How White House Helps Out Rick Perry and Texas Rightwing Business

As a Texan, maybe I should be grateful Mr. Obama and his White House team for continuing to support the economy in Texas. As a Democrat who lives in Texas I can tell you that if Mr. Obama thinks he is securing friends in the Lone Star State he is greatly mistaken. The Federal money that the Obama administration continues to pour into the Texas economy usually finds its way into the hands of Republicans who own businesses here. The money then finds its way into the coffers of Texas Republicans such as Mr. Perry and other Texas politicians. These people don't share any of the vision of a peaceful co-existence and cumbayah that President Obama likes to bandy around. Its like the famous back to the future character George McFly who is in love with the homecoming queen but she has no interest in ANY relationship. As one who mixes into Republican circles, I will tell you they have no interest in anything remotely related to President Obama. In fact most of them HATE him.

So how then is the President's team handing over billions of tax dollars to people who will use it to defeat him and any Democrat in sight.

1. NASA-Houston:  This operation is a hot bed of Tea Party activity. I work there and almost daily I hear racist jokes directed at Obama. Ironically I hear a continual rant about the Federal government intrusion into states business affairs, the growth and size of the Federal government, deficits, etc. All this from Federal employees or Federal aerospace contractors. When I point out the contradiction of government employees complaining about the role of government these people do not see the irony of it all. Most shrug and tell me: "The government will not shut down NASA--what we do here is TOO important."  I usually don't press the argument that many people outside of Texas getting somewhat steamed up to find themselves on antiquated highways and transit systems while NASA spends $3.5 billion on YET ANOTHER MARS LANDER which takes cool pictures of Mars rocks....WOW!!

If Obama is so interested in winning in Florida, one would think that he would ship all the Red State Ultra-conservative Texas NASA jobs to Florida and then go around that swing state bragging about how he brought in 3,000 NASA jobs to the Cape Canaveral area.

2. The recent decision by President Obama to locate a $1 Billion defense laboratory at Texas A and M University. Talk about irony. This is the home school of Governor Rick Perry and his business cabal. The Democrats in Blue states like California and New York should be livid that this has happened on their watch. Why should great educational facilities in those states see research money going to a small farm based hick school in central Texas. Why not Harvard or Cal-Tech who have long histories of ground breaking research. Texas A-M teaches veteranarian science to farm boys.

 

 

A Meeting at the White House on Homeownership

Last week I attended a meeting at the White House with Obama administration officials on the housing and homeownership crisis. I joined 150 faith, civil rights, consumer protection, and community leaders from around the country to express the urgency of the crisis, share our stories, and promote practical solutions.

In a loud, clear voice we expressed the pressing reality of this crisis for families, communities, and our nation, with 2 million foreclosure filings this year, and millions more at risk. Another 15 million American homeowners are underwater—meaning that their home is worth less than they owe on their mortgage. And after years of predatory lending and mass foreclosures, a scourge of vacant properties, devastated home values, and impaired credit litter too many communities.

Participants shared their own stories, and those of neighbors, congregants and constituents struggling with abuse by banks and servicers. They included Brigitte Walker of Georgia, an Iraq War veteran who addressed the group. Ms. Walker was driven to the brink of foreclosure after an injury forced her to leave the military and sharply reduced her income. She detailed how her lender, Chase, repeatedly lost documents, gave her misinformation, bounced her around, and slated her home for foreclosure as she tried to negotiate a loan modification.

Ms. Walker was two weeks away from losing her home when Occupy Atlanta took up her case and began pushing Chase to negotiate. "They got everyday people like myself involved. Everyday people contacting Chase and advocating for me, peaceful demonstrations, people calling and writing in," Walker told a local news station at the time.

Just a few days later, Chase called back and struck a deal with Walker that allowed her to keep her home and make reasonable mortgage payments going forward. When she finished telling her story at the White House, Ms. Walker received a standing ovation.

Administration officials listened, and also detailed the considerable steps that the Executive Branch has taken to address the crisis, from establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to encouraging refinancing and loan modifications, to joining 49 state attorneys general in a national mortgage settlement with five major banks. None disputed, however, that those steps have been insufficient, so far, to address the scale of this crisis.

They pointed out, correctly, that a gridlocked Congress has thwarted many bolder solutions, like forcing consideration of principal reduction for mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or redirecting unused TARP funds toward housing counseling. That’s why, as planned, many of the participants headed to Capitol Hill after the White House meeting to urge members of Congress to take action of their own. An existing priority for many is the Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act of 2012, a bill to allow more homeowners the chance to refinance mortgages with insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

But the officials also candidly acknowledged something important: that many of the steps that the Administration has taken have come because social movements and everyday Americans have demanded them. That’s why we’ll be stepping up our activism, and ramping up our demands.

The Home for Good campaign, Home Defenders LeagueOccupy Our Homes, and Home Is Where the Vote Is have been pushing, separately and in collaboration, for bolder and more effective action—from the White House, Congress, cities and states, and the banks and financial industry. We seek an end to needless foreclosures, restoration of devastated communities, investment in affordable housing, and accountability on Wall Street. And we have concrete, proven solutions to offer that are rooted in research and experience around the country.

Now is the time to turn up the heat on our elected officials for home opportunity solutions. In our democratic system, that’s how change gets made.

How Enrique Peña Nieto Won Mexico’s Presidential Election


(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Mexico has recently elected as president Governor Enrique Peña Nieto. The handsome new president won 38.2% of the vote, 6.6% over Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Peña Nieto’s vote was also 12.8% over Josefina Vázquez Mota, from the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).

Here’s what happened:

Mexico’s North-South Divide

The map above indicates the states which each candidate won during the election. There’s a fairly strong characteristic for Peña Nieto to do worse as one goes south. The southern parts of Mexico are generally poorer, and left-wing candidate López Obrador thus wins most of the southern states. The blue states are those which remained loyal to third-place  Vázquez Mota of the conservative PAN. The PAN is stronger in northern Mexico; for a better look a right-wing PAN coalition, take a look at the 2006 election.

Yet there are some major exceptions to this North-South divide. Some of the poorest states in southern Mexico actually voted for Peña Nieto. These include Chiapas and Yucatán. Chiapas is famous for a 1994 uprising by indigenous Mexicans; Yucatán is famous for its Mayan culture.

In fact, López Obrador got 43.4% in Oaxaca but only 16.9% in Yucatán. Both states are poor and more populated by indigenous Mexicans, albeit culturally very different. Still, one would expect López Obrador to have run up the margins in places such as Yucatán and Chiapas.

Cities and the Countryside

On the macro-scale, Peña Nieto did better in northern Mexico. On the micro-scale, within each state, he generally did better in the countryside.

Mexico’s three largest metropolitan areas are Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

Here’s how Peña Nieto did in Monterrey (located in the state Nuevo León).

This map paints a fairly clear picture. Peña Nieto wins the rural areas outside of the main city, whereas Vázquez Mota sweeps the city itself.

Monterrey is located in northern Mexico, and the state-level results reflect that. Vázquez Mota ended up getting 39.8% of the state Nuevo León, compared to Peña Nieto’s 33.2%. López Obrador polled a poor 22.0%.

Let’s take a look at Guadalajara (located in the state Jalisco).

Peña Nieto does better in here, winning large parts of the city. Still, he loses some urbanized areas of Guadalajara.

Here’s a look at the overall state.

Peña Nieto’s rural strength is clearer here. He wins everywhere outside the main city. It’s also apparent that Peña Nieto dominated the state. He ended up taking 40.0% of the vote, to Vázquez Mota’s 32.2% and López Obrador’s 22.6%.

How Mexico City Voted

20% of all the votes in the entire country were cast in Mexico City. Mexico City is divided into a Federal District and a state (named the State of Mexico). The Federal District takes in the downtown area, whereas the State of Mexico composes the northern suburbs.

