Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nick Ruiz for Congress: Endless Summer


As you probably know, Blue America has endorsed Nick Ruiz, a professor, a surfer and a former Green Party candidate running as a progressive Democrat now, against anti-environmental corporate stooge John Mica in a central Florida district next to Alan Grayson's. Grayson should be able to fly back and forth between Orlando and DC with Nick rather than Mica and his weird wig.

Nick has a contest for the month of August-- Nick Ruiz for Congress: Endless Summer-- and we want to make sure you know about it. From Nick:
"I'd like to announce a a very special contest for NRIII 2014 supporters that is going to be alot of fun. We have to raise funds for our first TV commercial and the petition/ ballot access fee. We have a first goal of 15K. It's a surf contest, called Endless Summer. It goes like this:

1. Contribute any amount toward our goal.

2. On August 31st, the contest ends and if we hit the goal-- one random winner and companion will be flown to sunny New Smyrna Beach, Florida for a weekend that includes a hotel stay and surf lesson with me at Ponce Inlet, arguably the best surf spot in all of Florida. It's sunny here year-round, so the date of the trip is negotiable.

3. What have you got to lose? Help a progressive get into Congress, and perhaps win a Florida weekend getaway."
Recently Nick told me in an interview that the Republican and the Democratic political Establishments are "listening to the wealth establishment, and they are cognizant of the funding of their political campaigns. They want to curry favor with the wealth establishment. That’s who wants this done. In that sense, corporate politicians, and the PACS that support them, are all the same. But we have choices to make. You can vote for me in FL-7-- I’m the anti-social justice establishment’s worst nightmare. Because I will not acquiesce to social injustice. In fact, I will work to reorder the entirely unjust scenario just described, by replacing corporate Democrats with authentic progressive people."

Nick has to defeat John Mica to get into Congress. But I suspect that once he gets there, it'll be hacks like Steny Hoyer and Steve Israel who will be pulling the hair out of their heads because of him. There are some (admiring) Democratic freshmen that joke about Alan Grayson's incredible record of accomplishment-- even in a House controlled by the GOP-- by cracking to themselves: "unleash the cracken." God only knows what they'll come up with when Nick is in Congress!

Please consider making a contribution to Nick's cause on the Blue America ActBlue page-- whether you want the surf holiday or not.

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For those of us numbed by the realities of climate change, a warm welcome to the new ClimateProgress


Royal Thai Navy personnel work to clean up the oil spill on Ao Phrao Beach on the island of Koh Samet on July 30. -- from (see below)

by Ken

The other day ThinkProgress announced, in addition to a revamping of the website, "a major expansion of its coverage of climate change" with the introduction of ClimateProgress, a "hub for all things climate, energy, and environment-related." (Actually it's a re-introduction of ClimateProgress, which had a run from 2006 to 2011, when it was merged into ThinkProgress.)

I confess that I devote far too little attention, both here and in my daily life, to the life-and-death issues of climate change, for the obvious reasons. I don't really understand most of the issues. I don't want to understand most of the issues. The whole thing makes me feel at the same time bored and terror-stricken, and besides, what can I do about it anyway? Perhaps worse still, while the cumulative effects become more and more visible, on a day-by-day basis it's hard to see the change, and even harder to imagine any significant reversal thereof.

None of which is offered as any sort of "defense," just by way of explanation. For people like me, ClimateProgress could be invaluable. Here's more of what the ThinkProgress folks had to say about it:
The number of reporters on the Climate Progress team has recently quadrupled — with even more additions yet to come.

Climate Progress’s expanded coverage will focus on three key areas: illustrating the impact climate change is having now across the country; investigating the opposition forces that fuel climate denial and obstruct action; and elevating climate change to an issue that influences voters and elections. The expanded site will also be able to cover a broader spectrum of climate and energy issues, including environmental justice and green technology.

Climate-fueled disasters like Hurricane Sandy, floods, droughts, and other devastation wrought by extreme weather aren’t going anywhere, but unfortunately major media outlets like the New York Times and Reuters are backing off their commitment to covering these issues at this crucial time. ThinkProgress is stepping up to fill this gap in order to make sure climate change is getting the coverage it deserves while creating sustained accountability for politicians and special interests opposed to action to combat it.

Please check out the new look over at ThinkProgress and be on the lookout for more and more innovative coverage from Climate Progress.


I strolled through the catalog of posts that have already gone up on ClimateProgress in its short existence and pulled out a sampling that grabbed my attention -- and I thought might interest you:

Absent Climate Policies, Global Coal Use Will Soar In Coming Decades, EIA Report Says

Obama: Keystone Jobs 'A Blip', Pipeline 'Might Actually Cause Some Gas Prices In The Midwest To Go Up'

Tar Sands Oil Has Been Leaking Into Alberta For 10 Weeks And No One Knows How To Stop It

Why Minorities Care More About Climate Change

BP Earned $2.7 Billion In Q2 Profits But Still Thinks It’s Paying Too Much In Taxes

As Public Opinion Shifts, Candidates Explicitly Run On Doing Something About Climate Change

How Maryland’s New Climate Plan Could Actually Lower Energy Costs

PHOTOS: Beaches Blanketed In Crude Oil After Major Spill In The Gulf Of Thailand

I don't know if ClimateProgress can shake me out of my fear-of-climate-change-induced stupor, but it looks like a smart as well as important initiative. Best wishes to the folks there.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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Obama Turning Over A New Leaf On Austerity?


The American face of Europe's failed Austerity Agenda

Michael Tomasky is a pretty sharp guy-- and not some kind of Beltway shill. So when he professes that Obama might be going in a progressive direction, I thought it would be worth at least hearing him out. In the Daily Beast Monday he warned Obama not to blow his moment. "The president," he writes, "is at last sounding aggressive about progressive policies-- namely, that to save the country, we need to save the middle class." I have to admit, when I read Tomasky's tweet-- "Finally, Obama Gets in the Face of the Austerity Caucus!"-- I first thought he had written that Obama IS the face of the austerity caucus. If not for the prominence of Paul Ryan, he could have been called that over the course of the last 4 years.
My favorite presidential sentence in quite some time was uttered over the weekend by Barack Obama, or whenever exactly he sat down and told the New York Times what it quoted him as saying Sunday: “I want to make sure that all of us in Washington are investing as much time, as much energy, as much debate on how we grow the economy and grow the middle class as we’ve spent over the last two to three years arguing about how we reduce the deficits.”

