Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's "Better America" Sure Looks White

Mitt Romney's new video promises "a better America," but it's vague about how to achieve that. Would it be through tax cuts for the wealthy? Getting rid of Planned Parenthood?  Defending "corporate personhood"? Or keeping a host of promises Romney's made to the right wing? One thing's for sure, though: despite the fact that white births are no longer a majority in the U.S.–and despite the video's reference to support across demographic lines–Romney's "better America" is certainly a white one. Here's a collage from the video:


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why Romney Won't Repudiate Birther Trump: "I Need To Get 50.1% Or More"

This past weekend, George Will asked why Mitt Romney is appearing at a fundraiser hosted by "bloviating ignoramus" Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump continues to bloviate regarding the non-issue of Obama's birthplace and was called out as "ridiculous" by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. So why does Romney associate with this blowhard? Romney said that he was unconcerned about Trump's "birther" beliefs as he explained his own "principles":

“You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Mr. Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

So Romney is happy to benefit from Trump's fundraising and feels no need to denounce his falsehoods. Trump, after all, is one of the "good people," as evidenced by the amount of cash he's able to shovel Romney's way. Republican strategist Mark McKinnon also questions the association:

“I think who Romney stands with says a lot about what he’ll stand for,” Mr. McKinnon wrote in an e-mail. “Associating with Trump seems to only reinforce the narrative on Romney that Team Obama wants to push. Which is that Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy without any real core, which means he’ll associate with anyone if he thinks it will further his ambition.”

The Obama campaign is surely pushing this narrative with an ad asking why Romney won't stand up to "voices of extremism." Watch:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Former GOP Congresswomen Criticize Women's Policy Committee

In interviews with Think Progress, two moderate former Republican Congresswomen have criticized their party's new Women's Policy Committee, whose members have compiled anti-women voting records. Former Rep. Claudine Schneider (left), who represented Rhode Island from 1981 to 1991, spoke of the role that fear plays in motivating committee members to vote against women's interests:

THINKPROGRESS: Why do you think today’s Republican Congresswomen are so much less progressive on issues relating to women’s health and safety?

SCHNEIDER: Because they are afraid of losing in the primaries. They have drunk the Kool-Aid that makes them think it is more important to win than to do what is right by ending discrimination. The conservatives have co-opted the primaries and in order to win, they appear to do whatever it will take. Clearly, based on [the voting records of the 24 current Republican Congresswomen], they are NOT voting in the best interest of all women and men, because when women lose (on fair pay, etc.) families lose!

Former Rep. Connie Morella (left), who represented Maryland's 8th District from 1987 to 2003, also spoke about fear as a motivator, along with the need to put up a front to counter the Republican war on women. She suggests that the strategy may backfire:

MORELLA: I’ve always said that when you look at Congress, you had more bipartisanship with Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. The number of issues has gotten smaller…  I was the prime sponsor in 2000 of the Violence Against Women Act, when it was reauthorized… On the floor, there was hardly a vote against it. And now, I don’t know why these women have been cornered, so to speak. Maybe they are motivated by the fact that this is an election year — and in a presidential election particularly, they want to act to counter the concept of the War on Women. That’s why they’re coming up with their own caucus, I suppose. I’ve always felt [the women's caucus] needed to be bipartisan… I think it’s a defensive attempt on the part of this caucus, because they’re concerned... Women are a majority of the voting bloc. If they sense that some of the equities they worked so hard for are being taken away, you’ll see a backlash.

Paul Krugman Counters Austerity On Maher Show

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman appeared on Bill Maher's Real Time with Arthur Laffer, "the father of supply-side economics" and former Reagan advisor. Krugman spoke about government's role to stimulate a depressed economy, boosting jobs and consumer demand. Watch:



KRUGMAN: We are in a depression. We are actually in a classic depression. A depression is when nobody wants to spend. Everybody wants to pay down their debt at the same time. Everybody is trying to pull back, either because they got too far into debt, or because if they’re a corporation, they can’t sell because consumers are pulling back. The thing about an economy is that it fits together. My spending is your income. Your spending is my income, so if we all pull back at the same time, we’re in a depression. The way to get out of it is for somebody to spend so that people can pay down their debt, so that we don’t have a depression. So that we have a chance to work out of whatever excesses we had in the past, and that somebody has to be the government. We ended the Great Depression with a great program of government spending for an unfortunate reason. It was known as World War II…but when the war broke out in Europe, and we began our buildup, that Great Depression that had been going on for ten years. People thought it would go on forever. Learned people stroked their chins and said there are no quick answers. In two years, employment rose 20%. That’s the equivalent of 26 million jobs today, the depression was over. We had full employment, and it never came back, or it didn’t come back until 2008, because people managed to pay down those debts, and we managed to have a durable recovery.

