Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do the Midterms Matter? The GOP's Agenda Has To Be Stopped, But What Change Did/Will We Get? Kenny Boy/Mozilo = Altar Boys?

Latest Election News (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

1. From The Guardian: Joe Miller Lied About Computer Tampering Scandal

Looks like it's back to the corrupt but non-computer-tampering Lisa Murkowski or the decent Dem Scott McAdams! Yay, Tea Party!

Thursday October 28 2010

Sarah Palin and other prominent right-wingers will today rush to the aid of the beleaguered Tea Party-backed candidate for the US Senate, Joe Miller, after newly released documents reveal he lied about a computer tampering scandal. The row has created alarm about the election chances of Miller, until recently regarded as a safe Republican bet to win the Alaska race. . . . Joe Miller is down to third place with 23% in a new Alaska poll. This, it has to be said, is very different from other polls that have showed him around the mid-30s and a point or two ahead of Lisa Murkowski. His disapproval rating in the poll is an astonishing 68%.

2. From The Guardian: The GOP's Coming Tea Party Hangover

My, my, how things have changed in a week. Busy beavers, eh?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just weeks ago, the Republican party was falling over itself to co-opt the Tea Partiers. Now that looks like a poor political bet.

Republican strategist Karl Rove first excoriated Tea Party-backed Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, then embraced her cause – a switch he may now be repenting at leisure.

Did the Rand Paul supporters who attacked a female protester from the liberal group MoveOn outside a debate in Kentucky on Monday night cost their man the race for Senate?

The answer – sadly – is probably not. Kentucky is a deep shade of Republican red. It would be a major upset if Paul – the Tea Party-backed GOP candidate and the son of libertarian hero Ron Paul – actually lost to Democrat Jack Conway. But this does not mean that the thuggish antics of his supporters, or Paul's own unsettling performance on the campaign trail, is irrelevant. Instead, these furores play into the bigger question of whether the Tea Party movement, the passions it has unleashed, and the candidates it has propelled to prominence across the country are a net positive or negative for the Republican party.

The answer is becoming ever clearer. Tea is the Republican party's cocaine: thrilling for a moment, but ruinous over time.

3. From The Guardian: Remember Nikki Haley? She Could Lose

Who? Oh yes . . . the original "power of the Tea Party" story!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When she won the GOP primary for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley seemed a sure thing to win the governor's mansion. After all, it's South Carolina, right?

But she has stumbled badly and could possibly lose, reports Ed Kilgore at Interestingly, her Democratic opponent is (gasp!) . . . well, first of all, a Democrat, which is gaspy enough in South Carolina. But secondly, an Arab (Vincent Sheheen, of Lebanese extraction). Haley herself is Sikh, as you'll recall.

Anyway: it's about the sex. She has evidently refused lately to sign an affadavit swearing that she did not have sex with two men who say they had sex with her. She also says that if elected, she'll resign if it's ever proven that she had sex with either of these fellows.

And the Charleston City Paper, in a lengthy article dissecting all this, notes that tea party Senator Jim DeMint has thus far stayed a millions miles away from Haley.

There's a web site, if you're interested, called Conservatives for Truth in Politics that's tracking all this. Boy, I thought when I read the name, that must be a lonely bunch. But it turns out that the only truth they're really concerned with is about Haley's amorous athletics.

Sheheen, I see, got the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, so it seems unlikely that he's some kid of liberal flamethrower. His victory would be more of an oddity than anything, but I guess it's always good to see Sarah P. lose one.

4. From The Guardian: The Tea Party Movement: Deluded and Inspired by Billionaires

Not really new news now, but an interesting take from the Brits. (Okay, I give up. It's not that different from most knowledgeable Americans'.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

By funding numerous rightwing organisations, the mega-rich Koch brothers have duped millions into supporting big business.

The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

An Astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some Astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all. Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call "the biggest company you've never heard of".

