Saturday, June 30, 2012

Romney: Americans Should "Get As Much Education As They Can Afford"

There’s one line in Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday that stands out. After stating that he agrees with President Obama “that every American deserves a fair shot,” he then said that everyone should “get as much education as they can afford.” So much for the “fair shot.” In Romney’s America, if you can’t afford college, tough luck. Contrast that with Obama, who said, “In America, higher education cannot be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.” Watch as Romney makes clear the difference between the two candidates:

Waiting For Bill O'Reilly's Apology

Speaking to Caroline Fredrickson of the American Constitution Society, Bill O'Reilly told her with characteristic bluster that the Supreme Court would rule against the Affordable Care Act–and that if he were wrong, he promised to replay the clip and "apologize for being an idiot." Frederickson is still waiting for that apology. O'Reilly also ought to apologize for all the other Fox pundits who declared the bill unconstitutional. Watch O'Reilly deliver his pledge:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Shindell And Kaplansky

If you're falling for someone, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky warn you about the possible consequences in their rendition of "Love Hurts"–a sentiment Kaplansky must have heard often enough in her former work as a psychologist. This performance took place at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, England, August 2010.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Benefits Of Health Reform That Affect Every American

I expected the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, completing a series of disgraceful decisions that include Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. Who would have thought that it would not only be upheld, but that the deciding factor would be Chief Justice John Roberts? Naturally Romney has vowed to repeal the same type of law he signed in Massachusetts, and the political battles will continue. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect; I wanted a public option and, ultimately, believe in Medicare for all. But it is still a major achievement, and it is up to the Obama administration to do a better job explaining its benefits as November nears. Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, Think Progress listed 10 such benefits (below are the headings; read more here):

1) Access to health insurance for 30 million Americans and lower premiums.
2) The ability of businesses and individuals to purchase comprehensive coverage from a regulated marketplace.
3) Insurers’ inability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
4) Tax credits for small businesses that offer insurance.
5) Assistance for businesses that provide health benefits to early retirees.
6) Affordable health care for lower-income Americans.
7) Investments in women’s health.
8) Young adults’ ability to stay on their parents’ health care plans.
9) Discounts for seniors on brand-name drugs.
10) Temporary coverage for the sickest Americans.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PA GOP Leader: Voter ID Laws Will "Allow Gov. Romney To Win"

Though Republicans contend that they are pushing for voter ID laws to combat "fraud," such cases are extremely rare. That didn't keep Gov. Rick Scott of Florida from pursuing his purges–and not surprisingly, most of those targeted have been black or Hispanic. Now Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai let slip the real aim: voter suppression of Democratic constituents to benefit Romney and the GOP. After running through a list of GOP victories at a Republican State Committee meeting, Turzai said, "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Watch:

TURZAI: We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years. Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done. (h/t: Think Progress)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Romney's Bain Invested In Firms That Moved Jobs Overseas

Mitt Romney has been telling workers how upset he is about American jobs being shipped overseas and vowing to protect them. What he doesn't mention is that Bain Capital under Romney invested in firms that shipped American jobs overseas:

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

While economists debate whether the massive outsourcing of American jobs over the last generation was inevitable, Romney in recent months has lamented the toll it’s taken on the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly pledged he would protect American employment by getting tough on China.

“They’ve been able to put American businesses out of business and kill American jobs,” he told workers at a Toledo fence factory in February. “If I’m president of the United States, that’s going to end.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

David Koch To Host $50,000-Per-Person Dinner For Romney

Charles and David Koch are the billionaire oil magnates who use their inherited wealth to support right-wing causes, as documented in Jane Mayer’s must-read New Yorker article "Covert Operations" and Brave New Films' "The Koch Brothers Exposed." Aware that Romney wants to give a  tax cut  to the one percent–including the Kochs and Romney–and a tax increase to the poor, the Kochs are making a big investment in Romney. David Koch is holding a fundraiser at his Southampton, NY, home on July 8 for $50,000 per person. Couples can enjoy a savings rate of $75,000. Here's the invitation, via Buzzfeed:

Here's David Koch's home in Southampton, valued over $22 million:

Mom, Dad... I'm A Democrat...

Ryan Combe, running for Congress in Utah's First District, states that the web ad above is "about the moment that each of us have had when we are 'outed' as a Utah Democrat." In it, a young man confesses the truth to his dismayed parents: he's a Democrat and believes in taxing oil companies for education, equal rights between the sexes, preventing foreclosures and providing healthcare for all. At the end of the ad, Combe asks, "Why aren't you a Democrat? It might not be as bad as you think."