Laffer offered a facile analogy regarding stimulus and Krugman's citation of history, stating, "I've never heard of a poor person spending himself into prosperity." He also offered standard supply-side bromides: to "incentivize producers"–i.e., "job creators"–we need to "lower tax rates." When does reality start to settle in with these "trickle down" theorists?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Online Evangelical Site "Coverts" Gays, Gets Them To Heaven

At the Family Research Council’s recent Watchmen on the Wall Pastors Briefing, Jesse Connors promoted his online evangelism site, TrueLife.org. One of its purposes is to help “convert” gays “struggling” with their sexuality. Conners becomes overwhelmed as he speaks of helping gays–presumably those who have "prayed away the gay"–get into heaven. Watch:

Average CEO Makes 244 Times Average Worker's Salary

Income inequality, anyone? The AP’s Seth Borenstein compares the median CEO salary to that of a minimum wage worker and a person making the national average salary. As you ponder the following, remember that, according to the Republicans, we should neither raise taxes on the wealthy nor raise the minimum wage:

The median CEO salary of $9.587 million [according to an analysis by the Associated Press]:

HOW LONG IT TAKES OTHERS TO MAKE THAT MUCH: A minimum wage worker would have to work 636 years to make that much. A person making the national average salary [$39,312 by AP calculations] would have to work 244 years to make the median CEO salary.

BY THE HOUR: If you assume the CEO works a 60-hour week, the pay comes to $3,072.84 per hour, or $51.21 per minute. To put that in perspective, the minimum wage worker would have to labor more than 10 weeks to make what the median CEO earns in an hour. It would take the average U.S. worker nearly a month to make what the average CEO makes in an hour.

Image: Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

George Will: Why Is Romney Appearing With “Bloviating Ignoramus” Trump?

Speaking to Jake Tapper of ABC’s “This Week,” conservative commentator George Will was baffled by Mitt Romney’s fundraising appearance with Donald Trump, who has renewed his birther nonsense with no objection from the Romney camp. Watch:



WILL: "I do not understand the cost-benefit here. The costs are clear. The benefits – what voter is going to vote for him because he’s seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low, and you can still intrude into American politics. But, again, I don’t understand the benefit. What is Romney seeking?"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Missouri Taxpayers Pay $1,100 To Protect Rush Bust

Is Rush Limbaugh fine with taxpayers paying $1,100 for a security camera to protect his bronze bust in the Missouri House? Shouldn't Rush (shown at the induction ceremony with Republican Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley) criticize that as unnecessary government spending? If I lived in Missouri, I'd rather the money be used for health care or education–the kind of spending that Limbaugh reviles as wasteful. From the AP:

...House Clerk Adam Crumbliss said Thursday that he authorized the camera because of concerns that the Limbaugh bust might be vandalized.

Limbaugh was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians last week during a closed-door ceremony intended to keep away protesters. His bust went on public display at the state Capitol after lawmakers ended their annual session last Friday.

The Hall of Famous Missourians features dozens of busts of people such as President Harry Truman, Walt Disney and former Cardinals baseball star Stan Musial. But Limbaugh's bust is the only one with a camera specifically pointed at it.

Nutting Of MarketWatch: "Obama Spending Binge Never Happened"

Contrary to Romney's pledge that he will "lead us out of this debt and spending inferno," President Obama has not presided over such an inferno. According to Rex Nutting (left) of MarketWatch, "...federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s." Below are the figures and charts he cites, according to official government statistics:

In the 2009 fiscal year — the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.

• In fiscal 2010 — the first budget under Obama — spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.

• In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.

• Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget output.

Nutting's claims were also verified by Politifact.




Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Van Morrison Performs “Astral Weeks”



Van Morrison performed the eight songs from his classic “Astral Weeks” album 40 years after its release, at the Hollywood Bowl, November 2008. Above he sings the title track whose lyrics set the stage for this stream-of-consciousness collection: "If I ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dream... Could you find me?"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sen. Reid: Republican Extremism Prevents Tax Deal

A month ago, we looked at an article by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein stating that the Republicans are responsible for the dysfunction in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed much the same view in a letter released this week stating that the Republicans' submission to Tea Party extremism makes any tax deal impossible before the elections. Of course, the Republicans' lack of cooperation has been longstanding; this is the same party that threatened to crash the economy over the debt ceiling. There's little reason to believe that the GOP will be more reasonable after the election. Regardless, Reid's points on the Republicans' fealty to the Tea Party extremism, refusal to budge on wasteful tax cuts for millionaires and adherence to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) plan to destroy Medicare are all well taken:

Responding to GOP demands to immediately extend Bush-era tax cuts, Reid released a sharply worded letter Tuesday saying the right wing's refusal to entertain new taxes would prevent any deal before November. Republican senators have abandoned deal-making for "fear of retribution from tea party extremists," Reid wrote in the missive to Senate Republicans.

