Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d try to get off the topic of the midterm elections specifically and get on to some general things about why the U.S. Political System seems so completely screwed up right now.  What exactly has led us to the point where the Republicans seem to be a combination of the John Birch banksy-dreams_00349040Society and Theocrats and the Democratic Party sits idly by and twiddles its thumbs hoping the process works like it used to?

William Pfaff has a few things to say about this in an article titled “How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool”.   One of the things that does completely amaze me is how the entire Reagan Presidency has turned into a narrative that’s more saga and drama than reality.  There’s some really interesting points here.  How did this election get so removed from reality in that people voted for one set of priorities when it came to issues like marijuana legalization and the minimum wage but then sent people to the District diametrically opposed to these policies?

The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.

This disastrous state of affairs is the product of two Supreme Court decisions and before that, of the repeal under the Reagan Administration, of the provision in the Federal Communications Act of 1934, stipulating the public service obligations of radio (and subsequently, of television) broadcasters in exchange for the government’s concession to them of free use in their businesses of the public airways.

These rules required broadcasters to provide “public interest” programming, including the coverage of electoral campaigns for public office and the independent examination of public issues. The termination of these requirements made possible the wave of demagogic and partisan right-wing “talk radio” that since has plagued American broadcasting and muddied American electoral politics.

Those readers old enough to remember the radio and early television broadcasting of pre-Reagan America will recall the non-partisan news reports and summaries provided by the national networks and by local stations in the United States. There were, of course, popular news commentators professing strong or idiosyncratic views as well, but the industry assured that a variety of responsible opinions were expressed, and that blatant falsehood was banned or corrected.

The two Supreme Court decisions were “Buckley v. Valeo” in 1976 and “Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission” in 2010. Jointly, they have transformed the nature of the American political campaign, and indeed the nature of American national politics. This resulted from the nature and characteristics of mass communications in the United States and the fact that broadcasting has from the beginning been all but totally a commercial undertaking (unlike the state broadcasters in Canada and Britain, and nearly all of Europe).

The two decisions turned political contests into competitions in campaign advertising expenditure on television and radio. The election just ended caused every American linked to the internet to be bombarded by thousands (or what seemed tens of thousands) of political messages pleading for campaign money and listing the enormous (naturally) sums pouring into the coffers of the enemy.

Previously the American campaign first concerned the candidate and the nature of his or her political platform. Friends and supporters could, of course, contribute to campaign funds and expenditures, but these contributions were limited by law in scale and nature. No overt connection was allowed between businesses or industries and major political candidates, since this would have implied that the candidate represented “special interests” rather than the general interest.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict is well known and remains highly controversial since it rendered impossible the imposition of legal limits on political campaign spending, ruling that electoral spending is an exercise in constitutionally-protected free speech. Moreover, it adjudged commercial corporations as legal citizens, in electoral matters the equivalent of persons.

BanksyCleaningUpWhat role has Citizen’s United played in our elections? 

Don’t think Citizens United made a difference for the GOP in Tuesday’s midterms? The plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case thinks so.

Citizens United, our Supreme Court case, leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election,” said David Bossie, chairman of the conservative advocacy organization.

He complained that Democratic lawmakers were trying to “gut the First Amendment” with their proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling, reported Right Wing Watch, which allowed corporations to pour cash into campaigns without disclosing their contributions.

Bossie said this so-called “dark money” was crucial to Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate and strengthening their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives.

“A robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions,” Bossie said.

Besides the role of dark money, the number of states that will continue to enact voter suppression measures between now and 2016 is expected to increase.

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states’ respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

Suppression of voting rights and purposeful spread of lies, propaganda, and disinformation are likely to continue as the 2016 Presidential Political season begins.Will the Democratic Party learn anything from the last two disastrous mid term elections? banksy-w1200

This fall, Democrats ran like they were afraid of losing. Consider the issues that most Democrats think really matter: Climate change, which a United Nations report just warned will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” across the globe. The expansion of Medicaid, so millions of poor families have health coverage. Our immoral and incoherent immigration system. Our epidemic of gun violence, which produces a mini-Sandy Hook every few weeks. The rigging of America’s political and economic system by the 1 percent.

For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from these issues because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the “war on women.” The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns. Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?

I’m not claiming that such displays would have changed the outcome. Given President Obama’s unpopularity, Democratic victories, especially in red states, may have been impossible.

But there is a crucial lesson here for 2016. In recent years, some Democrats have convinced themselves they can turn out African Americans, Latinos, single women, the poor, and the young merely by employing fancy computer systems and exploiting Republican extremism. But technologically, Republicans are catching up, and they’re getting shrewder about blunting, or at least masking, the harshness of their views.

We saw the consequences on Tuesday. According to exit polls, voters under 30 constituted only 13 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. In Florida, the Latino share of the electorate dropped from 17 to 13 percent. In North Carolina, the African-American share dropped from 23 to 21 percent.

If Hillary Clinton wants to reverse those numbers, she’s going to have to inspire people—people who, more than their Republican counterparts, are inclined toward disconnection and despair. And her gender alone won’t be enough. She lost to Obama in 2008 in part because she could not overcome her penchant for ultra-cautious, hyper-sanitized, consultant-speak. Yet on the stump this year, she was as deadening as the candidates she campaigned for. As Molly Ball put it in September, “Everywhere Hillary Clinton goes, a thousand cameras follow. Then she opens her mouth, and nothing happens.”

Then, there is this: Former Republican Committeemen Claim Election Judges Coerced Into Voting GOP. banksy-wallpaper-tumblr-12-wide

A day after the election, officials are still counting ballots and the investigation into who made robocalls that allegedly persuaded many judges not to show up Tuesday is heating up.

Two former Republican committeemen are telling 2 Investigator Pam Zekman they were removed because they objected to those tactics.

Judges of election are appointed by their respective parties and they look at a judge’s primary voting records as part of the vetting process. But in these cases the former committeemen we talked to said that vetting crossed a line when judges were told who they had to vote for in the Tuesdays’ election.

One says it happened at a temporary campaign headquarters at 8140 S. Western Ave, which we’ve confirmed it was rented by the Republican Party where election judges reported they were falsely told they had to appear for additional training.

And a former 7th ward committeewoman says she witnessed the same thing at 511. E. 79th Street campaign workers calling judges to come in for additional training. She says there wasn’t any training.

“They were calling election judges, telling them to come in so they could get specific orders to vote for the Republican Party,” said Charon Bryson.

She says she is a Republican but objected to the tactic used on the judges.

“They should not be be pressured or coerced into voting for someone to get a job, or to get an appointment,” said Bryson.

