Saturday, September 22, 2012

Barack Obama To Congress:Get Back in Town and Pass Some Bills

Some Members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours.

President Obama in this morning's weekly address this week blasted Congress—and in most instances, Republican members—for skipping  town (yes, he used that expression) with bills languishing, problems proliferating and citizens strapped.

Last week, without much fanfare, Members of the House of Representatives banged a gavel, turned out the lights, and rushed home, declaring their work finished for now.

If that frustrates you, it should – because their work isn’t finished.

See, when they skipped town, Members of Congress left a whole bunch of proposals sitting on the table – actions that would create jobs, boost our economy, and strengthen middle-class security.The items left undone that could use a little action:

Veterans job corps, in which returning troops would be employed as cops and firefighters. (Obama: "Republicans in Congress voted it down. And then they left.")

The Farm Bill, which would help farmers and ranchers deal with natural disasters (Obama: "But so far, Republicans in Congress have dragged their feet. And now they’re gone.")

A bill that would allow homeowners to refinance, saving as much as $3,000 a year. (Obama: "Republicans in Congress decided that working families could wait. And now they’ll have to wait a little longer.")

And oh, yeah, middle class tax cuts. (Obama: "But Republicans in Congress have refused to budge. They’re holding tax cuts for 98% of Americans hostage until we pass tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. ")

President Obama's suggested solution: Go home, campaign for a few weeks, then get your ass back to DC and get some work done. And constituents, you need to do your part:

Tell your Members of Congress you can’t afford to wait any longer. If you get an answering machine, leave a message. If you see them campaigning back home, tell them in person. Because there’s been enough talk. It’s time for action. That’s what you deserve, and that’s what it’s going to take to move this country forward.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 22, 2012

Hi, everybody.  Last week, without much fanfare, Members of the House of Representatives banged a gavel, turned out the lights, and rushed home, declaring their work finished for now.

If that frustrates you, it should – because their work isn’t finished.

See, when they skipped town, Members of Congress left a whole bunch of proposals sitting on the table – actions that would create jobs, boost our economy, and strengthen middle-class security. These ideas have been around for months. The American people want to see them passed. But apparently, some Members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours.

Right now, if Congress had done the right thing, we could be on our way to having a veterans’ jobs corps that helps returning heroes find work as cops and firefighters in communities all across the country. These men and women have made incredible sacrifices for our country. They shouldn’t have to worry about finding a job when they get home. But last week, Republicans in Congress voted it down. And then they left.

Right now, if Congress had gotten its act together, we would have a farm bill to help farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters like the drought we had this summer. And we’d have made necessary reforms to give our rural communities some long-term certainty. But so far, Republicans in Congress have dragged their feet. And now they’re gone.

Right now, if Congress had acted, thousands of responsible homeowners could be saving an extra $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates. But instead, Republicans in Congress decided that working families could wait. And now they’ll have to wait a little longer.

And finally, if Congress had listened to you, they could have given 98% of Americans and 97% of small business owners a guarantee that your taxes won’t go up next year by a single dime. This is something we all agree on. It should have gotten done a long time ago. But Republicans in Congress have refused to budge. They’re holding tax cuts for 98% of Americans hostage until we pass tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. And now middle-class families and small business owners are left wondering what their tax bill will look like next year.

All of these ideas would strengthen our economy and help the middle class right now. All of them are supported by Democrats, Republicans and Independents. There’s no reason to wait.

That’s why, after going home and listening to their constituents for a few weeks, Members of Congress should come back in November and do this work. They should do the right thing for veterans and farmers; for responsible homeowners and small businesses; for Americans everywhere who are just trying to get ahead.

And if you agree with me, I need your help. Tell your Members of Congress you can’t afford to wait any longer. If you get an answering machine, leave a message. If you see them campaigning back home, tell them in person. Because there’s been enough talk. It’s time for action. That’s what you deserve, and that’s what it’s going to take to move this country forward.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Originally posted by Susan Gardner for Daily Kos

A Failed RNC, With Bonuses

   Want more proof that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are corporatized dirt bags and that they are NOT fiscally responsible?


