Sunday, July 31, 2011

Krugman: GOP Extremism Caused Debt Ceiling Impasse

Paul Krugman points out that the media’s attempt to be “balanced” about the debt ceiling impasse obscures the fact that it’s Republican extremism that is the problem. President Obama, who has actually shifted too far to the right in the negotiations, still cannot satisfy Republicans for whom compromise is anathema. From “The Centrist Cop-Out”:

…The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases…

But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

…making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

Rep. Walsh Against Fiscal Irresponsibility, Owes $100,000+ Child Support

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tea Party favorite who demands that Washington get its fiscal house in order for the next generation, is a deadbeat dad:

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.

“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation’s finances in order.

…Before getting elected, he had told [ex-wife] Laura Walsh that because he was out of work or between jobs, he could not make child support payments. So she was surprised to read in his congressional campaign disclosures that he was earning enough money to loan his campaign $35,000.

In addition, according to motions filed by Laura Walsh’s lawyers, “Joe has paid himself back at least $14,200 for the loans he gave himself.”

Walsh seems to view being a deadbeat dad as a campaign asset, claiming it enables him to understand “real America”:

Walsh: I know that story just broke, and it’s interesting that it just broke right now as I’m out there trying my best to fight this President and fight the Democrats and solve this debt crisis. But look, I’m the most openly vetted candidate in the world. I have had financial troubles and I talked about them throughout the campaign. This is where real America is.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gohmert Loses Control When Asked About Terror Baby Plot

Anderson Cooper first asked Rep. Debbie Burris (R-TX) for proof of a supposed plot regarding babies being born in America, raised as terrorists overseas, then returned here to wreak havoc. Riddle admitted that she has no evidence but stated that it’s being talked about, as if that makes it serious. At least she maintained her composure, something that can’t be said of Cooper’s next guest, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Cooper played Gohmert an interview with Thomas V. Fuentes, former FBI assistant director, who stated that “there was never a credible report…to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born.” Cooper asked Gohmert if he contacted the FBI before spreading his story on the House floor. Gohmert went into an extended rant, clearly displaying that he too has no evidence. Watch:

Limbaugh: Belief In Global Warming Due To Air Conditioning

Rush Limbaugh recently proclaimed that heat wave reports are part of a government plot to persuade you that climate change is real. But it’s not only the government–it’s also air conditioning! Forget the melting of the polar ice caps and the continued warming of the climate. Air conditioning makes you feel cool, so you suffer heat shock when you go outside. Hence, you believe in climate change! Listen:

Limbaugh: I have a theory about global warming and why people think it's real. Go back 30, 40 years when there was much less air conditioning in the country. When you didn't have air conditioning and you left the house, it may in fact have gotten a little cooler out there, because sometimes houses become hot boxes. Especially if you're on the second or third floor of a house in the summer time and all you've got is open windows and maybe a window fan. Or you have some servant standing there fanning you with a piece of paper. When you walked outside, no big deal, it's still hot as hell. Now, 30, 40 years later, all this air conditioning, and it's a huge difference when you go outside. When you go outside now, my golly, is it hot. Oh. Global warming. It's all about the baseline you're using for comparison.  (h/t Media Matters; also see the graph they cite tracking global temperature, 1979-2011)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s

“Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s is based on a real person, but the relationship is fictionalized. Regardless, it’s a simple yet affecting love ballad, one in which the singer’s romantic longing is heightened in the video by the split screen showing “Delilah” in NYC as he strums his guitar 1,000 miles away.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Republicans Declare War On The Environment

If you hate clean air and water, you’ll love the Republicans' current appropriations bill. It contains 39 ways–so far–to dismantle four decades of environmental regulations. While not all the proposals will pass, just a few could do lasting environmental damage. Among the wish list for corporate polluters:

One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.

… “The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, excoriating the proposal on the floor.

…Environmental regulations and the E.P.A. have been the bane of Tea Party Republicans almost from the start. Although particularly outraged by efforts to monitor carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, freshmen Republicans have tried to rein in the E.P.A. across the board — including proposals to take away its ability to decide if coal ash can be designated as a toxic material and to prevent it from clarifying rules enforcing the Clean Water Act.

… Conservatives have been adding amendments at a furious pace. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, counted more than 70 anti-environmental amendments filed as of Wednesday morning and was monitoring for more. 

Illustration: Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norwegian Mass Murderer A Fan Of Anti-Islamist Blogs

A number of right-wing commentators and bloggers immediately assumed that Islamic terrorists were responsible for the attack against a Labor Party camp in Norway. Instead, Anders Behring Breivik, described by authorities as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, admitted to the mass murder. Among those who jumped on the false Muslim terrorist angle was anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller. It turns out that Breivik is an admirer of Geller and her allies:

In a manifesto posted online, the admitted killer, Anders Behring Breivik, praised Geller. He cited her blog, Atlas Shrugs, and the writings of her friends, allies, and collaborators—Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Islam Watch, and Front Page magazine—more than 250 times. And he echoed their tactics, tarring peaceful Muslims with the crimes of violent Muslims...

While anti-Islamic bloggers never advocated the mass murder of children, they certainly contributed to Breivik's violent views, stated one former C.I.A. officer:

Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik’s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged. Well, they and their writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost-free.” 

Think Progress has produced a chart of right-wing pundits and organizations cited in Breivik's anti-Muslim manifesto:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beck Compares Norwegian Victims To Hitler Youth

Following the horrendous massacre by Anders Behring Breivik of youths attending a Norwegian Labor Party camp, Glenn Beck reached a new, despicable low by comparing them to the Hitler youth:

There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler youth, or, whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing.

Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? How about Beck's followers:

[Beck's] latest comments about the "disturbing" nature of political youth camps may come as a surprise to Beck's followers in the Tea Party movement.

The anti-tax, anti-immigration movement has been holding summer camps in states including Florida and Missouri where children have been taught a curriculum based on God, the US constitution and "the defence of economic liberty."

Now that Norweigians have had their introduction to Beck's offensive and absurd history lessons, Torbjørn Eriksen, former press secretary to Jens Stoltenberg, Norway prime minister, responded:

Young political activists have gathered at Utøya for over 60 years to learn about and be part of democracy, the very opposite of what the Hitler Youth was about. Glenn Beck's comments are ignorant, incorrect and extremely hurtful. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whose Policies Drove Up The Deficit?

Teresa Tritch outlines the growth of the deficit since the Clinton era, which ended with a surplus. The country was driven into a ditch by Bush administration policies, not by social programs and the safety net:

…it is worth asking how we got here — from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.

Despite what antigovernment conservatives say, non-defense discretionary spending on areas like foreign aid, education and food safety was not a driving factor in creating the deficits….

The following chart shows the cost of new policies under Bush and Obama (including projections for a second Obama term). Bush's policies cost $3.63 trillion more (click on chart to enlarge):

Tritch draws compelling conclusions on ending the Bush tax cuts and the need for government economic stimulation during a downturn, more tax revenue and health care reform:

A few lessons can be drawn from the numbers. First, the Bush tax cuts have had a huge damaging effect. If all of them expired as scheduled at the end of 2012, future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels. Second, a healthy budget requires a healthy economy; recessions wreak havoc by reducing tax revenue. Government has to spur demand and create jobs in a deep downturn, even though doing so worsens the deficit in the short run. Third, spending cuts alone will not close the gap. The chronic revenue shortfalls from serial tax cuts are simply too deep to fill with spending cuts alone. Taxes have to go up.

In future decades, when rising health costs with an aging population hit the budget in full force, deficits are projected to be far deeper than they are now. Effective health care reform, and a willingness to pay more taxes, will be the biggest factors in controlling those deficits.

Remembering Lucien Freud

 Lucien Freud (left), grandson of Sigmund Freud and a major, groundbreaking portrait painter, passed away at 88 in his London home last Wednesday. To say that Freud was a realist is an understatement; he depicted friends and family with a directness that could be brutal, taking in their physical flaws and psychological vulnerabilities. Above is “Eli and David,” 2005-2006 (to enlarge, click on image). More images here. Further reading in NY Times: obituary and appraisal. Documentary: Part 1 and Part 2.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fox’s Kilmeade: We Should Support, Not Punish The Mega-Wealthy

As the Fox & Friends panel interviewed Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Brian Kilmeade put forward a special plea for the beleaguered mega-wealthy:

McCaskill: …we can’t continue to cut taxes for the mega wealthy in this country when we have a deficit problem.

Kilmeade: The mega wealthy are paying the majority of taxes for the entire nation and they’re the ones who are going to bring us out of this. You would think rather than punish them, we should be supporting them.

Did Kilmeade touch your heart strings? The mega wealthy are “going to bring us out of this”? Kilmeade ignores the fact that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have hardly resulted in millions of jobs. What has happened instead is a transfer of more wealth to the wealthy, along with a slashing of the social safety net for the sake of the country’s most privileged.

GOP Deficit Stance Ignores Party's Recent History

Michael Steel (left), spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner and not to be confused with the former RNC chair, responded to Sen Majority Leader Harry Reid’s accusation of Republican intransigence in debt ceiling talks:

On Saturday, Steel flipped the blame back on the Democrats, noting that the Republican-controlled House had passed the GOP's "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation last week, only to have Senate Democrats kill the bill. The proposal would have hiked the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion only if Congress amended the Constitution to bar deficit spending…

“Bar deficit spending”? Remember when the Bush administration conducted two wars and passed tax cuts for the wealthy and an unfunded Medicare drug prescription program–one that will cost $1 trillion over 10 years? Did the Republicans protest then? No, they saw the light as deficit hawks the moment Obama was elected president. Dick Cheney himself said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” That must explain why Obama inherited a deficit $1.2 trillion in the red.

Is it realistic or necessary to “bar deficit spending” by a Constitutional amendment? Did Clinton need this amendment to leave the country with a surplus? Are there times when the government is called upon to spend? Those times exemplified by the stimulus package, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said increased jobs. We’re told, in a particularly facile argument, that families balance their budget, so why can’t the government? Families don’t do deficit spending? They don’t take out car loans, pay off mortgages, send kids to college?

Steel’s statement is nothing more than another false attempt to pass off the Republican party as a responsible economic steward.

Remembering Amy Winehouse

In a beehive and makeup reminiscent of The Ronettes, Amy Winehouse performed “I’m No Good” at a live BBC session. As music critic Jon Pareles wrote, "She was just getting started." Winehouse was an heir to the R&B and soul traditions and, at the same time, a startlingly original vocal stylist and songwriter. Her two albums should have been the foundation of a long career, but Winehouse's self-destructiveness, epitomized in her song “Rehab,” finally deprived the music world of an outstanding talent.

“Life” by Keith Richards: Tales Of A Soul Survivor

Life by Keith Richards with James Fox. Illustrated. 564 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $16.99 (paperback)

The Rolling Stones were among the English rock bands that revived the American blues tradition, as Keith Richards states in his autobiographical Life: “…we turned American people back on to their own music. And that’s probably our greatest contribution to music.” Richards and Mick Jagger soon realized, though, that they’d have to write their own songs to endure as a rock band. In doing so, Richards' dedication as a musician and songwriter is evident: “What makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts….where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing.”

