NC-Sen: Senator "Bank Run" Burr Running Behind

Republican first term North Carolina Senator Richard Burr was Keith's Worst Person in the World tonight for stating this week at an event with constituents that back in the fall he had actually told his wife to withdraw everything she could from their bank.

Via Matt Yglesias:

During a speech on the economy last night, [Sen. Richard] Burr related his immediate reaction the week the crisis began.

"On Friday night, I called my wife and I said, `Brooke, I am not coming home this weekend. I will call you on Monday. Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want you to draw out everything it will let you take," Burr said, according to the Hendersonville Times-News. "And I want you to tomorrow, and I want you to go Sunday.' I was convinced on Friday night that if you put a plastic card in an ATM machine the last thing you were going to get was cash."

Ummm, wow.

As Rachel pointed out tonight, not only is this highly irresponsible behavior, especially for a sitting US Senator, but, umm...

...you don't tell your constituents, you instead just use that information that you got because of your position as a Senator to protect your own family!?

Yeah, well, it's no wonder then that crazy Senator "bank run" Burr is facing a fight for his life in his 2010 re-election. Public Policy Polling has a new poll out and finds Burr in worse shape than Dole was at this point in the '08 cycle.

When we polled a potential Roy Cooper-Richard Burr Senate contest in December we found the Democratic Attorney General leading the Republican incumbent 39-34. Fast forward four months and we find the same basic result, with Cooper now holding a 41-37 edge. There's no doubt who the Democrats' strongest potential contender for this seat is and there's no doubt that if Cooper entered the race it would become a tossup at the least, if not even a slight Democratic advantage. [...]

Burr's approval rating continues its usual position in the mid-30s, with 35% of voters in the state expressing approval for his job performance this month and 31% dissenting. By comparison Elizabeth Dole was at a much better, although still mediocre, 43% at this point in the cycle two years ago.

No Democrat has entered the race yet but if Cooper does jump in, watch for this to become a top tier pick-up opportunity for the Democrats.

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Vermont Counter-Protesters Call For Tax Increases

Paying taxes is patriotic and as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. Glad people are standing up and saying it:

Calling itself S.O.S., or Save Our State, the group held a small pro-tax protest in Montpelier, the national income tax-filing deadline, to drive home that taxes pay for needed programs and state employees perform necessary duties.

About two dozen people crowded around the state Tax Department's help window while organizers turned in single-signature petitions, designed to look like a tax form, that organizers called SOS-EZ forms.

They list 17 state programs that could be kept whole with what organizers say would be a modest tax increase.

"It's not just a day to worry about taxes; we value our institutions and the programs the state offers," said S.O.S. organizer Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid. "We can't pave our own roads. We can't keep our own courthouse doors open. It's frustrating that some days of the week the courts are closed."

The anti-tax orthodoxy of the right has just about ruined California since the GOP has a minority veto over any tax increases and the passage of budgets. People are starting to come around on the issue but obviously on days like today a very vocal minority makes it seem like quite the opposite is true.

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Tea Party Palooza

Today, as people are filing their taxes, maniacs around the country are gathering to protest the...errr..biggest middle tax cut in history, or something? Or is it the bailouts that began under Bush? Or perhaps that scary bogeyman big government spending? All? Either? No one seems to really know. But what is clear is that they are hardly a grassroots affair.

As First Read points out:

But let's be clear about one thing: These tea parties are hardly non-partisan events. While there's certainly a grassroots component here, these parties have been co-opted by a major America political party (the RNC's Web site allows for creating send-a-tea-bag post cards to Dem leaders) and an entire cable news channel (which has been promoting the events). The main Web site for the events today, Tax Day Tea Party, is funded by conservative groups, and a public records search shows it's registered to a conservative techie, Allen B. Fuller, who used to be a legislative correspondent for GOP Sen. Richard Shelby and who touts creating Web sites for Republican elected officials. Also reportedly involved in today's protest events are FreedomWorks, a conservative group founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Americans for Prosperity.

What's also clear is that these events are serving as an excuse for rightwing extremists to rally against President Obama in really ignorant and dangerous ways. This report from CNN is pretty stunning. Watch Susan Roesgen ask a guy over and over why he's calling the president of the United States a fascist. He has no answer. She also informs one teabagger that Illinois would actually get $50 billion from the stimulus and calls Fox News out for what they really are.

For the definitive takedown of the teabaggers, check out this Countdown piece from the other day:

And check this out, the Philadelphia tea party protest only drew 300 people.