Bryson says she thinks it is like “buying a vote.”

“If you don’t vote Republican you will not be an Republican judge, which pays $170,” she said.

The Board of Elections is now investigating whether calls to judges assigned citywide resulted in a shortage that infuriated the mayor.

“What happened with the robocalls was intentional. As far as we can tell somebody got a list, a list with names and numbers, called them, not to educate, not to promote the democratic process, but to sew confusion,” Emanuel said.

imagesScared by polls that show that people do not want Republican policies and by changes in demographics, Republicans have been pulling out the stops to turn back the tide.  However, none of these fundamentals seem to be driving voting trends or turnout.  WTF is wrong with people?  As a member of the White Women Constituency who seem to be one of the groups that continues to vote against their own interest, I can agree that we should all get our acts together now.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the Wendy Davis campaign.

Once more, with feeling: Greg Abbott and the Republican Party did not win women. They won white women. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight “I got mine” party ticket—even when they haven’t, really, gotten theirs.

The trend is echoed in national politics; we saw it play out across the country last night. To be sure, there are many factors that contributed to America’s rightward dive over the cliff: In a post-Citizens United electoral landscape, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws appear to have had their intended effects of dividing and disenfranchising already marginalized voters.

But there’s another factor at play that Democrats fail to grapple with, and the Republican Party capitalizes on, time and time again: the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.

Let’s talk about what a vote for Wendy Davis meant: It meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.

On the flip side, a vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for the status quo, for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade.

White women chose Greg Abbott Tuesday night. We did not choose empathy. Texas has been red for two decades. We do not choose empathy. We choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.

We chose a future where maternal mortality—but not our maternal mortality—rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer—but not our deaths—will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions—but not our illegal, back-alley abortions—will rise. We chose ourselves, and only ourselves.

Is white privilege such an enticing thing to us that we’ll sell ourselves out just to protect what scraps we’re thrown?

Anyway, between dark money, voter suppression, and the number of voters willing to vote against their policy beliefs and interests, we’re in trouble as a nation.  The Democratic Party just bailed on Mary Landrieu and I’m about to get a Senator that wants to raise Social Security eligibility to age 70, privatize Medicare with vouchers,  and defund student loans.  This doesn’t even count that he voted no to hurricane relief for his own constituents after Hurricane Isaac. At this rate, every white person in the country should get a tube of astrolube with their ballot.  Bend over folks, cause you’ve done it to yourselves!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Monday Reads: Is it the End of the World as We Know It?

Good Morning!

I’m really hoping this week goes well but I’m not really looking forward to Tuesday.  It’s my birthday and a tough one at that. It’s also election day, and it still looks like some crazy Republicans will be headed to Washington DC.  However, I will start with my good news this morning.  There are two day-of-the-dead-celebration-bostonthings.  I got to hug and say hi to Hillary Clinton on Saturday.  I also got to wave good bye to the dread Daylight Savings Time which I hate with a passion.  It’s basically a ploy to get people to stop and shop and go to golf courses on their way home from work.  That’s especially true since they extended it into hours where it makes no sense whatsoever. 

Daylight Saving Time is the greatest continuing fraud ever perpetuated on American people. And this weekend, the effects of this cruel monster will rear its ugly head again. On Sunday morning, Americans across the country will have to set their clocks back one hour, and next week, the sun will begin its ambling lurch to eventually setting at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Technically-speaking, this sleep cycle-wrecking practice of setting our clocks back is because we will be going back to Standard Time after our flirty summer with DST. And the unsettling shift back to these hours, and the hour “we gain,” is the back-end of the time-bargain we have to pay for setting our clocks forward in March to “maximize daylight”—a phrase probably better suited to organisms that rely on photosynthesis—during the spring and summer hours.

Why we try and “maximize daylight” like we’re plants is actually an archaic practice first thought up in the late 1700s and often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. As some elementary school teacher may have explained to you, this was a practice to accommodate agricultural workers and farmers (wrong, and we’ll get to this in a minute) or lower the nation’s electricity usage.

A lot of that is prime b.s. There is actually no benefit or rhyme or reason we have to endure this weekend’s time shift and no reason we should even be playing with the idea of losing and gaining hours.

Basically, it doesn’t save energy, it’s bad for your health, and the shifts in time kill work productivity because it gives you jet lag.  I always hate seeing little children having to get up in the pitch black to stand on corners for school buses.  The other thing I hate is that they have to walk home or stand out to get those same buses in the worst heat of the day.

“God, I love getting up an hour earlier,” said no one ever. “Me too. I can’t wait to have my schedule messed up in the fall,” no one replied.

A 2011 Rasmussen poll (for what it’s worth, Rasmussen can be a bit skewed when it comes to conservative politicians but seems to have no known bias against time zones) found that 47 percent (ha, Romney, ha) of Americans said DST was not worth the hassle.

So how do we fix all of this? Over at Quartz, there’s an idea to just have two timezones. But let’s be clear here. The real evil here is change. No one really minds if 4 a.m. is 4 a.m. They (and their possible heart attacks) mind if for some reason or another that 4 a.m. is now 5 a.m and will be 4 a.m. in a few months. It’s time to stop this insanity.

day-of-the-deaSo, what if the worst happens?  What if we wake up to a Republican led Senate with Mitch McConnell’s ugly face and personality at the helm?   Will we face more years of nothing getting done but everything going to pieces?   Here are two things that will happen.

2. Senate confirmations: The battlefield tilts

A GOP-controlled Senate will make it even tougher for Obama to confirm nominees, a process that hasn’t exactly been plain sailing even with Democrats in charge.

Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said she is staying put, it remains plausible that Obama could be faced with a third chance to put his stamp on the court. Republicans would find it much easier to block his choice if they held the majority in the Senate.

Obama will also nominate a replacement for retiring Attorney General Eric Holder, and the confirmation process will likely be fraught whomever he chooses.

Obama also isn’t like to face any shortage of executive branch, ambassador and federal judicial nominations in his final two years in office. They will all need Senate confirmation.

3. Obama to stock up on veto pens

Obama has had to pick up his veto pen on just two occasions since he took office in 2009, largely because Democrats have controlled at least one chamber of Congress throughout that time.

He will need to check he has a plentiful supply of ink if Republicans take the Senate majority. He can expect to spend his final two years using his veto to protect earlier legislative victories, rather than seriously attempting to rack up new ones.

There is some chance of bipartisan progress on issue such as immigration reform and global trade deals. But it also seems likely that Obama will need to rely on executive action if he wants to pursue many of his priorities.