Mitt Romney’s campaign took out a $20 million loan in August and ended the month with $38 million less in the bank than President Barack Obama.

At the same time, the campaign gave out about $200,000 in bonuses to senior employees just after the Republican National Convention, which ended with the candidate not getting much of a bounce in the polls.

   Mitt Romney is not fit to be President of the United States.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Funnies: Go-Mitt-Go…Home

Conan O'Brien: "Mitt Romney said if he had Mexican parents, he'd have a better shot of winning...But unfortunately Romney was tragically held back by being born of rich white people."

"Mitt Romney is trailing in the polls. After being accused of being too vague, Romney's campaign team says they will start being more specific. When asked when, they said, 'Soon-ish.'"

Jay Leno: "Anti-American crowds have been protesting and burning American flags over that anti-Islamic film. And the U.S. is now bracing for more protests next week when the film comes out on Blu-ray."

David Letterman : "It's Opening Day of the U.N in New York...Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is here. He says he hates gay people and he hates Jews. Boy is he in the wrong town."

Seth Meyers: "A new poll shows that after the Democratic National Convention, President Obama got a four-point bounce in the polls, which means that's he's now only five points behind Bill Clinton."

Bill Maher: "It's nice to know that no matter how bad things get in the Middle East, Mitt Romney is always there to make them worse. You saw him this week when our embassies were under attack, before any facts were in he tried to score political points because he sees everything as a business opportunity. This is a man who would sell ad time during a moment of silence."

"Mitt Romney went on live with Kelly and Michael and tried to answer these hardball questions. He was asked what he wears to bed. He said, 'as little as possible." Wow, there's a switch, Romney giving too much information."
"He told us all about their sex life. Sometimes he and Ann turn off the lights and play 'find my tax returns.'"

Mitt Romney’s Latest Flip-Flop: Only D.C. Insiders, Can Change Washington

  From: American Progress Action Fund comes the latest new tactic from the Romney campaign: only those Washington insiders who messed things up can change Washington. That would explain why he has so many of Bush’s people surrounding him.

Mitt Romney touted the ability of Washington insiders and politicians to change the course of the country on Thursday, seizing on a quote from President Obama during a Univision forum. “I think that I’ve learned some lessons over the last four years, and the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside,” Obama said. “You can only change it from the outside. That’s how I got elected, and that’s how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out.”

Romney appeared to disagree during a rally at Sarasota, Florida, telling the crowd that he will change the country — not with the support of his constituents or his base — but by bringing “Republicans and Democrats” together to implement his agenda:

ROMNEY: He said he can’t change Washington from inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we’ll give him that chance in November, he’s going outside. I can change Washington, I will change Washington, I’ll get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together.

   I take it that the American populace is not supposed to notice that Mitt can’t even get the Republican Party to come around to him, and yet he will perform a miracle so that Democrats and his party will live happily ever after?  What planet does this clown live on?

   Another item. Not that this would be something new for Mitt but with this new view Mitt flip-flops once again.

The new attack is a departure from Romney’s repeated claims that only Washington outsiders, particularly those with private sector experience, can change the course of the country. The GOP presidential candidate has previously said that he plans to fill his cabinet with appointees from the business world (people like Meg Whitman or BET President Debra Lee), eschewing career politicians or bureaucrats.

    Mitt wants you to take him seriously? Really?

During a debate in December, when he characterized many of his GOP opponents as career politicians, Romney said, “having spent my life in the private sector, I understand where jobs are created. They’re not created in government, they’re not created in Washington. They’re created on Main Streets and streets all over America.”

Back in 2007, Romney agreed that change does not start in Washington. “I don’t think you change Washington from the inside. I think you change it from the outside,” he said on December 30, 2007.

   Let’s show Mitt that you can change Washington from the outside by keeping him out of the White House.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Standard & Poor's Downgrades New Jersey State Credit Outlook

  Coming soon to a Republican controlled state near you.

by  Hunter for Daily Kos

More bad news for New Jersey, and for Gov. Chris Christie:

The latest dose of bad news was delivered by Standard & Poor’s, which Tuesday lowered its credit outlook for New Jersey from stable to negative.

