’s what I learned recently: Someone I spoke with claimed that Ailes was scheduled to speak at their event in March, but canceled. It appears that Roger’s people, ostensibly using a clause in his contract, said he “cannot appear for legal reasons.”
I asked “What, precisely, does that mean?”
The response: “Roger Ailes will be indicted — probably this week, maybe even Monday.”
I had read the NYT article yesterday about Judith Regan’s troubles with News Corp., but I didn’t think much of it1 I don’t trust federal prosecutors to tackle cases with bold-face names, even if they are bald-faced liars like Roger Ailes.
It was an incendiary allegation — and a mystery of great intrigue in the media world: After the publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed that a senior executive at its parent company, News Corporation, had encouraged her to lie two years earlier to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary. Enlarge This Image
Ms. Regan had once been involved in an affair with Mr. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner whose mentor and supporter, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in the nascent stages of a presidential campaign. The News Corporation executive, whom she did not name, wanted to protect Mr. Giuliani and conceal the affair, she said.
Now, court documents filed in a lawsuit make clear whom Ms. Regan was accusing of urging her to lie: Roger E. Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News and a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani. What is more, the documents say that Ms. Regan taped the telephone call from Mr. Ailes in which Mr. Ailes discussed her relationship with Mr. Kerik.
It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corporation’s decision to move quickly to settle a wrongful termination suit filed by Ms. Regan, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.
Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia University law professor and a former federal prosecutor.
Delicious, no? Of course, victory celebrations should not be scheduled until Ailes actually appears in court, which could be never.
David Corn adds:
On Thursday, The New York Times broke one of those deliciously dishy New York political-media exposés involving bold-face names. According to legal papers filed in a civil suit, in 2004 Roger Ailes, the pugilistic head of Fox News, encouraged Judith Regan, a flashy publisher, to lie to federal investigators about an affair she had had with Bernard Kerik, the former NYC police chief nominated by George W. Bush to be the secretary of homeland security. Ailes’ motive: to protect Rudolph Giuliani, a close pal of Ailes’ and a mentor and supporter of Kerik. Giuliani was at that time looking toward a presidential run in 2008, and any scandal involving Kerik, his close associate, would be bad news for him.
In 2006, after she was fired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns Fox News, Regan (who had proposed publishing O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confession of the murder of his ex-wife) publicly claimed that a senior exec at News Corp. had asked her to lie about her affair with Kerik, who was married. (Reportedly, Kerik and Regan used an apartment near Ground Zero — which had been donated for recovery and rescue workers — as their love nest.) But Regan did not ID the News Corp. honcho who had encouraged her to hush up. In a lawsuit filed against News Corp. in 2007, Regan said this executive had told her that if she disclosed information about her tryst with Kerik, it “would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.”
There’s more to this twisted tale — including accusations of anti-Semitism, a $10.75 million settlement for Regan, a novel that portrayed baseball great Mickey Mantle as a lascivious drunk, and Kerik’s indictment on tax fraud and other charges. (Kerik was sent to the slammer last year.) But let’s keep the focus on Ailes. The Times scoop, based on legal filings in a case in which Regan’s former lawyers are suing her for not paying them (oy!), reveals that Regan taped the phone call during which Ailes pushed her to lie to the feds about a sexual matter.
This tape is Ailes’ blue dress.
Fox News, founded in 1996, went to town during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment crusade. That saga made Ailes’ network. I doubt anyone kept track, but there must have been at least 17 million occasions when a Fox host or guest said that lying about sex in a legal proceeding (to prevent political embarrassment) was a high crime deserving impeachment — or worse.
Yet that’s what Ailes encouraged Regan to do. And this might have been illegal: conspiring to lie to federal gumshoes is a crime. But prosecutors don’t usually bother with such cases. (Remember all those high-minded Fox Newsers who fiercely dismissed the argument that Clinton ought not be prosecuted or impeached for this sort of lie because prosecutors rarely chased after this kind of perjury case?)
