Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maybe Republicans Are Not Modern Joseph Goebbels But Sometimes They Act Out of the Same Playbook

Totally Shameless Right-wing Conservatives Scrambles to Take Credit for Economic Uptick

We learned yesterday that the U.S. economy picked up a little speed in the fourth quarter of 2010 -- October through December -- experiencing 3.2% GDP growth.

Soon after, the frequently-confused House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), did his best to spin the encouraging news.

    "This morning, the GDP projection for the last quarter was released, showing a 3.2% growth for the fourth quarter and suggesting the economy will pick up speed this year. This uptick is no doubt due in part to the certainty that Washington has given the private sector through the recent tax deal and the newly elected House Republican Majority who have pledged to rein in the size and scope of our federal government which has exploded over the last 4 years. At a time when our nation's debt is over $14 trillion, it's time to get serious about cutting spending and growing jobs in the private sector, rather than cutting spending and "investing" in new government programs."

I find it hard to believe even the most shameless, pathetic hack in Washington actually believes any of this. Indeed, reading it, I'm almost embarrassed for Cantor.

Fourth quarter growth covered October through December. The tax deal didn't pass Congress until mid-December, so unless the business community invented a time machine when I wasn't looking, Cantor's timeline has a rather dramatic flaw.

Indeed, the dimwitted Virginian's entire statement is a series of misguided observations. Government spending grew more under Republican rule than Democratic, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true. We've been growing jobs in the private sector over the last year, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true. Investing in job creation, infrastructure, energy, and education will help the economy, but Cantor thinks the opposite is true.

But the larger point is probably more important: Republicans actually want people to believe that they rescued the economy.

Cantor took credit for encouraging 2011 projections earlier this week, and the farcical arguments are part of a growing pattern.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), for example, argued two weeks ago, for example, that the recent good news -- private-sector job growth, big corporate profits, major gains in the major Wall Street indexes -- that occurred throughout 2010 were the result of Republican tax policies. As Kyl sees it, business leaders in early 2010 predicted the tax policy agreement crafted in late 2010, and started growing the economy based on their future-predicting abilities.

On Fox News last week, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) offered a related argument, insisting that indications of economic improvements are "in large part" because Republicans "won our majority and we're pursuing pro-growth policies."

To reiterate a point I've mentioned before, this really is fascinating. The economy started growing again in 2009, after the stimulus gave the economy a boost. We saw growth continue throughout 2010 -- even after those rascally Democrats passed health care reform and Wall Street reform -- while Republicans said Dems were killing the economy.

So to review, Republicans in the Bush era brought the global economy to the brink of catastrophic collapse; Obama and congressional Dems helped turn things around; and now those same Republicans whose policies failed want credit for Democratic successes.

Name the last Republican Congress or president who balanced the federal budget? Can't remember. That's OK - in case you're ever on a game show and they ask, the answer is easy to remember - none, zip, zero. All Republicans - including Saint Ronnie ran up deficits. What Republican Congress or president oversaw record job growth? None, zip, zero. FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Obama all did better at creating jobs. Who won wars and did not lie us into a 3 trillion dollar debacle? Democrats. Who created Medicare and Social Security - programs that have nearly wiped out the kind of poverty that used to kill elderly Americans? Not Republicans. Republicans have been caught in the web of a sixty year old lie - that they are responsible citizens and care about America. The Republican record says otherwise. So they just keep lying.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Republcans Suddenly Think The Economy is Peachy and They're Taking Credit

The best proof that the jobs market is improving? Republicans want to take credit for it

The news that Republicans are taking credit for the recent upturn in the economy is annoying, but hardly surprising. When you win an election, you get to say whatever you want, and there's no denying the truth of the following two statements: The Republicans won the midterm elections, and the economy has been improving for the last several months.

The Republican argument, as explained by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, is that the election results combined with the tax cut deal injected a new sense of "certainty" into the economy, which immediately translated into job creation. How you evaluate that thesis depends in part on whether you think companies make their hiring plans according to their future expectation of what taxes will be like or on the much more pressing question of whether they need more workers to satisfy current demand. But a closer look at the numbers also undermines the GOP thesis. In 2010, new jobless claims benefits peaked in August, and then started a more or less steady decline, long before the election or any tax deal. A score of other economic indicators started flashing the green light around the same time. It all came too late to help Democrats in the midterm elections, but the change was there to see nonetheless.

However, objective truth means little in politics. The speed with which President Obama inherited responsibility for a disaster not remotely of his own making tells us all we need to know about who gets blame, or credit, for what's happening in the economy. As the economy continues to improve, Republicans will claim more and more credit, and many people will believe them. A full recovery might even help bolster the truly big lie, pushed by people like Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist, that the entire financial crisis should be blamed on the fact that Democrats took control of the House and Senate in 2006.

If you're willing to believe that, then you deserve the dysfunctional government you are going to get. But there is one silver lining: The White House tends to get a larger share of the blame, or credit, for whatever happens in the economy than Congress. So while the Republican clamor of self-congratulation will grow louder and louder with each tick downward of the unemployment rate, most of that will get tuned out, while Obama's reelection chances slowly improve. And for every Democrat annoyed at Republicans' taking credit for economic growth, there will be plenty of Republicans who are driven mad by the fact that the White House, deserved or not, will benefit more.

Ever done some work, come up with a good idea or created something and someone else not only took credit for it, but deny they had anything do do with a multitude of previous disasters. That would be America's conservative Republican writ on a super size scale. These are the petulant five year olds who got old and never grew up. GOP Sen. Dick Lugar Chides Tea Party Movement For Offering Only ‘Cliché’ And No ‘Specifics’

As quoted by US News, Lugar said the conservative activists are “unhappy about life in America,” but traffic only in “cliché” and “are not able to articulate all the specifics”:

    “I think there are a great number of Americans, not just in Indiana, who are genuinely angry about how things have turned out for them. Sometimes they are unemployed or they have family members who have been unemployed or they are in situations in which they feel a heavy governmental restriction of their activities. In essence, they are unhappy about life in America and they want to express themselves.”

    Lugar says most just want to be heard, but really can’t focus on what’s bugging them. “We want this or that stopped or there is spending, big government—these are all, we would say, sort of large cliché titles, but they are not able to articulate all the specifics,” he says.

Republicans created the financial crisis and the largest defcit in U.S. history and now they are made as hell that Democrats have not figured out how to fix the Republican's disastrous legacy overnight. Why do Republicans hate America.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republicans Ignore Will of the People. American Majority Against Repealing Health Care Reform

Republicans Ignore Will of the People. American Majority Against Repealing Health Care Reform

As Republicans in the House announce their intentions to repeal the soon-to-be-signed financial regulatory reform bill, a Democratic source sends over the public reaction to the GOP's other major repeal effort.

A Bloomberg News poll released on Wednesday shows that a full 61 percent of respondents don't have interest in repealing the health care legislation that Congress passed earlier this year (47 percent want to see how it works, 14 percent say it should be left alone). Just 37 percent want the bill repealed (as is the wish of the Republican leadership).

The numbers underscore increasing public approval of the health care reform law. It also illustrates the potential dangers the Republican caucus assumes by make the repeal agenda a major plank of its campaign platform.

On Thursday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that, once in power, he would work to repeal the financial reform legislation that the Senate was set to pass that afternoon. The comments reverberated quickly through news desks as emblematic of a broader push by the GOP to essential unravel the Obama agenda if they take back congressional power.

But as a reflection of how improvised Boehner's strategy truly is: the Huffington Post asked members of House Republican leadership on Wednesday whether they would support a repeal of financial regulatory reform should it become law. Aides laughed at the question, saying they had heard no such talk among their bosses. The same thing held true as late as Thursday morning, up until Boehner was asked the question at a press conference and responded with an affirmative yes (he would repeal).

