First TV ads hit in Colorado recall, financed by extreme ‘gun rights guru’

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2013-05-2008

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That’s an ad from the National Association for Gun Rights, accusing Colorado’s Senate Majority Leader John Morse of being more concerned about New York than Colorado, because he reacted to the Aurora massacre by supporting new laws making it tougher for mentally ill people to obtain weapons, as well as a handful of other common sense restrictions. That, of course, has brought the NRA, the Koch brothers, and now the extremist Dudley Brown, founder of NAGR, to Colorado to kick Morse and a fellow Democrat, Angela Giron, out of the legislature.

Here’s just a little background on Mr. Brown.

He savagely and routinely attacks candidates and officeholders unwilling to pledge, in writing, their absolute loyalty to Brown on Second Amendment issues. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010—the “corporations are people” case—spurred myriad nontraditional political groups into action, and Brown has capitalized on his group’s newfound freedom. He’s built RMGO and the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) into a double-barreled fund-raising machine that bullies anyone who compromises Brown’s pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-gay agenda. (A favorite showy tactic is driving around in a Pinzgauer, a boxy, big-wheeled Cold War–era Austrian troop truck that Brown calls his “political pain delivery vehicle.”) Says former state Representative B.J. Nikkel, a Larimer County Republican who ran afoul of Brown last year after she voted for civil unions legislation: “He’s a political terrorist and a modern-day charlatan who operates in the shadows and portrays himself as a supposed ‘Christian,’ but he uses the people naive enough to believe him and financially support him.”

Goal Thermometer
A real charmer, huh? What better partner for the NRA and the Koch brothers? Brown’s usual focus is in taking out any moderate Republican still left standing, which is been pretty effective out. It’s fine if he wants to play in his own party and doom it to ultimate failure by sending it over the right-wing edge. That’s ultimately making the state bluer.

But now he’s not just trying to take over the Republicans, but the state. Don’t let him.

Please give $3 to each of the two Democrats targeted by this recall.

Kumbaya on filibuster reform might not extend to Mel Watt

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2013-05-2008

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Official House protrait of Rep. Mel Watt

Rep. Mel Watt

Here’s where the filibuster deal Harry Reid struck with Senate Republicans to finally approve executive branch nominations breaks down, and it’s a “snub of a colleague that has no modern precedent” according to Roll Call [sub req.] The nominee in question is Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. His nomination has been passed out of committee and is awaiting floor action. Which it won’t get before the August recess.

If his nomination is effectively spiked by a cloture vote this fall, which looks to be the best bet at the moment, or if he withdraws in the face of rejection, Watt would be the first sitting member of Congress in decades who’s been nominated for a confirm-able position and then denied by the Senate. […]

The previous five members picked by President Barack Obama for administration jobs all cruised through without any discernible dissent. So did the half-dozen people President George W. Bush plucked from Congress for senior executive branch positions.

What’s different this time? It’s complicated, but there’s no tangible evidence of any personal animosity toward Watt. He seems pretty well regarded in the Senate as a liberal who’s a skilled and willing negotiator on legislation he’s had a hand in writing on both the Financial Services and Judiciary committees, where he’s also risen to fourth in Democratic seniority.

The easiest answer is that the Senate is just as polarized since its filibuster confrontation was averted two weeks ago, with Republicans who feel they were outmaneuvered in that showdown determined to extract some revenge.

Apparently the Republicans have a quota for cooperation, and they’ve filled it by confirming a handful of President Obama’s choices. Or maybe there was a super-secret expiration date for cooperation put on the deal. But more likely, the issue is one of allowing a department head who has policy ideas that could actually help people get the job. Namely, they want to make sure any effort to help people who are underwater on mortgages is stymied. Watt would work to allow federally-insured borrowers negotiate with banks to reduce their principal, something the acting director, Edward DeMarco, who came to the agency in the Bush administration, won’t do. They like the status quo here.