Gallup: Just One Third Of Americans Know Obama Is A Christian

According to a recent Gallup poll, only one third of Americans are able to correctly identify President Obama as a Christian. Forty-four percent state that they are unsure of his faith; 11%, including 18% of Republicans, identify Obama as a Muslim. Of the latter group, Gallup states, "It is unclear whether the 18% of Republicans who say Obama is a Muslim do so because they truly believe this is his religion, or because it is a politically charged idea." While it shouldn't matter what, if any, religion the president follows, we can take these findings as an indication of the many low-information voters in the country. Results from the June 7-10 Gallup poll:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poll: Most Republicans Still Believe Iraq Had WMD

Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a liberal bias." Perhaps that explains why many conservatives believe that global warming is a hoax and President Obama is a Kenyan. A new poll reveals another certitude in the Republican worldview: Iraq had WMD. Think Progress reports:

A new poll conducted by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino found that 63 percent of Republican respondents still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in 2003, even though this assertion has been thoroughly debunked. In comparison, only 27 percent of independents and less than 15 percent of Democrats believed in the misinformation. Additionally, 64 percent of Republican respondents believe that President Obama was born in another country. As the Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin notes, “this latest poll result seems to indicate a refusal — unique to the modern Republican Party — to acknowledge facts.”

Gas Prices Falling. Will Fox Credit Obama?

USA Today reports that gas prices are "down 47¢ from last year's high in April and well below the $5-a-gallon fears fanned earlier this year..." Further, they might hit $3 by autumn. Back when gas prices rose, Fox News hammered Obama; the Fox banner at left asks, "Will High Gas Prices Cost Your Kids Their Education?" So will Fox now praise Obama for lower prices? Hardly.

During the Bush years, Fox pundits said, correctly, that gas prices are controlled by market forces, not the president, a fact they forgot during the past four years. In fact, when prices started to lower, Fox pundits not only didn't credit Obama, but they also called it a negative economic indicator. The Fox banner at left states, "Why Cheap Gas Isn't Good." Rest assured that if Romney wins, the "Fair and Balanced" network will attribute high gas prices to market forces and low gas prices to Republican policies.

Paul Krugman: "Ireland Is Romney Economics In Practice"

Speaking to Stephen Colbert, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman warned that Ireland, whose economy ended in recession last year and continues to falter, gives us a preview of the disastrous austerity that will be implemented here if Mitt Romney is elected president. Watch:

KRUGMAN: Ireland is Romney economics in practice. They’ve laid off a large fraction of their public workforce, they’ve slashed spending, they’ve had extreme austerity programs. They haven't really raised taxes on corporation or the rich at all. They have 14 percent unemployment, 30 percent youth unemployment, zero economic growth. Ireland is a demonstration. Ireland is America’s future if Romney becomes president. (h/t: Politico)

Indeed, Romney wants to slash spending at least 18 percent, according to his campaign website, as well as lay off more public workers and cut taxes further for the wealthy.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Brian Setzer Live

Introduced by the late, legendary deejay Wolfman Jack, rockabilly and swing guitarist Brian Setzer did justice to Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" at The Palace, Hollywood, August 1987.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

AZ GOP Chair On Radio Show, Says Nothing As Host Calls Obama "Monkey"

On Tuesday I wrote about Arizona radio host Barbara Espinosa, who called President Obama "a monkey" and stated, "I voted for the white guy." It turns out that the story goes beyond the words of one ignorant, racist radio host. It also concerns the lack of words from the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, Tom Morrissey (left). He had called into the show and remained on the line when Espinosa made her comments. He said nothing. Another caller criticized Espinosa at length, yet Morrissey remained silent. The Republican chair finally spoke after several minutes, but not about the "monkey" comment. He said that support for Obama was "a national sickness":

The thing here with these folks that vote for and support Barack Obama, there’s a reason for that, they’re getting something out of it. Those of us — and I believe this and it’s bias — those of us that do not support Barack Obama and act upon our love of country are motivated by that. That’s why I say we’re patriots. I believe he is as wrong as wrong can be, and I hope that there’s enough people that think like we do — this group — so that we can defeat what I call, it’s like a national sickness.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Joe The Plumber Links Gun Control To Armenian Genocide And Holocaust

Ohio Republican Congressional candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," released a campaign video that linked the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust to gun control. As he shoots fruits and vegetables, Wurzelbacher states, "In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated. In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated. I love America." Wurzelbacher spokesman Phil Christofanelli described his candidate as "a student of history." Listen to his world history lesson:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Racist Arizona Radio Host Calls Obama A "Monkey"