 But, will the Republicans get anything positive out of taking over the Senate besides the thrill up their legs from frustrating Obama?images (2)

The fact that the races in all of the presidential battleground states stayed close, despite an older and whiter electorate, suggests that Mr. Obama is not yet so unpopular as to cause the voters who remained Democratic-leaning through 2012 to vote Republicans into federal office.
This is perhaps most evident in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state. It has tilted just slightly Democratic. If Republicans were going to gain voters who used to lean Democratic, Iowa would be the place where we would see it. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings in Iowa are particularly weak, in part because the state is full of white voters without college degrees — the group where Mr. Obama’s support has always been weakest.
The Democratic Senate candidate in Iowa, Bruce Braley, has not run a great campaign. He committed one of the more cringe-worthy gaffes of the cycle when he belittled Senator Charles E. Grassley for being “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” at a fund-raiser with a group of lawyers. Yet Mr. Braley is locked in a tight race with his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst. If Ms. Ernst wins by a margin of a point or two, that suggests she probably would have lost with a presidential-year electorate.
The story is perhaps even more troubling for Republicans in the South, where Democratic candidates are doing well among white voters.

If Republicans cannot maintain their exceptional margins among Southern white voters in the post-Obama era, their path to victory will get very narrow in states like Georgia and Florida. In both, the white share of the electorate has dropped by more than 10 percentage points since 2000.

Here are some late polls from the PPP that show McConnell will still return to the Senate and that Mary Landrieu has a fighting chance.

PPP’s final polls in Arkansas and Kentucky find Republicans in a strong position to win the Senate seats in those states on Tuesday, but the Louisiana Senate race still has the potential to be pretty competitive.images (3)

In Kentucky Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes 50/42, with Libertarian David Patterson getting 3%. In a head to head match up, McConnell’s lead is 53/44. McConnell remains unpopular, with only 39% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But his campaign succeeded in making Grimes just as unpopular- her 39/49 favorability rating is nearly identical to his approval rating. For the millions and millions of dollars spent on this race it’s ended up right back around where it started- when we first polled it in December of 2012 McConnell led Grimes by 7 and in this final poll he leads by 8.

In April we found Grimes leading McConnell 45/44. At that time Grimes led McConnell by 37 points with Democrats and trailed him by 2 points with independents. Now she leads him by 35 points with Democrats and by 2 points with independents, nearly identical numbers to what they were 7 months ago. The story of McConnell’s comeback is one of getting his party to pretty universally vote for him, even if it’s still not in love with him. In April McConnell led Grimes by only 49 points with Republicans, 69/20. Now he leads her by 76 points with Republicans, 85/9. His resurgence with the GOP is the story of the race.

In Arkansas, we find Republicans leading the races for Governor and the Senate by 8-10 points. Tom Cotton is up 49/41 on Mark Pryor, and Asa Hutchinson is up 51/41 on Mike Ross. At the end of the day Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the state may be too much for the Democratic candidates to overcome- only 29% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 62% who disapprove. The Republican candidates have proven to be relatively strong in their own right though. Hutchinson has a 49/35 favorability rating and Cotton’s is 48/40, better than we’re seeing for most candidates across the country this year.

Republicans lead all the down ballot races as well. The one where Democrats have the best chance at pulling out a win is Attorney General, where Republican Leslie Rutledge leads Democrat Nate Steel only 44/40. GOP nominees are ahead by 8-12 points in the rest of the contests. There is one piece of positive news for progressive voters in the Arkansas poll- the state’s initiative to raise the minimum wage leads for passage 65/31. It has near unanimous support from Democrats (88/9), majority support from independents (55/41), and even GOP voters are pretty much evenly divided on it (46/47).

In Louisiana it looks like Mary Landrieu will finish first in Tuesday’s election. She’s polling at 43% to 35% for Bill Cassidy, 15% for Rob Maness, and just 1% for ‘someone else.’ We find that a head to head between Landrieu and Cassidy would be pretty close at this point, with Cassidy ahead just 48/47. Whether a runoff election would really be that close depends on whether Landrieu can get Democratic leaning voters, especially African Americans and young people, to come back out and vote again in December.

There’s been little movement in this race over the last 6 weeks. Landrieu led Cassidy 42/34 in late September. This is yet another contest where neither candidate is well liked. Landrieu has a 45/50 approval rating, but Cassidy also has a 36/44 favorability rating.

images (4)The Republicans will probably not fair well if they do manage to take over the Senate and will likely make 2016 a strong Democratic year.

“So what might Republicans actually do if they have majorities in both houses of Congress,”asks Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie, the longtime libertarian. “If past behavior is any indication of future performance, the short and likely answer is: screw it all up.”

There’s been plenty of pieces written in the progressive media about what a Republican-majority Senate is likely to mean. But sometimes the better source comes from the ‘takes-one-to-know one’ universe of ideological Republicans who are well acquainted with their current and possibly incoming senators.

“What Republicans can’t do is spend their time trying to chop chunks of government, obsess on the spending side, cut holes in the safety net, perpetuate cronyism or let paranoia gut anti-terror measures (e.g. drones, NSA),” wrote the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blogger Jennifer Rubin, in a recent advice-filled column. “Senate gadflies are about to learn that being in the majority is different than throwing spitballs from the minority. They will need to show they can problem-solve (or they will confirm concerns that they cannot).

What Gillespie and Ruben both are confirming, actually, is that the Republicans are not likely to do much of anything other than be the fight-picking, time-wasting, obstructionist legislators that they have pledged to be on the 2014 campaign trail.

In other words, it is all too likely that there will be efforts to: dismantle Obamacare; ignore climate change and block all kinds of pro-environmental activities; repeal pro-consumer laws; block increases in the minimum wage; ignore immigration reform; block federal judicial nominees, and maybe even pursue impeachment. Georgia’s Republican senatorial candidate David Perdue haspledged to “prosecute the failed record” of the Obama administration. Iowa’s Joni Ernst wants to ban abortions and same-sex marriage.

These examples, gleaned from recent pieces in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, and other reputable outlets, suggest that the race to the bottom in American politics is about to sink even deeper into the muck. The New Yorker’s sharp political writer, John Cassady, just wrote a piece entitled, “The Empty Elections of 2014,” where he is spot-on in noting that there’s been little substance—but a deluge of idiotic stereotypes and character assassinations—behind the “enervating output of political admen, spin doctors, and negative research shops for whom this is, first and foremost, a profit-making industry.”

Cassady’s point is that Americans are deluding themselves if they are thinking that party is somehow secretly campaigning on substance. The political ads “aren’t just an annoying sideline to, or distraction from, the real issues in the campaign. To a large extent, they are the campaign,” he wrote. “They represent the main source of information about candidates and issues. Which, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.”