Also, up in Oregon, the Bus Project has a brilliant idea:

To steal a line from Oliver Wendell Holmes, on Wednesday patriots are paying for civilization. They deserve a cheerleader.

So the Bus Project and friends are going to the Post Office to cheer them on.

We'll be handing out "Thank You Cards" that show people how much good their tax dollars do. Their confidence is gonna be huge as we all remake our country for the future.

Yes, Joe Biden was right, paying taxes is patriotic.

Down here in SoCal, apparently the San Diego protest is corresponding with a marriage equality rally. We'll have someone on the ground to give a full report of the madness.

What other tea-baggery are you seeing?

Update [2009-4-15 16:24:1 by Todd Beeton]:More outright mockery of the teabaggers, this time by Anderson Cooper.

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PA-Sen: Toomey Makes Challenge To Specter Official

Former Congressman Pat Toomey today announced officially that he would be jumping into next year's Pennsylvania Senate race and challenge Arlen Specter in the Republican primary.

Pat Toomey, who as a little-known congressman nearly defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary, announced Wednesday that he will mount another challenge when Specter seeks the Republican nomination for a sixth term next year.

Toomey, who stepped down Monday as president of the Washington-based Club for Growth, appealed to his conservative base in a statement released just before 8 a.m., while Toomey made a series of TV appearances in the Philadelphia area.

"Pennsylvanians deserve a voice in the U.S. Senate that will honor our values and fight for limited government, individual freedom and fiscal responsibility. I will be that voice," Toomey said.

A couple problems with Toomey's pitch here. First of all, is he really suggesting with a straight face that any Republican should be trusted to represent "limited government, individual freedom and fiscal responsibility"? That's rich. But also, he seems to be implying that he represents "Pennsylvanians' values." Last time I checked, Pennsylvanians voted for Barack Obama by 11 points; I think Pennsylvania has made it pretty damn clear that its values are Democratic values. But, hey, more power to ya, Mr. Toomey. I'll be rooting for you in the primary. Fact is, Toomey is competitive. Latest polling either has Toomey ahead or Specter up but well under 50%. Specter's in real trouble and he knows it. Hence, Specter has already gone negative on Toomey and wasted no time attacking him again today.

And it didn't take long before the opening salvos were fired. Specter sent Toomey a letter saying, "Your official bio has been altered to delete any reference to the many years you spent selling risky derivatives for the Wall Street firm Morgan Grenfell Finance... why did you seek to omit this basic fact?"

Toomey's bio has been removed from the Club for Growth Web site because he is no longer president. His campaign manager Mark Harris does not deny that it was altered and compared the incumbent to a desperate challenger: "This is the type of thing a challenger does when he's 20 points down and no one has heard of him."

Yep, this is gonna be a fun one.

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Glenn Beck Calls For States To Secede

When the right-wing criticizes Obama's policies and roots for him to fail (ya know, the same thing labeled as treasonous when Democrats did so to Bush), you see, it's for America's own good. It's because they want America to succeed that they want Obama to fail. So we have Congresswoman Bachmann calling for "revolution" and referring to Washington as "enemy territory" and there's no outcry about her being anti-American; ditto Glenn Beck's call for secession from the union. As Beck's logic goes, any state should be able to "opt out" of an economic "suicide pact." In other words, secession is the only way for a state to survive.

You can't convince me that the Founding Fathers wouldn't allow you to secede.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and if a state says: `I don't want to go there, because that's suicide, they have a right to back out. They have a right -- people have a right to not commit economic suicide...

...Texas says go to hell, Washington, which by the way has been said before. I believe it was Davey Crocket...it's about time that somebody says that again."

You gotta listen to it -- complete with revisionist Davey Crocket history -- to believe it.

Someone with some credibility on the right really needs to call out these rightwing maniacs and reign them in before something tragic happens. It shouldn't be surprising in an environment where rightwing crazies are calling for revolution and secession that the Department of Homeland Security is warning of increased activity among right-wing domestic anti-government terrorist groups:

Right-wing extremists in the United States are gaining new recruits by exploiting fears about the economy and the election of the first black U.S. president, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report to law enforcement officials.

The April 7 report, which Reuters and other news media obtained on Tuesday, said such fears were driving a resurgence in "recruitment and radicalization activity" by white supremacist groups, antigovernment extremists and militia movements. It did not identify any by name.

DHS had no specific information about pending violence and said threats had so far been "largely rhetorical."

But it warned that home foreclosures, unemployment and other consequences of the economic recession "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists."

