Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan The Liar

Romney pollster Neil Newhouse recently said, "We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." Paul Ryan amply proved this point with a speech last night at the RNC filled with falsehoods about Obama's record, from Medicare to stimulus to the deficit and more. Writing in Salon, Joan Walsh identified "Paul Ryan's Brazen Lies":

His most brazen lie accused President Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. It was stunning.

But that’s not all. He attacked Obama for failing to keep open a Janesville GM plant that closed under Bush in 2008. He hit him for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence. He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs). He derided the president for walking away from the Simpson Bowles commission deficit-cutting recommendations when Ryan himself, a commission member, voted against those recommendations.

He blamed Obama for a deficit mostly created by programs he himself voted for – from two wars, tax cuts, new Medicare benefits and TARP.

And of course, he riffed on the tired central lie of the GOP convention: that the president said “government gets the credit” for small businesses, not the business owners themselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Romney Pollster: "Our Campaign" Won't "Be Dictated By Fact Checkers"

The Romney campaign has been running a false ad claiming that President Obama removed the work requirement from the 1996 welfare reform law. The ad has been debunked by the Washington Post's fact checker, which "awarded" it "four Pinocchios," and Politifact, which rated it "Pants on Fire." Even Newt Gingrich told Anderson Cooper that there's "no proof" for the attack.

The administration actually granted waivers to the states, allowing them more latitude in transitioning welfare recipients to work. Romney, in fact, was among 29 Republican governors who signed a 2005 letter to congressional leadership supporting such waivers. Regardless, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse stated in response to questions about the ad's veracity, "Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

Additionally, NPR asked Romney political director Rich Beeson about the truthfulness of the ad and received glib answers:

STEVE INSKEEP (NPR): Doesn’t the change mean that the governors can choose or can apply to change the work requirement as opposed to being forced to remove it?

BEESON: Again, that still is a change.

INSKEEP: But it’s not, quote, ‘they just send you your check,’ which is what the ad says.

BEESON: (laughs) I think reasonable people can have a disagreement over this, but he [Obama] has significantly changed what President Clinton put in in 1996.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Republican National Convention: The Birther Festival

The subtext of calling Barack Obama a Kenyan is the racist notion that our first black president is un-American. In addition to Mitt Romney's embrace of birtherism, the movement has been deemed respectable at the Republican National Convention. Think Progress has listed seven convention speakers who have either flirted with or advocated birtherism:

1. Donald Trump. The famed billionaire/birther king Donald Trump has been the most vociferous — and most closely connected to Romney — person alleging that the President wasn’t born in the United States.

2. Actress Janine Turner. The Northern Exposure star who has her own conservative radio show wrote a long screed titled “Reasoning ‘Kenyan Born.’” In it, she complains that anyone who questions the president’s citizenship is deemed a racist: “If this were a legal case in court, [Obama's] book bio stating that Obama was ‘born in Kenya’ would be taken into consideration.”

3. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. During a town hall captured on video (at 3:5), Olens said, “You know the state of Hawaii says he’s produced a certified birth certificate… so on one hand I have to trust the state of Hawaii follows the laws. On the other hand it would be nice for the President to say, here it is, I have a copy.”

4. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. On one radio appearance during Huckabee’s bid for president, the former governor said, “I would love to know more [about where Obama was born]. What I know is troubling enough.” He later walked back the statement.

5. Florida Gov. Rick Scott. In 2010, the Orlando Sentinel reported than an audience member at one of Scott’s campaign events asked “what he would do about President Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ and whether he could legally appear on the 2012 ballot in Florida.” Scott responded, “I’ll have to look into it.”

6. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The Vice-Chairman of the House Republican Conference once told reporters “Oh, I’d like to see the documents.”

7. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindal was willing to sign a “birther” bill into law. It would have required all presidential candidates to release their birth certificate in order to qualify for a spot on the state’s ballot.

Image: Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Bill Nye: Don't Subject Children To Evolution Denial

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" states that evolution is "the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology"–and if we want to advance, we must raise a "scientifically literate" generation and not subject today's children to evolution denial. Listen:

NYE: Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we're the world's most advanced technological civilization—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that's largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

...And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

Nye also spoke about evolution and science education in an interview with Popular Mechanics.