Democratic campaign committees are already jumping on the remarks, with the DNC blasting out write-ups to reporters and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) slamming Boehner for being in the pocket of Wall Street. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee beat them all to the punch when it pledged on Wednesday to make calls for finreg repeal a major issue during the 2010 elections

"If Republicans who oppose Wall Street reform are so offended by holding big banks accountable, then they should have to share with voters whether or not they would support repeal of the bill if elected," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "Any Republican who wants to return to the no-holds-barred, letting the big banks run rampant... jeopardizing Americans' savings and investments will absolutely be held accountable for that position during the campaign."
The right-wing Republican arrogance intent on ignoring what is best for most Americans is the same blind malicious arrogance that got us into a $3 trillion dollar nightmare in Iraq. Will health care reform - The Affordable Care Act kill jobs? On the contrary, repealing reform will kill jobs,

But as an analysis by points out, having people leave the job market because it has become financially possible for them to retire is entirely different from killing jobs. The FactCheck report says, in part: "The House Republican leadership. . . badly misrepresents what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the law. In fact, CBO is among those saying the effect 'will probably be small.'"

...Davenport notes that while there are more small businesses in the U.S. than large firms, the large firms have the most employees, and they already provide coverage to most of their workers. The center has published a study by Harvard economist David Cutler suggesting that if the health care reform law were repealed, heath insurance costs would resume their upward climb, costing the country an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 jobs a year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Strange Alliance - Gay Americans and Conservatives

After Promoting Anti-Gay Rhetoric, Breitbart is Named to Gay Group's Board

GOProud, the conservative group for gay conservatives and their allies, just appointed Andrew Breitbart to their board. However, Breitbart and his contributors at his BigPeace, BigGovernment, BigJournalism and BigHollywood sites have repeatedly engaged in incendiary anti-gay rhetoric. Additionally, his contributors have actively opposed the repeal of Don't ask Don't tell, and opposed GOProud's inclusion in the conservative conference CPAC.
Breitbart's Problematic Rhetoric

Breitbart: "I Am Not Endorsing Gay Marriage, I'm Not Endorsing Don't Ask, Don't Tell," And I Fear "The Activist Gay Left ... More Than Al-Qaida." Shortly after right-wing groups like the Media Research Council and the Family Research Council announced they were boycotting the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because GOProud was attending, Brietbart announced he was throwing the group a "big ol' gay party." He reportedly stated of the planned event:

    I am not endorsing gay marriage, I'm not endorsing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I will be the harshest critic of the activist gay left, who I fear more than al-Qaida. But for these people not to exist in a two-party system, for you to tell them they're not welcome in the big tent, I have a huge problem with that and I'm going to indulge in my all '80s Depeche Mode, Cure, New Order fetish and we're going to have a big 'ol gay party at CPAC. [National Journal, 1/19/11]

Breitbart: Carrie Prejean Miss USA Question On Marriage "Was A Setup." In a Washington Times op-ed, Breitbart stated that while he's "gay-friendly," He was concerned about the behavior of the "gay political-activist community":

    The gay political-activist community - in my view, a small minority of left-wing agitators acting on behalf of the whole - has been on a binge of bad public behavior, and I'm not referring to the bare-buttocked-chaps look and inappropriately placed sparklers during "pride" parades.


    The latest high-profile act on behalf of the "community" came from the Miss USA pageant. Perez Hilton, the wildly popular Internet gossip and celebrity hit man, somehow got himself placed as a judge of female beauty at the Donald Trump-sponsored event. Not to be judgmental, but the apprentice behind that hire should be fired. But I digress.

    At the point in the pageant when the young lovelies are asked questions by those who pick the winners, the flamboyantly gay man (who by day pries into the private lives of stars and scrawls human DNA-spewing phalli under the faces of those he doesn't like) asked Miss California, Carrie Prejean, whether she approved of gay marriage.

    It was a setup.


    On display at the Miss USA event was the activist left's pageant of selective bullying, a concerted strategy to go after low-hanging fruit like Mormons. [The Washington Times, 4/27/09]

Breitbart's Promotion Of Anti-Gay Jennings Smears

Breitbart Blogger Hoft's Anti-Gay Smears Against Jennings. BigGovernment contributor Jim Hoft authored a series of articles -- which he called "fistgate" -- filled with false and incendiary attacks on Department of Education staffer Kevin Jennings and the organization Jennings founded and previously led, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). For example:

    * Hoft Deceptively Linked Jennings To "Fisting" Workshop He Criticized. Hoft claimed that a 2000 conference sponsored by the Boston branch of GLSEN included "a workshop where GLSEN activists promoted 'fisting' to 14 year olds," citing a recorded exchange that occurred during a "Queer Sex and Sexuality" workshop at that conference. In fact, Jennings reportedly criticized some of the workshop's content when the recordings were first released in 2000, and the people involved in conducting the controversial discussion were state employees and contractors, not GLSEN employees.[Media Matters for America, 12/7/09]

    * Hoft falsely claimed high-school students received "fisting kits" at 2001 GLSEN conference. Hoft falsely claimed that "fisting kits" -- which he placed in quotes -- were distributed at the 2001 GLSEN/Boston conference. But Hoft has presented no evidence that the kits distributed by Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts were actually intended for fisting. Indeed, while the conservative newspaper Massachusetts News -- cited by Hoft -- reported in 2001 that the kits were "intended for 'fisting' or oral sex," the paper described the kit's contents as "a single plastic glove, a package of K-Y lubricant and instructions on how to make a 'dental dam' out of the material" and offered no support for the claim that the kits were "intended for 'fisting.' " Even has reported that Hoft "alleged that Jennings and GLSEN were involved in Planned Parenthood's purported distribution of 'fisting kits,' " but that the kit "was actually for making a 'dental dam' -- designed to prevent STD transmission during oral sex."[Media Matters for America, 12/15/09]

    * Hoft falsely suggested Jennings' organization handed out explicit safe-sex booklet to children. Hoft falsely suggested that that GLSEN had distributed to children an explicit safe-sex booklet that included "a list of the local gay bars" and "Pushed Anal S*x in Parks With Strangers." In fact, a community health group -- not GLSEN itself -- reportedly said that it had mistakenly "left about 10 copies" of the booklet on an informational table it rented at a 2005 GLSEN conference at Brookline High School in Massachusetts; the group reportedly apologized for doing so; GLSEN stated that if it had known the booklets had been at the conference, it would have demanded they be removed; and the Brookline school superintendent reportedly said he believed no students had actually taken the booklet.[Media Matters for America, 12/9/09]

    * Hoft falsely claimed Jennings "Pushed Books That Encouraged Children to Meet Adults at Gay Bars For Sex." Hoft falsely claimed that Jennings "Personally Pushed Books That Encouraged Children to Meet Adults at Gay Bars For Sex," citing MassResistance's falsehood that a book Jennings recommended to high school and college students, One Teenager in 10, "encourage[s] teens to, among other things, go to gay bars and have sex with adults to see if they like it." Media Matters for America has reviewed the book, compiled all references to gay bars, and determined that the book at no point encourages teens to "go to gay bars and have sex with adults." In fact, a majority of the youth testimonials included in the book that mention gay bars refer to them negatively. [Media Matters for America, 1/11/10]

Hoft's "Fistgate" articles all posted to Breitbart's BigGovernment. Hoft's "Fistgate" series was originally posted on the website Gateway Pundit, and were faithfully cross-posted to Breitbart's BigGovernment. [BigGovernment, 2009-2010]

Hoft's Posts Drew On Work From Anti-Gay Hate Group. Hoft's Jennings posts often draw upon the work of MassResistance, a Massachusetts based anti-gay organization that has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even conservative commentator Dean Barnett has stated that the organization "verges on being a hate group."

