Oh!pinion Rotating Header Image

Republican corruption

Progressive pilgrim, the time is now: Got money?

P resident Obama’s campaign is getting serious traction against his Republican opponent by publicizing Willard Mitt Romney’s deceit about his role at Bain Capital after 1999 and unwillingness to release tax and financial records.

Good for Team Obama! It’s great, albeit unusual, to see a Democratic presidential campaign scoring gains during a pre-election summer .

Unfortunately, the news isn’t all upbeat. Despite his general unlikability, mendacity and secretiveness, Romney enjoys the backing of big-money people and interests who want — and can afford — to buy this election.

The Nation’s Ben Adler shed light on this aspect of the race in a recent article, Republican Negative Ad Spending Explodes.

.

. . . Liberals have been unable to keep up with the vast fundraising ability of right-wing Super PACs. Until now the balancing factor has been that Obama’s campaign has outspent Romney’s campaign, especially in swing states.

Even so, the president was already at a net disadvantage when you add in spending by outside groups. According to the Post, these are the cumulative ad spending numbers to date (this does not include the two new Crossroads plans, nor a bunch of smaller groups):

  • Obama campaign, $49.6 million
  • Romney campaign, $33.8 million
  • Restore Our Future (pro-Romney Super PAC), $29.7 million
  • American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS (Republican), $29.2 million
  • Americans for Prosperity (Republican), $14.9 million
  • Democratic National Committee, $6.3 million
  • Priorities USA Action (pro-Obama Super PAC), $6.1 million
  • American Future Fund (Republican), $5.3 million

The totals from the expenditures above are $79.1 million on Romney’s side and $62 million for Obama. In other words, the incumbent president—who also happens to be a very prodigious fundraiser—is being outspent, thanks to the unlimited contributions of billionaires and corporations. With the $65 million in forthcoming spending by Karl Rove’s groups, Obama will be at an even greater disadvantage.

.

Times aren’t easy now, it’s true. But if the thought of a President Romney trashing health care reform, Medicare and Medicaid, privatizing public schools, starting a war with Iran and appointing a couple of Scalia-type Supreme Court justices is enough to make you want to leave the country, it’s time to break loose with a few bucks for Obama and other Democratic candidates.

Remember, all it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing.

.

Think of South Carolina as preview
of a Republicanland American future

“Political wonders never cease in my native state, South Carolina. Long a hotbed of corruption, dirty politics and extremism, the Palmetto State has distinguished itself most recently as a place where the worst of the nineteenth and twentieth century brands of reactionary politics are at war for power. It’s the place where Jim DeMint is considered a sort of noncontroversial, avuncular presence; where sexual excess and right-wing ideology strangely seem to go hand-in-hand; where the last governor, an anti-tax zealot, was locked in a death battle with a lieutenant governor who compared food stamp recipients (half the population) to ‘stray animals,’ and after a sex scandal straight out of Barbara Cartland, was eventually succeeded by his protege, who when not absorbed with fighting allegations of serial infidelity and corruption proudly puts the power and prestige of state government behind the proposition that private-sector labor unions should be destroyed.

“And all that’s totally aside from the recent forced resignation of the current lieutenant governor for gross campaign finance irregularities. In sum, South Carolina is a hellish living representation of where the conservative movement is trying to drag the whole damn country.”

—Ed Kilgore,, Washington Monthly Political Animal
blog post, “Incumbent Paradise,” June 12, 2012

.

We’ve long likened Republicans’ ideal of what they want America to become to what oligarchs, plutocrats, dictators and military juntas did to every Central and South American country for about 300 years. Think luxury for the rich, powerful few. Think abject, lifelong poverty and oppression for the peon majority. And for a thin reed of middle-class professionals and business owners determined to maintain their modest prosperity, think a lifetime of kow-towing to the ruling class.

Kilgore’s capsule portrait of the Southern Republican stronghold of South Carolina undoubtedly does depict where the conservative movement is trying to drag the whole damn country. But we see it as a way station on the road to turning America into what Republicans helped turn Chile into under dictator Augusto Pinochet.

.