As it turns out, Peña Nieto was Governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011. On the other hand, López Obrador was Head of the Government of the Federal District from 2000 to 2005. Obviously, this produced two very strong and opposing home-town effects.

It appears that López Obrador’s home-town effect was stronger. He took a thumping 52.9% in the Federal District, winning every district within.

This is actually somewhat surprising. A lot of Mexicans complained when López Obrador blocked the main avenue of Mexico City for months after losing the 2006 election, alleging fraud. Nevertheless, López Obrador still won the Districts Miguel Hidalgo and Cuauhtémoc, the main sites of his protest, by double-digits. The PRD candidate did do somewhat worse in these areas than in the rest of the Federal District.

Peña Nieto’s performance in his home state wasn’t as impressive. He only took 43.2% of the vote in the State of Mexico and lost the places neighboring the Federal District.

Overall, López Obrador won 41.2% to Peña Nieto’s 36.1%. Vázquez Mota lagged behind with only 17.9% of the vote.

Conclusions

Most pre-election polls placed Peña Nieto with big double-digit leads over his opponents. He generally polled a good deal above 40% of the vote.

Peña Nieto’s actual margin of 6.6% was a lot less impressive than these predictions. He underperformed the polls by quite a bit.

It’s very possible that the pollsters deceived themselves with the conventional wisdom (which was that Peña Nieto was crushing the opposition). On the other hand, perhaps a lot of voters genuinely changed their minds, taking a second look at a person who doesn’t read books. They might have been wary of giving back power to the PRI, which used to be a very corrupt party that stole elections.

If millions of Mexicans did in fact change their minds about Peña Nieto during the final days of the campaign, tens of millions more stayed faithful. Those mainly northern, mainly rural votes propelled him to the presidency.

--inoljt

P.S. Here are two good sources of data about the 2012 Mexican Presidential Election:

The Official Results – Note that Enrique Peña Nieto and Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran under multiple party banneres.

To get Peña Nieto’s total vote, add the votes in three columns: the column under the PRI flag; the column under the VERDE flag; and the column under the PRI and VERDE flags together.

To get López Obrador’s total vote, add together seven columns: the column under the PRD flag; the column under the PT flag; the column under the Movimiento Ciudadano flag; the column under the PRD, PT, and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together; the column under the PRD and PT flags together; the column under the PRD and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together; and finally the column under the PT and Movimiento Ciudadano flags together.

To get Vázquez Mota’s vote, just look at the numbers under the PAN column.

Google Elections – This provides very interactive and detailed results. Unfortunately, the data is not fully updated. For instance, Google Elections shows Peña Nieto winning the state Veracruz with 98.94% reporting. He actually lost the state.

 

 

Don’t Count Out the Labor Movement

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

Almost every conservative political columnist, pundit, commentator, blogger, and bloviator has written about the decline and forthcoming death of the labor movement.

They happily point to Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker shortly after taking office in January 2011 took advantage of a Republican majority in the House and Senate to ram through legislation that stripped numerous collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Among collective bargaining rights are those that assure decent working conditions and a fair grievance process to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory discipline.

The Republicans point to Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich, with similar legislative support, signed legislation in March 2011 that restricted collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

They point to state after state where Republican legislators, with the financial support of private industry have brought forth self-serving bills to oppose collective bargaining.  

The conservative mantra is to pander to the middle-class pocketbook by creating a pseudo-populist appeal. The right-wing claims they are the ones who care about the people enough to cut government spending, which will lower all kinds of taxes. They altruistically scream that inflated payrolls and pensions caused economic problems, and the best way to help those who are struggling in a depressed economy is to lower those costs by curtailing the perceived power of unions. It sounds nice; it’s also rhetoric encased in lies.

Numerous economic studies have shown that the pay for public union employees is about the same as for private sector employees in similar jobs. And in some jobs, public sector workers earn significantly less than non-unionized private sector workers, leading to professionals and technical specialists often switching jobs from government to private industry, usually at higher wages and benefits.

So what, exactly, is the problem? Tax cuts. Bill Clinton left office, having given the nation a strong economy. During the Go-Go years in the first part of the 21st century, under the Bush–Cheney administration, states and the federal government created tax cuts for individuals, and held out generous tax cuts, tax waivers, and subsidies to corporations. The Republican theory was that these tax cuts would eventually “trickle down” to the masses by stimulating the economy.

What happened is that instead of benefitting the masses, these forms of wealthfare and corporate welfare, have done little to stimulate an economy that was heading down because the Republican executive and legislative branches, preaching less government, didn’t want government interference in financial institutions, the most politically conservative business. As a result of deregulation or, in many cases minimal regulation oversight, came the twin catastrophes of the Wall Street scandals and the housing mortgage crisis that spun the nation into the deepest recession since the Depression of the 1930s.

But you don’t hear the Republicans tell you they caused it, only that a run-away economy is because of those fictional high government salaries that need to be cut.

Joseph Slater, professor of law at the University of Toledo, says because of the 2008 crisis, states experienced massive budget shortfalls because growing unemployment decreased tax revenue. The problem in the states and the federal government, Slater told NEA Today, isn’t because of collective bargaining, but “because some of the worst state budget problems are in the small handful of states that prohibit public sector collective bargaining, states like Texas and North Carolina.” However, said Slater in an article for the American Constitution Society, “states with strong public sector collective bargaining laws . . . have smaller than average deficits.”

In response to conservative calls to curtail “pension abuse” in the public sector, Slater pointed out that “the vast majority of states don’t allow unions to bargain over public pension benefits,” and that some of the worst pension problems are in the so-called right-to-work states that have no public employee unions.

In contrast to the all-out assault upon the workers by Republicans, Govs. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Jerry Brown of California, both Democrats, have been reducing budget deficits, sometimes with a heavy hand as they slash programs and the number of workers, in consultation with the unions and without curtailing union rights. Unionized  workers in both private and public sectors have taken temporary pay cuts or agreed to taking vacation days without pay. Few corporate executives and no state legislators have willingly matched the sacrifices of the workers.

Now, as for those conservatives who are dancing on what they think are the graves of the working class labor movement. There’s a few stories they aren’t happily reporting.  

In Wisconsin, the recall election of Scott Walker did fail, as out-of-state individuals, PACs, and corporations contributed about two-thirds of his $30 million campaign to keeping him in office, as opposed to his opponent raising only about one-eighth of that amount. However, in subsequent elections, all three Democratic senators survived recall votes, and two of six Republican senators were recalled, leading to a change in Senate membership from 19–14 Republican to 17–16 Republican, but effectively blocking a “super majority” from ramrodding further anti-worker legislation into law.

In Ohio, voters overwhelmingly rejected, 62–38 percent, the new Ohio law that stripped collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In defeat, Gov. Kasich, whose attacks upon collective bargaining were a central part of his campaign, said “It’s clear the people have spoken.”

Monday is Labor Day. It’s more than just picnics and a three-day weekend. It’s a time to honor the working class, and the unions that gave them the rights of collective bargaining. They may be struggling but they are far from dead.

[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and author. His latest book is the critically acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, which has an underlying union theme. He is a proud member of several professional and trade unions, including The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America.]

 

 

The Gender Imbalance in People Fleeing North Korea

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

In the past decade an interesting phenomenon has occurred in South Korea: a small but steady flow of refugees from the northern end of the peninsula.

Here’s a graph.

These numbers can be found at the website for the South Korean Ministry of Unification (an English version can be found here). Interestingly, Wikipedia has a graph of the number of refugees before 2001 – although it doesn’t state the source.

