Saturday, February 11, 2012

How is the Occupy Movement Worse Than The NYPD - NYPD Must Pay $15 Million for Illegally Arresting 22,000

How is the Occupy Movement Worse Than The NYPD - NYPD Must Pay $15 Million for Illegally Arresting 22,000

For almost 30 years — from 1983 to 2012 — the New York Police Department went about arresting people under laws that state and federal courts had long declared unconstitutional, cuffing and booking almost 22,000 people. In 2010, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin finally held them in contempt of court. Yesterday, she signed an order approving what is effectively their punishment: a $15 million class-action settlement that could generate individual payments of as much as $5,000.

Those arrested were forced to defend themselves in court and even served jail time for completely lawful behavior. The class action settlement also requires the city to help the courts vacate and seal all convictions stemming from the illegal arrests.

“NYPD used these void laws over the past few decades to target people based on poverty, race and sexual orientation,” said J. McGregor Smyth, an attorney from the Bronx Defenders and a lead attorney for the class. “We are happy that the city has finally taken responsibilities for these abuses, agreeing to pay meaningful damages to its victims and to stop its unconstitutional practices once and for all.”

The three unconstitutional laws under which the NYPD made the illegal arrests prohibited people from loitering to panhandle, to search for sex partners or to wait in a bus or train station. Federal and state courts struck down all three of those laws between 1983 and 1993 as violating First Amendment rights, according to The New York Times.

As NYPD officers continued illegally arresting people under the unconstitutional laws, the department made efforts to stop them. It increased communication and training, disciplined some of the officers and conducted an internal investigation, according to The New York Times. However, Judge Scheindlin found the NYPD in contempt of court because, she wrote, they were not proactive about preventing the problem.

“Nearly every measure that the city has undertaken,” she wrote, according to The New York Times, “has been at the direction of the court, the prodding of plaintiffs, and/or under threat of sanctions.”
Most of the violence committed around the Occupy movement has been by police against people exercising their first amendment rights. While some of the OWS folks have behaved badly, they have a ways to go to catch up with the NYPD and several other police departments who are acting like Russian police who have acted against protesters for freedom in Russia.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why Should the Government Enforce Catholic Church Beliefs?

Why Should the Government Enforce Catholic Church Beliefs?
Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right—a right guaranteed under the First Amendment—to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

The problem here is that they’re trying to get the government to do their work for them. They’ve lost the war at home, and they’re now demanding help from the outside....

The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.

It is the same old, conservatives believe in small government until they find some personal dogma they want to shove down everyone's throat.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power and Return it To The People

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power and Return it To The People

“Corporations are people, my friend.” Mitt Romney at Iowa State Fair

Corporations are obviously not people.  But Romney is accurate in the sense that corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading the responsibilities. An important part of the social justice agenda is democratizing corporations.  This means we must radically change the laws so people can be in charge of corporations.  We must strip them of corporate personhood and cut them down to size so democracy can work.  People are taking action so democracy can regulate the size, scope and actions of corporations.

One of the most basic roles of society is to protect the people from harm.  The massive size of many international corporations makes democratic control over them nearly impossible.

Corporate crime is widespread.  The New York Times, ProPublica and others have revealed Wall Street giants like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been charged with fraud many times only to get off by paying hundreds of millions.  Professors at University of Virginia have documented hundreds of corporations which have been found guilty or pled guilty in federal courts.

Corporate abuse is even more widespread.  For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer.
Making corporations responsible to democracy of the people is challenging considering Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, does more business itself annually than all but two dozen of the two hundred plus countries in the world.   Without dramatic changes, how can we expect people in small or even big countries to force corporations like Wal-Mart, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Toyota or Chevron to live by the same rules all the people have to?

Justice demands we make sure corporations do not harm people.  Democracy must require that they operate for the common good.

In order to cut corporations down to size, the people must strip corporations of the special artificial legal protections they have created for themselves.

The story of how corporations took the full rights of legal persons in one of the great perverse tragedies in legal history. Corporations have worked the courts mercilessly since 1819 to take a wide variety of constitutional rights that were designed to cover only people.  For example, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868 to make sure all citizens, particularly freed slaves and people of color, had full rights.  There was no mention of protecting corporations. But corporations jumped on this opportunity resulting in a questionable Supreme Court decision that granted them legal personhood.  At roughly the same time, the Supreme Court approved “separate but equal” racial segregation.  Thus in thirty years, African Americans lost their legal personhood, while corporations acquired theirs.

Corporations now claim: 1st amendment free speech rights to advertise and influence elections: 4th amendment search and seizure rights to resist subpoenas and challenges to their criminal actions; 5th amendment rights to due process; 14th amendment rights to due process where corporations took the rights of former slaves and used them for corporate protection; plus rights under the Commerce and Contracts clauses of the constitution.

The most recent corporate judicial takeover of constitutional rights is the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission.  The court ruled that corporations are protected by the First Amendment so they can use their money to influence elections.

Because of the bad Supreme Court decisions, it takes a constitutional amendment by the people to change the laws back.  An amendment requires two-thirds of both houses of Congress to agree then three-quarters of the states must vote to ratify.  This will take real work.  But despite the growing size and unrestricted power of corporations, people are fighting back.

Dozens of groups are working to reverse Citizens United and restore limits on corporate election advocacy.  In January 2011, groups delivered petitions signed by over 750,000 people calling on Congress to amend the Constitution and reverse the decision.  More than 350 local events were held in late January 2012 to challenge the Citizens United decision.

Groups challenging this injustice include Code Pink, Common Cause, Free Speech for People,, Move to Amend, National Lawyers Guild, POCLAD, Public Citizen, People for American Way, The Center for Media and Democracy, and Women’s League for Peace and Freedom. 

Many groups are asking for a broad constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not people and should not be given any constitutional rights.  Representatives Ted Deutsch of Florida, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have sponsored bills in Congress to start the process for a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people, are not entitled to the rights of people, and cannot contribute to political campaigns.