While Standard & Poor’s did not change the state’s AA- rating — one of the worst among the states — it warned the more drastic step of a lower rating loomed if Christie’s nearly 8 percent growth in revenue failed to materialize. [...]

"We revised the outlook to reflect our view of the risk of revenue assumptions we view as optimistic, continued reliance on one-time measures to offset revenue shortfalls, and longer-term growing expenditure pressures," John Sugden, a credit analyst for Standard & Poor’s, said.

The optimistic revenue assumptions part is a direct reference to Christie's implausible budget assumptions, especially as it relates to his insistence that only further tax cuts can possibly cause the magical money unicorn to once again poop cash and rainbows across his great state. For Republicans, this was proof enough of Christie's seriousness to make him one of the keynote speakers at their recent convention.

Which, as it turns out, seems to be a trend. After all, one of the people most responsible for the national credit downgrade was Paul Ryan and his merry band of fellow fiscal anarchists—and for his own valiant attempts in the field of completely implausible budget numbers, he was rewarded with the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket.

In the current Republican Party, gross fiscal incompetence has become a big selling point. And if your incompetence results in actual, real-world economic damage, you'll be considered as leadership material.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obama Has Lead With Small Business Owners

  Yep, another category that Mitt Romney falls behind in is the small business group. It would appear that the Romney campaign’s  “ you didn’t build that “ smear against President Obama isn’t gaining any traction with those business owners as they had hoped.

  New Polling;

Nearly half of small business owners (47 percent) plan to vote for a second term for the president, compared to 39 percent who plan to vote for Mitt Romney, according to a new poll conducted by the George Washington University School of Political Management and Even more importantly, perhaps, the president is perceived as more supportive of small companies by the most coveted group of voters — independents.

  It was only a month ago that a different poll had Mitt Romney with a pretty comfortable lead over Obama with main street businesses. The Romney people have thus far managed to screw up everything that they touch and that will not change any time soon.


Respondents to the Thumbtack-GWU poll, more than 95 percent of whom had 10 or fewer employees, listed the economy, and especially unemployment and the job market, as their top concern, ahead of partisanship. Just 3 percent said taxes were their top issue.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bernanke's QE3; A Helping Hand To Wall St., Not Main St.

Did the Federal Reserve really help the economy, especially main street, when they announced QE3?  No, but they certainly helped Wall Street.

Everybody is getting all excited about the Federal Reserve's declaration of QE3.  My reaction of the announcement was, it won't help much and it's more trickle down policy with the money going to the 1% while the 99% hope to get trickled on.  Let's see why it was good for Wall St., but not so much for Main St.

First we need to look at what the Federal Reserve statement actually said.  Here's the key part about what they're going to do.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

So the bottom part says they're just going to continue what they've been doing, and hasn't been working for awhile, and the top part is the new and supposedly stimulative part.  They're going to buy Mortgage Backed Securities at a rate of $40 billion/month, until hell freezes over, or unemployment drops, or they change their minds.

By now, just about everyone knows what a mortgage backed security (MBS) is.  For those that dont, I like to think of them as a whole bunch of mortgages that have been put in a blender, then the mess is divided into a bunch of portions and each portion is sold off like a bond.

Here's where the problem lies.  I'm sure a lot of people are thinking that because the FED is going to buy $40B worth of MBS a month, that somehow that's a lot like buying $40B worth of new mortgages a month, and that it will cause a huge amount of new houses to be built.  Well unfortunately, that's not remotely the case.

Lets do what Bill Clinton asks us to do, the arithmetic.

According to the census bureau August new home sales were at 372,000/year, or about 31,000/month.  The average new home price was roughly $263,000.  So if all of these sales were fully mortgaged (which they most certainly are not), and if all the mortgages were converted to MBS, which most probably are, what would this add up to?

31,000 X $263,000 = $8.153 billion.

So even if the Federal reserve were to buy every single MBS produced from every single new mortgage, it would still be a small fraction of the $40 billion they say they're going to buy.  So the VAST majority of the $40 billion they're going to spend on MBS is going to be on OLD MBS.