Why this has occurred would be the subject of a fascinating study. Life in North Korea is better than it was during the early 1990s, when the country suffered a famine. Yet the flow of refugees in the early 1990s was practically non-existent. Perhaps the fact that South Korea is now a First World country has something to do with it. Perhaps North Koreans just didn’t think about fleeing to South Korea until the first few people started doing it, and then started telling their family and friends back home. It’s also worth noting that South Korea isn’t the only place with North Korea refugees; China has about an equal or greater number.

As more North Korean refugees enter South Korea, their nature has changed drastically. Previously, the vast majority of refugees were male.

Now, however, the vast majority of them are female.

The female-male ratio of North Korean refugees increased steadily from 1998 to 2008, when there were 3.59 North Korean females for every North Korean male. Since then the ratio has fallen to about 2.40 females per male refugee, as of 2012.

Actually, the number of male North Korean defectors has basically remained unchanged throughout the past decade. It’s the number of female defectors which have skyrocketed.

Here’s a graph showing this in more detail.

It’s a mystery why two to three North Korean females enter South Korea for every male North Korean. It’s equally a mystery how this gender imbalance affects the North Korean community in South Korea. Nobody, at least in the English-speaking world, is talking about this phenomenon or even aware of it. Migration does not necessarily have to be female-heavy; more often it’s the males who do the migrating. Mexican immigration to the United States, for instance, is tilted to the male side.

There’s one final interesting note. As of April 2012, the South Korean Ministry of Unification has indicated that 473 North Koreans renounced their country. If this rate of migration held up, by the end of the year only 1,419 North Koreans would defect by the end of 2012 – the lowest number since 2005. It’s worth noting that Kim Jong-un took power just at the end of 2011. Perhaps North Koreans are waiting to assess his rule rather than packing up and leaving.

--inoljt

 

It’s Time for the Candidates to Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical to our economic recovery and future prosperity. Along with job creation, they should start with Home Opportunity—the cluster of housing, homeownership, and fair lending issues that are so central to the American promise of opportunity for all.

America continues to face a Home Opportunity crisis, with 2 million foreclosure filings this year, and millions more families at risk. That’s millions of senior citizens losing their economic security, children and families uprooted, neighborhoods blighted with vacant properties, and a continued drag on our economy.

What’s more, unequal opportunity and the discriminatory targeting of communities of color by unscrupulous brokers and lenders means that minority families continue to be especially hard hit. Major discrimination settlements by the Justice Department against Countrywide, Wells Fargo, and other major lenders reveal that, despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, Americans of color have been especially unlikely to get a fair deal from the banks. That translates to a historic loss of community assets and wealth that hurts us all.

Unlike employment, however, Home Opportunity has received inadequate attention in the general election campaign, despite its undisputed political, as well as economic, importance. For swing states like Florida (with 25,534 new foreclosure filings in July alone) and Nevada (with 26,498 filings), these questions are especially pressing. Amazingly though, neither campaign’s homepage includes housing, homeownership or foreclosures among the featured issues.

Early in his campaign, Mitt Romney famously told the Las Vegas Review Journal, “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” Months later, he appeared to shift position, saying in Florida: “The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself by itself is probably not real. There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action, which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

Romney also said in a Republican debate that government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the historic guarantors of the 30-year fixed mortgage for generations of middle class Americans—“were a big part of why we have the housing crisis in the nation that we have.” In neither case, however, have specific solutions followed. Romney has, by contrast, called for eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Dodd-Frank legislation that created it.

As incumbent, President Obama has implemented multiple measures, including the Bureau, the Making Home Affordable program, housing counseling, and joining 49 state attorneys general in a national mortgage settlement with five major banks. (Intriguingly, Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan’s constituent services site refers Wisconsans with homeownership woes to the latter three programs for assistance).

Yet, most analysts agree that Making Home Affordable has fallen short of Administration goals, and that the national mortgage settlement, while helpful, does not reach the majority of homeowners who could benefit from its terms. Many argue, in particular, that the President can do more to extend principal reduction—shrinking the principal owed on mortgages to reflect homes’ fair market value—to mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie. And while the Administration outlined three options for the future of those enterprises over a year ago, the President’s preferred agenda for them remains unclear.

The Obama Justice Department has been aggressive in settling discrimination suits against major lenders, but Candidate Obama has not discussed the role of discrimination in creating the housing crisis, nor the role of future equal opportunity efforts in solving it.

In short, the candidates, as candidates, have yet to articulate to the American people their respective visions for the future of Home Opportunity. How will each address the lender misconduct and inadequate rules that led to the current crisis? How will each ensure that families with the resources to be successful homeowners are not thwarted by future misconduct, arbitrary restrictions, or a lack of sound information? How will each help rejuvenate neighborhoods devastated by predatory lending and mass foreclosures? And how will each ensure that people of all races, ethnicities, and communities have an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream?

With the tickets now set, it’s the candidates’ responsibility to get specific on these questions, so critical to the nation’s choice of the next president. As voters, it’s our responsibility to demand that they do.

Read also:

 

 

Western Massachusetts has a chance to elect a real Democrat to Congress

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mlmv4aSqww0

Accepting $2,816,613 from the financial industry and voting to loosen consumer protections sounds typical of a right wing republican, but much to my disappointment it is also what Rep. Richard Neal (MA-02) a democrat, has done.

 I first heard about this in a direct mail piece from the campaign of Andrea Nuciforo who is running against Neal in the Democratic primary to represent the newly configured Massachusetts First Congressional District. At first, I thought it was just a typical piece of campaign literature, laden with outrageous claims and inflated truths. However, looking at Neals' financial disclosure records from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics, it is sadly true.  

This ad relased by the Nuciforo campaign also caught my eye. Reading up some more, his reputation as a crusader for consumer protections, curbing the power of big banks, and his work as a State Senator  in cracking down on predatory lenders seems to indicate he is the real deal.

 

 

 

Eduardo Saverin and The Social Network

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/


In a piece of recent news, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin is renouncing his American citizenship and staying in Singapore. Presumably he is doing this in order to pay fewer taxes.

Eduardo Saverin is mostly known as one of the main protagonists of The Social Network, a film about the rise of Facebook. In the film Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed quite negatively as a nerd and a plagiarizer. Saverin is depicted as the Guy Who Got Screwed by Zuckerberg after loyally helping build up the company.

The fact that the real Saverin switched citizenship in order to dodge taxes conflicts with the Saverin as depicted in The Social Network. Indeed, Saverin originally was a Brazilian citizen who sought and obtained American citizenship and then renounced it in order to pay fewer taxes. Then you have the lawsuit that he filed against Zuckerberg demanding money from the company. This looks a lot less sympathetic when considered with his actions regarding citizenship.

It’s all very different form the fine upstanding young man who we see in The Social Network. Of course, The Social Network is inaccurate in other ways; the other founders of Facebook apparently don’t exist and the producer deliberately gets wrong everything from the relationship level to the ethnicity of Zuckerberg’s love interest. And in general movies do a poor job of reflecting reality. I’ve always found it magical, for instance, how Hollywood quadruples the percentage of white people in downtown Los Angeles.

But the trick about movies is that they have to be somewhat believable. One has to believe, for instance, that a character would have acted like that in real life. It’s probably fair to say that Saverin’s role would have been dramatically different had The Social Network been released after Facebook’s IPO. The real Saverin sounds kind of like a jerk.

 

 

The Right’s Dominance of France

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The story of the 2012 French presidential election is quite interesting. Right-wing incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy entered the election deeply unpopular. Opinion polls consistently showed him losing by around 20%.

France’s presidential system has two rounds. In the first round, everybody can be a candidate. The top two winners of the first round move to a second round run-off.

As election day approached, Sarkozy’s deficit continually shrunk.  Opinion polls just before the first round showed Sarkozy losing by low double-digits. As the campaign for the second round began, they showed him behind by high single-digits.

Sarkozy ended up losing by 3.2%. That’s a pretty steep drop-off from the polls that showed him behind by 20%.