There are also many energetic actions at the state level.  People for the American Way list organizational efforts in nearly all 50 states to end corporate influence in elections or amend the constitution.

Massive corporations now rule the earth.  But they are recent arrivals which can and should be dispatched.  It is time for people to again take control.  The legal fiction of corporate personhood and the constitutional rights taken by corporations must cease.  Join the efforts to cut them down to size and restore the right of the people to govern.
It is always a good laugh to hear a conservative Republican say they stand for freedom or liberty. They are owned and operated by corporate masters who could care less about their personal liberty. Try fighting a corporation in court that has done you wrong. It will be corporate lawyers versus the little guy. You may actually grow old and die before they pay you for harm they have done you or your family. Complain about you right to privacy. Sure government intrusion has grown since 9-11, but corporations now regularly claim the right to spy on your every click and exchange information with other corporations. And you can always find a conservative or libertarian say that "private" entities have the right to do that - heck they may even go to the bother of offering up some bs about natural law.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Conservative Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) Convicted Of Voter Fraud

Conservative Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) Convicted Of Voter Fraud

Though President Ronald Reagan called the right to vote the “crown jewel of American liberties,” many Republicans around the country have begun demanding increased voting restrictions in the name of fighting “voter fraud.” Though actual cases of voting fraud are so rare that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls, one Republican official in Indiana has proved that lightning can strike himself.

Yesterday, a jury found Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) guilty on six felony counts of voter fraud, theft, and perjury. The conviction cost White his job, though he plans to ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and hopes to perhaps regain the position.

In a statement, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced White’s deputy will take over on an interim basis:

    I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder… If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.

But a second court case could ultimately give the job to Democrat Vop Osili, who lost to White in November 2010. A judge’s December 2011 ruling — currently on hold, pending appeal — held that due to the voter fraud charges, White’s election was invalid. Should that ruling survive the appeals process, Osili would assume the office.

Ironically, White’s now-removed 2010 campaign website listed election integrity as among his top concerns, and promised he would “protect and defend Indiana’s Voter ID law to ensure our elections are fair and protect the most basic and precious right and responsibility of our democracy-voting.”

Voter fraud is very rare. You have a better chance of being struck by lightening. yet is has been conservatives who have made a big deal out of restrictive voter ID laws. Maybe it was to help them resist their own devious ideas about committing actual fraud.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

The important point to make here is that all these bogus numbers are coming from seemingly authoritative sources — Fox News, which is a big organization, the WSJ editorial page, the American Enterprise Institute. You could not imagine a similar level of statistical dishonesty from, say, The Nation, or Washington Monthly, or EPI.

This is what I mean when I say that the left and right aren’t symmetric. People of all persuasions lie; but the right has a whole institutional structure of lying that has no counterpart on the left.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eric Cantor (R-VA) is Proud to Stand Up for Conservative Values Like Corruption. Be a Patriot Tell Congress to Impeach Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Eric Cantor (R-VA) is Proud to Stand Up for Conservative Values Like Corruption. Be a Patriot Tell Congress to Impeach Eric Cantor (R-VA)

During his State of the Union address, President Obama said “send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.” The remark stemmed from a 60 Minutes investigation showing that House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) profited from information he received in private briefings during the economic crisis of 2008.

The Senate, in a rare display of bipartisanship, opened debate on an insider trading ban by a vote of 93-2. However, the bill has since become bogged down under a sea of unrelated amendments.

Over in the House, meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — who reportedly blocked Bachus from bringing up a ban on congressional insider trading in committee — wants to expand the legislation to include bans on other sorts of transactions, such as land deals. UCLA Law Prof. Stephen Bainbridge notes that this is likely an attempt by Cantor to kill the bill by making it so overly broad that no one will vote for it:

    [Cantor's] now trying to extend the STOCK Act “so it includes land deals and other types of transactions and not just stock trades.” Classic taking a good idea too far. The problem is insider trading in stocks, not insider trading in land deals. Cantor obviously hopes that including a vast array of economic activity within the bill, exposing members of Congress to disclosure obligations and other restrictions, as well as increasing their liability exposure, will make the bill sufficiently unpopular so as to prevent its passage.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act has picked up 273 co-sponsors, after languishing for months with nearly no interest.
Like many conservatives Cantor thinks he is clever and real Americans are idiots. He might be partially right. Cantor campaigned on doing the right and moral things for the USA. So far all he has done is block economic progress to make President Obama look bad and to keep Washington in the hands of special interests. Maybe Cantor is delusional, imagining himself Rush Limbaugh's hand maiden.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Has Anyone Seen a Real Pro Life Conservative - Republican Fanatics Sentence Women to Death

Has Anyone Seen a Real Pro Life Conservative - Republican Fanatics Sentence Women to Death

The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has spent nearly $2 billion over the past 30 years for breast cancer education, health services, research, and advocacy, has announced that it will end its longtime partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The announcement has sparked bitter debate among representatives from all concerned parties, highlighting the ongoing debate over abortion.

Planned Parenthood, currently the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States, is widely known for helping women to obtain abortions and contraceptives. But those services, despite their high profile, account for only 38 percent (PDF) of the organization's work. And though Republicans often portray Planned Parenthood as strictly an abortion provider, using the phrase to incite anger among pro-life constituents and gain support for cuts to federal funding -- it comes largely through the Title X and Medicaid programs -- the fact is that the organization devotes most of its money and manpower to screening for breast, cervical, and testicular cancers; treating menopause; testing for sexually transmitted diseases; and more.

The money provided by Susan G. Komen for the Cure went to just a fraction -- about 19 according to one report -- of Planned Parenthood's more than 85 affiliates. And it was all -- roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before that -- used for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured women.

    "It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying."

Koman has been criticized in the past for donating to Planned Parenthood and the official response has always been that, despite the controversy surrounding some of its programs, the organization was the only one working to provide breast-health services to women in need in dozens of communities around the United States.

So why the sudden change?