Pinochet

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet

In 1973, the year General Pinochet brutally seized the government, Chile’s unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernization, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

In 1970, 20% of Chile’s population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year “President” Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile’s economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman’s trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatized the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatized 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward … into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile’s industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpah, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan’s State Department issued a report concluding, “Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management.” Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, “The Miracle of Chile.” Friedman’s sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet’s Chile was, “a showcase of what supply-side economics can do.”

.

Sound familiar? It should.

.

RomneyIn addition to supporting a right-to-work-law, (Republican presidential candidate Willard Mitt) Romney has called for the repeal of a federal law requiring the prevailing local wage to be paid on public-works projects. He has pledged that on the first day of his presidency he would forbid any union preference in federal contracting and said he would fight rules allowing union dues to be taken out of paychecks to fund political activities.

“I’ve taken on union bosses before,” the former Massachusetts governor said in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. “I’m happy to take them on again.”

He has squarely blamed unions for the nation’s economic troubles.

“Labor has asked for too much and business people have exceeded their demands only to see the business ultimately fail,” he told the Ames Tribune’s economic board in December. “That’s what happened to GM and Chrysler. The demands of labor unions over time killed those businesses and made America become less competitive.”

.

For the record, the United Autoworkers Union and others have repeatedly made major concessions, dating back to the mid-1980′s, involving pay, benefits, work rules and work force reductions to help keep U.S. automakers in business and competitive.

.

Illinois race pits decorated Iraq War veteran
against tea party dittohead and deadbeat dad

Walsh

Rep. Joe Walsh, tea party hard liner and deadbeat dad who represents Illinois' 8th Congressional District.

“W hat else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh.”

That was U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., commenting on his Democratic opponent in the November election to a Politico interviewer, as quoted in a Daily Beast article by Michelle Goldberg.

You might recall Duckworth as a decorated Iraq War veteran — Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Purple Heart — and one of the few women to fly a Blackhawk helicopter in combat. She was doing that in 2004 when her chopper was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. As a result, Duckworth lost both legs and had an arm severely injured.

You might also recall Walsh as part of the tea party scourge that made it to Congress in the 2010 election. He beat a three-term incumbent, Democrat Milissa Bean, by an unimpressive 291 votes out of 202,000 cast.

You might remember Walsh for refusing at the beginning of his congressional career to participate in the health care insurance exchange offered to members because he didn’t want any part of a federal health insurance program. Never mind that it’s an insurance exchange in which private companies compete for Capitol Hill customers. Walsh did that despite the fact his wife had a pre-existing condition that would’ve been covered.

You might remember Walsh for headlines about being sued by his ex-wife for $100,000 in unpaid child support. The two have since settled. Remarkable commitment to traditional family values there.

But if those pieces of Walsh’s history didn’t win your attention, surely his angry diatribe during a town hall meeting at a Gurnee, Ill. bar and grill that was caught on video must have. After all, members of Congress don’t swear at their constituents every day.

Then there’s Walsh’s Wikipedia profile, which includes the following:

.

He has also raised venture capital for a living, according to the Chicago Tribune[3] with his campaign website indicating that he worked for Ravenswood Advisors, a Chicago boutique investment banking group which raised early-stage investment capital for new and small businesses.[19][24] However, he never made much money[8] and has pointed to salaries of $30,000 to $40,000 a year in the past.[15] In 2010, he had a negative net worth of $317,498 according to the Center for Responsive Politics

. . . Walsh has maintained a no-compromise approach to legislating. He consistently voted against raising the federal debt ceiling and authored a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. During his 2010 campaign as a fiscal conservative and following his election to Congress, several media outlets reported on Walsh’s personal financial issues, such as past due child support, a recent condo foreclosure, and tax liens from the 1990s.

.

There’s something about venture capitalists, isn’t there. We’re impressed with how financially responsible Walsh is. And, did we mention that since becoming a member of Congress Walsh has also been in trouble for driving with a suspended license?

Duckworth

Decorated Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, Democrat, is challenging Walsh in the November election.

Duckworth ran for Congress in 2006, while still being treated for her injuries. She lost that race but has since worked for the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, is a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois National Guard and has earned a private-pilot’s license.