To be fair, Sarkozy’s opponent François Hollande isn’t the best politician. But the fact that Hollande barely defeated one of the most unpopular presidents in the history of France’s Fifth Republic says something about France.

Indeed, the right has dominated the left throughout the history of French presidential elections.

As this chart shows, the French right has won seven presidential elections; the French left has won just three. The right’s greatest election victory occurred in 1958, when French war hero Charles de Gaulle defeated hapless Communist candidate Georges Marrane with 79% of the vote.

The left’s greatest victory occurred in 1988, when incumbent François Mitterrand took 54% of the vote over Jacques Chirac. A French left-wing presidential candidate has yet to win by double-digits; the right has done this multiple times.

In addition, there are two instances when the French left failed to make it into the second round. This happened in 1969 and 2002, which are colored darker blue above (the margin in these years indicates the first round). In both instances the second round ended up being between two right-wing candidates. So far a French presidential election has never featured two left-wing candidates in the second round.

France has generally had a reputation of being a very liberal place, and this analysis might seem surprising from that perspective.

To be fair, the French right is very different from the American right. France’s right-wing is probably to the left of America’s Democratic Party (at least on economic issues). France’s left used to be the Communist Party; today it is the Socialist Party. Both parties would never win a presidential election in the United States.

Finally, and ironically, as I write these words the French socialists have just won an absolute majority in Parliament. France’s socialists today hold more of the levers of power than they have ever held in the history of the French Fifth Republic. But historically, it has been the right and not the left in power in France.

 

Mitt Romney is Out of Step with the American People on Energy Policy

Last year New Mexico was No. 1 in the nation for installing solar power.

It is one of the top states in the country for wind energy.

New Mexicans also benefit from energy efficiency programs. With $8.9 billion in annual energy expenditures each year, energy efficiency programs could save New Mexico residents some serious money – and reduce the amount of toxic power plant emissions they have to breathe as well.

Yet what’s the crux of the energy vision Mitt Romney laid out in New Mexico today?

He wants to get rid of the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that are employing New Mexicans and saving them money.  His solution?  Pretend it’s 1900.  More drilling, more fossil fuels, more of the same.

In disclosing his so-called energy plan in Hobbs, N.M. today, Romney didn’t even bother to mention that one of our country’s most significant energy savings programs is about to be finalized as early as this week.

The Obama Administration is about to implement new clean car standards that will push average auto mileage to 54.5 per gallon by 2025, saving consumers around $8,000 on gas during the life of a vehicle.

In New Mexico, that also will mean residents will save a total of 135 million gallons of fuel and $575 million when fully implemented – not to mention reducing thousands of tons of tailpipe carbon pollution each year, according to a NRDC analysis released just this week. For a dog’s-eye view of what these standards will mean for America, make sure to check out: http://www.doublethempg.com/  

Few issues illustrate the stark differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama like their views on where to take America on energy.

If your desire is to:

  • move America backward;
  •  keep us shackled to Big Oil;
  • forever be dependent on foreign oil supplies and the wild price swings in the international oil market; and
  • leave the planet in terrible shape for our children.

Then Romney’s your man.

If you want to move America forward, and keep developing the growing clean energy economy that’s benefitting New Mexico and every other state in the country – then remember what President Obama has done so far.

As Bloomberg News reported this week, electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar has increased by 73 percent since President Obama took office. President Obama’s clean energy programs have helped create an estimated 2.7 million clean economy jobs, according to the Brookings Institution. Those are real jobs, providing real paychecks to real Americans, many of whom live and work in New Mexico.

If Congress ignores Mitt Romney and reauthorizes the Production Tax Credit that has already created 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry (and that many Senate Republicans support), America could get as much as 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

If Romney and the GOP would stop trying to denigrate and decimate America’s solar industry, we could get as much as 25% of our energy from rooftop solar panels alone in 40 states (51% in Nevada and 52% in California). Instead of focusing on the failures of a few companies, they should be noting the enormous growth in solar overall.  Ideology has blinded them, and they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Mitt Romney is simply out of step with the American people on energy policy, as with so much else.   In survey after survey, Americans overwhelmingly say they want Congress and the White House to do more to increase clean energy sources in this country, and wean us off of fossil fuels. Those opinions do not differ in New Mexico, which is why we support environmental champion Martin Heinrich in his bid for U.S. Senate. Increasing clean energy sources is good for our economy, good for our health and strengthens our national security.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t get this message from the American people or our voices are being drowned out by the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from dirty polluters.

It’s your choice. Which America do you want?

Mitt Romney Energy Plan Fact Sheet

 

 

Romney Tax Return Provides a Window to His Soul

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

When a craven of buffoons and bigots disguised in the bodies of Birthers figured that anyone with dark skin and a foreign name had to be born outside the U.S., Barack Obama provided a birth certificate. Not just the usual “short form,” but a state-certified copy of the “long form” that detailed he was born in Hawaii, which some birthers apparently think is a foreign territory, to a mother who was a natural-born U.S. citizen.  

That, of course, was not enough for the whackadoodles who claimed, among other things, that the President’s birth certificate was altered or forged. All of their claims have been debunked by scientific evidence. Of course, they produced their own poorly-forged birth certificate that they said “proved” President Obama was born in Kenya.

In February, billionaire Donald (Look-at-How-Wonderful I-Am) Trump, an unabashed Birther, stood next to multi-millionaire Mitt Romney in a Las Vegas casino and endorsed him for the Republican nomination. A few months earlier, Trump had gotten significant face-time in the media while flirting with the idea of running for the presidency while whining about Romney. “He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs,” Trump crowed. But now, with Romney running well ahead in the primary contests, Trump was trying to be relevant and stay in the political spotlight. Romney, for his part, smiled and said nothing to suggest that Trump could be wrong about pursuing the birther argument. Trying to have everyone like him, one of the most unlikable presidential candidates refused to repudiate Trump’s birther views.

Unlike Barack Obama, Mitt Romney does have a secret. This one is buried within what he either did or did not report to the IRS.

It’s traditional, but not required, that presidential nominees release copies of their tax returns. Most people have no idea how to read a tax return, especially one with dozens of amendments, filings, and schedules. But, the posting of the returns is a form of trust.

Barack Obama has released his returns. Romney’s father, George, former governor of Michigan and presidential candidate in 1968, released 12 years, thus setting a standard for future presidential candidates.

At first the flip-flopping Romney said he didn’t plan to release the returns. Then he said, “Maybe.” Then he declared he’d release only the previous two years’ returns. Then he said that because of the complexity of the return, he filed for an extension from the IRS so he could file after the April 15 deadline for the 2011 return. Then this past week before a fundraiser he said he “never paid less than 13 percent. . . . So I paid taxes every single year.” He expected us just to believe him. He never defined whether that was just income taxes, or included all taxes paid, including social security, local, and state taxes, thus making the federal income tax even lower.

Let’s pretend he meant income taxes. Even at 13 percent, it’s one of the lowest tax rates. In 2011, Romney had a gross income of about $21 million, according to a partial return Romney finally allowed to be posted. The effective tax rate for persons with incomes over $1 million, according to the Tax Foundation, averages about 25 percent.

But, most of Ann and Mitt Romney’s reported income in 2011 was based on capital gains. In 2003, the Bush–Cheney administration had lowered capital gains taxes to only 15 percent, primarily benefitting the wealthy. If the Romneys did not take most of their money from investment capital, their tax bracket would be 35 percent.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered.

The first questions are about that extension for the 2011 taxes. With a fleet of lawyers and accountants, why did the Romneys need at least a five month extension to file a return? Was it to massage the data for public consumption? Equally important, if he needed this extension to file a personal income tax return, what does that say about his ability to govern a nation with a $2.3 trillion budget?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints tithe to the church. The Romneys acknowledge donating $2.5 million in cash to the church in 2011. Were they overly generous? Or, does that contribution reflect that the Romneys’ income may have been about $25 million. If that is the case, where did the rest go? Ann Romney told NBC News, “We also give 10% of our income to charity.” According to a partial return in 2011, the Romneys claim they donated about $4 million to charity. If Ann Romney is a accurate, that would be a $40 million income, twice what is claimed.