And I wonder what’s happening with the other legal case against Rupert Murdoch’s empire, namely that various News Corp employees hacked into cellphones and voicemail boxes of hundreds of folks. Mostly in the U.K., as far as we know, but I assume the New York Post was educated and encouraged to do the same.
As Scotland Yard tracked Goodman and Mulcaire, the two men hacked into Prince Harry’s mobile-phone messages. On April 9, 2006, Goodman produced a follow-up article in News of the World about the apparent distress of Prince Harry’s girlfriend over the matter. Headlined “Chelsy Tears Strip Off Harry!” the piece quoted, verbatim, a voice mail Prince Harry had received from his brother teasing him about his predicament.
The palace was in an uproar, especially when it suspected that the two men were also listening to the voice mail of Prince William, the second in line to the throne. The eavesdropping could not have gone higher inside the royal family, since Prince Charles and the queen were hardly regular mobile-phone users. But it seemingly went everywhere else in British society. Scotland Yard collected evidence indicating that reporters at News of the World might have hacked the phone messages of hundreds of celebrities, government officials, soccer stars — anyone whose personal secrets could be tabloid fodder. Only now, more than four years later, are most of them beginning to find out.
AS OF THIS SUMMER2, five people have filed lawsuits accusing News Group Newspapers, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire that includes News of the World, of breaking into their voice mail. Additional cases are being prepared, including one seeking a judicial review of Scotland Yard’s handling of the investigation. The litigation is beginning to expose just how far the hacking went, something that Scotland Yard did not do. In fact, an examination based on police records, court documents and interviews with investigators and reporters shows that Britain’s revered police agency failed to pursue leads suggesting that one of the country’s most powerful newspapers was routinely listening in on its citizens.
One of these years, I’ll get to Naomi Klein’s book in my stack of books-to-read. Paul Krugman explains why I should move it nearer to the top, in the context of Governor Wanker’s assault on Wisconsin.
The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.
Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.
In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
including the sale of public utilities with no-bid contracts, as the Governor sees fit
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?
Those questions point to a more profound question: Has Walker violated Wisconsin’s strictest-in-the-nation ethics rules, which require elected officials to “maintain the faith and confidence of the people of the state” when it comes to their actions?
Here’s the critical exchange:
Koch caller: “Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”
Governor Walker: “All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward…. “
Koch caller: “Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. ”
“Well,” replies Walker, “that’s just it.”
When someone who Scott Walker thought was a major donor to national groups that aided Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial run – as that gave the Walker campaign $43,000 directly, via Koch Industries’ KochPAC – said he had a “vested interest” in a budget plan being pushed by the governor, Walker replied” “Well, that’s just it.”
The conversation is so stunning in its brazenness that the Center for Media and Democracy, which had already filed a freedom-of-information requests for records of contacts between the governor and his aides and representatives of Koch industries, is stepping up those demands.
“One request is for the phone logs and the other is for their emails. We are looking for any contacts between Scott Walker and his staff and anyone with Koch Industries or the Kochs (brothers David and Charles),” says Lisa Graves, a former deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States who now heads the Madison-based center. “We are interested as well in calls to and from the group Americans for Prosperity, with which Mr. Koch is closely tied.”
Says Graves: “We are interested in a number of things, especially contacts between the financial interests that helped elect Governor Walker and the governor and his staff. We are interested in whether the governor and his staff have maintained faith with the ethics requirements and responsibilities associated with their positions.”
Some things are known, though. Koch money helped get Scott Walker the governor’s seat in Wisconsin. And now a major Koch-related group is spearheading the defense of Walker’s radical plan to kill public employees’ right to organize in Wisconsin. The question is whether an actual majority of Wisconsin citizens want two of the richest men in the world, who do not live here — and who, as Lee Fang has pointed out, have eliminated jobs in this state — to be playing such an influential role in the rights of working people here.
The Kochs assert that they do not “direct” the activities of Americans for Prosperity or the Tea Party. No, they just fuel them with their riches from the oil business they inherited from their daddy.
And they did not vote for Scott Walker in the traditional sense in a democracy. Rather, as the Republican Governors Association spells out, they “invested” in him.