Richards' account, of course, doesn’t just reflect his dedication to his craft. He spent years as a junkie, and no matter where the band played, his first concern was scoring heroin and his second was not getting busted. There are also plenty of wry observations, most notably toward Jagger. Richards lays out his love-hate relationship with the lead singer, portraying Jagger as often controlling and vain: “It was the beginning of the ‘80s when Mick started to become unbearable. That’s when he became Brenda, or Her Majesty, or just Madam.” He's also honest about his image: “I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up the to the part that was written for me. I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth… I think in a way your persona, your image…is like a ball and chain.”

The Richards of today leads a “gentleman’s life” in Connecticut, enjoying Mozart and history books while still pursuing musical projects with and without the Stones. Eventually he had to settle down after living a life that many thought wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has. Richards’ rendering of that life has resulted in one of rock’s greatest memoirs.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City”

The Lovin’ Spoonful performed–or lip-synced–“Summer In The City” in 1966. As John Sebastian sings, “All around, people looking half-dead/Walking on the sidewalk hotter than a matchhead,” I especially think of Friday’s 103 degrees in New York, made all the steamier by concrete sidewalks and heat-trapping buildings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Franken Exposes Misuse Of Study By Anti-Gay Focus On The Family Rep

During congressional hearings yesterday on repealing the disgraceful “Defense of Marriage Act,” Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) exposed the false premises of Focus On The Family’s Tom Minnery, who argued that children are better off with opposite-sex parents. Minnery cited a Health and Human Services study, one that he misinterpreted. The study said that children do best in nuclear, two-parent households, but did not specify the parents’ gender. Watch:

Franken: I checked the study out… It actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that ‘nuclear families’ not ‘opposite-sex married families’ are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of nuclear family in the study that you cite?

Minnery: I would think that the study when it cites nuclear families would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.

Franken: It doesn’t. The study defines nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family–and I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Limbaugh: Heat Wave Reports Are Part Of A Government Plot

You’re not as hot as you think you are. You’ve just been brainwashed by the media and victimized by a government conspiracy to persuade you that climate change is real. Listen as Rush Limbaugh explains it to you:

Limbaugh: And they’re playing games with us on this heat wave again. Even Drudge. Drudge getting sucked in here. Gonna be 116 in Washington. No it’s not. It’s going to be like 100, maybe 99. The heat index manufactured by the government to tell you what it feels like when you add the humidity in there, 116. When’s the last time the heat index was reported as an actual temperature. It hasn’t been, but it looks like they’re trying to get away with doing that now. 116. Drudge is just linking to other people reporting this. He’s not saying it. I don’t want to misunderstand, but he’s linking to stories which say 116 degrees in Washington. No. It’s what 100, 97, 99? It’s going to top out at 102, 103. It does this every year. We have this. There’s a heat dome over half the country. Midwest it’s moving East, and it happens every summer. It happens every summer. (h/t: PoliticusUSA)

Despite Limbaugh’s statement that this kind of heat wave happens every year, the National Weather Service states that 1,000 heat records have been broken in the past month throughout the country. Dr. Heidi Cullen also provides valuable testimony on the warming climate change over the past decade.

Scientist Heidi Cullen: Human Actions Have Warmed All Continents

Regarding global warming, we’re familiar with the skepticism of such climate scientists as Sarah Palin and John Boehner, and the denial that is a hallmark of studies funded by the David and Charles Koch, oil magnates, major polluters and supporters of right-wing causes. Dr. Heidi Cullen, scientist at the journalism and research organization Climate Central, presents a grim picture of what is being denied and the consequences of continued denial:

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” 30-year averages of temperature and precipitation for about 7,500 locations across the United States. The latest numbers, released earlier this month, show that the climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up.

For climate geeks like me, the new normals offer a fascinating and disturbing snapshot of a restless climate. The numbers don’t take sides or point fingers. They acknowledge both powerful natural climate fluctuations as well as the steady drumbeat of warming caused by roughly seven billion people trying to live and prosper on a small planet, emitting heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the process. 

...Heat-trapping pollution at least doubled the likelihood of the infamous European heat wave that killed more than 30,000 people during the summer of 2003, according to a study in the journal Nature in 2004. And if we don’t ease our grip on the climate, summers like that one will likely happen every other year by 2040, the study warned. Human actions have warmed the climate on all seven continents, and as a result all weather is now occurring in an environment that bears humanity’s signature, with warmer air and seas and more moisture than there was just a few decades ago, resulting in more extreme weather.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fox & Friends: Obama Trying To “Gin Up” Debt Ceiling Crisis

If the $14.29 trillion debt ceiling isn’t raised, the government will default and be unable to borrow, pay its bills and pay investors bonds that are due. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Leave it to Steve Doocy and his panel on Fox & Friends to tell us that it’s no big deal. Perhaps it’s even a hoax, like global warming! The Fox commentators, starting at 00:48 below, tell us why there's no need to panic: according to the Pew Research Center, many Americans don’t believe August 2nd is a “hard and fast deadline” to raise the debt ceiling. If they don’t believe it, it must not be true, right? Based on this impeccable logic, Doocy is led to the inescapable conclusion that Obama is trying to “gin up” the default crisis “as if it’s the end of the world.” Watch:

Tax Breaks For Corporate Jet Owners Are Only The Beginning

During the debt ceiling talks, the Republicans have been defending tax breaks for beleaguered corporate jet owners. Get rid of their tax breaks, you see, and we'll lose the millions of jobs that the owners are creating while in flight. Besides, if we can slash the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and other parts of the social safety net to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, surely we can sacrifice for corporate jet owners. “Slowpoke” cartoonist Jen Sorensen shows us what will follow should the GOP successfully defend this worthy cause:

Monday, July 18, 2011

“The Tree Of Life”: From Waco To The Cosmos

Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” has it all–literally. The film depicts the lives of the O’Brien family in Waco, Texas, in the 1950s. Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt), a frustrated musician turned company man, rules his three sons with a tough love that frustrates his wife (Jessica Chastain), whose ethos is love and compassion. The narrative focuses on the oldest son, Jack (Hunter McCracken), who grows up haunted by his relationship with his father and eventually by the death of one of his brothers in military action. When we see Jack as a middle-aged architect (Sean Penn) working amidst soulless corporate towers, it is evident that his inner confusion remains.

The film portrays the suburbs of the middle of the last century from a perspective that elevates the scenes of childhood into iconic moments. This sense of the universal is also evoked by Jack's and his mother's questions addressed to God. Whether these questions are answered depends on the viewer's perspective; their questions, however, are shown to be both personal and part of life's ultimate mysteries. With magnificent cinematography and a score by Alexandre Desplat to match, we are launched from this family to the cosmos, taking in volcanoes, vast oceans, the universe, and then back into the O’Briens' kitchen. The O’Briens become every family, part of the space-time continuum. Lest this sound too “cosmic,” Malick involves us enough in their everyday concerns so that the micro and macro are held in balance and ultimately contemplated in awe.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

California Schools To Teach About Contributions Of Gay Americans

California under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has made a positive move by requiring that students learn about the ways in which gay Americans have enriched the nation's history and culture. The bill's backers hope that the studies will increase tolerance of gay students:

As expected, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Thursday that mandates that the contributions of gays and lesbians in the state and the country be included in social science instruction and in textbooks. School districts will have until next January to begin implementing the new law, which was also promoted in part as a way to combat bullying of gay and lesbian students.

“This is definitely a step forward, and I’m hopeful that other states will follow,” said Mark Leno, California’s first openly gay state senator, who sponsored the bill. “We are failing our students when we don’t teach them about the broad diversity of human experience.”

… “There is an increasing awareness in the public and among elected officials that we have to do something to address the problems of bullying, and the negative consequences” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

Naturally, reactionary voices objected. One Republican believes it’s unfair if the curriculum isn’t used to cast aspersions on gays:

...Tim Donnelly, a Republican state assemblyman from San Bernadino...said the law prohibited schools from presenting gays and lesbians “in anything other than a positive light, and I think that’s censorship right there.”

Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition spouted the traditional nonsense about “promoting” homosexuality and called for parents to remove students from public schools:

“By signing SB 48 today, California’s classrooms, textbooks and instructional materials will all become pro-homosexual promotion tools. If parents don’t already have their children out of public schools, this should cause them to remove them.”

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Which Party Has Raised The Debt Ceiling More Since 1980?

The Republicans have raised the debt ceiling 15 more times than the Democrats since 1980 (see chart below): Since 1980, the debt ceiling has been raised 39 times. It was raised 17 times under Ronald Reagan, four times under Bill Clinton and seven times under George W. Bush. Congress is currently in a contentious debate with the White House on whether to raise the ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline, which would make the fourth raise under Obama. 

Nicholas Kristof: GOP Reckless With Both Spending And Revenue

Nicholas Kristof focuses on the contradictions of the Republican economic platform in his commentary "The Opposing Party." Since Clinton left us with a surplus, the Republicans have embraced fiscally irresponsible policies. Their sudden alarm about the national debt–a debt they caused–coincided with the election of President Obama:

Politicians in both parties have historically been irresponsible with money, but President Bill Clinton changed that. He imposed a stunning fiscal discipline and set the United States on a course of budget surpluses, job growth and diminishing federal debt — until the Republicans took over in 2001.

In the Bush years, Republicans proved themselves reckless both on the spending side (unfunded wars and a prescription drug benefit) and on the revenue side (the Bush tax cuts). Their view then was, as former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill quoted Vice President Dick Cheney as saying, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

It may seem odd that Republicans were so blithe about debt in the Bush years, yet now insist on addressing the problem in the middle of a downturn — even though basic economics dictates that a downturn is the one time when red ink is advisable. Well, just another of those contradictions.

… [The Obama health care plan] will help hold down health care costs, even if it’s difficult to know how much — and they are the only game in town.

Yet Congressional Republicans are trying to kill the Obama health plan. Yes, of course: another contradiction.

Republicans Motivated By Shrinking The Government, Not Deficit

Writing in the New York Times, Jackie Calmes states that the Republicans are not motivated by lowering the deficit, a point made elsewhere by Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks. Their entire strategy is that of “starving the beast,” shrinking government by lowering taxes, especially for the wealthy, to the point that we can’t afford to cover needed programs–and then calling for those programs to be cut. Today’s GOP is to way the right of the idolized Ronald Reagan–and cannot be satisfied by any of President Obama's concessions in the debt ceiling negotiations:

Republicans have shown that their higher priority is not lower deficits, as it was for the party through most of the last century, but a smaller government. House Republicans in the spring passed a plan that would not balance the budget for three decades despite deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — largely because it also deeply cut taxes, adding debt.

For Republicans, “reducing the deficit implies tax increases, or the possibility of tax increases, and that’s not something they want to do under any circumstances because it doesn’t suit their political needs,” said Stan Collender, a longtime federal budget analyst and a partner at Qorvis Communications.