Now of course that’s not going to happen, not with this Congress. But if Obama keeps up with the aggressive progressive posture on the economy that he debuted last week, he can start to reframe the way we’ve talked about economic issues, like austerity and inequality, for the past 30 years. For a long time, President Obama was throwing plenty of his own chips into the austerity pot. Liberal economists (Paul Krugman, James Galbraith, Dean Baker) and liberal economics writers (Bob Kuttner, notably) were irate. I was a little more sympathetic to the political realities—contra my friend Kuttner, I never thought, for example, that there was a “Rooseveltian moment” in the wake of the 2008 crash. Indeed the vicious irony of the crash, and the resultant havoc, was that it was exactly large enough to piss off the top 5 percent (who lost large amounts of wealth) but not large enough to piss off the top 40 percent (most of whom, even with the high jobless rates of 2010, did keep their jobs and held on through the storm). Structurally speaking, this is why we got the revolution—the counter-revolution—we got, in the form of the Tea Party. If we’d had 24 percent unemployment in 2009, as FDR did in 1933, Obama would have had a much freer hand to attempt more radical experimentation.

So I think his options on the left were limited. However, no one forced him to embrace deficit reduction as a priority or pay lip service to striking a “grand bargain” with a bunch of hostage-takers. And certainly no one made him give voice to absurd and counter-productive sloganeering about how governments were like families and had to tighten their belts during tough times. He should have been gutsy enough to have been out there in the teeth of this crisis, in 2009 and 2010, saying to the American people that in fact, no, the government is not like a family, and it is precisely when the private sector has no money to pump into the economy that the public sector should step in and play that role. I suppose he and Axelrod had polling showing that this was risky. But it was also true. Taking risks to tell the truth is what we theoretically pay these people to do.

Anyway, events have made saying it less risky, because now we are in the age of sequestration and severe cuts, and there is broad recognition that austerity has hurt the economy. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Ben Bernanke, who keeps begging Congress (in that euphemistic Fed-speak way) to do something to help the economy. “Fiscal policy,” said a recent Fed press release, “is restraining government growth.” “Fiscal policy” is the other side of “monetary policy,” and it means government spending, passing bills, all those sorts of thing that we’re not doing.

So now, in this new context, Obama has finally decided to start saying some things he should have been saying all along. Grand bargain talk is dead, and he’s pushing not only an agenda, but an alternate theory of economic growth. Obama may not get any bills passed, but he can at least spend the next three years hammering home two key points that will help him in the legacy department, help shift the debate in ways that will be beneficial to President Hillary Clinton, should that come to pass, and, who knows, with any luck, maybe win one or two of these upcoming fights with the House Republicans.

The first point, he is making: You grow an economy not by investing in the top 1 percent, but by creating as large a goods-consuming middle-class as you can possibly build.

...Obama more or less said this in the Times interview: “If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise.” Those sentences at least link inequality to growth, but I hope he is far more explicit about this in the coming speeches, starting tomorrow in Chattanooga.

Here’s the main thing. Despite the failures of trickle-down in practice, our economic conversations in Washington still proceed from a set of assumptions that favor conservatives, because they were assumptions that conservatives ingrained in the public starting back in the 1980s: that spending less is by definition the responsible course, and that inequality isn’t an issue that serious empiricists need to care about. These two assumptions, or versions of them, have governed policy-making for ages. If Obama can get Americans-- and official Washington, a group that takes a long, long time to change its mind-- to rethink those assumptions, he’ll have done plenty of economic good.
So after giving credence to the Republican Austerity Agenda for years, Obama is now going to start talking progressive economics in a serious way? I'll believe that when I see it-- in his actions, not just his speeches.

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Colleen Hanabusa Broke The Law Selling Her Soul To Drug Lobbyists


Hanabusa and the crooked husband have their sites set on the U.S. Senate

Tuesday afternoon we looked at what a mistake it is to compromise ideals with craven corporate interests and the political hacks they finance. In fact we honed in particularly on health care reform and the corporate battle against it. We concentrated on Republicans, of course, but Matea Gold, writing for the Washington Post highlights the unfolding health care scandal swirling around one of Congress' most corrupt and conservative New Dems, Colleen Hanabusa, the EMILY's List and drug lobbyists' candidate to displace progressive Senator Brian Schatz in Hawai'i.
A senior aide to Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) told his colleagues late last month that the nation’s top drug lobby had agreed to run a campaign supporting the congresswoman’s challenge to Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz and wanted to coordinate it with her strategists.

Such an effort, described in an e-mail obtained by the Washington Post, could run afoul of campaign finance laws, which prohibit candidates and their staff from substantial discussions with interest groups about their independent political activities.

Officials with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Hanabusa’s campaign denied that the group had offered to run such an effort but acknowledged talks about a possible fundraiser for Hanabusa and about the state of the race in general.

Campaign officials blamed the e-mail on a misinformed staffer.

“He made inaccurate assumptions about the type of help PhRMA could provide the campaign,” campaign spokesman Peter Boylan said.

Matt Bennett, a spokesman for PhRMA, said officials there did not offer to do a campaign on Hanabusa’s behalf. But he said the group had “preliminary” discussions about hosting an industry fundraiser for Hanabusa through its political action committee.

He also said that a PhRMA lobbyist had spoken with Jennifer Sabas, a top Hanabusa campaign adviser, but that they had talked only about the state of the Democratic primary campaign in Hawaii.

“They discussed the race and what’s happening on the ground,” Bennett said.

Boylan echoed that, saying Sabas did not provide PhRMA with any information “that would constitute coordination in violation of the law.”

But Clay Schroers, Schatz’s campaign manager, said the arrangement the e-mail outlines “is a deeply troubling situation, and Rep. Hanabusa clearly owes the people of Hawaii an explanation.”

The e-mail was sent June 28 from the Gmail account of Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff, Christopher Raymond, to Sabas, Boylan and Rod Tanonaka, the congresswoman’s chief of staff. The Post obtained it from a person who received a copy and requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the contents.

The message described a practice that is often suspected but rarely revealed: interest groups coordinating their putatively independent efforts with the candidates they are backing.

“As I’m sure you have heard, PhRMA has committed to pulling together an independent expenditure on CH’s behalf,” Raymond wrote. “Nick Shipley (Government Relations VP) and Bob Phillipone (Senior VP) are the leads on this and would like to be put in touch with folks on the campaign. After having talked with Nick about this a little more, and based on our discussion, I came to the conclusion that is it the three of you the he would like to be in touch with. I am going to give him your email address so he can be in touch. I didn’t feel comfortable giving out your phone numbers.

“Should you be contacted by Nick or Bob please know they are good democrats,” he concluded.