What is the return desired for their investment? It looks like the first dividend Walker wants to pay, through the help of the Koch-subsidized cheerleaders from Americans for Prosperity, is a death knell for unions and the rights of workers to organize. But tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens have stood up this week to say this ROI will not be paid, that their rights will not be the price Walker exacts from them in return for the largess the Kochs have shown him as the anointed instrument of their agenda in this state.
[Scott Walker’s brinksmanship] could be forfeiting millions in transportation funding from the federal government if his anti-union legislation is signed into law.
Under an obscure provision of federal labor law, states risk losing federal funds should they eliminate “collective bargaining rights” that existed at the time when federal assistance was first granted. The provision, known as “protective arrangements” or “Section 13C arrangements,” is meant as a means of cushioning union (and even some non-union) members who, while working on local projects, are affected by federal grants.
It also could potentially hamstring governors like Walker who want dramatic changes to labor laws in their states. Wisconsin received $74 million in federal transit funds this fiscal year. Of that, $46.6 million would be put at risk should the collective-bargaining bill come to pass — in the process creating an even more difficult fiscal situation than the one that, ostensibly, compelled Walker to push the legislation in the first place.
He probably figures the jobs lost would be union jobs, so what the hell. Half a billion dollars and a crippled state economy are nothing if he can crush labor
and if you hadn’t heard, Ian Murphy of a Buffalo alt-weekly, Buffalo Beast, held a 20 minute prank call with Walker by posing as a member of the Kochtopus:
Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast, just did something wonderful. Murphy, pretending to be billionaire industrialist and secretive conservative political activist David Koch, called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, currently in the midst of attempting to crush the public employees’ unions. “Koch” got through to Walker (who hasn’t been taking calls from the Democratic state Senate minority leader). He taped the call and put it online.
So Walker will happily take a call from a Koch brother. He says that he considered “planting some troublemakers” among the protesters. He is convinced that everyone is on his side. Like most people who only watch Fox, he has a skewed impression of the popularity of his union-crushing proposals. (His plan is, nationally, roundly unpopular. Except on Fox.)
…Walker does reveal that he is planning to trick the Democrats into coming back into town for a “talk,” despite his lack of interest in compromising anything. He will ask them to open a session in the Assembly, and then take a recess for this talk. At that point, the Senate Republicans would hold the vote on the bill while Walker distracts the Democrats with this entirely pointless discussion:
They can recess it … the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.
The Teabaggers don’t really care about reality, logic, or established practice, or the economic health of the nation. They just want to crow about kicking ass.
Are there any adults in charge of the House? Watching this week’s frenzied slash-and-burn budget contest, we had to conclude the answer to that is no.
Some members want to go still further. On Tuesday, the House began debating the list of proposed cuts, and more than 500 amendments were filed, mostly from Republicans trying to cut still more out of — or end — programs they dislike. One would stop paying dues to the United Nations. Others would cut all financing for the health care reform law, or Planned Parenthood, or any foreign aid to a country that regularly disagrees with the United States at the United Nations.
If the Republicans got their way, it would wreak havoc on Americans’ lives and national security. This blood sport also has nothing to do with the programs that are driving up the long-term deficit: Medicare, Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security.
The House freshmen seemed even less concerned about the effect of their budget slashing. “A lot of us freshmen don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about how Washington, D.C., is operated,” Representative Kristi Noem, a Republican of South Dakota, told the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “And, frankly, we don’t really care.”
In all of their posturing, Republican lawmakers have studiously avoided making clear to voters what vital government services would be slashed or disappear if they got their way — like investment in cancer research or a sharp reduction in federal meat inspections, or the number of police on the street, or agents that keep the borders secure, or the number of teachers in your kids’ schools. Those cuts will never get past the Senate, and, on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he would veto such job-killing cuts if they arrive at his desk.
That puts the House leadership on notice. Will they follow the mob and allow the government to shut down if the cuts are not enacted? Or will they take back control of the House and steer it toward reality?
The newly elected Tea Bagger Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has his plan to destroy unions in Wisconsin, and he doesn’t give a damn about your opinion about it:
Aware that there would be a loud outcry if he proposed legislation to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights, Walker inserted a provision in his budget stripping workers of their right to bargain. By including it in the budget, he bypassed all hearings or opportunity for public comment, and is pushing the Wisconsin legislature to vote on it as early as next week.