Charles and David Koch own 84% of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. It runs oil refineries, coal suppliers, chemical plants and logging firms, and turns over roughly $100bn a year; the brothers are each worth $21bn. The company has had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements for oil and chemical spills and other industrial accidents. The Kochs want to pay less tax, keep more profits and be restrained by less regulation. Their challenge has been to persuade the people harmed by this agenda that it's good for them.

5. From The New York Times: Secret Money in Iowa

And stateside we learn the facts on the latest midwest election chicanery brought to us by John Roberts' suborned Supreme Court. (So where did you think Karl Rove had gotten his funding, ad infinitum?)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bruce Braley, a Democrat from northeastern Iowa, has been a popular two-term congressman and seemed likely to have an easy re-election until the huge cash mudslide of 2010. The Republican Party had largely left him alone, but then a secretive group called the American Future Fund began spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on distortion-heavy attack ads.

Mr. Braley is now struggling to maintain his lead against a Republican challenger, Benjamin Lange, who is running on a familiar program of smaller government and opposition to the health care law, the stimulus and growing federal spending. Mr. Braley has disclosed all of the donors behind his ads and his campaign; Mr. Lange generally will not discuss his independent support.

Mr. Braley has shown admirable political courage throughout the race, staunchly defending his support for health care reform, the stimulus and the Bush-era bank bailout. Each will benefit the country over time, he said. “I’m going to stand my ground and won’t be intimidated,” he told a local radio station a few weeks ago.

That position stood him well in the relatively liberal 1st District of Iowa until he became a target of the American Future Fund, one of several conservative groups spending millions of dollars to defeat Democrats while promising their donors anonymity.

As The Times reported recently, the American Future Fund was started with money from Bruce Rastetter, an ethanol company executive. Mr. Braley supports ethanol tax credits — a favorite in Iowa. Mr. Rastetter, who is pushing to defeat several Democrats on the House energy and agriculture committees, has not explained his political goals.

The fund, based in Iowa, has spent at least $574,000 to run a series of anti-Braley ads. One that is particularly pernicious shows images of the ruined World Trade Center and then intones, “Incredibly, Bruce Braley supports building a mosque at ground zero.” Actually, Mr. Braley has never said that, stating only that the matter should be left to New Yorkers.

. . . Mr. Braley has also been the subject of $250,000 worth of attack ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also has not disclosed its contributors.

He is only one of many candidates being pummeled this year by secret money and shamefully false advertising. The American Action Network, another conservative group that does not disclose its donors, is targeting Representative Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, in his race against Sam Caligiuri, a Republican.

The group is running an ad claiming that the health reform law, which Mr. Murphy supported and Mr. Caligiuri wants to repeal, requires jail time for people who do not buy health insurance. The law does no such thing.

Do the midterms matter? So many on the left seem unsure (and are thinking about not voting or voting Green or Purple or Pink (chartreuse?)), but who would have thought you'd get a decent treatment of this issue from the pages of Newsweek? Not I. Jonathan Alter makes a terrific argument that we've got to remove the emotional component from our voting in order to ensure that we do not add to our own long-term hangover from the Cheney/Bush stolen years. Although I don't agree with all his thoughts, they're a good start (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

Why the Midterms Matter The GOP’s agenda has to be stopped. Jonathan Alter

Prediction is an addiction in the press corps. We can search for the key to the Keystone State with sophisticated cross tabs of projected African-American turnout for Joe Sestak in Philadelphia. We can offer the early read on early voting for Barbara Boxer in Alameda County. We can practically study the entrails of Kentucky possum to project Rand Paul’s totals among white men under 30.

But elections aren’t just about who wins. They’re about what happens when one or the other party wins. We’re so eager to promote ourselves with the smartest take on how President Obama and the Democrats got themselves in this pickle that we haven’t done a good job explaining the stakes. We manage to sever cause from effect.

Let’s say you’re an independent voter who wants to send Obama a message on Nov. 2. Have the media told you what that would say? Here’s a clue: moderate Republicans are extinct. With big wins, the Tea Party will transform itself from an insurgency into the driving force within the GOP. Gains in statehouses and legislatures will allow right-wingers to use the 2010 census to redraw district lines that will entrench them in power until 2020. Back in charge in Washington, they will likely block even centrist choices for courts. Extremist senators like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn will move from being irritants on the fringe to players at the center of our politics.