Cutting funds to Planned Parenthood is the result of a newly adopted policy to block grants to organizations currently under investigation by any local, state, or federal authorities, Koman spokeswoman Leslie Aun told the Associated Press. A statement released Tuesday evening added: "While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a long-standing partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission."

The key factor behind Komen's decision, Aun told the Associated Press, is not ongoing protests of Planned Parenthood -- the Alliance Defense Fund was quick to praise Komen "for seeing the contradiction between its lifesaving work and its relationship with an abortionist that has ended millions of lives" -- but an audit launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, to determine whether public money had been spent on abortions over the last decade.

When launched way back in late September, Stearns' review was described as the first-ever oversight on taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. But his motivations have been questioned repeatedly. Rep. Henry Waxman called out (PDF) Stearns: "Your fervent ideological opposition to Planned Parenthood does not justify launching this intrusive investigation." And Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), has said that investigation was politically motivated; Stearns must bow to the demands of Florida's 6th congressional district, a largely Republican area of North Central Florida that includes parts of Ocala and Gainesville.

Perhaps best known for his position overseeing the investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee, Stearns has spent more than 20 years in Congress. Over such a long period, his political opponents inevitably called him a number of negative things. Among them, "bully" might be the easiest to print.

"It's hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women's lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying. It's really hurtful," Richards told the Associated Press. More than confused, Richard was shocked to learn about decision in a phone call this past December. She called it "incredibly surprising" that Komen's president, Elizabeth Thompson, was unwilling to have a discussion about the quick shift.

According to Jezebel's Erin Gloria Ryan, however, the influence of another key player in the Komen organization goes a long way in explaining its decision to defund: Karen Handel, who ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 and lost, despite an endorsement by none other than Sarah Palin, has been Komen's senior vice president for public policy since April 2011. On her campaign blog (fire up the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine because, curiously, these pages don't exist anymore), Handel wrote: "I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia. ... I believe that each and every unborn child has inherent dignity, that every abortion is a tragedy, and that government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life in even the most difficult of circumstances. ...since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."

Handel even "promised to eliminate funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings provided by" Planned Parenthood, according to Jezebel.

Some of those affected are still figuring out how to respond to Komen's decision. "We're kind of reeling," Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, told the Associated Press. "It sounds almost trite ... but cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics." And Hurd knows. Not just as the suit overseeing his organization's operations in one region, but as the husband of Betsi Hurd, a veteran of many Koman fundraising races and a current breast cancer patient.

Since Planned Parenthood refers women, who have expressed a desire to have an abortion, to clinics that perform them - to conservative fanatics that means they are somehow guilty of something. Conservatives seem to think PP should act like the fundamentalists in Iran, chain women to a bed and force government health care decisions on them. In the mean time these same conservatives - who for some inexplicable reason call themselves pro life, are sentencing women to the pain, suffering and death of cancer.

What Caused This Year’s Deficit? Hint: It Wasn’t an Obama 'Spending Binge'

Monday, January 30, 2012

How anti-tax zealots fail to see the connection between reasonable taxes and the overall health of society

How anti-tax zealots fail to see the connection between reasonable taxes and the overall health of society

TAXES and regulation will occupy center stage in the presidential contest.

One debate, for example, will focus on whether tax cuts for the wealthiest families should expire as scheduled at year-end — an issue that could gain traction now that Mitt Romney, the possible Republican nominee, has disclosed that he and his wife paid an effective federal rate of just 13.9 percent on their huge 2010 income. And on the regulation side, there will be attempts to repeal rules like the recently adopted Environmental Protection Agency standards that limit highly toxic mercury emissions.

Surveys indicate that most voters now favor higher taxes on the rich. But many wealthy people are determined to hang on to their tax cuts, and because recent changes in campaign finance law have greatly increased their political leverage, they may prevail. If so, however, it could prove a hollow victory.

Beyond some point, there seems to be little gain in satisfaction from bolstering your private spending. When mansions grow to 15,000 square feet from 10,000, for instance, the primary effect is merely to raise the bar that defines an adequate home among the superwealthy.

By contrast, higher spending on many forms of public consumption would produce clear gains in satisfaction for the wealthy. It’s reasonable to assume, for example, that driving on well-maintained roads is safer and less stressful than driving on pothole-ridden ones.

But that raises an obvious question: If wealthy taxpayers would be happier to drive slightly less expensive vehicles on better roads, why are so many of them vehemently opposed to the higher taxes needed for improved infrastructure?

One possible explanation is that they suffer from a simple cognitive illusion when they think about how higher taxes would affect them.

If you pay higher taxes, you obviously have less money to spend on what you want. So the prospect of a tax increase naturally inclines people to think that they’ll be less able to satisfy their desires.

But once incomes rise beyond a modest absolute threshold, many of the things that people want are what economists call positional goods. These may be things that are inherently in short supply, like gorgeous waterfront property; or things whose value depends heavily on context, like precious stones or sure-footed sports cars. Because positional goods are in short supply, they go to the highest bidders. The tendency to overlook that fact distorts how people think about the effects of higher taxes.

The cognitive illusion occurs because most financial setbacks that people experience in life stem from events that affect them alone. They may suffer health emergencies, for instance, or problems at work. Marriages may fail, jewelry may be stolen, and floods may damage homes. In each case, the effect is to limit the ability to bid for positional goods.

Because an overwhelming majority of financial setbacks occur for such idiosyncratic reasons, it’s natural to think that the income decline from higher taxes would have similar effects. But a tax increase is different. It affects all participants in the bidding for positional goods. And because it leaves everyone with less to spend, it has essentially no effect on the outcomes of those contests. The same paintings and the same marina slips end up in the same hands as before.

Context shapes demand not just for the wealthy, but also for consumers further down the income scale. As Adam Smith observed more than two centuries ago, for example, a linen shirt is not, strictly speaking, a necessity of life. The wealthiest ancient Greeks, for example, lived satisfying lives without any linen at all. But Smith noted that in 18th-century Scotland, even the lowliest laborer couldn’t appear in public without shame unless he owned a linen shirt, “the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.”