"Legitimate Rape" By The Renegade Raging Grannies

The Renegade Raging Grannies serenade Todd Akin with their views of his crackpot ideas about women's reproduction. Listen:

Author: Vicki Ryder
Tune: "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah"

"Legitimate rape” is great birth control. So says Todd Akin, and he oughta know. If we are raped we can rest unafraid, ‘cause we can’t get pregnant if forcibly laid.

Our female bodies are clever that way. We only get pregnant when we say “okay.” Doctors have told him, so it must be so. The stork only comes if we don’t say “No!”

Rape won’t make babies and that is a fact; There’s no global warming; the Earth’s really flat. We heard it on FOX News so it must be true. Well, Mr. Akin, we say “F*CK YOU!

Romney & Ryan's GOP: Back To The Back Alley

The 2012 Republican platform supports a federal ban on abortion without exception for rape and incest victims. This position is echoed by recent comments from Todd AkinPaul Ryan and Rick Santorum. In the following MoveOn video, actress and activist Lisa Edelstein asks, "Why is Romney and Ryan's GOP trying to send women back to the back alley?" Watch:

Studies by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization found that outlawing abortion doesn't make it less frequent–only less safe. Both studies also found that widespread access to contraception is the best way to reduce the abortion rate.

Robert Reich: Romney-Ryan Economic Plan Is "A Disaster For America"

Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, secretary of labor under Clinton and talented cartoonist, outlines the five features of the Romney-Ryan economic plan: more unemployment through austerity; taking from the poor and giving to the rich; turning Medicare into a voucher plan and shifting costs to seniors; adding money to defense while cutting public investments, and not reducing the deficit for decades. It all adds up to a "a disaster for America." Watch:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Ryan, Rape Is Another "Method Of Conception"

Sandra Fluke recently wrote that Paul Ryan's record on women's issues is "so far outside the mainstream that many find it unbelievable." Just how unbelievable was demonstrated in an interview in which Ryan was asked his views on Todd Akin and whether rape victims should be able to get abortions. Ryan, whose outlook on abortion and rape resembles Akin's, stated, “I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea, the position that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” "Method of conception"? Quite a euphemism for rape. Watch:

Romney Goes Birther

It was typical of Mitt Romney, who has no principles except for getting elected, to not repudiate Donald Trump's birtherism. Yesterday in Michigan, however, Romney spread the birther garbage himself. Referring to his and his wife's roots in the state, Romney said, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where we were born and raised.” Romney can say he was joking, but he was throwing red meat to his responsive crowd and he knew it. He proved more than ever how desperate and debased his campaign has become. Make no mistake, birtherism is racism. As Andrew Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times, "The point is to remind voters that his father was Kenyan and that Mr. Obama is a man of mixed race with brown skin. It’s racism, pure and simple." Perhaps Romney figures that African Americans, according to an NBC-WSJ poll, registered a literal 0 percent support for him, so he can afford to make racist comments for cheap applause. America, however, doesn't need a birther-in-chief. Watch as Romney makes clearer than ever how unsuited he is to assume the presidency:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: David Gilmour Live

David Gilmour performed an acoustic version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" at the Royal Festival Hall, London, June 22, 2001.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romney To Reporters: No Questions About Abortion Or Akin

Day by day, the Todd Akin story gets more interesting. First the Missouri Republican representative and senatorial candidate said that "legitimate rape" victims rarely get pregnant. Then he refused to step down from the race, defying calls from Republicans panicked over the fact that he openly reflects GOP extremism on abortion. Meanwhile, the religious right is rallying around Akin, a move that threatens a standoff with Republican leaders. Finally, Dr. John Willke, an anti-abortion campaigner who espouses Akin's crackpot theory, told the Daily Telegraph that he met with Mitt Romney, who told him, "we agree on almost everything." Romney, though, is trying to run from the entire mess. Today, CBS correspondent Shaun Boyd said that Romney had a certain condition for her and other Denver reporters: “The one stipulation to the interview was that I not ask him about abortion or Todd Akin.” Watch:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Akin Stays In Senate Race: Excellent News For Democrats

Rep. Todd Akin (left), Republican opponent of Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, received calls from party leaders to exit the race following remarks on Sunday that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant and if they do, they should not get an abortion. Akin defied his colleagues, stating that he'll remain a senatorial candidate. That is excellent news for Democrats.

