Friday, May 04, 2012

Saturday Satire: Political Misfits In Cartoons

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Copyright © 2012 Universal Press Syndicate

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Copyright © 2012 Creators Syndicate

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Cagle Cartoons

Copyright © 2012 Universal Press Syndicate

Copyright © 2012 Universal Press Syndicate

Friday Funnies:President Obama, Romney, Bin Laden

Copyright © 2012 Creators Syndicate

Barack Obama, at the 2008 Al Smith Dinner:

''Many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for 'That One.' And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president.''

On the news media: ''Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.''

''Another difficult challenge is how to help our automakers thrive in the 21st century. We've tried a number of different approaches, and tonight, I'm announcing a new one. It's a plan passed on to me by a close friend and advisor, Oprah Winfrey. So if each of you will look under your seat, you find that -- you get a car company! You get a car company! And FOX -- you get AIG. Enjoy!''-2009 Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner

''In my first term, we passed health care reform. In my second term, I guess I'll pass it again.''

Jay Leno: "The Secret Service has withdrawn its protection of Newt Gingrich in advance of him formally announcing the suspension of his campaign. His Secret Service protection was costing us $44,000 a day. I guess they figured it wasn't worth it anymore to protect Newt from all the people trying to ignore him."

"Here's a little bit of history. On this day in 1789, George Washington became the first president of the United States after just narrowly beating out Ron Paul."

Jimmy Fallon: "During a speech on Friday, Mitt Romney told students that if they want to go to college or start a business, they should just borrow money from their parents. That should work fine as long as your parents are Mitt and Ann Romney."

David Letterman: "A year ago Osama bin Laden was killed. He was executed in Pakistan. They say that Osama bin Laden would be alive today if his bodyguards hadn't been screwing around with hookers."

-Jon Stewart, blasting GOP hypocrisy over President Obama's Osama bin Laden ad: "So let me get this straight. Republicans, you're annoyed by the arrogance and braggadocio of a wartime President's political ad. You think he's divisively and unfairly belittling his opponents, I see. I have a question: ARE YOU ON CRACK??? Were you alive, lo, these past ten years? It seems unseemly for the President to spike the football. Bush landed on a fucking aircraft carrier with a football-stuffed codpiece; he spiked the football before the game had even started!"

David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways Mitt Romney Begins Conversations With Teens"
10. "How's puberty going?"
9. "Where do you summer?"
8. "Do you fellows play sportball?"
7. "Nice shirt — you know, my friend owns the Gap"
6. "You teens are just the right height"
5. "Check out my sick Windsor knot"
4. "Would you like to see my dancing horse?"
3. "Raise the roof if your municipal bonds have reached maturity"
2. Just like this: (video of Mitt saying "Who let the dogs out?")
1. "Didn't I fire your father?"

Bill Maher: "It looks like the Republicans are going back to the strategy of 2008 where Obama is characterized as a celebrity. Says the party who is gay for Ronald Reagan. Come on, you can't worship Ronald Reagan and then attack Obama for being a celebrity. That's like running Chris Christie and saying Obama has a fat ass."

"Romney is going to have to pick a vice president and apparently it is between Chris Christie and the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. So it’s between a Cuban American and a cubic American."

"Other people say that Mitt should balance the ticket by picking someone who has taken all of the opposite positions of him, like himself."

"Newt Gingrich says he's going to make an announcement on Tuesday that he's suspending his presidential campaign. Yes, he's letting us down gently. And also because technicians are still working on Callista to install her sad face."

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sorry, Mitt: If You Want to Live Like a Republican, Vote Democratic

Avenging Angel         Wed May 02, 2012


Just days after telling college students to borrow money from their parents to start a business (advice his son Tagg took to the tune of $10 million), Mitt Romney offered voters another important lesson.  As Romney explained in new video footage of a fundraiser held last month at the estate of pizza mogul John Schnatter:

"What a home this is, what grounds these are, the pool, the golf course, you know if a Democrat were here he'd look around and say no one should live like this," said Romney, as the crowd began to laugh. "Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this, all right."
Unfortunately for Mitt and his fawning supporters, the historical record shows that from economic growth and job creation to stock market performance and just about every other indicator of the health of the U.S. capitalism, the modern U.S. economy has almost always done better under Democratic presidents. Despite GOP mythology to the contrary, America generally gained more jobs and grew faster when taxes were higher (even much higher) and income inequality lower. And while the U.S. recovery from the Bush recession remains painfully slow, most economists - including the nonpartisan CBO and some of John McCain's own 2008 advisers - believe President Obama saved the American free-enterprise system from the abyss.  As Harry Truman famously put it:
"If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic."

Here's why Give 'Em Hell Harry is still right. (Click a link below for the details on each.)

Job Creation and Economic Growth

When President Obama declared in December that decades of Republican trickle-down economics "never worked," conservatives were predictably apoplectic. Instead, they should have been ashamed.

To be sure, George W. Bush provided the perfect bookend to era of modern Republican economic management ushered by Herbert Hoover. The verdict on President Bush's reign of ruin was pronounced even before Barack Obama took the oath of office.  Just days after the Washington Post documented that George W. Bush presided over the worst eight-year economic performance in the modern American presidency, the New York Times on January 24, 2009 featured an analysis ("Economic Setbacks That Define the Bush Years") comparing presidential performance going back to Eisenhower. As the Times showed, George W. Bush, the first MBA president, was a historic failure when it came to expanding GDP, producing jobs and fueling stock market growth.