Boylan said that soon after the e-mail was sent, Raymond and other staffers were reminded that it was inappropriate to communicate with groups about independent expenditures.

...Election-law experts said the kind of direct coordination described in the e-mail could violate campaign finance regulations if PhRMA ended up paying for an expenditure supporting Hanabusa’s candidacy. While groups can contribute up to $5,000 directly to a candidate through political action committees, they cannot have “substantial discussions” with a candidate or candidate’s staff about independent political activities.

“That most certainly, without a doubt, treads into very dangerous legal waters,” said Paul Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that advocates for stricter campaign finance rules.

Other campaign finance lawyers said it is difficult to prove illegal coordination, an area of the law that the Federal Election Commission has long struggled to define. Nonetheless, campaigns typically have strict rules barring interaction with independent groups.

...Hanabusa shares PhRMA’s opposition to proposals that would require drug companies to provide rebates for medications that low-income beneficiaries obtain through Medicare.

Schatz, the incumbent senator whom Hanabusa is challenging, takes the opposite view. In April, Schatz co-sponsored legislation by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) to require such rebates.

“Senator Schatz stands by his position because it’s the right thing to do for Hawaii, and how that may influence outside groups is simply not a consideration for the senator,” Schroers said.
Hanabusa is generally considered one of the two or three most corrupt politicians in Hawai'i and it is widely known that her husband has been a bag man for interests hoping to bribe her. Between the inability to shy away from her corrupt nature and her conservative stand on Choice and health care reform, she's a perfect patsy for the drug lobbyists seeking to weaken and destroy the Affordable Care Act. Blue America has endorsed Brian Schatz for reelection. If you'd like to help keep Hanabusa and the drug lobbyists out of the Senate, you can make a contribution to his campaign here.

Last week the Honolulu Civil Beat highlighted the policy differences between Hanabusa and Schatz in regards to Big Pharma. Schatz is co-sponsing a bill in the Senate which would reduce federal Medicare spending and cut the overall federal debt by making drug companies pay a rebate to the federal government.
Among its supporters is the AARP, which argues the rebates are preferable to other Medicare cost-cutting measures like raising the co-pays or increasing age requirements for Medicare recipients.

However, Hanabusa, who is running against Schatz for his Senate seat, has opposed the idea, signing a letter last year saying drug companies would pass on the cost of the rebate to consumers.

...Rockefeller’s proposal, supported by Schatz, would alter the way outpatient prescription drugs are handled for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Before the Medicare Modernization Act of 2006, people who qualified for both programs had their medication covered through Medicaid. Drug companies paid the federal government a rebate to keep down federal Medicaid costs.

Under the 2006 law, people got their drugs through Medicare, Part D. The changes affected about 32,000 Hawaii residents who are eligible for both programs. Under the new system, the recipients can sign up for a private prescription health plan. In theory, drug companies offer health plans a discount on the cost of medicine instead of a rebate. Those discounts lower the amount the federal government pays the health plans to subsidize the cost of offering the drugs. The drug companies, meanwhile, still offer rebates to the federal government in order to be made available to Medicaid patients.

But a Kaiser Foundation report noted that drug companies are giving smaller discounts than what they used to pay in the form of rebates, “which means that Medicare pays higher prices than Medicaid would for low-income enrollees," the report stated.

In the context of calls to reduce the federal deficit through reforming entitlements, Rockefeller’s plan would make drug companies pay the higher rebate amount for Medicare recipients. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the move would save Medicare $137 billion over 10 years.

The AARP’s Romasco told the Senate committee Thursday that they should cut drug costs instead of changing age requirements or raising co-payments.

“We should focus on efforts to hold down costs, not efforts that simply shift costs in the form of higher premiums or copayments for beneficiaries,” Romasco said.

Schatz, in a statement supporting Rockefeller’s bill, said, “The bill will save more than $140 billion for taxpayers. This is a balanced, common sense approach that will generate savings while protecting Hawaii’s seniors, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed.”

As expected, drug companies are lobbying against the measure. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has already spent $5.3 million on lobbying Congress this year-- the fifth largest of any group.
Nor is this the first time Hanabusa has been a shill for the drug lobbyists. In June 2011, she voted for passage of the Republican bill written by the Pharma lobbyists meant to overhaul the U.S. patent system, changing how patents are awarded, reviewed and challenged. It would change the basis for awarding patents from a "first to invent" to a "first to file" standard. According to an analysis in Wired last March, "the majority of the cost of a patent remains in the fees associated with having it written up by a qualified lawyer, and opponents worry that first-to-file will favor big companies that can afford to apply for more patents, more quickly."

Generally speaking, Members of Congress who take legalistic bribes from Pharma voted for this and those watching out for the public good, voted against it. Hanabusa and most of the corrupt New Dems and Blue Dogs joined the Republicans and other corrupt Democrats in backing it. Members better known for their integrity and their concern for regular working families-- like Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ron Paul (R-TX), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mke Honda (D-CA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), John Conyers (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA)... even Nancy Pelosi-- voted against the bill.

Again, you can contribute to Schatz's campaign here.

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Wall Street Licking Its Chops As It Sees Christie And Booker Ahead In Their New Jersey Races


By now you're probably well aware that GOP presidential rivals Chris Christie and Rand Paul are already slugging it out-- over national security and governing philosophy. It looks to be pretty ugly, as anything Christie gets involved in always turns out to be. But their disputes aren't just a matter of two ambitious Republicans trying to knock each other out of presidential contention. Christie, in fact, sounds exactly like Democratic Wall Street shill Corey Booker. They're like the Jersey Bobbsey Twins.
Christie, at a forum in Colorado on Thursday, pointed to a “strain of libertarianism” coursing through both parties as a “very dangerous thought” more than a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks. Christie was asked whether he was referring to Paul, a fellow potential Republican presidential candidate who has been at the forefront of the party’s libertarian wing.

“You can name any number of people and he’s one of them,” said Christie. “These esoteric, intellectual debates-- I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”

Paul on Sunday rejected arguments that the National Security Agency’s collection of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone and Internet records are necessary to prevent terrorism.

“I don’t mind spying on terrorists,” he said. “I just don’t like spying on all Americans.”

Paul said the issue resonates particularly with young people, a key demographic Republicans need to attract in order to succeed in national elections.

“If you talk about some privacy issues like that, I think you will find youth coming to you,” said Paul, who said his own decision on whether to run for president won’t come until next year.