A question for Democrats disinclined to work on congressional campaigns: do you know the GOP agenda? In brief: repeal health-care reform, so if you lose your job and your kid gets sick, you may have to sell the house; repeal financial reform, so Wall Street scammers and predatory lenders can return to doing everything they did before they wrecked the economy; maintain corporate-welfare subsidies that move jobs overseas; reduce spending by slashing education funding; and ending all clean-energy projects aimed at curbing our dependence on Mideast oil.

Of course, these policies won’t cut the deficit. Republicans insist on extending $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and leaving the $500 billion defense budget un-touched. Entitlements would merely be “reviewed regularly,” the GOP leadership says, which is code for doing nothing.

. . . The party is powered by outrage over bailouts and the stimulus. When pressed, Republican candidates say GM could have survived without Washington. How? Liquidation would have meant the loss of a million jobs. To everyone’s surprise, the auto companies are on the mend, and the banks, despite those obnoxious bonuses, have paid back the taxpayers with interest. TARP worked!

The GOP plan for job creation: cutting taxes and deregulation. We tried that in 2001 only to experience the weakest decade of job growth since the ’30s.

. . . The depressed Democratic base needs to ask itself some questions: Do women want more representatives who oppose abortion? Do Hispanics want to see immigration reform postponed? Do young voters want college loans slashed? If they don’t, they’ll set aside whatever valid grievances they may have with Obama and mobilize.

. . . a right-wing Republican takeover of Congress and state capitals isn’t something to accept with indifference. Midterms matter, and voters tempted to skip this election should have their heads examined.

Frank Rich asks the questions that have the Left in a muddle (and let us know, by the by, that Robert Rubin's corrupt activities and automatic "get out of jail free" card are what brought us the "no prosecute" Wall Streeters administration). But are these enough reason to throw away the rest of your (and your children's children's) future?

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?

Frank Rich

PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered.

For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.

The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.

This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures. Clearly, these financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior.

The latest example is Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide and the godfather of subprime mortgages. On the eve of his trial 10 days ago, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $67.5 million, $20 million of which will be footed by what remains of Countrywide in its present iteration at Bank of America. Even if he paid the whole sum himself, it would still be a small fraction of the $521 million he collected in compensation as he pursued his gambling spree from 2000 until 2008.

A particularly egregious chunk of that take was the $140 million he pocketed by dumping Countrywide shares in 2006-7. It was a chapter right out of Kenneth Lay’s Enron playbook: Mozilo reassured shareholders that all was peachy even as his private e-mail was awash in panic over the “toxic” mortgages bringing Countrywide (and the country) to ruin. Lay, at least, was convicted by a jury and destined to decades in the slammer before his death.

The much acclaimed new documentary about the global economic meltdown, “Inside Job,” has it right. As its narrator, Matt Damon, intones, our country has been robbed by insiders who “destroyed their own companies and plunged the world into crisis” — and then “walked away from the wreckage with their fortunes intact.” These insiders include Dick Fuld and four other executives at Lehman Brothers who “got to keep all the money” (more than $1 billion) after Lehman went bankrupt. And of course Robert Rubin, who encouraged Citigroup to step up its investment in high-risk bets like Countrywide’s mortgage-backed securities. Rubin, now back as a rainmaker on Wall Street, collected more than $115 million in compensation during roughly the same period Mozilo “earned” his half a billion. Citi, which required a $45 billion taxpayers’ bailout, recently secured its own slap-on-the-wrist S.E.C. settlement — at $75 million, less than Rubin’s earnings and less than its 2003 penalty ($101 million) for its role in hiding Enron profits.

It should pain the White House that its departing economic guru, the Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers, is an even bigger heavy in “Inside Job” than in the hit movie of election season, “The Social Network.” Summers — like the former Goldman Sachs chief executive and Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson — is portrayed as just the latest in a procession of policy makers who keep rotating in and out of government and the financial industry, almost always to that industry’s advantage.