    * Anti-gay "hate group" MassResistance is source for right-wing media attacks on Jennings [Media Matters for America,12/10/09]

    * Dean Barnett: Brian "Camenker's MassResistance verges on being a hate group." [, 1/12/07] Also Smeared Jennings. An October 6, 2009, post grossly distorted comments Jennings made to a GLSEN audience in 2000 to claim he "criticize[d] schools for promoting heterosexuality." In fact, in the audio files posted at, Jennings promoted a curriculum that demands "respect [for] every human being regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identity, regardless of race or religion or any of the arbitrary distinctions we make among people," and said that efforts to promote a specific sexual orientation through schools were ineffective. [Media Matters for America, 10/7/09]

Breitbart Also Promoted "Fistgate" Articles On His Twitter Page. In addition to posting all of Hoft's falsehood laden anti-gay smears of Jennings on his BigGovernment site, Breitbart also repeatedly promoted the posts via twitter. For example, in a December 15, 2009, tweet Breitbart wished Media Matters a "Merry Fist-mas," and the next day wrote "If Kevin Jennings' so great, make him Obamas 'Safe Prison Czar' at Thomson Correctional Facility & let him teach fisting to al Qaeda." [Media Matters for America, 12/15/09, 12/16/09]
Breitbart's BigPeace Opposed DADT Repeal, Transgender Soldiers, GOProud At CPAC

Gaffney uses BigPeace Post to complain about GOProud inclusion at CPAC.  In a January 4 BigPeace post, BigPeace featured contributor Frank Gaffney complained about the "assault on the conservative movement ... being perpetrated by some of the key organizers of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) next month in Washington." Among other "troubling information," Gaffney listed the "so-called inclusive, 'big tent' approach on homosexuality and other social issues increasingly taken at the direction of CPAC's host." Gaffney then listed CPAC organizer's Grover Norquist's championing of "repealing the ban on homosexuals in the armed forces" as one of his "problematic roles and associations" that led Gaffney to suggest Norquist and others like him cannot "be tolerated, let alone protected, by leaders of the movement." [BigPeace, 1/4/11]

BigPeace Editor-In-Chief Peter Schweizer: "Activists Now Want Openly Transgender Soldiers ... Where Exactly Will These Soldiers Shower?" In a January 11 post, BigPeace editor-in-chief Peter Schweizer wrote that it was "very scary" that openly transgender troops now want to be allowed to serve openly in the military. He added: "And where exactly will these soldiers shower?":

    It didn't end with securing the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Activists have their next social experiment for our US military already in sight: allowing  openly "transgender" troops in the US armed forces.


    There is even a new activist organization that hopes to make it happen: the Transgender American Veterans Association. I generally don't buy "slippery slope" arguments. But having declared that homosexuals have a "right" to serve openly,  how can we possibly stop those with gender issues from doing so? The reality is, we can't.

    And where exactly will these soldiers shower? We will leave that question to the bureaucrats in Washington.

    Welcome to the Brave New Military, where invented "rights" matter more than anything. Scary. Very scary. [BigPeace, 1/11/11]

BigPeace Editors Ask Repeal if DADT Repeal Did The Most "To Damage America's National Security" During Lame Duck Session. A December 23 open thread posted by "Sun Tzu" -- described by the website as "the voice of BigPeace on matters of strategy" -- asked: "What during the Lame Duck Session did  more to damage America's national security:  repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Ratification of the START Treaty? Or government spending that pushed American further into debt to foreign countries such as China?" [BigPeace, 12/23/10]

BigPeace Editor-In-Chief Schweizer: "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal: Welcome to the Brave New Military." In a December 22 post, Schweizer complains that gay and straight soldiers "should be forced shower together" while "members of the opposite sex should NOT shower together." He added:

    And what is to constitute unacceptable behavior in the post DADT world?  Say a soldier, who is publicly gay,  is attracted to someone else in their unit.  What constitutes unacceptable behavior? Flirting? Winking? Staring at them in the shower?  If the target of their attraction gets angry and retaliates, who is at fault?  Remember,  these are 19 and 20 year-old males in many cases. Put a 19-year-old heterosexual in the showers with female recruits and see how things go. My guess would be not well at all, at least as far as unit cohesion is concerned.


    So welcome to the new world of military politics. My fear is that in the post-DADT world there is will be less and less emphasis on creating warriors, and more concerns about emotional matters, sensitizing people, etc. More counselors and specialists will be brought into the military to cope with sexual mores and politics. Welcome to our Brave New Military. [BigPeace, 12/22/10]

BigPeace Promotes Gaffney's Opposition To "Imposing The ... Radical Homosexual Agenda" By Repealing DADT. In a post headlined "Gaffney: Protecting Our Troops from Policy Makers," Breitbart's BigPeace website promoted a radio clip in which Gaffney discussed his opposition to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). In the clip, Gaffney stated that he "we're seeing the Obama administration aggressively pursuing this idea of imposing the homosexual agenda - the radical homosexual agenda, on the culture of the military in ways that I believe will be very deleterious." [BigPeace, 11/11/10]

More Anti-Gay Rhetoric from Contributors to Breitbart's "Big" Sites

BigJournalism Editor-In-Chief Loesch: Paladino's anti-gay remarks just his views from a "religious perspective." After 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Palidano said that the didn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option" as "getting married and raising a family," Dana Loesch, editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism, defended Paladino, saying that he "was expressing his stance as a social conservative," and added, "He is a Catholic. He's talking about his views on sex from a religious perspective." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/12/10]

BigHollywood Contributor Prelutsky: Rep. Frank Should "Stop Phoning Every Number He Finds Scrawled On Bathroom Walls." In a December 11, 2009, WorldNetDaily column, BigHollywood contributor Burt Prelutsky wrote the following about Congressman Barney Frank:

    Back in 1990, the police raided Barney Frank's home because his gay lover, Steve Gobie, was running a male prostitution ring out of his condo. In 2007, the police raided the home of James Ready and arrested him for possession of marijuana. Ready, who is Barney's main squeeze these days, didn't just smoke the weed; Farmer Ready was growing the stuff. The congressman was there at the time of the raid, but denied he had any idea that those plants in the backyard weren't rhododendrons. I believe he told the police that he was perfectly clueless when it came to plant life. I guess, like Clinton, he never inhaled, either.

    Because I am always prepared to grant a liberal politician the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure it's only a coincidence that Barney has long led the fight to decriminalize the use and sale of the narcotic.

    On the other hand, considering his sorry track record when it comes to romance, don't you think it's high time Rep. Frank, who'll be 70 years old in a few months, should start using a reputable dating service and stop phoning every number he finds scrawled on bathroom walls? [WorldNetDaily, 12/11/09]

Why would gay Americans join in with conservatives. Some people have hazarded to guess - self loathing. That might be part of it. On the other hand many people think low taxes are the nirvana of public policy regardless of their sexual orientation. Gay conservatives would not be the first group of people to sell out hundreds of other values to have a few more pennies in their pocket. Gay men might be attracted to the conservative movement because of the conservative tendency toward cliched hyper-masculine stereotypes. Whatever the reason, gay Americans have no real friends in the conservative movement. As Breitbart is a good example. They are willing to throw gays under the bus in the blink of an eye.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The VA Joins Big Banks in the Foreclosure Business

The VA Joins Big Banks in the Foreclosure Business

It appears the Veteran's Administration has been flying under the radar when it comes to their contribution to the homeless veteran population. Due to a backlog in processing thousands of disability claims, military members and their families are forced to live on the streets because of foreclosures and are heading into bankruptcy courts at an alarming rate.

Most of the wounded veterans I know have waited more than six months to get their first disability check from the VA after leaving the military. By the time they got their first payment from the VA, they were bankrupt or had lost their home to foreclosure.

Once that happens, they can expect to have ruined credit for seven to 10 years, thus preventing them from buying or renting an adequate home ever again.

It is actually against the law to foreclose on a home of a servicemember for up to nine months after they leave active duty.

I recently wrote about JP Morgan-Chase wrongly foreclosing on military mortgage holders' homes when they violated military consumer protection laws that date back to the Civil War. There was no excuse for Chase to ignore the laws that have been in place for decades.

Unlike some big banks, the VA does know better. They just haven't been caught yet.

And, unlike the backlog for disability claims, the VA has had no apparent backlog on processing foreclosures for VA-backed loans. Within three months of a medical discharge from active duty, the VA has stepped in to evict multiple wounded veterans and their families.

In one case, the VA disability file of a Fort Carson soldier sat untouched for six months. This file contained a form that stated his rating should be expedited because of his hardship. Even so, nothing had even been started on his file for six entire months.