It's more than just that the conditions are ripe for such anti-government violence, it's that there are prominent figures on the right who are given mainstream platforms despite the fact that they truly are radical inciting these fanatics. If we are attacked by a 21st century Timothy McVeigh, add Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh et al to the list of those who have blood on their hands.

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NY-20: Team Tedisco Challenged Kirsten Gillibrand's Ballot

Up in NY-20, much as in Minnesota, the Republican attempts at cherry picking which ballots should count and which should not has gotten pretty out of hand. First they went after those insidious college students. You won't be surprised to learn that in their defense, they're invoking the f-word (via TAP):

The Tedisco campaign is now also challenging ballots of students who come from outside the 20th Congressional District, many of whom attend Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.

Yesterday, Republicans began objecting systematically to absentee ballots cast by voters who maintain second homes in some of the southern parts of the district, and Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman called late last night to say that several of the student ballots were being challenged on grounds that the students improperly claimed residency within the district.

...

"It's ridiculous-these same students voted with no problem in November," Bulman said. He did not have a specific number of student ballots that were challenged.

James Walsh, an attorney representing Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, said yesterday, "What we're doing is trying to prevent fraud."

So what's their reasoning, one wonders, behind challenging Senator Gillibrand's ballot.

This is getting out of control. Word from Columbia County is that when US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's absentee ballot came up to be counted, the Tedisco camp objected. No, really. I am not making that up. Why on earth would they object to a legal resident of the district's ballot? A legal resident, not to metion FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN REPRESENTING NY-20 AND CURRENT SITTING SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK?

Their reason given:

This just in from Columbia County: when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's absentee ballot came up in the queue, the poll watchers for Jim Tedisco objected to it, saying the senator was in the county on election day and should have voted in person.

Democracy by loophole: it's the Republican way.

It should be noted that this is all happening as Scott Murphy expands his lead to 56 votes.

Update [2009-4-14 17:36:52 by Todd Beeton]:Statement from Senator Gillibrand's office (via e-mail):

“The Republican’s challenge is frivolous and without merit. This is part of their larger attempt to disenfranchise legal Democratic voters and delay the inevitable Democratic victory in the 20th. Every day that the national Republicans waste with their dishonest stalling tactics is another day Upstate New Yorkers are deprived their Member of Congress. Senator Gillibrand looks forward to working with Scott Murphy in Congress to support President Obama plans to turn this economy around and create good paying jobs.”

NYS election law says that an elector must intend to be out of the COUNTY on Election Day when the elector submits the absentee ballot or requests the application.

Senator Gillibrand requested and completed an absentee ballot because she did not expect to be able to vote at her polling location since votes were scheduled in the Senate that day. Furthermore, Republican claims that she was in the county are false. She was not in Columbia County on Election Day.

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MN-Sen: More Right-Wing Victimization Whining From The NRSC

Let's face it, Republicans are way more comfortable out of power arguing that they're victims, whether it be the big bad liberal media that's keeping them down, or the socialists (or is it Marxists...?) or, ya know...democracy.

Here's an e-mail from the NRSC that went out to supporters after Al Franken was declared the winner of the US Senate election...again:

Dear Friend:

The strength of our democracy is built on a fair and accurate system of elections. Our Constitution provides for Due Process and for Equal Protection in order to better guarantee the enfranchisement of every voter.

Unfortunately, those fundamental principles are under attack in Minnesota. Since Senator Norm Coleman was first ahead by hundreds of votes at the end of election night, the Democrats have aggressively worked to change the rules of the game after it's been played.

Last night, they succeeded in convincing a three-judge panel to issue a fundamentally misguided ruling that disenfranchises over 4,000 Minnesota voters. They did so by imposing a different, and stricter, standard for votes to be counted rather than following the rules that were in place in Minnesota on Election Day. [...]

How dare Al Franken get more votes than Norm Coleman!!

What's hilarious is that, as TPM notes, the response by the right on this one was tepid and slow. They're over it and, notably so is Joe Scarborough.

But hey, bring on the appeal!

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President Obama Lifts Some Travel Restrictions To Cuba

Lucas had an excellent post yesterday arguing that the time has come to loosen travel restrictions to Cuba.

Turns out, Lucas is really powerful:

President Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

The move represents a significant shift in a U.S. policy that had remained largely unchanged for nearly half a century. It comes days before Obama leaves for a key meeting of hemispheric powers, the Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago.

"President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country's future," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. [...]

Several key components of America's embargo on the island nation will be preserved, however. Among other things, Americans will still be barred from sending gifts or other items to high-ranking Cuban government officials and Communist Party members.

Travel restrictions for Americans of non-Cuban descent will also remain in place.