On January 9, 2009, the Republican-friendly Wall Street Journal summed it up with an article titled simply, "Bush on Jobs: the Worst Track Record on Record." (The Journal's interactive table quantifies his staggering failure relative to every post-World War II president.) The meager one million jobs created under President Bush didn't merely pale in comparison to the 23 million produced during Bill Clinton's tenure. In September 2009, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee charted Bush's job creation disaster, the worst since Hoover:

That dismal performance prompted David Leonhardt of the New York Times to ask last fall, "Why should we believe that extending the Bush tax cuts will provide a big lift to growth?" His answer was unambiguous:

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7...

Is there good evidence the tax cuts persuaded more people to join the work force (because they would be able to keep more of their income)? Not really. The labor-force participation rate fell in the years after 2001 and has never again approached its record in the year 2000.

Is there evidence that the tax cuts led to a lot of entrepreneurship and innovation? Again, no. The rate at which start-up businesses created jobs fell during the past decade.

The data are clear: lower taxes for America's so called job-creators don't mean either faster economic growth or more jobs for Americans.

It's no wonder Leonhardt followed his first question with another.  "I mean this as a serious question, not a rhetorical one," he asked, "Given this history, why should we believe that the Bush tax cuts were pro-growth?"  Or as Mark Shields asked and answered last April:

"Do tax cuts help 'job creators' or 'robber barons'?"
But as the Washington Post and the New York Times suggested, Bush's dismal performance was hardly the exception to the rule.  In general, the American economy simply does better when a Democrat sits in the White House.  Apparently, America's job creators can create a lot more jobs when their taxes are higher - even much higher - than they are today.

As it turns out, control of Congress matters as well.  As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, a recent JP Morgan study found that the American economy grew fastest when Democrats in charge of both 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill:

The Stock Market

For the investor class so fond of perpetuating the myth of Republicans' superior economic stewardship, the collapse of the stock marketing during the Bush recession must be particularly galling.  The Standard & Poor's 500 spiraled down at annual rate of 5.6% during Bush's time in the Oval Office, a disaster even worse than Richard Nixon's abysmal 4.0% yearly decline.  (Only Herbert Hoover's cataclysmic 31% plunge makes Bush look good in comparison.)

As it turns out, as the New York Times also showed in October 2008, the Democratic Party "has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole."  To make its case, the New York Times asked readers to imagine having put their money where its mouth is.  Contrary to Republican mythology, Americans fare better - much, much better - under Democratic administrations:

As of Friday, a $10,000 investment in the S.& P. stock market index would have grown to $11,733 if invested under Republican presidents only, although that would be $51,211 if we exclude Herbert Hoover's presidency during the Great Depression. Invested under Democratic presidents only, $10,000 would have grown to $300,671 at a compound rate of 8.9 percent over nearly 40 years.
(For the eye-popping chart of the S&P's performance under each of the presidents from Hoover through Bush 43, visit here.)

As the broader record shows, the best path to prosperity is to elect Democratic presidents.

There's no shortage of studies to show that stock market returns are higher under Democratic leadership. As Slate in 2002 and the New York Times in 2003 found, "It's not even close. The stock market does far better under Democrats." And asBloomberg News documented in February, Barack Obama has been no exception:

Income Inequality

While the GOP's "job creators" didn't create any jobs after the top rate was trimmed to 35 percent and capital gains and dividends taxes were slashed under President Bush, they did enjoy an unprecedented windfall courtesy of the United States Treasury.

For Republicans, this predictable result of the Bush tax cuts was a feature, not a bug.

As the Center for American Progress noted in 2004, "for the majority of Americans, the tax cuts meant very little," adding, "By next year, for instance, 88% of all Americans will receive $100 or less from the Administration's latest tax cuts."

But that's just the beginning of the story. As the CAP also reported, the Bush tax cuts delivered a third of their total benefits to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. And to be sure, their payday was staggering. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that millionaires on average pocketed almost $129,000 from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. As a result, millionaires saw their after-tax incomes rise by 6.2%, while the gain for those earning between $40,000 and $50,000 was paltry 2.2%.

And as the New York Times uncovered in 2006, the 2003 Bush dividend and capital gains tax cuts offered almost nothing to taxpayers earning below $100,000 a year. Instead, those windfalls reduced taxes "on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000." As the Times explained in a shocking chart: "The top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000, received more than 70% of the increased tax savings from those cuts in investment income."

And as the Washington Post recently explained, for the very richest Americans the successive capital gains tax cuts from Presidents Clinton (to 20 percent) and Bush (to 15 percent) have been "better than any Christmas gift":

While it's true that many middle-class Americans own stocks or bonds, they tend to stash them in tax-sheltered retirement accounts, where the capital gains rate does not apply. By contrast, the richest Americans reap huge benefits. Over the past 20 years, more than 80 percent of the capital gains income realized in the United States has gone to 5 percent of the people; about half of all the capital gains have gone to the wealthiest 0.1 percent.
This convenient chart tells the tale:

It's no wonder that between 2001 and 2007- a period during which poverty was rising and average household income had fallen - the 400 richest taxpayers saw their incomes double to an average of $345 million even as their effective tax rate was virtually halved.  As the Washington Post noted, "The 400 richest taxpayers in 2008 counted 60 percent of their income in the form of capital gains and 8 percent from salary and wages. The rest of the country reported 5 percent in capital gains and 72 percent in salary."