If what people feel they need depends on what others spend, the same cognitive illusion that affects wealthy Americans’ attitudes toward taxes creates a more general bias against government. Opponents of workplace safety regulation, for example, often denounce the lower wages made necessary by its cost. For families already struggling to make ends meet, that objection resonates.

But safety regulation requires an across-the-board decline in wages, which is much less painful than one that occurs in isolation. Once absolute incomes exceed a certain threshold, lower wages are easily tolerated when they don’t entail relative disadvantage. Additional safety, bought collectively, entails a less onerous sacrifice than it does when an individual buys it for himself.

The tax and regulatory issues in the coming election are clearly important. Millions of workers will retire over the next two decades, so spending cuts alone can’t eliminate deficits. We need additional revenue, too. And as population density increases, we can’t prevent dangerous environmental spillovers without intelligent regulation.

It would be one thing if lobbying against taxes and regulation brought wealthy Americans a world more to their liking. But if their goal is to buy a home with a more spectacular view, for example, they will be disappointed. There are only so many such homes to go around, and they’ll be bought by the very same people as before, since everyone will be bidding more.

So when the anti-tax wealthy make campaign contributions, they are buying only the deeper potholes and dirtier air that inevitably result when tax revenue is low. (reprinted here for educational purposes)

** People that hate taxes generally have an anti-American agenda. 1. They want a free ride( anti-tax conservatives like Grover Norquist for instance, formerly a far left socialist is a leech on society 2. They want all the infrastructure taxes pay for but do not want to pay their sahre. 3. They say if you want to pay higher taxes go ahead. Though they will continue to use what other tax payers paid for. 4. Right-wing conservative Republicans do not see the connection betwen paying for things like basic science resrch, their own health and the economic opportunites created by that research. 5. Low taxes equals poor education. No society in the history of the world has maintained its technological or economic edge by letting its public primary education and university system fall behind other nations. Another reason to say without doubt that anti-taxers are anti-America.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is it 2012 or 1968. You Can Hardly Tell By The Conservative Republican Candidates and Their Race Baiting

Is it 2012 or 1968. You Can Hardly Tell By The Conservative Republican Candidates and Their Race Baiting

It’s commonplace to note that Newt Gingrich’s dog-whistle appellation that Barack Obama is the “food stamp president” is both racist and politically cynical. But the stereotyping of black government dependency also serves the strategic end of discrediting the entire social safety net, which most Americans of all races depend on. Black people are subtly demonized, but whites and blacks alike will suffer.

Gingrich persists because it’s a dependable applause line, and because his political fortunes keep rising. Compare that to September, when Mitt Romney attacked then-candidate Rick Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” Perry backtracked, insisting that he only wanted to bolster the program and ensure its solvency. But in his 2010 book “Fed Up,” Perry made his opposition to Social Security clear, calling it “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” Scrapping entitlements is a core tenet of contemporary fiscal conservatism, but most of the time politicians only get away with attacking the most vulnerable ones: Medicaid, food stamps and welfare cash assistance, which are means-tested and thus associated with the black (read: undeserving) poor, although whites make up a far greater share of food stamp recipients. Government welfare programs with Teflon political defenses — Medicare and Social Security — are nearly universal entitlements and thus associated with “regular” (read: white) Americans.

“Ending welfare as we know it,” as Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans did in 1996, is one thing. “Ending Medicare,” Republicans were last year reminded, is something else altogether. “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” declared a 2009 Tea Party town hall attendee who today might very well be an ardent supporter of Gingrich’s assault on food stamps. It is a political lesson that free-market fundamentalists have to relearn with some frequency. It was only 2005,  after all, when President George W. Bush launched his ill-fated proposal to privatize Social Security — a setback he later called his greatest failure.

Yet as more government programs of any sort are framed as pernicious, laissez-faire ideologues are again emboldened to get rid of everything.

As recently as November 2009, the New York Times reported that stigma around food stamps had faded; the program received strong bipartisan support as millions of newly impoverished Americans reached out for food assistance. But temporarily cautious politicians had only stashed the old playbook on the top shelf, and the revival of welfare queen demagoguery made for quick political results. Nationwide, state legislatures are moving to impose drug testing of welfare, and even unemployment insurance, recipients.

“If you go apply for a job today, you are generally going to be drug-tested,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in October 2010. “The people that are working are paying the taxes for people on welfare. Shouldn’t the welfare people be held to the same standard?”

And and then came the push for cuts. Few noticed in April  2011 when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., proposed cutting $127 billion from the food stamp program. The same went for the proposed dismantling of Medicaid, the healthcare entitlement for the nation’s poorest, which would be transformed into a block grant to the states with no coverage requirements.  Everyone was focused on Ryan’s audacious proposal to privatize Medicare, and conservative pundits were eager to sink the popular entitlement under the banner of pragmatic fiscal seriousness. “The Ryan budget,” David Brooks wrote at the time, “will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.”

Republicans quickly backtracked. But the effort to dismantle the “poor black people” entitlements continues unabated. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett this month announced that people under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets — cars and homes generally excluded, savings very much included — will be barred from receiving food stamps. The move elicited widespread criticism from anti-hunger advocates but little concerted political resistance. Corbett’s administration also cut 88,000 Pennsylvania children from Medicaid.

But politicians have more trouble getting away with criticism of less stigmatized benefits. Corbett suggested on the campaign trail that “The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there.” Democrats pounced and he rushed to issue a clarification, though a  conservative think tank eagerly backed up his original position.

Unemployment benefits, however, are on the political cusp: Once somewhat invincible like Social Security and Medicare, some states have made cuts amid the campaign of stigmatization.  In South Carolina, state-funded jobless benefits were reduced from 26 to 20 weeks. Republican state Sen. Kevin Bryant blogged, “I’m disappointed that we have a significant segment of our society leeching [off] the system.” Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan and Florida have also reduced benefits. Yet it was just two months ago that Republicans suffered their greatest embarrassment of 2011 after nearly blocking the extension of unemployment benefits.

