Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sharpton Gives Romney Etiquette Tips Following Disastrous Trip

Let's recap the disastrous overseas tour of Mitt Romney. The man who aspires to represent America to the world insulted Britain by questioning London's readiness for the Olympics; he also exposed the fact that he met with the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He insulted the Palestinians by suggesting they were poorer than the Israelis due to an inferior "culture"–remarks that were unsympathetically covered by both the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Al Jazeera. In Poland today, a Romney spokesman told reporters to "kiss my ass" when they tried to ask the inaccessible candidate questions. A Romney advisor called the trip "a great success." On Politics Nation, Al Sharpton viewed the tour differently and gave Romney a crash course in etiquette. Watch:

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Nation: Don't Discount The Destructiveness Of A Romney Victory

Writing in The Nation, Robert L. Borosage, contributing editor, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, issued a dire warning about the destructive effects of a Romney victory in every area of our national life, from economics to health care to education and more:

No one should discount the potential destructiveness of a victory for Mitt Romney. The widespread media assumption that he’s really a “Massachusetts moderate” who adopted extreme positions to placate the Republican electorate before resetting his Etch A Sketch would be irrelevant even if it were true. A Romney victory could be accompanied by GOP control of all branches of government, with the party’s right-wing majority in the House driving the agenda. As Grover Norquist argues, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader…. We just need a president to sign this stuff.”

The “stuff” they would pass—already endorsed by Romney—includes repeal of the modest reforms enacted to police corporations after the Enron scandal and banks after the financial collapse; repeal of healthcare reform, stripping some 30 million people of coverage; budget cuts that would gut almost all domestic functions of the government, from education to child nutrition to safeguarding clean air and water; and an end to Medicare and Medicaid as we know them. These draconian measures would be used to pay for increases in military spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Under the Romney plan, those making over $1 million a year would receive an average tax break of $250,000. A Romney victory would buoy a Republican right eager to roll back social progress, constrict voting rights and exacerbate racial divides in an era of middle-class decline. The offensive against labor and workers’ rights would escalate. And Romney’s bellicose foreign policy would make George W. Bush look dovish. If Romney wins, we will spend four years fighting to limit the damage he will inflict on the nation.

British Celebrate National Health Service At Olympics Ceremonies

The British celebrated their government-run, publicly funded National Health Service as part of the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. NBC's Brian Williams said, "Back in the states we're locked in this partisan debate over the future of health care. Here, they feel so strongly about their health care system they're actually celebrating it as part of the Olympics opening ceremonies." Co-host Meredith Viera commented, "These folks that you're seeing here, they really are doctors and nurses from the National Health Service, dedicated their lives to helping others, this has to be a great moment of pride for them to receive this kind of recognition before a worldwide audience."

Funny, I don't remember a tribute to America's privatized health care when the games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002. What would we have celebrated? The millions of uninsured? As you ponder that, watch the following:

Religious Right Maintains Double Standard On Boycotts

Right-wing hypocrisy and misinformation were on display on the Mike Huckabee Show regarding protests against the homophobic Chick-fil-A. Huckabee spoke to Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), who joined the host in decrying "economic bullying" on the part of those calling for a boycott of the fast food chain. Not mentioned is the fact that NOM has called for boycotting Starbucks and General Mills for supporting marriage equality–a contradiction to NOM's call for "corporate neutrality" on the issue (a contradiction that also characterizes the American Family Association). In addition, the two speak of Chick-fil-A purely as a free speech issue. Besides Chick-fil-A's president condemning homosexuality, the fast-food company contributes to anti-gay causes and has a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign. None of this registers with Brown and Huckabee. Listen:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anti-Gay Activists Rally Round Homophobic Chick-fil-A

The usual gang of anti-gay, right-wing activists are supporting Chick-fil-A in the face of calls for a boycott. Besides Sarah and Todd Palin, shown at left giving the homophobic fast-food company the thumbs up, backers include Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rev. Billy Graham, The Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America. Chick-fil-A has contributed millions to anti-gay organizations, including Exodus International, which describes itself as "a refuge for people looking for help in their journey out of homosexuality." There are more shameful aspects to Chick-fil-A's practices:

Chick-fil-A is one of a very small number of major national companies that refuses to offer any employment protections to LGBT employees. In fact, the company received a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign and has a record of firing employees it believes engage in “sinful” behavior. Activists from across the country are protesting the company after its president condemned homosexuality in a recent radio interview.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds "Suicide Advisory" For Women Seeking Abortions

Among the laws seeking to discourage women from exercising their right to an abortion is a legal requirement in South Dakota, upheld by a federal appeals court, that a doctor tell a woman seeking an abortion that she is at increased risk of suicide:

...The appeals court said the suicide advisory is “non-misleading” and “relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.”

