Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Republicans Hold 9/11 first responders and America Hostage for Billionaire Tax Break

Republicans Hold 9/11 first responders and America Hostage for Billionaire Tax Break

In a segment titled "Lame-as-F@#k Congress," Comedy Central's Jon Stewart ripped Republicans Monday for using tax cuts as an excuse for not to pass other important legislation.

As the lame duck session began, all 42 GOP senators signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promising to prevent a vote on any legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts had been extended for every American.

As a result, the Senate won't take up take up the repeal of the military's gay ban, known as "don't ask, don't tell." The DREAM Act which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children won't be voted on. And the 9/11 first responders health care bill won't be passed.

"I get the other two but since when does the Republican Party make 9/11 first responders stand over in the corner with the gays and Mexicans?" Stewart joked.

"That's inspiring. When a party stands together there's nothing it can't prevent from getting done," he said.

One Republican that caught Stewart's attention was Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

In a New York Daily News op-ed, Enzi complained that some of the previous money appropriated by Congress to help 9/11 first responders had gone missing.

Stewart noted that Enzi did support Iraq funding after the Pentagon announced $15 billion had mysteriously disappeared.

At the time, Enzi said, "This isn't a perfect bill... The fact remains, however, that we need to fund our troops... so I will support the supplemental bill."

"Unless any of these guys are 9/11 responders and in that case, fuck those guys," Stewart added.
Poor misunderstood Republicans. They see Billionaires as people who work their asses off to make America a better place, and average working people like EMTs, fire fighters and police as peons who should be grateful to their wealthy overlords for even having a job.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Glenn Beck Suffers From Soros Derangement Syndrome

Exactly What Glenn Beck Lied About When Vilifying Soros

Glenn Beck demanded an apology from Forbes magazine for claiming that he has been "falsely vilifying" George Soros and said, "I'd like to know exactly what I lied about." Beck's attacks on Soros are, of course, demonstrably false.

Beck Demands "Proof" That He "Falsely Vilified" George Soros

Beck: "I'd Like To Know Exactly What I Lied About" When Vilifying Soros. Glenn Beck discussed a Forbes blog post that said that Beck has been "falsely vilifying Soros publicly":

And the most egregious statement from Forbes magazine is one that I would either like proof of or an apology from Forbes. In fact, I think I may demand one. Yes, I'm going to. That I "falsely vilified" Soros.

Forbes magazine: Show it or apologize. I'd like to know exactly what I lied about. "Falsely vilified"? Really? What did I lie about here? Because I have no idea, because there's not one piece of evidence presented to back up your claim.

Forbes, really? Are you down to this now? Times getting tough? I used to think you had credibility.

See, when you write a story, like us -- we do a story, we back it up. But we back it up, you know, with his own audio, which is weird. It'd be nice if somebody at Forbes actually backed up their claim.

If I was making stuff up on the air, if I was falsely lying about the most powerful man in the world -- gee, you'd think somebody might have found an attorney, don't you? Or at least I would have been fired by now. That's weird.

You know what? I should get -- Tiffany, I want a yellow phone. Uh-oh. Now the White House can't call. I want a yellow phone, please. Because we have this phone. Yes, this phone. The president has the number to this phone. He can call anytime. Verify. I got something wrong? Call me up. Come on.

I want a yellow phone. Maybe a green phone. What color should George Soros' phone be? We could have a whole set of phones. Call me, spooky dude. You're welcome on this set anytime. Anytime.

Forbes, apologize, or back it up. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 12/08/10]

Here Is Exactly What Beck Lied About

BECK CLAIM: In 2004, Soros Called The Election "Not A Normal Election," And Said That "In Periods Of Regime Change, Normal Rules Do Not Apply." Accusing Soros of setting up a "shadow party" to interfere in the 2004 elections, Beck cited David Horowitz and Richard Poe's The Shadow Party and said:

BECK: A shadow party is not a political party, it is a -- at least not in a tangible sense. It works outside the normal electoral system. In 2000, Soros funded one-third of the shadow conventions. Do you even remember these? They were run by Arianna Huffington, the president's favorite source of news. And one of the lead organizers next to her was Jim Wallis, one of the guys who is campaigning against this program, surprise, surprise.

The idea was to parallel the Democratic and Republican conventions -- the shadow convention. Huffington said at the time, the message of the shadow conventions was, quote, "Not left or right, and the answers to these issues are not going to be found in the old ideas of the past. Clearly, the Great Society solution of top-down programs has failed." Top-down programs. "Instead, the answers could be found in the raw power," quoting, "of government appropriations." Wow.

But it was the next election cycle that truly launched the shadow party. In 2004, when Soros didn't mince words, he stated, quote, "This is not a normal election. These are not normal times." And, quote, "I do not accept the rules imposed by others. If I did, I would not be alive today. And in periods of regime change, normal rules do not apply. One needs to adjust one's behavior to the changing circumstances."

By the 2004 election cycle, Soros' shadow party had shaped the Democratic message. Under Soros, the guidance of the shadow-party infrastructure had assumed the coherent shape by early 2004. They were seven extensively independent nonprofit groups, which included MoveOn.org that would help the Democrats. Really? [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 11/09/10]

REALITY: Beck Used Comments From 1995 To Show That Soros "Didn't Mince Words" In 2004. Those comments are actually from the 1995 book Soros on Soros: Staying Ahead of the Curve:

KRISZTINA KOENEN (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): You have been accused of playing by your own rules and changing the rules when it suits you.