...Christie last week criticized Paul’s opposition to warrantless federal surveillance programs, saying it harmed efforts to prevent terrorism. Paul told reporters after speaking at a fundraiser outside Nashville on Sunday that Christie’s position hurts GOP chances in national elections, and that spending priorities of critics like the governor and Rep. Peter King of New York do more to harm national security.

“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme-- give me all my Sandy money now.’” Paul said, referring to federal funding after the hurricane last year. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
Christie sounds exactly like Booker when he's criticizing Rush Holt's proposal to protect American citizens' constitutional rights to privacy under the 4th Amendment. It isn't something Booker, a grubby pol and creature of Wall Street banksters, has any understanding of.
And he said he believes the federal government has gone too far in its secret surveillance programs, but he called Holt’s position that Congress should throw out the Patriot Act and start over “a little irresponsible.”
Similarly, Booker is one of the ConservaDems willing-- eager-- to wreck Social Security on behalf of the banksters who have financed his career.
For Social Security, Booker said he opposes raising the retirement age for most people in the country-- except, perhaps, for people in their 20s or younger-- because the country made promises to them.
New Jersey voters probably don't realize they're about to go from having one of the most progressive Members of the Senate to having one of the worst Democrats, on a par with garbage like Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln. Take a look at how Rush explains it himself-- and then consider contributing to his campaign.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There was something radical enough in the pope's remarks about Teh Gays to scare the crap out of the Church's righteous homo-haters


"This is the worst coverage of a religious story I have seen to date."
-- Father Jonathan Morris, in "What Pope Francis really
said about gays -- and no, it's not new
," on

"I wasn't great at judging homosexuals my first year in the job, either. But now I can do it without thinking."
-- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,
quoted by the Borowitz Report

by Ken

So the Day One stories, aftter Pope Francis gave his surprise impromptu press conference following his Brazilian beach party on World Youth Day, were all about how His Holiness is OK with Teh Gays and who is he to judge them?

Hence, HuffPost yesterday:
Pope Francis has had a busy week at World Youth Day in Rio as he visited his slums and prisons, blessed the Olympic flag and brought three million people to Copacabana Beach for a final Mass on Sunday morning.

Now he has made another headline, this time when the pontiff said, "Who am I to judge a gay person?"

While taking questions from reporters on the plane back to Rome, Francis spoke about gays and the reported "gay lobby." According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pope's comments about homosexuality came in the context of a question about gay priests.
The pontiff broached the delicate question of how he would respond to learning that a cleric in his ranks was gay, though not sexually active. For decades, the Vatican has regarded homosexuality as a "disorder," and Pope Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict XVI formally barred men with what the Vatican deemed "deep-seated" homosexuality from entering the priesthood.

"Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. "You can't marginalize these people."
Which set the stage for the Day Two stories, which were more along the lines of "What the Pope Really Said." Like this, on HuffPost today, from Religion News Service:
Blogs and social media immediately exploded with commentary that either hailed -- or lamented -- the pope’s words as a shift in Catholic teaching on the role of gays and lesbians in the church.

But did Francis really signal such a change?

As far as church teaching, the pope said nothing that would indicate that there would be any change in the tenet that homosexuality is, as the Catholic catechism states, “objectively disordered." . . .

There's some sense of relief for me that other people are realizing that substantively what the pope said about teh gays was pretty much Standard Church Bushwah.

Note, for example, how HuffPost Day One truncated the key to quot to: "Who am I to judge a gay person?" from the original "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" It seemed pretty clear to me that "a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord" is one who has recognized the error of his way and is engaged in negotiating his terms of surrender with the Lord.


And it's the thing that probably set all those Day One folks off on the wrong track: His Holiness's tone. He talked about gay priests as if they're actual people, not to be "marginalized" and to be treated as, you know, real people.

And this is by way of being earth-shaking. Obviously no pope has ever spoken thusly about teh gays, and I think you'd be hard put to find comparably pitched comments about gay people from any ranking member of the Catholic hierarchy in good gracews with the highest ranks.

For certain kinds of people, this must be scary as heck. Because the Catholic Church has stood tough as probably the world's mightiest, most uncompromising fortress of homo-hating. A substantial portion of the world's most virulent homophobia marches under the banner of the teachings of Rome.

And so, even if there's no clear doctrinal alteration in the pope's remarks, it's not hard to understand why the Church's legions of hard-cord homo-haters freaked out on Day One, and may not be feeling too much better on Day Two. These are people whose lives are given meaning -- possibly all the meaning those lives have -- by their righteous homo-hating.

Which brings me to the daffiest of the Day Two jeremiads I've seen, that of Fox Noise's house priest, Father Jonathan Morris, he of the "This is the worst coverage of a religious story I have seen to date" wig-out in his screed, "What Pope Francis really said about gays -- and no, it's not new".

Father Jon makes the perfectly valid point that Pope Francis had quite a lot to talk about in his remarks. I'm not sure, though, that there's much to report in his supposedly inspirational finaly words to the 3.2 young million gathered on Copacabana Beach for World Youth Day, characterized by Father Jon as "Go back to your homes, and serve others without fear." What on God's green earth does that mean, and what is it supposed to inspire those young people to do?

Still, Father Jon is right that there was lots else that the pope talked about during his impromptu press conference. (He kindly directs us to his very own tweets!) I don't know, maybe there was stuff there worth talking about.

But from here the good father goes nuts.
Let’s begin with the fact that the pope has always been “OK” with homosexuals.  In fact, by the demands of his own religion he is required to be much more than just “OK.”  The Christian faith teaches that every person is endowed by God with an inviolable dignity and therefore deserves our unconditional respect and love. 
Of course Pope Francis's record is far from unambiguous. More importantly, for someone who spends so much time stressing Church teaching, the good father manages to miss the truly abysmal record in these matters of the current pope's predecessors.

And still more importantly, if you don't take note of the startling chang in discussion mode on the subject of homosexuality between Pope Francis's remarks and everything that has preceded them from bishops of Rome, you're either a puling imbecile or a scumbag liar.

Then, as Father Jon tap-dances around the Church's dreadful history with homosexuality he comes up with this eye-popper:
Pope Francis simply and compassionately reiterated Biblical teaching. The Bible and the Catholic Church have never taught that it is a “sin” to be homosexual. They teach it is a sin to have homosexual sex because it goes against the laws of God’s nature, specifically his plan for human sexuality.
On its face, this is simply bullshit. It's not a sin to be homosexual, it's just a sin to have homosexual sex. I guess it's just a fancy version of the old "hate the sin, not the sinner." But of course if you've got a working brain, and even the tiniest understanding of human sexuality, then you know that this is just sophistry, pure bullshit. Everyone knows that the Church is herewith requiring its flock to hate homosexuals.