..."On its face, the suicide advisory presents neither an undue burden on abortion rights nor a violation of physicians’ free speech rights," the decision said.

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota took issue with the appeals court decision, saying it "allows the greatest intrusion by the government into the patient doctor relationship to date."

"The bottom line is that women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy," Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

Leslee Unruh of the Alpha Center pregnancy counseling center in Sioux Falls, which seeks to persuade women not to seek abortions, called the decision a victory for South Dakota women.

Image: Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

Poll: Most Gun Owners Back Some Firearms Restrictions

A poll conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that most gun owners, including former and current NRA members, support some firearms ownership restrictions, in contrast to the NRA's hard line:

Seventy-four percent of the current and former NRA members and 87 percent of the other gun owners supported criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun, according to the poll.

...Poll respondents also favored eligibility requirements for obtaining concealed weapon permits, with 63 percent of current and former NRA members and 74 percent of the other gun owners agreeing that applicants must be at least 21 years old.

More than two-thirds of respondents from both groups said that permits to carry concealed weapons should not be allowed for people who had committed violent misdemeanors, such as assault, or those who have been arrested for domestic violence.

In addition, 71 percent of current or former NRA members and 80 percent of the other gun owners supported banning people on a terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

Image: Steve Sack, Star Tribune

Paul Whitefield: "Think Obama's A Muslim? Then You're Too Stupid To Vote"

A recent Pew Research poll discovered that a substantial number of Americans, especially Republicans, believe Obama is a Muslim. While it shouldn't matter which, if any, religion the president follows, this finding prompted Paul Whitefield of the L.A. Times to make a proposal regarding voting rights: If you demand my voter I.D., I demand basic intelligence:

...if you were to show up at the polls in November, and the poll worker were to ask you “Is President Obama a Muslim or a Christian?” and you answered “Muslim,” then — bzzzzzt — you’d be automatically disqualified from voting, on the grounds you’re just too dumb.

My colleague Jim Rainey reported Friday on a Pew Research Center Forum on Religion and Public Life survey released Thursday showing that just 49% of Americans described the president as a Christian, while 17% said they believed he was Muslim.

And, though I hate to cast aspersions, this tidbit isn’t surprising: “While Pew found in October 2008 that 16% of Republicans (and the same percentage of conservative Republicans) called Obama a Muslim, the most recent survey found 30% of Republicans and 34% of conservative Republicans said it was so.”

...But if Republicans want me to produce a photo ID to prove I’m the same person who’s been voting for four decades, then Democrats have the right to demand some basic level of intelligence from the other side.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Jayhawks

At Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, The Jayhawks performed "She Walks In So Many Ways," whose lyrics remind me of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" (the Grateful Dead's cover of the latter was shown here in March 2010).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romney Shows Diplomatic Skills, Questions London's Readiness For Olympics

In an interview with NBC News, Mitt Romney questioned London's readiness for the Olympics and whether the people will "come together" once it begins. Prime Minister David Cameron rebuked Romney, stating that it was harder to hold the Olympics in London than in "the middle of nowhere," alluding to Romney's organizing the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The British Press, including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph, were not impressed with Romney, whose other mistakes during his first trip abroad as a presidential candidate included exposing the fact that he had met with the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). London Mayor Boris Johnson, a Tory, told thousands in Hyde Park, "I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready." Watch:

JOHNSON: I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life. … people are coming from around the world and they are seeing us and they are seeing the greatest city on earth. And there are some people who are coming from around the world who don’t yet know about all the preparations we’ve done to get London ready in the last seven years. I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. He wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!

For more responses on Twitter to Romney's escapades in London, including "Worse than Sarah Palin," visit #romneyshambles.

McConnell Accuses Democrats Of "Ideological Fanaticism" On Taxes

The Republicans have repeatedly held the country hostage with their insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Doing so would add $80 billion to the deficit in 2013. The tax cuts have not resulted in more hirings on the part of "job creators." President Obama and Senate Democrats support extending the tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year and ending them for the wealthy. More than two-thirds of Americans–including more than half of the self-identified Republicans–agree. But the House Republicans do not agree and are ready to hold tax cuts for the majority hostage for the sake of the rich. Despite all of these facts, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused the Democrats of "ideological fanaticism" on taxes:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday cited recent comments from Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and other Democrats that suggested they would be willing to let all the current tax rates expire at the end of the year if they don’t get their preferred deal.