SOROS: I plead guilty. I do not accept the rules imposed by others. If I did, I would not be alive today. I am a law-abiding citizen, but I recognize that there are regimes that need to be opposed rather than accepted. And in periods of regime change, the normal rules don't apply. One needs to adjust one's behavior to the changing circumstances.

Look at the tremendous changes I have gone through on a personal level. Consider my career as a philanthropist. In the beginning, I avoided any personal involvement. I sought to remain anonymous and shunned publicity. Later, when the revolution gathered momentum, I accepted the fact I was deeply involved. After 1989, I actively sought to gain a hearing for my views. That alone was a major change. At the same time, I continued to abstain from doing business in Eastern Europe. Now, I have given that up to. The reversal from my starting point, when I dissociated myself from my philanthropy, is complete. I accept everything that I do, whether as an investor or as a benefactor as an integral part of my existence. And I am very happy about it because in a sense my whole life has been one long effort to integrate various facets of my existence.

There is a remarkable parallel in the evolution of my attitude toward philanthropy and my attitude toward making money. At first, I didn't want to identify myself with my business career. I felt there was more to me than making money. I kept my private life strictly separate from my business. Then I went through a a rough patch in 1962, when I was practically wiped out, and it affected me deeply. I had some psychosomatic symptoms, like vertigo. It made me realize that making money is an essential part of existence. Now I am completing the process by doing away with the artificial separation between my activities as investor and as philanthropist.

The internal barriers have crumbled and I am all of one piece. It gives me a great sense of fulfillment. I realize that I cut a larger-than-life figure and I feel ambivalent about that. On one hand, I find it gratifying, but on the other, the sheer magnitude of my activities, both in business and in philanthropy, makes me uneasy. I must admit that I wanted it that way and I probably could not feel all of a piece if I weren't larger than life. It makes me somewhat abnormal and that is the source of malaise. Still, it is better to have abnormal accomplishments than to harbor abnormal ambitions. For the first 50 years of my life, I felt as if I had a guilty secret now it is out in the open and I am proud of what I have accomplished. [Soros on Soros, pages 145-146, emphasis added]

BECK CLAIM: Soros Advocated For "Globalization" By Saying, "The Main Obstacle Of A Stable And Just World Order Is The United States." Citing Soros' book, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror, Beck said:

BECK: I believe you take a man at his word, and George Soros has publicly dedicated his life to this. [points to chalkboard] He has even said he's willing to die for what he believes in. Here he is.

SOROS [video clip]: In the things that I am engaged in, I am actually willing to put my life at risk, and I think it makes me feel much more complete.

BECK: Wow. You complete me, George. I'm willing to put my life at stake, and so are many people in America. It is what you believe in. But what is it that he believes in? He has tens of billions of dollars, all flowing in, pulling strings. His tentacles are everywhere. What is he going through all of this trouble for to achieve? Well, globalization. George Soros believes, quote, "The main obstacle of a stable and just world order is the United States."

Let that sink in for a minute. "The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States." We will pick it up, next, there. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 11/9/10]

REALITY: Soros Was Criticizing The Policies Of The Bush Administration And Said His Top Priority Was "[C]hanging The Attitude And Policies Of" The U.S. From The Age of Fallibility:

Writing the book has helped me to establish future priorities. Some of them are quite far removed from our previous activities. I have identified two problems that endanger our survival: the global energy crisis and nuclear proliferation. As regards the former, we are already at the cutting edge of dealing with the resource curse and we are getting engaged in global warming. The Russian policy of using gas contracts both to suborn neighboring countries and to divert what ought to be public revenues for private benefit will be a particular field of interest. Nuclear proliferation, by contrast, has been entirely outside the purview of my foundations. I do not know what we can do about it but we cannot disregard it.

The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States. This is a harsh -- indeed, for me, painful -- thing to say, but unfortunately I am convinced it is true. The United States continues to set the agenda for the world in spite of its loss of influence since 9/11, and the Bush administration is setting the wrong agenda. The Bush agenda is nationalistic: it emphasizes the use of force and ignores global problems whose solution requires international cooperation. The rest of the world dances to the tune the United States is playing, and if that continues too long we are in danger of destroying our civilization. Changing that attitude and policies of the United States remains my top priority.

The task has become more complicated since the 2004 elections, and that was the source of my confusion when I sat down to write this book. It is no longer a question of removing President Bush from the White House; a more profound rethinking of America's role in the world is needed. It is not enough to revert to the policies of the previous administration; America must undergo a change of heart. The process must begin with recognizing the war on terror as a false metaphor. It is now accepted that the invasion of Iraq was a grievous error but the war on terror remains the generally accepted policy.

The change of heart cannot be accomplished merely by helping the Democratic Party in the 2006 and 2008 elections because Democrats show no sign of engaging in a profound rethinking. On the contrary, Democrats have been so spooked by the Republican charge that they are soft on defense, that they are determined to outdo the Republicans in the war on terror. Nevertheless, I think it is important that the Democratic Party gain control of the House of Representatives in 2006. A Democratic-controlled House could reveal the misdeeds of the Bush administration which are currently kept under wraps. [Pages xvi-xvii]

BECK CLAIM: Soros Has "Waged A War Against Capitalism" Because He Said "It Poses Some Serious Threats."