(It's worth noting that the changing landscape of loopholes, deductions and credits, especially after the 1986 tax reform signed by President Reagan, makes apples-to-apples comparisons of marginal tax rates over time very difficult. For more background, see the CBO data on effective tax rates by income quintile.)

If you had any lingering doubts about Warren Buffett's admission that "it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning," this pair of charts from the New York Times should put them to rest. As the upper-income tax burden fell, income inequality in the U.S. exploded.

As the Washington Post demonstrated in its jaw-dropping series "Breaking Away," plummeting tax rates overall and on capital gains in particular have been widening the chasm between the rich and everyone else in America:

National Debt

The Republican tax cut windfall for the wealthy didn't merely produce the lowest total federal burden in 60 years and the highest income inequality in 80.  GOP trickle down policies also drained the United States Treasury.

In case Americans had forgotten that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush doubled it, the New York Times presented this helpful reminder:

Leave aside for the moment that small government icon Ronald Reagan signed 17 debt ceiling increases into law.  (That might explain why the Gipper repeatedly demanded Congress boost his borrowing authority and called the oceans of red ink he bequeathed to America his greatest regret.)  As it turns out, Republican majorities voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling under President Bush and the current GOP leadership team voted a combined 19 times to bump the debt limit $4 trillion during his tenure.  (That vote tally included a "clean" debt ceiling increase in 2004, backed by 98 current House Republicans and 31 sitting GOP Senators.)

Of course, they had to.  After all, the two unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 (the first war-time tax cut in modern U.S. history) and the Medicare prescription drug program drained the U.S. Treasury.  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor voted for all of it.

Again, in words and pictures, the New York Times tells the tale:

As the Washington Post summed up the CBO's conclusions regarding the causes of the nation's mounting debt earlier this year, "The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts." The analysis by the Times echoed that finding:

With President Obama and Republican leaders calling for cutting the budget by trillions over the next 10 years, it is worth asking how we got here -- from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.
But as Ezra Klein explained in the Washington Post, the revealing Times chart doesn't tell the full story of the impact of Bush-era policies on future debt facing Barack Obama:
What's also important, but not evident, on this chart is that Obama's major expenses were temporary -- the stimulus is over now -- while Bush's were, effectively, recurring. The Bush tax cuts didn't just lower revenue for 10 years. It's clear now that they lowered it indefinitely, which means this chart is understating their true cost. Similarly, the Medicare drug benefit is costing money on perpetuity, not just for two or three years. And Boehner, Ryan and others voted for these laws and, in some cases, helped to craft and pass them.
These two graphs from the Washington Post and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities make that point crystal clear.  Analyses by CBPP showed that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure, and if made permanent, over the next decade would cost the U.S. Treasury more than Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, TARP and the stimulus - combined.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was telling the truth when he described Republican fiscal mismanagement during the Bush years by acknowledging, "It was standard practice not to pay for things."

As Paul Krugman documented, the jump in federal spending as a percentage of GDP under President Obama is almost completely explained by the contraction of the economy and the stimulus programs now ending.  (Republicans always take great to care to avoid mentioning that the total federal tax burden as a percentage of the U.S. economy is at its lowest level in 60 years even as income inequality is at its highest in 80.)  As Krugman summed it up:

Now, pointing out the Obama spending binge is a myth generally produces rage: people know that it happened, because Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal say so. But that doesn't make it true.
Put another way, when it comes to the American balance sheet, Republicans broke it.  Now, they claim, Democrats own it.

The Bush Recession and the Obama Recovery

Despite Republican mythmaking that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) "created zero jobs," the CBO reported in November that the stimulus added up to 2.4 million jobs and boosted GDP by as much as 1.9 points in the past quarter. As it turns out, that conclusion confirms the consensus of most economists - including John McCain's 2008 brain trust- that President Obama's recovery program is continuing to deliver benefits for the American people.

From the beginning, the CBO has testified to the success of the largely concluded 2009 stimulus package in driving employment and economic growth. Now, as The Hill reported, the CBO has found that "President Obama's 2009 stimulus package continues to benefit the struggling economy":

The agency said the measure raised gross domestic product by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011, which ended Sept. 30. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that GDP in that quarter was only 2 percent total.

CBO said that the stimulus also lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.2 and 1.3 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million...

By CBO's numbers, the $800 billion stimulus added up to 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010 and 2.6 million jobs in 2011.

But to really gauge the success of the stimulus, it's worth taking a second look at just how dire the U.S. economic situation was when the Obama administration made its fateful prediction that unemployment would peak at 8 percent.  As The Economist and the Washington Post's Ezra Klein detailed, in early 2009 the American economy was not only in much worse shape than anyone imagined; it was literally on the brink of collapse.  As The Economist explained the run-up to the passage of the $787 billion recovery program:

The White House looked at the economic situation, sized up Congress, and took its shot. Unfortunately, the situation was far more dire than anyone in the administration or in Congress supposed.

Output in the third and fourth quarters fell by 3.7% and 8.9%, respectively, not at 0.5% and 3.8% as believed at the time. Employment was also falling much faster than estimated. Some 820,000 jobs were lost in January, rather than the 598,000 then reported. In the three months prior to the passage of stimulus, the economy cut loose 2.2m workers, not 1.8m. In January, total employment was already 1m workers below the level shown in the official data.

Klein points out that "wasn't until this year that the actual number was revealed" for Q4 2008 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  As The Economist lamented, the Obama administration was "flying blind."