Certainly "good Catholics" everywhere have gotten the message, and nobody connected with the Vatican has seen fit to try to correct it.

Credit Andy Borowitz with giving us the perfect example: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose formal opinions on the subject have made it blindingly plain that he believes his religion not only permits but requires him to be repulsed by what homosexuals do, and that Supreme Court rulings that infringe on his right to be repulsed are an infringement on his freedom of religion. For Catholics like Justice Nino, taking away their right to hate the homos deprives them of one of the things that gives their lives meaning.

July 30, 2013



WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) -- Responding to Pope Francis's suggestion that the Pope is not capable of judging gays, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia contacted the Vatican today to say that he would be "more than happy" to help the Pontiff do so.

"If he's having trouble judging homosexuals, well, then I'm his man," Scalia told reporters after making his offer. "I have over a quarter century of professional experience."

Justice Scalia said that he was sympathetic to Pope Francis's difficulty in judging gays, but added, "Once he spends a few weeks watching the master at work, I'm sure he'll get the hang of it."

"I wasn't great at judging homosexuals my first year in the job, either," he said. "But now I can do it without thinking."

Justice Scalia said that once Pope Francis feels confident about his ability to judge gays, he would help the Pontiff learn how to judge minorities and women.

For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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You Can Never Separate Conservatism And Corruption-- Not In The U.S., Not In Spain


This dirty little Spanish fascist didn't even make the trains run on time

There are certainly corrupt Democrats too-- plenty of them. But corruption isn't encouraged by their party's Greed and Selfishness Ayn Randian philosophical underpinnings. Conservatism is about what Depeche Mode called the grabbing hands that get all they can. In the U.S. not many people are paying attention to the colossal scandal being played out in Spain, where a far right ideological maniac, Mariano Rajoy, managed to get elected Prime Minister, completely tanked an already wobbly economy, while lining his and his own family's pockets. He's widely seen not just as the most right-wing leader in the European Union-- with ideas that look like they came directly from Paul Ryan's playbook-- but also the most corrupt.

The former treasurer of Rajoy's neo-fascist party, Luis Bárcenas, is singing like a canary from his prison cell-- and pointing right to Rajoy. He's already testified that Rajoy took big payouts-- even bigger than the ones Marco Rubio took in Florida-- from an illegal slush fund. And that's on top of a longstanding habit of taking bribes from companies that got special treatment from his office. Rajoy is the kickback king of Spain. And he refuses to resign, even though the Spanish people would like to see that happen-- and the sooner the better.
It's a story of six-figure kickbacks, briefcases of banknotes handed over in car parks and politicians pocketing cash-filled envelopes that allegedly goes right to the top of Spanish politics. And yet the man who has the most explaining to do, Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, refuses to discuss the allegations, which he dismisses as lies and insinuations.

Despite a series of well-documented allegations that Rajoy and senior party members received illegal cash payments over a period of years, Rajoy seems prepared to tough out growing calls for his resignation and the threat of a motion of censure, knowing that parliament and the nation are about to pack up for the summer.

However, the questions will still be waiting to be answered when Spain wakes up again in September. Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the opposition Socialist leader, said on Sunday that "until he answers these questions, Rajoy cannot govern."

According to a survey published in the conservative El Mundo newspaper, 83% of Spaniards believe the allegations and think Rajoy should answer them. However, Rajoy's Partido Popular (PP) has an overall majority and even Rubalcaba admits the motion of censure is largely symbolic.

"Rajoy's strategy has always been the same. He never wants to explain or justify his policies," says Antonio Argandoña, a professor of business ethics at IESE Business School, speaking in a personal capacity. "It would be difficult to change now. I think he's counting on sticking it out until everyone comes back from holiday; there'll be something else on the front pages. He may even take big and unpopular policy decisions to show that he can stand the pressure and won't be blown off course."

The scandal broke in 2009 when the alleged slush fund was investigated. The anonymous donations came from large companies, mainly in the construction industry, in order to sweeten deals for public contracts. One leading politician was allegedly paid in order to secure the refuse collecting contract for the city of Toledo. The allegations against the PP's treasurer over a period of 20 years, Luis Bárcenas, first emerged in 2009 but the story took off at the beginning of this year when El País newspaper reproduced the accountant's handwritten records detailing illegal monthly cash payments to senior politicians, including €250,000 (£215,000) to Rajoy. According to Bárcenas, senior party figures were paid an "extra salary" ranging from €5,000 to €15,000 a month in cash. Under Spanish law, government ministers may not receive any other income apart from their government salary.

It is also alleged that the party's secretary general, María Dolores de Cospedal, took a €200,000 kickback that was handed to her in a briefcase in a car park. The ledgers also record slush fund payments of several thousand euros to the current health minister, Ana Mato, allegedly to cover the cost of her children's communion and birthday parties.

Bárcenas is in prison on remand, having been declared a flight risk after it was revealed that the former accountant has €47m in Swiss bank accounts.

The government at first dismissed the El País documents as mere photocopies and stood by Bárcenas, who initially denied authorship of the ledgers. This month El Mundo published the originals and last week Bárcenas admitted they were authentic. The PP has now turned its back on its former treasurer, calling him a criminal and a liar. However, last week El Mundo published text messages sent between Rajoy and Bárcenas that show that as late as March Rajoy was expressing his solidarity with Bárcenas and urging him to hold his nerve and keep quiet. Now the PP fears Bárcenas, angry that his party has abandoned him, may have more up his sleeve, including recorded conversations that will implicate Rajoy.

The Rajoy allegations are the latest in a succession of corruption cases, of which there are more than 200 currently before the courts. They involve politicians ranging from village mayors to former cabinet ministers, as well as leading business and cultural figures and even the royal family. Spanish people knew the system was bad, but few imagined it was this bad. Transparency International, which assesses countries on their perceived levels of corruption, ranks Spain 30th, just below Botswana and one place above Estonia, out of 176 countries surveyed.

If people are not taking to the streets in any numbers to demand Rajoy's resignation it is because they are disillusioned with the political system as a whole. Rubalcaba scores even lower in approval ratings than Rajoy, who himself barely makes it into double figures in most surveys. "The positive thing about a crisis is that it exposes the hidden reality and this is what's happened in Spain," says Francesc de Carreras, who teaches constitutional law at the Universitat Autònoma in Barcelona. "Economic growth was partly based on false foundations. The government has set off on a new economic path but what hasn't begun is the necessary reform of political parties."