Three months into his waiting process, the VA bought his home from Bank of America for about $100,000 less than the fair market value.

Last week, the VA sent him eviction papers giving him until the following Monday to move his family of six, including a newborn, out of the home.

The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act mandates that this military family is protected from foreclosure, but the VA apparently doesn't care. They just acquired their home for a steal of a price while sitting on his VA disability claim. Why should they care?

This Fort Carson soldier is not an isolated case. His next door neighbor was also evicted through the VA foreclosure process within six months of leaving active duty, and by then they were already living with their in-laws while they waited for the first VA check to arrive.

Now meet Ben Wisenbaugh, another veteran who is a VA casualty:

Ben's disability claim was delayed for so long that he was forced into bankruptcy. Due to his ruined credit from the lack of a VA disability income, he was unable to obtain a home loan through the VA. Using what little funds he had left, he and his wife bought a substandard trailer to house his family. His home was purchased for the equivalent of one to two months worth of a middle-class mortgage payment.

He is now getting assistance through our nonprofit, Cleaning for Heroes, to bring his substandard housing up to livable standards. I am the Executive Director of this organization, so I can say that Ben is just one of many veterans who come to us in a similar situation.

The Fort Carson soldier is also a Cleaning for Heroes client. However, he is prematurely leaving our program because he will no longer have a home.

And I am not happy about this.

After my husband testified before Congress regarding the Walter Reed Scandal, we were promised that changes would be made. Promises to "swiftly" improve or fix the system made the headlines. The formation of the Warrior Transition Units and a "streamlined" process between the DoD and the VA were a step in the right direction.

Back in 2007, there were case managers available to help with filing Social Security claims prior to leaving the military, and newly hired case managers at the VA would stay on top of each veteran's needs. Beyond that, new changes like the legislation that was passed -- that I had personally introduced and brought to the attention of my Congressman -- would help to resolve the issues of damaged credit resulting from the financial hardships incurred during the recovery process.

I no longer see any adequate evidence of those changes in 2011.

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently approved $50 million in grant funding to support housing stability programs with a focus to reduce the homeless veteran population.

I say they ought to start by putting the foreclosures on hold for at least nine months, and put more focus on processing the disability backlogs, don't you?

Author's Note: If you are a military member experiencing problems with foreclosure or any other consumer issue, please visit my favorite resource for reputable attorneys who can help you assert your rights as a military consumer:

Kind of speaks for itself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Republicans Discover Time Machine. After Which They Claim Credit for Good Economic Indicators

Republicans: Job, Economic Growth The Result Of GOP Victories (VIDEO)

Top Republicans are claiming credit for a variety of metrics showing that the economy is improving. Expect this meme to snowball, particularly as Democrats have done little, so far, to stop it. On Fox News today, House Rules Committee Chair David Dreier (R-CA) contended the GOP deserves all the credit for recent economic growth.

"[W]e can get our economy growing. And we've gotten some positive numbers. I think it's in large part because we won our majority and we're pursuing pro-growth policies," he said.

In December, the Department of Labor announced that unemployment had fallen from 9.7 percent to 9.4 percent. Its data suggests private sector job growth has been increasing since the fall. The GOP has controlled the House for just over two weeks, but has yet to enact any major economic legislation -- and economists agree that even enacted fiscal policy will not be immediately reflected in economic growth.

Dreier's not the first to attempt this leap. Earlier this month, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) attributed soaring corporate profits in 2010 to the passage of the GOP-friendly tax cut compromise at the very end of last year.

"Some of the results... I suspect, are coming from the fact that we extended tax rates that the president did not want to extend, but was willing to do so at the end of the year last year," he told Bloomberg's Al Hunt.

It's a theory of economic growth that requires assuming the existence of a time machine. But it doesn't have to be true to become the conventional wisdom.
Republicans claim the economy - which they controlled for eight years - did not crash because of their policies. Now the economy seems to be rallying just a little, Republicans rush in to take credit.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Republican Moron of the Week Sen. Mike Lee Calls Child Labor Laws Unconstitutional

Republican Moron of the Week Sen. Mike Lee Calls Child Labor Laws Unconstitutional

Last week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) posted a lecture on his YouTube channel where he explains in great detail his views on the Constitution. As part of the lecture, which is essentially a lengthy defense of his radical tenther interpretation of the Constitution, Lee claims that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional:

    Congress decided it wanted to prohibit [child labor], so it passed a law—no more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt. In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress. [...]

    This may sound harsh, but it was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh. Not because we like harshness for the sake of harshness, but because we like a clean division of power, so that everybody understands whose job it is to regulate what.

    Now, we got rid of child labor, notwithstanding this case. So the entire world did not implode as a result of that ruling.

Lee’s call for a return to failed constitutional vision that spawned the Great Depression is obviously wrong. The Constitution gives Congress the power “[t]o regulate commerce…among the several states,” and to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” this power to regulate commerce. Even ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia agrees that these powers give Congress broad authority to regulate “economic activity” such as hiring and firing. Which explains why the Supreme Court unanimously overruled Hammer v. Daggenhardt in a 1941 decision called United States v. Darby.

Moreover, Lee is simply wrong to claim that child labor magically disappeared after the Supreme Court rendered Congress powerless to prevent it. The reason why exploitative child labor has largely disappeared is because Congress placed very strict limits on child labor when it enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the constitutional cloud over this law was removed three years later when the Court overruled Lee’s pet decision.

Child labor laws are also only one of many essential protections that would evaporate in Mike Lee’s America. The same legal theory Lee uses to impugn child labor laws applies equally to the federal minimum wage and the ban on whites-only lunch counters. And Lee doesn’t even stop there. In a subsequent section of the lecture, Lee attacks President Franklin Roosevelt for calling for the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan” and “health care” because “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress any of those powers.”

So Lee wouldn’t just remove the most basic protections against child sweatshops, he would also eliminate Social Security and Medicare.
Lee does think the federal government should have the last word on what a woman does with her own uterus. His views of the Constitution seem to rest solely on whatever mood he happens to be in or what satisfies his agenda.

Wingnut Blogger Jim Hoft Mistakes Closed Caption for Applause Prompt at Tucson Memorial. Jim never read a lie about Democrats did would not push. It must be painful to be so possessed by hate and stupidity. Another Jimmy boy plot also spoiled by reality - Shameless: Jim Hoft Falls For Fake Facebook Profile In Attempt To Link Loughner To Obama

Friday, January 14, 2011

Conservative Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Proves He is an Idiot Incapable of Governing

Conservative Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Proves He is an Idiot Incapable of Governing

Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker has rushed to make hay out of the Illinois Assembly’s decision to raise individual and corporate tax rates, urging Illinois residents and businesses to move to Wisconsin. But, ironically, Illinois residents who move to Wisconsin should bank on paying higher taxes.

Conservatives like Walker have insisted on using the figure that Illinois is increasing taxes by a whopping 66 percent. While this is factually accurate, it’s misleading as it makes the tax increase seem much bigger than it actually is. Illinois tax rates will only go from 3 to 5 percent (hence 66 percent increase), representing a total increase in tax rates of just 2 percent. This will allow Illinois to solve a massive $15 billion budget deficit without gutting state programs. But even with this increase, tax rates for individuals will still be lower than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has different tax brackets; the lowest income rate if you make over $11,000 is 6.15 percent. The highest rate is 7.75 percent. Bloomberg noted this yesterday:

    Absent from Walker’s sales pitch was the fact that Wisconsin’s top income tax rates remain higher than Illinois even under the increase … Walker hasn’t yet proposed lowering the state’s income or corporate tax rates.

But this didn’t stop Fox New host Neil Cavuto yesterday from insisting that Illinois is experiencing a “tax storm.” Nor did it stop Walker from calling on Illinois residents to “escape to Wisconsin”:

    CAVUTO: That storm [blizzard in the northeast] is nothing compared to this one – a tax storm and in Illinois a big one. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is set to sign a 66 percent hike in the state’s income tax… Governor, what do you make of this?