Whether the White House should have known the unemployment picture was going to be much, much worse (as Joseph Stiglitz and Jared Bernstein argued) or that the stimulus package itself was too small and too laden with tax breaks (as Paul Krugman warned at the time), there is little question that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act worked largely as designed.  And you don't have to take the CBO's word for it.  You can just ask some of John McCain's advisers.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former head of the CBO and chief economic adviser to John McCain during the 2008 election, acknowledged the impact of the stimulus.  Certainly no fan of either Barack Obama or the design of the ARRA, Holtz-Eakin told Ezra Klein that:

"The argument that the stimulus had zero impact and we shouldn't have done it is intellectually dishonest or wrong. If you throw a trillion dollars at the economy it has an impact, and we needed to do something."
Mark Zandi, another adviser to McCain, was much more adamant.  Federal intervention, he and Princeton economist Alan Blinder argued in August 2010, literally saved the United States from a second Great Depression.  In "How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End," Blinder and Zandi's models confirmed the impact of the Obama recovery program and concluded that "laissez faire was not an option":
The effects of the fiscal stimulus alone appear very substantial, raising 2010 real GDP by about 3.4%, holding the unemployment rate about 1½ percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls. These estimates of the fiscal impact are broadly consistent with those made by the CBO and the Obama administration.
But their modeling also suggests that the totality of federal efforts to rescue the banking system dating back to the fall of 2008 prevented a catastrophic collapse:
We find that its effects on real GDP, jobs, and inflation are huge, and probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0. For example, we estimate that, without the government's response, GDP in 2010 would be about 11.5% lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8½ million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation.
While the U.S. economy is now experiencing slow but steady growth and job gains, the effects of the stimulus are winding down.  Worse still, the draconian budget-cutting by state and local governments which have already cost 600,000 workers their jobs could rightly be deemed the "anti-stimulus." (Ironically, the public sector grew dramatically under Obama's Republican predecessor, with 900,000 government jobs added during Bush's tenure.)  As Paul Krugman described the new report from the Congressional Budget Office:
What it tells us is that the US federal government has been practicing destructive fiscal austerity since the middle of 2010 (and that's not even talking about what's happening at the state and local level). Here's the average of CBO's high and low estimates of the impact of the ARRA on the level (not the rate of growth) of GDP by quarter:

And you wonder why the economy isn't recovering strongly?
Now, the would-be Second MBA President Mitt Romney would make the situation worse with an economic prescription even more poisonous than the one administered George W. Bush.  Romney would deliver a massive tax cut windfall for the rich, paying for it by gutting the social safety net each pretends to protect. He would end Medicare as we know it with a premium support gambit that would dramatically shift health care costs to America's seniors. While increasing defense spending, the GOP White House hopeful would repeal the Affordable Care and leave at least 30 million people without insurance. And despite his pledge to end many tax loopholes and deductions to fund their gilded-class giveaway, Mitt Romney doesn't have the courage to say which ones. As a result, Mitt "Cut, Cap and Balance" Romney would actually add trillions more in red ink to the national debt.

In a major address offering his own economic vision in Osawatomie, Kansas last December, President Obama summed up the performance of the Republican trickle down economic theory in practice. As he explained and as the images above attest, the picture of GOP economic orthodoxy is not a pretty one:

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt's time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let's respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. "The market will take care of everything," they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn't trickle down, well, that's the price of liberty.

Now, it's a simple theory. And we have to admit, it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the '50s and '60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory.

As Obama suggested, you don't have to go all the way back to the time of Teddy Roosevelt for proof of the failure of the GOP's coddling of the gilded class: George W. Bush was proof enough.  Or as Harry Truman explained in words that are as true to today as when he uttered them over 60 years ago, "if you want to live like a Republican vote Democratic."

* Crossposted at Perrspectives *


Sen Rockefeller Goes After Murdoch, 27 Fox News Licenses

  Good luck with that Senator Rockefeller because the Republican Party will never allow their propaganda network to be shut off.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the committee that oversees the FCC, has asked for evidence relating to "questionable practices" of Rupert Murdoch's operations in the United States, The Guardian reported.

Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, has written to Lord Justice Leveson, who leads the British judicial inquiry into media ethics, asking if he has uncovered any evidence relating questionable practices in the US.
The Senate committee has final say on the issuing of broadcast licences, including the 27 licences issued to the Fox TV network that is the jewel in Murdoch's crown.

The Guardian links to Sen. Rockefeller's letter (PDF), which

also asks for details emerging from the Leveson inquiry that indicated whether any News Corp executives based in New York were aware of illegal payments made by News of the World to British police and other public officials. "I would be very concerned if evidence emerged suggesting that News Corporation officials in New York were also aware of these illegal payments and did not act to stop them."
Very concerned, indeed, since Colin Myler, editor of the defunct and disgraced News of the World is now editor of Mort Zuckerman's New York Daily News. "misled Parliament", saying that only one rouge reporter was involved in phone-hacking at NOTW. Myler has been at the New York Post only four months.
Rockefeller's intervention was triggered by the final report of the British parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, which concluded that Murdoch was not fit to run a major international company. It comes two weeks after Mark Lewis, a British lawyer at the forefront of the phone-hacking investigations, opened investigations into four cases of alleged phone hacking that occurred in the US.
Although some of Lewis's US clients have chosen to remain unnamed, a new one emerged today: actress Koo Stark, who was told by the police she was hacked by NOTW. Lewis is working with NY attorney Norman Seigel, former head of the New York ACLU.