Everybody raise their hand who has some MBS they can sell to Ben Bernanke.  What? You don't own any MBS?  Well neither do I, and I don't know anyone who does own a MBS.  So who does own them, and how are they going to use the money they get from selling them to the FED?

Well, if you remember back in the panic days of 2008, what was it that actually got all the banks in trouble?  Right!  Their MBS and credit default swaps (bets on MBS) were going bad in a big way.  So we know that big banks own MBS, but so does FANNIE and FREDDIE, and hedge funds, and big foreign investors...

Here's one example of a Wall Street type that owns a lot of MBS, the big bond company Pimco.  According to Zero Hedge, back in January, Pimco borrowed $88 billion to buy MBS, because they figured Bernanke would do exactly what he just did.

Regular readers of Zero Hedge know that in recent months tracking the portfolio and thoughts of one Bill Gross via the holdings of his flagship Total Return Fund (which just jumped by $6 billion in the past month and is just shy of its all time record north of $250 billion) has meant one thing and one thing only: betting on the Fed monetizing Mortgage Backed Securities or bust. Well, in January he just took it to a whole new level. The fund has now borrowed a record $88 billion, or -35% of its AUM, in cash (shows how much he thinks of the dollar) and used the proceeds (together with dumping European sovereign bonds from 18% to 11% of AUM) to bet on MBS which now stood at a whopping 50% of the entire portfolio - the highest since July 2009 when QE1 was in full force. However, in absolute dollar terms, due to the growth of the fund's AUM, the actual bet on MBS has never been bigger, and at $125 billion, represents the biggest notional bet ever made by PIMCO. Treasury holdings of just over $100 billion with an effective duration of 6.33 complete the epic bet that the fund has now put on QE3.

So will buying $40 billion worth of MBS from Wall street investors lower Mtg rates?  Probably a little, but will that cause people to go out and buy a lot more houses?  Here's what some analysts in this article from the New York Times are saying.

“The incremental benefit of slightly lower mortgage rates will be small,” wrote Paul Diggle, a property economist at Capital Economics, an international research firm, in a note to clients.

“After all, most borrowers in a position to refinance have probably already done so. And it’s not obvious why a would-be buyer who wasn’t tempted by a 3.7 percent mortgage rate would be by, let’s say, a 3.25 percent rate,” he wrote.


Jed Kolko, the chief economist at Trulia, a real estate analytics firm, anticipated a muted effect on sales.

The big obstacles for people who want to buy are saving enough for a down payment and qualifying for a mortgage, because credit is still tight,” Mr. Kolko said, saying that the Fed program would not directly address those problems.

So lowering interest rates a little won't make much of a difference.  The big question becomes, what will all those Wall Street investors do with the money they'll get from selling those MBS (after they took a big jump this week) to the Federal Reserve.  Will they invest it in new companies, or new technology, or hire a bunch of people...?  Not likely.  Corporations are flooded with cash, and Wall Street investors have recovered almost everything since the depression of 2008 began, and yet they've done nothing to help the productive economy, and have simply found new ways to place bigger and riskier bets.  

Another huge problem with this approach is, it's too little and the wrong kind of QE.  This is very similar to what happened with the stimulus.  It was too small and misdirected toward tax cuts, and although it stopped the economic slide, it wasn't nearly big enough to get the economy growing on it's own.  The Republicans are shouting about how big of a failure the stimulus was, so you can imagine what's coming when QE3 doesn't work because a whole lot of money is going to people who already have a whole lot of money.

If QE3 fails because it's too little and misdirected, which I think it is, the Republicans will shoot down any further chance of monetary policy, just like they've shot down any further chance of fiscal policy.  If these timid approaches to both fiscal and monetary policy lead to a forced abandonment of Keynesian style stimulus, we are going to be in deep, deep trouble.  The only good thing I can see with this is, the belief that it will work may very well help reelect President Obama.

Ben Bernanke will give $40 billion a month to the casino on Wall street, and he'll cross his fingers and hope they'll invest to create jobs.  I'm not betting on it.