As the star economist Nouriel Roubini tells the filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, the financial sector on Wall Street has “step by step captured the political system” on “the Democratic and the Republican side” alike. But it would be wrong to single out Summers or any individual official for the Obama administration’s image of being lax in pursuing finance’s bad actors. This tone is set at the top.

Asked in “Inside Job” why there’s been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, Roubini answers: “Because then you’d find the culprits.” With the aid of the “Manhattan Madam” (and current stunt New York gubernatorial candidate) Kristin Davis, the film also asks why federal prosecutors who were “perfectly happy to use Eliot Spitzer’s personal vices to force him to resign in 2008” have not used rampant sex-and-drug trade on Wall Street as a tool for flipping witnesses to pursue the culprits behind the financial crimes that devastated the nation.

The Obama administration seems not to have a prosecutorial gene. It’s shy about calling a fraud a fraud when it occurs in high finance. This caution was exemplified most recently by the secretary of housing and urban development, Shaun Donovan, whose response to the public outcry over the banks’ foreclosure shenanigans was to take to The Huffington Post last weekend. “The notion that many of the very same institutions that helped cause this housing crisis may well be making it worse is not only frustrating — it’s shameful,” he wrote.

Well, yes! Obama couldn’t have said it more eloquently himself. But with all due respect to Secretary Donovan’s blogging finesse, he wasn’t promising action. He was just stroking the liberal base while the administration once again punted. In our new banking scandal, as in those before it, attorneys general in the states, where many pension funds were decimated by Wall Street Ponzi schemes, are pursuing the crimes Washington has not. The largest bill of reparations paid out by Bank of America for Countrywide’s deceptive mortgage practices — $8.4 billion — was to settle a suit by 11 state attorneys general on the warpath.

Since Obama has neither aggressively pursued the crash’s con men nor compellingly explained how they gamed the system, he sometimes looks as if he’s fronting for the industry even if he’s not. Voters are not only failing to give the White House credit for its economic successes but finding it guilty of transgressions it didn’t commit.

The opposition is more than happy to pump up that confusion. When Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he typically railed against the “extreme” government of “the last year and a half,” citing its takeover of banks as his first example. That this was utter fiction — the takeover took place two years ago, before Obama was president, with McConnell voting for itwent unchallenged by his questioner, Christiane Amanpour, and probably by many viewers inured to this big lie.

The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It’s the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we “lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase” for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend.

Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life — from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support.

Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it’s pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid — the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates.

Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn’t remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more power to those who greased the skids.

We can blame much of this turn of events on the deep pockets of oil billionaires like the Koch brothers and on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which freed corporations to try to buy any election they choose. But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual.

Seems clear enough to me. Is it to you? Suzan _________________


One Fly said...

Yea Suzan it's all real clear alright. Clear and scary.

Thanks a lot media.

Thanks a lot our side for not taking these people serious and poking fun instead.

Thanks alot our side who were the huge supporters of Obama for not making him fight back and allowing these entities to gain strength. He has a mouth piece any time he wants it but didn't use it. He should have countered every lie that he could. He didn't do squat in that respect and now we're probably going to pay so dearly.

For being the pessimist I am very much hoping for a Truman moment on the 2nd.

Suzan said...

I don't know . . . .

Seems to me damned if we do, dead if we don't.

We've got to stop the bleeding!!!

Love ya,


K. said...

I wouldn't sign an affadavit either, but it's nice to see them hoist on their own petard.

Republican lies, Supreme Court decisions. and tactical missteps notwithstanding, the real enemy is us. Who in their right mind would base their opinion and vote on a TV ad? It's not that hard to wade through the mud for a look at the facts. Too many people think their gut thinking is what counts. Like John Cusack said in High Fidelity, "My gut has s*** for brains."

You have great taste in music!

Suzan said...

Hey, "Thanks," K!

Your blog rocks too.

And your writing is terrific.

I just spent most of my morning over there browsing around.

Thanks again for commenting, and come back to see us, please!

I've blogrolled you, of course.