Welfare was “reformed” in 1996 because politicians, and many white Americans, were convinced  the program’s beneficiaries weren’t meritorious. Indeed, the entire history of  the American safety net is one of programs losing popularity as they are associated with poor black people. Initially blacks were largely excluded from New Deal welfare. It was when the War on Poverty broke down racial barriers that white public opinion turned against it. “Increasingly associated with Black mothers already stereotyped as lazy, irresponsible, and overly fertile,” writes Northwestern School of Law’s Dorothy Roberts, “it became increasingly burdened with behavior modification, work requirements, and reduced effective benefit levels.”

The same was true for public housing, which once received broad-based support. But in the 1950s, whites moved to segregated suburbs and blacks were left behind, and the projects became unpopular and underfunded. Housing benefits for upper-income Americans, like the mortgage interest rate deduction, are not, to be sure, subject to such negative stereotypes, and neither are the billions in federal and state dollars that have been spent on highways and federally subsidized mortgages for disproportionately white homeowners.

Or take public schools. If all of our children, black and white, rich and poor, were in one big system, that system would get ample support. But since many poorer students of color are segregated into separate, unequal and low-performing districts, policy solutions like charters and an obsession over standardized testing that would never pass muster in a wealthy district are advocated as pragmatic solutions.

Count yourself lucky that rich people still (for the meantime) breathe the same air as everyone else.

Rick Santorum has declared, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” (He now says that he said “blah” people.) On Social Security, Santorum is making what appears to be a safe argument for reform: cutting rich people out of the program. Right now, Social Security belongs to everyone. Cutting rich people out is the first step to making it a program for the poor. Making something a program for the poor — see food stamps, Medicaid and welfare — is the first step toward eliminating it. While crazy Newt Gingrich talks about black people and food stamps, Mitt Romney (whom Brooks, of course, calls “serious”) resurrects a big idea: privatize  Medicare. That, of course, is why conservatives so fear single-payer universal healthcare: They know that once we got it, we would never let them take it away.

If some whites reap some cold comfort from Gingrich’s performance, the racial hostility on display comes at a much higher cost to the American people as a whole. We have long since traded the possibility of a decent society for fear and resentment. So watch out for the next attack on “the food stamp president.” The entitlement they end might be your own.

*Conservatives keep saying - in the middle of the second worse recession in our history, of which they caused - that since markets are perfect all Americans have to do is get off their lazy arses and get a job, we don't need a safety net with programs like Medicare and unemployment insurance. In other words do not believe what you see, do not believe reality, believe what conservative propagandists tell you to believe.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big government is more important than ever

Big government is more important than ever

Look back on 2011 and you’ll notice a destructive trail of extreme weather slashing through the year. In Texas, it was the driest year ever recorded. An epic drought there killed half a billion trees, touched off wildfires that burned four million acres, and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and buildings. The costs to agriculture, particularly the cotton and cattle businesses, are estimated at $5.2 billion — and keep in mind that, in a winter breaking all sorts of records for warmth, the Texas drought is not yet over.

In August, the East Coast had a close brush with calamity in the form of Hurricane Irene. Luckily, that storm had spent most of its energy by the time it hit land near New York City. Nonetheless, its rains did at least $7 billion worth of damage, putting it just below the $7.2 billion worth of chaos caused by Katrina back in 2005.

Across the planet the story was similar. Wildfires consumed large swaths of Chile. Colombia suffered its second year of endless rain, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage. In Brazil, the life-giving Amazon River was running low due to drought. Northern Mexico is still suffering from its worst drought in 70 years. Flooding in the Thai capital, Bangkok, killed over 500 and displaced or damaged the property of 12 million others, while ruining some of the world’s largest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage in Thailand at a mind-boggling $45 billion, making it one of the most expensive disasters ever. And that’s just to start a 2011 extreme-weather list, not to end it.

Such calamities, devastating for those affected, have important implications for how we think about the role of government in our future. During natural disasters, society regularly turns to the state for help, which means such immediate crises are a much-needed reminder of just how important a functional big government turns out to be to our survival.

These days, big government gets big press attention — none of it anything but terrible. In the United States, especially in an election year, it’s become fashionable to beat up on the public sector and all things governmental (except the military). The Right does it nonstop. All their talking points disparage the role of an oversized federal government. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist famously set the tone for this assault. “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government,” he said. “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” He has managed to get 235 members of the House of Representatives and 41 members of the Senate to sign his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and thereby swear never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes.

By now, this viewpoint has taken on the aura of folk wisdom, as if the essence of democracy were to hate government. Even many on the Left now regularly dismiss government as nothing but oversized, wasteful, bureaucratic, corrupt and oppressive, without giving serious consideration to how essential it may be to our lives.

But don’t expect the present “consensus” to last. Global warming and the freaky, increasingly extreme weather that will accompany it is going to change all that. After all, there is only one institution that actually has the capacity to deal with multibillion-dollar natural disasters on an increasingly routine basis. Private security firms won’t help your flooded or tornado-struck town. Private insurance companies are systematically withdrawing coverage from vulnerable coastal areas. Voluntary community groups, churches, anarchist affinity groups — each may prove helpful in limited ways, but for better or worse, only government has the capital and capacity to deal with the catastrophic implications of climate change.

Consider Hurricane Irene: As it passed through the Northeast, states mobilized more than 100,000 National Guard troops. New York City opened 78 public emergency shelters prepared to house up to 70,000 people. In my home state, Vermont, where the storm devastated the landscape, destroying or damaging 200 bridges, more than 500 miles of road, and 100 miles of railroad, the National Guard airlifted in free food, water, diapers, baby formula, medicine and tarps to thousands of desperate Vermonters trapped in 13 stranded towns — all free of charge to the victims of the storm.