BECK: He's waged a war against capitalism.

SOROS [video clip]: Capitalism is not directly opposed to open society. Nevertheless, it poses some serious threats. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 11/9/10]

REALITY: Soros Was Explaining That Regulations Are Needed To Shield Individuals From Financial Bubbles. From a lecture given by Soros at Central European University on October 29, 2009, "Capitalism Versus Open Society":

Capitalism is not directly opposed to open society the way Soviet communism was. Nevertheless, it poses some serious threats. I have already discussed one of them; financial markets are not equilibrium-bound but bubble-prone. The dismantling of the regulatory mechanism has given rise to a super- bubble whose bursting will negatively influence the American economy for several years to come. This discussion has revealed another threat to open society: the agency problem and the influence of money in politics, which contaminate the political process.

In an open society, the political process is supposed to serve the common interest; in contemporary America, the political process has been captured by special interests. Our elected representatives are beholden to those who finance their election, not to the electorate at large. What is happening to President Obama's healthcare and energy bills provides a vivid illustration. The electorate has been brainwashed to such an extent that a responsible discussion of the public good has become well-nigh impossible. A national health service and a carbon tax are nonstarters. Our choices are confined to solutions that can be gamed by special interests.

Lobbying is at the core of the agency problem. How can it be brought under control?

This is an ethical issue and not a matter of modifying economic incentives. Lobbying is lucrative and it is liable to remain so even if the rules are tightened. In the absence of moral values, regulations can always be circumvented; what is worse, the regulations themselves will be designed to serve special interests, not the common interest. That is the danger facing the United States today when a wounded financial sector is seeking to regain its former pre-eminence.
If Beck has a sudden attack of intellectual honesty he could also attack Reagan's former budget director who said of George W. Bush,
“I’ll never forgive the Bush administration and Paulson for basically destroying the last vestige of fiscal responsibility that we had in the Republican Party. After that, I don’t know how we ever make the tough choices.”
Why can a Republican say that Bush's policies were destructive to the U.S. and a citizen such as Soros or anyone else is not allowed to say the same thing. In Beck's twisted mind if Soros says it, the words are part of a powerful conspiracy. When a Republican says it, beck remains silent. Free speech for right-wing nuts but not for everyone else. Beck' kindred spirit can be found in Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Republican Red States Are the Welfare Queens of America

If Democrats are the big spenders, why do Republican states get the money?

One of the co-chairmen of President Obama's bipartisan debt reduction council recently got in trouble for telling a women's advocacy group that Social Security had "reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

If you guessed it was the Republican co-chairman and not the Democrat who said it, you would be right—it was former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson—but therein hangs a tale.

Republicans have a near monopoly on complaints about government spending. Dozens of new Tea Party candidates were elected to Congress on a promise to clean house. But data going back two decades—to stick to Simpson's crude metaphor—show the milk is mostly coming from Democratic states, and the sucking is being done by Republican states.

The "red" states up in arms about government spending receive the largest share of it. This is not a new finding, but research by economist Gary Richardson at the University of California-Irvine backs it up. Richardson provides insight into how the paradox came about and what it means for the future.

It isn't surprising that the more Republican a state leans, the more likely it is to be furious about government spending. But what is surprising is that states with the highest anti-spending sentiment appear to be the largest beneficiaries of government spending. Not only do red states swallow the lion's share of government spending, but Richardson found a linear relationship between the extent of GOP support in a state—and, by implication, the fervor of its anti-government sentiment—and the amount of federal largesse the state receives.

Alaska, home to Sarah Palin, and where two fiscally conservative Republican candidates for Senate recently mopped up 75 percent of the vote between them, received $1.64 in federal benefits for every $1 the state contributed to the national kitty. Massachusetts, Richardson found last year, received 82 cents for every dollar it paid into the national pool. No doubt as compensation, liberals in Massachusetts and other "blue" states also received lots of vitriol for being such out-of-control spenders.

The 28 states where George W. Bush won more than 50 percent of the vote in 2004 received an average of $1.32 for every dollar contributed. The 19 states where Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote collected 93 cents on the dollar.

"Voting Republican paid large dividends," Richardson wrote in a piece published in the Economist's Voice. "For each 1 percent of the population voting in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, the state received an additional 1.7 cents in benefits for each dollar in taxes."

No sane person would argue that every state should get precisely as much as it puts in. Different states will need larger or smaller benefits at different points of time. But Richardson's data don't just show that the redistribution of resources correlates with a state's political orientation. They show that the amount of money being collected from Democratic states and redirected to Republican states has systematically grown over time.

During the 1970s and 1980s—throughout the Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush administrations—there was no correlation between anti-spending sentiment and getting lots of federal money. The net return to states that voted for Republicans was relatively flat, meaning that "red" states didn't get most of the pie.

But that changed around 1994—after the last Republican takeover of Congress. Then, as now, Republicans rode to power on charges of government profligacy and promises to clean house. Then, as now, Republicans promised to lower taxes and to reduce government expenditure. Then, as now, Republicans warned the Democrat in the White House to come to his senses and move his administration to the right.

