Friday, August 31, 2012

Washington's Wall Street Sugar Daddies

(Photo: Michael Aston)
Sunday, 19 August 2012 10:03 By Hillary Lehr, Yes! Magazine | Report 

The finance, insurance and real estate industries spend approximately $1,331 a minute on influencing our leaders. A new tool makes it easier for you to find out which ones.

How much is democracy worth to you?

If you’re like most people, it’s priceless. But for the hedge funds and insurance companies on Wall Street, it does have a price tag. And now, thanks to a new report by Global Exchange, we know the number on it: approximately $4.2 billion. That’s how much the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (F.I.R.E.) sector has invested in political influence through campaign contributions and lobbying since 2006. That comes to $1,331 a minute spent on political power.  READ MORE

Small Government or Smallish-Sort-of-Mediumish-Nicer-Better Government

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Sunday, 19 August 2012 12:06 By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | Op-Ed 

James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario: "It couldn't hurt for the Democrats to have a decent response to the small-government attack line, and that starts with having some kind of understanding of what the federal government actually is and does."

The conventional wisdom about Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate is that it sets the stage for a debate about the role of government in society, between Romney and Ryan as champions of small government and Obama and Biden as supporters of big government. Indeed, that’s the thrust of the lead story in the Wall Street Journal [last week]. And it’s pretty clear why Mitt Romney wants to have this debate.

First, the politics: The choice of Ryan should be slightly encouraging to Democrats for one reason—it confirms what the polls and Nate Silver have been saying for months: President Obama is winning, though not by much. One of Romney’s options was to simply run against the incumbent, pointing to the bad economy and making a bland case for himself as some kind of business guru. Apparently that wasn’t working, so he decided to double down on the Tea Party and the idea of radically reforming government—something that he’s been distinctly bad at throughout the election so far.

In the longer term, Democrats should be worried, because Romney and Ryan have the better debating position. Their position is simple and superficially compelling: Government is bad.  READ MORE

New Nationwide Study of Election Fraud Since 2000 Finds Just 10 Cases of In-Person Voter Fraud

Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog: "A new nationwide analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal, and in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent."  Read the Article

Wall Street Abandons Obama, Democrats

Employees of financial-services companies have
given Democrats $20 million less than they have
given to Republicans during the current election
cycle. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By Caitlin Dickson, The Daily Beast
19 August 12

In a reversal from 2008, employees of financial-services companies have given most of their $128 million and counting in 2012 political donations to groups and candidates on the right. Sorry, Obama.

n 2008 Wall Street loved Barack Obama. Four years later, even after billions in bailout money went to the banks under Obama's watch, the tide has turned - by about $20 million.

That's the difference between what securities and investment firms and their employees have given to Republican candidates, the GOP, and right-leaning political-action committees during the current election cycle ($56 million) and what they've given to Democrats ($35 million), according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Goldman Sachs and its workers, for instance, made more than $6 million in political contributions in 2008, according to the CRP, which based its research on data provided by the Federal Election Commission. Some 75 percent of that loot went to the Democratic Party or one of its candidates, and 25 percent went to Republicans. In the 2012 cycle, the firm or its employees have so far given nearly $5 million, with the majority (56 percent) going to the GOP.

One reason for the shift, according to the CRP, might be that people in finance tend to donate to the party that controls Congress and therefore the finance committees. In 2008 that was the Democrats. Today it's the Republicans.  READ MORE

Why Are Our Public Schools Up For Sale?

Photo Credit: Margie Hurwich via Shutterstock.com
While charter proponents claim that their schools are less bureaucratic, more efficient, and more effective, the evidence fails to back those claims.

  August 13, 2012

"Back-to-school" sales seem to start earlier every year. These days, more than binders and backpacks are on offer. Now, public schools themselves are for sale.

In July, Muskegon Heights, Michigan became the first American city to hand its entire school district over to a charter-school operator .

More than 1.6 million American kids attend charter schools, which emerged in the early 1990s. Whatever their original intent, charters are fundamentally restructuring the school system by placing it in private — often for-profit — hands. They're making teachers and staff work harder and longer for less pay, usually without union benefits or protection.

In May, Philadelphia's schools announced a plan to close 64 schools and outsource 25 more to so-called "achievement networks" run by charter operators. The goal: that 40 percent of Philadelphia's children attend charters by 2017. Detroit's plans are similar.

Restructuring may seem the best option. Urban school districts have long struggled to serve their students. And many of us know firsthand — as former students, teachers, administrators, or parents — that many of America's public schools require radical change.

Charter proponents claim that their schools are less bureaucratic and more efficient, and thus save taxpayer money. Yet evidence is mounting to show that the opposite is true. READ MORE
 

Why Romney's Panicked Campaign May Pander Even Harder to the Far Right

How far can right-wingers influence Romney on foreign policy, one of the campaign’s blank slates?