On her radio show "Hair On Fire," Arizona host Barbara Espinosa called President Obama a "monkey," stating, “I don’t believe in calling him the first black president. I voted for the white guy myself. I call him a monkey.” She defended her statement with the absurd argument, “With a last name of Espinosa I’m anything but racist.” On her blog, Espinosa confirmed that she made the remark and stated, "Unless there has been a takeover of America and free speech is no longer allowed and I can be put to death for making a remark, I refuse to take the fifth." Espinosa's attempt to make this a free speech issue is pathetic; no one is proposing to execute her for her remark. At the same time, one listen to Espinosa is all it takes to accurately call her an ignorant racist:

NYC Protesters March Against Stop-And-Frisk

"There's no real correlation between who the police stop and who's a criminal... And the police should respond to crime, not suggestions and hunches of criminality driven by race," states attorney Gail Grey in the video above. Grey was among tens of thousands who took part in Sunday's silent march in New York City against the Police Department's "stop and frisk" program. The program's inequities include racial profiling that disproportionately targets blacks and Hispanics, the lack of a clear connection to the decline in crime in the city, the innocence of almost 90 percent of those stopped, the insignificant number of arrests resulting from the stops, and the quota-driven nature of the program. The New York Times provided statistics on the program in an editorial, "Reform Stop-and-Frisk":

The stop-and-frisk program dates to the 1990s, when the police department adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to policing and began bearing down on minor crime as a way of preventing more serious crimes. Despite the city’s claims, there is no proof that this approach, by itself, reduced crime in New York because crime has fallen in many cities that do not follow New York’s lead.

Over time, the program has grown to alarming proportions. There were fewer than 100,000 stops in 2002, but the police department carried out nearly 700,000 in 2011 and appears to be on track to exceed that number this year. About 85 percent of those stops involved blacks and Hispanics, who make up only about half the city’s population. Judge Scheindlin [of Federal District Court] said the evidence showed that the unlawful stops resulted from “the department’s policy of establishing performance standards and demanding increased levels of stops and frisks.”

She noted that the police officers had conducted tens of thousands of clearly unlawful stops in every precinct of the city, and that in nearly 36 percent of stops in 2009, officers had failed to list an acceptable “suspected crime.” The police are required to have a reasonable suspicion to make a stop. Only 5.37 percent of all stops between 2004 and 2009, the period of data considered by the court, resulted in arrests, an indication that a vast majority of people stopped did nothing wrong. Judge Scheindlin rebuked the city for a “deeply troubling apathy toward New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.” The message of this devastating ruling is clear: The city must reform its abusive stop-and-frisk policy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lisa Koch Serenades GOP: “Hands Off My Clam”

Though singer-songwriter and comedian Lisa Koch “can’t believe I still have to protest this shit, “ she warns the Republicans, “Hands Off My Clam,” to the tune of “Stand By Your Man.” Later, to the tune of “If I Only Had A Brain,” Koch tries to understand the men who attempt to regulate women’s health. Warning: this song mentions “vagina” repeatedly, a word so frightening that it led to the censure of Rep. Lisa Brown (D-MI). Listen:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Moonrise Kingdom"

In Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), both 12, fall in love and run off together after meeting at a local play and corresponding for a year. Sam is an outcast at his "khaki scouts" camp on a New England island and the child of indifferent foster parents. Suzy lives nearby with her estranged lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and three younger brothers, and is viewed as a problem child.

Sam, with his camping gear, and Suzy, with her luggage and fantasy books, activate their plan to meet in a field and set off into the wilderness, to the chagrin of Sam's scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the local sheriff (Bruce Willis), Suzy's parents and a social services official (Tilda Swinton), who is determined to put Sam in an orphanage. The two benefit from Sam's training in camping, yet also face a number of challenges, including the one posed by the searchers, who aim to take them away from the refuge they find in each other. They're earnest, adventurous and courageous, and their escapades resonate with the imaginative adventure tales that Suzy loves. Anderson, who directed "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Darjeeling Limited," has created another delightful, offbeat film that puts its faith in those who don't quite fit in.

Fox's Carlson Leaves Set After Kilmeade's Sexist Joke

Sexism and sleaze have long been among the hallmarks of Fox News–and one of its prime exemplars has been Brian Kilmeade. In the past, he asked co-host Gretchen Carlson, "Didn't men give you the kitchen?" He has also referred to women as "babes, chicks" and "skirts." On Thursday, Carlson finally had enough. Kilmeade, reacting to the U.S. Navy Band's recent inclusion of women, said, “Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control.” Carlson walked off the set, stating, "You read the headlines. Since men are so great. Take them [women] away. In all your glory.” The clueless Kilmeade then stated, "All right. Finally. Leaving an all-male crew... She needed a shower." Would any other major station put up with this blatant, repeated sexism? Watch:

Racism At The Root Of The Disrespect Shown Obama

Speaking about immigration reform in the Rose Garden on Friday, President Obama was repeatedly heckled by conservative writer Neil Munro (left) of the Daily Caller. Once again, Obama has been subjected to the sort of disrespectful behavior no other president has encountered. Among the outrageous episodes: Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) pointing her finger in his face; Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting "You lie" during a joint presidential speech to Congress; Donald Trump (and the Tea Party's) ridiculous "birther" claims, plus Trump's questioning the president's academic credentials.