Under Walker’s immediate plan, all collective bargaining rights would be removed for state and local public employees starting July 1, except when it comes to wages. But any salary increase they seek could be no more than the consumer price index, unless voters in the affected jurisdiction approved a higher raise.
Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the next contract is settled. Public employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.
The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.
Walker’s plan also calls for state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions starting April 1. They would have to contribute at least 12.6 percent toward their health care. Those two items would generate $30 million by July 1 and roughly $300 million over the next two years when combined with the other concessions.
Walker insisted he was not targeting public employees and that his primary concern was balancing the budget. His bill also calls for selling off state heating plants to save money and refinancing state debt to save $165 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
As you might imagine, an action like this might trigger a strike, or at least, the threat of one. No worries, because Walker is ready to call out the National Guard if such a thing happens.
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Walker said Friday that he hasn’t called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems.
Walker says he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs. But he says he’s been working on contingency plans for months just in case they don’t.
Call out the National Guard? Really? And what exactly is the Wisconsin National Guard going to do? Teach high school chemistry? Change bed pans in the local hospital?
Russ Feingold replied on his website:
Statement on Governor Walker’s Request to Eliminate Collective-Bargaining Rights February 11, 2011
“Governor Walker’s request to the State Legislature to eliminate nearly all of the collective-bargaining rights for thousands of Wisconsin workers is big government at its worst. No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have.”
Amazing. I secretly hope he, and other reactionaries like him in the US Congress and elsewhere, follow through on their plans to destroy the U.S. economy by gutting each and every domestic program. Maybe then people will realize who they are supporting when they vote Republican, and even more, maybe the vast majority who ignore politics will get woken up. What percentage of eligible voters cast their ballots for these tea-bagger thugs in 2010? 20%? 25%? Something like that. The other 75% of us have to do more if we have any hope of avoiding turning our country into Somalia or similar third world country.
The Rethuglican plan is do redefine rape so that it can’t be used as a valid reason to terminate a pregnancy. Assholes.
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
The women-hating Rethuglicans have no shame. Or perhaps they really just want to outlaw abortion, and are using this as a back-door solution.
“This bill takes us back to a time when just saying ‘no’ wasn’t enough to qualify as rape,” says Steph Sterling, a lawyer and senior adviser to the National Women’s Law Center. Laurie Levenson, a former assistant US attorney and expert on criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, notes that the new bill’s authors are “using language that’s not particularly clear, and some people are going to lose protection.” Other types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes. “There are a lot of aspects of rape that are not included,” Levenson says.
As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.
The bill hasn’t been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term “forcible rape” is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill’s authors don’t offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of “forcible rape,” making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.
I’m sick of reading about her myself, and yet, Palin’s latest outrageous gaffe seems to draw so much media attention, I’m conflicted about whether to ignore her or not.
Josh Marshall writes:
Frequently a reader will write in to say, “Why are you giving her so much attention? You’re just pumping her up. If you and the other places would stop giving her so much oxygen, she and her whole circus would just wither away.”
I don’t know which circle of the hell of myopia you need to be residing in to think like this. But it’s very deep in there, I assure you. Much as I love this thing our team has created, I assure you that Palin’s popularity, notoriety, footprint on the public stage is quite independent of TPM. Indeed, TPM and a dozen other similar or not so similar publications you can find on the web. Palin is such a big deal because she’s got a chunk of the political nation that is very, very into her. She resonates deeply with her core supporters. She’s one of those people who cuts an electric figure on the public stage because she slices right through the society and generates one intense response from one side and a completely opposite but equally intense response from the other. And she says, let’s be honest, a lot of really crazy stuff.
This is actually a real blind spot for liberals in general — the idea that things that are crazy or tawdry or just outrageous are really best ignored. Don’t give them more attention. You’re just giving them what they want. Or maybe it’s not so practical and utilitarian. Maybe, they say, it’s just beneath us. Focus on the important stuff.