Reid said the GOP must accept higher taxes on those earning more than $1 million and corporations, and drop its leading Medicare overhaul proposal, in order to reach a consensus with his party.

"Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans’ blind adherence to Tea Party extremism is making it impossible to reach this sort of balanced agreement before the election,” he wrote.

New GOP Women’s Policy Committee Supports Party's War On Women

A press release on Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) site announced the formation of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee in the House. In the article, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Make no mistake, these aren’t just leaders on so-called ‘women’s issues,’ these are women leaders on all issues.” A video, "House Republican Women Working for You," on the new committee showed that they are hardly leaders on “so-called ‘women’s issues.’" After the video, we'll look at their anti-women voting records:



The congresswomen state that they are “working together to create jobs, reduce spending, help small businesses, and put health care decisions back into your hands.” There’s no mention of issues specific to women’s rights, well-being and health. That’s because these representatives are part of the Republican war on women, as evidenced by a review of their voting records compiled by Think Progress:

Violence Against Women: Of the 24 women, 22 voted to roll back the Violence Against Women Act, backing a version of the bill that could violate the confidentiality of victims and that excluded protections for immigrants, LGBT people, and Native Americans.

Access to contraception: 21 of the 24 co-sponsored the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” to take away regulations enacted under Obamacare requiring most employers to cover birth control in their health insurance plans, without additional cost-sharing.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Of the 15 Republican Congresswomen who were in the House at the time, all 15 voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a law that helps women hold accountable employers who discriminate in the pay practices based on gender.

Paycheck Fairness Act Act: 13 of those 15 also voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the 1963 Equal Pay Act by closing many of its loopholes and strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination.

Reproductive health: According to Planned Parenthood, 20 of the 24 GOP women earned a zero score, voting against reproductive health at every opportunity. The average score for the women was under 6 percent.

This new committee, then is window dressing meant to obscure the GOP's war on women–a war that the Women’s Policy Committee members fully support.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

North Carolina Pastor Wants Gays Behind Electric Fence

We recently watched Pat Robertson tell a viewer that she should destroy a friend's statue of the Buddha–an act reminiscent of the Taliban. Pastor Charles Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church, Maiden, NC, provided a more horrific example of the Taliban-like aspirations of right-wing fundamentalists. His idea is to "get rid of all the lesbians and queers" by confining them behind an electrified fence until they "die out." They "can't reproduce," after all...and straight couples can't have gay children, right? Watch:



WORLEY: I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it past the Congress: build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred mile long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified till they can’t get out. Feed 'em. And you know what? In a few years they will die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce. If a man ever has a young'un, praise God he will be the first.

A local group, Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate, has created a Facebook page and is organizing a peaceful protest this Sunday in front of Worley's church.

Monday, May 21, 2012

NYT: GOP Conducting A Four-Way Assault On Women

Military campaigns are waged on a variety of fronts–and the Republican war on women is no exception. In an editorial yesterday, The New York Times outlined four areas in which the GOP is conducting a relentless assault on women's rights, health and well-being. Below are excerpts from "The Campaign Against Women":

ABORTION
...These laws [in Republican-led states] go a cruel step further than the familiar Republican attacks on Roe v. Wade. They omit reasonable exceptions for a woman’s health or cases of rape, incest or grievous fetal impairment. These laws would require a woman seeking an abortion to be near death, a standard that could easily delay medical treatment until it is too late...

ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
...Last year, the newly installed House Republican majority rushed to pass bills (stopped by the Democratic-led Senate) to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X. That federal program provides millions of women with birth control, lifesaving screening for breast and cervical cancer, and other preventive care. It is a highly effective way of preventing the unintended pregnancies and abortions that Republicans claim to be so worried about.

EQUAL PAY
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the epicenter of all kinds of punitive and regressive legislation, signed the repeal of a 2009 law that allowed women and others to bring lawsuits in state courts against pay discrimination, instead of requiring them to be heard as slower and more costly federal cases. It also stiffened penalties for employers found guilty of discrimination...

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Last month, the Senate approved a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, designed to protect victims of domestic and sexual abuse and bring their abusers to justice. The disappointing House bill omits new protections for gay, Indian, student and immigrant abuse victims that are contained in the bipartisan Senate bill. It also rolls back protections for immigrant women whose status is dependent on a spouse, making it more likely that they will stay with their abusers, at real personal risk, and ends existing protections for undocumented immigrants who report abuse and cooperate with law enforcement to pursue the abuser.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Video: “Republicans, Get In My Vagina!”