Originally posted to pollwatcher on Mon Sep 17, 2012

Tea Party Is Most Unpopular Group In America

  We all know that already, but, polling makes it official.

By Kimberley Johnson  September 17, 2012     Addicting Info

The Tea Party ranks “dead last” in CBS poll, even less popular than atheists.

When a group of citizens wants to incorporate religion into politics, the result is failure: especially when it pertains to U.S. politics.

In the late seventies until the eighties, we saw the beginning and the end of the Moral Majority, a political action group composed of conservative, fundamentalist Christians. Founded (1979) and led (1979–87) by evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, the group played a significant role in the 1980 elections through its strong support of conservative candidates. It lobbied for prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools, while opposing the Equal Rights Amendment (see: Feminism), homosexual rights, abortion, and the U.S.-Soviet SALT treaties (see: Disarmament, nuclear). The Moral Majority was dissolved in 1989.

Sound familiar?

America was founded by Deists, not Christians as the Tea Party would have you believe. Yet they seem hell bent on forcing their Christian values on Muslims, Jews, atheists, Buddhists and every other group.

The unpopularity of the Tea Party stems from the fact it is a small group of primarily white Christians with deeply conservative values, who are trying to bully Americans and force us into their personal, political and religious ideology.

A census study recently revealed that whites are now a minority in the U.S. As CNN reported back in 2009, more Americans are rejecting religion altogether.

The Tea Party calls for “less government” but they contradict themselves when they look to have government control what women do with their bodies, dictate who and how we are allowed to love and remove science from school curriculums in favor of religious teachings that are shared by a dwindling segment of the population. They take an extreme stance on governance and when met with reason and logic, they absolutely refuse to accept anything other than their own agenda.

Mitt Romney has fallen victim to appeasing them and the result has been a candidate who is not taken seriously by anyone, including the Tea Party.

With a 24-hour news cycle, an array of right-wing websites and social media, their collective voices are louder than ever before. They are like the Moral Majority on steroids. With members such as Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Jan Brewer and VP pick Paul Ryan, they have a strong presence and a very loud voice. While one should never underestimate their power, they do not represent the majority of Americans.

Think about it this way: the Tea Party is like 25 mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus released into a closed room of 100 people wearing shorts and t-shirts. They may be in the minority but they are capable of creating chaos—and they have.

The remedy is quite simple. Vote them out on November 6. We have the collective power. They gained a majority in the House in 2010 because the Bush economy — that took eight years to send us into a depression — wasn’t fixed in just two years under Obama, and impatient voters either stayed home or voted against their own best interests, thinking John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor would be their saviors.

Register to vote HERE.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment On Mitt Romney

  Poor little Mitt  is getting knocked around by everyone since that leaked video came out.
  I have to post the link since I cannot get the video to post. Check it out because it is funny
  Keith Olbermann had his own say in the matter:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Republicans Vote To End Welfare-To-Work Requirements By Accident?

By Justin Acuff  September 16, 2012

The Workforce Investment Improvement Act, a bill spearheaded by Republican Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Joseph J. Heck, (R-NV), and Buck McKeon (R-CA), would allow states to group state and federal employment/training programs, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), into a single fund. However, this has an apparently unforeseen side effect–it would take away federally mandated requirements for the programs.

That is the result found, at least, by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The CRS is sometimes known as “Congress’ think tank” because of their nonpartisan policy and legal analysis services.

The funny thing here is that it is generally the conservatives in the government that are screaming about leftists all wanting a free lunch. By trying to accomplish their government-consolidation aims, they have, in effect, done exactly what they try to accuse President Barack Obama of. Talking Points Memo points out the irony:

“I don’t think the TANF work requirements were what they had in mind when they were working on the Foxx bill,” says Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy. “But it is sort of a collateral consequence.”

According to a brief written by CLASP, for the House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on the bill in June, the bill also “eliminates many of the requirements and mandates that governed the now consolidated streams.” The committee cleared the bill anyway.

That, of course, is exactly what Republicans are falsely claiming the Obama administration’s state waivers would do. In reality, those waivers are only on offer to states that can demonstrate that they have or will increase the number of people transitioning from welfare to work by at least 20 percent.