Buried in the fine print of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," Richardson found an income redistribution scheme. The proportion of government spending on groups that traditionally supported Democrats fell. The proportion of government income from groups that traditionally supported Democrats rose.

"Tax rates declined more for groups that tended to vote Republican. These groups include people with incomes in the upper tail of the distribution, such as small business owners, property owners, and investors accruing capital gains. … At the same time, expenditures fell more for programs directed toward people that tended to vote Democratic. These groups included welfare recipients, inner-city residents, and individuals in the lower tail of the income distribution."

Just as they did in the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans today are arguing not about whether to cut government expenditure, but where and how much to cut it. They are arguing not about whether to extend tax breaks to rich families, but just how rich you have to be to qualify for tax breaks. Smart observers think the Democrats in 2010 will repeat what they did in the 1990s—reduce expenditures on people who tend to vote Democratic and decrease taxes paid by people who tend to vote Republican.

There is certainly room for debate about Richardson's conclusions. Seth Giertz at the University of Nebraska argues, for example, that the correlation merely reflects the fact that we have a progressive tax system—blue states pay more into the kitty because blue states are richer than red states. We also don't know who in the red or blue states is paying or receiving the money. Is it possible that Republicans in blue states are paying most of the money, while Democrats in red states are receiving most of it?

In an e-mail, Richardson argued—and I agree with him—that the progressive-tax-code explanation is inadequate because the blue-state-red-state trend has unfolded even as the tax code has become less progressive. The tax code today barely distinguishes between the merely wealthy and the insanely rich—your local doctor faces the same taxation level as LeBron James. And the linear relationship between the degree of conservatism in a state and the amount of federal spending it receives contradicts the notion that conservatives in blue states might be footing the bill for liberals in red states. The more conservatives a state has, the less it pays. The more liberals a state has, the less it receives.

At a minimum, conservatives must agree there is a contradiction between being against government spending and dominating the politics of states that get the lion's share of federal spending. The beauty of the trick, from a psychological point of view, is not that Republicans serve their constituents. It is that Republicans have succeeded in making Democrats feel lousy for being out-of-touch elitists who can't be trusted to keep spending under control.

Crucial to their victory in the policy arena, Richardson argued, was the Republican victory in the national conversation. Conservatives pushed through their plan to redistribute income because they dominated the conversation about fiscal prudence, regularly admonishing even their own side for overspending. In the public mind, Republicans became the party of fiscal rectitude, and Democrats became the group that raised taxes on hard-working Americans.

"The second way in which Republicans became beneficiaries of federal spending was by dominating the debate about federal fiscal policies," Richardson wrote. "Republicans emphasized the virtues of the market, the inefficiency of government, and the effectiveness of the private sector. Now Democrats, too, have adopted this economic way of thinking—paying homage, now, to the goal of economic efficiency. This new focus on the Democrats' part has led to improvements in the cost and quality of government services, but it has also enabled the Republicans to advance their own constituents' distributional interests at the same time."

I blame it all on the hidden brain. What, other than unconscious bias, can explain why so many voters pay so much attention to what politicians say, and so little attention to what they do?
It is all a matter of messaging. Republican yell louder and more often about the redistribution of income because they are the ones doing most of the redistribution. You'll never hear a Republican called on the plain fact they redistribute money from the national coffers to the wealthy because they want a permanent and fearful underclass.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Republicans Win Midterms and Immediately Restart Culture of Corruption

Republicans Win Midterms and Immediately Restart Culture of Corruption - New Conservative Republican Appropriations Chair Rogers Was 'Porker Of The Month' In August

Yesterday, House Republicans dealt the Tea Party and conservative advocacy groups a blow by electing Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee next year.

Rogers is a famous earmarker, and a lot of critics see this as a harbinger that the GOP earmark ban might not be as ironclad as they'd like folks to believe. But just how much earmarking did Rogers really do? Enough to be named "Porker of the Month" by an anti-pork pressure group just four months ago.

Citizens Against Government Waste saddled Rogers with the award for "sponsoring legislation that could give federal funding to his daughter's nonprofit organization, which promotes overseas wildlife protection for cheetahs."

"Americans are being forced to tighten their belts while the economy is limping along, but that doesn't deter porkers in Congress, like Rep. Rogers, who think nothing of using the hard-earned tax dollars of the U.S. Treasury to subsidize family members," said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "Members of Congress should go out of their way to ensure that their actions in Congress never appear to be nepotistic. Rep. Rogers and members like him continue to behave as though the U.S. Treasury is their own personal piggy bank."

Outside advocates have much less influence over these intramural contests than they do over actual legislation. And the GOP really does seem prepared to freeze earmarking. But whether it's a harbinger of hypocrisy, or just bad p.r. for the GOP, it's not winning them many points with their allies.

Full release below.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) August Porker of the Month for sponsoring legislation that could give federal funding to his daughter's nonprofit organization, which promotes overseas wildlife protection for cheetahs.

According to a July 26, 2010 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, "U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is sponsoring a bill to give $5 million a year to conservation groups that work overseas on behalf of endangered 'great cats and rare canids,' such as cheetahs, lions and Ethiopian wolves. One group interested in applying, should Rogers' bill become law, is the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund. Its grants administrator, Allison Rogers, is the congressman's daughter.