In the following video, actresses Kate Beckinsale, Judy Greer and Andrea Savage ask, “What do real Republican women want from their government?" They don’t want it in their banks or classrooms. So where do they want government? Watch:

Eagle Forum: Dip In White Births "Not A Good Thing"

Responding to a New York Times article stating that white births are no longer a majority in the U.S., the Eagle Forum, founded by Phyllis Schlafly (left), states that the country will be under siege by immigrants with undesirable characteristics, including voting Democratic (a symptom of not sharing American values). Inexplicably, the right wing group's blog, in an article written by Schlafly's son Roger, criticizes the Times for reporting the trend and is incensed by a demographer's statement regarding "a surge that has created a very different looking America from the one of the 1950s, when the TV characters Ozzie and Harriet were a national archetype":

It is not a good thing. The immigrants do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers.

...The NY Times liberals seek to destroy the American family of the 1950s, as symbolized by Ozzie and Harriet. The TV characters were happy, self-sufficient, autonomous, law-abiding, honorable, patriotic, hard-working, and otherwise embodied qualities that made America great. In other words, the show promoted values that NY Times liberals despise.

Instead, the USA is being transformed by immigrants who do not share those values, and who have high rates of illiteracy, illegitimacy, and gang crime, and they will vote Democrat when the Democrats promise them more food stamps.

Disgraced Televangelist Jim Bakker Hawking End-Of-World Gear

Worried about surviving the apocalypse? Jim Bakker has just the products for you. Two decades after being released from prison for defrauding followers, Baaker, along with his new wife, Lori, is now preparing them for the end of the world by hawking survivalist items:

The disgraced televangelist is now hawking survivalist gear and books about the apocalypse on his website almost 20 years after he was released from prison on a conviction of bilking followers out of millions of dollars.

Back from the evangelical wilderness, Bakker now tapes a daily TV show from the rolling Ozarks of Missouri and uses his website to pitch what he calls “love gifts,” essentially a variety of odd products including “Tiffany style” jewelery, fuel-less generators and buckets of dried food.

For just $500, you can get “Jim’s All American 4 Star Vegetable” buckets. A cool two grand will get you the “Jerry Jones Special,” which promises “over 3,300 servings of food and enough fuel to cook 480 meals.”

Preparing for the end of the world is nothing new for Bakker, who served almost five years in prison following his conviction for the $158 million rip off of his followers. “Pastor Jim,” as he calls himself now, published a book in 1998 called Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse, which he sells on his site for $20 and proclaims: “This is not just a book of prophecy, it is a book of survival.”

NAACP Backs Same-Sex Marriage As A Civil Right

Yesterday, the NAACP endorsed same-sex marriage as a civil right, resolving that gay couples should enjoy the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law:

“The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP. “We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP.

...Below is the text of the resolution passed by the NAACP board of directors:

The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.

Paul Krugman Urges Public Spending, Not Austerity

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has led the charge against the conservative economic focus on deficits and cutbacks. He has repeatedly argued that during a depressed economy, it is government's role to spend, boosting jobs and stimulating consumer demand, resulting in more jobs. In the video below, Krugman speaks to Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now!" about what government should do: "The economics is really easy. If we were to spend more money at the government level and ... rehire the schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers who have been laid off in the last several years because of cutbacks at the state and local level, we would be a long way back towards full employment. ... Right now, there just is not enough spending, and we need the government, which can do it, to step in and provide the demand we need. ... We’ve had austerity in the face of a recession, in a way that we have never had before since the 1930s. ... And the results are clear: it’s disastrous." Watch:



Transcript here. The interview continues with parts two, on JP Morgan and financial regulations; three, on European austerity; and four, on former Republican Senator Alan Simpson's criticisms of Krugman.

Remembering Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn (1941-2012)



Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist for Stax Records’ house band, Booker T. and the MG’s, recently passed away. The band accompanied Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Albert King and other artists associated with Stax, a label that provided a more raw sound than soul rival Motown during the 1960s. Above, the MG’s play their hit “Time is Tight” in 1970. Dunn is first seen laying down the driving bass line at 1:18. Listen to an extended tribute to Dunn on St. James Infirmary, hosted by my good friend Dr. Michael Mand.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Robert Reich: Romney Has Public And Private Morality Upside Down

JP Morgan Chase’s $2 billion dollar loss reminds us that, several years after the financial community risked the entire economy, the need for bank regulations is stronger than ever. That, however, is not the conclusion reached by Mitt Romney, who defended JP Morgan Chase and sees no need for more regulations. Yesterday, we looked at a video in which Robert Reich (left) spoke about conservatives’ focus on private morality and disregard for public morality. Reich contends that Romney, with his zeal to regulate personal choices and his laissez-faire policy toward banks, epitomizes the right wing’s misplaced ethics:

Mitt Romney’s reaction to J.P. Morgan Chase’s mounting losses from reckless trades is “the market will take care of it.” His spokesman says “no taxpayer money was at risk” so we don’t need more financial regulation. Romney has even promised to repeal Dodd-Frank if he’s elected president.

Yet at the same time, Romney has come out strongly against same-sex marriage. He’s also against abortion. He has no problem with government intruding on the most intimate of decisions a person makes.