  August 14, 2012

Mitt Romney, a corporate takeover executive in the private sector, is now in full political makeover mode as he campaigns for president, starting with his attention-deflecting choice of radical U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Washington insiders recognize the symptoms of a panicked campaign and see that the attempted makeover is not complete—and won’t be until the Republican National Convention adjourns and the fall campaign begins. And so we are seeing seemingly bizarre musings from known GOP ideologues trying to fill in Romney’s blank pages.

The latest example from this not quite stage-managed spectacle is the emergence of Grover Norquist, the GOP’s longtime anti-tax crusader, now saying the Romney-Ryan pronouncement that the Pentagon budget must be protected from Democrats’ cuts is wrong, because, like anything big in government, there’s excessive spending, waste and fraud to be cut—even in the military.

Does this make Norquist a peacenik? No way.  READ MORE

Romney's Campaign Strategy: Lie, Lie, and Lie Some More -- Can Democracy Survive with 0% Media Accountability?

The Romney camp is boldly lying because they are making a calculation that it will work! We better hope it doesn't.
August 13, 2012

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?
The Growing List Of Lies

This week's lie is the "Obama gutted welfare reform" nonsense. See Bill Scher's must-read response,  Romney's Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism . The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this:  Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform . The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.

The next-most recent lies was  the "Obama is trying to keep military families from voting" lie . This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the "Democrats are anti-military" narrative.READ MORE

In Minnesota, pigs are being born with human blood in their veins...

In Nevada, there are sheep whose livers and hearts are largely human. In California, mice peer from their cages with human brain cells firing inside their skulls. But with no federal guidelines in place, an awkward question hovers above the work: How human must a chimera be before more stringent research rules should kick in?"
 
  -- Washington Post article on human/animal hybrids, 11/20/04

The front page of the Washington Post several years ago had the below, incredibly revealing story on human/animal hybrids. The respected British newspaper The Guardian in 2008 posted a key story on the first human/animal hybrid embryos. Yet another revealing article on these bizarre hybrids appeared in the nature magazine National Geographic. Scientists are experimenting with creating hybrids between humans and animals called "chimeras" without clear ethical guidelines. And remember that military and intelligence services are generally at least 10 years in advance of any research being done in public. 
READ MORE

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Look Who's Covertly Controlling the GOP: Karl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads

Karl Rove is no longer merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party.
August 22, 2012

The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Craig Unger on Karl Rove's comeback. 
Our guest for the hour is Craig Unger, who has written  Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power . In it, he writes, "Undeniably, he’s back," talking about Karl Rove. "He has re-invented himself. He is not merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party. As the maestro orchestrating the various super-pacs, he has inspired the wealthiest people on the right to pony up what could amount to $1 billion and has created an unelected position for himself of real enduring power with no term limits. Karl Rove has become the ultimate party boss." Craig Unger, lay out his rise to power, his fall, and then his rise again. READ MORE

The Fascinating Differences Between The Conservative and Liberal Personality

Evidence suggests that differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age.
August 20, 2012

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin," laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today's hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the "American people" that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors - temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational - that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.

Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical. These personality differences were even reflected in the bedroom belongings and offices or workspaces of ideological undergrads, with liberal students collecting more CDs, books, movie tickets, and travel paraphernalia, as opposed to their conservative peers, who showed more sports d├ęcor, U.S. flags, cleaning supplies, calendars, and uncomfortable furniture. Lest you think that the partisan personality is a uniquely American phenomenon, similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia.
 READ MORE

Paul Ryan's Top 10 Falsehoods and Outrages... from Just His First Week on the Campaign Trail

Ryan's early roll-out for campaign 2012 has been quite the disaster.
August 22, 2012

1. Ryan’s position opposing abortion even in cases of rape, and his attempts to define cytoblasts as legal ‘persons’ (which would outlaw all termination of pregnancies and some forms of birth control) came under scrutiny when  Republican Todd Akin, running for the Senate in Missouri, provoked a furor.  Akin said he opposed abortion even in cases of rape because in ‘legitimate rape’ the woman’s body rejects fertilization. Akin’s insensitivity to a situation that affects a third of a million American women every decade, plus his ignorance of Biology 101, drew widespread condemnation. Mitt Romney put out a statement that both he and Ryan believed abortion was permitted in case of rape.  Problem: Ryan has repeatedly opposed that position and appears to agree  with Akin more than with his running mate.

2. Ryan keeps attacking Prsident Obama’s stimulus program now . But in 2002 when then President George W. Bush proposed stimulus spending, Ryan supported it. “What we’re trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed,” Ryan told MSNBC in 2002.READ MORE
3. Even more embarrassing,