Having a democratic republic is based on liberal political theory - inspired by such people as Thomas Jefferson, John Locke and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly. From day one is was never the intention for people to go it alone against things as individuals that they did not have sufficient resources to handle. Though as a people, for the common good, our government through the action of the people - could help each other. Why do conservatives who say they care about families and private property think this basic building block of our nation is wrong.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Little Rick Santorum Hangs Out With Wacky Black Supremacist and Former Cult Member Who Thinks Democrats Are Nazis

Little Rick Santorum Hangs Out With Wacky Black Supremacist and Former Cult Member Who Thinks Democrats Are Nazis

In a state known for its questionable contributions to national politics, Rick Santorum is really bringing the heat. The GOP candidate tried to court South Florida African-Americans on Sunday by aligning himself with an outspoken pastor who fell from grace with fellow conservatives and a former cult member once charged in two grisly murders -- and who announced Sunday at a Santorum event that Democrats are akin to Nazis.

"The Democrats, they're the worst thing that ever happen to the black man," Michael the Black Man told a Santorum rally in Coral Springs. "They're the slave masters."

The activist born Maurice Woodside is no stranger to headlines as a current tea party-loving pirate radio host who regularly claims "one-third of the black women is the devil," famously disrupted an Obama campaign stop in protest of Oprah Winfrey's (alleged!) plot to destroy the earth through Barack Obama, and in 1990 escaped murder charges leveled at himself and other then-members of Miami's notorious Yahweh Ben Yahweh cult, whose leader was convicted of conspiring to kill white people as an initiation rite.

After the rally, Michael expounded on his view to the Daily Caller, again comparing Democrats to Nazis:

    "Republicans were the ones that freed the black man," he said..."Democrats were totally against us. They were the slave masters. Why in the hell would I vote -- not one good, righteous Jewish would ever vote for any German from the Nazi Party... And no black man under any condition should work with any white man that's a Democrat -- under no condition."

View Michael's intro at Santorum's Coral Springs rally below: at link.

Michael the Black Man wasn't Santorum's only controversial African-American ally of his Sunday stops in Florida. After the candidate's morning visit to his Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, the Rev. O'Neal Dozier told the Palm Beach Post candidate Mitt Romney won't garner black votes as Mormons are racist:

    "Blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith," Dozier said. "The book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed."

Dozier, who has been an outspoken critic of homosexuality, Islam, and abortion, was removed from a Jeb Bush-appointed position on a Broward County judge-nominating commission and the campaign committee of former Gov. Charlie Crist after referring to Islam as a 'dangerous religion' and 'cult' in 2006. In 2004, he famously said homosexuality was "something so nasty and disgusting it makes God want to vomit." Though fellow conservatives Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Herman Cain have all distanced themselves from the controversial pastor, Santorum not only attended WCC on Sunday morning but spoke about the moment he "laid eyes on his wife" in a message from the pulpit that focused on family values.

    Dozier believes Santorum's sermon at the Worldwide Christian Center was a step toward making him the preferred choice of black conservative voters.

    "He came to a predominately black church, and he began his campaign at the most impoverished, HIV-invested area of South Florida," Dozier said. "That will be a big boost to blacks Americans. The conservative blacks want a man who is principled."
 Neither one of Santorim's friends seem to have read any news or followed any politics that occurred after 1929. There has been a major realignment of political parties since then. Conservative Republicans have become the regressive party that holds democratic republicanism in contempt. Democrats have largely become the party of Lincoln and progressiveness. Both parties used to have conservatives and liberals. Democrats had southern right-wing Dixiecrats and Republicans had liberals like Nelson Rockefeller. Both of these radical right-wing nuts definitely belong in the conservative movement - they have beliefs based on hate, ignorance and hate for the liberal democracy established by our Founders.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How Conservatives Betrayed Jesus To Create a Corrupt Plutocratic Economy

How Conservatives Betrayed Jesus To Create a Corrupt Plutocratic Economy

In recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare.

“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended. [ Holly Gressley)] (Photo: Holly Gressley)

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”)

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

Christianity, in Mr. Fifield’s interpretation, closely resembled capitalism, as both were systems in which individuals rose or fell on their own. The welfare state, meanwhile, violated most of the Ten Commandments. It made a “false idol” of the federal government, encouraged Americans to covet their neighbors’ possessions, stole from the wealthy and, ultimately, bore false witness by promising what it could never deliver.

Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Fifield and his allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Mr. Fifield distilled his ideology into a simple but powerful phrase — “freedom under God.” With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine.

In 1951, the campaign culminated in a huge Fourth of July celebration of the theme. Former President Herbert C. Hoover and Gen. Douglas MacArthur headlined an organizing committee of conservative all-stars, including celebrities like Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan, but largely comprising business titans like Conrad Hilton, J. C. Penney, Harvey Firestone Jr. and J. Howard Pew.

In an extensive public relations campaign, they encouraged communities to commemorate Independence Day with “freedom under God” ceremonies, using full-page newspaper ads trumpeting the connection between faith and free enterprise. They also held a nationwide sermon contest on the theme, with clergymen competing for cash. Countless local events were promoted by a national “Freedom Under God” radio program, produced with the help of the filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, hosted by Jimmy Stewart and broadcast on CBS.

Ultimately, these organizers believed that they had made a lasting impression. “The very words ‘freedom under God’ have added to the vocabulary of freedom a new term,” they boasted. Soon the entire nation would think of itself as “under God.” Indeed, in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presided over the first presidential prayer breakfast on a “government under God” theme and worked to promote public religiosity in a variety of ways. In 1954, as this “under-God consciousness” swept the nation, Congress formally added the phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance.

In the end, Mr. Romney is correct to claim that complaints about economic inequality are inconsistent with the concept of “one nation under God.” But that’s only because the “1 percent” of an earlier era intended it that way.