The party’s dynamic in the debt talks reflects the culmination of a 30-year evolution in Republican thinking, dating to the start of President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The change is from emphasizing balanced budgets — or at least lower deficits — to what tax-cutting conservatives have called “starve the beast,” that is, cut taxes and force government to shrink.

The starve-the-beast philosophy is even more problematic now because the population is aging as baby boomers retire even as medical costs keep rising — a combination that is driving the projections of an unsustainably growing federal debt.

While the new-generation Republicans venerate Mr. Reagan, those who were in Congress when he was president say he would not understand their refusal to compromise on a package of the size Mr. Obama proposes.

“He had a rule: If you can agree on 80 percent, take it,” said Alan K. Simpson, who was the second-ranking Senate Republican leader back then. “He raised taxes 11 times in eight years,” Mr. Simpson added. “He did it to make the country run.”

Almost lost in the tax debate with Republicans is how much Mr. Obama has conceded to them this year on spending cuts, including for those entitlement programs Democrats favor.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Fountains Of Wayne's “Hackensack”

The Fountains Of Wayne perform “Hackensack,” a poignant song about futile longing. In a few simple stanzas, the lyrics portray someone who has carried unrealized romantic fantasies from his student days into adulthood. Is the woman he pledges to wait for the star he imagines her to be? Regardless, he’s stuck in his hometown working a dead-end job and dreaming about a relationship that never was and never will be.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Graham, McConnell: GOP In A Bind On Debt Ceiling

Some Republicans are realizing that they have boxed themselves in with their extreme position on the debt ceiling. If they agree to increase tax revenue, they will upset their conservative base. If they don’t, they will cause the nation to default on its debt. Meanwhile, President Obama has shown a willingness to compromise, even in ways that have upset some of his supporters. In doing so, Obama may be outmaneuvering the GOP. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, above left) realizes his party's precarious position:

For months, the Republican leaders have emphatically pledged that there will be no increase in the federal debt ceiling absent huge cuts in government spending and fundamental changes in popular social programs, all without the whiff of a tax increase.

Now, with negotiations stalled and a potential default by the United States government just over the horizon, they are being held to those promises by their own rank-and-file, leaving them in a bind that is defying easy resolution and putting them at risk of being blamed if things end badly.

Behind closed doors and by phone, they groped for a solution and struggled to assert some kind of control over the situation as rank-and-file Republican members, especially in the House, grew more confrontational.

…“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY, above right) spoke in similar terms:

“[Obama] will say Republicans are making the economy worse,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It is an argument that he could have a good chance of winning, and all of the sudden we have co-ownership of the economy. That is a very bad position going into the election.”

Right Wing Media Aghast At Ending Tax Breaks For Corporate Jets

The right wing media is fine with cuts affecting students, seniors, the poor, the middle class. But take away a perk for the wealthy and they cry “class warfare!” In this case, the republic is threatened by ending tax breaks for corporate jets. Fox Business host Eric Bolling speaks dismissively about loans for college students as compared to the needs of hedge fund managers and oil companies. According to Bolling, simply cutting entitlements is enough for deficit reduction. For Rush Limbaugh, taking away the jet deduction is part of President Obama’s “destruction of the economy.” Watch:

Bolling: [Obama] talked yesterday about corporate jets, hedge fund managers, oil companies, saying if they're not willing to give up their corporate jets then poor community college kids weren't going to be able to go to school, and God forbid we don't have a National Weather Service. That's not fair… It was a class warfare he set up, and it was completely off base. If we really just bring some entitlement spending in line and you can fix it.

Limbaugh: Here is Obama with corporate jet owners in the crosshairs again… This is just–dangerous is what this is. This is full-fledged demagoguery, and we're listening to this from the chief architect of the destruction of this economy. And once again, pitting groups of Americans against each other. One group -- his aim is for one group of Americans to hate and despise another group.

Media Matters has more right-wing media hysteria about the issue.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cantor: No Tax Hikes For The Rich, But Students Should Pay Interest Now

In the debt ceiling talks, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is completely opposed to tax hikes for the wealthy or corporations:

"The House has taken a firm position against anything having to do with increasing taxes or raising tax rates," Cantor said on Thursday after the first session of budget talks with other lawmakers and Vice President Joe Biden.

Cantor doesn’t have as soft a heart for students, though. He wants those taking loans to start paying interest now instead of after graduating, to the objection of President Obama:

As Monday’s White House budget talks got down to the nitty-gritty, Eric Cantor proposed a series of spending cuts, one of them aimed squarely at college students.

The House majority leader, who did most of the talking for the Republican side, said those taking out student loans should start paying interest right away, rather than being able to defer payments until after graduation. It is a big-ticket item that would save $40 billion over 10 years.

…“I’m not going to do that,” Obama said. “I’m not going to take money from old people and screw students,” not without some compromise on the tax-increase side.

Religious Dating Website: Watch Where You Send That Smile

Warning under the “Send A Smile” option of “You cannot send this smile to users of the same gender”:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bachmann Hopes High Unemployment Will Land Her In White House

Discussing the June jobs report, Carl Quintanilla of CNBC asked Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) if high unemployment will help her presidential campaign. Bachmann revealed her first loyalty, and it sure isn’t the country. Watch:

Quintanilla: Does it strike you that as the unemployment rate goes up, your chances of winning office also go up?

Bachmann: Well, that could be. Again, I hope so.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh expressed the hope that Obama would fail? Or when conservatives erupted in glee after the U.S. lost the Olympics bid following Obama’s mission to hold the 2016 games in Chicago? What is it with "patriotic" conservatives wanting the country to fail, and viewing such failure as in their interest?