There are two big late trends that are not good.  One is voter suppression. The other is the problem created by Citizen’s United.  Dark Money has entered races at the last minute. download

A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races.

Much of the advertising is being timed to ensure that no voter will know who is paying for it until after the election on Tuesday. Some of the groups are “super PACs” that did not exist before Labor Day but have since spent heavily on political advertising, adding to the volatility of close Senate and House races.

Others formed earlier in the year but remained dormant until recently, reporting few or no contributions in recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, only to unleash six- and seven-figure advertising campaigns as Election Day draws near. Yet more spending is coming from nonprofit organizations with bland names that have popped up in recent weeks but appear to have no life beyond being a conduit for the ads.

The voter suppression efforts are in states with Republican Governors like Wisconsin.

Alexander won her office with a late race-baiting flier against her African American opponent. She’s appeared at CPAC, was named a “rising star” by dark money group American Majority, illegally accepted free legal representation from a Bradley Foundation funded lawyer, supports gay bashing Chick Fil A and has accused Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of supporting infanticide.

Yeah, she’s a real pip, alright.

So it comes as no surprise to us in Milwaukee that she used taxpayer money to mail out 7,000 copies of her newsletter which included the information that a photo ID would be needed to vote on Election Day:

The first problem with this is the fact that US Supreme Court blocked the implementation of this voter suppression law for this election.

But wait! There’s more. There’s always more.

This matter was quickly brought before the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board who ordered her to immediately send out another postcard – again at the taxpayer expense – to correct the misinformation she distributed.images (5)

Per her Facebook page, on Friday – just days before the election – she sent out the correction notice. It is doubtful that the postcards will get to the people in time before Election Day.

Despite the fact that it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to send out the original mailer and thousands of dollars more to send out the correction, I have a feeling that we won’t hear from the conservatives about this waste and fraud.

So, I’m going to just bury my head in work until the end of the year if all this comes true.  Then, I’ll look forward to the presidential primaries where Hillary Clinton will likely shine and the Republican Clown Car will just fill up with the worst the country has to offer.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Morning Lite

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Syria War Room, by Steve Sack

Good Morning!!

 

I don’t know about you, but I really missed JJ’s Friday Night Lite post last night, so I thought I’d start out Sky Dancing’s Saturday with some political cartoons. I hope you enjoy these — courtesy of Cagle Post.

A few more on Syria:

 

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

Assad Chemicals by Steve Sack

 

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

Assad Chemical Weapons, by Mike Keefe

 

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

Syria Plan by Rick McKee

 

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

The Anti-War Left by Eric Allie

 

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

Syria and Affleck by John Cole

 

Cameron's Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

Cameron’s Failure, by Rainer Hatchfeld

 

March on Washington 50th Anniversary:

 

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

I Have A Dream Anniversary, by Nate Beeler

 

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

MLK Nightmare by Jeff Darcy

 

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

Dreamer, by Adam Zyglis

 

Labor Day and Income Inequality

 

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

Fast Food Minimum Wage, by Jimmy Margulies

 

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

Labor Day Jobs, by Jeff Parker

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit

 

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

NFL Concussion Lawsuit, by Bruce Plante

 

Immigration Reform

 

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

Immigration Reform, by Mike Lukovich

 

I hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!! And if you’re not out on the beach or doing something else more exciting, please post links to the stories you’re following today in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Neanderthal Tools, Hillary on Voting Rights, Bulger Verdict, and NDE Research

henri-matisse_reading-woman-with-parasol-1921

Good Morning!!

I’ve been somewhat out of the loop for the past few days because I’ve had some kind of weird virus that has made it difficult for me to think. If it weren’t August, I’d wonder if it’s the flu. Everything ached. For a couple of days it felt like my skin actually hurt. Anyway I’ve been vegetating in front of the TV watching Criminal Minds reruns and Lifetime movies. I’m feeling better now, although I’m still sleepy all the time.

I’ve been surfing around this morning, and there is quite a bit of interesting news out there. I’ll begin with a fascinating archaeological find. According to a new study reported in Nature, Neanderthals invented tools made of bone that are still used today for leather-working.

Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.

The first of the lissoir fragments surfaced a decade ago at a rock shelter called Pech-de-l’Azé in the Dordogne region of southwest France. Archaeologist Marie Soressi of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, knew the tool at once, says her colleague Shannon McPherron.

The tools are also known as slickers and burnishers, says McPherron. Soressi contacted luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès in Paris, and found that their high-end leather workers use just such a tool. “She showed them a picture, and they recognized it instantly,” says McPherron. The company’s line includes the wildly popular Birkin handbag, which sells for around US$10,000 and upwards.

McPherron says that a single artefact, however, was not enough for the researchers to draw broad conclusions. “You find one, and there’s always some doubt. You’re worried that it’s not a pattern — that it’s anecdotal behaviour.” But subsequent digs at Pech-de-l’Azé and nearby Abri Peyrony turned up further lissoir fragments, leading the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals made the tools routinely.

Neanderthal bone tools

Neanderthal bone tools

The researchers say it’s not clear if these kinds of tools were first invented by Neanderthals or modern humans. It’s even possible that modern humans could have learned how to make and use the bone tools from Neantherthals, although most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals learned the skills from humans. From Live Science:

Neanderthals created artifacts similar to ones made at about the same time by modern humans arriving in Europe, such as body ornaments and small blades. Scientists hotly debated whether such behavior developed before or after contact with modern humans.

“There is a huge debate about how different Neanderthals were from modern humans,” said Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Now, McPherron and his colleagues have discovered that Neanderthals created a specialized kind of bone tool previously only seen in modern humans. These tools are about 51,000 years old, making them the oldest known examples of such tools in Europe and predating the known arrival of modern humans.

Yesterday North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new voter suppression voter ID law and the ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice immediately filed suit against it. USA Today:

Republicans who backed the legislation said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they claim is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. Independent voting rights groups joined Democrats and libertarians in suggesting the true goal was to suppress voter turnout, especially among blacks, the young, the elderly and the poor.

“It is a trampling on the blood, sweat and tears of the martyrs — black and white — who fought for voting rights in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “It puts McCrory on the wrong side of history.” [….]

Barber called the Republican-backed measure one of the worst attempts in the nation at voting reform and said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered the package an all-out attack on existing laws long seen as a model of voter participation….

The legislation signed by McCrory and approved last month by state lawmakers requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week, from 17 days to 10. It also ends same-day registration, requiring voters to register, update their address or make any other needed changes at least 25 days ahead of an election. A high school civics program that registers tens of thousands of students to vote each year in advance of their 18th birthdays has been eliminated.