“It’s ideological fanaticism. They are so fixated on raising taxes that they’re willing to do anything,” McConnell said in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show. “It shows you how rigidly ideological they are.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romney Advisor: Obama Doesn't "Fully Appreciate" Our "Anglo-Saxon Heritage"

Is it just a "white thing" that Obama wouldn't understand? That sure seems to be the racially coded message by a Romney advisor who said that the president doesn't "fully appreciate" our "Anglo-Saxon heritage"–a heritage that Romney supposedly appreciates more. Another advisor stated that "left-winger" Obama is "very comfortable with American decline." The comments were made to London's Daily Telegraph:

As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America's enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”

...“Obama is a Left-winger," said another. "He doesn’t value the Nato alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory'.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wisconsin GOP Senator: Voter ID Law Would Help Romney

Recently Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai said that voter ID laws will allow Mitt Romney to win in his state. Also looking forward to the results of GOP voter suppression is Republican State Senate Minority Assistant Leader Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin. Grothman supported the voter ID law, which deprives citizens of their voting rights in his state. The law was blocked by a state judge, but Grothman hopes it will be upheld by November, since it would help Romney. Grothman explained to Scott Keyes of Think Progress, "...people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.” Listen:

KEYES: If it were upheld and in place in time for the November election, do you think — polls have shown a pretty razor-thin margin — do you think it might ultimately help Romney’s campaign here in the state?

GROTHMAN: Yes. Right. I think we believe that insofar as there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.

KEYES: So if these protections are in place of voter ID, that might ultimately help him in a close race?

GROTHMAN: Right. I think if people cheat, we believe the people who cheat are more likely to vote against us.

GOP's Tax Cuts For Rich Add $80 Billion More To Deficit

The Republicans started posing as "deficit hawks" following Obama's election in 2008. As if that weren't enough to not take them seriously on this issue, one merely needs to examine the findings of the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The committee reports that the Republicans would add $80 billion more than the Democrats to the deficit in 2013 due to their insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That figure would only grow over 10 years:

A Republican proposal to preserve tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest households next year would cost about $80 billion more than a Democratic proposal to extend the cuts solely for middle-class taxpayers, according to official estimates released Thursday.

The GOP measure, introduced by Senate Republicans, would devote an additional $50 billion to retaining the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two tax brackets. Reducing the estate and gift tax, which disproportionately benefits the wealthy, would eat up another $31 billion, according to cost estimates by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

All told, the Republican measure would add $300 billion to next year’s budget deficit, the JCT said.

...“If we decouple the tax cuts for those earning above $250,000 they will be gone for good. Over ten years, that will reduce the deficit by $800 billion compared to what Republicans want to do,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Image: Steve Sack, Star Tribune

Gohmert: McCain Is "Numb Nuts" Due To Criticism Of Bachmann

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) last appeared here a year ago, shown ranting at Anderson Cooper regarding a "terror baby plot." Gohmert is currently one of five Republicans backing Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) baseless charge that Huma Abedin, Muslim-American aide to Secretary of State Clinton, is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Following the accusation, Abedin was threatened and is under police protection. On the Dennis Miller Show today, Gohmert called Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "numb nuts" for his criticism of Bachmann on the Senate floor. According to Gohmert, McCain was "unalterably opposed" to the Muslim Brotherhood when "stuff" was "going on in Egypt"; his support for Abedin is proof that he is "okay with it now." Listen:

GOHMERT: Well, it’s obvious that John McCain didn’t even read the letter because of what he said in accusing Michele and us of making these horrible accusations. There were five letters and there were many things that are stated that are facts in each letter. And I wish some of these numb nuts would go out and read the letter before they make these horrible allegations about the horrible accusations we’re making. But we also know that John McCain himself had said back in the early stages of stuff going on in Egypt that he was, in his words, “unalterably opposed to helping the Muslim Brotherhood.” Well, obviously the unalterable person has been altered, so he is okay with it now.

Review: "1959: The Year Everything Changed" by Fred Kaplan

1959: The Year Everything Changed by Fred Kaplan. 322 pp. Wiley

Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'" is usually thought of as a Sixties anthem, but Fred Kaplan shows how the song could have applied to 1959, a year whose political and cultural currents presaged the upheavals of the 1960s.

Referring to fears of a nuclear confrontation with the USSR, Kaplan characterizes the time as a "twin precipice–the prospect of infinite possibilities and instant annihilation, both teetering on the edge of a new decade." The Americans and the Soviets were also involved in a space race and competed for influence in the Third World. Writers such as C. Wright Mills critiqued U.S. foreign policy in books that were forerunners to the next decade's New Left. Domestically, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission released its first report on racial discrimination, and G.D. Searle applied to the FDA for approval of the pill, liberating women in terms of career and sexuality.