Obama Calls Republicans’ Bluff In Debt Ceiling Talks

Yesterday I noted my objections–shared with many Democrats–to President Obama’s proposed compromises in the debt ceiling negotiations. I must admit, though, that intentionally or not, Obama called the Republicans’ bluff and exposed their extremism. The GOP is so devoted to tax cuts for the wealthy that they can’t compromise during crucial negotiations even when sacred Democratic programs–Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security–are on the table. The Republicans continue to falsely relate tax cuts to job creation:

In a statement after the meeting, [Senator Mitch] McConnell’s [above left] spokesman, Don Stewart, said, “It’s baffling that the president and his party continue to insist on massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis.”

These tax cuts must continue because they're enabling corporations and the rich to create millions of jobs, right? And which business-crippling, job-killing proposals are causing the Republicans to balk?

Republicans, led by [Rep. Eric] Cantor [above right], rejected proposals to close loopholes or other tax breaks for owners of corporate jets, oil and gas companies and hedge funds. They said these measures, which would have raised about $130 billion, amounted to tax increases.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meet The Allies Of Gov. Rick Perry’s Prayer And Fasting Event

Right Wing Watch put together the video above of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) and his extremist allies who are supporting “The Response,” called “a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation” in Houston. Perry is organizing the event with the American Family Association, among whose goals is to "restrain evil by exposing works of darkness," including their obsession with marriage equality. Right Wing Watch lists Perry's allies in order of appearance:

The video consists of the invitation Gov. Perry recorded asking people to attend his rally interspersed with footage of event endorsers, organizers, and sponsors - including Bryan Fischer saying gays should be banned from public office, Cindy Jacobs saying God was going to move unrighteous leaders out of government, Mike Bickle saying Oprah is a forerunner to the Antichrist, Jim Garlow saying the gay rights movement is driven by an "Antichrist spirit," John Hagee saying God sent Hitler as a hunter to force the Jews to move to Israel, David Barton saying God is not going to tolerate those who don't vote against issues like gay marriage or abortion, Stephen Broden saying the use of violence must always remain on the table, and finally Fischer again saying liberals hate God.

Why Is Obama Echoing The Right On The Deficit And Entitlements?

House Speaker John Boehner pulled back on the deficit deal as the Republicans balked at new revenue from corporations and the wealthy. No surprise there. What is surprising and disturbing is President Obama's recent rhetoric on the deficit and proposals to cut entitlements. Paul Krugman pointed out that his rhetoric echos conservative economics:

One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.

Krugman also points out that the idea of cutting Social Security as part of a deficit deal came from Obama, not the Republicans. Obama, in addition, proposed cutting Medicare, which the Democrats have been defending against Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to turn it into a privatized voucher program. How is it that the president feels that cutting these programs is an acceptable exchange for ending the Bush tax cuts, closing loopholes and cutting corporate subsidies? From a NY Times editorial on Friday:

...[Obama] seems to have embraced this illegitimate process — rooted in the false and dangerous premise that the nation’s budget problems are entirely a matter of overspending on the needy and not of undertaxing the rich. Now he is trying to expand it to reach a grand agreement to cut the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years, twice as much as discussed in the first round of talks.

As The Times reported on Thursday, the president is considering proposals to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security, along with huge cuts in discretionary programs, in exchange for a wholesale revision of the tax code to remove many deductions and change many rates.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bill Maher Baffled By GOP Supporters Who Vote Against Their Interests

Regarding the half of the population that votes Republican, Bill Maher understands why the richest one percent of the population does so. He just doesn’t understand the other 49 percent that clearly votes against their interests. Watch:

Maher: [Half of American voters] say 'I'm with the party that cuts all these programs for real people, for the 99 percent. Planned Parenthood, environmental protection, college, health care, infrastructure, but holds the line on private jets.' Voting for them is as stupid as voting not guilty for the mom who lost her baby for a month and went looking at a wet t-shirt contest. …The moneyed elite in America are dragging a bag filled with your future down the steps, and [the Republican base's] reaction is, 'Hold on there, that looks heavy. Let me give you a hand getting it into your trunk.’ …We're now being told if multinational corporations bring home their current overseas profits of $1.4 trillion, they'll only be taxed five percent on it because we're told it will create jobs. It won't. It didn't, just like the last time we tried it in 2004. Companies took the savings and paid it out to themselves in dividends. Yes, Republican base, you are just like that jury. It's pathetically clear who's killing the middle class but you keep letting them get away with murder. (h/t: Huffington Post)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Anti-Medicare Ryan Sips $350 Wine With Conservative Economists

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the architect of a Republican plan to destroy Medicare and turn it into a privatized voucher plan while shifting the savings to the wealthy. Knowing this, Susan Feinberg, associate business professor at Rutgers, was outraged catching Ryan sitting with two conservative economists and enjoying two bottles of Pino Noir, at $350 each, at an upscale Washington restaurant.

Feinberg, who noticed the price on the wine list and took a few photos of the purchase with her cell phone, figured out that the two bottles of wine, at $700 total, were more than a two-income family making minimum wage earns in a week. She went to Ryan’s table and asked how he could enjoy the wine while advocating cuts for seniors and the poor. Feinberg and her husband then became involved in an unpleasant discussion with Ryan and his friends.

Talking Points Memo interviewed Ryan on the matter. Ryan didn’t address the relation between his policies and the expense of the wine:

TPM: …do you think it's appropriate now that you know how much the wine cost to be drinking [such expensive wine] when you're advocating cuts for seniors?