Yesterday Hillary Clinton spoke out against the North Carolina law and other efforts to deny and suppress voting rights in a speech before the American Bar Association. HuffPo:

On the same day that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a restrictive voter ID bill into law, Clinton criticized the Supreme Court decision that she believes “stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made [the Voting Rights Act] so effective.”

She noted that Texas, Florida and North Carolina are states whose recent voter legislation has shifted the burden, slamming the North Carolina bill as one that “reads like the greatest hits of voter suppression.”

“In the weeks since the ruling, we’ve seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote,” Clinton said.

Clinton also went after several provisions of the North Carolina bill that she believes place a greater burden on citizens facing discrimination, including limited voting hours, stricter ID requirements and restricted early voting.

CNN reports that Hillary also plans to discuss national security and transparency in an upcoming speech.

Clinton said her appearance at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association marked the beginning of a speaking series she’ll embark upon that will also include an address on the United States’ national security policies next month in Philadelphia.

Clinton said the September address would focus of issues of “transparency and balance.” The former top diplomat had not yet publicaly addressed the classified National Security Agency surveillance programs that were revealed through leaks at the beginning of the summer.

The move into the political realm marks a new phase in Clinton’s post-State Department life, which was previously occupied by speeches to global women’s organizations and a schedule of paid appearances. She is also writing a diplomacy-focused memoir for release in 2014.

The speeches will likely fuel speculation that Clinton is planning to jump into the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, where she is considered an early favorite.

Well there’s some exciting news! It’s becoming more an more clear that Hillary plans to run for president in 2016.

I’m sure you’ve already heard that James “Whitey” Bulger has been found guilty of murder and racketeering, among other charges. It was always a foregone conclusion. The only surprise is that the jury was only able to find him guilty of 11 murders out of the 19 he was charged with. The New York Times:

BOSTON — James (Whitey) Bulger, the mobster who terrorized South Boston in the 1970s and ‘80s, holding the city in his thrall even after he disappeared, was convicted Monday of a sweeping array of gangland crimes, including 11 murders. He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

The verdict delivers long-delayed justice to Mr. Bulger, 83, who disappeared in the mid-1990s after a corrupt agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation told him he was about to be indicted. He left behind a city that wondered if he would ever be caught — and even if the F.B.I., which had been complicit in many of his crimes and had relied on him as an informer, was really looking for him.

“This was the worst case of corruption in the history of the F.B.I.,” said Michael D. Kendall, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Mr. Bulger’s associates. “It was a multigenerational, systematic alliance with organized crime, where the F.B.I. was actively participating in the murders of government witnesses, or at least allowing them to occur.”

Of course there won’t be any punishment for the FBI except for embarrassment, if that troubles them. And there was only minor punishment for the parade of hit men and other criminals who were given generous deals in exchange for their testimony.

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler's gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000 (Daily Mail)

Debbie Davis, left, with her mother Olga, right, was the girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Whitey Bugler’s gangster partner. She vanished in 1981 and her body was found dismembered in 2000
(Daily Mail)

The families of the victims of the 7 murders Bulger was not convicted of were disappointed and angry.

As a clerk read the verdicts in the lengthy and complicated list of charges, Mr. Bulger looked away from the jury and showed no reaction. He was found guilty of 31 of 32 counts of his indictment, the one exception involving an extortion charge. While the jury of eight men and four women convicted him of 11 murders, they found the government had not proved its case against him in seven others, and in one murder case it made no finding, leading to gasps inside the courtroom by relatives of those murder victims and explosive scenes outside the court.

“My father just got murdered again 40 years later in that courtroom,” said the son of William O’Brien, who is also named William….

Perhaps one glimmer of gratification for Mr. Bulger was that the jury reached “no finding” in the death of Debra Davis, one of two women he was accused of strangling. He has long maintained that his personal code of honor did not allow for the killing of women, although the jury did determine that he had killed the other woman, Deborah Hussey. Ms. Davis was the longtime girlfriend of Stephen Flemmi, Mr. Bulger’s former partner in crime who testified against him. Ms. Hussey was the daughter of another of Mr. Flemmi’s longtime girlfriends.

Hit man John Martorano

Hit man John Martorano

One of the jurors has already talked to local Boston media about how stressful the experience was.

One of the jurors who voted to convict Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger for a string of gangland crimes described how the more than 32 hours of deliberations were “stressful” and involved “all kinds of dissension.”

“Slamming doors,” Scott Hotyckey told CBS station WBZ-TV. “People leaving. Peolpe wanting to get off the jury.” [….]

Hotyckey, juror number 5, said the evidence was overwhelming.

“If you could believe the testimony, and believe what you heard,” Hotyckey said. “I don’t see how you couldn’t find the person guilty.”

But Hotyckey says not all of the jurors believed the testimony they heard – especially from John Martorano, a former hit man who got a plea deal from prosecutors to testify against Bulger.

“There was one juror that constantly said that his testimony was not believable,” Hotyckey recalled. “(He said) over and over again that you couldn’t believe anything (Martorano) said because of the government.”

I’ll wrap this post up with another interesting science story from BBC News about an experiment on rats that shows what happens at the moment of death.

A study on rats shows that the brain experiences a huge surge of electricity during the moment of death, suggesting that they are experiencing a higher state of consciousness.

It could explain why people claim to see white light or “life flash before their eyes” during near-death experiences.

Dr Jason Braithwaite from the University of Birmingham says that since this surge is happening in rats, it could also happen in humans.

Watch an interview with Braithwaite at the BBC link. More detail on the study: 

A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.

US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: “A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.

“If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state.”

Much more at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your fancy today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Romney Campaign, Spoiled Billionaire Donors Actually Believed They Would Win

Mitt Romney with billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson

I’ve been reading some of post-election articles in which the Village pundits try to explain why Mitt Romney lost the election. Apparently Romney and his campaign staff really did think they were going to win. They were even planning an 8-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor after Romney won!

While the rest of us were absorbing Nate Silver’s predictions and his logical, math-based explanations of the polls, Republicans were making fun of Silver and convincing themselves that Romney voters were more enthusiastic than Obama voters, that polls were sampling the wrong kinds of voters, and that some magical “Romney wave” would sweep them into power.

At the same time, they didn’t understand that their constant race-baiting, their campaign to suppress Democratic voters, and their war on women’s reproductive rights might arouse some anger among the groups they disrespected–anger that could turn into a steely determination to get out and vote no matter how difficult it turned out to be.