Culturally, writers Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac produced a spontaneous, personal literature that railed against conformity and materialism. Artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg broke free from abstract expressionism to create a pre-Pop art focused on everyday objects. Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Dave Brubeck forged breakthroughs in jazz composition, while Motown in Detroit launched a new generation of black recording artists. "1959: The Year Everything Changed" is a lively and fascinating account of history, politics and culture, one that gives us a new perspective on the year and the decade of the Fifties.

Listen to Fred Kaplan discuss this book on the Diane Rehm radio show; watch Kaplan discuss the book at Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn.

For those interested in related works, I recommend "The Fifties" by David Halberstam and "New York in the 50s" by Dan Wakefield.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Clinton Aide Threatened, Under Police Protection After Bachmann Smear

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (left) made a baseless attack on Huma Abedin, a Muslim-American and an aide to Secretary of State Clinton, stating that she is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) forcefully condemned Bachmann's false rumors on the Senate floor; Bachmann, not surprisingly, refuses to back down. Thanks to her smears, Abedin has been threatened and is under police protection:

Police and federal officials have placed security around ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, after a New Jersey man threatened her, law-enforcement sources said.

An individual, described as a Muslim man, made the unspecified threat after Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) last week claimed Abedin’s family had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and asked for a probe to see if she is helping the Islamist organization.

The man was questioned by the NYPD and the State Department and has not been charged, sources said.

Once Again, What Does It Take To Change America's Lax Gun Laws?

Reflecting last March upon the Jared Loughner and George Zimmerman shootings, Rachel Maddow asked what it takes for America to change its lax gun laws. She concluded that no matter what horrific event involving gun violence occurs, “All the changes in law go toward more guns in more places and more legal excuses for shooting people.” It is only the gun lobby, specifically the NRA, whose decision matters.

Prior to James Holmes' killing 12 and wounding 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, he purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online, an AR-15 Assault Rifle and three other guns at local stores. The AR-15, shown above, is not a "sporting" rifle or a weapon for self-defense; with its magazine and trigger, it is designed to kill as many people as possible and as quickly as possible–the very purposes for which Holmes used it. Given Colorado's lax gun laws, he passed a minimal background check. The background check did not cover why someone would need to stockpile so many weapons in a short period. Isn't that alone grounds for suspicion?

Does anyone feel that more reasonable gun laws are on the horizon following this latest massacre? One article states that America is resigned to no change, especially given the power of the NRA. We come back to Rachel Maddow's question about what it takes and the direction in which gun laws always seem to go. America's gun situation is encapsulated in the cartoon below by Tom Tomorrow in which "Sparky the Penguin" tells an NRA supporter, "Barring some seismic realignment in this country, the gun control debate is all but settled–and your side won. The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay. Over and over again, apparently."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Keb' Mo' & Corey Harris

Two of the finest contemporary acoustic blues musicians, Keb' Mo' and Corey Harris, performed Robert Johnson's classic "Sweet Home Chicago." President Obama, by the way, sang a few bars of the song at a White House blues concert.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ann Romney: "We've Given All You People Need To Know"

Interviewed by Robin Roberts of ABC, Ann Romney stated that Mitt's contributing to his church is evidence that he has nothing to hide financially. If that's so, why doesn't he release more tax returns and provide more information about offshore tax havens and continued profits from Bain Capital? Ann explains, "Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack"–a clear admission that there's something to hide. Her most notable comment: "We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life." Watch as Ann Romney dismisses the peasantry:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bush: "Eight Years Was Awesome. I Was Famous And Powerful"

Speaking to the Hoover Institute's Peter Robinson, George W. Bush said that he no longer wants to be in the public eye. "Look, eight years was awesome," Bush said. "You know, I was famous and I was powerful, but I have no desire for fame and power any more." While the Bush presidency was associated with "shock and awe," the public viewed his time in office as less than "awesome"; Bush received a final approval rating of 22 percent, one of the lowest for a departing president in history. Watch Bush's sunnier assessment:

For more recollections of the "awesome" Bush years, you can view the full interview.

Jon Stewart Considers Romney’s “Retroactive Retirement” From Bain

Jon Stewart senses a contradiction between Mitt Romney’s claim that he was uninvolved with Bain Capital’s investment in companies outsourcing jobs while, according to SEC filings, serving as CEO, president and managing director. Stewart also has trouble comprehending Romney senior advisor Ed Gillespie’s statement that Romney “retired retroactively.” He translates it as follows: “In 2012, I realized that the company I was legally CEO of in 1999 did things that would hurt my presidential run in the present so I retroactively wasn’t there.” Watch:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GOP Rep Flees From Question About Minimum Wage

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), a Tea Party supporter, avoided a question from a Vietnam veteran about raising the minimum wage. Duffy has voted to privatize Medicare, defended tax cuts for the rich and complained about his $174,000 salary. Watch as the Republican Congressman gets in his car and drives off while his constituent tries to speak about those who earn much less:

CONSTITUENT: Mr. Duffy, when are you going to hold your next town hall meeting?