Ryan: I think it's stupid to pick up that much for a bottle of wine under any circumstance.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Richie Havens Sings "High Flying Bird"

A veteran of the Greenwich Village folk music revival in the 1960s, Richie Havens was captured in the Woodstock concert film as an electrifying opening act. Performing above in London in 1974 with his characteristic rhythmic intensity, Havens sings “High Flying Bird,” about the yearning for transcendence in the face of mortality.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mexican Executed In Texas In Defiance Of International Law

In executing Humberto Leal Garcia (left), a Mexican sentenced in 1994 for rape and murder, Texas under Gov. Rick Perry ignored the fact that he was never informed, as he should have been under the Vienna Convention, that he could contact his consulate for legal aid. The administration asked for a stay of execution to examine whether his rights and that of 50 other Mexicans on death row had been violated. The Supreme Court declined the stay under a 5-4 decision split ideologically. The action potentially places Americans in jeopardy abroad:

Whether or not Garcia's sentencing would have been different with the help of Mexican lawyers, Texas's decision puts the U.S. in a difficult position abroad -- many worry that, if we do not respect the consular rights of foreign nationals, other countries will have less incentive to respect those of our citizens.

Euna Lee, an American journalist who, along with her colleague Laura Ling, was held captive in North Korea for five months in 2009, has called the Vienna Convention a "lifeline" that helped secure her release. Lee remembers the "sense of security" she gained from knowing that "someone outside of North Korea was monitoring my case. The prompt consular access, I believe, protected me from any physical mistreatment by my captors."

Even Iran has given consular access, if briefly, to the two American hikers in its custody, something Texas has denied Garcia. And during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, the U.S. sued Iran in the International Court of Justice for violating the same Vienna Convention that Texas is now defying. The ICJ ruled in in America's favor, just as it would rule in Mexico's favor 24 years later, when the Mexican government sued the U.S. for sentencing Garcia and 50 other Mexican citizens to death without honoring their consular rights.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Limbaugh: If Casey Anthony Had An Abortion, She Would Have Been A Media Star

Speaking about the Casey Anthony murder trial, Rush Limbaugh stated that the “liberal media” only cares about Caylee Anthony because she wasn’t aborted and that liberals who support abortion rights don’t care about the death of children. In fact, according to Limbaugh, women who get abortions are "heroes" to liberals. Listen:

“You know, what I don’t understand about it is they’re [the media] all card-carrying liberals. When does the death of a child bother them? I’ve never seen them get so upset over the death of a child. If the child had died, what, two years earlier in the womb this woman would be a star. She’d be a hero. And folks, I don’t think that that's a cliché to say. And I don’t think it's a cheap attempt at humor. I think that while it may be uncomfortable to hear — one of the reasons it is uncomfortable to hear is that there is an element of truth in it. You people in the media, if you really, really think she is guilty and you want to feel better about this, just tell yourselves that she just waited a couple of years to get an abortion and you’ll feel better.” (h/t: Addicting Info)

Ezra Klein: CBO, Economists Call Stimulus A Success

Paul Krugman has repeatedly and correctly argued that President Obama should have pushed for a bolder stimulus package. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has frothed with misinformation, irrationally stating that since the government lowered the initial report of the number of jobs created, the stimulus resulted in a loss of jobs–a falsehood held by Fox News viewers. Then there are the Republicans who railed against the stimulus in Washington while lobbying for its funds at home and taking credit for its successes. Ezra Klein (left), points out the bottom line: the stimulus package, however inadequate, was indeed a success, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other economists:

Most authorities don’t think the stimulus failed. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for instance, says it created between 1.2 million and 4.6 million jobs “compared to what would’ve happened otherwise.” IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s all estimate that the laws ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. Economists Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder put it at at 2.7 million jobs.

…Any serious assessment of the stimulus needs to include some variation of the six words that appear in the CBO’s study: “compared to what would’ve happened otherwise.” If the stimulus created three million jobs even as the economy lost seven million jobs, the stimulus worked. If it created only one million jobs, it performed far worse than the administration promised.

Either way, the stimulus was swamped by an economic crisis it was never large enough to neutralize. But that doesn’t make it unsuccessful.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Conservative Writer, Former GOP Sen. Criticize Republicans On Revenue

Two of the more reasonable right-leaning voices realize that there is a time to raise tax revenue and close loopholes. Commentator David Brooks took the Republicans to task for their intransigence in debt ceiling negotiations; failure to reach agreement will result in a disastrous default:

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.

…If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.

Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, slammed his party's refusal to raise revenue and referred to Grover Norquist, anti-tax activist who asks candidates to pledge opposition to all tax increases:

Former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson blasted his intransigent GOP colleagues on the Hill today for failing to reach a deal on the deficit. The blunt-talking co-chairman of President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal reform commission slammed Republicans for kowtowing to Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist (“Republicans can’t be in thrall to him”) and pushed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to stand fast on the August 2 deadline. Surveying the lay of the current fiscal land, Simpson said, “We’re at 15 percent revenue, and historically it’s been closer to 20 percent.” He added, “We’ve never had a war without a tax, and now we’ve got two. … Absolute bullshit.”

Rep. Charlie Dent Faces Angry Audience Over GOP Refusal To Cut Taxes For Rich

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) faced a town-hall audience angry over the Republicans’ holding debt ceiling negotiations hostage over their refusal to cut taxes for the rich. Instead, Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has stated that he won't raise the debt level without cuts to such programs as Medicare and Medicaid. Attendees asked Dent why he wouldn’t agree to raise taxes for the wealthy to Clinton levels. Watch:

Constituent: Three percent, we’re just saying, three percent that they gave in 2001, ask those wealthy people who have been doing great, who are doing better than anyone else. Just ask them to give their fair share. That’s all these middle class people are saying. Don’t saddle us with all of it.