Why Romney won’t release tax returns prior to 2010 may be because secrets are buried in 2009. According to BuzzFlash’s Mark Karlin, citing Lawrence O’Donnell’s pointed queries, “Romney may have taken advantage of a 2009 IRS amnesty period to disclose hidden income in offshore accounts but subject to US taxation. The amnesty offer allowed such persons to escape potential criminal prosecution for tax evasion.” It would be nice to know how much income was diverted to off-shore accounts in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland, and into various tax-shelters the average American has no idea even exist.
That leads to an obvious question. How much of the Romneys’ income over the past decade, not just the two years when he was planning to run for president, had deductions that might be questionable to the average person who doesn’t have lawyers and accountants on retainer? Certainly, taking a $77,000 write-off in 2010 for a show horse isn’t something the average American can do. Working with an onerous tax code, loaded with myriad special interest loopholes, the Romneys know how to take everything wealthy Americans are entitled to receive. It may be legal, but is it ethical?

Frankly, it doesn’t make much difference how much Romney earned, how he earned it, what he did with it, or how he and some extremely bright tax advisors took advantage of the system created by lobbyists and Congress. What does matter is that by stonewalling, obfuscating, and refusing to give full disclosure, he appears to have something to hide. And upon that—and that alone—the people and the media need to pursue why Romney is reluctant to release financial data. It’s a matter not of how rich he is, but a matter of trust and a window into his soul.

[Walter Brasch has been covering local, state, and presidential political races for almost four decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed journalistic novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at the American counter-culture and media of the ’60s as a base to understand today’s social issues.]

 

 

 

Where Does Heather Wilson Stand on the Ryan Budget?

Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has thrust Ryan’s controversial budget proposals into the national spotlight. On the campaign trail, candidates are being asked about the Ryan budget. Unfortunately for voters, some candidates, like New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson, refuse to come clean about where they stand on this proposal to dramatically shrink the federal government and change or eliminate popular programs - including many that support clean energy investment.

That’s right. While the press has understandably focused on the Ryan budget’s impact on Medicare, the Ryan budget would decimate other critical government initiatives as well.  Just one example – the Ryan budget would eliminate our nation’s investment in clean energy and kill a lot of clean energy jobs in the process.

According to an analysis by Congressman Henry Waxman, the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Ryan budget “would cut billions of dollars in funding for development of clean energy and eliminate programs that have helped support over 60,000 jobs.”  Waxman’s analysis finds that:

  • The Ryan budget would cut the Department of Energy’s budget by 57%. Cuts of this magnitude would cripple efforts to improve energy efficiency and make renewable energy commercially available at a competitive cost;
  • The Ryan budget would eliminate successful clean vehicle loan programs. These programs are helping the U.S. become a leader in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle technologies and creating jobs in the auto industry; and
  • The Ryan budget would eliminate clean energy loan guarantees that are helping to launch large-scale wind and solar energy projects.

On top of these cuts to clean energy, the Ryan budget preserves nearly $40 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Where does Wilson stand on this? We don’t know. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Wilson  “has refused for two consecutive years to take a definitive stand on Ryan’s controversial budget blueprints.”

We don’t know whether she and Ryan share the same view on his budget, but we do know that many of the same Big Polluters are funding both campaigns. Over the course of her political career, Wilson has taken $741,132 from the oil and gas industry, making her one of the top-20 recipients of oil and gas money to serve in the House of Representatives. Ryan’s still-hefty haul of $244,250 may pale in comparison, but he takes another prize: Koch Industries’ $65,000 in donations make them his largest energy-related donor.

We know where Wilson’s Dirty Energy donors stand on the Ryan budget. It’s time for Wilson to tell us whether or not she agrees with them.

 

 

 

 

Vouchering an Educational Adventure

 

                      by WALTER BRASCH

 

I hadn’t talked with Marshbaum for a couple of years, ever since he left newspaper journalism for more lucrative work in the fast food industry. But here he was in my office to ask if I would publicize his new educational adventure.

“That’s great!” I said. “You’re finishing the last three years of college.”

“I own the school. CEO of Little Minds Charter and Voucher Corp. We’re on the leading edge of the trend to privatize schools.”

“How does mumbling into a broken speaker box make you qualified to run a school?” I asked.

“Interpersonal communication skills,” he replied. “That, and knowing how to count change and arrange work schedules for the three minimum-wage high school kids on my late night shift. It’s all administration and proper marketing.” He thrust a full-color three-panel promotional flyer at me. Buried in small print was the tuition cost.

“That’s a bit high, isn’t it?” I asked.

“With loans, grants, and governmental assistance, it’s almost affordable.”

“Governmental assistance?”

“We’d be bankrupt if we didn’t get it,” said Marshbaum. “Because the state wants to privatize everything, it gives families a yearly check to send their uncultured little cookie crumblers wherever they want. Family gives us the money, and we teach their children the importance of sexual abstinence and the free enterprise system.”

“I suppose you’re making radical changes in education,” I snickered. Marshbaum didn’t disappoint me.

“You bet your Number 2 we are. We’re on track to become the state’s most cost-effective school. Conservative politicians love us. Cutting expenses is where it’s at.”

“What did you cut?”

“First thing we did was order our classroom supplies from China. That saved us over 50 percent. Got a great deal on ugly desk-chairs.”

“You obviously don’t understand the concept of ‘Buy American’,” I suggested.

“Not true, Ink Breath. We get our school uniforms from Wal-Mart. An all-American company.”

“You are aware,” I pointed out, “that most of the clothing in Big Box stores is made by exploited children and their impoverished parents in Third World Countries.”

“Exactly!” beamed Marshbaum. “Cheaper that way. Besides, we use the labels to teach about world geography. That’s a two-fer!”

“How else are you re-defining education?” I asked, knowing Marshbaum wouldn’t disappoint me.

“Downsized the faculty. All those rich college graduates were hurting our bottom line. Hated to downsize Greenblatt, though. Thirty years on the job. Twice recognized as the state’s best history teacher”

“You fired a tenured history teacher?”

“Had to. He was at the top of the salary schedule. Besides, he was teaching about the rise of the middle class and how unions helped get better wages and benefits for the masses. That’s just downright unpatriotic. He refused to be a team player.”

“What you did is probably illegal!” I said.

“We’re a corporation,” said Marshbaum smugly. “We can do anything we want. We’ll be dumping math next.”

“That’s absurd! Of the industrialized nations, the U.S. is already near the bottom in math and science.”

“No one gives a rotten apple’s core about when trains at different speeds leave their stations and pass each other in Wichita.”

“So you don’t have any faculty?” I asked incredulously.

“Don’t be ridiculous. We outsourced our teaching. There’s Bierschmaltz in Austria and Wang Lin in Laos and—”

“I suppose you have them lecturing by speaker phone,” I said sarcastically.

“Even better. They create the lessons, have some teenage videohead record them, and the students can see it on their own computers. Distance Education and Technology is where it’s at. Besides, it’s cheaper than paying live people who demand a lunch break after five classes, and call off sick just because they broke a hip or some other useless joint.”

“If you’re dumping courses, downsizing and outsourcing, how are you going to improve the scores?”

“Not a problem,” Marshbaum said, explaining that the state has specific questions to which the students must know the answers. “We just make sure we drill the students on what they’ll be tested upon.”

“That’s not education, that’s teaching to the test. Your students may get high scores, but they probably won’t get much knowledge.”

“So where’s the problem?”

And with that, Marshbaum grabbed his backpack and went out to recruit more voucher-laden students.