Are these merely symptoms of a decline in civility in politics and public life? While party politics is more bitterly divided than ever, in great part due to Republican extremism, it's not that simple. Racism is at the root of the disrespect shown toward this president. Sure, the opposition will always criticize the president. But the examples above go way beyond political disagreement. They're in-your-face, personal insults, a complete disregard for the office of the president and an attempt at delegitimization. It is no coincidence that these events center around our first black president.

Trump and the birthers offer the most telling example. They state that Obama is not a "real American," not "one of us," a foreigner. Even after Obama released his birth certificate, Trump continued his nonsensical accusations. Trump's questioning Obama's scholarly credentials (as if bloviating ignoramus Trump has the right to questions anyone's scholarship) is code for suggesting that Obama didn't deserve to be in Harvard–even though he graduated magna cum laude from the law school and was president of Harvard Law Review. The video below shows Obama repeatedly interrupted while making a speech–one more episode of the disgraceful treatment meted out to this president. Watch:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Michigan GOP Spokesman: Female Reps Threw "Temper Tantrums"

After the Michigan House approved sweeping new restrictions on abortion, two female Democratic representatives were silenced as punishment Thursday for speaking out. Rep. Barb Bynum tried to call for an amendment that vasectomies also be regulated; Rep. Lisa Brown (left) said, "Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no." In an op-ed column today, Brown (who is going to perform in the "Vagina Monologues" on State Capitol steps) wrote,"I am outraged that this legislative body wants to dictate not only what women can do, but also what we can say."

Ari Adler, spokesman for Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolton, presented a classic sexist response in an email allegedly sent to press contacts. Alder didn't focus on the term "vagina" or anything else relating to the content of the representatives' objections; instead, he said they threw "temper tantrums":

To the Capitol Press Corps, 

 Just to be clear, despite the misinformation being spread by Reps. Brown and Byrum, and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, there are two representatives not being recognized on the House floor today because of their actions yesterday. It has nothing to do with their gender, their religion or the topic they were discussing. All day today, we have had representatives of both parties, both genders and several different religions passionately debating important issues that will significantly impact the future of Michigan. I would urge you not to become too distracted by temper tantrums designed to score political points. 



Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Boz Scaggs Live

Boz Scaggs played "Lido Shuffle" at New York's Beacon Theatre. Are the lyrics about a gangster or a musician deciding, "One more job ought to get it"? This ambiguity doesn't keep the audience from enjoying this driving performance.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown Silenced For Saying "Vagina"

Prior to 64 Republicans and 6 Democrats in the Michigan House approving sweeping new restrictions on abortion, Rep. Barb Byrum (D) tried to propose an amendment that vasectomies also be regulated. Byrum called out as she was ignored by Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, who struck his gavel and banned her from talking on the floor on Thursday for being "out of order."

Also banned from talking on Thursday is Rep. Lisa Brown (D), who explained that, as a Jewish woman, she abides by Judaism's tenet that abortions performed to save the life of the mother are mandatory. Brown concluded, "I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours? Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no." According to one of the Speaker's representatives, Brown was silenced because her remarks were "inappropriate." Brown asked the Daily Beast, "If I said 'elbow,' would I have gotten in trouble? If you're regulating vaginas, I don't know how we're not supposed to talk about them." Watch:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

VA Lawmaker: "Sea Level Rise" Is A "Left WIng Term"

Concerned about rising sea levels on coastal Virginia, state lawmakers recommended an environmental impact study. There was a problem, though, and it had nothing to do with science or funding. It had to do with terminology. In order for the study to be approved by Republican lawmakers, "sea level rise" and "climate change" had to be removed from the text. Virginia tea party members also objected to the words. Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle (left) explained:

Now it appears that "climate change" and "sea level rise" are being phased out, in Virginia at least, amid political pressure from the far right. Emerging labels include "increased flooding risk," "coastal resiliency" and, of course, "recurrent flooding."

State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the "sea level rise" study in the General Assembly to one on "recurrent flooding," said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.

He said "sea level rise" is a "left-wing term" that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?