Duckworth was so turned off by the viciousness of the campaign her ’06 Republican opponent ran against her that she wanted no more of politics. She lost by 2 percent of the vote. However, being a fighter and not a quitter, Duckworth decided to run again, this time in a district less tilted against a Democrat.

We salute Duckworth’s service to and sacrifice for our country. We admire her determination, decency, and her night-vs.-day opposition to where Walsh is on virtually every issue. The people of Illinois-8 will be better represented by her than they could ever be by a dittohead heel with a loud mouth and sociopathic attitude.

As for Walsh, tea-party fringe crackpot, deadbeat dad, cited by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the most corrupt members of Congress . . . ehhh.

.

To buy America’s presidency
is to sell out Americans’ democracy

sheldon adelson

Sheldon Adelson, the money man behind Newt Gingrich's campaign.

Sheldon Adelson, an international gambling casino tycoon who’s reportedly the eighth-richest man in America, loves his country and wants the best president his money can buy.

Adelson is backing the desire for a president of his very own by bankrolling — $10 million and counting — ex-House speaker and millionaire lobbyist Newt Gingrich’s quest to become the Republican nominee for president

While that much is clear, what Adelson considers “his country” — the U.S. or Israel — remains hazy, even as Gingrich thunders warnings at campaign audiences about Iran posing an imminent threat of a “second Holocaust.”

In Cocoa, Fla., Gingrich on Wednesday called Adelson “very deeply concerned about the survival of Israel” and the threat of a nuclear Iran. Asked if he had promised Adelson anything, Gingrich replied that he pledged “that I would seek to defend the United States and United States allies.”

At 79, Adelson is not a young man. Suppose that after spending tens or hundreds of millions, maybe $1 billion, to get Gingrich elected president, Adelson becomes senile. Suppose his deep concern for Israel becomes paranoid delusions that Iran is armed with nukes and prepared to annihilate the Israelis any day now. Suppose he calls in his chits at the White House, causing Gingrich to launch a pre-emptive nuclear first strike against Iran.

You can say that sounds farfetched, but history is rife with seemingly farfetched things that came to pass. Maybe it’s not that farfetched to begin with. Does anyone familiar with Gingrich think that as president he’d turn down his political sugar daddy if doing so would doom his chances of winning a second term?

It’s also fair to question where Adelson’s greatest loyalty lies. It’s fair to ask what he would want if in some situation Israel and the United States’ vital interests were to diverge.

Does anyone in their right mind think Gingrich has asked his political benefactor with a net worth estimated at $21.5 billion about that?

But even without Adelson’s devotion to Israel, all Americans, especially Republicans, should be repelled by the thought of a presidential candidate being beholden to one super-rich backer to the tune of $10 million or more.

All Americans, including Republicans — unlikely though that is — should be repelled by what the Supreme Court’s democracy-trashing Citizens United decision is making possible. And all Americans, even Republicans, should get behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, and with it, 150 years of errant court decisions bestowing on corporations the rights of human citizens.

koch bros.

The Koch brothers, David, left, and Charles.

Even if Gingrich fails to win the GOP nomination and the White House, even if Adelson’s millions are being spent for naught, it’s only a matter of time until our presidential and other elections are nothing better than auctions bestowing power on the pawns of the highest bidders.

We’re dangerously close to that now, and there surely are other super-rich people with no more scruples about subverting our democracy than Adelson.

.

The time to put and end to this very real, very imminent threat is now. The place to start is by burying the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision under the weight of the most decisively supported constitutional amendment ever.

— • —

.

Support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment.

The amendment asserts:

  • Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
  • Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
  • Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures.
  • Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.

If passed, Sanders’ amendment would do more to safeguard our democracy and pave the way to restoring some balance between the excessive clout of the 1 percent over the 99 percent than anything brought forth in generations.

Please, click the link above, watch the video of Sanders’ floor speech about the amendment, then add your name to those supporting its passage.

.

Romney statements make clear
why he should never be president

Romney speaking

On the campaign trail: Mitt Romney makes a point. /Mary Ann Chastain, Sfgate.com.

Mitt Romney, a Republican millionaire businessman who wants to become our next president, recently demonstrated twice over why, as a general proposition, a person of his background and mindset belongs in a corporate executive suite, not the Oval Office.