The Senate had a brief reprieve in which some critical stuff actually got done. That’s obviously not going to happen again. Filibuster reform is far from over.

Tell your Democratic senators to keep filibuster reform moving, and to bring back the talking filibuster.

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro to be sentenced Thursday

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2013-05-2008

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Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped, raped, and beat three Cleveland women will find out his fate during a sentencing hearing Thursday morning, though it’s not much of a mystery where he’ll spend the rest of his life.

Gov’t reports GDP at 1.7% for second quarter, higher than expected, but first quarter revised down

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2013-05-2008

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Chart showing GDP as of July 2013.

As measured by growth in real, that is, inflation-adjusted, gross domestic product, the economy is still dragging, a report from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Wednesday. From April through June, seasonally adjusted real GDP grew by 1.7 percent on an annualized basis. While better than expected, that is, depending on your point of view, modest or weak. GDP for the first quarter, which had last been reported in June as 1.8 percent, was revised by the bureau to 1.1 percent. The second-quarter number will be revised in August and September as better data are obtained:

The increase in real GDP in the second quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, nonresidential fixed investment, private inventory investment, and residential investment that were partly offset by a negative contribution from federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. […]

Real personal consumption expenditures increased 1.8 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 2.3 percent in the first. Durable goods increased 6.5 percent, compared with an increase of 5.8 percent. Nondurable goods increased 2.0 percent, compared with an increase of 2.7 percent. Services increased 0.9 percent, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent. […]

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 1.5 percent in the second quarter, compared with a decrease of 8.4 percent in the first.  National defense decreased 0.5 percent, compared with a decrease of 11.2 percent.  Nondefense decreased 3.2 percent, compared with a decrease of 3.6 percent. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 0.3 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 1.3 percent.

While growth in the GDP in the first half of the year has been slower than most economists and business analysts forecasted last December and early January, the expectation is that the second half of the year will be better as a consequence of an improved housing market, higher business spending and a reduced impact of government spending cuts. For instance, investment in the housing market rose 13.4 percent in the second quarter. However, since consumer expenditures make up two-thirds of the GDP, the first-quarter-to-second-quarter drop of 0.5 percent—2.3 percent to 1.8 percent—in that spending gives reason for caution.

Together with the report on the most recent GDP performance, the BEA also released the results of its overhaul of GDP all the way back to 1929. Adding in new measures, it said, gives a more accurate picture of what’s actually going on. The revisions showed the economy did slightly better in 2012 than previously reported: 2.8 percent vs. 2.2 percent.

There’s a bit more about the GDP below the fold.

GOP plan would kick 5 million people off food stamps and increase health care costs

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2013-05-2008

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Canned food and fork

The $20.5 billion in food stamp cuts that wasn’t enough cutting for many House Republicans would kick more than 5 million people out of the program, according to a new report from the Health Impact Project. Of that 5 million, more than 500,000 are currently suffering from food insecurity despite getting food stamps, and another 160,000 to 305,000 people could become food insecure as a result of the cuts. That’s a whole lot of people who would go hungry as a direct result of cuts that, let’s repeat, are not big enough for many House Republicans.

If you are, Republican-like, tempted to think “sure, people will go hungry, but we’ll save money,” consider this: No, we won’t. Increased food insecurity and increased poverty would raise the risk of many illnesses, raising health care costs:

Our analysis found that based on current rates of diabetes in relation to poverty in U.S. communities, this increase in poverty could translate to a growth in government and private-sector medical costs for diabetes alone of nearly $15 billion over 10 years. Thus, diabetes costs alone could nearly equal CBO’s estimate of $20 billion in savings over 10 years from implementing proposed SNAP changes in H.R. 1947, in addition to any costs associated with other diseases.

If you were having another Republican-like response and thinking “well, now maybe they’ll have to go out and get jobs,” a reminder: Many people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits do have jobs. It’s just that in this great and noble country, because low-wage jobs are so damn common, many people work full-time and still need food assistance:

People like Christine Tucker, 46, a mother of four in Queens.