He’s got private and public morality upside down. He doesn’t want to regulate where regulation is necessary — at the highest reaches of the economy, where public immorality has cost us dearly, and will cost even more unless boardroom behavior is constrained. Yet he wants to regulate where regulation is least appropriate — at the level of the individual, in bedrooms and other intimate spaces, where private morality should govern.

This is a dangerous confusion. It should be a matter of personal choice whom to marry and when to have children. But it is undoubtedly a matter of public choice whether big banks should be allowed to take the kind of risky bets that plunged the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression, and whether people with great wealth should be able to buy our democracy with huge campaign contributions.

Pat Robertson Tells Viewer To Destroy Buddha Statue

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two monumental statues of the Buddha carved on the side of a cliff in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. This destruction of two of humanity's cultural treasures caused an international uproar; fortunately, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Council on Monuments and Sites are rebuilding the statues. Pat Robertson, however, sides with the destroyers. He advised a viewer to destroy her friend's statue of the Buddha. Can Robertson make it any clearer that the right-wing religious fundamentalists here are America's version of the Taliban? Watch, via Right Wing Watch:



CALLER: My friend who is a Christian has a Buddha statue next to her Christian ones. Is that OK?

ROBERTSON: No, it's not. Take it out and break it. Break it! Destroy it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mad GOP Scientists Create Zombie Ayn Rand!

In the following video from Second City Network, mad GOP scientists create Zombie Ayn Rand, bringing back the novelist whose works “The Fountainhead” (1943) and “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) are beloved by right wingers. Watch the frightening results of the attempt to "create the perfect conservative before the election":

Robert Reich: Public Vs. Private Morality

In the video below, Robert Reich offers a valuable corrective on conservative values: “Some politicians have morality upside down. …America’s problem is not a breakdown in private morality; it’s a breakdown in public morality. What Americans do in their bedrooms is their own business. But what corporate executives and Wall Street financiers have been doing in boardrooms and executive suites affects all of us.” Reich reviews the current political and financial corruption associated with Wall Street and major corporations, as well as the historic responses to such excesses that resulted in anti-trust laws, labor protections and bank regulations. He calls upon us to “condemn the abuses of economic power and privilege that characterize this new gilded age and base a new era of reform on public morality and common sense.” Reich is apparently also a talented cartoonist. Watch:

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Fox Hypocrisy On Gas Prices

In March, Media Matters noted that Fox blamed Obama for rising gas prices, yet when prices spiked in 2008, Fox commentators said that Bush was at the mercy of market forces. Fox recently offered more gas price hypocrisy: according to its pundits, the recent lowering of prices not only has nothing to do with Obama, but it's also a negative economic indicator. Listen as Media Matters again points out Fox's contradictions:



(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Franklin Graham: Obama Has "Shaken His Fist" At God

Evangelist Franklin Graham (left) presented the cosmic implications of President Obama's support for same-sex marriage:

While the move to pass amendments defining marriage is relatively new, the definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined not by man, but by God Himself. In changing his position from that of senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.

Right Wing Watch has more on fundamentalist hysteria regarding Obama's stance, along with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins' statement that marriage equality brings "pain and heartache" as "all of society suffers."

Video Reveals Walker's "Divide-And-Conquer" Union Strategy

This past January, a spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker (R) said that he would not seek to make Wisconsin a "right-to-work" state. Following his bill stripping collective bargaining from public sector unions, Walker himself said that he was strictly concerned with finances and that "the bill I put forward isn’t aimed at state workers, and it certainly isn’t a battle with unions.” A video, shot on January and posted on Thursday by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, shows Walker's true intentions. Speaking to billionaire supporter Diane Hendricks, Walker said that he's pursuing a "divide-and-conquer" strategy against unions, with "right-to-work" being one of the goals. Watch:



HENDRICKS: Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work — what can we do to help you?

WALKER: Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"



In "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," directed by John Madden and based on the novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach, a group of English pensioners with financial difficulties moves to a supposedly well-appointed hotel in Jaipur, India, run by a frantic young host, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel); in reality, it's shabby and in disrepair. The retirees include a lonely widow (Judi Dench), an unhappy couple (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton), two in search of romance (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup), a gay retired judge (Tom Wilkinson) and a bigot undergoing a hip operation (Maggie Smith). The characters, immersed in teeming, vibrant Jaipur, learn to live fully–with the exception of one–regardless of age or the past. While this is not a startlingly original theme, it's handled compellingly through an excellent ensemble.