What Romney exhibited is the same lack of basic understanding about what government is, does and should do for people that made Republicans Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush such lousy presidents.

Like Romney, Reagan and the Bushes were intelligent, educated men. But also like Romney, all three exhibited a lack of intellectual breadth and depth, coupled with an inability to put themselves in others’ shoes, and understand — feel genuine compassion — for their situation.

People with that kind of deficit can make all the right moves when the goal is cutting operating costs, edging out competitors, becoming profitable and then maximizing profits, no matter what it takes, no matter who gets hurt.

However, when faced with a choice between disbursing already appropriated funds to help the poor afford to heat their homes in winter or catering to ideological distaste for providing federal help to citizens, it’s not surprising that George W. Bush chose to sit on the funds until late winter, in 2003 and again in 2006. Nor should anyone be surprised when a president of the Reagan/Bush/Romney type so mismanages the response to a catastrophe like hurricane Katrina that already-suffering and endangered people end up experiencing even worse horrors, with countless lives lost unnecessarily.

Compassion, empathy, depth of character and a well-rounded life experience matter in a president. Unfortunately, years of climbing the corporate ladder, making millions while vastly increasing shareholder value, doesn’t instill or enhance any of these important traits.

Democracy Now recently featured a discussion highlighting one aspect of Romney’s lack of basic understanding. It bears on appreciating the difference between the top-down command and control exerted by a CEO in a corporate setting and what democracy and public-service leadership are all about.

(more…)

We heard you the first time, Bachus

“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

—Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.,
House Financial Services Committee chairman,
as quoted in a Birmingham News story,
Dec. 9, 2010.

.

Bachus was cited in Sunday’s “60 Minutes” segment on Congress and insider trading, pointing out how members can easily profit from stock trades using information not available to the public. The report indicated a specific instance in which Bachus had done just that in 2007, making a $30,000 killing as the U.S. economy was imploding.

The Birmingham News story added that Bachus “later clarified his comment to say regulators should set the parameters in which banks operate but not micromanage them.”

Actions speak louder than back-and-fill words. Call it a moment of blunt honesty or a Freudian slip, but based on his fund-raising and record in Congress, Bachus’ original statement rings true.

.

From OpenSecrets.org:

3 top Bachus backers, 1992 - 2010

Contributor Total Individuals PAC's
JPMorgan Chase & Co $119,000 $24,000 $95,000
National Assn of Realtors $92,210 $12,710 $79,500
Bank of America $90,500 $2,500 $88,000

Top 5 Industries backing Bachus, 1992 - 2010

Industry Total Indivs PAC's
Commercial banks $1,183,413 $250,965 $932,448
Real estate $987,336 $506,784 $480,552
Insurance $927,950 $99,750 $828,200
Securities/investment $799,543 $243,743 $555,800
Finance/credit co.'s $489,496 $87,438 $402,058

Now, can there be any doubt Bachus meant what he said, exactly the way he said it the first time? And, can there be any doubt about why he feels government should be there to serve the banks?

.

Bachmann should face censure
for advocating an illegal practice

thumb downMembers of the U.S. House and Senate — lawmakers — shouldn’t be able to get away with publicly endorsing lawbreaking, as Rep. Michelle Bachmann did during the latest Republican candidates debate.

Bachmann responded to a question from a Vietnam veteran about torture, saying:

If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country.

As Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, pointed out, waterboarding is illegal under U.S. and international law, is immoral, and responses gained from use of it are unreliable — none of which is new news.

Bachmann seemingly wasn’t alone, though. Ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, without mentioning waterboarding specifically, said he favors use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and any techniques to “save young American lives.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry also endorsed enhanced interrogation techniques.

Herman Cain underscored, again, why he’s not qualified to be a presidential candidate, much less a president, with an answer that would be at home in a Saturday Night Live segment. From the transcript:

(more…)

Fresh evidence E-voting machines pose
imminent threat to integrity of elections

diebold e-voting machineElectronic voting machines must be outlawed and discarded before the 2012 elections if the people are to have any hope final tallies will honestly reflect their ballot choices.