Akin has divided the GOP between those who want him to stick to his positions and those who, pragmatically, want him to do no further damage by truthfully stating Republican ideas. He has heightened McCaskill's chances for re-election and made the Republican quest to take over the Senate more difficult. He has brought new attention to Romney's flip-flopping on abortion and Ryan's extreme positions–positions that resemble Akin's. Indeed, Akin reflects today's extremist Republican Party, whose platform condemns abortion and contains no rape exception. Akin exposes the Republicans' war on women, and that is why party leaders want him to step down.

Let those who might vote for Akin consider the mistrust for women contained in the words "legitimate rape"–a concept shared with other Republicans. Let them consider his absurd views on female reproduction. Let them think about whether women who are raped and impregnated should be forced to bear their rapist's child. Finally, let them reflect on the fact that Todd Akin represents current GOP beliefs. Akin brings all this out in the open, rendering his continued candidacy an overwhelmingly positive development.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

MoveOn: "Revealed: The GOP Strategy"

The following MoveOn ad focuses on the three-pronged Republican strategy to install Mitt Romney in the White House: sabotage the economy and blame Obama; round up wealthy conservatives to contribute billions toward ads smearing the president; and run a racist voter suppression campaign. Watch:

Rep. Todd Akin: "Legitimate Rape" Victims Rarely Get Pregnant

Rep. Todd Akin, Republican senatorial candidate running against Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, stated in an interview today that "legitimate rape" victims have biological defenses against pregnancy. He contended, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Arguing against abortion even if the victim becomes pregnant, Akin said, “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” As of this writing, Akin is leading McCaskill 49.7 to 41.3 percent. Watch Akin explain the female reproductive system:

Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years For Anti-Putin Performance

Three women from Pussy Riot, the band that staged a "punk prayer service" at Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral against President Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church that supports him, were sentenced to two years in jail. The women, who sang a profane song regarding political repression under Putin, were criticized by the judge as dangers to society and inciters of "religious hatred." The conviction was condemned internationally by artists, human rights groups and Western governments, including the United States. Indeed, the harshness of the sentence makes clear the clampdown on freedom of expression in Putin's Russia. Watch the performance that led to the women's sentence:

Israeli Peace Activists Demonstrate Against Bombing Iran

In January, The New York Times Magazine published an article, "Will Israel Attack Iran?," which made clear the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak do not enjoy monolithic support among Israel's security establishment regarding a potential attack on Iran. The online magazine +972, which offers "independent journalism from Israel and Palestine," has provided ongoing coverage of the issue, including "important questions and answers" and a recent poll finding that most Israelis oppose a strike on Iran. +972, whose name derives from the telephone code shared by Israel and Palestine, also covered the Israeli Disarmament Movement's protest against bombing Iran; the demonstration took place on August 6th, the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Watch:

Related article: Israeli authors Oz And Grossman speak against war with Iran.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Obama Ad: Romney And Ryan Threaten Women's Rights

Mitt Romney pledged months ago regarding Planned Parenthood, "We're gonna get rid of that." Romney is in line with the Republicans' war on women–a war that his running mate, Paul Ryan, strongly supports, as Sandra Fluke and Rachel Maddow have pointed out. In addition to Planned Parenthood, the following ad from the Obama campaign outlines the GOP presidential ticket's misguided stances on women's health care and abortion rights. Watch:

Sandra Fluke: Ryan's Record On Women's Issues Is "Unbelievable"

Sandra Fluke (left) is the Georgetown University law student who was blocked by the Republicans from appearing at a House hearing on birth control and was viciously maligned by Rush Limbaugh. Fluke outlined Paul Ryan's record on women's rights, which she wrote is "so far outside the mainstream that many find it unbelievable":

Ryan voted for a bill referred to as the “Let Women Die Bill” because it proposed to allow hospitals to refuse a woman emergency abortion care, even if her life was in immediate danger...