"Keith Haring: 1978-1982" At The Brooklyn Museum


"Keith Haring: 1978-1982" at the Brooklyn Museum traces Haring's development from work influenced by the abstract expressionists to the kinetic, interlocking cartoon dogs, flying saucers and figures that populated his canvases in his prime. In between are Haring's fascination with linguistics, provocative newspaper tabloid collages, graffiti drawings that were ubiquitous throughout New York's streets and subway system from the early to mid 1980s (and which resulted in several arrests) and involvement with the downtown art and club scene of the period (the exhibit even includes a new wave and punk soundtrack). This exuberant artist, who tragically died in 1990 at 31 from AIDS-related complications, left behind work that revels in movement and imagination.

Keith Haring: 1978-1982” continues through July 8 at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park; (718) 638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Indigo Girls Live



The Indigo Girls, joined by Common Rotation, performed "Closer To Fine" at the Fillmore, San Francisco, July 2009. The lyrics suggest that the more one remains open to new perspectives, "The closer I am to fine."

Friday, May 11, 2012

House Republicans Place Guns Over Butter

Seeking to prevent a 10 percent cut in the military budget, House Republicans passed legislation calling instead for massive cuts to programs that help the poor and the middle class. The military cuts that the GOP aims at stopping are among the upcoming automatic cuts following last year's deficit reduction supercommittee's inability to reach agreement. According to the Republicans, budgetary waste resides wholly in domestic programs, not in the military. They did not consider raising taxes on the wealthy or corporations:

Fully 25 percent of the cuts come from programs that benefit the poor, while cuts to President Barack Obama's health care plan also affect those with modest incomes, prevention funding, and efforts by states to set up insurance exchanges. A cut to the Social Services Block Grants, which Republicans say duplicates other programs, would hit programs like Meals on Wheels for the elderly, child care and child abuse prevention. Another provision opposed by most Democrats would deny illegal immigrants tax refunds from the $1,000-per-child tax credit -- even though most of the children in question are U.S. citizens.

"They are protecting the massive Pentagon budget with all its waste ... and finding even deeper cuts in programs that benefit the people of this country," said liberal Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "This bill before us would create a government where there is no conscience; where the wealthy and well-connected are protected and enriched -- and the middle class, the poor, and the vulnerable are essentially forgotten."

But Republicans noted that much of the food stamp savings came from tightening eligibility loopholes and that the savings equal just 4 percent of the program's budget. Democrats noted that the cuts would also take away free school lunches for 280,000 children.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Obama Announces Support For Gay Marriage

President Obama has finally "evolved." Speaking today to ABC's Robin Roberts, he made an unequivocal statement of support for gay marriage. The announcement introduces a complete contrast with presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who favors a Constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage. Obama's stance will be embraced by all who believe in equal rights and equal protection under the law. Watch:



OBAMA: I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I'd hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient ...I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word ‘marriage’ was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

North Carolina Passes Marriage Inequality Amendment

Mayor Corey Booker (D) of Newark, NJ, put it best: "We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote. ...I read the 14th Amendment clearly. It talks about equal protection under the law." It was bad enough that North Carolina did put civil rights to a vote, and even worse that its voters passed, by more than 20 percent, Amendment One banning gay marriage in the state constitution. One anti-gay marriage activist offered two invalid arguments:

“We are not anti-gay — we are pro-marriage,” Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of the executive committee for the pro-amendment Vote for Marriage NC, said at a victory rally in Raleigh, where supporters ate pieces of a wedding cake topped by figures of a man and a woman. “And the point, the whole point is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.”

Ms. Fitzgerald, extending rights to straight couples and denying them to gay couples is indeed anti-gay. That "group of adults" is as deserving of rights as you are. Your stance is not pro-marriage but pro-discrimination. As to passing laws based on "God's design," we don't live in a theocracy.

There was a generational divide over the issue, with younger voters opposed to the amendment. That offers hope that it will eventually be seen a last vestige of a dying bigotry.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eugene Robinson: GOP Wants U.S. To Adopt Europe's Failed Austerity

Election results in France, Germany, Greece and England reflect European voters' awareness of the failure of economic austerity. The idea that severe cutbacks will revive a struggling economy and boost jobs and consumer demand makes no sense. Here in the U.S., President Obama's stimulus, though too small, was a success. On the other hand, Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron's austerity has led England into double-dip recession. The Republicans, including supposed fiscal whiz Paul Ryan (whose fraudulent and cruel budget is supported by Mitt Romney), will learn nothing from Europe. Indeed, as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson (left) points out, the Republicans want America to adopt the failed austerity policies being rejected in Europe. Excerpts from "Austerity as a bridge to nowhere":

Voters in France, Greece and even Germany — a hotbed of the austerity cult — told their political leaders, in no uncertain terms, that boosting economic growth is more important than cutting government spending. Here in the United States, I hope that Democrats, at least, were paying attention; I fear that the addled ideologues who control the Republican Party will never get the message.