 [Walter Brasch spent 30 years as a university professor of mass communications, while continuing his work as a journalist. Now retired from teaching, he continues as a journalist/columnist. His latest of 17 books is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at critical social issues through the eyes of a ’60s self-described “hippie chick” teacher who is still protesting war, attacks upon the environment, due process issues, and fighting for the rights of all citizens to have adequate health care.]

 

 

 

Romney & Ryan’s Fossil Fuel Favoritism: Starve Clean Energy, but Feed Oil with Taxpayer Money

Mitt Romney announced last week he would not extend an incentive for wind and solar power if he were elected president. Clean energy is often cast as a Democratic issue, but the incentive has broad Republican support. More than 80 percent of installed wind power comes from Republican-majority states.

Romney, however, persists in deriding the success of renewable energy. In an op ed this spring, he said wind and solar power were part of President Obama’s “imaginary world.”

Yet any American who has taken a road trip this summer knows clean energy is very real. Wind turbines have sprouted on ridgelines across the country, employing steelworkers, producing income for farmers, and generating clean energy that doesn’t endanger our health.

Roughly 35 percent of new power built in the United States in the last four years has come from wind, and more than 100,000 Americans now have jobs in the solar industry.

Clean energy has become one of the brightest spots in our economy and helped retain our competitive advantage in the global market. But Romney can’t see where the future is headed. He wants to end renewable incentives, yet continue underwriting oil and gas companies with billions of taxpayer dollars every year. He wants to turn his back on the innovative edge of the energy market in order to prolong the same coal, oil, and gas habits we have used for the past century.

His new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, shares Romney’s fossil fuel favoritism. The Ryan budget passed by the House would dish out $40 billion in subsidies to oil companies over the next ten years, but would slash clean energy investments by 90 percent by 2014—down to just $1 billion.

Romney and Ryan’s failure to support clean energy is a failure of imagination. They are so eager to appeal to the far-right side of their party and placate their deep-pocketed donors from the fossil fuel industry that they can’t see what any American driving through Indiana, Kansas, Utah, Ohio, Michigan and countless other states can see: clean energy is already taking root in our communities, already putting people to work, and already making our air safer to breathe. We should nurture this growth and prosperity, not thwart it.

A List of Female Dictators

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

One of the phenomenons of the twentieth century has been the rise of the dictator. Dictators rule countries undemocratically and usually until death, crushing the opposition. Unlike the kings or emperors of old, these men generally don’t have any family linkage with previous rulers.

Notice the gender-specific word “men.” All dictators have been male, without exception. A woman has never ordered the army to crush nascent protests against her authoritarianism. Nor has a woman ever led a coup to overthrow a democratically elected government, replacing its rule by her own.

As the above examples indicate, dictators are generally strongly linked with the army. They generally rise through the army and enjoy its support. There is no institution more heavily dominated by males in society than the army; indeed, until recently the very concept of a female soldier was unthinkable (and still is in many countries). Thus the lack of female dictators.

There are, however, a number of women who have come pretty close to being dictators. Here’s a list, and it’s quite interesting:

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi (no relation to the most famous Gandhi) ruled as Prime Minister of India during prolonged periods from the 1960s to the 1980s. She came to power as the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru, an independence hero, governed India as the head of the Indian National Congress during his lifetime. Congress was and still is the dominant political party in India. It had and still has a nasty habit of nepotism. Since Indira was the daughter of Nehru, leadership of the party fell to her.

As leader of India, Indira Gandhi did many good things and many bad things. Economically speaking, she seemed to be more in the business of giving poor people fish than teaching them how to fish.

But Indira Gandhi is most famous for her State of Emergency. In 1975 Indira declared a state of emergency, giving her dictatorial powers. Civil liberties and democracy was suspended during The Emergency. Opposition leaders were arrested. A controversial family planning program was put in place, which led to many Indians being unwillingly sterilized.

In this sense Indira Gandhi, although elected democratically, was dictator of India for two years.

Fortunately for India, Indira Gandhi ended The Emergency in 1977. She proceeded to hold elections, lost them, and to her credit stepped down. Indira Gandhi would later return to office. She was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards after taking controversial military action against Sikh militants.

Jiang Qing

Jiang Qing was a dominant figure in Chinese politics during the Cultural Revolution and immediately after Mao Zedong’s death. She was the fourth wife of Mao Zedong, and the only one who played a political role.

At first Mao promised that Jiang Qing wouldn’t be involved in politics, and for a while he kept that promise. During the Cultural Revolution, however, Qing rose to power. She generally took a hard-line stance on policy, opposing for instance economic reforms and determinedly prosecuting her political opponents. She was widely disliked.

Shortly after Mao’s death in 1976, Qing lost power. In 1981 she was prosecuted as part of the “Gang of Four,” scapegoats for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, and spent most of the rest of her life in prison.

Elena Ceaușescu

Elena Ceaușescu was the wife of Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled Romania during the latter period of the Cold War. Like Jiang Qing, Elena Ceaușescu gained political power and political positions during this period. However, she had far less influence; unlike Qing, Elena Ceaușescu never directed attacks against political opponents.

The Romanian population widely hated her. In the 1989 revolution, Elena Ceaușescu attempted to flee the country with her husband. She was caught, subject to a show trial, and shot.

Imelda Marcos

Like the two individuals above, Imelda Marcos gained her power through being the wife of a military dictator. Imelda Marcos was the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled over the Philippines from the 1960s to the 1980s. Like Elena Ceaușescu, Imelda Marcos used her position to gain power and political positions. She was quite infamous for her collection of shoes and for the fortune she gained during the dictatorship.

However, Imelda Marcos wasn’t as disliked by Filipinos as the two previous individuals listed. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, Imelda Marcos went into exile. She returned in 1991 and started a political career. Today Imelda Marcos is a congresswoman in the Philippines House of Representatives, where she last won 80% of the vote. It’s doubtful that Jiang Qing or Elena Ceaușescu could have won an election anywhere in their respective countries.

Conclusions

There’s a pretty obvious pattern here: all the female “dictators” listed above gained power through family connections. This is a common pattern; throughout history, many of the powerful female political leaders have gained power as wives, daughters, and sisters of male political leaders.

Interestingly, this list is dominated by the Asian continent. One would expect more African and South American countries to be represented. This might be a pattern, or it might just be chance.

Of all these people, Indira Gandhi comes closest to being a dictator. Unlike the others, Indira Gandhi was legitimately the most powerful person in the country. She was the one in control of the army, and she could and did use it to commit multiple human rights violations.

One wonders who will be the next Indira Gandhi.

 

There's more...

The Best Ticket Dirty Money Can Buy

This morning, we awoke to news that Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be Mitt Romney’s running mate. 

I am sure the Koch brothers are smiling this morning because they have been cultivating Congressman Ryan since he set foot on Capitol Hill, giving him one of his first donations in 1999.

Koch Industries, owners of one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world, has been the 6th largest contributors to Cong. Ryan during his career, giving him $65,500.  In fact, the oil and gas industry has given him $244,250 since 1999.  Now sure, the Koch Brothers are behind Philip Morris, and the NRA, but they played the long game with this career-politician pick and Ryan as VP will solidify their support.

The fossil fuel industry was already sitting pretty even before the Ryan selection.  The Romney campaign has already benefited from the overwhelming spending of outside groups, like Restore our Future, a well known Koch-funded entity, that has already spent $14,011,137  in a brazen effort to buy the White House.

What has this money bought for the polluters?

Romney went from standing in front of a coal plant talking about how they kill people in 2003 to standing with one of the most radical members of the Senate, James Inhofe (R-OK) to stop EPA’s efforts to reduce mercury from power plants.  As my colleague at NRDC, John Walke, says, “It’s appalling that anyone would vote to expose our children to more mercury, a dangerous brain poison, and over 80 other toxic air pollutants that power plants in the U.S. spew every day.”  John goes onto note that these standard are projected to prevent 11,000 premature deaths; nearly 5,000 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits; and 540,000 days when people miss work and school. 