At the moment Rajoy is looking no further than the end of the week. He has no immediate rivals either within his party or in opposition. However, the scandal has attracted international coverage and fear of political instability is damaging confidence in the country. "I think Rajoy will survive all this but Spain's image right now is very bad all over the world," says Argandoña.
I guess people forget that when they vote in fascism, corruption is part of the package. You'd think Spanish voters would have learned that one by now.

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Racism Isn't Just An American Institution-- It's Everywhere There's An Active Right-Wing


Fascist hack Roberto Calderoli and Minister Cecile Kyenge

In April, Dr. Cécile Kyenge, originally born in the Congo, was sworn in as Italy's Integration Minister. Elected to the Chamber of Deputies, she is also the first black person in an Italian Cabinet. And neo-fascists, who are a powerful, resurgent force in Italy, went bananas... literally. A far right senator and former cabinet minister from Italy's GOP, the Northern League, (Roberto Calderoli, but think Ted Cruz or Rand Paul) likened her to an orangutan. Calderoli is the Vice President of the Senate. "When I see images of Kyenge I cannot help think, even if I don’t say that she is one, of a resemblance to an orangutan," he said.

And his shocking attack has been followed by Italian teabaggers throwing bananas at her when she makes public appearances. Another Northern League elected official, a doppelganger for our own Steve King (R-IA), mouthed off on Facebook that she should be raped so she gets a first hand understanding of what it's like to be a victim of crime committed by immigrants.

And it's not just the Northern League. Another proto-fascist party, Forza Nuova, is protesting her proposal that everyone born in Italy be automatically be granted Italian citizenship.

If you're wondering if this Italian racism comes from Roman times, that's probably not the case-- although there was certainly a feeling of superiority among the Romans. On the website Historum, Sylla 1, wrote that there was "no racism proper, plenty of ethnic and national discrimination."
In general terms there was no popular concept of "race" among the ancients.

Phenotypes and physical traits made of course easier the distinction of particular ethnicities, but there was no systematic classification of the human varieties, aside form an elementary "us" (Romans) and the "others" (Barbarians).

Contrary to a common mistaken inference, that didn't imply the absence of discrimination; au contraire.

Probably more than what was already the rule for other contemporary nations, the Romans were extremely chauvinistic and xenophobic virtually from the very beginning.

The natural national pride from their military and imperialistic deeds understandably simply exponentially increased such feelings.

For example, ethnic jokes and archetypes were a regular literary resource for the Roman satyrists.

The Romans were certainly notable in ancient terms for their openess to assimilate conquered nations... in the long term.

The process of Romanization regularly required generations.

Up to the Constitutio Antoniniana (212 AD) the Roman citizenship (even if often incomplete) was a precious gift reserved for a minority of the conquered nations, and even later the distinction with alien people (slaves or barbarians) was forever systematically categorical.
If there is a case to be made for Roman racism it would be towards the German barbarians-- and it's persisted over the centuries.

UPDATE: Is Racism Part Of Everyday Life in Italy?

Author Tobias Jones writes in The Guardian that "anyone who has listened to Italian political debate, or worse, stood in an Italian football stadium, knows that Italy simply isn't a tolerant place. This is a country where a recent prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, thought it hilarious to joke that Obama had a decent suntan. The racism isn't restricted to right or left, old or young, rural or urban: it is noticeable everywhere." Actually, it's pretty much restricted to the right but I'm sure Jones was trying to be oddly PC.
The reasons are pretty obvious. As Italians will constantly tell you, theirs is an incredibly provincial country. Campanilismo-- the attachment to one's local belltower-- is one of the reasons the place is so charming: people often stay put, they're rooted rather than rootless. All over the country, even in a tiny village, you'll see caput mundi graffitied on walls, suggesting that this sleepy place is considered the capital of the world. The downside is that outsiders are treated as aliens, if not enemies.

Through the centuries Italy has been, not a colonial power, but a colony, a plaything of the superpowers. So with the exception of small parts of Somalia, no other country speaks Italian. Unlike France, Britain, Portugal or Spain, there's no large diaspora of Italian speakers who can immediately integrate into the "mother country," [apparently Jones never heard of Bensonhurst-- or America] knowing already its literature and history. So the peninsula remains insular, an astonishingly monocultural, monoconfessional place.

There are other reasons for the racism: the legacy of fascism and the continuing adulation of Benito Mussolini; the tangible insecurity, even sense of inferiority, of many Italians; widespread economic misery for at least the last decade; and a political class that is absurdly ignorant.

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Playing Footsie With Fascists-- Will Obama Ever Learn?


Maybe you read the NY Times editorial over the weekend, The War Over Health Care Exchanges.
To their shame and discredit, Republicans are trying to block efforts to inform people about the law and are using scare tactics to keep them from enrolling. The Republican mantra is that the nation will face economic and medical catastrophe-- a “train wreck,” they say-- unless health care reform is stopped in its tracks.

Their tactics are despicable. When Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, revealed that she was talking with the National Football League and other athletic organizations about ways to inform their fans about insurance on the exchanges, the two highest-ranking Republican senators wrote a threatening letter that caused the league to back off.

Crossroads GPS, a conservative group co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, has been running a video comparing the law to a tornado that will produce “a rising tide of health care costs” and leave “nobody safe from its wrath.”

Top officials in Ohio and Indiana who oppose the law have issued dire, misleading forecasts-- roundly debunked by analysts — that the law will raise premiums to astronomical levels. And the House Republican Conference is advising its members on how to organize “emergency health care” town hall meetings during the August recess to denounce the law. The goal is to ignite passionate opposition to the measure, like that stirred up by Tea Party activists at town hall meetings in the past.

In virtually no case do Republicans ever mention that millions of people who lack health insurance or have lousy policies could obtain comprehensive coverage on the exchanges and that most of them would qualify for federal subsidies to lower the cost.

Many states, mostly governed by Republicans, have refused to set up their own exchanges and have left the job to the federal government. (Many states also have refused to expand their Medicaid programs to cover more of the uninsured, but that is a separate issue.)
And, if course, the neo-fascist wing of the GOP, led by nihilists like Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), are hoping their threat to shut down the government and bankrupt the country if they don't get Obama to halt all progress on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But it's worth going back and looking at a little recent history to understand why we're still in this mess over healthcare.