"Americans are being forced to tighten their belts while the economy is limping along, but that doesn't deter porkers in Congress, like Rep. Rogers, who think nothing of using the hard-earned tax dollars of the U.S. Treasury to subsidize family members," said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "Members of Congress should go out of their way to ensure that their actions in Congress never appear to be nepotistic. Rep. Rogers and members like him continue to behave as though the U.S. Treasury is their own personal piggy bank."

Rep. Rogers has claimed there is no conflict of interest. Unfortunately, the bill that Rep. Rogers' is sponsoring is narrow enough in scope that his support seems more than coincidental.

"Taxpayers are smarter than members of Congress think," continued Schatz. "They can spot a 'cheetah' from a mile away."

CAGW's Porker of the Month can also be viewed on video which is co-produced with reason.tv, the video website of Reason Magazine. CAGW's Porker of the Month is available on both CAGW's homepage and at reason.tv.

For promoting nepotism by attempting to steer taxpayer money to his daughter's nonprofit, CAGW names Rep. Hal Rogers its August 2010 Porker of the Month.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.
The term culture of corruption originated with former conservative Republican Speaker of the House Tom Delay and the K-Street Project - this was where Republicans let business write legislation in exchange for campaign donations. This is also what Republicans mean by being "pro business". America has become the conservative dream come true - government by and for whoever has the money to buy influence.

At Least 13 New Republican Members Of Congress Hire Corporate Lobbyists To Manage Their Office

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Anti-WikiLeaks lies and propaganda

Anti-WikiLeaks lies and propaganda
(1) In The New Republic today, Todd Gitlin writes an entire anti-WikiLeaks column that is based on an absolute factual falsehood. Anyone listening to most media accounts would believe that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately published all 250,000 of the diplomatic cables it possesses, and Gitlin -- in the course of denouncing Julian Assange -- bolsters this falsehood: "Wikileaks’s huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate" and Assange is "fighting for a world of total transparency."

The reality is the exact opposite -- literally -- of what Gitlin told TNR readers. WikiLeaks has posted to its website only 960 of the 251,297 diplomatic cables it has. Almost every one of these cables was first published by one of its newspaper partners which are disclosing them (The Guardian, the NYT, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, etc.). Moreover, the cables posted by WikiLeaks were not only first published by these newspapers, but contain the redactions applied by those papers to protect innocent people and otherwise minimize harm. Here is an AP article from yesterday detailing this process:

[T]he group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material.

"They are releasing the documents we selected," Le Monde's managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper's Paris headquarters. . . .

"The cables we have release correspond to stories released by our main stream media partners and ourselves. They have been redacted by the journalists working on the stories, as these people must know the material well in order to write about it," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a question-and-answer session on The Guardian's website Friday.

Just as they did prior to releasing the Afghanistan war documents, WikiLeaks -- according to AP -- "appealed to the U.S. ambassador in London, asking the U.S. government to confidentially help him determine what needed to be redacted from the cables before they were publicly released." Although the U.S. -- again -- refused to give such guidance, WikiLeaks worked closely with these media outlets to ensure that any material which has no valid public interest value and could harm innocent people was withheld. And Assange's frequent commitments to engage in "harm minimization" when releasing documents gives the lie to Gitlin's assertion that he is "fighting for a world of total transparency."

I understand that the media has repeated over and over the false claim that WikiLeaks "dumped" all 250,000 diplomatic cables on the Internet -- which is presumably how this falsehood made its way into Gitlin's brain and then into his column -- but that's no excuse for him and TNR editors failing to undertake the most minimal due diligence (such as, say, checking WikiLeaks' website) before publishing this claim. I've emailed Gitlin and TNR Editor-in-Chief Franklin Foer early this morning and advised them of the need for a correction, but have heard nothing. I will post any reply I get. They're entitled to condemn WikiLeaks all they want, but not to propagate this factual falsehood.

(2) According to The New York Times' Brian Stelter, Matt Lauer -- when announcing Assange's arrest in London this morning -- proclaimed: "The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over" -- as though Assange is Osama bin Laden or something. I don't know if it's sheer empty-headedness or excessive servile-to-power syndrome -- probably both, as is usually the case -- but that claim is both painfully dumb and misleading. There was no valid arrest warrant in England for Assange until yesterday; he then immediately turned himself into British law enforcement. There was no "international manhunt." How long before Matt Lauer and his friends start featuring playing cards with all the WikiLeaks Villains on the them ("and here we have Julian Assange, the Terrorist Mastermind, who is the Ace of Spades!")? Answer: as soon as the Government produces them and hands them to the media with instructions to use them.
Critics of Wikileaks are hyperventilating when they claim Wikileaks has done some great harm. In some ways they are using the same misinformation as Wikileaks fans. Wikileaks has not published all the documents in their possession and have left the same redacts which newspapers around the world have used when publishing the same material.