For his part, Cong. Ryan, with his abysmal 16% League of Conservation Voters score, has voted to delay long-overdue air pollution control standards for industrial boilers and incinerators that also emit mercury.  He voted against efforts to protect communities from coal ash - the toxic byproduct of burning coal that contains arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals - metals that when some are ingested have devastating results like lower IQ

As someone who spent much of her youth in towns in Appalachia surrounding these coal facilities, I can tell you that the devastation is enormous and the fact that Ryan took the side of the polluters instead of children with learning disabilities caused in some part by that pollution is astonishing.  Add on top of all of this, the cuts that Ryan’s budget proposed - cuts that would’ve devastated community water systems and kept enforcement cops off the street who keep companies from breaking laws that protect our communities.  Heck, his budget would’ve even eliminated programs for sidewalks, not to mention public transportation infrastructure

Yes, Koch Industries is sitting pretty today.  Let’s hope that the voters see in November see that a Romney/Ryan ticket isn’t about protecting their families or helping us get on the right track - it is the best ticket dirty money can buy.  Look no further than the record to see for yourself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY DOES ROMNEY HIDE HIS TAX RETURNS?

Why does Romney hide his 10 year tax return: Is it because he actually is an equity partner and getting $50 million per year from Bain Capital since he left in 1999. Why is this important. Romney is on record as a Globalist Neo-Con cut from the same cloth as the G.W. Bush national security team. Romney has stated repeatedly that he wants to expand more the USA's military's "nation building" wars in backwater / third World countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Nigeria, Somalia, the Sudan,etc. If elected he will take us back to the era of fighting wars on virtually ever continent and backwater nation where tribal disputes have be rife for centuries. Romney's foreign policy views have gotten endosements from the Bush Family and Karl Rove. The exception to Romney's saber-rattling has come from the key military figure from the Bush era--Colin Powell. Recently Powell told a TV audience that Romney's view on Russia and China were wrong and they were extreme. Romney was quoted as saying both countries were enemies of the United States. Mr. Powell disagreed and pointed out that since the end of the Cold War, we have had normal relationships with both Russia and China. He said the Romney's views toward these countries was a step backward and it was Romney who was out of touch with current US foreign policies in many areas. It is clear why Romney will ramp up budget expenditures for defense contracts and for military expenses. The reason: one can assume that Bain Capital has huge investments in not only oil / mineral extraction companies operating in these resourses rich but backwater-corrupt countries. By taking over these countries, Bain clients such as happened after Iraq would stand to get control of huge reserviors of oil, gas, coal, etc. One can also assume that Bain Capital most likely has very large investments in companies which are in the Military-Industrial Complex. Its not much of a stretch to see us bogged down chasing "evil doers" for years to come in far off oil and resource rich but poor countries. The irony is that Romney nor any one in his family ever has served in the US military (he has 5 sons who do would never volunteer for service unlike the Queen Elizabeths 2 grandsons Prince William and Harry who serve bravely in combat and air-resue operations). Unlike Colin Powell who was wounded in combat in Vietnam, none of the Romney clan has to my knowledge experienced the terror of being shot at by enemy troops. Romney admitted that during Vietnam he didn't serve in the military but instead went to Paris on a sabbatical. The general public and the majority of the US voting public is tired of these brushfire wars and has become hugely opposed to more of this backwater wars. In the media the neo-con driven Fox network cheers on anyone who wants to send thousands of US troops to every dustup firefight anywhere on earth. Consider that in Afghanistan there are only 20,000 Taliban but we have over 100,000 troops fighting there and NATO supplies another 40,000 troops plus 300,000 Afghan security forces. Do you wonder why it takes so many of our troops to fight such a small number of bad-guys? It might have to do with the fact that the Afghan government is so corrupt and they need our support and our dollars to stay in business. Most of us get concerned when we remember back during the war in Iraq and the discovery of the huge no-bid contracts that the Pentagon had with Bush and GOP supporters i.e. KBR, Crane Trucking. I think that we will find that soon after Romney gets elected and he finds the next target of his neo-cons (probably Venezuela but OH WAIT Chavez was democratly elected - however that is NO MATTER to the neo-cons) that Bain Capital military supplier clients would be in line to get BILLIONS of dollars in "no-bid" and sweetheart deals from the Defense Department via the White House i.e. as was the case when VP Dick Cheney the former CEO to the biggest no-bid contractor KBR Corporation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, we can theorize as to why Romney does not want his tax returns over the last ten years to become public. If as suspected he has not given up his equity in Bain, then as President of the United States it would be illegal for him to pass huge no-bid contracts over to Bain and its clients. No matter that while Vice-President, Mr. Cheney's former employer KBR got billions of contracts for all kinds of operations in Iraq. These contracts were supposed to save taxpayers money but in the end they proved inefficient (regular military operations could do them faster and cheaper than private companies) and of limited benefit to national security. Like ·

 

 

Will the True Extremist Please Stand Up?

It can’t be easy being a climate denier this summer. Record-breaking heat waves, freak storms, enormous fires, and the worst drought in 50 years are making it harder to ignore the reality of climate change.

Many meteorologists, network news shows, and public health officials are speaking candidly about the connection between extreme weather and climate change. These conversations confirm what so many of us can see with our own eyes: We just have to look outside or turn on the Weather Channel to see what global warming is doing to our communities.

And yet some candidates persist in denying the facts in front of them, even while their own states bear the brunt of climate change. Sticking your head in the sand is never a good position for a leader to assume, but it becomes downright irresponsible when people all around you are struggling.

Take New Mexico, for example. In the senate race, Former Representative Heather Wilson paints her opponent, Representative Martin Heinrich, as an environmental extremist because he wants to address climate change. Wilson, meanwhile, has rejected the idea that human activity is causing global warming.

Wilson likes to position herself as a moderate, but ignoring one of the biggest threats to your state’s economy and well-being is not a sign of moderation; it is a sign of recklessness—especially when your state is as vulnerable to climate change as New Mexico.

In May, Governor Susana Martinez declared the entire state was in a drought. “Fire danger is high, water reservoirs run low and in some cases, we’ve seen towns like Las Vegas take dramatic steps to reduce basic water consumption in their residents’ homes and businesses,” the governor said.

Last year was no better. A dry winter and a dry monsoon season left much of the state parched. New Mexican ranchers ended 2011 with the smallest cattle inventory in more than 25 years. This spring saw more cattlemen having to thin their herds as the drought continued. Ed Polasko, a hydrologist from the National Weather Service focusing on New Mexico, says that even if the monsoons bring moisture, the state has been so dry and so deep in a rain deficit that it will take a long time to recover.

The Southwest has always experienced drought cycles, but climate change can make them more frequent and more severe. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a report confirming that last year’s record-breaking drought in Texas was made “roughly 20 times more likely” as a result of climate change.

Hot weather and persistent drought have left New Mexico with tinderbox conditions. Last year’s Las Conchas fire scorched more than 156,000 acres, consumed dozens of homes, trashed the watershed of the Santa Clara Pueblo, and nearly consumed the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was the biggest fire in state history—until it wasn’t. This year’s Gila fire is even bigger, devouring more than 265 square miles of forest and prompting smoke advisories to be issued from Albuquerque to Carrizozo to Roswell.

Many factors contribute to wildfires, but experts have been warning for years that climate change is making matters worse. “The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probability of longer and bigger fires seasons, in more regions of the nations,” concluded the 2009 Quadrennial Fire Review issued by the U.S Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. 

The soaring temperatures, prolonged droughts, and intense wildfires now threatening New Mexico are hallmarks of climate change. Heinrich has responded by reviewing the science, accepting the facts on the ground, and proposing solutions to stabilize the climate.