They go on to point out that, “The GOP’s legislation has no such safeguards. According to the Congressional Research Service analysis of the bill published this month, ‘[I]f TANF funds were consolidated into the [Workforce Investment Fund], TANF program requirements (e.g., work requirements) may no longer apply to that portion of funding because the TANF funding would not exist (i.e., it would be part of the WIF and thus subject to WIF program requirements).’”

A humorous situation indeed.           Creative Commons License

Sunday, September 16, 2012

November 2012 And The Choice We Face

By Ann Werner  September 15, 2012    Addicting Info


The events of the past week have brought into sharp focus the differences between the two candidates for president and their ability to deal with world events and shape foreign policy. Due to the rapidly moving pace of the information age, it is easy to forget what happened not so long ago but we do so at our own risk. In less than two months, we will cast our votes for president, so we’d better know exactly who and what we are voting for. Recent reports have shown that world leaders, indeed, even ordinary people around the world, have confidence that President Obama has the intellect and the steady hand needed to navigate the dangerous seas that make up the world today. He has shown it over and over again. Can the same be said of Willard Mitt Romney?

Let’s take a look.

During a March 2012 interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Romney characterized Russia as “without question our number one geopolitical foe.”

He then clarified his statement: “The greatest threat the US faces is a nuclear Iran … [But] who is it who always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It’s always Russia, typically with China along side,” Romney said. “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage.”

That might be true. But it’s also true, as this past week has illustrated, that our greatest foe isn’t Russia or China or Iran. It is religious extremists who are whipped into a frenzy over perceived insults to their religion and thus give cover for terrorists with an agenda.

Let’s not forget one of Mitt’s foreign policy advisors warned against policies that would aid “the Soviet Union” and that members of the Romney team, including Mitt himself, have referred to that country, which hasn’t existed since 1991.

The infamous overseas trip during the Olympics gave us a glimpse of Romney’s in-person handling of foreign relations. It was not pretty.

In a televised interview in London, Romney called the preparations made for the Olympics “disconcerting” and questioned the city’s readiness to host the event. Neglecting to bother to remember Labour Party Ed Miliband’s name, Romney addressed him as Mr. Leader. Perhaps Mr. Romney is oblivious to the very real possibility that Mr. Milband is considered by some as a contender to replace the prime minister. Then, in a gaff of gargantuan proportions, Romney disclosed his meeting with MI6, in spite of the agency being top-secret, not even officially acknowledged by the British government until 1994.

Then it was off to Israel and an opportunity to redeem himself on the world stage. It did not go precisely as planned. Romney’s statement that Israeli culture figured prominently in their success was viewed by Palestinians as a back-handed insult to their culture. It is no secret that Israeli-Palestinian relations have been an insurmountable problem for decades and for a man completely devoid of understanding that simple fact to also be one who would be president of the United States is a cause for concern.

Fortunately, Mitt did pretty well in Poland. The same can’t be said for his traveling press secretary Rick Gorka. During a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Gorka handled a barrage of reporter questions about the myriad of gaffes by Romney on his excellent overseas adventure thusly: “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.” Mr. Gorka clearly didn’t recognize the irony of his statement.

Back home again and getting ready for the Republican National Convention, where Mitt Romney was going to show America that he is the man for the job. Yet, while we are still embroiled in an ever more dangerous conflict in Afghanistan, the candidate neglected to mention it or veterans even once. After saying that his intention was to talk about the things he thought were important, Romney tried to salvage himself by saying that he did mention the troops, except he referred to them as “our military.” There is a difference between talking about troops who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day and “preserving a strong military” but Mr. Romney doesn’t seem to understand the distinction.

This past week, Mr. Romney politicized the tragic events unfolding in the Middle East in yet another ham-handed attempt to look presidential. Before he even knew what was happening, while the events were still unfolding, Mr. Romany lambasted the Obama administration for sympathizing with the terrorists. Even when he found out that the embassy document he based his accusations on was issued six hours before the attack in an attempt to defuse tensions, Mr. Romney didn’t stop. He doubled down.