    WALKER: Well I got a simple message… I pulled this out of the archives, we used to have this for tourism, its a bumper sticker that says “escape to Wisconsin.” And instead of sending it to tourists, we are going to send it to employers, because boy with their taxes going up through the roof we want them to come to Wisconsin…

Watch it:

Instead of following the responsible budgeting in Illinois, Walker is proposing to increase taxes on the working poor in Wisconsin by cutting the state’s earned income tax credit.

Republicans claim they have not declared war on Americans who are not millionaires - i.e. there is no class warfare. Why than are Republicans always trying to make the poorest and hardest working Americans pay more out of their pocket. Millionaires- the class of people conservatives most care about stay wealthy no matter who governs. They benefit simply from the income that wealth provides - wealth made possible by people who actually work for a living. Why is it that Republicans have this delusional idea they know anything about economics. People like Walker will steal more money from the middle and working class than bank robbers ever will.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rage on the Right The Year in Hate and Extremism

Rage on the Right The Year in Hate and Extremism

The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called "Patriot" groups — militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

The anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist" or even "fascist" — goes beyond the radical right. The "tea parties" and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history,” Chip Berlet, a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier this year. "We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage."

Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just a quarter think the government can be trusted. And the anti-tax tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than either the Democratic or Republican parties, the poll found.

The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere. Armed men have come to Obama speeches bearing signs suggesting that the "tree of liberty" needs to be "watered" with "the blood of tyrants." The Conservative Political Action Conference held this February was co-sponsored by groups like the John Birch Society, which believes President Eisenhower was a Communist agent, and Oath Keepers, a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests, in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans in concentration camps. Politicians pandering to the antigovernment right in 37 states have introduced "Tenth Amendment Resolutions," based on the constitutional provision keeping all powers not explicitly given to the federal government with the states. And, at the "A Well Regulated Militia" website, a recent discussion of how to build "clandestine safe houses" to stay clear of the federal government included a conversation about how mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph were supposedly betrayed at such houses.

Doing the Numbers
The number of hate groups in America has been going up for years, rising 54% between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president.

According to the latest annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), these groups rose again slightly in 2009 — from 926 in 2008 to 932 last year — despite the demise of a key neo-Nazi group. The American National Socialist Workers Party, which had 35 chapters in 28 states, imploded shortly after the October 2008 arrest of founder Bill White for making threats against his enemies.

At the same time, the number of what the SPLC designates as "nativist extremist" groups — organizations that go beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants — jumped from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 last year. Virtually all of these vigilante groups have appeared since the spring of 2005.

But the most dramatic story by far has been with the antigovernment Patriots.

The militias and the larger Patriot movement first came to Americans’ attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government bent on crushing all dissent. Sparked most dramatically by the death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun control and environmental regulation. Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories. By early this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public view.

But last year, as noted in the SPLC’s August report, "The Second Wave: Return of the Militias," a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) — a 244% jump.

That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.

Already there are signs of similar violence emanating from the radical right. Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation’s first black president. One man from Brockton, Mass. — who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites — is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama’s inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with antigovernment, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it.

Last year also experienced levels of cross-pollination between different sectors of the radical right not seen in years. Nativist activists increasingly adopted the ideas of the Patriots; racist rants against Obama and others coursed through the Patriot movement; and conspiracy theories involving the government appeared in all kinds of right-wing venues. A good example is the upcoming Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. The website promoting the march is topped by a picture of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters include Larry Pratt, a long-time militia enthusiast with connections to white supremacists, and Richard Mack, a conspiracy-mongering former sheriff associated with the Patriot group Oath Keepers.

What may be most noteworthy about the march, however, is its date — April 19. That is the date of the first shots fired at Lexington in the Revolutionary War. And it is also the anniversary of the fiery end of the government siege in Waco and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Yea sure, conservatives don't have a problem with violence and hate.

Violent Rhetoric and Media False Balance

Yesterday in the New York Times Paul Krugman (1/10/11) suggests that we not pretend that "both sides" are responsible for toxic political rhetoric:

    Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretense of balance: It's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It's hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be "armed and dangerous" without being ostracized; but Rep. Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the GOP.

    ...Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you'll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at the Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.

Unfortunately, that false balance is not just coming from the right, but appears all across the media. On Meet the Press (1/9/11), NBC's David Gregory rounded up examples of demonizing rhetoric:

    Let's be honest, there is a demonization.  It happens amongst all of you, it happens in the public, it happens in the polarized aspects of the press, a demonization of the other side.  Whether it's a congressman saying, "You lie," from the House floor, whether it's a Democrat who literally shoots the cap-and-trade bill in a campaign advertisement.  Or your former colleague, Alan Grayson from Florida, compared Republicans to the Taliban.  I mean, this kind of vitriol on both sides does contribute to that, that demonization.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post (1/10/11):

    Politicians in both parties have said this is not a time for one side to try to score political points against the other over who bears responsibility for these conditions, though there is plenty of finger-pointing in the blogosphere and on Twitter. The reality is everyone bears some responsibility, from politicians to political operatives to the media to ordinary Americans.

New York Times (1/10/11):

    Not since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 has an event generated as much attention as to whether extremism, antigovernment sentiment and even simple political passion at both ends of the ideological spectrum have created a climate promoting violence.

New York Times' Matt Bai leads off with examples from "both sides," and in so doing equates one of the most prominent national figures in the Republican Party (and a regular contributor to the GOP house organ Fox News Channel) with some unnamed diarist from Arizona who didn't support a recent Gifford vote:

    Within minutes of the first reports Saturday that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of people with her had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the Web. One was Sarah Palin's infamous "cross hairs" map from last year, which showed a series of contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords', with gun targets trained on them. Another was from Daily Kos, the liberal blog, where one of the congresswoman's apparently liberal constituents declared her "dead to me" after Ms. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week.

To his credit, Bai spends significant time recounting violent rhetoric from Republican and conservative leaders--likely because there is just a lot more of that to write about. But he offers an excuse for their behavior:

It's not that such leaders are necessarily trying to incite violence or hysteria; in fact, they're not. It's more that they are so caught up in a culture of hyperbole, so amused with their own verbal flourishes and the ensuing applause, that--like the bloggers and TV hosts to which they cater--they seem to lose their hold on the power of words.

Bai adds:

    None of this began last year, or even with Mr. Obama or with the Tea Party; there were constant intimations during George W. Bush's presidency that he was a modern Hitler or the devious designer of an attack on the World Trade Center, a man whose very existence threatened the most cherished American ideals.

Yes, there are people who called Bush a "modern Hitler," or believed he had some role in the 9/11 attacks. Those people are generally not given talkshows, and cannot be found in positions of power in the Democratic Party.

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Republicans Are Spreading a Big Fat Lie About the Economy


Republicans Are Spreading a Big Fat Lie About the Economy

Republicans are telling Americans a Big Lie, and Obama and the Democrats are letting them. The Big Lie is our economic problems are due to a government that’s too large, and therefore the solution is to shrink it.

The truth is our economic problems stem from the biggest concentration of income and wealth at the top since 1928, combined with stagnant incomes for most of the rest of us. The result: Americans no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full capacity. Since the debt bubble burst, most Americans have had to reduce their spending; they need to repay their debts, can’t borrow as before, and must save for retirement.

The short-term solution is for government to counteract this shortfall by spending more, not less. The long-term solution is to spread the benefits of economic growth more widely (for example, through a more progressive income tax, a larger EITC, an exemption on the first $20K of income from payroll taxes and application of payroll taxes to incomes over $250K, stronger unions, and more and better investments in education and infrastructure.)

But instead of telling the truth, Obama has legitimized the Big Lie by freezing non-defense discretionary spending, freezing federal pay, touting his deficit commission co-chairs’ recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase, and agreeing to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Will Obama stand up to the Big Lie? Will he use his State of the Union address to rebut it and tell the truth? Maybe, but so far there’s no evidence.

In his weekly address yesterday, the President restated his “commitment” for 2011 “to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class.” He added that it’s important “to look ahead - not just to this year, but to the next 10 years, and the next 20 years” to find ways to stimulate the economy through innovation. And that it is critical that the U.S. discover ways to “out-compete other countries around the world.”