Wilson has chosen to keep her eyes closed. Maybe she is afraid the Tea Party crowd will abandon her if she acknowledges climate change. Maybe she is under the influence of the polluting energy companies who release carbon emissions and support her campaign. Or maybe she simply doesn’t have a grasp on the evidence.

Whatever the reason, Wilson has proven to be the true radical here. Only an extremist could discount the overwhelming scientific consensus and believe that denial is the appropriate response to persistent drought, hot temperatures, and raging fires.   

 

 

 

 

Baffled, Befuddled, and Bamboozled: Penn State Trustees and NCAA are Sinking

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

When we last left the baffled and befuddled Penn State trustees, they were trying to figure out what happened in the Great NCAA Sanctimonious Sanction.

What happened is that the NCAA bamboozled university president Dr. Rodney Erickson. The NCAA—having spent most of its history figuring out ways to make college athletics even more prominent on college campuses—suddenly found religion, created new rules, didn’t conduct an investigation, and shredded anything resembling due process. Using the Freeh Report as its newly-found Bible, NCAA president Mark Emmert piously declared he wanted Penn State to “rebuild its athletic culture,” and preached the lesson that the NCAA hoped “to make sure that the cautionary tale of athletics overwhelming core values of the institution and losing sight of why we are really participating in these activities can occur.”

It was a neat little speech, probably written by PR people. But it couldn’t be Penn State he was referring to. Penn State athletes go to classes and graduate; its football team is often at or near the top of graduation rates for Division I football programs. The university itself, even with a well-recognized party culture, is well-known for numerous academic programs that are among the best in the country.

Nevertheless, Emmert somberly told Erickson that the NCAA was seriously considering the death penalty for Penn State. Death, in NCAA terms, means a suspension of the sport for at least one season. The only time the NCAA had issued the death penalty was in 1987 against Southern Methodist University for blatant and repeated recruiting violations. Death to the Nittany Lions football program would significant harm the university and private business, and affect far more than the football team, not one of them having been involved in what is now known as the Penn State Sandusky Scandal.

But, said Emmert, have we got a deal for you. If you sign on the dotted line, we won’t kill football at Penn State, we’ll just fine you $60 million, ban you from bowl games for four years, reduce the number of scholarships, vacate the 111 wins from 1998 to 2011, require you to follow everything the Freeh Report recommended, hire an athletics monitor, comply with everything we tell you, and place you on probation for five years.

Now, every career criminal and little ole lady who accidentally shoplifts knows the police and DA aren’t serious in their first presentment of charges. They overcharge, trying to scare the defendant into a plea bargain. Plea bargains allow DAs to claim high conviction rates, while not having to get all messy with such things as jury selection and presenting evidence. So, the defendant and the DA negotiate, and a few charges are thrown out, and the defendant agrees to a lesser offense—perhaps instead of felony burglary, it becomes a misdemeanor, complete with a small fine and probation—and everyone is happy.

Dr. Erickson, with Pigskin Proud drops of perspiration flowing freely, was so relieved his university wasn’t getting the electric chair, he agreed to whatever it was that the haughty NCAA demanded, and signed the consent decree that Penn State would never ever appeal the decision.

Back in State College, the trustees, as is their history, were clueless and furious.

For years, they thought their only functions were to approve whatever the university president told them needed approving, raise tuition and fees, and get their friends good seats at football games. Now they faced a greater problem.

They had previously proven they were inept in how they handled the scandal. They had previously violated state law by their secret meetings and failure to extend any semblance of due process to Coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. Then to hide their meltdown, they commissioned Louis Freeh, former FBI director, to conduct what they claimed was an independent investigation, for which the insurance company paid about $6.5 million.

True to what the Trustees wanted, Freeh miraculously decided that the Trustees needed to reassert their power, and that the people to blame, in addition to the convicted child molester, were the former president who resigned,  a now-retired senior vice-president, a former athletic director, and the dead guy, also known as Joe Paterno. Problem solved.

However, there are still a few problems. The first problem is that the Freeh investigation is just that—a private investigation that was not subject to even the basic rules of due process, the right of individuals to subpoena witnesses and to challenge their accusers under oath.

The second problem is that Jerry Sandusky, convicted of an assortment of felonies, was not employed by the university or was a football coach at the time the crimes were committed. The first suspected felony, reported by Paterno, was not prosecuted by police or the DA.

The third problem is that Paterno and Spanier, who faced media hysteria and took the brunt of the Trustee condemnation, were never charged with having done anything illegal, nor did they ever face their accusers in court.

Enter Ryan McCombie, a Penn State alumnus who was elected to the Board in July as a reform candidate promising to get the Board and the university to be more accountable to the people and to protect the rights of accused. McCombie isn’t some wimp in the disguise of a corporate executive. He’s a retired commanding officer of Navy Seal Team Two, and not someone to be messed with.

One month after his election, McCombie unleashed his first shot, and it wasn’t over the bow. In a letter to the NCAA, McCombie, acknowledged the suffering of Jerry Sandusky’s victims. However, he also said that the NCAA objectives that led to the sanctions “should not be achieved by ignoring or trampling upon the fundamental rights of others. The desire for speed and decisiveness cannot justify violating the due process rights of other involved individuals or the University as a whole.”

He charged that Erickson didn’t have the authority to enter into the agreement with the NCAA. He noted that the lack of an NCAA investigation violated NCAA established procedures, and were “excessive and unreasonable.” But his most powerful torpedo hit dead center. The conclusions and recommendations of the Freeh report, which the NCAA used to justify its moral outrage, was “based on assumptions, conjecture and misplaced characterizations that are contrary to available facts and evidence,” said McCombie.

The final problem is that the NCAA and most of the Penn State Trustees are still paddling in choppy seas and don’t know they have been sunk.

[Walter Brasch is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and university professor. He is the author of 17 books, the most recent of which is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, which looks at the American counter-culture and political corruption.]

           

 

 

 

Gabby, Ryan, and Home Opportunity for All

Even Olympians are, alas, not immune from America’s homeownership crisis. The Associated Press reported this week that the parents of U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte are facing foreclosure in Florida, while the mother of gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last year, she said, “to protect my home.”

I don’t know the circumstances of these families’ financial challenges. But the fact that families who had the discipline, commitment, and drive to raise Olympic gold medalists did not have the systems or information needed to remain successful homeowners reaffirms that the promise of American opportunity is at grave risk.

Roughly four million American families lost their homes to foreclosure between the beginning of 2007 and early 2012. Some 11 million are struggling with “underwater” mortgages, meaning that they owe more than their home is worth. That’s just under a quarter of all U.S. homes with a mortgage. For most, a perfect storm of financial industry misconduct, inadequate consumer protections, falling home prices, and record unemployment are at the core of the problem.

The Lochte and Douglas families are fortunate. Their kids are now stars who will soon be paid millions in endorsement proceeds—Gabby’s already on the cover of a cornflake box.

But for most Americans, the solutions require broader action. An alliance of consumer protection, fair lending, and housing experts have developed a Compact for Home Opportunity, with over two dozen practical, tested solutions for preventing needless foreclosures, restoring neighborhoods, and rebuilding the American dream. The Compact is powered by Home for Good, a national campaign driven by people concerned about the enduring foreclosure and housing crisis.

The Compact’s solutions range from increased access to housing counseling, to reducing loan principal to fair market value, to increased fair housing and lending protections. Some states, notably California, have adopted important elements of the Compact. But a more robust, national approach is needed. Home for Good is pushing housing issues back into the presidential contest, and onto the national agenda, demanding that candidates and policymakers take a stand on the causes and solutions to the crisis. With foreclosures and bankruptcy intruding even into the Olympic games, their call is increasingly hard to ignore.

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