Taken separately, perhaps one could excuse the actions of a man who is a neophyte when it comes to foreign policy. But given that this man is seeking the highest office in the land, it isn’t unfair to expect that he would make an effort to educate himself on the issues, take a few lessons in diplomacy and wait until he had all the relevant facts at hand before making statements that will now live forever in the electronic age.

In a world as dangerous as the one we live in, we want a president who surrounds himself with people who know that the Soviet Union ceased to exist over two decades ago, who has the diplomatic savvy to engage and not enrage our allies and who knows that you don’t attack the President of the United States in the midst of an international crisis.   Creative Commons License

The Republican Party: Once Upon A Time In America

    “We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.”   The Republican Party Platform of 1956

  See folks? The Republicans were human at one time, then the “Reagan Revolution” was hatched in some mad scientists lab and things have been going downhill for America and the Republican Party ever since.


Rep. John Lewis Offers A Personal History On Voter Suppression

Meteor Blade for Daily Kos

One of my few heroes who happens to be the congressman from my birth state of Georgia, Rep. John Lewis, a Freedom Rider in 1961, gave a brief and eloquent speech about voter suppression at the Democratic National Convention this week. Too bad it got so little attention in the convention hall, the media or the blogosphere.

Lewis was, in 1964, one of the organizers of the voting registration project called Freedom Summer in which I participated 48 years ago. This man put his life on the line for liberty not in a foreign land but right in America, fighting non-violently for an end to Jim Crow and for the right of black Americans to exercise the vote they supposedly had won after the Civil War.

In the first part of the video below, he briefly describes his experience half a century ago. In the second half, which I have transcribed, he talks about what is happening these days. Seven very worthwhile minutes:

Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” That’s not right. That’s not fair. That is not just.

And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.

And we have come too far together to ever turn back. So we must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out. We must march to the polls like never before. We must come together and exercise our sacred right. And together, on November 6, we will re-elect the man who will lead America forward: President Barack Obama.

Charles Pierce at Esquire had quite a lot to say about Lewis's talk, which he summed up rather well with:

The country's dead-level, frustrated and angry, but not necessarily motivated, and a substantial number of people think the whole thing is a waste and an equally substantial number believe that it's not on the square. If I were running the president's campaign, I'd shut the hell up about Simpsonp-fking-Bowles and put John Lewis on an airplane and let him tell his story in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and everywhere else this atavistic authoritarian nonsense is going down. There's more at risk here than anyone knows.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

In the news

Ohio secretary of state stops ignoring court order on early voting: Jon Husted, the Republican secretary of state in Ohio, discovered this week that it's a bad idea to ignore a court order. He changed his mind about having done so Friday. And probably his underwear. In a new filing, he apologized to federal district court Judge John Economus and sought a stay of the judge's ruling pending an appeal. Something he should have done in the first place.

Economus ruled last Friday that Ohio must reinstate early-voting hours on the three days right before the election. The GOP-dominated state legislature had eliminated those pre-election voting hours after increased turnout spurred by the expanded hours gave Democrats some unexpected victories in Ohio.

After the ruling, Husted issued a directive to county election boards not to prepare for early voting on those three days until an appeals court made its ruling on the district court's decision. Judge Economus responded to the move with a court order for Husted to appear at a Sept. 13 hearing to explain himself.

Husted's move had been brought to the judge's attention by papers filed by Obama for America.

According to the documents he filed Friday, Husted stated that he had a "duty to comply" with the federal court order and apologized for giving the "misimpression" that he intended otherwise by issuing his directive, which he has now rescinded.

"… [T]he secretary has since learned that the court views the directive as inconsistent with the order. The secretary would never intentionally contravene an order issued by the federal district court or any other court—and this case is no exception."

Voter registration drives adopting new methods:

The Associated Press reports that restrictive new laws are driving voter registration campaigns to innovate. They are now using data mining, direct mail and social media to register those Americans, like the young and ethnic minorities, who are less likely to be registered and may encounter obstacles in trying to do so.

"This is a new effort since the 2000 election," said University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith. "Technology has made it more cost-effective. [...] When you have upwards of 40 percent of eligible populations not registered, there is a market for this kind of work." [...]