What did these purveyors of the plutocracy, the people who got rich off the labor of millions accomplish? They have killed the American dream of upward mobility -  Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs

Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Anti-American Godless Conservatism - Kansas Conservative Republican House Speaker ‘Prays’ That Obama’s ‘Children Be Fatherless And His Wife A Widow’

More Anti-American Godless Conservatism - Kansas Conservative Republican House Speaker ‘Prays’ That Obama’s ‘Children Be Fatherless And His Wife A Widow’

ThinkProgress reported last week that Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) was forced to apologize to First Lady Michelle Obama after forwarding an email to fellow lawmakers that called her “Mrs. YoMama” and compared her to the Grinch.

Earlier that same week, the Lawrence Journal-World was sent another email that O’Neal had forwarded to House Republicans that referred to President Obama and a Bible verse that says “Let his days be few” and calls for his children to be without a father and his wife to be widowed.

Nick Sementelli at Faith in Public Life notes that Psalm 109, which is a prayer for the death of a leader, became a popular conservative meme after Obama’s election. The “tongue-in-cheek” prayer for the president was seen on bumper stickers. The relevant part of the psalm reads:

    Let his days be few; and let another take his office

    May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

    May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

    May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

    May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

O’Neal forwarded the prayer with his own message: “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”

O’Neal’s office refuses to apologize for the email, insisting that the message was only referring to Obama’s days in office. Sementelli notes the response of a Rockford Register Star columnist who explains why this excuse won’t do.

Speaking to a reader he writes, “You say that verse 8 of Psalm 109, as applied to President Obama, does not suggest a wish for his death. But the first five words of verse 8 are: ‘Let his days be few.’ And verse 9 says: ‘Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.’…You suggest yourself that scripture should not be ‘taken out of context.’ Well, the context of Psalm 109 is a wish for someone’s death.”
Conservative Republicans are not happy just be a group of anti-American fanatics who would like to end America as a democratic republic. They have moved on to perverting the Christian principles preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Conservatism: the movement of fake patriotism and sick twisted

Some good news this week - Obama Administration Comes Out Against SOPA And Protect IP

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Modern Conservatism Has Become So Anti-American They Would Not Elect Founding Fathers

Modern Conservatism Has Become So Anti-American They Would Not Elect Founding Fathers

To hear the Religious Right tell it, men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were 18th-century versions of Jerry Falwell in powdered wigs and stockings. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unlike many of today’s candidates, the founders didn’t find it necessary to constantly wear religion on their sleeves. They considered faith a private affair. Contrast them to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who says he wouldn’t vote for an atheist for president because non-believers lack the proper moral grounding to guide the American ship of state), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who hosted a prayer rally and issued an infamous ad accusing President Barack Obama of waging a “war on religion”) and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (whose uber-Catholicism leads him to oppose not just abortion but birth control).

There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.

Here are five founding fathers whose views on religion would most likely doom them to defeat today:

1. George Washington. The father of our country was nominally an Anglican but seemed more at home with Deism. The language of the Deists sounds odd to today’s ears because it’s a theological system of thought that has fallen out of favor. Desists believed in God but didn’t necessarily see him as active in human affairs. The god of the Deists was a god of first cause. He set things in motion and then stepped back.

Washington often employed Deistic terms. His god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn’t necessarily accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.

Washington was widely tolerant of other beliefs. He is the author of one of the great classics of religious liberty – the letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). In this letter, Washington assured America’s Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America; not mere toleration in an officially “Christian” nation. He outlines a vision of a multi-faith society where all are free.

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation,” wrote Washington. “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”

Stories of Washington’s deep religiosity, such as tales of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, can be ignored. They are pious legends invented after his death.

2. John Adams. The man who followed Washington in office was a Unitarian, although he was raised a Congregationalist and never officially left that church. Adams rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, core concepts of Christian dogma. In his personal writings, Adams makes it clear that he considered some Christian dogma to be incomprehensible.

In February 1756, Adams wrote in his diary about a discussion he had had with a man named Major Greene. Greene was a devout Christian who sought to persuade Adams to adopt conservative Christian views. The two argued over the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. Questioned on the matter of Jesus’ divinity, Greene fell back on an old standby: some matters of theology are too complex and mysterious for we puny humans to understand.

Adams was not impressed. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

As president, Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, which boldly stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”

3. Thomas Jefferson. It’s almost impossible to define Jefferson’s subtle religious views in a few words. As he once put it, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” But one thing is clear: His skepticism of traditional Christianity is well established. Our third president did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. He was hostile to many conservative Christian clerics, whom he believed had perverted the teachings of that faith.

Jefferson once famously observed to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Although not an orthodox Christian, Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral teacher. In one of his most unusual acts, Jefferson edited the New Testament, cutting away the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” This “Jefferson Bible” is a remarkable document – and it would ensure his political defeat today. (Imagine the TV commercials the Religious Right would run: Thomas Jefferson hates Jesus! He mutilates Bibles!)

Jefferson was confident that a coolly rational form of religion would take root in the fertile intellectual soil of America. He once predicted that just about everyone would become Unitarian. (Despite his many talents, the man was no prophet.)

Jefferson took political stands that would infuriate today’s Religious Right and ensure that they would work to defeat him. He refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job. His assertion that the First Amendment erects a “wall of separation between church and state” still rankles the Religious Right today.

4. James Madison. Jefferson’s close ally would be similarly unelectable today. Madison is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the founders when it comes to religion. To this day, scholars still debate his religious views.

Nominally Anglican, Madison, some of his biographers believe, was really a Deist. He went through a period of enthusiasm for Christianity as a young man, but this seems to have faded. Unlike many of today’s politicians, who eagerly wear religion on their sleeves and brag about the ways their faith will guide their policy decisions, Madison was notoriously reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs.

Madison was perhaps the strictest church-state separationist among the founders, taking stands that make the ACLU look like a bunch of pikers. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. As president, Madison rejected a proposed census because it involved counting people by profession. For the government to count the clergy, Madison said, would violate the First Amendment.

Madison, who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations. He issued a few during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress but later concluded that his actions had been unconstitutional. As president, he vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter. In both cases, he cited the First Amendment.