"What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door," Stolle said. "Let's focus on that. Let's study that. So that's what I wanted us to call it."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

David Cay Johnston: Top 400 Families Paid 19.9% Avg. Fed. Tax In '09

David Cay Johnston (left) reports on revelations from the IRS annual report showing the low average income tax rate–just 19.9 percent–paid by the top 400 families in 2009. That's one of the findings attesting to income inequality cited in his article "The Fortunate 400." Johnston also reminds us of the different stances taken by Obama and Romney on tax cuts for the wealthy:

Six American families paid no federal income taxes in 2009 while making something on the order of $200 million each...

The data, posted on the IRS website last week, brings into sharp focus the debate over whether the rich need more tax cuts (Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans) or should pay higher rates (President Obama and most Democrats).

The annual report, which the IRS typically releases with a two-year delay, covers the 400 tax returns reporting the highest incomes in 2009. These families reported an average income of $202.4 million...

In addition to the six who paid no tax, another 110 families paid 15 percent or less in federal income taxes. That’s the same federal tax rate as a single worker who made $61,500 in 2009.

Overall, the top 400 paid an average income tax rate of 19.9 percent, the same rate paid by a single worker who made $110,000 in 2009. The top 400 earned five times that much every day.

Just 82 of the top 400 were taxed in accord with the Buffett rule, which proposes a minimum tax of 30 percent on annual incomes greater than $1 million.

Let’s return for a moment to the single worker who made $61,500 in 2009 and paid 15 percent of his salary in federal income taxes. The top 400 made more every three hours than he did in a year, and yet many of them paid the same or a lower tax rate, according to the data in the report.

Fischer: If Gays Aren't Discriminated Against, Christians Will Be

For Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, it’s either the gays or the Christians. In this zero-sum game, there’s no such thing as equality; one group’s rights must come at the expense of the other. Fischer states that gay marriage means the end of religious liberty and the First Amendment, and that “it is altogether right to discriminate against homosexual behavior,” since the alternative is discrimination against Christianity. Right Wing Watch brings us the video direct from Planet Fischer:

Cynthia Nixon Narrates Powerful Planned Parenthood Video

Cynthia Nixon, star of "Sex and the City," recounts the attempt to deny funding for Planned Parenthood and other aspects of the Republican war on women, with bills targeting their health care across the nation. Nixon reminds women that they have a choice in November between President Obama, who supports Planned Parenthood, and Mitt Romney, who pledged to “get rid” of it. Watch:

Liberals Who Might Not Support Obama Need A Reality Check

Longtime readers know that there have been times when I've criticized President Obama for not fighting harder for liberal causes. That, however, doesn't mean that I at all agree with some attendees of the progressive Netroots Nation conference who say that they won't support or vote for the president in November:

...Many liberals meeting Thursday at Netroots Nation — it describes the annual convention as “a giant family reunion for the left” — argue instead that Obama hasn’t fought hard enough for progressive priorities on taxes, health care and the economy.

Even more problematic for the president: With the election just five months away, some are threatening not to donate money or time or even vote in November for the man who overwhelmingly ignited their passions and captured their imaginations four years ago.

I'm reminded of the rationale for voting for Nader instead of Gore in 2000: both parties are corrupt, there's not much difference between the candidates. Every liberal who voted for Nader instead of Gore–or didn't vote at all–helped Bush. We ended up with the Iraq, torture, Katrina and tax cuts for billionaires.

Now we face another choice in November. Think there's no difference between the candidates? Think again. One will appoint another Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, one will appoint another Scalia. One will protect a woman's right to choose, one will not. One supports Planned Parenthood, one would get rid of it. One signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, one waffles on it. One wants more stimulus and hiring of public sector workers, one wants to keep them unemployed. One wants Wall Street regulations, one doesn't. One wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, one doesn't. One supports gay marriage, one opposes it. One set a date for withdrawal from Afghanistan, one criticized it. Need I go on? All of us know which candidate I refer to in each example.

There are real issues and differences in the November election. We must focus on these realities, not ideological perfection. Either Obama or Romney will be president next year. Liberals who don't support or vote for Obama benefit Romney. That's a chance we cannot take. I will support and vote for President Obama. I hope you will too.

Romney: America Doesn't Need More Cops, Firefighters, Teachers

On "Democracy Now!," Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently said, "If we were to spend more money at the government level and...rehire the schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers who have been laid off in the last several years because of cutbacks at the state and local level, we would be a long way back towards full employment." This point is entirely lost on Mitt Romney. Of course, Romney was once for more stimulus before he was against it. Now, though, Romney's "solution" is to leave firemen, police and teachers unemployed, which he states is "the message of Wisconsin."