In Politico’s summing up, “Romneyworld reckoning begins,” I read these striking paragraphs:

Multiple Romney sources buzzed about one number in particular: 15 percent. According to exit polls, that’s the share of African-Americans who voted in Ohio this year. In 2008, the black percentage of the electorate was 11 percent. In Virginia and Florida, exit polls showed the same share of African-Americans turned out as four years ago, something that GOP turnout models did not anticipate.

“We didn’t think they’d turn out more of their base vote than they did in 2008, but they smoked us,” said one Romney operative. “It’s unbelievable that that they turned out more from the African-American community than in 2008. Somehow they got ‘em to vote.

Gee, maybe African Americans aren’t as dumb, lazy, and shiftless as John Sununu thinks! Maybe they didn’t appreciate Mitt Romney’s repeated dog whistles and his disrespect toward President Obama.

Andrew Cohen at the Atlantic thinks the voter suppression campaign is the main reason Romney lost. Cohen writes:

May I suggest instead a simple, elegant overriding theory on why we won’t have a Romney Administration in 2013? No serious political party in America — no legitimate party in any viable democracy — can win an election by suppressing votes. So long as the Republican Party endorses (and enacts) voting laws designed to make it harder for registered voters to vote, so long as Republican officials like Ohio’s Jon Husted contort themselves to interpret those laws in a restrictive fashion, the Republicans will continue to play a loser’s game.

That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Having covered for the past two years the voting rights front in this epic election cycle, I have come to believe that the Republicans will begin to win presidential elections again only when they start competing for votes with the substance of their ideas.

At Balloon Juice, Dennis G. reacted to the same section of the Politico article that struck me as so stupid; and he offers anecdotal evidence to support voter suppression reaction argument:

Here is the thing that Team Mitt and Team Wingnut failed to understand: that when you insult folks and dismiss them, they tend to get mad and they tend to want to kick your ass.

Mitt and the Wingnuts have run a four-year campaign that is only a blond hair’s width away from calling the President a nigger every single day. They are focused like a laser beam on promoting white rage and using every dog whistle they can think of to get the message across. White folks heard them and so did people of color. Team Mitt is surprised that African-American turnout increased over 2008, but that is only because they are incapable of thinking of these folks as people.

As I knocked on door after door in a black neighborhood in Columbus, it was clear that folks heard the Mitt/wingnut code-talking and that it pissed them off. They heard the endless disrespect of the President and the general contempt for anybody who is not white that has become the core message of the modern conservative movement. They heard it and they decided to kick Mitt’s ass in the voting booth.

Hey, I’m an old white woman and I was so angered by the race baiting that I was determined to vote against the guy who did it and encouraged it!

 Take a look at what happened in Philadelphia:

In a city where President Obama received more than 85 percent of the votes, in some places he received almost every one. In 13 Philadelphia wards, Obama received 99 percent of the vote or more.

Those wards, many with large African American populations, also swung heavily for Obama over John McCain in 2008. But the difficult economy seemed destined to dampen that enthusiasm four years later.

Not to worry. Ward leaders and voters said they were just as motivated this time.

“In this election, you had to point out to the people what was at stake. And in many cases, they felt that the Romney doctrine was not going to favor the working man,” said Edgar “Sonny” Campbell.

No kidding. But I’d be shocked if a lot of the motivation didn’t come from the poorly disguised racism emanating from Romney and Ryan and their surrogates.

And now let’s turn to those whiny billionaires who thought they could buy the White House and failed miserably. Kevin Roose writes at New York Magazine about a conversation he overheard:

Two months ago, in a dimly lit corner banquette at an exclusive club in the meatpacking district, two well-known billionaires sat down — at a table well within earshot of mine — to have a good bitch about the state of the union.

“The last four years have been a disaster,” said one man, a hedge fund manager who supported President Obama’s 2008 campaign but decided to sit this election out. The primary reason for his disillusionment, he said, was that the country under Obama had grown hostile to wealth, and to those who had accumulated vast amounts of it.

“People work their asses off to get where they are, and they get punished,” he said. “I wanted to fly my friend to Davos this year, and people were like, you’re not going to fly the jet to Davos, are you? How will that look to the Occupy people? I’m like, what the fuck are you talking about? I worked hard for this!”

“It’s a scary reality,” said the other billionaire, once a prominent Democratic donor.

Of course President Obama was extremely friendly to Wall Street during his first term, and the banksters did extremely well while most Americans bore the brunt of the Great Recession that Wall Street caused. But the banksters’ tender feelings were hurt when the President referred to them as “fat cats” and held them responsible for hurting middle- and working-class people.

According to Roose,

Wall Street turned very quickly against Obama, and it made a massive bet that they could put a private equity guy in the White House. The bet turned out to be risky and unhedged — the equivalent of wagering a billion dollars on an exotic derivative that would either triple in value or become totally worthless, with no possible results in the middle….

Backing Romney was a tactical decision, but it was also a psychological one. Under a Romney administration, these donors believed, no longer would they need to hang their heads, hide their jets, and apologize for their success. The social order would be restored, and they could walk proud once more.

What could be more pathetic? These Wall Street titans gambled billions on Romney and got absolutely nothing back. In fact they’ve now lost their leverage over Obama, leaving him free to be even more dismissive of their concerns. Bwaaaaahahahahahahaha!!

Do you ever wonder what effect these self-pitying and self-involved billionaires have on their ultra-privileged offspring? One of them, Peter Brandt II, put on quite a display on election night. The Grio reports that Brandt,

the 18-year-old son of billionaire publisher Peter Brant Sr. and former Victoria’s Secret supermodel Stephanie Seymour [reacted to Obama’s reelection by threatening to kill President Obama].

In a series of text messages to his friend Andrew Warren, which were reprinted by Jezebel, Warren whined about how a second Obama term would make him “poor.” Brant II then claimed, “I have a contingency plan. Kill Obama hahaha.”

Brandt was so proud of his “joke,” that he posted the entire text exchange on Instagram.

Here’s a little more of Brandt’s brand [pun intended] of humor, including this delightful tweet:

Harry & Peter Brant@HarryPeterBrant
H:yay Obama and all, but am i the only person who is DYING for Hill DOG to run in 2016! that stylish mullet needs to be in the oval office.
7 Nov 12

Thank goodness the assholes lost this time.


Evening Reads: Thank the Gawds, Tomorrow is Tuesday!

Good Evening

I am so sick of the ads, the lies, and the voter suppression…voter disenfranchisement, and voter intimidation. We are well on our way to Fascism, and no one can tell me any different! Mutthafukkin’ GOP.

I have plenty of links for you tonight, so I will make them quick.