Become more innovative? Out-compete? Who or what is he talking about? Big American corporations are innovating like mad all over the world, with research and development centers in China and India. And their profits are soaring. They’re sitting on almost $1 trillion of cash. But they won’t create jobs in America because there’s not enough demand here to justify them.

In the Republican address in response, U.S. Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) restated the Big Lie. “The American people sent us to Congress with clear instructions: make government smaller, not bigger,” she said. Deficit reduction “isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem — it’s an American problem that will require tough decision-making from both parties.” And the way to shrink the deficit is to cut government. The extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts over the next two years, she said, was an “important first step” to jump-start the economy.

Starting Wednesday, when the 112th Congress convenes with a Republican majority in the House, we’ll be hearing far more of the Big Lie.

George Orwell once explained that when a public is stressed and confused, a Big Lie told repeatedly can become the accepted truth. Adolph Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that “the size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed” and that members of the public are “more easily prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.”

Only the President has the bully pulpit. But will he use it to tell the Big Truth?

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama's transition advisory board. His latest book is Supercapitalism.

American loves its myths. One of the favorites seems to be to keep the rich richer so they'll invest and create jobs. They are investing in Chinese sweat jobs that provide over thirty percent of the crap you can buy at Wal-Mart. Profits are up, but gosh American payrolls are down. If only Americans workers would work for 75 censt an hour our problems would be over, right?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Era of Substance Free Republican Gimmicks Begins - House Reading Amended Slavery-Free Constitution

House Reading Amended Slavery-Free Constitution

Members of the House of Representatives, led by their new Republican majority, will kick off the 112th Congress this morning with a reading of the U.S. Constitution. The reading is largely a political maneuver, so it's no real surprise that the Constitution you'll hear read on C-SPAN this morning will be the politically correct version.

It's fairly likely that no elected politician wants to stand up and read aloud the Founder's vision of African Americans as equaling three-fifths of a white person, so the GOP has decided to leave that part, and others, out when the Constitution is read today.

From The Daily Caller:

    Instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members will read an "amended version" that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part will allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.

The reading of the Constitution on the House floor has never been done before, and it's only happening today thanks to the tea party. Throughout the campaign last year, "returning to the Constitution" (in a vague and largely undefined way) was sacred to the tea party, and supporters of reading the document aloud today seem to hope that hearing the words in the House chamber will cause members to adhere to the document more closely.

Democrats and Republicans are expected to participate in the reading, but not all members of Congress think it's a worthy use of their time.

From a Washington Post interview with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY):

    Nadler called the "ritualistic reading" on the floor "total nonsense" and "propaganda" intended to claim the document for Republicans. "You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it," said Nadler, who argued that the Founders were not "demigods" and that the document's need for amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was "highly imperfect."

    "You are not supposed to worship your constitution. You are supposed to govern your government by it," he said.

Whatever the motivation of the supporters of reading the Constitution today, it's clear that politics is playing a major factor in what's being read. So, what won't you hear about in the version of the Constitution entered into the Congressional record today? The DC's Chris Moody offers this rundown:

    The Constitution contains nine parts that were later changed -- including an entire amendment, the 18th, which banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol -- which will be left out of Thursday's reading. The omitted sections, which do not apply to the 112th Congress, include the so-called "three-fifths clause," the election of senators by state legislatures and the original process outlined for electing the vice president.

On MSNBC's "Last Word" Tuesday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who's the man in charge of the reading today, defended the scheme -- and the decision to leave out some of the words written by the Founders.
This little bit of political theater will cost TAX PAYERS ABOUT ONE MILLION DOLLARS. How many lunches for poor kids will one million dollars buy? How many middle-aged jobless could get two years of community college and a new set of job skills for one million dollars? How many blue collar workers could get their dental work done for one million dollars? How many teachers would one million dollars employ for a year? Nothing has changed, Republicans learned nothing from the borrow and spend Bush years.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Republicans Won in Watering Down Financial Reform. We'll All be Paying the Price

Full Catastrophe Banking in 2011

With a $4.7 trillion dollar bailout under their belts with no harm done to their billion-dollar bonuses, don't expect Wall Street bankers to be chastened by the 2008 financial crisis. Below we list eight things to watch out for in 2011 that threaten to rock the financial system and undermine any recovery.
1) The Demise of Bank of America

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is promising to unleash a cashe of secret documents from the troubled Bank of America (BofA). BofA is already under the gun, defending itself from multiple lawsuits demanding that the bank buy back billions worth of toxic mortgages it peddled to investors. The firm is also at the heart of robo-signing scandal, having wrongfully kicked many American families to the curb. If Assange has emails showing that Countrywide or BofA knew they were recklessly abandoning underwriting standards and/or peddling toxic dreck to investors, the damage to the firm could be irreparable.
2) Robo-signers Wreaking Havoc

With lawsuits abounding, new types of fraud in the foreclosure process are being uncovered daily, including accounting fraud, fake attorneys, destroyed promissory notes and false notarizations. The crisis not only calls into question the legality of untold foreclosures, it also calls into question the value of trillions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities held by banks, pension funds, federal, state and local governments. The only government report on the topic by the feisty Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP acknowledges that "it is possible that ‘robo-signing' may have concealed deeper problems in the mortgage market that could potentially threaten financial stability."
3) MERS Madness

In addition to outright fraud, numerous state Supreme Courts have questioned the legal standing of the Mortgage Electronic Registration or "MERS" system. MERS is a private database created by industry to bypass the property registration system developed by our forefathers in precolonial days to ensure that the King could not easily rob the subjects of their land. Wall Street turned to MERS to speed securitizations (and now foreclosures), but its legal standing is now in doubt and its shoddy processing of documents has major ramifications for the securitization process as well. Look for a rotten "MERS fix" in the new Congress. Let's hope it gives consumer advocates some leverage to demand justice for Americans being robbed by the new Kings on Wall Street.
4) Flash Crash Calamity

The "flash crash" of May 2010 rattled the markets and caused a stunning 700 point drop in the Dow within minutes. Regulators think they know what occurred, but they are moving too slowly to put the brakes on hair-trigger trading. Seventy percent of Wall Street trades take place in milliseconds, so it is no surprise that mini-flash crashes are becoming a constant. With traders now gearing up to trade on raw news feeds and Twitter, we can anticipate even more volatility. A small financial transaction tax targeting high-volume, high-speed trades is long overdue. It would throw sand in the roulette wheel and raise much needed revenue for the federal government.
5) Bigger Behemoth Banks

The Federal Reserve is planning to "stress test" the big banks again. The same 19 banks that underwent the first stress tests in 2009 will be tested again, but this time the Fed says it won't release the results. Why not? Banks with toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities on their books and concomitant legal exposure to "put back" law suits are being kept afloat by accounting tricks, TARP and Fed loans. Honest stress tests of still weak financial institutions may well result in sales and buyouts that will further consolidate the already concentrated banking industry and create larger and more unwieldy "too big to fail" behemoths -- backed by the guarantee of the American taxpayer.
6) Foreclosure Tsunami

Housing foreclosures may top nine million in 2011 and Goldman Sachs predicts the number will reach 12 million in the next few years. The result will be another significant drop in home prices in 2011 and even more families underwater. Civilized nations see the forcible migration of a city the size of New York as an economic and humanitarian catastrophe, but not the United States. The Obama administration and Congress have callously refused to take meaningful action to aid families facing foreclosure even in the face of widespread predatory lending and rampant foreclosure fraud. The only hope now for millions of American families is aggressive action by the 50 state Attorneys General who are actively investigating foreclosure fraud. Whether they have the guts to wrestle a settlement out of the big banks that slows the foreclosure machine and offers families meaningful options has yet to be seen.
7) Bankrupt Cities and States

Meredith Whitney, a research analyst who correctly predicted the credit crunch, is now warning that over 100 American cities could go bust next year. She anticipates billions worth of municipal bond defaults and warns: "next to housing this is the single most important issue in the U.S. and certainly the biggest threat to the U.S. economy." States are also in dire straits. The economic shock of mass unemployment on top of years of population decline, deindustrialization and the like have left cities unable to meet their obligations to taxpayers and retirees. With an austerity anschluss underway in the House, it may take a bankruptcy of a major player to prod an appropriate federal response to this looming disaster.
8) Gas Prices above $4.00

The price of energy and other commodities shifted into high gear in late August when the Federal Reserve Chairman decided to stimulate the economy with quantitative easing. Speculators quickly began bidding up the value of asset classes like crude oil, metals and food commodities. In December, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission failed to apply position limits to these commodities, delaying rules that would crack down on speculators and aid consumers who are already seeing big price hikes at the pump. Without swift action, skyrocketing gas prices will further tank an already stalled economy.