It's hard to see how masses of endlessly unemployed public sector workers can boost consumer demand, essential to getting the economy back on track. Yet leaving them jobless somehow "helps the American people," as if these former public employees are not real Americans. The actual "message of Wisconsin" for the Republicans is, as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, put it, to "divide and conquer" the labor movement, setting private against public workers. Watch as Romney (whose state was 47th in job creation when he was governor of Massachusetts) criticizes Obama's demand for $35 billion in federal funds to keep these workers on the job:

ROMNEY: "He wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Executive Severance: A Mystery Composed On Twitter

Executive Severance: A Mystery Composed On Twitter by Robert K. Blechman. 137 pp. Neopoesis Press

Robert K. Blechman conducted an experiment completely suited to the social media era. He wrote a mystery composed entirely of “Tweets,” with each entry no longer than Twitter’s 140-character limit. In the novel, Detective Arkaby is investigating the murder of Willum Granger, a cloning pioneer whose lab is named “Body Parts R Us.” At the opening of the novel, Granger “was beside himself.” Indeed, he was severed in two.

“Executive Severance” represents a new departure in the mystery novel while presenting a fast pace, madcap situations and equally mad characters. In addition, the novel is a feast for devotees of the pun. The following Tweet is from a scene in a morgue:

He opened the fourth drawer. Inside lay Snap, Crackle and Pop from the Rice Krispies box. “We think this is the work of a cereal killer.

Tweets are integral to both the form and plot of the novel. Along with this device are more traditional elements: a romantic interest, an evil character and a suspenseful ending. Blechman has succeeded in giving the genre a uniquely contemporary twist in this innovative, humorous and entertaining “twistery.”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pastor Hagee Tells Atheists To Leave The Country

We recently watched Pastor Dennis Terry tell liberals and non-Christians to "get out" of America. On June 6, the 68th anniversary of D-Day, Pastor John Hagee added atheists to the list of those who should leave the country. It's striking how these "spiritual leaders" are so obsessed with whom to exclude. In addition, Hagee called on Congress "to outlaw the practice of witchcraft and Satanism in the U.S. military, lest we offend the God of heaven." So much for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. What do such concepts mean to right-wing fundamentalists, America's version of the Taliban? Listen to Hagee via Right Wing Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Edie Brickell And The New Bohemians

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians performed "What I Am," in the late 1980s. The lyrics insist that one not get too deep, especially when "Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box. Religion is the smile on a dog." Nevertheless, Brickell's vocal pacing and the percussion are funky, and the guitar solo is pleasingly reminiscent of Jerry Garcia's use of the wah-wah pedal.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Florida Voter Fraud Is Rare, But Scott Continues Purges

The Walker win in Wisconsin showed the results of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, as it enabled right-wing billionaires to bombard the airwaves with ads supporting its union-busting candidate. The Republicans have another weapon in their quest to corrupt the electoral process: voter suppression. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and his Department of State defied the Justice Department's demand that it stop voter purges of over 2,600 supposed "non-citizens." Scott is combating a non-existent problem. Not coincidentally, the majority of those purged are Hispanic or black–and a minority are Republicans. The purges are part of Scott's ongoing effort to suppress the vote. Perhaps Florida will again help deliver a fraudulent GOP presidential victory:

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 178 cases of alleged voter fraud have been referred to the department since 2000...

"It's just not widespread," said Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections and the supervisor for Martin County.

Added Mary Cooney, public-services director for the Broward Elections Office: "While there may have been complaints about perceived voter fraud, I am not aware of any actual cases which were turned over to law enforcement."

...Instead, Democrats and voter-registration groups argue that Republican concern about "fraud" is really aimed at "suppressing" minority voters — blacks and Hispanics — who tend to vote Democratic. They argue that was the aim of the 2011 reforms, which made it tougher for voting-rights groups to register new voters, restricted the number of "early voting" days and made it harder for a voter to change his or her name or address at the polls.

...What's more, according to an analysis by the (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel, 64 percent identified themselves as Hispanic — roughly five times the 13 percent of all voters who say they're Hispanic — and 14 percent as black, non-Hispanic. Only 9 percent were non-Hispanic whites, who make up 68 percent of all registered voters. And just 21 percent are Republicans, compared with 36 percent of all voters.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Vote Challenges Liberals In Citizens United Era

Commenting on Gov. Scott Walker's victory in Wisconsin, Frank Rich said, "Walker outspent Barrett, his Democratic opponent, exponentially, much of it coming from some of the outside-the-state sugar daddies I wrote about back then: Bob Perry, Foster Friess, David Koch. They got what they paid for, a big defeat for organized labor, a symbolic defeat for Democrats, and a victory for a world view in which unions, government regulation, and taxation are all nuisances that should be stamped out so that Ayn Rand vulture capitalism can triumph unimpeded."

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of cash from the likes of Perry, Friess and the Koch brothers, decisively corrupting our political system. Would Walker have won anyway? It's impossible to tell. It seems equally impossible, however, for a candidate like opponent Tom Barrett to win facing a seven to one gap in campaign cash, the majority flooding in from out-of-state.