Facing Backlash From The U.S. Chamber’s Right-Wing Ads, More Local Chambers Plan To End Their Membership
This year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran one of the largest, most partisan, corporate-funded attack campaigns in its history. It worked closely with Karl Rove’s network of attack groups, while raising $75 million dollars to smear Democrats, including Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), and others. The Chamber’s ads were particularly sleasy; many were patently untrue, while others criticized Democrats for supporting legislation that the Chamber actually asked them to support.
Steve King Supports Return To McCarthy-Era House Investigations Panel
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) appeared to lend support in a recent interview to the re-creation of a congressional committee directly descended from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a panel that was originally formed at the height of the Red Scare to be the chamber's deliberative body to handle the duties of Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communism crusade.

In an interview with Right Side News, King was asked if he supported a recent conspiracy-laced speech by conservative media mogul Cliff Kincaid, in which he argued that the next Republican Congress should bring back the House Internal Security Committee in order to combat "the ugly spread of Marxism in America." King responded, "I would. I think that is a good process and I would support it."

The House Internal Security Committee was the followup to the highly controversial HUAC, a congressional body meant to serve as a counterpart to the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in which McCarthy was heavily involved. The HUAC was notoriously involved in a Hollywood investigation of actors, directors and writers that were allegedly communist sympathizers. More than 300 motion pictures professionals were put on a Hollywood blacklist as a result of hearings by the committee.
Maybe we should have an Un-American Activities Committee. We could begin the investigations into right-wing Republicans like King and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) who represent the values of the Third Reich rather than America.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Do Conservatives Hate Freedom and the Constitution

Repealing Common Sense - The conservative mission to destroy the Constitution in order to save it.

A shot heard 'round the legal world it wasn't. It started quietly enough: In April 2009, constitutional scholar Randy Barnett published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal offering proposals by which the Tea Party might amend the Constitution to "resist the growth of federal power." The most radical among them was an amendment permitting two-thirds of the states to band together and overturn any federal law they collectively dislike. Very few people noticed. When tea-infused Republican candidates hit the hustings this year, pledging to topple a tyrannical federal government, they did not avail themselves of Barnett's talking points. As of September, the most prominent elected leader espousing the idea of a "Repeal Amendment" was Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell.

Now, just two months after the proposal was a twinkle in a Virginia legislator's eye, the leadership of nine states is showing interest, and the popularity of the amendment's Web site (they have them nowadays) has "mushroomed." And this week, completing the proposal's rapid march from the margins to the mainstream, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah introduced the amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives, pledging to put "an arrow in the quiver of states." The soon-to-be House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, said this week that "the Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around." Fawning editorials in the Wall Street Journal and chest-heaving Fox News interviews quickly followed.

For a party (whether of the Tea or Grand Old variety) that sees the Constitution as something so perfect as to have been divinely inspired, the idea that it needs to be altered fundamentally is beyond crediting, something like putting the Fifth Commandment up to a popular referendum. But the Tea Party vision of the Constitution has never been one of fidelity to the document itself, or even to the Framers. Instead, it's a devotion to those scraps and snippets of the Constitution they accept, an embrace of only the Framers they admire, and an eagerness to jettison anything that conflicts with or complicates that vision, including the rest of the Constitution.
The 2010 mid-terms are over so its too late to remind people that Canter and other teatards were all about original intent. Now they seem to do nothing except hold the government hostage unless multimillionaires get a tax break and think of ways to change the Constitution.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tea Party Conservatives Want to Limit Who Votes. Can You Smell the Freedom America?

Tea Party Nation Prez Wants to 'Rewrite' Constitution; Thinks Allowing Only Landowners to Vote 'Makes Sense'

When Tea Partiers talk about the U.S. Constitution, it's usually with a sense of veneration for a document that's seen to be divinely inspired, written by a group of seemingly infallible Founding Fathers. That sense of Constitutional mysticism, however, may only -- for at least one Tea Party leader -- extend to the document when useful for accusing liberals of violating it.

Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, just loves the United States Constitution -- except the parts he'd like to rewrite. Like Article III, for example, which establishes an appointed federal judiciary as a check against the occasional tyranny of the mob, and allows justices and judges the independence that comes from not having to suck up to corporate interests for campaign contributions, which is exactly what they'd have to do if they were elected officials, as Phillips thinks they should be. Instead of having the president -- the elected representative of the people -- appoint the Supreme Court, he'd prefer to have the dollars of oil magnate David Koch do it.

That's what Phillips said, in not so many words, on his Nov. 16 Tea Party Nation podcast:

"Article III needs to be rewritten....When Article III of the Constitution was written, the judiciary was considered to be the weakest branch of the government. But in 1803, the Supreme Court gave itself the powers to declare laws unconstitutional, and as soon as they did that, they suddenly became the most powerful branch. And, unfortunately, they have lifetime tenure, and what we have to do -- at least, this is my opinion, people may disagree with me and I'll certainly entertain other opinions -- but what I think we have to do is to rewrite Article III to make judges subject to a popular vote. Let 'em have six-year terms, just like United States senators do, and that will run all the way down from the justices on the Supreme Court down to federal district judges in your local hometown."

Even his guest, North Carolina Freedom president David DeGerolamo, took pause at that suggestion. "But you're making the assumption that the people will vote based on the most qualified person," DeGerolamo replied.

"Actually, the assumption I'm making," said Phillips, "is that it will put the fear of God into the judges, and that the next time the ACLU wants to come along with some lunatic proposal to let prisoners out or prevent reasonable restrictions on child molesters or things like that, these judges will think long and hard about signing, or, uh, finding for the ACLU when they have to face the voters in a couple of years."