Just this morning Kossack joel jp posted a "Deep Doo-Doo" diary about Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asking that the Fox News licenses be revoked:

“Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski asking the FCC to revoke the 27 Fox broadcast licenses News Corp. holds in the United States. Under U.S. law, broadcast frequencies may be used only by people of good “character,” who will serve “the public interest,” and speak with “candor.”  Significant character deficiencies may warrant disqualification from holding a license.”


Sen. Rockefeller's involvement with the commerce committee will add to the FBI's ongoing investigation of Newscorp in the U.S.

Buh-bye, Fox?    Original Post by cotterperson  Wed May 02, 2012


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Ronald Reagan: A tax & spend librul, socialist & open borders advocate?

Dave in AZ for Baja Arizona Kossacks  Mon Apr 30, 2012

I knew Ronald Reagan, I voted enthusiastically for him twice. That's probably not the best opening for a diary on the Dkos to get tipped & rec'd, but bear with me. In 1980 I felt the country was going horribly in the wrong direction and I joined the opposition to fight back. I voted a straight Democratic ticket for the first time in my life in 2004 and registered as a Democrat when I moved to Arizona in 2005 for exactly the same reason. I'm fighting harder than ever today to make sure we don't head back in the wrong direction, that we continue full speed ahead in the right direction by reelecting President Obama, kicking John Boehner out of the Speaker's chair, and increasing our majority in the Senate.

As a former Republican it particularly pains me to see how low former "Grand Old Party" has sunk. There has never in the history of our great country been such a group of pompous, lying, self serving bastards as there is now in the Republican Party. I highly recommend the April 27 article in the Washington Post by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, Let's Just say it: The Republicans ARE the problem.

Mann and Ornstein write:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

Emphasis is mine. And brother, did they get it right. Back when The Gipper was President and the Democrats held large majorities in Congress, they played the political game and called each other liars & thieves by day. But in the evening Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neil would share a glass of whiskey and plot how to get things done for the good of the country. Today, Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader O'Connell don't give a rat's ass about the good of the country, they care only about power, their political power. But at the heart of the problem is a dweeb named Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform. As Mann and Ornstein note, 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators have signed Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge", which binds its signers to never support a tax increase. But the "pledge" goes far beyond what rational people would consider a tax increase, it even considers closing tax loopholes as "tax increases". Anything that increases a single dollar of income to the federal government is a "tax increase".  With such vast majorities of Republicans in Congress bound lockstep into this lunacy it's no wonder compromise is impossible and nothing gets done.

Let's revisit what actually happened during the Presidency of the great Republican hero, Ronald Reagan. While fondly remembered as an "anti-tax hero", Reagan actually raised taxes eleven times over the course of his presidency. That would include the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which was the largest peacetime tax increase in American history. And the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984. In fact, from 1981 to 1987 Congress passed and Reagan signed into law tax increases of some nature in every single year. Why would Reagan do such a thing? He explained it in two simple words: Fiscal Responsibility. Choke on that Mr. Norquist.

While he was no champion of gay rights, it was actually Ronald Reagan who helped defeat the hideous Briggs Initiative in California that would have banned gays, lesbians, and even straight supporters of LGBT rights from working in public schools in California. Reagan's opposition to the initiative was instrumental in its landslide defeat by Californian voters. And of course it was President Reagan who signed the law requiring every hospital, including privately owned for profit hospitals, to treat every patient regardless of their ability to pay. And he signed the law granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. In short, any candidate promoting Reagan's policies would be labeled by today's Republican Party as a "tax & spend librul", a "socialist" who want's to take over free enterprise and healthcare, someone who doesn't share the values of "American families", and is an "open borders" advocate. The conservative icon would be too liberal by today's standards of the GOP. To be blunt, today's Republican Party has lost their fucking marbles.

Want to help the Republican Party? Vote the bastards out of office, maybe they'll finally get some sense into their thick heads. Want to help the American people? Get off your ass and get out there and work to reelect President Obama, elect a Democratic majority back in the House, keep our Senate seats in ND, OH, MT, etc., and take back GOP seats in MA, NV, IN, and even one right here in bat shit crazy Arizona!

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Mitt Romney: Liar At Large

Is Mitt Romney Trying To Steal Obama's Auto Rescue Plan - Then Claim It As His Own?   By cc   On Mon Apr 30, 2012

  Perhaps Mitt Romney thinks that eating sliced up bananas on a sandwich is equal to eating banana bread?  Or, perhaps Mitt Romney is intentionally deceitful with his game of semantics during his Etch-A-Sketch Moments?

     Mitt's Political Adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom is 100% wrong when he falsely said, "Obama took Romney's advise on Auto Bailout" as Mitt Romney's "Advice" was to not give the Auto Industry a Federal Loan while Obama's did. And, Romney's "Advice" would have enabled a Foreign Corporation to take-over American Auto Companies and Obama's did not.  So why is Mitt Romney so confused about his own 2008 Auto Bankruptcy "Advice?" 

Is Mitt trying to "Steal" Obama's Auto Rescue Plan and now claim it as his own?

     To be clear: Other than simply having the word, "Bankruptcy" included in the Auto Rescue Plan, Mitt Romney's Definition of Bankruptcy Plan was not, I repeat, not anything even remotely like Obama's Auto Rescue Plan that the Auto Industry entered into which saved American jobs during the Great Recession.

2008 President-elect Obama Auto Rescue Plan:

- Federal Loan To Auto in order to operate while restructuring
- Federal Loan to Auto during Restructuring so no Foreign Corporation Could take over American Auto Companies.
- Restructure management,
- Retool engineering to manufacture fuel efficient cars
- To avoid Court-Bankruptcy procedures without Federal Loans During the Great Recession.
- If need-be, and since Auto would have Federal Loan, Broker pre-bankruptcy deals for both companies with the major stakeholders.

Mitt Romney's 2008 Bankruptcy Plan:

- NO Federal Loan to Auto Industry so Auto could continue operating during restructuring
- NO Federal Bailout Money to Auto Industry so Auto could continue operating during restructuring
- Let Foreign Auto Corporations buy up American Auto Companies, if need-be

Notice, two key differences between Obama's Plan and Romney's "advice":
First Key Difference: Obama's Plan always including making sure the Auto Industry had money in order to continue operations during Restructuring, while Mitt Romney's Plan did not.  And that, my friend, is a huge difference as Obama's Plan guarantee Americans would remain employed and Mitt Romney's did not.

Second Key Difference: Mitt Romney's Plan included a Foreign Corporation taking over and buying out American Auto Companies and Obama's Plan did not.  And again, that my friend, is also a huge difference as Obama's Plan guarantee Americans would remain employed and Mitt Romney's did not.

November 20, 2008 Mitt Romney told Neal Cavuto of Fox that Foreign Corporations may buy American Auto Companies

CAVUTO: On a day, Governor, we had this huge sell-off, do you think, partly on fears that Washington's out of control?

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, I think it's mostly on fears that the economy is out of control. And — and there's real reason for that.

"CAVUTO: The history of companies that file for bankruptcy in a recession is not very good. Usually, most of them fail outright. Those that fail, or go into bankruptcy, and the cuts by the slowdown, can come out of it. Continental comes to mind, as an example ... Your dad ran American Motors, and we ultimately know that, company went into the arms of Chrysler, that later went into the arms of Daimler-Benz, and then on its own again. My point is that markets have, if not a cold, but a very efficient means in handling this sort of thing. Do they not?

ROMNEY: Oh, they sure do, and that's precisely why I am saying, no to a bailout, yes to work-out.


ROMNEY: Work with the industry. There may be a merger in the future, perhaps. There may be a merger with a foreign company.

~ Romney Interview with Neal Cavuto

    It is no secret that Mitt Romney's Business Model has always included shipping American Jobs overseas and letting Foreign Corporations take over American Companies -- so Mitt's 2008 comment to Cavuto should come as no surprise.  But last week, did Mitt Romney and his campaign try to steal Obama's Auto Rescue Plan - then claim it as his own?

    Dates are important here in order to make my point that, suddenly, in General Election 2012, Mitt Romney is trying to "steal" President Obama's actual Auto Rescue Plan and claim it as his own. 

     Therefore, remember, before November 18, 2008 President-elect Obama's Auto Rescue Plan always included:

    Giving a Federal Loan to Auto so they may continue operations during Restructuring and Retooling so that Americans could continue to stay employed.  And, Obama's Plan, via the Federal Loan, always guaranteed American Auto Companies would not be taken over by a Foreign Corporation - which also guaranteed Americans would stay employed during the Great Recession.
    Conversely, and 180 degrees opposite from Obama's Plan, on November 18, 2008 and after Mitt Romney's plan only, only comprised of:
No Federal Loan to Auto Industry even if it meant they had to stop all operations during Restructure and thousands of Americans losing their jobs.  And, Mitt Romney's plan including the notion that a Foreign Corporation could buy American Auto Companies which would put Americas at risk of losing their jobs during the Great Recession.

Timeline of President-Elect Obama's Auto Rescue Plan:
November 10, 2008

"Obama Asks Bush to Provide Help for Automakers" By JACKIE CALMES

     Mr. Obama has signaled to the automakers and the unions that his support for
short-term aid now, and long-term assistance once he takes office, is contingent on their willingness to agree to transform their industry to make cleaner, more energy-efficient vehicles.

     Mr. Obama said he would instruct his economic team, once he chooses it, to devise a long-range plan for helping the auto industry recover in a way that is part of an energy and environmental policy to reduce reliance on foreign oil and address climate change.

Mr. Obama has called on the Bush administration to accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law specifically to help automakers retool.

~ New York Times

Keywords: "Retool," "long range plan," "transform their industry" which are all part of Managed Bankruptcy.

November 11, 2008

CANDY CROWLEY: Sources on the Obama transition team say the president-elect urged President Bush to take quick action to help the auto industry. Obama thinks the aid could be coupled with ... someone with the authority to push for industry reforms he has talked about recently.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars.
CNN Transcript

November 12, 2008
If Congress falls short on the auto industry loans during the lame-duck session next week, the Obama administration has promised there will be strings attached to a bailout for Detroit.

~Politico By Patrick O'Connor & Ryan Grim

CNN Reported:
President-elect Obama is weighing in quietly. I mean, we do know that he was urging President Bush about the auto industry, that he talked to him about a car czar, sort of overlooking improvements in how the auto industry does business and what it produces. He's also talked to the leadership on Capitol Hill about what he'd like to see in some of these packages.
November 16, 2008
OBAMA: "my hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all the stakeholders coming together with a plan ... So that we are creating a bridge loan to somewhere as opposed to a bridge loan to nowhere. And that's, I think, what you haven't yet seen."

CBS 60 Minute Interview
   In that same 60 Minute Interview, Mr Kroft asked Obama about Bankruptcy for Auto.

KROFT: Are there a lot of people that think that the country would probably be better off and General Motors might be better off if it was allowed to go into bankruptcy?

OBAMA: Well, you know, under normal circumstances that might be the case in the sense that you'd go to a restructuring like the airlines had to do in some cases. And then they come out and they're still a viable operation. And they're operating even during the course of bankruptcy. In this situation, you could see the spigot completely shut off so that it would not potentially permit GM to get back on its feet. And I think that what we have to do is to recognize."
CBS 60 Minute Interview

November 17, 2008
    When asked if a bankruptcy declaration by any of the auto companies would be acceptable to the White House, [Dana Perino] responded that would be "the companies' decision."

     President-elect Barack Obama supports direct aid for the Big Three, but he has said taxpayers should be protected too. The hangup is whether to insist that loans or loan guarantees be conditioned upon an assessment of "financial viability" over the next 10 years as under the Energy Department loan guarantee program or not, as under TARP.

November 18, 2008
Mitt Romney Writes: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt"
"Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" By Mitt Romney

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

     [D]on’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.  A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs."

     Notice, Romney is adamant in 2008 when he pens do not give Auto Industry one penny during Bankruptcy even if it meant Americans lose their jobs during the Great Recession.

Fast-Forward to 2012 GOP Primary Election

February 13, 2008 - Another Mitt Romney Op-Ed

"Taxpayers Should Get GM Shares' Proceeds" - By: MITT ROMNEY

     This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. The President tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.

Before the companies were allowed to enter and exit bankruptcy, the U.S. government swept in with an $85 billion sweetheart deal disguised as a rescue plan. By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.

Such a state of affairs is intolerable, and as president I would not tolerate it.

~ Excerpts from another Mitt Romney Op-Ed Dated 2/13/2012

February 14, 2012:
From Detroit News:
"Romney wrote that the government’s rescue of the American auto companies amounted to “crony capitalism on a grand scale” and argued that G.M. should have gone through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy without taxpayer assistance."
    Remember, in 2008, Mitt Romeny said "Yes" on $700 Billion [TARP] for white collar bankers.  But, in 2008 and still in 2012, Mitt Romney would "not tolerate" Loaning Auto Industry two percent of that ($17 Billion) for blue collar American workers to stay on assembly line during Restructuring.

     In fact, on March 20, 2012, Mitt Romney credited Bush/Cheney's TARP funding to Bankers as saving the US Economy:

    At a town hall in Arbutus, Maryland.
ROMNEY: "I keep hearing the president say he's responsible for keeping the country out of a Great Depression.  No, no, no, that was President George W. Bush and [then-Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson."

     Even now, Mitt Romney thinks Bush/Cheney giving Bankers $700 Billion Taxpayer Dollars (TARP) saved America but loaning the Auto Industry funds so they may operate during Restructuring is "not to be tolerated."

     Mitt Romney is lying with the aid of his Etch-A-Sketch Lens, and falsely claiming that Obama used Mitt Romney's Bankruptcy "Advice" and that it was Mitt's Bankruptcy Plan that saved the Auto industry.

     Even worse than Mitt Romney lying is that Romney seems almost pathological with his lies as it appears that Mitt Romney is trying to "Steal" President Obama's Auto Rescue Plan and claim it as his own.

     ... because as we can see, facts clearly show President Obama's Auto Rescue Plan is not even remotely close to anything Mitt Romney "Advised" Congress to do in 2008 or 2012.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Get Sick. Can't Pay? Go to Jail!

By  Steven D  Sun Apr 29, 2012         Original

Indeed, you can go to jail even if you don't owe any money if the collection company for your medical provider thinks you do:

A breast cancer survivor who was sent to prison over a mistaken $280 medical bill has highlighted the return of debtor's prisons in the U.S.

Illinois resident Lisa Lindsay had received the medical bill in error and was told she did not have to pay up.

However, the bill was turned over to a collection agency and state troopers arrived at her home and took her away in handcuffs.

So, cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay eventually paid the bill she didn't owe + $600 for legal and court fees just to be sure this never happened to her again, or at least for this non-existent debt.  Better safe than sorry, right? 

At this point you might be saying to yourself, WTF?  I thought the US eliminated debtors' prisons in the early 19th century.  Silly rabbit. There's more than one way to trick the justice system to skin people in debt using the power of the state to put them in jail as a way to coerce payments from people like Lisa.

The case of Lindsay as well as others suggests that more people than ever before in the U.S are being thrown in 'debtor's prisons' for not being able to pay back loans. [...]

Debt collectors have become so aggressive claim some that poor people who are behind on payments of as little as $25 a month are being sent to jail.[...]

How is this done?  Well the collection company files a small claims lawsuit.  If you fail to appear, or file a responsive pleading, or make some other common legal mistake, or simply have the collection agency claim they served you by mail (allowed in many cases where the claims are not large) when they really didn't because you've moved, where in the hospital at the time, or they just flat out lied in their affidavit of service, the court can hold you in contempt of court.  And that's when the sheriff deputies or state troopers may show up at your door to place those handcuffs on you, sick, disabled or whatever.

Acting within the law, debtors aren't arrested  for nonpayment, rather for failing to arrive to court hearings thereby falling foul of contempt of court laws.

This results in a police arrest warrant being issued for 'failure to appear', the debtor is tracked down, packed off to jail and can only get out by paying the set bail bond which of course matches the amount owed.