DUFFY: We said we’re going to do one every year, and we’ve done that. So if you want to come set up an appointment in my office, we’d be happy to have you come on by.

CONSTITUENT: What I’d like to know is there's a law to raise the minimum wage… [Duffy drives off] (h/t: Think Progress)

Limbaugh: Obama “Hates This Country"

Speaking in Virginia, President Obama stated that those who are successful have benefited from others. This common sense observation led Rush Limbaugh to conclude, “I think it can now be said, without equivocation… This man hates this country.” People helping people? In Limbaugh's world, such talk is evidence of a "radical ideologue." Listen:

Romney Still Profits From Bain, Including Deals That Lay Off Thousands

Mitt Romney claimed that he left Bain Capital in 1999, three years earlier than he actually did, to avoid charges that the equity firm's companies went bankrupt and laid off workers during his tenure. He also wants to curtail discussion that Bain invested in firms that moved jobs overseas–clearly a contradiction to his pledge to bring jobs back to America. Romney, though, is still tied to Bain, well past the three extra years. He continues to profit from Bain, including from transactions that have resulted in thousands of job losses:

...In what would be the final deal of his private equity career, he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain’s profits ever since, bringing the Romney family millions of dollars in income each year...

...In the process, Bain continued to buy and restructure companies, potentially leaving Mr. Romney exposed to further criticism that he has grown wealthier over the last decade partly as a result of layoffs.

...During his political career, Mr. Romney has promoted his experience as a businessman while deflecting criticism of layoffs caused by private equity deals by noting that he left Bain in 1999. But records and interviews show that in the years since, he has benefited from at least a few Bain deals that resulted in upheaval for companies, workers and communities.

One lucrative deal for Bain involved KB Toys, a company based in Pittsfield, Mass., which one of the firm’s partnerships bought in 2000. Three years later, when Mr. Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, the company began closing stores and laying off thousands of employees. More recently, Bain helped lead the private equity purchase of Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio station operator, which resulted in the loss of 2,500 jobs.

Romney Refuses Transparency In Financial Dealings

Mitt Romney has demanded that President Obama apologize regarding attacks on his record at Bain Capital. The Obama campaign has rightly refused this request. Romney claimed that he left Bain in 1999, in an attempt to avoid charges that the private equity firm's companies went bankrupt or laid off workers under his stewardship. Government documents, however, state that Romney was associated with Bain for three more years. It's all part of Romney's lack of transparency regarding his tax returns, offshore assets and other financial dealings:

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”

Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.

...The Obama campaign and other Democrats have raised questions about his unwillingness to release tax returns filed before 2010; his offshore assets, which include investment entities based in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and a recently closed bank account in Switzerland; and a set of “blind trusts” that meet the Massachusetts standards for public officials but not the more rigorous bar set by the federal government.

"Art Of Another Kind": International Abstraction, '49-'60, At Guggenheim

"Art of Another Kind," at the Guggenheim Museum, is an outstanding exhibition of international abstract art from 1949-1960, much of it collected under the museum's second director, James Johnson Sweeney. While this genre during the 1950s is most associated with the abstract expressionists of the New York School, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, the show proves that it was a worldwide movement. We're introduced to the Art Informel, CoBrA and Art Brut schools of Europe, and to Japanese artists such as Kenzo Ohada and Takeo Yamaguchi, who assimilated the avant-garde Western style into their Eastern aesthetic sensibility. "Art of Another Kind" reminds us of the vision of former director Sweeney, whose tenure was marked by an openness to new art around the world.

Image: "The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun," Karel Appel, 1956, oil on canvas

Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960” continues through Sept. 12 at the Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street, NYC; (212) 423-3500, guggenheim.org.

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love": Four Tales Leading Where?

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" contains four stories that take place in Rome. An American woman, Hayley (Allison Pill), is seeing a leftist Italian lawyer, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti); when their parents meet, her father, Jerry (Woody Allen), a music promoter, becomes determined to make his father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), an opera star. Italian newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) suddenly find themselves involved in extramarital escapades. A young American architect, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), is living with his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), when her friend, Monica (Ellen Page), a flighty actress, visits and romantic complications ensue. A clerk, Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni) is transformed into a celebrity followed by paparazzi, to his bewilderment. Sudden transformation, in fact, is common to all of these tales–but unfortunately, not much else ties them together. While the stories are enjoyable enough and the scenes of Rome are stunning, one is left wondering what "To Rome With Love" is all about.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Rolling Stones At 50