As we hope for the best in 2011, let's prepare for the worst. The big banks are sure to deliver.
© 2011 Bankster - USA

Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their site.

Watch for this Republican code word - "pro business". That means conservatives want the same rickety regulatory atmosphere that was part of the blame for the worse financial collapse since the Great Depression. "Pro business" in Republican code means let Wall St do anything it wants including retaining the power to crash the economy again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Republicans and The Abuse of Executive Orders

Ten To Toss

Newly minted presidents have often used executive orders to set the tone for their administration right out of the gate, as Barack Obama is expected to do this week. But while these orders can be issued unilaterally, they can just as easily be overturned by the next guy. Last fall, Slate compiled a list of the top 10 executive orders signed by George W. Bush that the next president should roll back right away. The list is reprinted below.

The presidency comes with a superpowered pen for signing executive orders. Without negotiating with Congress to pass a law, or even going through the notice-and-comment period that precedes a new federal rule, the president can change the music that federal agencies dance to. He's the executive, and it's his executive branch.

What, then, is the worst of the damage President Bush has caused all on his own? In putting together a top (or bottom) 10 list from the Bush administration's 262 EOs, we sifted through some familiar targets, such as his faith-based initiative and diversion of funds from stem-cell research. We also realize that some of the Bush moments we rue didn't come in the form of an executive order. The recent bid to force family-planning clinics to certify that their employees won't have to assist with any procedure they find objectionable, for example, took the form of a federal rule. So did the administration's decisions to open up new swaths of public land to logging and mining and to raise the allowable level of mercury emissions.

We'd like to see those rules repealed, too, but we decided to stick with EOs for this list because of their consoling simplicity. If they can be conjured by a stroke of the pen, they can also quickly be made to vanish—presidents show little reluctance to excise their predecessors' dictums. Here are our picks for the nine orders most deserving of the presidential eraser come January, plus a tenth suggested by readers.

No. 1: Gutting the Presidential Records Act
Executive Order 13233 (PDF)
Nov. 1, 2001

What the order says: With Executive Order 13233, the Bush administration tried to gut the Presidential Records Act, passed in 1978 to make sure that the internal documents of the executive branch are public and generally will become part of the historical record. The 1978 law itself was a compromise in favor of privacy in some respects: Presidential records aren't disclosed for up to 12 years after an administration leaves office, and requests for them are subject to the limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act, which means that classified documents stay secret. But the Bush order essentially threw out the law's bid for transparency altogether. After stonewalling for months over access to documents from the Reagan era, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales drafted an order that gives a sitting president, or the president whose records are being requested, the power to review a documents request, with no time limit. If either president says no, you have to sue to get the records.

Why it should go: The American Historical Association hates this order for good reason: It puts a president's interest in secrecy—to prevent embarrassment, inconvenient revelations, whatever—over the public's interest in understanding past events of national import. In 2007, a federal judge struck down part of EO 13233 for conflicting with the Presidential Records Act—which trumps a presidential order, since it's a law enacted by Congress. But parts of the order remain in effect, and a bill in Congress to scrap the whole thing has stalled. The next president shouldn't wait for the judiciary or the legislature: He should throw out this order on his own, as proof that a dozen years after he leaves office, he won't be afraid of an inside view of his White House.

No. 2: Blocking Stem-Cell Research
Executive Order 13435 (PDF)
June 20, 2007

What the order says: In August 2001, Bush issued a rule limiting federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research to existing colonies of such cells. Five years later, he expended the first veto of his presidency to reject legislation served up by a Republican Congress to ease those restrictions. This subsequent executive order a year later, issued the same day he vetoed the legislation a second time, encourages research into alternative measures of creating pluripotent stem cells. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to prioritize research consistent with Bush's previous directives and devote resources to finding other means of creating human stem cells.

Why it should go: Supporting alternative means of creating stem cells is a fine idea—just not at the expense of supporting the more immediately available source of stem cells, which are among the most promising lines of medical research today. There is certainly hope that the debate over whether to destroy human embryos to collect these valuable one-size-fits-all cells will eventually be moot. Researchers have found ways to turn back the clock on adult skin cells, reprogramming them as embryonic cells. But this is a tricky process that involves inserting new genes, and it's not yet a sufficient alternative to embryonic stem cells. In the meantime, Bush's order is diverting funds even from research that could eventually sidestep his ethical concerns; scientists have successfully harvested bone fide stem cells without harming the nascent embryo. Both McCain and Obama supported the legislation that would have loosened Bush's research restrictions when it came before the Senate in 2006 and 2007. While some supporters of embryonic-stem-cell research have questioned McCain's resolve, his campaign says his position is unchanged. This order should go no matter who is elected.

No. 3: Finessing the Geneva Conventions
Executive Order 13440 (PDF)
July 20, 2007

What the order says: After the Supreme Court pushed back against the Bush administration's efforts to hold the Guantanamo detainees indefinitely and without charges, doubts arose about the legality of the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques (or torture, if you think water-boarding amounts to that). For a time, the CIA's interrogation squeeze was on hold. Then Bush issued Executive Order 13440, and the interrogators started rolling again. The order isn't explicit about which practices it allows—that remains classified—but it may still sidestep the protections in the Geneva Convention against humiliating and degrading treatment. According to the New York Times, water-boarding is off-limits, but sleep deprivation may not be, and exposure to extreme heat and cold is allowed.

Why it should go: EO 13440 looks like an improvement on previous directives to the CIA, like the memos from the Justice Department written by John Yoo, which narrowly defined torture and Geneva's protections. (According to Barton Gellman's new book about Cheney, the only technique Yoo rejected on legal grounds was burying a detainee alive.) Still, the executive order leaves the door open to techniques that the United States would not want used against its own soldiers and so is part of the Bush administration detritus that has damaged the United States' moral authority abroad. The administration's record is so tarnished on this score that the next president should declare that he is scrapping this order, so he can start over and come up with his own policy on interrogation and the CIA.

No. 4: Handing the Keys to the Vice President
Executive Order 13292 (PDF)
March 25, 2003

What the order says: In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton issued an executive order that made it easier to declassify documents, and hundreds of millions of pages of information about the White House tumbled forth. In 2003, the Bush administration took another tack, amending Clinton's order to get the vice president into the business of classifying whatever he wants. Executive Order 13292 gives the vice president the same power to classify documents that the president has.

Why it should go: EO 13292 is a twofer: It both expands the scope of secrecy and the powers of the vice presidency. As Byron York argues in the National Review, "Since the beginning of the administration, Dick Cheney has favored measures allowing the executive branch to keep more things secret. And in March 2003, the president gave him the authority to do it." This is reminiscent of Cheney's efforts to prevent the National Archives and Records Administration from enforcing the rules that govern classified information as they pertain to the vice president. Cheney is famous for wanting his office to be a closed box. Executive Order 13292 looks like it was written expressly for him. We hope that the next vice president won't also want to keep secrets to this extent. But the boss should eliminate this worry by revoking this order.

No. 5: Free Rein in Iraq
Executive Order 13303 (PDF)
May 28, 2003

What the order says: Issued two months after the invasion of Iraq, this order offers broad legal protection for U.S. corporations dealing in Iraqi oil. Bush's directive, justified as a means of protecting Iraqi oil profits, nullifies any sort of judicial proceedings relating to either Iraqi petroleum or the newly created Development Fund for Iraq. The executive order also declares a national emergency to deal with the threat to a peaceful reconstruction of Iraq, which Bush has renewed every year since, most recently in May 2008.