This is a great development and one wonders if with it, President Obama single-handedly turned Florida forever blue.

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MN-Sen: Will Justice Who Donated To Coleman Recuse Himself From The Appeal?

Last week, Senate Guru dilligently traced the partisan makeup of the Minnesota Supreme Court -- which will be hearing Coleman's next appeal -- over at his site and then over the weekend Down With Tyranny noted that one of the court's justices, Christopher Dietzen, has actually donated money to Norm Coleman and suggested that perhaps Dietzen should recuse himself from any Coleman appeal. Following up on DWT, Senate Guru wrote here at MyDD last night:

Remember that two of the Minnesota Supreme Court's seven Justices recused themselves from hearing Coleman's appeal to the state Supreme Court because they served on the state Canvassing Board.  Those two Justices wanted to avoid the conflict of having served on the Canvassing Board and then serving on the Court that will hear an appeal of, in part, the Canvassing Board's actions and decisions.

Well, one of the remaining Justices that will decide Norm Coleman's electoral fate is a two-time Norm Coleman donor!  Heck, one of the two contributions occurred in the six years leading up to Coleman's 2008 re-election bid - in other words, it was put toward this very election whose result Coleman is preparing to appeal.  This is a crystal clear conflict of interest.

Indeed. Today, TPM picks it up and wonders "Who Will Be Left On Minnesota Supreme Court To Hear Appeal?" On whether Dietzen should recuse himself:

Regarding Dietzen, Hamline University Prof. David Schultz tells us that the case for recusal points towards yes.

Schultz agreed with me that there's no immediate evidence that Dietzen has actually behaved in any biased manner in this case. "But here's where the issue changes a little bit," Schultz explained. "If it's now starting to run on the blogs at this point, that perhaps he's got a conflict because of the contributions, the Minnesota codes of judicial conflict address not just actual conflict but the perceptions of conflict."

"That's not saying he shouldn't have recused himself before," said Schultz, "but that suggests to me he may have more of an appearance of conflict or bias than he would have before." [...]

Schultz further noted that the decision to recuse is made by the individual judges themselves, and they're usually very good at self-policing. As for himself, Schultz said what he would do if he were under the circumstances Dietzen is in: "If I were sitting on the bench in that matter, I would recuse myself, because at this point there is a paper-trail record of political contributions to a party in the case."

Great work by Senate Guru and Down With Tyranny for getting this out there. It's spread like wildfire since last night, which could, in and of itself, lead to the recusal of a justice who clearly would hold at least some bias toward Coleman during the appeal.

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Teabaggers Out Of Touch

I'm sure it hasn't gone unnoticed that I've been blogging a lot lately about how out of touch the right-wing is with mainstream public opinion. There is a consensus in this country of support for our president as well as his agenda that is driven by the opinions of Democrats and Independents. Republicans are increasingly out of touch and dwindling in numbers and influence.

As we approach tax day on Wednesday, which is also the culmination of the great right wing "grassroots" Tea Party movement, Gallup has a new poll out that shows that the country is actually quite sanguine about the amount of taxes they are paying.

A new Gallup Poll finds 48% of Americans saying the amount of federal income taxes they pay is "about right," with 46% saying "too high" -- one of the most positive assessments Gallup has measured since 1956. Typically, a majority of Americans say their taxes are too high, and relatively few say their taxes are too low. [...]

The slightly more positive view this year may reflect a public response to President Barack Obama's economic stimulus and budget plans. He has promised not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000, while cutting taxes for lower- and middle-income Americans. The latter has already begun, as the government has reduced the withholding amount for federal income taxes from middle- and lower-income American workers' paychecks.

Which pretty much begs the question: what exactly are the teabaggers protesting, exactly, the largest middle class tax cut in history? The irony (and tragedy) is that a lot of these tea bag parties are going to entail middle class folks throwing tea into some body of water presumably (?) in protest of a slight increase in taxes on only the wealthiest Americans, who are precisely the ones, through their perches at FoxNews and on talk radio, who are riling people up to go to the protests in the first place.

I think the larger point about where the country is on this issue is that there has been a shift in attitudes toward taxes over the past few years thanks largely to Bush. Let's face it, during the Bush years, there was a direct correlation between taxes being cut and services being cut; between the amount people were paying to the government and the competence and effectiveness of that government. These teabaggers can whine all day about the big bad government but the truth is people are willing to pay for good government service. The idea that government spending or raising taxes on the rich while cutting taxes on everyone else somehow limits freedoms is, as most views the rightwing holds, a radical minority view.

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