The Rolling Stones played their first gig 50 years ago this past Sunday–and, like the blues legends that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards grew up revering (see my review of Richards' autobiography "Life"), they have continued performing well past their youth. In fact, more than any other major rock band, the Stones have remained true to their rock and blues roots, as evidenced by their jams with John Lee HookerJames Cotton and Muddy Waters, and their paying for Hubert Sumlin's funeral. Above they played an acoustic "Dead Flowers" in 1995 in Amsterdam. Richards explained, "This is where we come from, playing joints this size"–a joint like London's Marquee Jazz Club, which they played on July 12, 1962.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Robert Reich: 2012 Election Pits Regressives Vs. Progressives

Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and secretary of labor under Clinton, explains that the 2012 election is a contest between regressive and progressive visions of America. The regressives stand for tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating public services and the safety net; the use of divide and conquer tactics on the majority; the emphasis of private over public morality, and the defense of corporate personhood and money as speech. In contrast, progressives stand for the progressive income tax; Social Security; unemployment insurance; Medicare and Medicaid; civil, voting, and women's rights, and environmental, safety and economic regulations. Regarding the 2012 election, Reich concludes, "We must not allow the regressives to pull us backwards. The story of America is progressive." Watch:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Romney Donor At Fundraiser: "Lower Income" People Don't Get It

Prior to right-wing billionaire David Koch's $50,000-per-person fundraiser for Mitt Romney this past Sunday evening at his Southampton, Long Island, home, there was a $25,000-per-person Romney fundraiser at Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman's estate in East Hampton. Among those lined up in BMWs and Porsches to get past tight security was one woman who characterized those who don't support Romney as follows:

A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. "I don't think the common person is getting it," she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. "Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.

"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies -- everybody who's got the right to vote -- they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income -- one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."

Indeed, this woman understands "how the systems work." She's investing in a candidate, Romney, who pledges to give her and the rest of the richest 0.1 percent a tax cut averaging $264,000.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Limbaugh: "When Women Got The Right To Vote, It All Went Downhill"

Rush Limbaugh stated on Tuesday that women's suffrage has harmed the country: “When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instincts that government ought to reflect.” He sounded completely serious, though he later said he was joking. Perhaps Limbaugh remembered the outraged response to his vile, sexist comments about Sandra Fluke. Listen:

McConnell Offers Obama "Deal" On Bush Tax Cuts: Extend Them

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a "deal" to President Obama on tax cuts for the wealthy, due to expire in December: keep them going one more year. This would follow the previous "temporary" two-year extension. The White House doesn't see this as a bargain:

"What we ought to be doing is extend the current tax rates for another year with a hard requirement to get through comprehensive tax reform one more time," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking on CNN's State of the Union.

President Obama and aides have shown little interest in a one-year extension, saying the Bush tax rates should be extended for middle-class Americans but ended this year for the wealthiest.

..."Do you think we are a Bush tax away for a millionaire away from a flourishing economy?" [Former White House press secretary Robert] Gibbs said. "Or should we protect and keep taxes low for middle-class families and give them a chance?"

Public Sector Cuts Stall Job Growth, But The GOP Doesn't Mind

The addition of 84,000 jobs to the private sector didn't budge the unemployment rate. Cuts in the public sector are the problem:

The U.S. economy continued to struggle in June, adding 80,000 net new jobs while the unemployment rate remained at 8.2%, the government reported Friday.

...The private sector created 84,000 jobs in June, but the total was brought down by continued cuts in government workforces, which lost 4,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported.

In June, President Obama urged Congress to pass his jobs plan and warned against severe cuts in government spending, stating, "The big challenge we have in our economy right now is state and local government hiring has been going in the wrong direction." Economist Paul Krugman also recommended that we "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."

Of course, the Republicans won't take this advice. Mitt Romney has stated that we don't need more firemen, policemen and teachers. Instead, he and his party will continue to support cutbacks in the public sector and oppose the president's jobs plan. As a result, the unemployment rate will not lower and the economy will continue to suffer–problems that the GOP will attribute to Obama as we head toward November.

Woman Thanks Obama For Health Reform, Relates Sister’s Battle With Cancer

Speaking to Al Sharpton on MSNBC's Politics Nation, Stephanie Miller explains the story behind her hugging President Obama during a stop on a bus tour in Ohio. Miller told the president that the Affordable Care Act could have helped her sister, who couldn’t afford insurance and died of colon cancer. Her powerful testimony supports Sharpton’s statement, “With all the politics surrounding the health care law, we can’t lose sight of what’s it’s all about: helping real people.” Watch:

MILLER: I truly believe that if a bill like President Obama’s had been in effect five or ten years ago, my sister could have went to the doctor, she could have got preventative health care, they could have detected the colon cancer early. It’s one of the most curable cancers there is. She could still be here with her kids.