"We have seen a systematic coordinated attack on voting rights across the nation," said Marvin Randolph of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We've had to work harder to make sure that people have access to the ability to register and vote and we've had to be more aggressive and innovative."

Republicans Losing Election Law War As Balloting Nears.

Pennsylvania voter-ID ad irks some legislators:

Pennsylvania state Rep. Babette Josephs, a Democrat, is not happy with an ad that she says calls citizens' patriotism into question. At the end of the 30-second spot, a woman says, “If you care about this country, it’s time to show it.” A spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Department for whom the ad was created by an outside consulting firm said nobody in the department who had seen the ad found it offensive. Josephs wants state's Republican administration to pull it.

Justice Department approves New Hamphire voter-ID law:

The Republican-dominated state legislature in New Hampshire won a victory this week when it gained approval from the U.S. Department of Justice of a voter-ID law it had adopted over the veto of Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat. The law requires voters to show a photo ID to vote, but if they don't have one, they can still cast a ballot.

“The public understands that you have to show an ID to get on a plane, train, some commercial buildings, even to go into the Democratic National Convention this week,” [New Hampshire House Speaker William] O’Brien said in an interview. “At the end of the day, this is not going to be seen as an imposition to voters but something that protects the honesty and integrity of their franchise.”

In the primary, which is Sept. 11, voters without an ID can vote just on their say-so. Come the general election in November, however, they will need to sign a one-page affidavist swearing that they are who they claim to be and live at the address they say they do under penalty of perjury. The affidavit was modified to exclude questions about a voter's citizenship status after the governor vetoed the original law in June. Clerks had complained that the time required to answer the questions would clog voter queues.

For this election seven different kinds of photo ID are deemed acceptable. At the next election, only four will be. College student IDs will be among those dropped, something voter advocacy groups such as the League of Women Voters argue is discriminatory.

Yale history professor David Blight makes a modest voter suppression proposal to Republicans. He points out that the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass had to use a false name to vote in the 1840s until his friends purchased his freedom for $711, permitting him to vote legally as a free black citizen in Massachusetts after paying a $1.50 registration fee. Neither he nor other African Americans could vote in most states, North or South, at the time.

With several states now imposing voter suppression in the form of overly restrictive photo ID requirements and cutting back on early voting hours that particularly benefit working-class minorities, Blight suggests:

To those potentially millions of young, elderly, brown and black registered voters who, despite no evidence of voter fraud, they now insist must obtain government ID, why not merely offer money? Pay them not to vote. Give each a check for $711 in honor of Frederick Douglass. Buy their “freedom,” and the election. Call it the “Frederick Douglass Voter Voucher.”

Give people a choice: take the money and just not vote, or travel miles without easy transportation to obtain a driver’s license they do not need. It’s their “liberty”; let them decide how best to use it. Perhaps they will forget their history as much as the Republican Party seems to wish the nation would.

Iowa judge hears arguments over voter purge law

A suit brought against the state of Iowa's voter-purge law by American Civil Liberties Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens got a hearing Thursday in a Polk County court. The groups seek to block Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz from implementing special, emergency rules he put into place without the usual public input such changes require. Attorneys for the groups say there are already adequate remedies for voter fraud and that the new rules should not be allowed without public comment.

One new rule would allow Schultz to remove voters from Iowa's registration database by comparing that list against a state Department of Transportation list and a federal immigration list. Anyone who voted or registered to vote who appears on the DOT database with no U.S. citizenship would be cross-referenced with a federal immigration database. If it is shown they are not citizens, they will be notified that they will be removed from voter rolls and given an opportunity to prove citizenship.

The second rule Schultz enacted would allow anyone to anonymously report allegations of voter fraud. Current law requires complainants to sign a sworn statement and risk prosecution if they falsely allege fraud.

Schultz claims that 1,200 non-citizens voted in 2010 based on a comparison of the lists. But lawyers seeking to block the rules say that the transportation department rolls are only updated every five years and therefore many of those lists as non-citizens could be citizens by now.