Ryan co-sponsored a federal personhood bill. That bill declared a fertilized egg that hasn’t even resulted in a pregnancy to be the equivalent of a living person, with all of the rights of federal law...

Ryan repeatedly over several years voted against bills to ensure women equal pay for equal work, even voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Ryan voted to cut off Title X family planning programs that ensure impoverished and low-wage women affordable access to contraception as well as mammograms and cancer-screenings.

Ryan’s budget attacks on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and a broad range of social services (including child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, housing and energy assistance) would disproportionately harm women’s economic wellbeing...

Ryan repeatedly voted over several years to end all funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services...[which] would rob women of access to breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, and the other life-saving services Planned Parenthood provides...

Ryan co-sponsored a bill that would deny many rape victims on Medicaid access to abortion...

Ryan voted repeatedly to prevent our female military service-members from using their own private money to pay for abortion at a military hospital. He also voted for legislation to allow bans on abortion coverage in the new state health-insurance exchanges, even for women paying with their own money.

Afghanistan: "Mission Not Accomplished"

Dexter Filkins' New Yorker article, "After America," asks, "Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the U.S. leaves?" The country remains fractured among militias representing the ethnic minorities from the north–Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks–and the Pashtuns from the south, who dominate the government and the Taliban. That is one among many troubling prospects following a war that has cost so much in blood and treasure–and whose supposed purposes have fallen away. Consider the following:

After eleven years, nearly two thousand Americans killed, sixteen thousand Americans wounded, nearly four hundred billion dollars spent, and more than twelve thousand Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war in Afghanistan has come to this: the United States is leaving, mission not accomplished. Objectives once deemed indispensable, such as nation-building and counterinsurgency, have been abandoned or downgraded, either because they haven’t worked or because there’s no longer enough time to achieve them. Even the education of girls, a signal achievement of the NATO presence in Afghanistan, is at risk. By the end of 2014, when the last Americans are due to stop fighting, the Taliban will not be defeated. A Western-style democracy will not be in place. The economy will not be self-sustaining. No senior Afghan official will likely be imprisoned for any crime, no matter how egregious. And it’s a good bet that, in some remote mountain valley, even Al Qaeda, which brought the United States to Afghanistan in the first place, will be carrying on.

...many of the most prominent leaders of Afghanistan’s minority groups appear to be preparing for civil war.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Alejandro Escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo performed "Big Station," the title track of his 11th solo album, in June 2012 at the studio of listener-supported WFUV Public Radio.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reagan Budget Adviser Slams Ryan's "Fairy Tale Budget Plan"

David Stockman (left), director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan administration, published a withering critique of Paul Ryan's budgetary proposals in the New York Times. In "Paul Ryan's Fairy-Tale Budget Plan," Stockman notes that Ryan has nothing to say about military spending that "saddle(s) our bankrupt nation" and banks that "are too big to exist." Instead, Ryan "is preaching the same empty conservative sermon" with his calls for more tax cuts for the wealthy without any credible plan for increasing revenue:

The Ryan Plan boils down to a fetish for cutting the top marginal income-tax rate for “job creators” — i.e. the superwealthy — to 25 percent and paying for it with an as-yet-undisclosed plan to broaden the tax base. Of the $1 trillion in so-called tax expenditures that the plan would attack, the vast majority would come from slashing popular tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance, mortgage interest, 401(k) accounts, state and local taxes, charitable giving and the like, not to mention low rates on capital gains and dividends. The crony capitalists of K Street already own more than enough Republican votes to stop that train before it leaves the station.

In short, Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldn’t pass even if Republicans were to take the presidency and both houses of Congress. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have no plan to take on Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity — just empty sermons.

Review: Down And In: Life In The Underground By Ronald Sukenick

Down And In: Life In The Underground by Ronald Sukenick. 288 pp. Collier Books.