Given what Argonne National Laboratories found when it set out to do electronic vote tampering, Diebold e-voting machines are outrageously, unacceptably vulnerable to manipulation, and it’s likely other makes are as well, as Salon reports:

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

“We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines,” said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team “We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine.”

. . .Indeed, the Argonne team’s attack required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge, of the voting machine’s proprietary source code. It was carried out by inserting a piece of inexpensive “alien electronics” into the machine.

And get this: once rigged, the voting machine can be controlled from up to a half mile away.

Physical sercurity? What physicial security? The Salon story goes on to tell how easily “alien electronics” can be implanted in voting machines in locales where polling places are set up and left unattended for days or weeks ahead of time. Then, there’s the vulnerability presented by the practice of poll workers in some areas taking voting machines home with them for “sleepovers” prior to elections.

Earlier demonstrations of e-voting machines’ vulnerability to tampering involved more-sophisticated cyber-attack approaches. The Argonne team chose to do it with simple, easily available hardware and minimal coding skills. They had no trouble succeeding.

Anyone who doubts the likelihood of electronic vote rigging by Republicans against Democrats had better think again. That’s not just because of Republicans’ nationwide vote-suppression efforts, either. The following is from a 2003 Cleveland Plain Dealer story, via Common Dreams.

The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

(more…)

Walker, Koch brothers riding high now
but their rampage could be short lived

The predictable result of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting law are taking effect, with major public-employee unions opting to not recertify with the state.

The upshot is that there will be no collective bargaining, just “informal talks” with state employers, if they’re lucky.

State of decline
Census Bureau statistics show the median income in Wisconsin dropped 14.5 percent between 1999 and 2010. The national median income decline during that period was 8.9 percent.

Thanks to Walker’s union-busting law, to recertify, unions must hold votes in which a majority of all covered workers would have to OK union representation, not just a majority of those who choose to vote. Large unions say that’s a punishingly expensive proposition.

Although unions are trying to put a brave face on the situation, the story on this indicates the law’s elimination of automatic payroll deduction of union dues is having a negative impact on unions’ funds. Members must contribute on their own now, and in difficult times it becomes easy to skip contributions.

One reason the unions declined to recertify is that under Walker’s law they could only bargain for pay increases. And they could only do that up to the level of inflation. Workplace safety, cleanliness, medical benefits, vacations and so forth, are no longer subject to negotiation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, who aren’t Wisconsin citizens but are the power behind Walker’s throne, are getting their money’s worth, for now.

That could change dramatically before long, though. Sentiment for recalling Walker has been widespread and intense since the first weeks of his administration. That’s because Walker immediately began engineering radical changes he did not campaign on, triggering mass protests that lasted for months.

Further adding to the dark cloud over the Koch’s handyman is an FBI investigation into the activities of a top Walker aide, Cynthia A. Archer. Her home was recently the scene of an evidence-gathering raid. If a scandal and trial ensue, Walker could find himself embroiled in all that while trying to convince voters they shouldn’t turn him out of office.

In our view that couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. But Walker’s ultimate reward should be a resounding defeat at the polls early next year, which is the soonest a recall election can be held.

Millionaire Rep. Ryan cries class warfare

“It adds further instability to our system, more uncertainty and it punishes job creation and those people who create jobs. Class warfare may make for good politics but it makes for rotten economics.”

—Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, commenting on President Obama’s reported plan
to increase taxes on wealthy Americans,
during an appearance on Fox News,
Sept. 18, 2011

Look who’s talking: It’s hardly surprising that Ryan, a radical-conservative Republican and economic Darwinist, would jump at the chance to charge class warfare. With a net worth said to be around $2.4 million, Ryan has a glaring conflict of interest. Not that he will admit to having a conflict of interest or abstain from voting on tax increases for the rich because of it.

Ryan provides the latest example of a standard GOP tactic: project on to others what you and your party say and do.

Republicans have been waging class warfare for more than three decades on everyone in the country who’s not wealthy and well connected. The results are in and poor, working-class and middle-class Americans are losing on all fronts.

Class warfare facts:
“The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 — the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 — the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
—U.S. Census Bureau poverty report