This led DeGerolamo to concede that while elections may not be the best way to select judges, "I don't see any other choice."

But the real problem Phillips had with the judiciary was not its rulings on prison overcrowding or the privacy of felons; it was a federal court's stay of Arizona's law, passed earlier this year, that would allow local law enforcement to stop anyone who "looked" like they might be in the country without documentation and demand to see their papers. That was the discussion that led to Phillips' comments on Article III.

Of course, you can't actually "rewrite" any article of the Constitution; through a deliberately cumbersome process, amendments can be added to the Constitution that may nullify provisions of an article, or to codify rights not expressed in an article.

While the U.S. Constitution, as originally written, left it to the states to determine who is allowed to vote, Phillips contends that the colonial tradition of allowing only landowners to vote may not have been such a bad thing. As reported by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind at their site, Tea Party Nationalism, Phillips offered this:

"The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn't you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you're a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you're not a property owner, you know, I'm sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners."

Now, it's a little unfair, as some sites have reported, to say that Phillips was advocating that position for the present time. He was, as I hear it, saying that restricting voting rights to property owners "made sense" for the time, in his view. Which is troubling enough.

But when DeGerolamo suggested that voting be reserved today as a right for those "who pay taxes," Phillips seemed to be totally down with that.

It's important to note what Tea Partiers mean when they talk about those who "pay taxes" -- they generally mean income tax. If that's what DeGerolamo means, what he's saying is that poor people, who pay payroll taxes for their future Social Security and Medicare, would not be allowed to vote, because their earnings fall below the line of taxable income.

And why stop there? DeGerolamo, whose North Carolina Freedom is a chapter of the FreedomWorks-allied Tea Party Patriots, suggests repealing the 14th Amendment, which gave the freed slaves the right of citizenship, and which confers birthright citizenship on all Americans.

Phillips wants to repeal the 16th and 17th amendments, which respectively created the federal income tax and changed the election of the Senate to direct popular vote. (Senators used to be elected by state legislatures.) Phillips also wants to repeal the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18.

Even DeGerolamo had a problem with that last one, seeing as that would prohibit a significant portion of the military from voting.

Some on the Right will say that Phillips' views don't reflect the main of the Tea Party movement, but I just witnessed a live chat sponsored by FreedomWorks, the big astroturf group chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, in which participants called for disallowing anyone "receiving a welfare check" from voting, and one other called for the repeal of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery and indentured servitude.

Tea Party Nation is, according to Bill Berkowitz at BuzzFlash, the third largest Tea Party social network, with more 31,000 members. It's the organization that sponsored the Tea Party Nation Convention at which Sarah Palin spoke last year (for a reportedly six-figure fee) -- the same convention at which Tom Tancredo, recently defeated in a third-party bid for Colorado's governor's mansion, called for literacy tests for voting rights. Berkowitz's piece features an interview with Devin Burnhart, who examines some of the core beliefs of Judson Phillips and Tea Party nationalists.

With their big wins in state legislatures and Congress last month, Tea Party leaders and their followers are feeling emboldened to say just what they mean: that the poor are not real Americans, and deserve no place at the table; that the Constitution is insufficiently beholden to corporations and mob rule, and needs to be rewritten; that people with brown skin should be held to a different standard than those with white skin.

No further proof needed: For at least some of its followers, the Tea Party movement's mission is the maintenance of privilege for white people with land.
The tea nut conservatives have tried to advance the proposition that they and only they understand the U.S. Constitution and we need to get back to what they feel ( aren't feelings nice and fuzzy) is the original intent. Only they keep wanting to rewrite the constitution, and make the average American less free with fewer rights.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

According to Glenn Beck's Logic George Baily and Most Americans Are Socialist

Beck's Distortions of 'It's A Wonderful Life' Mirror His Distortions of Current Events

After listening to Glenn Beck read my blog post on his radio show last week, dismissing my point regarding progressive themes of the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life, I admit, I had a brief moment of self-doubt. Was it possible that I had gotten the movie entirely wrong? So, last night, I watched it again.

Not only was I not wrong, but the movie, which stars Jimmy Stewart as the hero George Bailey, is actually far more progressive than I had remembered. (It's also a great movie. I still can't get through without tearing up the scene where a drunk and grieving Mr. Gower hits the young George Bailey. "Please don't hit my sore ear again, Mr. Gower!")

And not only was I not wrong, but Beck's latest stunt—like others in which he has attempted to appropriate iconic American figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., or moments such as the founding of the country—is just another effort to refashion American history to conform to his vision of the "real" America.

In this case, Beck’s been using the movie to promote a visit he's making to the economically hard-hit town of Wilmington, Ohio. He has said, inaccurately, that the town has taken no government money and that its residents' economic plan is based on praying to God to provide. In that sense, he argues, Wilmington is trying to mimic Bedford Falls, the fictional town where It's a Wonderful Life is set, as opposed to the movie's fictional slum of Pottersville.

Although the film is not devoid of religious and political themes, it has long been regarded as a classic treatment of small-town life and the power of the little guy to overcome the perfidy of greedy bigwigs. But truthfully, the movie's broader universal themes are ones that transcend politics and religion. It's a message that in the end, we are all our brothers' keepers. (I hope the biblical reference doesn't sound too socialist for Beck.)