This memoir of la vie boheme starts with the author's disenchantment with life in 1950s middle class Brooklyn. The late Ronald Sukenick took himself across the East River, first to Greenwich Village and then to the edgier East Village. After he crosses the Brooklyn Bridge, the narrative becomes less autobiographical and more oriented toward the "subterranean" movements and artists who opposed mass culture, starting with the decade known for gray flannel suits and sexual repression. Sukenick takes us on a animated pub and cafe crawl, as most of the "action" takes place indoors at the White Horse Tavern, the Cedar Street Tavern, the San Remo Coffee House, Max's Kansas City and the Mudd Club.

Sukenick seems to have observed or spoken to almost every legendary artistic figure from the 50s into the 70s: Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Willem de Kooning, Jack Kerouac, Andy Warhol and many others. He moves from the Beats to the Hippies to the Punks, and by the time the scene centers around Max's Kansas City, uptown meets downtown and the lines between monied art patrons and artists blur. Sukenick devotes much of the last chapter trying to reconcile the devotion to one's art with the desire for success, and he ponders whether a balance can be struck between the two. These considerations become at times too theoretical in an otherwise lively book. His reflections on economic realities, however, have continued relevance as every area of New York City formerly known as an artistic haven–the Village, Soho, Tribeca, Williamsburg–has eventually become gentrified and too expensive for younger artists. Down and In looks back at a culturally significant era when it was still possible for those who haven't yet made it to live in the midst of an artistic and literary ferment.

Related work: New York In The 50s by Dan Wakefield.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney Campaign Asked VP Candidates For "Several" Years Of Tax Returns

Interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week," former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was uncomfortable answering how many years of tax returns he had to provide the Romney campaign to be vetted as a VP pick. "Several," Pawlenty cautiously offered. A top Romney aide confirmed that the campaign asked for "several years" of tax returns from VP candidates. Seems that they thought this was essential information in order to be considered for the second highest office in the land. Watch:

Fox Fawns Over Ryan, "The Rock Star Of American Politics"

Media Matters has documented how Fox News is fawning over Paul Ryan, the "rock star of American politics," "the Energizer Bunny," who "looks like Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington' " and is both "Kennedyesque" and "Reaganesque." On "Fox and Friends Saturday," National Review columnist John Fund said that Ryan appeals to blue collar and ordinary voters; he didn't mention Ryan's plan to decimate the plain folks' Medicare and Social Security and transfer the savings to the wealthy. Ryan, in addition, will valiantly prevent the country from turning into Greece or California. Guest host Peter Johnson Jr. responds with the Ryan "rock star" image. Watch Fox's fawn-fest–but not if you've just eaten:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Obama Ad: Romney And Ryan Support "Failed Top-Down Policies"

Mitt Romney has endorsed Paul Ryan's budgetary proposals to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, slash taxes for the wealthy and corporations and leave military expenses untouched. The following ad from the Obama campaign outlines the Republican presidential ticket's failed, misguided vision for America:

The Obama campaign has provided additional information on Romney and Ryan's regressive economic ideas.

CBO: Ryan Plan Wouldn't Run A Surplus For 30 Years

Consider the destructiveness and fraudulence of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budgetary proposals. Taxes would be slashed for the wealthy and corporations, military spending would be left untouched, and the economic and health care conditions of the lower and middle classes either wouldn't improve or get worse. Progressive taxation and social services would be scrapped. And for all of Ryan's posturing about the deficit, we wouldn't reach a budgetary surplus for three decades:

His blueprint would greatly shrink the government, largely undoing the social safety net by shifting more costs onto individuals and essentially converting Medicare into a capped voucher program. It would also alter the progressive income tax system, which, like the safety net, was built through the 20th century under Republican as well as Democratic presidents.

...The Ryan plan, which Mr. Romney endorsed during the hard-fought race for the Republican presidential nomination, would cut about $6 trillion from projected spending in the first 10 years. But the plan also would cut revenues by $4 trillion, and more over time, by slashing individual and corporate income taxes. The government would not run a surplus for three decades, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — an outcome that would have been heresy to pro-tax-cut but anti-deficit Republicans of the past.

...Nonpartisan analyses of Mr. Ryan’s proposed income tax cuts reached conclusions much like those of Mr. Romney’s tax proposals in recent weeks. “The tax cuts in Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget plan would result in huge benefits for high-income people and very modest — or no — benefits for low-income working households,” Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a policy research organization, wrote in summarizing the findings of the Tax Policy Center.