Regardless of such speculation, consider the consequences of the Walker win. Karl Rove's Crossroads group has gained a tremendous boost in pursuing its right-wing ad campaigns. Unions have suffered a tremendous setback in their influence. Republican governors in other states are encouraged to pursue an anti-union agenda. As Rachel Maddow explained, the unions conceded to Walker's demands, yet he still went after their collective bargaining rights. Walker even admitted, under questioning by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), that his union-busting bill had no effect on the state budget. Unions, however, are the last bastion of Democratic financial support. Membership in public employee unions in Wisconsin has declined since Walker's law went into effect. We see the ultimate goal: decimate the unions, remove them as the major source of Democratic contributions and all that will be left are the big corporate spenders who back the Republicans.

Public financing of elections is not being debated and the overturning Citizens United is a distant goal. Wisconsin showed liberals, progressives and Democrats that they'll have to develop new strategies to deal with the formidable challenges posed by Citizens United.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bill Clinton: Romney Presidency Would Be "Calamitous"

Speaking at an Obama fundraiser in New York, Bill Clinton said that a Romney presidency would be "calamitous for our country and the world." The former president particularly criticized the Republicans and Romney for adopting the same economic austerity policies that have failed in Europe:

...Mr. Clinton said that Republicans’ politics call for “constant conflict” and as for their policies, “the economics are crazy.”

“The Republican Congress and their nominee for president, Governor Romney, have adopted Europe’s economic policies,” Mr. Clinton said. “Their economic policy is austerity and unemployment now, and then a long-term budget that would explode the debt when the economy recovers so the interest rates would be so high, nobody would be able to do anything.”

In contrast, Mr. Clinton said, Mr. Obama’s economic agenda is “job growth now, and long-term budget restraint.”

Mr. Obama, he said, “has good politics, he’s got a good record, he’s made the best of a very challenging situation, he deserves to be re-elected.”

And he “has a pretty good secretary of state, too,” Mr. Clinton added, to laughter and applause at the reference to his wife.

Mark Fiore: “Assaulting Austerity”

Progressive animator Mark Fiore focuses on the folly of austerity in Europe and its deluded American advocates. As always, austerity further weakens consumer demand, leading to more unemployment and economic decline…leading to calls for even more austerity. European voters have rejected such policies, calling for more stimulus and growth. Regardless, Republicans here insist that slashing and cutting bring economic revival. Watch:

Paul Krugman: We Have A Republican Economy–And It Doesn't Work

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman exposes the "gigantic con game" that is Republican electoral strategy. Contrary to GOP distortions (including Romney's), spending has gone down under Obama, actually to the detriment of the economy. The GOP has obstructed further stimulus and insisted on continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. These policies have been harmful–and because of that, the Republicans will continue upholding them in their quest for victory in November. The administration has been too reticent in "exposing the con"; Krugman advises Obama to adopt a Harry Truman "give 'em hell" stance toward the "do-nothing" Republicans in Congress. Excerpts follow from "This Republican Economy":

What should be done about the economy? Republicans claim to have the answer: slash spending and cut taxes. What they hope voters won’t notice is that that’s precisely the policy we’ve been following the past couple of years. Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.

So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasn’t followed (in large part because the G.O.P. wouldn’t let him), and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed.

...Isn’t Mr. Obama a big spender? Actually, no; there was a brief burst of spending in late 2009 and early 2010 as the stimulus kicked in, but that boost is long behind us. Since then it has been all downhill. Cash-strapped state and local governments have laid off teachers, firefighters and police officers; meanwhile, unemployment benefits have been trailing off even though unemployment remains extremely high.

...[The Obama administration's] best bet, surely, is to do a Harry Truman, to run against the “do-nothing” Republican Congress that has, in reality, blocked proposals — for tax cuts as well as more spending — that would have made 2012 a much better year than it’s turning out to be.

For that, in the end, is the best argument against Republicans’ claims that they can fix the economy. The fact is that we have already seen the Republican economic future — and it doesn’t work.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Romney Advisor: Women's Issues Are "Shiny Objects" That "Distract" Voters

Speaking to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Romney senior campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom equated women's health issues such as abortion with "shiny objects" that "distract people's attention." Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter questioned why, if such issues are a distraction, Romney has promoted so many social policies harmful to women. Watch:

FEHRNSTROM: Mitt Romney is pro-life. He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election...