First I have a few updates on stories we have mentioned earlier today.

Voter intimidation is real: Pennsylvania GOP accused of planning voter intimidation

The Philadelphia City Paper reported today that The Advancement Project, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh United, along with other organizations, undersigned a letter asking the Justice Department to ensure voters in targeted locations are able to cast their ballots fairly.

“We have received information that strongly suggests the Republican Party, under the guise of combating alleged voter fraud, has assigned Election Day poll watchers disproportionately to majority African-American precincts in Allegheny County,” the organizations write.

According to the letter, the targeted precincts have over 79 percent of African-American registered voters, compared to non-targeted areas with less than 11 percent.

“The Pennsylvania Republican Party has serious questions to answer about where they are putting their poll watchers and why,” Nicole Berner, Associate General of Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.

A bit of info on that claim that Romney has paid no taxes for years is making news at Addicting Info: Dutch Source Confirms – Romney Paid ZERO Taxes

New documents released by the newspaper Volkskrant from the Netherlands yesterday detail how Mitt Romney took advantage, through his former firm, of a 9-figure tax loophole. When he retired in 1999, his golden parachute enabled him to operate as a company manager and executive, for purposes of investment, for 10 years. And so began Romney’s direct use of the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich” tax avoidance scheme…

Copies of the Bain docs at the link.

There are lots of state amendments that Dakinikat mentioned this morning, here are some thoughts via The Volokh Conspiracy » Some Key Referenda to Watch

As we get ready for a very important election day tomorrow, there are stories out of California that may get ignored in the shuffle: California Agency Releases Evidence of Money Laundering in Right-Wing Campaign Spending on Ballot Measures

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission forced a mysterious $11 million donor to two ballot measures to reveal its secret funding sources today, and the result showed how most of these independent expenditure groups work, mostly through money laundering:

Ending a mystery that captivated the run-up to Election Day, the Arizona group behind an anonymous $11 million donation revealed under court order today that the shadowy donation was laundered through two groups, including one tied to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who have played a huge role in spreading anonymous political cash around the country.

The donation, the largest anonymous contribution to a ballot measure campaign in California history, was made to the Small Business Action Committee, a conservative group running a campaign for Proposition 32, the measure that would curb labor’s ability to collect political cash, and against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative.

“This isn’t going to stop here,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog. “They admitted to money laundering. We agreed to do this without an audit because we wanted to get information to the public before the election. But we in no way agreed this would preclude further action.”

Ravel said Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership conceded it was the intermediary and not the true source of the contribution. The true source was Americans for Job Security and was made through a second intermediary, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, she said.

Americans for Job Security was both active in the 2010 election cycle. They are a corporate front group which received initial funding from the insurance industry. And the Center to Protect Patient Rights is run by a Koch Brothers operative, Sean Noble, who admitted the money laundering to the FPPC. This is a misdemeanor under California law, but conspiracy to commit money laundering is a felony.

Earlier today Kurt Eichenwald tweeted this:

To which I responded:

When are you going to give those Koch Bros the @Kurteinchenwald treatment? Write a book and bring em down.

He actually replied back to me…unfortunately…he said:

Not really my kind of thing. My books are narratives. That wouldnt be.

Damn. I know he uses public records and sources after the fact, but the Koch Bros need to be taken down.

The rest of the links tonight are in link dump fashion…

Katrina vanden Heuvel: FDR and the fight to defend our freedom – The Washington Post

Florida Wants to Make History Majors Pay More for College Than Math Majors | Medieval News

10 Most Absurd Moments of the 2012 Campaign | Alternet

A Tale of Two “Seinfeld” Bosses (…and Campaign Cash) | Mother Jones

Take a look at this tumblr, it is like a postcard from NOLA to New York

And lastly, this video from Chris Rock, its been mentioned on Sky D before, but I had to end this post with some kind of laughter.


Monday Reads: GOTV (GET OUT THERE AND VOTE)

Good Morning!

It’s still hard for me to believe that adult women in the US could not vote less than 100 years ago.  This is something to think about as we approach election day tomorrow.  I can’t remember when an election was this important for women.  There are many women running for office while women’s rights have been under continual assault for two years now.  This is the first time in years–make that decades–that we’ve had one presidential candidate that refuses to go on record about equal pay for equal work and the Lily Ledbetter Act.  The choices couldn’t be clearer.

This issue is over 100 years old. Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1889 as the candidate of the National Equal Rights Party.  She had to petition to become the first woman to appear before the Supreme court in 1879. All of this was decades before women could even vote.  She was also a victim of systemic voter fraud.

It’s seems hard to believe that after so many years of fighting to get this far we have to fight candidate-after-candidate running for the Republican Party to stop the assault on the rights of women and the rights of minorities in this country.  This is what you get when religious fundamentalists are allowed to ramrod their beliefs in to law.  Religious fundamentalism is a threat to democracy all over the world.  The only way to secure the blessings of liberty for all of us is to vote them out and keep them out.  Theocracy Watch has an excellent history of how the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good reads there if you’d like to see exactly how it happened.

Here’s one dangerous state amendment in Florida which is billed as a “religious” freedom mandate but is really a way for churches to get their hands on state money and to project their values on every level of government. Florida’s Amendment 8 will likely show up in a state near year if it hasn’t already.  It mandates taxpayer support of religious institutions.

“Under Amendment 8,” observed Sha­piro, “religious groups would have not only the right to seek taxpayer funding but the power to demand it in certain cases. Religious schools and other ministries of any and all religions could tap the public purse – my tax dollars and yours – and use those funds to promote their faith.”

He added, “Don’t buy the line that Amendment 8 is about protecting ‘faith-based’ social services. Those programs are in no danger. Religious groups in Florida can get tax funds to provide services to those in need – so long as they don’t use public funds to preach or proselytize.”

Shapiro opined that Amendment 8’s supporters also want to gain a foothold for school vouchers in the state. Currently, two provisions of the Florida Constitution have been interpreted to ban voucher subsidies for religious schools. If Amendment 8 passes, one of them will be removed.

Said Shapiro, “Some politicians are trying to use ‘religious freedom,’ which most Floridians fully support, as a cover for their agenda. They’d like to force all of us to subsidize various religions, whether we believe in those faiths or not. They want to give religious institutions special privileges.”

Minnesota is voting on Same-Sex Marriage on Tuesday.   An amendment to the state’s constitution will ban same sex marriage in that state if passed.

For most gay Minnesotans, particularly those who would like to marry longtime partners, passage of the constitutional amendment would put that dream further out of reach. Defeat of the measure would by a welcome but largely symbolic victory for gay couples because the state’s current gay marriage ban would still be in effect, denying same-sex couples who consider themselves married in all but name the same protections and privileges as legally married couples.