...Analyzing the 2011 proposal for Medicare, the Congressional Budget Office said that “most elderly people would pay more for their health care” — $6,400 on average by 2022 — requiring older Americans to “reduce their use of health care services, spend less on other goods and services, or save more in advance of retirement.”

Image: Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ryan Jokes As Senior Protester Is Dragged To The Ground

Here's a telling scene from a town hall meeting in Milwaukee last fall with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who told the audience, "Much of our debt in the future comes from our entitlement programs." (Somehow Ryan never counts as "debt" or "entitlement" the tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that he so ardently defends.) A 71-year old man, incensed by Ryan's plans to gut programs most Americans depend upon, shouted, "Hey, what is this 'entitlement program'?... I paid into that for 50 years, my unemployment and my Social Security and my Medicare, and now you're gonna..."

Did Ryan handle a heckler the way Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren did, by trying to engage him in dialogue? No, he watched as the police, shouting "on the ground," dragged the senior citizen out, placed him on the ground, handcuffed him and led him away. To the amusement of supporters, Ryan joked, "I hope he's taken his blood pressure medication." Watch this display of character on the part of Mitt Romney's chosen running mate:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ezra Klein: GOP Rejects Its Own Ideas Once Obama Accepts Them

Writing in The New Yorker, Ezra Klein (left) focuses on an uncanny political phenomenon we've witnessed over the past few years: Ideas that were formerly promoted by the Republicans as conservative alternatives become radical, socialist and un-American once they're embraced by President Obama. Klein points to the individual health care mandate, cap-and-trade and economic stimulus as examples:

...The mandate made its first legislative appearance in 1993, in the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act—the Republicans’ alternative to President Clinton’s health-reform bill—which was sponsored by John Chafee, of Rhode Island, and co-sponsored by eighteen Republicans, including Bob Dole, who was then the Senate Minority Leader.

...the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—better known as Obamacare...also included an individual mandate. But, as that bill came closer to passing, Republicans began coalescing around the mandate, which polling showed to be one of the legislation’s least popular elements. In December, 2009, in a vote on the bill, every Senate Republican voted to call the individual mandate “unconstitutional.”

...It was not an isolated case. In 2007, both Newt Gingrich and John McCain wanted a cap-and-trade program in order to reduce carbon emissions. Today, neither they nor any other leading Republicans support cap-and-trade. In 2008, the Bush Administration proposed, pushed, and signed the Economic Stimulus Act, a deficit-financed tax cut designed to boost the flagging economy. Today, few Republicans admit that a deficit-financed stimulus can work. Indeed, with the exception of raising taxes on the rich, virtually every major policy currently associated with the Obama Administration was, within the past decade, a Republican idea in good standing.

Romney's Pick Of Ryan Makes Election Choice Clearer Than Ever

As if the differences between the presidential candidates weren't clear enough already, Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as running mate throws the election into stark relief. Ryan is the author of a voucher plan that would destroy Medicare and drive up health care costs. At the same time, he would use the funds saved to reduce the top tax rate from 35% to 25%, rendering fraudulent his claim to be a "deficit hawk."

Romney, of course, endorsed Ryan's cruel budgetary proposals months ago; in addition to Medicare, Ryan would cut food stamps, housing assistance, job training and Pell Grants. Is it any surprise that Romney, Mr. One Percent, endorses Ryan's Robin-Hood-in-reverse vision? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) clearly spoke about what the choice of Ryan means:

"The selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney's choice for vice president makes it very clear that the Republican Party has completely caved in to the extreme right-wing Tea Party. Ryan, the author of the Republican House budget, would make devastating cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education while giving even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. The Romney-Ryan ticket is waging war against the middle class and must be defeated."