One can hear the commercials now: "James Madison is an anti-religious fanatic. He even opposes prayer proclamations during time of war."

5. Thomas Paine. Paine never held elective office, but he played an important role as a pamphleteer whose stirring words helped rally Americans to independence. Washington ordered that Paine’s pamphlet “The American Crisis” be read aloud to the Continental Army as a morale booster on Dec. 23, 1776. “Common Sense” was similarly popular with the people. These seminal documents were crucial to winning over the public to the side of independence.

So Paine’s a hero, right? He was also a radical Deist whose later work, The Age of Reason, still infuriates fundamentalists. In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.” (There go the Red States!)

What can we learn from this? Americans have the right to reject candidates for any reason, including their religious beliefs. But they ought to think twice before tossing someone aside just because he or she is skeptical of orthodox Christianity. After all, that description includes some of our nation’s greatest leaders.

Modern conservatives running for office under the name Republican, are a joke and affront to individual liberty. Modern conservatism hails the rights of corporations - legally compelling us all to think of them as people - talk about Stalinistic reality being foisted on the public. Modern conservatives say the are pro freedom yet would have the nation live under 15th century pr-Enlightenment fundamentalism that is antithetical to liberty. Conservatives should be honest and confess to the American public that they are the right-wing authoritatrian party who are against reason, science, indivual rights, freedom of the press ( again like Stalin, Hitler or Mao), hate women, do not think non-whites are fully American, and are war mongers who get sadistic pleasure from sending Americans off to die for lies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitt Romney is The Best Darn Plutocrat Money Can Buy

Mitt Romney is The Best Darn Plutocrat Money Can Buy

Mitt Romney's $12 Million Mystery Super-PAC Man
Meet Carl Forti, the publicity-loathing mastermind helping the Republican front-runner and conservative groups raise millions in dark money.

Republican strategist Carl Forti has been described, variously, as "Karl Rove's Karl Rove" (Politico), "one of the smartest people in politics you've never heard of" (Karl Rove), and "the Alexander the Great of the Republican independent expenditure world" (Republican operative Bradley Blakeman). You can add one more to the list: President Obama and the Democrats' worst nightmare in 2012. A pioneer in the post-Citizens United world of super-PACs and dark money, Forti is one of the lead architects of the GOP's outside-spending strategy and an operative who has for years tested the boundaries of campaign finance law.

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Forti first waded into the outside-money wars while working for the National Republican Congressional Committee. During the 2006 election cycle, he managed an $82 million independent-expenditure campaign—the largest in the committee's history. Through the Black Rock Group, the strategic communications firm he cofounded, Forti has gone on to advise an all-star roster of conservative outside-spending groups, including the 60 Plus Association (the "conservative AARP") and Americans for Job Security. Forti is also the political director of American Crossroads and advocacy director of Crossroads GPS, the Rove-inspired outfits that reported spending nearly $39 million together during the midterms. The groups have already begun running ads bashing Obama and vulnerable Democrats and plan to dump $240 million into 2012 races.

Most recently, Forti helped launch Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC that raised $12 million in the first half of 2011. "I don't know of anybody who's got as important of a role with the major outside organizations, both in 2010 and in 2012," says the group's treasurer, Charles Spies.

Like Spies, Forti is an alum of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign. As the campaign's national political director, Forti masterminded Romney's 11 primary and caucus wins. After the former Massachusetts governor dropped out, Forti moved on to Freedom's Watch, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group bankrolled by right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Founded with the goal of spending as much as $200 million to counter labor unions and progressive heavyweights like, the group ran ads defending George W. Bush's foreign policy and supporting Republican congressional candidates. In the end, internal squabbling, a bloated infrastructure, and Adelson's discontent with the group's leadership doomed Freedom's Watch. It shut down in December 2008—but its legacy lived on, in the form of the gaping loophole it helped create in campaign finance law.

During the 2008 campaign, the group, with Forti spearheading its issue advocacy campaigns, ran a series of ads attacking Louisiana Democratic House candidate Don Cazayoux. Up until that point, organizations like Freedom's Watch typically revealed the donors behind such ads in their filings with the Federal Election Commission. Yet Freedom's Watch tried something different: It simply left that section blank. In a move that dismayed campaign finance reformers, the FEC's three Republican commissioners, prompted by a complaint about Freedom's Watch filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, ruled that outside-spending groups don't have to reveal their donors unless those donors earmark their contributions for specific ads. The move upended years of precedent. "It was a deliberate effort to weaken the rules, and it worked," says Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

During the next election cycle, Forti hatched an audacious plan to circumvent campaign spending rules. Under the law at that time, individuals were free to spend as much as they pleased on TV ads, mailers, and other political messaging without filing as a political action committee. But once a group of individuals pooled their money and coordinated their spending, they became subject to contribution limits. Forti proposed a plan intended to evade contribution rules while also implementing a coordinated strategy. Black Rock would be used as a middleman, crafting a comprehensive game plan and then advising individual donors on how and where to spend their money.

The FEC ultimately declined to give its blessing to the plan, but the episode underscored Forti's penchant for pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law. "He's one of the guys, through Black Rock and others, who apparently sees his role as being always out there trying to figure out where the loophole is and how to use it to his party's or favorite candidate's benefit," says Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center.

It's perhaps not surprising that Forti, who has worked so diligently to keep political donors in the shadows, detests publicity and fiercely guards his privacy. He declined to be interviewed for this story, telling me in a brief phone conversation that he had a strict no-profile policy and would discourage his colleagues from speaking with me as well. "I've always tried to stay behind the scenes," he told me, "and I intend to keep it that way."
Andy Kroll

Romney and other conservatives who claim to have Biblical inspired family values might remember that passage about reaping what you sow - Galatians 6: 7-8. Conservatives wanted the Citizens United ruling - passed by an extreme right-wing court to open the door to unlimited money from secret organizations. Now the conservatives who are dead set against Romney can eat the mud they made.