...putting a chokehold on government spending at a time when economies are just sputtering back to life — as the austerity fetishists have tried to do in Europe, and as Republicans solemnly pledge to do in the United States — is monumentally self-defeating. Governments end up magnifying the constituent parts of the economic crisis, not minimizing them.

...That loud chorus of “Duh!” you just heard came from the many leading economists who have been screaming at political leaders for years now that we’ll never cut our way out of this economic slump and instead must grow our way out. It is obvious that deficits, debt loads and entitlement spending have to be brought under control — but equally obvious that the necessary adjustments should be made when the economy is going great guns, not when it’s gasping for air.

It should be noted that there are some economists who disagree. They argue that draconian cuts in government spending will somehow awaken the animal spirits of private-sector executives, entrepreneurs and financiers. They further argue that austerity is needed to combat the scourge of inflation, although the best term to describe inflation in today’s economy is “imaginary.”

Mitt Romney and the GOP subscribe to the pro-austerity view. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion, even if it happens to be wrong. I sincerely wish them all the electoral success their ideological allies are having across the Atlantic.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ed Schultz Examines Gov. Walker's Disastrous Jobs Record

Ed Schultz is amazed that Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin continues to slam Gov. Pat Quinn (D) of Illinois. Walker, a union-busting, Koch brothers ally, has nothing to brag about; the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that Wisconsin was last in the nation in job creation in 2011, while Illinois added thousands of jobs. Walker's excuse: "Job creators" feel insecure not knowing whether he’ll win the recall vote on June 5th. Once he prevails, the jobs will return. Actually, Walker’s handling of the economy has emerged as an election issue. Schultz is joined by Ruth Conniff of the Progressive Magazine, who cites the damage Walker’s done to the state's economy through deep cuts to job training, education and health care paired with huge tax breaks for corporations. Watch:

Connecticut Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

The Connecticut Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) said that he intends to sign it. Connecticut will join 16 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting the use of medical marijuana. Malloy said that the law includes tight regulations to "avoid the problems encountered in some other states":

Under the legislation, marijuana would be sold in multiple forms at dispensaries, which must have a licensed pharmacist on staff. It would be marketed only to patients authorized to use it. The measure also outlines diseases that would be treated by the drug, establishes a registry for patients and caregivers and restricts cultivating the plant to growers with permits.

"Experience has shown that having statewide structures in place makes it easier for everyone to understand what the rules really are," said Alan Shackelford, who serves on a state advisory work group for medical marijuana in Colorado and helped advise Connecticut lawmakers on their proposal.

VP Biden Declares Support For Marriage Equality

Speaking to David Gregory of Meet the Press this morning, Vice President Joe Biden stated that he now supports gay marriage. That is not a position that the Obama administration currently supports, and Biden did not predict if the president would do so in an second term. One must suspect, though, that Obama approved Biden's statement beforehand–and that Biden cleared the way for the president to finally "evolve" from supporting civil unions to embracing marriage equality in a second term. Watch, via Think Progress:



GREGORY: Have your views evolved?

BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they are marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals. [...]

GREGORY: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?

BIDEN: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that. [...] I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has done so far. People fear that which is different and now they’re beginning to understand.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bryan Fisher Doubts Romney After He's "Pushed Around By A Yokel Like Me"

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer and other right-wing activists pushed for and hailed the resignation of Richard Grenell, an openly gay Romney advisor on security issues. Fischer sent out a Tweet about Grenell, who supports same-sex marriage, to nearly 1,400 followers, stating, "“If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead.”  The New York Times reported that the Romney campaign "didn't want to confront the religious right" on the issue. Now that Fischer has prevailed, he has a different question: If Romney can't stand up to "a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America," how will he have any backbone in foreign affairs? Listen to Fischer, via Right Wing Watch:



FISCHER: Let me ask you this question, people have raised this question, if Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, coopted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I don’t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to raise about his leadership.

Paul Krugman: Billionaires Own The GOP, Push It To Extremism

We recently read Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein's commentary explaining that the Republican extremism is responsible for the dysfunction in Congress. Paul Krugman (left) takes it one step further, arguing that such extremism serves the interests of the billionaires who own the party. Instead of more stimulus, which was successful yet too limited, the Republicans cling to more futile tax cuts for the wealthy, among other failed economic theories. Excerpts from "Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity":

...N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University, a Romney economic adviser, once dismissed those claiming that tax cuts pay for themselves as “charlatans and cranks”; today, that notion is very close to being official Republican doctrine.

As it happens, these doctrines have overwhelmingly failed in practice. For example, conservative goldbugs have been predicting vast inflation and soaring interest rates for three years, and have been wrong every step of the way. But this failure has done nothing to dent their influence on a party that, as Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein note, is “unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.”

And why is the G.O.P. so devoted to these doctrines regardless of facts and evidence? It surely has a lot to do with the fact that billionaires have always loved the doctrines in question, which offer a rationale for policies that serve their interests. Indeed, support from billionaires has always been the main thing keeping those charlatans and cranks in business. And now the same people effectively own a whole political party.