The system, alas, was designed with some serious flaws in order to placate implacable foes, Republicans and the special interests who finance their cushy careers. Playing footsie with fascists never works. It never has and it never will, though wishy-washy conservative Establishment Democrats-- like Obama-- seem incapable of ever learning that lesson. Recently, many progressives were dismayed by two Obama nominees that far right Republican senators eagerly supported: Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce and pro-outsourcer Michael Froman as U.S. Trade Rep. Many people see them as his two worst, most corporate appointments. He seems determined to outdo himself though. See the execrable Larry Summers rearing his ugly head down the road apiece? What do weak Democrats who fear the progressive agenda think they're going to accomplish by kissing corporate butt? In his new book, The Machine, investigative journalist Lee Fang used the health care debate to show just what they do get when they make common ground with the enemy. Hint: the enemy doesn't bother using any K-Y.
When Michael Moore’s award-winning documentarySiCKO came out in 2007, the insurance industry devised a detailed public relations plan to blunt Moore’s argument that profit-based health insurance is both unnecessary and inefficient. The industry understood that it suffered a negative public perception even before Moore’s movie. So the industry, according to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by Bill Moyers of PBS, orchestrated an elaborate campaign to position Moore as simply an “entertainer” and “out of the mainstream.” The PowerPoint indicated that the industry worked with centrist Democrats and Republicans to cast Moore as too much of a “polarizing figure” for the Democratic Party, and to threaten Democrats aligned with him with the prospect of “returning to a minority party.” According to their industry’s own research, they believed that arguing that America should simply improve its own health system rather than move to government-run health care would be a “debate we can win.” To shift the dialogue, one slide in the presentation recommended that the industry worked with various conservative think tanks, such as Heritage and the Pacific Legal Research Institute, as well as with conservative blogs and media, to produce a series of stories on the “horror stories of govt.-run systems” and positive steps industry could make to improve itself without the government involvement. Before the movie even premiered, the industry blasted the media with its own message. The PowerPoint, developed by the public relations firm APCO, demonstrated a preemptive plan to “reframe the debate” and “define the health insurance industry as the solution.”

As the industry prepared to enter the debate under Obama, the insurance companies came to the conclusion that they were particularly unpopular and a vulnerable target for comprehensive reform. Out of all of the major industries involved in health care, the public hates and has long hated insurance companies, and there has always been wide consensus supporting some type of reform. Politically, President Obama, with his massive majorities in Congress, seemed more likely than any president in the past to enact sweeping changes. Adding urgency to the situation, when Obama was sworn into office, approximately 14,000 Americans were losing their health insurance every day because of the recession.

Taking a page from the strategy they used against Moore, the industry tried to flank the Obama administration, coming out quickly to announce that the industry would not fight reform as it had under the Clinton administration. The insurance industry’s chief lobbyist, karen Ignagni, made headlines when she told Obama, “You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health-care reform this year” at his health reform summit at the outset of the reform process. This, Wendell Potter explained, was part of the “charm” side of the duplicitous campaign. In public, the industry would commit to working proactively for reform. “They will talk about, in broad terms, how supportive they are of health care reform,” said Potter, adding, “but they will be working behind the scenes to kill very, very crucial parts of reform legislation like the public option.” Just as soon as the charm campaign kicked into high gear, with pundits and editorials praising the insurance industry for changing its ways, the “dirty,” underhanded campaign began.

In March, shortly before Obama’s health reform summit announcing the beginning of health reform negotiations, a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) was launched to smear the effort. The group, managed day to day by Creative Response Concepts Public Relations, the Republican-friendly PR firm which had handled the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign to smear John Kerry’s war record in 2004, hosted a website, but had no grassroots support. Creative Response Concepts had worked in the past for health insurers, managing the Coalition for Patient Choice front group in the nineties. CPR immediately raised $20 million dollars for ads, in part funded by millionaire Rick Scott, who was forced to resign as the head of the Columbia/HCA hospital corporation amid Medicare fraud charges in the nineties, and in part from a group of mystery donors. The ads disparaged reform with token catchphrases, accusing the public option of placing “a bureaucrat in between you and your doctor.” Curiously, the Washington, D.C., address listed for CPR was a mailbox on the floor of an office building level owned by APCO public affairs, the same mega-PR firm that Potter said handled the strategy for the insurance industry’s campaign against Moore. Representatives from CPR denied any relationship with APCO. A document later obtained from the health insurance industry revealed that insurers had funneled over $3.8 million to APCO in 2009.

Almost every day of the summer of 2009, the insurance industry pumped out two simultaneous messages. Starting in July of 2009, the insurance industry trade association began sponsoring millions of dollars’ worth of feel-good ads promising to fix the health care system. “We’re America’s health insurance companies, supporting bipartisan reforms that Congress can build on,” said the narrator in one ad called “Illness.” Starting around the same time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched ads smearing reform, erroneously alleging that reform would kill jobs and would “make a tough economy worse.” “Let’s stop the new health care tax. Tell Congress to keep their hands to themselves and out of our pockets,” said another chamber ad. The chamber spent more than $10 million on various attack ads against reform on television and on the radio. Well after health reform was signed into law, Bloomberg reported that the health insurance industry had channeled over $107 million to the chamber for the attack ads in 2009 and 2010. Companies such as Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group, and Wellpoint all participated in the donation.

Potter explained that despite the industry’s promise to support reform, it still fed talking points and attack lines to right-wing radio and the larger propaganda chamber of the right, such as Fox News and the Washington Times. In February 2009, only weeks after Obama took office, the health insurance trade association AHIP conducted a secret poll to find the best language to defeat reform, particularly the public option. The best way to sour opinion over the public option, the poll found, was to brand it as the “government-run health insurance plan.” AHIP lobbyists sent the polling memo to Republican staffers, and eventually, to right-wing media. In October, Fox News vice president Bill Sammon sent a stern warning e-mail to all Fox News reporters instructing them only to use the term “government-run health insurance” or “government option” when describing the public option In the weeks preceding critical votes in both the House and Senate, front groups like Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus Association, Independent Women’s Forum, the Susan B. Anthony List, and American Future Fund ran millions of dollars’ worth of ads attacking the legislation. Like CRC, none of the groups would reveal their backers. It is difficult to imagine that doctors’ groups or hospitals were secretly funding these anti–health reform fronts.

...With the American Medical Association supporting reform legislation, the insurance industry turned toward PR operatives to manufacture its own doctor groups that would oppose reform. A new doctors’ group formed in 2009, the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, began organizing press events and running ads of doctors saying they opposed any form of government-run health care, especially a public option. After meeting several of the group’s staffers at the National Press Club, I was handed a business card with a newly registered telephone number and post office box. On the publicly available calendar for the Press Club, however, I noticed that a woman from the infamous DCI Group had registered the coalition’s event. After calling the DCI Group and speaking with the staffer, I was able to confirm that the DCI Group had helped create the coalition and was managing its daily affairs.