SHARPTON: What do you want to come from all of this attention?

MILLER: I want people to see what the lack of health care does to families in this country.

Paul Ryan: Repeal Health Reform Since Rights Come From God

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos of ABC, Paul Ryan said that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed because rights come from "nature and God," not government. First Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Kennedy, told Stephanopoulos, “[Sen. Kennedy] believed that it was a moral issue, that it defined the character of who we were as a society, who we were as a country, and that decent quality, affordable health care should be a fundamental right and not a privilege.” To this Ryan pledged to repeal the entire law, falsely stated that the reform was a "government takeover" instead of a reform of private insurance and presented reasoning that any theocrat would love. Watch:

RYAN: I think this at the end of the day is a big philosophy difference. What Ms. Kennedy and others were saying is that this is a new government-granted right. We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, those come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence — a huge difference in philosophy.

Rep. Gary Ackerman: GOP Is Running An "Undo Everything Congress"

Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institute and Norman J. Ornstein recently wrote an essay in the Washington Post, "The Republicans Are The Problem," adapted from their book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks." Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), soon to retire after 30 years of service, echoed this theme of an extremist Republican Party responsible for the dysfunction in Congress. Today's GOP Congressional members, Ackerman (left) contends, are worse than the "Do-Nothing Congress" condemned by Harry Truman:

[Ackerman] is exiting not so much in despair as relief to be gone from the legislative intransigence that he sees extended across the aisle by the House Republican majority.

Sounding like an anthropologist, Mr. Ackerman talked of spending enough time in Congress to remember dealing creatively with an extinct species known as moderate Republicans. “Oh yes, compromise,” he said nostalgically of such long-ago behavior. “They’ve all been quieted, muzzled, taking pledges before they ever get here,” he said, his tone unabashedly partisan. “It’s not that they’re running a Do Nothing Congress — they’re running an Undo Everything Congress.” He quoted a Capitol truism: “Any jackass can kick down the barn.”

The low point, he said, was when a Republican friend told him that private caucus meetings featured prayer gatherings where lawmakers hold hands and invoke God for or against specific measures on the House agenda. “In the past, a fight was over how to make a good bill better. Now it’s become Good versus Evil.

Diane Ravitch: Romney Would Privatize Education

Writing in the New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch (left), professor of education at New York University, warns that Mitt Romney's plans for education include misguided ideas about public schools, teachers' unions and qualifications, class size and college student debt (regarding the latter, Romney recently said that Americans should "get as much education as they can afford"). Excerpts from "In Mitt Romney's Schoolroom":

Romney offers full-throated support for using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers—although he avoids the word—privately managed charters, for-profit online schools, and almost every other alternative to public schools. Like Bob Dole in 1996, Romney showers his contempt on the teachers’ unions. He takes a strong stand against certification of teachers—the minimal state-level requirement that future teachers must pass either state or national tests to demonstrate their knowledge and skills—which he considers an unnecessary hurdle. He believes that class size does not matter (although it apparently mattered to him when he chose a school with small classes for his own children). Romney claims that school choice is “the civil-rights issue of our era,” a familiar theme among the current crop of education reformers, who now use it to advance their efforts to privatize public education.

When it comes to universities, Romney excoriates Obama for the rising cost of higher education. He claims that more federal aid leads to higher tuition, so he offers no new federal funding to help students burdened with debt. His plan does not mention the fact that tuition has increased in public universities (which enroll three quarters of all students) because states have reduced their investments in higher education and shifted the burden from taxpayers to students. Romney will encourage involvement of the private sector in higher education by having commercial banks again serve as the intermediary for federal student loans, an approach Obama had eliminated in 2010 as too costly.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix played "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze" on English TV, 1967, with the original Experience band that included English musicians Mitch Mitchell, drums, and Noel Redding, bass. I was thrilled to see this guitar genius and wizard two years later at Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Duckworth Responds To Walsh, Cites His Opposition To Medicare

Tammy Duckworth, Democratic challenger to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), responded to the latter's implication that she's not a "true hero" since she talks too much about her military experience. Lieutenant Colonel Duckworth, who lost both legs when her helicopter was hit by Iraqi insurgents, said that she speaks about her service in relation to her support for Medicare, which Walsh, a Tea Party favorite, has voted against repeatedly. VoteVets, a veterans group, has condemned Walsh's comments and called for his resignation. Listen to Duckworth's response as she speaks to MSNBC's Martin Bashir:

DUCKWORTH: If anybody highlights my military service, it’s Mr. Walsh, who actually attacked it on a regular basis. Yes, my wounds do inform my discussions with the constituents when I talk about health care. I know very deeply, in a deeply personal way, what access to affordable health care means, so when he votes against Medicare for our seniors not once, but three times, he’s voting against the people of the district. So yes, I talk about the fact that had I not had the great health care that I have from the VA [Veterans Administration], I would probably be bankrupt and that’s why we need to make sure we preserve Medicare as we know it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rep. Walsh Questions Heroism Of Opponent, A Double Amputee Vet

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party favorite, attacked his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, by implying that she's not a "true hero." Duckworth, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, lost both of her legs in 2004 following a direct hit on her vehicle by Iraqi insurgents. Walsh has never served in the military. Watch as he criticizes Duckworth, a lieutenant colonel and recipient of the Purple Heart, among other military awards, by comparing her unfavorably with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

WALSH: Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, “Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!” He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we are so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Health Reform Results In A Tax Cut For Millions

Despite the Republicans' calling the Affordable Care Act a "massive tax hike" on the middle class, few will pay a penalty. In addition, Families USA issued a report stating that 28.6 mostly middle-class Americans will receive a tax cut under the bill:

We found that an estimated 28.6 million Americans will be eligible for the tax credits in 2014, and that the total value of the tax credits that year will be $110.1 billion. The new tax credits will provide much-needed assistance to insured individuals and families who struggle harder each year to pay rising premiums, as well as to uninsured individuals and families who need help purchasing coverage that otherwise would be completely out of reach financially. Most of the families who will be eligible for the tax credits will be employed, many for small businesses, and will have incomes between two and four times poverty (between $44,100 and $88,200 for a family of four based on 2010 poverty guidelines).

MD Gov. O'Malley: Trans-Vaginal Probes The Only GOP Health Mandate

In a press conference call on Friday, Gov. Martin O'Malley (MD), chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, referred to Republican governors' opposition to the Affordable Care Act's mandate for the states. O'Malley noted that there is only one health-related mandate that's fine with them:

"I suppose some of our colleagues want to get out of the union — by that I mean the United States,” he said, when asked if he expected Republican governors to try to get around the ObamaCare mandate that states set up health care exchanges.

Later on the call, O'Malley took a shot at Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell with respect to Republican opposition to the individual mandate, saying "The only health care mandate they embrace are trans-vaginal probes for women."

McConnell Can't Say How GOP Insures 30 Million: "Not The Issue"

Speaking to Fox's Chris Wallace about his party's pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't answer how the GOP would provide health care for the 30 million people who will receive it under the new law. After dancing around the thrice-repeated question with Republican talking points, McConnell finally said, "That is not the issue." Watch:

WALLACE: One of the keys to ObamaCare is that it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?

MCCONNELL: Well first let me say the first single thing we can do for the American system is get rid of ObamaCare. … The single biggest direction we can take in terms of improving health care is to get rid of this monstrosity. [...]

WALLACE: But you’re talking about repealing and replace, how would you provide universal coverage?

MCCONNELL: I’ll get to it in a minute. [...]

WALLACE: I just want to ask, what specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?

MCCONNELL: That is not the issue. The question is, how can you go step by step to improve the American health care system. It is already the finest health care system in the world. … We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a Western European system. (h/t: Talking Points Memo)

Law Could Shut Mississippi's Only Abortion Clinic

Today Mississippi may become the only state in which women cannot exercise their legal right to an abortion following new restrictions that could shut the only abortion clinic. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said that "the left's mission is to abort children," signed a bill stating that all doctors must be certified OB/GYNs and practice at a local hospital. While all are OB/GYNs, only one is associated with a local hospital; all of the doctors travel in from other states. The clinic can appeal, but in the meanwhile, if it stays open, the doctors could be fined $2,000 a day and arrested–factors which would force it to close. One recalls the May speech by Republican Mississippi state Representative Bubba Carpenter, lauding the law and, in reference to the "poor, pitiful women" who may start using coat hangers to self-abort, stating,"But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we've decided to do." Watch:

REP. BUBBA CARPENTER: [Y]ou have the other side. They're like, 'Well, the poor pitiful women that can't afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.' That's what we've heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we've decided to do.

Right Wingers Declare The End Of America After Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court's affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which seeks to extend health insurance to over 30 million people, has made the right wing unhinged. Let's look at two characteristic responses on the part of Ben Shapiro of Breitbart.com and Bryan Fischer of the American Family Council. Shapiro wrote a Tweet declaring "the end of America as we know it":

Fischer said on his radio show, "the grim reaper has visited the United States... unless it is repealed, America no longer exists as a constitutional republic." He fulminated against the new arch enemy, Chief Justice John Roberts, who "shredded the Constitution beyond recognition," an act that may be the result of "something...wrong with his brain." Watch:

See Media Matters and Salon for more right-wing hysteria following the Supreme Court decision.