CUTTER: If it’s not a social issue election, then why did Mitt Romney just spend the last year campaigning on social issues? These are his positions that he’s taken. Whether it’s giving bosses control over whether female employees can get contraception, being for the so-called personhood amendment that would ban all forms of abortion or telling the American people that he’ll get back to them on whether he supports Lilly Ledbetter [Fair Pay Act] — which is an economic issue and it should be a no-brainer, but the governor couldn’t even bring himself to be for that. ...I think that getting rid of Planned Parenthood or a number of other social issues that the governor injected into the campaign — I think that women don’t like that intrusion. What Mitt Romney is really saying that he’s going to do is he’s going to use government to intrude into their lives. And I think that they resent that.

John Cassidy: "Jobs Slowdown Could Cost Obama The Election"

The third straight month of disappointing employment growth is a potential game changer for the presidential election. We recall how the tanking of the economy (combined with McCain's ridiculous choice of a running mate) sealed Obama's victory in 2008. In November, the election will again turn on the economy–specifically, jobs. Obama is dependent on Congress, including the GOP-controlled House, to help revive the economy. Instead, the Republicans are crowing about the jobs report and view economic weakness as their ticket to the White House. Romney offers nothing but tax cuts for the wealthy, austerity for the rest of us, deregulation and military spending–a repeat of the failed Bush policies. Regardless, a population anxious about jobs and subject to a barrage of ads by Karl Rove's Crossroads, backed by billions of dollars following the Supreme Court's disgraceful Citizens United decision, just may award the presidency to Romney. Writing in The New Yorker, John Cassidy (above) focused on the danger to the president in "Jobs Slowdown Could Cost Obama The Election":

...the likelihood of a Romney victory went up considerably...with the release of a shockingly bad jobs report.

...from President Obama’s perspective, this was a truly horrible jobs report. Nobody, and I mean nobody, was expecting the May figure for growth in payrolls to come in as low as it did: sixty-nine thousand. And nobody was expecting the April figure—at a hundred and fifteen thousand already pretty anemic—to be slashed by nearly fifty thousand, to seventy-seven thousand.

With the May unemployment rate ticking up from 8.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent, the White House’s misery was virtually complete. Talk of a new recession is overblown, but the economy has clearly stalled at a very awkward moment for Obama. Between January and March, it created two hundred and twenty-six thousand jobs a month, according to the Labor Department’s payroll survey. In April and May, this figure fell by two thirds—to seventy-three thousand.

...It isn’t as if the Republican nominee-elect has a credible solution to the jobs crisis. He doesn’t. His fifty-nine point economic plan, which combines drill-drill-drill with tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare, and long-term fiscal retrenchment, would have little or no impact on the unemployment rate. And if he gave into the Republican right and started slashing federal spending straight away, he could well bring on another recession. But when things are bad, challengers are held to a lower standard than incumbents. The “time for a change” argument often resonates more strongly with voters than the incumbent’s critique of his opponent’s plans.

Sponsor A Uterus In Need

Since women are incapable of making choices affecting their bodies, a new program enables men to “Sponsor a uterus in need.” Men get a kit containing a photo of the uterus and information about “the female that happens to surround them.” One happy woman states, “I don’t have to be burdened by my reproductive system any more. Now a man named Ken in Arizona makes all my choices for me.” Kate Lambert wrote and acts in this timely parody. Watch:

White Supremacist Elected To PA County GOP Committee

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Steve Smith (left), longtime white supremacist with ties to neo-Nazi and other white nationalist hate groups, has been elected to the Republican Party's Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, committee. Smith, who will serve a four-year term, has matched violent rhetoric with action:

...Recruited into the neo-Nazi movement while he was stationed at Fort Bragg in the 1990s, Smith, of Pittston, Penn., has been active in an extraordinary array of white nationalist, skinhead, and neo-Nazi groups, including American Third Position, Keystone United (formerly Keystone State Skinheads), and the Council of Conservative Citizens. He is a former Aryan Nations member and former leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People...

...Smith’s ties to the racist right stretch far beyond the political. In 2001, he co-founded a racist skinhead group now known as Keystone United (which was until 2009 known as the Keystone State Skinheads, or KSS), one of the largest and most active single-state racist skinhead crews in the country. In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.

...As a committee member, he will have a say in the selection of the Luzerne GOP’s County Chairman and Executive Committee, who, according to the party’s website, “oversee and direct all of the activity of the Republican Party in the County.” Luzerne County GOP officials did not respond to a request for comment on Smith election in time for publication.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Neville Brothers Visit "Congo Square"

At the Jazz Open, Stuttgart, Germany, July 1995, the Neville Brothers, "New Orleans' First Family of Funk," performed "Congo Square," whose lyrics describe "...when the voodoo people gather and they play their drums at night in Congo Square." Appropriately enough, the performance featured a dynamic drum solo by Willie Green, along with Aaron Neville on vocals and Charles Neville on sax.