Why it should go: This directive is the foundation for all of Bush's subsequent executive orders on Iraq (see No. 6, below), so it's the logical place to begin rolling back abuses of authority relating to the war. Given the many concerns over cronyism and waste by U.S. contractors in Iraq, revoking their blanket legal protection when oil is on the table is justified. Watchdog groups originally feared that the order could be used to prevent people with tort claims from suing corporations working in Iraq. That hasn't come to pass so far—Tom Devine, the legal director at the Government Accountability Project, says he has not seen the order applied in any legal case. Still, given that the United States will probably be in Iraq for at least 16 months after the next president takes office, it's not too late to inject a little accountability into the contracting. As the Government Accountability Project wrote at the time, "The scope of the EO's mandate for lawlessness is limited only by the imagination." The order is also overkill; the U.N. resolution that passed concurrently with it, which was hailed as a major diplomatic victory for the United States and Britain at the time, contains more limited legal immunity for oil-related commerce in Iraq.

No. 6: Going After Troublemakers in Iraq
Executive Order 13438 (PDF)
July 17, 2007

What the order says: This order grants the administration the power to freeze the assets of an abstract but broadly defined group of people who threaten the stability of Iraq. The list of targeted people includes anyone who has propagated (or helped to propagate) violence in Iraq in an effort to destabilize the reconstruction. Most ominously, it also applies to anyone who poses a "significant risk of committing" a future act of violence to that end. The order, which applies to anyone in the United States or in U.S. control abroad, also declares, "Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited." The order appears to acknowledge that it could conflict with constitutional protections but then states that targets of its provisions do not need to be notified ahead of time that their assets will be frozen.

Why it should go: The Fifth Amendment has a few interesting things to say about the seizure of property without due process—namely, you can't do it. While this is far from the first time the Bush administration has trampled constitutional rights in the name of national security, this order, if broadly interpreted, could target war protesters in the United States. Then-White House spokesman Tony Snow said at the time that it was intended to target terrorists and insurgents, but the language of the order is vaguer. This EO drew condemnation from all ideological directions, from Swift-boater Jerome Corsi to the ACLU. One needn't be a civil libertarian to see the danger of the order's loose definitions or wonder why we needed the order in the first place. Bonus: The next month, Bush issued a similar order targeting mischief-makers in Lebanon and their supporters. That one can go, too.

No. 7: Eyes and Ears in the Agencies
Executive Order 13422 (PDF)
Jan. 18, 2007

What the order says: Recent presidents have gone back and forth over how much control the White House should exert over writing federal regulations, particularly in contested areas like environmental policy. Unsurprisingly, Bush came down on the side of strong White House influence. This order mandates the designation of a presidential appointee in each federal agency as "regulatory policy officer," with authority to oversee the rule-making process. This largely revises Bill Clinton's 1993 executive order granting agencies more regulatory independence from the White House (which nullified two of Reagan's executive orders). Defenders contend that it is important for the administration to be able to balance regulatory policy with business and economic concerns.

Why it should go: The Bush administration has shown no qualms about interfering with federal regulations normally left to civil servants, particularly on environmental fronts like ozone limits, as Democrats like Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have pointed out. Repealing the order would be a step toward scrubbing the agencies of the stench of political tampering. The next president shouldn't mix political appointees with civil servants from the inception of the regulatory process by requiring a company man in each agency to supervise.

No. 8: Letting Religious Groups Call the Hiring Shots
Executive Order 13279 (PDF)
Dec. 12, 2002

What the order says: Adding to the pair of 2001 executive orders that encouraged religious groups to apply for federal money for social services, Bush's December 2002 order made it easier for churches and synagogues to take the money by letting them skirt certain anti-discrimination laws. Because of this order, the faith-based groups can take federal funds while refusing to hire people who aren't of the faith the groups espouse.

Why it should go: As Timothy Noah pointed out in Slate at the time, this seems sensible enough at first: "Why shouldn't government-funded religious charities be allowed to favor members of their own religion when hiring, firing, and promoting?" But there are a couple of problems here. The first is that the groups get to define for themselves who counts as a good Baptist or a good Jew—and what if they decide someone is out because he or she is gay, for example? The second problem is that it's not really clear why Catholic charities should be able to hire only Catholics to serve meals to the homeless, if that work is being funded by the government. In a debate on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, Christopher Anders of the ACLU framed the order this way: "What this is about is creating a special right for some organizations that don't want to comply with the civil rights protections." James Towey, then director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said, "The question is, 'Do they lose right to hire according to religious beliefs when they take federal money?' " Either way you frame it, the order is a bad idea. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have pledged to continue federal funding of faith-based programs, but Obama has promised that groups taking the money won't be able to make social-services hires on the basis of religion.

No. 9: The Alternative-Fuel Fix-All
Executive Order 13423 (PDF)
Jan. 26, 2007

What the order says: Shortly after his 2007 State of the Union address, in which he devoted significant time to environmental proposals, Bush signed Executive Order 13423. Among other things, the order requires federal agencies to cut petroleum-based-fuel usage by 2 percent annually through 2015 while increasing alternative-fuel use by 10 percent each year. The order also requires agencies to reduce overall energy consumption and purchase more hybrid vehicles.

Why it should go: On the face of it, Bush's directive seems like a step in the right direction. Officials in California, however, were quick to question the policy's ecological bottom line. Producing alternative fuels, they argued, can result in a large spike in greenhouse-gas emissions, particularly when harvesting resources like oil shale and coal. There's also doubt that the alternative-fuel industry simply has the capacity to meet the order's requirements. As the Washington Post editorialized, "Where might 20 billion alternative-fuel gallons come from?" To complicate matters, the Supreme Court ruled two months later that the Environmental Protection Agency does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, prompting Bush to issue another executive order directing several agencies to draft guidelines for reducing emissions from cars and trucks. The sound, responsible energy policy that should be at the top of the list for the next president—and Congress—will need realistic goals and a big-picture understanding of costs and benefits of alternative fuels.

Update, Oct. 3, 2008

Last week, Slate compiled the nine most odious executive orders issued by George W. Bush that the next administration should overturn and asked readers to supply the 10th. Of the submissions, the most popular by far was National Security Presidential Directive 51, the Bush administration's plan for keeping the government functional in the case of a catastrophic crisis. The policy is not technically an executive order, but we'll allow it. The national-security presidential directive is a close-enough cousin and highly worthy of revocation.

What the order says: The public part of NSPD-51 grants broad authority to the president in a time of emergency, explicitly stating, "The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government." The rest of the order is fairly bureaucratic, appointing a national continuity coordinator and directing agency heads to develop their own plans.

But that's not all. Not only has the White House classified most of the annexes to the directive, it has refused to show them to the members of Congress on relevant committees. As the Oregonian reported, the White House stonewalled efforts by Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and member of the homeland-security committee, to gain access to the classified parts of the directive.

Why it should go: A partly classified plan for national emergencies only fuels the sense of foreboding that the White House has staked out wider and wider powers under the guise of national security. As Ron Rosenbaum wrote in Slate when the directive was released, the secrecy gives rise to all sorts of fears about plans for succession that set aside those provided for in the Constitution, of the sort that Ronald Reagan supposedly put in place. To be sure, cataclysmic emergencies may call for strong, centralized leadership in their immediate aftermath. But any responsible policy for such a scenario should be both transparent and short-lived, focused on the speedy restoration of checks and balances on executive power.

Bush's final tally on ruling like a fascist-lite gave him a total of 291 executive orders. This total does not include "federal rules" that he single handedly passed down. All of this was supposedly OK according to right-wing Republicans who had pushed for years for the executive branch to have fascist-lite authority. They were warned by liberals that future president tend to keep such powers and that we would not have a right-wing zealot for president forever. Conservatives who are complaining now about Obama's use of executive orders are choking on their own hypocrisy and constitutionally questionable approach to the office of president. Next we might have another right-wing nut job like Dubya Bush. Will they complain about his abuse of executive orders. Of course not and so the cycle of crazy continues.