Image: Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Harrison Covers Dylan

George Harrison covered Bob Dylan's "If Not For You" and "Absolutely Sweet Marie" at Madison Square Garden, October 16, 1992. The performance was part of "Bobfest," a term coined by Neil Young for this celebration of Dylan's 30th anniversary as a recording artist. In my view, Harrison's rendition of "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (4:26) is particularly outstanding. The song is on Dylan's classic "Blonde On Blonde" album from 1966 (a retake of another song, “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” from the same album was shown here in January 2011). The video also includes Dylan, Harrison, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and Roger McGuinn singing "My Back Pages."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Conservatives Ballistic After Romney Spokesperson Praises "Romneycare"

A controversial pro-Obama Priorities USA ad links Mitt Romney's activities at Bain Capital with a woman's death after her husband was laid off and lost his health benefits. Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul (left) caused an uproar among conservatives with her response on Fox News:

SAUL: To that point, you know, if people had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care. There are a lot of people losing their jobs and their health care in President Obama’s economy.

Saul is referring to the health care law that Romney, as governor, passed in Massachusetts. It features an individual mandate and was a model for President Obama's Affordable Care Act–which Romney has pledged to repeal. Prominent conservatives were infuriated by Saul; Erick Erickson of RedState tweeted, "This might just be the moment Mitt Romney lost the election." Most revealing of all were the words of Rush Limbaugh, who said, “Andrea Saul’s appearance on Fox was a potential gold mine for Obama supporters. They can say, ‘Romneycare was the basis for our health care.’ ” Yes, Rush, they certainly can. Listen as Limbaugh's head explodes over the issue:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fischer, Robertson Connect Sikh Temple Massacre To Liberals, Atheists

Who can comprehend the actions of Wade M. Page, who massacred Sikhs in a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin? Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and evangelical leader Pat Robertson tried to explain what motivated Page, a white supremacist, to commit these horrendous crimes. Fischer connected Page's Nazi sympathies with liberalism and the Democratic Party. Watch:

FISCHER: You know what the Nazi Party stands for? It's the National Socialist Party. What about the word "socialist" do you not understand? They were the National Socialist Party - that is a left-wing political philosophy. And you think even here in the United States, who was the party of racism? It was the left, it was liberals who were the part of racism. It was the Democrats that supported and defended the institution of slavery. It was Democrats that resisted the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It was Democrats that instituted Jim Crow laws. It was Democrats that created the Ku Klux Klan. It was Democrats that filibustered the Civil Rights Acts of the mid-1960s.

On the 700 Club, Pat Robertson blamed "Satanic atheists" who "hate God" for the killings. Watch:

ROBERTSON: Is it Satanic, is it some spiritual thing, people who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God. They are angry with the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshiping God. And, whether it’s a Sikh temple or a Baptist Church or a Catholic Church or a Muslim mosque, whatever it is, I just abhor this kind  of violence. It's the kind of thing that we should do something about, but what do you do? You talk about the love of God and hope that it has some impact.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

GOP Strategist Ed Rollins: Romney Should Release More Taxes

Prominent GOP strategist Ed Rollins joined 20 other Republicans in calling for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns, stating, "Two years is not enough, obviously." Will Romney listen? If not, one must wonder: what do these returns contain that make releasing them more troublesome than not doing so? Watch as Rollins speaks to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

ROLLINS: I think at this point in time it’s going to dog him all the way and he needs to get it behind him. He's paid a lot of money in taxes. He’s made a lot of money.

WALLACE: Wait, do you think he should release more taxes?

ROLLINS: I think he should release his taxes.

WALLACE: But you know it’s not going to satisfy the Democrats. They’re going to look at it and obviously there are shelters in there, perfectly legal shelters.

ROLLINS: At the end of the day, you come to a point where you basically give a little bit more and you move forward. Two years is not enough, obviously.

GOP Rep. Compares Expanded Birth Control Access To 9/11, Pearl Harbor

As a result of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, millions of women will gain access to no-cost birth control, one of the ways women's health care coverage will be expanded. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), however, compared greater birth control access to September 11th and Pearl Harbor. Michael Eric Dyson covered Kelly's outrageous distortions of history. Watch:

KELLY: Today is the day that religious freedom died. I know in your mind you can think of the times that America was attacked. One is December 7 – that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is September 11 — that was the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August 1, 2012 — the attack on our religious freedom. That is a date that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.