The DCI Group, which came into prominence after working for the tobacco industry to create fake “smokers’ rights” groups to lobby against tobacco regulation, had worked for the insurance industry in 2002 to build opposition to the Patients’ Bill of Rights legislation. Similarly, an investigation I conducted into an outfit called the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, which had been running online ads attacking the public option and calling to kill the bills in Congress, revealed that the group was secretly run by the PR firm Porter Novelli, which has long served the health care industry.

As corporate front groups and right-wing media fought to bring down the popularity of health reform throughout the summer, many still trusted the health insurance industry’s charm campaign, despite clear evidence that they were lying For instance, insurance industry lobbyists, including Karen Ignagni, spent the summer claiming that the industry was “the first to step up and offer real change,” such as ending the practice of rescinding coverage after an applicant files a medical claim. But in a hearing under oath on June 16, 2009, executives from unitedHealth, Assurant, and WellPoint specifically refused to “commit” to ending that practice, undercutting the public promises from their trade association.

As a pivotal vote in the Senate Finance Committee neared in October 2009, it became more difficult to believe the industry’s charm campaign. Shortly before the Finance Committee vote, health insurance lobbyists distributed a report-- funded by the insurance industry-- falsely accusing the bill of raising premiums. According to he Huffington, health insurance lobbyist Steve Champlin declaredten days later that bipartisan reform was dead, and he urgedGOP lawmakers to refuse to help pass the bill. "So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down,” said Champlin at a closed-door meeting for insurance executives.

In the end, the insurance industry successfully removed the public option by spreading misinformation about it. Conservative Democrats, persuaded by an avalanche of ads and angry constituents, removed the public option before the Senate passed the bill on Christmas Day in 2009.

...After the bill passed, front groups, many of them funded by health insurance companies, began pummeling legislators with attack ads in a bid to replace them with lawmakers who would repeal or weaken the bill. But as they had during the legislative debate over the bill, the companies hid their identities while funding the ads. It wasn’t until June 2012 that Aetna, in what appeared to be an accidental regulatory filing, revealed that it poured some $7 million into undisclosed nonprofits, like the American Action Network, to help elect Tea Party Republicans promising to repeal health reform.
The vast majority of the rotten Democrats in the House who either conspired with the Republicans or were too stupid to know they were being played, were defeated in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010. Two years later, DCCC Chair Steve Israel, himself a "former" Blue Dog, engineered a restocking of the Democratic caucus with an equally bad bunch of ConservaDems. Particularly odious are the ones claiming to be progressives because they are-- unlike the Blue Dogs-- pro-Choice and/or pro-gay. Some of the worst of the lot are Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ), Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA), Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL), Raul Ruiz (CA), all of whom ran as progressives and instantly turned into conservative voters as soon as crucial roll calls started being called-- often at the insistence of the DCCC.

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Best Predictor Of How Congressmembers Voted On The Amendment To End NSA Spying: Legalistic Bribes From Defense Industry


David Kravets put the vote on the Amash-Conyers amendment to end warrantless domestic spying into a sensible perspective for Wired Last week: Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash. And, appropriately enough, the photo in his piece-- Congress' most corrupt Military Industrial Complex shill, Buck McKeon (R-CA).
The numbers tell the story-- in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at Wired’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765.

worth clicking on to see how much these crooks take in bribery

Of the top 10 money getters, only one House member-- Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia)-- voted to end the program.

“How can we trust legislators to vote in the public interest when they are dependent on industry campaign funding to get elected? Our broken money and politics system forces lawmakers into a conflict of interest between lawmakers’ voters and their donors,” said Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s president and co-founder.

The Guardian newspaper disclosed the phone-metadata spying last month with documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The House voted 205-217 Wednesday and defeated an amendment to the roughly $600 billion Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 that would have ended authority for the once-secret spy program the White House insisted was necessary to protect national security.

The amendment  was proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who received a fraction of the money from the defense industry compared to top earners. For example, Amash got $1,400-- ranking him in the bottom 50 for the two-year period. On the flip side, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-California) scored $526,600 to lead the House in defense contributions. He voted against Amash. Of the 26 House members who voted and did not receive any defense financing, 16 voted for the Amash amendment.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voted against the measure. He ranked 15th in defense earnings with a $131,000 take. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) also voted against Amash. Pelosi took in $47,000 from defense firms over the two-year period.
Rolling in all this illicit cash, apparently McKeon doesn't realize that when he says something "insensitive" in Alabama people back in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley find out about it too. This week he was advocating for more job cuts at an "off-the-record" meeting with community and business leaders in Huntsville with one of his junior Armed Services Committee shills, Mo Brooks.
In responding to a follow-up question, McKeon said the practice of furloughs gambles that the most valued employees will remain at 80 percent of their regular salary rather than pursuing another job.

"In my time in business, I always found that if you had to make cuts, you were better off making them than putting them off as long as you could because they are going to come," he said. "When they take a 20 percent cut and they think it's just going to be for a few months, they can maybe they can get by.

"If they see it's going to be 10 years, they are going to be gone anyway. You're going to lose the best people because they're going to go somewhere else. They just won't stay. Eventually, you end up with it costing you even more."
McKeon was indeed in business. He ran a huge 55-store western dress-up chain of stores, Howard & Phil's, his parents built and left him. He bankrupted it through severe mismanagement. So whenever McKeon starts a sentence with "In my time in business," it's time to clutch your wallet tightly.

Last year, Dr. Lee Rogers, an ACLU member and staunch supporter of constitutionally mandated privacy rights, came closer to beating McKeon than anyone in Buck's sordid career. He had no support from the Beltway Democrats last year but this year the DCCC has pledged to help. If you'd like to help as well, you can do it at the Blue America ActBlue page. We asked Rogers how he sees McKeon's role in the NSA controversy.
"I believe the NSA's actions violate the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the protection of persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant, and that the warrant shall only be issued when there is probable cause. Collection of mass data on American citizens does not meet that standard and I would have voted to limit the extent of NSA data collection to non-citizens or in cases where a warrant was issued for a specific person."

"But I believe we need to go even a step further. I support making electronic communication between persons just as protected as the US Mail. It is a federal crime to open or destroy mail not directed to you. Email is the modern way of personal communication. Private email conversations occur between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, banks and customers, journalists and sources, and between family and friends. I want to make sure those private conversations are kept private. If the government has a reason to suspect you are a terrorist or otherwise engaged in criminal activity, it can obtain a warrant. If not, it shouldn't be engaged in mass interception and analysis of our communications."

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