Ms. Tucker, who was born in Jamaica and works as a health aide, said she began receiving food stamps in April. “It’s a big help,” she said. “If it goes, I don’t know what is going to happen. After paying rent and other bills, there is often nothing left for food.”

So. We can cut SNAP and save money on the program itself, but face higher health care costs as a result, while increasing the number of people who go hungry in this country. Or we could do the sane thing and expand the safety net that, while riddled with holes, is already keeping 40 million people out of poverty.

Please sign our petition telling the House and Senate to put low-income families ahead of corporate welfare and to oppose all cuts to food stamps.

South Carolina GOP ‘regrets’ if calling the IRS ‘Obama’s Gestapo’ upset anyone

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2013-05-2008

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South Carolina GOP fundraising email: 'IRS OBAMA'S GESTAPO'

Header of South Carolina GOP fundraising letter, via BuzzFeed

My faith in the basic competence of our political leaders has already bottomed out, so there’s not much left that the South Carolina GOP junior clown college and rodent rodeo can do to it:

The South Carolina GOP on Tuesday responded to backlash it received after sending out a fundraising email that compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo.

“The State Party sent out a fundraising email earlier with a subject line meant to grab the attention of those receiving it,” Alex Stroman, executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party said in a statement to TPM. “If anyone was upset, we certainly regret it. Our goal was to highlight the IRS’s questionable tactics and their decision to selectively scrutinize and target certain groups, including those in South Carolina.”

All right, I’m gonna break this down. First: the image in question was the IRS logo with “Obama’s Gestapo” emblazoned upon it. I’m not sure why Nazi Germany still holds such great fundraising opportunities for the South Carolina GOP, but screw it—I don’t care. Alex Stroman is the Jeffrey Dahmer of South Carolina politics and probably is personally responsible for killing and eating your mom, and I base that on absolutely nothing since I’ve never met the guy or know anything about him, but apparently this sort of thing is all the rage so I’m sure some half-literate simpleton somewhere will send me “$25, 50 or $100” for saying so. It’s a goddamn business plan. (I am reminded here of the language teacher I once had whose family was taken by that same Gestapo, and the circumstances in which the class learned this and learned how no, she was nowhere near done being “upset” by it, but that is neither here nor there.)

You know what? You go ahead and call anyone you want the Gestapo, I really just do not give a professional shit. It is the laziest possible political epithet, the mark of a hack so dull-minded as to embarrass all the other hacks in the proximity, but there is at no point anyone who thinks of the South Carolina Republican Party as anything more than a political pig wallow; there’s no further reputation to be lost, there. Enjoy whatever it is you’re soaking in, fellas.

No, I’m more impressed that the actual debunking of the IRS “scandal”—the bit where we found out that the scrutiny faced by “conservative groups” was, in fact, faced by “liberal groups” and other political-leaning groups as well—continues to make not a damn bit of difference in the fundraising letters. Doesn’t matter that we now know it isn’t true. Doesn’t matter that the “scandal” seemed to be manufactured by a crack investigative team that massaged it into being only by carefully omitting all reference to non-conservative groups undergoing identical scrutiny. Doesn’t matter that Darrell Issa, in particular, has come off the thing looking like an absolute crook, a man whose coddling of the scandal was based on lying outright to the public. Nope, it’s still a scandal in redneck-land. Still a scandal among people who were pretty sure the IRS was “Obama’s Gestapo” long before they had even the barest hint of something to justify the label with, the same people who thought “ACORN” were Obama’s secret Gestapo before that and that the Treasury Department is preparing to wage war on Americans just as soon as the FEMA camps get their final logos designed. There hasn’t been a single “scandal” yet, in the Scary Black President years, that has been harmed in the slightest by being either easily disproved or so obviously falsified that only a paint-licking moron could be taken in by it.