But Beck, in his zeal to appropriate the film for his own politically divisive purposes, claims that it demonstrates the evils of government intervention in business. Despite Beck's apparent belief to the contrary, however, the villain in the movie wasn't the government, but the corrupt banker Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore.

In his radio broadcast last Wednesday, Beck read my post and dismissed the idea that there were progressive themes in the movie. (Either he or his show's producer also called me "screwy" while doing a pretty darn good Jimmy Stewart impression.)

Who saved the Building & Loan in Bedford Falls? The people did. George did, with his own private funds. The government didn't bail him out, and that's the deal. You remember the bank was bailing everyone out ... along with the government closing down the banks. The banks and the government were in collusion. ... The local banks were the ones that didn't have a problem. It's the gigantic banks run by people like [Mr.] Potter that were just trying to get rich and didn't care about people. The local banks are the George Baileys. That's not progressive. Progressive is about going past the Constitution and having people at a government level babysit people because they're all too stupid.

What Beck is saying, I believe—although it's difficult to know for sure, because his logic is so hard to follow—is that the government was in bed with the big, evil banks, and that the good-guy local banks were successful because they were free from government regulation. This depiction matches his thesis about today's economic problems: that too much government intervention in the form of bank bailouts is the inherent evil—as opposed to the absence of regulation that led to the banks' implosion at the hands of, well, you know, greedy bigwigs.

To Beck, the bank bailouts are evidence of socialism—the government controlling business—as opposed to the reality that the big banks got a free regulatory ride for so long, and that their political power is so vast, that the government had to bail them out to save the world economy from collapse, leaving the consumers ripped off and taxpayers footing the bill.

Similarly, Beck asserts that Mr. Potter was evil, not because he was a greedy bigwig, but because he was in collusion with the government. Like his portrayal of our current economic woes, this is just more Beck demagoguery. What he conveniently dissmisses is that Pottersville, as depicted in It's a Wonderful Life, was solely the making of the unregulated free market—the impact of Mr. Potter's iron-fisted monopoly on the town. He also neglects to mention that Bedford Falls' survival was due to competition from the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan, a communally owned organization.

And here's a crucial historical fact Beck omits: During the Great Depression, the government passed legislation in response to the kind of monopolies that Mr. Potter's bank held in small communities and their predatory mortgage lending practices. This government intervention paved the way for banks just like Bailey Bros. Building and Loan, which Beck admits was the savior in the movie.

In one great scene, Mr. Potter chastises Peter Bailey for not immediately foreclosing on a homeowner who ran into financial trouble. He says that the compassion of the Building & Loan fosters a "discontented lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class." One can almost hear Mr. Potter's words echoing in the words of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who some credit with launching the Tea Party movement with his on-air rant about the government "promoting bad behavior" by offering foreclosure assistance.

In another strange point, apparently in response to my statement that he's trying to turn the movie into "a rallying cry for the conservative anti-government Christian right," Beck asserted that Life clearly is a Christian movie, because it is a Christmas movie "with an angel and God." Yes, it's a Christmas movie, and, yes, there are religious themes, but that doesn't make it a "Christian movie." And it certainly doesn't make it a conservative, anti-government Christian right movie. But in Glenn Beck's world, he can't seem to imagine any other brand of religion, Christian or otherwise. The role of the divine, in the form of Clarence the Angel, was a passive deity whose contributions were to feign drowning so George Bailey had to rescue him and to point out the man's lifetime of good works.

In the oddest twist of this whole episode, though, during the red-baiting era in which the film was produced, the FBI had concerns about its supposedly communist message. Director Frank Capra was a complicated man; no liberal himself, he hired screenwriters who ranged from New Deal Democrats to card-carrying communists. According to the New York Times:

One of Capra's great strengths as a director in the 1930s was his ability to work with anyone who had something to contribute to his pictures, even those who were far to his left. He was also enough of a popular entertainer to cater to his audiences; he understood that during the Depression the most hissable villains were grasping bankers and businessmen.

From a 1947 FBI internal memo:

With regard to the picture "It's a Wonderful Life", [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a "scrooge-type" so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.

In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn't have "suffered at all" in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and "I would never have done it that way."

The FBI fretted that this portrayal of the consummate capitalist as the film's villain promoted communism. But Beck, a propagandist, not a historian, applies his typical distortions to paint Potter as a progressive, which in Beck's mind is someone who favors government takeover of big business, even though there's no evidence in the movie—as now—that the government is seeking to run the banks instead of private enterprise.

Perhaps the saddest part to this whole exercise has been the response I have received from Beck's supporters, which can be summed up as follows: Mr. Potter was bad. Progressivism is bad. Therefore Mr. Potter was a progressive.

Even if they sat down and watched the movie tonight, I doubt they would change their minds. For them, Beck said it was so and that's all they need to hear.
A round of applause for M's Lebo to try and parse Beck's scatter-shot logic. In the real world we have to provide evidence from rational empirical evidence. Beck goes off on some bizarre rant in which multiple propositions are contradictory and the facts ignored. Worse than Beck are his cultish followers who swallow every word as though they were handed down from a political messiah.