...Many pundits assert that the U.S. economy has big structural problems that will prevent any quick recovery. All the evidence, however, points to a simple lack of demand, which could and should be cured very quickly through a combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus.

No, the real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority’s malign influence.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Hooker, Clapton & Stones Boogie



John Lee Hooker plays his "Boogie Chillen" in a driving jam with Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones in Atlantic City, NJ, 1989.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Water Guns Banned, Real Guns Allowed During Florida GOP Convention

Gov. Rick Scott (R) of Florida (left) has rejected a request from Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa to allow local authorities to ban guns in the downtown area during the Republican National Convention in August. It seems that he wants armed citizens in Florida to be able to "Stand Your Ground." Mind you, there is one type of gun that is banned during the convention: water guns. From Reuters:

Citing Second Amendment protections in the U.S. Constitution, Scott told Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn that conventions and guns have co-existed since the nation's birth and would continue to do so during the four-day event beginning August 27.

"It is unclear how disarming law abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law," the Republican governor said in a letter on Tuesday.

Local officials need Scott's permission to enact the temporary restrictions after state lawmakers last year passed a measure that prohibits local governments from adopting gun ordinances that are stricter than state law.

...In a letter to Scott, Buckhorn said the Tampa City Council had banned a host of items from the area surrounding the convention facility, a list that includes water guns, poles and pieces of wood.

"One noticeable item missing from the city's temporary ordinance is firearms," Buckhorn wrote. "In the potentially contentious environment surrounding the RNC, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to the residents and visitors to the city."

...The City Council wants to extend the restrictions to all of downtown, including areas that have been designated zones for protesters expected at the event.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Katha Pollitt: For Romney, Rich Women Can Stay Home, Poor Ones Need "Dignity Of Work"

Writing in The Nation, Katha Pollitt (left) considers the real issues underneath the fake controversy about Hillary Rosen. Rosen, who said that Ann Romney never worked, is a Democratic strategist and pundit. After her remark, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom Tweeted the falsehood that she is connected to the Obama campaign. Her words also gave Romney–who wants to defund Planned Parenthood, supports employers denying contraception coverage and can't commit to equal pay for women–the opportunity to cynically pose as the champion of women and motherhood. Pollitt points out that Romney's views of motherhood are class-based. When married, affluent women like his wife stay home, they're performing noble work. When single women on welfare do so–well, that's entirely different. Excerpts from "Ann Romney, Working Woman?":

...the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own... But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. Just ask Mitt Romney. In a neat catch that in a sane world would have put the Rosen gaffe to rest forever, Nation editor at large Chris Hayes aired a video clip on his weekend-morning MSNBC show displaying Romney this past January calling for parents on welfare to get jobs: “While I was governor, 85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. And I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’ ” (Don’t be fooled by the gender-neutral language—he’s talking about mothers.)...

...All of which goes to show that it is not really possible to disengage domestic work from its social, gendered context: the work is valuable if the woman is valuable, and what determines her value is whether a man has found her so and how much money he has.

...The extraordinary hostility aimed at low-income and single mothers shows that what’s at issue is not children—who can thrive under many different arrangements as long as they have love, safety, respect, a reasonable standard of living. It’s women. Rich ones like Ann Romney are lauded for staying home. Poor ones need the “dignity of work”—ideally “from day one.”

E.L. Doctorow: How America Can Achieve "Unexceptionalism"

Despite the fact that conservatives consider "American exceptionalism" an article of faith, author E.L Doctorow (left) contends that the right wing is leading us toward "unexceptionalism," defined as "the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world." Doctorow outlines four phases that lead toward "unexceptionalism"; below are the first steps for each phase, three of which focus on today's reactionary Supreme Court. Within the entire commentary, which I highly recommend, Doctorow also covers Iraq, civil liberties violations, torture, income inequality, union busting, voter suppression, the wars on women and science, climate change denial, deregulation and more hallmarks of the contemporary right-wing's destructive agenda. From "Unexceptionalism: A Primer":

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president...

PHASE TWO

If you’re one of the conservative majority of a refurbished Supreme Court, rule that corporations, no less than human beings, have the right under the First Amendment to express their political point of view. To come to this judgment, do not acknowledge that corporations lack the range of feelings or values that define what it is to be human. That humans can act against their own interest, whereas corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest. That the corporation’s only purpose is to produce wealth, regardless of social consequences...

PHASE THREE

Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws to the benefit of corporate interests. For example, those laws sponsored by weapons manufacturers wherein people may carry concealed weapons and shoot and kill anyone by whom they feel threatened...

PHASE FOUR

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, decide that the police of any and all cities and towns and villages have the absolute authority to strip-search any person whom they, for whatever reason, put under arrest...