It really is the golden age for propagandists. You can say whatever you want, and people will still send you checks. I’m reminded of the time a mask-wearing South Carolina Republican chair Matt Moore murdered six teenagers while they were at the old abandoned summer camp, only to quietly skulk back into the lake and show up the next day to write three separate fundraising pitches in suspicious-colored ink. A damn remarkable thing, that, and if you send me $25, $50 or $100 I’ll let you in on where I think that ink came from.

Four out of five Americans are living on the economic edge as inequality rises

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2013-05-2008

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Image showing one figure holding down a teeter-totter with three figures on the other side.

Economic insecurity is now the American way of life:

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Policymakers are going to need to begin wrapping their heads around the fact that, if they’ve never experienced that kind of fear and insecurity and can’t imagine it, they’re not in the same place as most of their constituents. And there’s one part of this increase in the number of people who will come close to poverty in their lives that might push policymakers to understand:

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

Yep, economic inequality is becoming so extreme that even the privileges of whiteness aren’t enough to insulate most people. As fewer and fewer people are on top, more and more will be being ground up by the economy. In fact, by 2030, the percentage of people experiencing this kind of economic insecurity is projected to rise from 79 percent to 85 percent.

So, as poverty and economic insecurity affect more white people, does that mean we get to talk about poverty without being hit with so much ugly racist talk? And does it mean policymakers will start to take economic inequality, poverty, and jobs seriously?

Gov. Jerry Brown proposes to fix unemployment comp deficit without taking it out of workers’ hides

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2013-05-2008

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As in many other states, the Great Recession emptied the accounts states set aside to provide compensation to eligible workers who lose their jobs. In normal times, whatever that means anymore, those accounts provide ample funds to cover the cost of providing a weekly check to the jobless until they find new work. It’s meant to be a tide-you-over fund. But the recession’s depth and duration meant millions were forced out of their jobs and couldn’t find new ones.

To make up the shortfall, states borrowed money from the U.S. Treasury. California’s loan with the feds now tops $10 billion. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to fix that, retiring the federal debt by 2016 and creating an $11 billion surplus by 2021.

With one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates for several years, the state has had to borrow money from the feds to keep the program going. Now that the jobless rate has fallen to 8.5%, Brown would like to start paying down a $10-billion debt.

His administration is circulating a draft bill that would put the system on an even keel by raising payroll taxes paid by employers. The goal is to win approval before the Legislature finishes work for the year Sept. 13.

Catch that? Paid for wholly by employers.

That’s not the way it’s being done in some of the other 19 states that borrowed money from the treasury to cover the shortfall. Check out, where else, North Carolina. There Republicans are showing every day what they would do nationally on a range of issues if they could get away with it.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina legislature cut the maximum unemployment compensation to $350 a week to pay down the $2.1 billion it borrowed from the feds. The goal is to pay off that debt by 2015. The state will also charge businesses an added $42 a year for each employee. But 74 percent of the $3.6 million the state will save between now and 2017, according to the legislature’s fiscal research office, will come from cuts in workers’ weekly compensation checks. Having a tough time making ends meet? Here, let us make it tougher still.

In California, Marc Lifsher reports that Marty Morgenstern, a Brown adviser who is secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, has been holding separate meetings with business groups and labor unions on the change. Talks are in early stages and the details of what’s being proposed now could change markedly before it is approved. But the proposal as it is currently set up would increase the amount of wages subject to unemployment insurance taxes from the first $7,000 of annual pay to $9,500 and eventually $12,000.

Paying down the federal loan that way and making the fund more solvent for future needs makes a good deal more sense than forcing the jobless to take a cut in their weekly compensation checks.

Obama offers new ‘grand bargain’ to GOP ahead of budget fights

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2013-05-2008

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Orphan puppies roam congressional meeting room in search of owners

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2013-05-2008

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Furry four-legged lobbyists hit the town in Washington. We took pictures.