That means worrying about things like being denied hospital visits to an ailing partner; being unable to honor a loved one’s wishes after death; or being excluded from parenting rights in cases where an unmarried person adopts the child of a partner. Gay rights supporters say those are just a few of the legal privileges they are denied or may have to fight to assert because of their inability to marry.

During the long campaign over the constitutional amendment, the group working to pass it has stressed that it’s not trying to hurt gay couples. “Everybody has a right to love who they choose,” says the narrator in a commercial from Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of religious and socially conservative organizations.

The group contends that male-female marriage is a centuries-old societal building block that benefits children, and that redefining it in law could lead to intrusions on religious liberty and the right of parents to control influences on their children.

Further information on other state ballot initiatives can be found at this link.  California is voting on labeling of Genetically modified food.  Arizona has an initiative that tries to block federal access to state natural resources.   It’s important to read up on what might show up on your ballot given ALEC and the republican party’s need to decimate local governments, economies, and lives. Oregon and several states have marijuana initiatives.  Most states have ballot initiatives that impact natural resources and wildlife.

For many folks, the issue is going to be access to their right to vote.  Just think, Constitutional Amendments and the Voting Rights Act have secured our right to vote.  Many states are trying to suppress the popular vote among the elderly, women, and minorities.  Stories of rampant voter suppression are coming from all over the country.  The one thing I always bring to the polls with me is banned now in New Mexico.

From New Mexico, Community Journalist George Lujan writes in that the Secretary of State has banned the League of Women Voters’ voting guide at early voting locations. The League’s guide is nonpartisan, and has been used to educate voters for years. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the guide, on the pretext that it amounts to electioneering, is now banned.

George also writes in that voters received deceptive phone calls informing them that early voting had ended in Doña Ana County, despite the fact that early voting continues.

Follow that link above to the Nation to get a state by state account of state-level incidents that are either supported by Republican groups or Republican elected officials.  Here’s the latest offense.  Many polls in Florida have been closed early or shut down due to bomb threats.  It seems ONE southern Florida County will have its election times extended  and it’s a GOP stronghold.

Last night, voters in Miami-Dade County were forced to wait in line up to six hours to vote. In some precincts voters who arrived at 7PM were not able to cast their ballots until 1AM.

In response, Republican-affiliated election officials in Miami-Dade have effectively extended early voting from 1PM to 5PM today by allowing “in-person” absentee voting. But this accommodation will only be available in a single location in the most Republican area of the county.

Nearly every city within 5 to 10 miles of this location — including Hialeah, Miami Springs, Sweetwater and Miami Lakes — has a substantial Republican voter registration advantage.

The most populous city among those is Hialeah where Republicans, powered by a large Cuban community, have an overwhelming registration advantage of nearly 20,000 voters. There will not be an opportunity for in-person absentee voting in downtown Miami or South Dade, where there are heavy concentrations of Democratic voters.

The decision to make the accommodation available was presumably made by Miami-Dade Election Supervisor Penelope Townsley. She is registered with no party affiliation but was appointed to her position by Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Mayor Gimenez did not request Gov. Rick Scott extend early voting throughout Miami-Dade county. Further, according to Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter for CBS News in Miami, the decision to have in-person absentee balloting was made last night but not announced publicly until 9:30AM this morning.

As the election season draws to a close, we’re beginning to see desperate campaigns do desperate things. Romney continues to harp on the President as an angry black man seeking revenge.  Romney has the misguided notion that he some how is entitle to do and say what ever he wants to on the way to his anointment.  That Romney sense of entitlement has never ceased to shock me.  Romney twists other’ people’s words worse than his own.

In the final stretch of the campaign, suddenly there is a new storyline, with Mitt Romney harshly criticizing President Obama for telling a crowd of supporters that voting would be their “best revenge.” It all began when a crowd in Springfield, Ohio responded to Obama’s mention of Romney and Republicans by booing. The president tried to quieten them down, essentially saying their jeers were pointless. “No, no, no—don’t boo, vote! Vote! Voting is the best revenge.” (Video after the jump.) Romney seized on the remark: “Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you: Vote for love of country,” he told a crowd of supporters. He also released an ad about the remarks (watch after the jump). The message? As the conservative site Daily Caller succinctly puts it: “Romney is finishing his 2012 race by calling for love, change and hope, while President Barack Obama’s deputies are struggling to explain his call for ‘revenge.’”

It was an adlibbed line that for conservatives insist highlighted the worst of the president. “He really does think that opposing him is somehow dirty pool, and that ‘revenge’ is the appropriate treatment for those who fail to bow to the mighty Barack,” writes John Hinderaker in Power Line. Yet for others, the way in which the Romney camp rushed to seize on what was obviously a play on the familiar saying “living well is the best revenge” is “one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate” Romney has displayed in the past, writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In the Atlantic, James Fallows wonders whether it’s even “conceivable that [Romney] actually believes Obama was talking about revenge-voting as if it were basically like ‘revenge sex?’”

Obama was merely encouraging people to go to the polls, yet Romney somehow twisted the words, even if he left a basic question unanswered: Revenge for what? “Suddenly, we are in the rhetorical space of class warfare,” points out The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson. Although talking of revenge may be a new twist, it’s merely another way in which Romney has accused those who oppose him of resenting his success.

Meanwhile, poll-after-poll shows a gender gap, a Hispanic Gap, a black gap, and an age gap in voting patterns.  It’s hard not to notice that every one recognizes what’s at stake.  The Romney way-back machine takes most of us back to places that most of us fought to get out of.  Be sure to hang on as we live blog the returns tomorrow and the latest in voter suppression efforts today.  This pretty well sums up the Romney future for all of us:  Romney staff refusing to let frostbitten children leave PA rally.

This is happening right now at Mitt Romney’s rally in Pennsylvania.  Apparently it’s freezing, and Romney’s staff is refusing to let rally-goers leave. People are begging reporters for help.

Absolutely incredible.

No, it’s quite credible.  This is a group of people that wants complete control of what goes on in every American Woman’s Uterus.  This is a group that will say anything–including scaring workers about their jobs–to score political points.  This is a group that sends its VP candidate to re-rinse clean pots over the protests of charity owners and pays for a few boxes of canned goods over the requests of the Red Cross just to provide photo ops.  This one man’s sense of entitlement and republican ideology will always leave all of us frostbitten in the cold.  Just VOTE for any one but a Republican this election.  It is important. I don’t want to see us all out there on the melting ice floes with endangered polar bears.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?