Romney Refuses To Condemn Bachmann's Smear Of Clinton Aide

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) condemned Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) smear of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, baselessly alleged to have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. There's one Republican leader, however, who refuses to issue a condemnation: Mitt Romney. Speaking in Reno, Nevada, Romney said, “I’m not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign.” We can also recall McCain's repudiation of a false comment about Obama in 2008. The 2012 Republican presidential candidate lacks the same courage and principles. Watch:

Study: Conservative Talk Radio Promotes Echo Chamber Of Hate

A study from UCLA's Chicano Research Center finds that right wing talk radio promotes hatred toward minorities, with "messages targeting vulnerable groups." The study focused on the Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, The Glenn Beck Program, The Savage Nation and the John and Ken Show, stating, "The findings reveal that the hosts promoted an insular discourse that focused on, for example, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and pro-Tea Party positions and that this discourse found repetition and amplification through social media." Within this echo chamber, "Fox News plays a notable role with regard to the centrality of program hosts and guests."

Reviewing the study, Media Matters commented, "Using hateful rhetoric, these hosts have cast immigrants as disease ridden, equated pro-immigrant organizations with neo-Nazis, called Islam an "evil religion," claimed the Obama administration is promoting "race riots" and made fun of the ethnicity of Asian-American politicians." Media Matters put together a series of clips exemplifying the hatred promoted on conservative talk radio. Listen:

Fox’s Beckel: “Once Again, We Put Something On The Air That’s A Flat-Out Lie”

Recently, the right wing jumped all over President Obama’s words, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." The context of the president's comments was that business success is made possible though government support, including infrastructure ("Somebody invested in roads and bridges") and the educational system. Fox News pundits, of course, twisted the message to mean that the president was denying entrepreneurship. Bob Beckel of Fox's "The Five," however, could take it no longer, stating, “How in the world did you reach that conclusion... Yes, I did read what he said, and what he said was not what the Republicans said, and once again, we put something on the air that’s a flat-out lie and distortion… It’s not what he said in context… Before that he said roads and bridges.” Watch:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Susie Sampson Reports On "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day"

Susie Sampson’s latest satirical “Tea Party Report” was filed during this past week's "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." There she learned about God’s opinion of gay sex (disapproves), the prospect of California falling into the ocean if gay marriage is approved and Obama’s connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. Watch:

Romney Demanded That Kennedy Release Tax Returns

Rachel Maddow recounts the fact that during the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race, Mitt Romney demanded that Ted Kennedy disclose his tax returns to prove he has ”nothing to hide.” Kennedy didn’t, so neither did Romney. When running for governor in 2002, his opponent, Shannon O’Brien, released her returns, but Romney again didn’t, claiming that he had come to agree with Kennedy on protecting one's privacy. Strangely, the Romney campaign said in 2002 that he would release his returns if Kennedy–his opponent eight years earlier–did so. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Jack Johnson And Jimmy Cliff

Jack Johnson invited Jimmy Cliff to the stage to sing his classic "The Harder They Come" in September 2011. The song is associated with the film that helped bring reggae music to a worldwide audience.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Study: Romney's Tax Plan Helps Rich, Hurts Everyone Else

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center released a study yesterday whose "major conclusion" is that Mitt Romney's tax plan "would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower- income taxpayers." Romney intends to slash taxes while not increasing the deficit. To make up for the loss of government revenue, tax breaks that benefit the vast majority would have to be drastically reduced:

[Romney's] rate-cutting plan for individuals would reduce tax collections by about $360 billion in 2015, the study says. To avoid increasing deficits — as Romney has pledged — the plan would have to generate an equivalent amount of revenue by slashing tax breaks for mortgage interest, employer-provided health care, education, medical expenses, state and local taxes, and child care — all breaks that benefit the middle class.

“It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers,” the study concludes.

Even if tax breaks “are eliminated in a way designed to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible, there would still be a shift in the tax burden of roughly $86 billion [a year] from those making over $200,000 to those making less” than that.

What would that mean for the average tax bill? Millionaires would get an $87,000 tax cut, the study says. But for 95 percent of the population, taxes would go up by about 1.2 percent, an average of $500 a year.