Of course not every state allows such practices, but many do.  And while it has been employed against many people who have fallen behind on paying their bills in this economy, the arrest of people who can't pay their medical bills because they lost health insurance or their jobs, or simply they have student debt. they cannot repay because they can't find a job, is particularly egregious.

And people wonder why privatization of prisons is increasing.  Well, when you can toss people in jail for almost anything, including the inability to pay their debts, prisons become an even bigger profit center.  Last year alone, thousands of individuals were jailed as a result of unscrupulous practices by collection companies like the one that sent Lisa Lindsay to jail for a $280 debt she didn't even owe:

NPR reports that it’s becoming increasingly common for people to serve jail time as a result of their debt. Because of “sloppy, incomplete or even false documentation,” many borrowers facing jail time don’t even know they’re being sued by creditors ...

Sean Matthews, a homeless New Orleans construction worker, was incarcerated for five months for $498 of legal debt, while his jail time cost the city six times that much. Some debtors are even forced to pay for their jail time themselves, adding to their financial troubles.

Stories of surprise arrests for unpaid debt have been reported in states including Indiana, Tennessee and Washington. In Kansas City, one man ended up in jail after missing only a furniture payment. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 140,000 complaints related to debt collection in 2010, and they’ve taken 10 debt collection agencies to court for their practices in the past three years.

Since the start of 2010, judges have signed off on more than 5,000 arrest warrants since in nine counties alone. Beverly Yang, a legal aid attorney, says many debtor’s — and judges — don’t know debtor’s rights, which results in the accused being intimidated into a pay agreement. She’s seen judges interrogate debtors about why they can’t pay more and whether they are trying hard enough to find a job.

From the NPR report:

Take, for example, what happened to Robin Sanders in Illinois.

She was driving home when an officer pulled her over for having a loud muffler. But instead of sending her off with a warning, the officer arrested Sanders, and she was taken right to jail.

"That's when I found out [that] I had a warrant for failure to appear in Macoupin County. And I didn't know what it was about."

Sanders owed $730 on a medical bill. She says she didn't even know a collection agency had filed a lawsuit against her.

"They say they send out these court notices, and nobody gets them," Sanders says.

We are talking about collection companies, after all.  The scum of the earth.  They buy the debts for pennies on the dollar.  Then they file lawsuits.  They don't care if they have to lie or present false paperwork to the courts, because in most cases they are never going to be found out.  They file their affidavits and the justice system believes them, because they do not have the time or personnel to verify the accuracy of those affidavits, and the people they target do not have the money to fight the illegal practices by hiring a lawyer.  And it is difficult to prove a negative, i.e., that you didn't receive notice of the court date as we all know:

Washington state's House of Representatives passed [in 2011] by a 98-0 vote a bill that would require companies to provide proof a borrower has been notified about lawsuits against them before a judge could issue an arrest warrant. All 42 Republicans voted for the legislation, which is expected to pass the state's Senate and be signed into law by the governor. A trade group representing debt collectors supports the bill and says the changes are needed because some companies are abusing Washington's existing law by improperly arresting borrowers.

Look for more of these abuses in the future, particularly in states where the legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor is a Scott Walker (ALEC Model 2.0) clone.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Personal Data Protection: Coordination Needs to Transcend State Boundaries

Asahi, Japan
  23 April 2012           Edited by Lydia Dallett

With the spread of social networking services on smartphones, and the expansion of cloud businesses centrally handling bulks of user data, the rapid change of telecommunications calls for a new approach toward the protection of personal information.
The U.S. and EU have released a joint statement on the protection of privacy and the promotion of Internet businesses. Japan is lagging behind. We cannot protect personal information without cross-border cooperation and we need to develop conditions that are appropriate for this day and age.
Internet enterprises are competing ruthlessly to develop techniques that will allow them to gain higher advertising rates. In recent years, there has been remarkable progress in the development of technologies that analyze the preferences and life patterns of Internet users, in order to display advertisements tailored to the lifestyle of the individual consumer.
These data collection systems target anything from purchase histories with online mail orders to movement patterns gathered in the form of GPS-tracked location information, or personal connections and relationships stored in email address books. The types of data collected are multiplying ad infinitum.
If we analyze the collective data gathered over an extended period of time, the information accumulated by Internet businesses far exceeds what the individual user is aware of. The private life of the end user is brought into the open and virtual profiles may be created. Furthermore, the data is sometimes managed abroad.
Google U.S. has begun to unify and manage the personal information gathered by around 60 different services and it was this kind of information that caused simultaneous opposition in many countries. Many countries have been collecting data in even more opaque ways.
There has also been controversy about the social network Facebook retaining private information even after users leave the network. In response to this, the EU has proposed the “right to be forgotten online,” which forces social networking sites to delete such data. The Obama administration introduced a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” that includes the right not to be tracked online.
Western third-party organizations, which have a high degree of independence from their national governments, are addressing this issue from a technical point of view and are responsible for international discussions.
Japan established the Personal Information Protection Law in 2003, but its implementation is divided vertically across the ministries. It is flawed in terms of specialization and mobility. If we do not have any independent protection mechanisms, we will be left behind by globalization and technical progress. This is liable to gravely disadvantage the international expansion of Japanese businesses.
“My Number,” the personal identification number system devised by the National Diet, incorporates the establishment of third-party organizations. Its main target, however, are government offices and businesses dealing with ID numbers.
It is necessary to take discussions to the next level, so that we can expand into common European and American security mechanisms, while maintaining compatibility with basic rights such as freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

   Sourced from Watching America

Translated By Sylvie Martlew