Dent: I meant to ask you, what should the income tax rate be since you want to raise the income tax.

Constituent: I think it’s fair to say, put the wealthy tax rates back to where they were before 2001. Not a big deal.

Dent: Which rates are you referring to? Seriously–

Constituent: Thirty nine to thirty five percent–

Dent: You just want to raise the rates straight up.

Constituent: On the wealthiest people! To fix our fiscal problems.

Dent: That’s small businesses in many cases– [audience boos]

Constituent: You guys are protecting your sacred cows. Your oil company subsidies, everybody understands that. Just take ‘em, they don’t need them. The tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, they’re doing great, they don’t need them. You can’t come to us and say, ‘We’re going to take your Medicare away because we don’t think it’s working for you.’ [...] That’s why your boys [Republican leadership] are walking out of the room. They say take these off the table. Tell Mr. Cantor to put them back on the table. (h/t: Think Progress)

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Fourth Of July Message

Do Fourth Of July Celebrations Recruit Future Republicans?

Happy Fourth of July to all my readers. According to a recent Harvard study, “Shaping the Nation: Estimating the Impact of Fourth of July Using a Natural Experiment,” those of us on the liberal side should celebrate it with a new challenge in mind. The findings: Fourth of July celebrations attended in childhood increase the likelihood that one will become a Republican:

"The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans," [Harvard researchers David Yanagizawa-Drott and Andreas Madestam] write.

According to their research, attending one rain-free July 4 celebration before the age of 18 increases the likelihood that children will identify as Republican by two percent and increases the likelihood that they will vote for a Republican candidate by the time they turn 40 by four percent. It also increases the likelihood that young attendees will vote in elections by 0.9 percent and boosts the chances that they'll make political campaign contributions by three percent, the study claims.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

GOP Rep. Cantor Invested In Fund Set To Skyrocket With Default

The country risks a disastrous default if the debt ceiling is not raised. During negotiations, the Democrats have made proposals that the Republicans can’t abide, including ending tax breaks for energy companies and owners of corporate lear jets. The GOP would rather cut such trifles as Medicare and Medicaid. Rep. Eric Cantor (VA), Republican House majority leader, recently walked out of debt ceiling negotiations held by Vice President Biden. Cantor, though, stands to profit enormously should the country default due to his investment in a mutual fund "whose performance is directly affected by debt ceiling brinkmanship":

Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had between $1,000 and $15,000 invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively "shorts" long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. (A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.)

According to his latest financial disclosure statement, which covers the year 2010 and has been publicly available since this spring, Cantor still has up to $15,000 in the same fund. Contacted by Salon this week, Cantor's office gave no indication that the Virginia Republican, who has played a leading role in the debt ceiling negotiations, has divested himself of these holdings since his last filing. Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.

Bachmann’s Husband: Gays Are “Barbarians” Who Need To Be “Educated” And “Disciplined”

Suppose the country goes mad in 2012 and elects Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) president. Not only would we have a chief executive who has repeatedly insulted the gay community, but we’d also have one with a homophobic spouse. Dr. Marcus Bachmann is a self-described “strategist” for his wife’s campaign whose Christian-based counseling center is said to provide “treatment” for those seeking to "lose the gay" in themselves. On the religious right Point of View Radio Talk Show in May 2010, Dr. Bachmann explained his position on homosexuality. Listen:

Bachmann: We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps…

And let’s face it: what is our culture, what is our public education system doing today? They are giving full, wide-open doors to children, not only giving encouragement to think it but to encourage action steps. That’s why when we understand what truly is the percentage of homosexuals in this country, it is small. But by these open doors, I can see and we are experiencing, that it is starting to increase. (h/t: Think Progress)

Ohio Gov. Kasich Signs Bill Allowing Concealed Weapons In Bars

Guns and alcohol: that’s a wonderful mix. Note the so-called safety proviso in the new Ohio law signed by Republican Governor John Kasich:

Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich on Thursday signed into law a bill that allows gun owners in the state to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places where alcohol is served.

…The law...prohibits gun owners from consuming alcohol or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they carry their weapons into bars.

One question: why go into a bar without the intention to consume alcohol?

Democrats Slam GOP Refusal To End Tax Breaks For Jet Owners, Energy Companies

The country stands at the brink of a disastrous default if the debt ceiling is not raised, but the Republicans refuse to consider ending tax breaks for energy companies and owners of corporate jets. Instead, Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell wants to cut Medicare and Medicaid. President Obama criticized Republican priorities, stating that under their terms, wealthy oil companies would continue to receive taxpayer subsidies while “a bunch of kids out there are not getting college scholarships.” Senate Democrats also weighed in on the Republicans’ playing reverse Robin Hood. Let’s hope the Dems stick together this time. Watch:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Media Matters’ Tribute To Glenn Beck: “Requiem for a Rodeo Clown”

Media Matters put together a tribute to Glenn Beck, “Requiem for a Rodeo Clown,” following his final show on Thursday. It covers Beck's absurd “history” lessons, wacky conspiracy theories, defensive insistence that he isn’t a conspiracy theorist, hucksterism regarding buying gold, and general hysteria and antics. Watch and be amazed that so many look to this clown for answers:

Also check Media Matters' "50 Worst Things Glenn Beck Said On Fox News."

“If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Don’t Get Gay Married”

Following New York's legalization of marriage equality, Manhattan Mini Storage placed this common-sense advice around NYC on billboards and in the subway: