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Friday, March 19, 2010

Hightower: Two Right-Wing Billionaire Brothers Are Remaking America for Their Own Benefit

By Jim Hightower
March 19, 2010

How billionaires' money took over Washington -- and created the mobs who rant against reform.
Despite a constant racket from the forces of the far-out right (Fox television's yackety-yackers, just-say-no GOP know-nothings, tea-bag howlers, Sarah Palinistas, et al.), the great majority of Americans support a bold progressive agenda for our country, ranging from Medicare for all to the decentralization and re-regulation of Wall Street. Indeed, in the elections of 2006 and 2008, people voted for a fundamental break from Washington's 30-year push to enthrone a corporate kleptocracy.

Yet the economic and political thievery continues, as the White House, Congress, both parties, the courts, the media, much of academia, and other national institutions that shape our public policies reflexively shy away from any structural change. Instead, the first instinct of these entities is to soothe the fevered brow of corporate power by insisting that corporate primacy be the starting point of any "reform." Thus, when Washington began its widely ballyhooed effort last year to reform our health-care system, step number one was to announce publicly that the monopolistic, bureaucratic insurance behemoths that cost us so much and deliver so little would retain their controlling position in the structure. Likewise, Wall Street barons who crashed America's financial system were allowed to oversee the system's remake--and (Big Surprise!) the same top-heavy structure and shaky practices that caused the crash are being kept in place.

In other words, the foxes who ate the chickens keep being put in charge of designing the new hen house--so nothing really changes.

This is more than frustrating, it's infuriating --and it's debilitating for our democracy. As a fellow said to me about the lack of real changes in national policy during the Clinton presidency, "I don't mind losing when we lose, but I hate losing when we win."

Why does this keep happening to us, and who's doing it? It's not merely a matter of too many fickle and pusillanimous politicians--they're the on-stage actors in this drama, but not the producers, not the ones behind the scenes plotting to thwart the people's democratic will. Who, specifically, are these plotters, and how do they impose their narrow agenda of self-interest over the public interest?

For the rest of the Lowdown on the Koch brothers and their secret privately held company click here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whip Congress: 51 Votes for Public Option if House Goes First. Take Action Now!

26dems Editorial Comment:

The Progressive Action Change committee reports that 41 Senators have signed a letter stating that they will support the public option for health care reform. Recently another six Senators have said publicly to constituents and in interviews that they support a public option, but have expressed concern about whether there are enough votes in the House to pass it. If the House passes a bill with the public option. Today Rep. Kucinich told the President that despite deeply-held concerns, he will cast his vote in favor of the public option when the House votes. The momentum is turning and will likely encourage enough Senators to firm up their support for the public option. Max Baucus, D-MT, Mark Warner D-VA, Jim Webb D-VA and Robert Byrd D-WV, the late Senator Kennedy's best friend in the Senate, are expected to vote in favor the public option, bringing the total number of Senators in support to 51, enough to pass through Reconciliation.

Take Action today on St. Patrick's Day to honor Sen. Ted Kennedy's memory by encouraging Democratic Senators holding back their votes on public option to do right by the American people and for Teddy, who gave his all for this dream!

Be sure to thank Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for her strong support of the public option. Click here to send Gabby an email.

Sign the petitions at Boldprogressives.org

Watch the Videos Below, then contact the Senators leaning toward the public option. Contact them through these web site links.

Counted as Likely Supporters of public option

Max Baucus D-MT 202-224-2651
Mark Warner D-VA 202-224-2023
Jim Webb D-VA 202-224-4024
Robert Byrd D-WV 202-224-3954

Counted as Committed by Public Statements

Kay Hagan D-NC 202-224-6342
Claire McCaskill D-MO 202-224-6154
Tom Harkin D-IA 202-224-3254
Jay Rockefeller D-WV 202-224-6472
Herb Kohl D-WI 202-224-5653
Mark Begich D-AK 202-224-3004

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

COUNTDOWN: Virginia Thomas' Tea Party Activism "Injudicious" Says Jonathan Turley

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

MSNBC Countdown: Former Bush State Department Official Col. Larry Wilkerson Denounces Rove as Coward for his Pride in Torture


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas Textbook MASSACRE: 'Ultraconservatives' Approve Radical Changes, Nix Democracy: Thomas Jefferson Cut from Curriculum & More

Huffington Post
First Posted: 03-13-10 03:18 PM | Updated: 03-13-10 04:03 PM

AUSTIN, Texas - A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

Thomas Jefferson struck out of textbooks, replaced with John Calvin

Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

"We have been about conservatism versus liberalism," said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. "We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it's appropriate."

Following three days of impassioned and acrimonious debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 party line vote. A final vote is expected in May, after a public comment period that could produce additional amendments and arguments.
Decisions by the board -- made up of lawyers, a dentist and a weekly newspaper publisher among others -- can affect textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers' biggest clients.
Ultraconservatives wielded their power over hundreds of subjects this week, introducing and rejecting amendments on everything from the civil rights movement to global politics. Hostilities flared and prompted a walkout Thursday by one of the board's most prominent Democrats, Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi, who accused her colleagues of "whitewashing" curriculum standards.

By late Thursday night, three other Democrats seemed to sense their futility and left, leaving Republicans to easily push through amendments heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention.

To continue reading and see a slideshow of the most radical changes approved by Texas's education board click here.

Dylan Ratigan: Lehman Brothers: The Next Enron?


MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan examines the parallels between the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the fall of Enron with former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, "the Sheriff of Wall Street"

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Read Huffington Post Article Lehman Bankruptcy Report: Top Officials Manipulated Balance Sheets, JPMorgan And Citi Contributed To Collapse and scroll down to read the first part of the report at the end of the article:

The examiner in charge of investigating the collapse of venerable Wall Street investment house Lehman Brothers, the most expensive bankruptcy in U.S. history, said in a report publicly released Thursday that senior officials failed to disclose key practices, opening them up to legal claims, and that JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup contributed to the firm's collapse. In addition, the report concludes that the firm's auditor, Ernst & Young, failed to meet "professional standards."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Republicans Use Filibuster to Prevent Government from Working for the American People

Guest Commentary
Fri, 03/05/2010 - 6:40pm.

The filibuster is used to protect minority interests in the Senate, ensuring that minority interests are not trampled by the popular party.
However, the Republicans have used the filibuster to simply paralyze government. Creating this paralysis feeds the Republican talking point that government doesn't work and should be slashed.
In fact, the reason why "government doesn't work" is because Republican senators use the filibuster to prevent essential legislation from becoming law. Republicans can thus block the legislative process, then blame "the system" for being unworkable.
Curiously, almost every major news story covering congressional gridlock spreads the blame around evenly between both Republicans and Democrats. We're told that the problem is "the system," and "bipartisan bickering." However, the facts show a more specific problem. The reason why nothing is getting done in Washington today is because the Republican Senate's record-breaking use of the filibuster. Republicans, in the minority in the 2007-2008 session of congress, used the filibuster 112 times. The most that Democrats resorted to the tactic, when they were in the minority in 1999-2000, was 58.

Friday, March 5, 2010

'Soul of a Citizen' Excerpt: What Cynicism Costs

Posted by Paul Rogat Loeb in Editorials & Other Articles
Democratic Underground

Fri Mar 05th 2010, 12:07 PM

With over 100,000 copies in print, my book "Soul of a Citizen" has inspired thousands of citizens to make their voices heard and actions count--and to stay involved for the long haul. I spent the past year writing a wholly revised new edition, which St Martin's will publish March 30, and which HuffPo will serialize each Thursday for the next several months. I like to think of it as an antidote to the political demoralization, paralysis, and despair that so many people are feeling these days. Here's the first excerpt, adapted from the chapter called "The Cynical Smirk.

When America elected Barack Obama, cynicism seemed in retreat, beaten back by a wave of ordinary people staking their time, money, and spirit on the prospect of significant change. We seemed to have reached a major historical turning point, offering the chance finally to address our country's root crises. Now, cynicism and despair have bounced back on steroids, as if to mock any new hope that we can help create a better world. Last year's soaring expectations seem distant memories, leaving a bitter taste. Obama's campaign made grassroots participation central, and he's invited us to help him do the right thing in office. But his compromises and the failings of Senate leaders to overcome the resistance of their obstructionist colleagues have destroyed much of the grassroots enthusiasm that existed a year ago. Meanwhile, those of us whose passionate engagement helped elect Obama haven't stepped up to help define our national debates (while the Teabaggers have). Most of us have done little in the past year beyond signing online letters or petitions, and watching shell-shocked from the sidelines as the country's politics spiraled steadily downward. Yet I still believe that we can help transform America through what Nelson Mandela called "the multiplication of courage," as I explore in "Soul of a Citizen." But for that resurgence of courage to bloom, we need to get past the cynical resignation that assumes change is impossible.

* * *
What happens when we decide that our politics is so corrupt, bought and paid for, that all talk of ever changing it is naïve? "Everybody lies," says a veteran newspaperman quoted in the Utne Reader, "but it doesn't matter, because nobody listens." In an extreme personal example, imagine a man who tells his young son to jump from the stairs into his arms. The father catches the boy twice, but the third time steps back and lets him fall. "That's to teach you never to trust anyone," he explains, "even your own father."

We've come to expect comparable betrayals when we think about changing our society. A long-powerful strain in our culture posits all businesspeople and politicians as corrupt, all religious leaders charlatans, all journalists hacks--and all who'd dare to try to work to change their society naïve fools. Increasingly, it's come to occupy the mental and psychological space we could reserve for hope--at least for the kind of hope that might inspire us to take larger political stands. Better to expect nothing, in this view, than to set ourselves up for certain disappointment.
Taken far enough, this kind of cynical resignation can become as great a barrier to meaningful public action as all other obstacles combined.
Continue reading here.

CNN "Debate" Brands Democrat Alan Grayson As Every Bit as "Crazy" As Michelle Bachmann

Published on Thursday, March 4, 2010 by Salon.com
Who Are the Actual 'Crazy' People in American Politics?
by Glenn Greenwald
CommonDreams.org My Salon colleague, Mark Benjamin, writes about last night's Larry King Show -- featuring a debate between Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson and GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann -- and does so by repeatedly branding Grayson as being every bit as "crazy" as Bachmann. Beginning with the article's headline ("Bachmann and Grayson: A diary of crazy") to his sarcastic description of "these two towering intellects" to his claim that Grayson and Bachmann are "the Candy Stripers of Crazy of their parties," Benjamin denigrates Grayson's intellect and mental health by depicting him -- with virtually no cited basis -- as the Democratic mirror image of Bachmann's rabid, out-of-touch extremism. This view of Grayson has become a virtual Washington platitude, solidified by The New York Times' David Herszenhorn's dismissal of Grayson as "the latest incarnation of what in the American political idiom is known as a wing nut."

But more important, Grayson has managed to have more positive impact on more substantive matters than any House freshman in a long time (indeed, he makes more of a positive impact than the vast majority of members of Congress generally). He has tapped into his background as successful litigator and his Harvard degrees in law and public policy to shape public discussion on a wide range of issues -- from his highly effective grilling of the Fed Vice Chair regarding massive, secretive Fed activities and aggressive investigation of the fraud surrounding the Wall Street bailout to his unparalleled work exposing defense contractor corruption, his efforts to warn of the unconstitutional underpinnings of anti-ACORN legislation (a federal court proved him right), his creative (if not wise) legislative proposals to limit corporate influence in politics, and his successful, bipartisan crusade to bring more transparency to the Fed. What conceivable basis exists for disparaging as "crazy" one of the few members of Congress who is both willing and able to bring attention to some of the most severe corruption and worst excesses of our political establishment?

© 2010 Salon
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.

To continue reading click here.

Stop "Neuromarketing"| Support Ethical Advertising| Sign The Petition

Corporations and political candidates are using MRIs, EEGs, and other brain-scan technology to craft irresistible media messages designed to shift buying habits, political beliefs, and voting patterns.

Visit EthicMark to find out which advertisers have earned this stamp of approval.

WATCH VIDEO, Then Sign Petition here:

Read "Spellcasters": The Hunt for the "Buy-Button" in Your Brain
Friday 22 January 2010
by: World Business Academy, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Editor's Note: Truthout is joining with the World Business Academy in an effort to demonstrate popular opposition to the unethical practice of neuromarketing manipulation.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Domestic Violence: A Pre-Existing Condition?

By Amy Goodman
Mar 2, 2010

March is Women’s History Month, recognizing women’s central role in society. Unfortunately, violence against women is epidemic in the United States and around the world.

Domestic violence is on the minds of many now, as reports published by The New York Times implicate New York Gov. David Paterson in an alleged attempt to influence a domestic violence case against one of his top aides. The Times reports, based in part on unnamed sources, say that the Paterson aide, David W. Johnson, attacked his girlfriend on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 2009, “choking her, smashing her into a mirrored dresser and preventing her from calling for help.” New York state police from the governor’s personal protection detail contacted the victim, despite having no jurisdiction. Then the governor himself intervened, the Times alleges, asking two aides to contact the victim and to arrange a phone call between him and the victim. The call occurred on Feb. 7 of this year, the night before the victim was to appear in court to request an order of protection from Johnson. She did not appear in court, and the case was dismissed. After the exposé, the governor ended his bid for election and suspended Johnson without pay.

Denise O’Donnell, Paterson’s deputy secretary for public safety and commissioner of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, resigned last week, saying, “The behavior alleged here is the antithesis of what many of us have spent our entire careers working to build—a legal system that protects victims of domestic violence and brings offenders to justice.” The National Organization for Women, a longtime ally of Paterson, has called on him to resign.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

For the rest of the story, click here.

FACEBOOK.Com: Fight Smears, Stop "King" Rush

Join Facebook.com/Fightsmears Recruit Friends

26dems Editorial Comment: Contrary to his populist image as the angry spokesman who speaks "for us" as a man for the people, Rush in reality has royalist tastes, and is speaking up for the big money Republican party and Wall Street. Every day he cranks up the Republican noise machine and repeats the mantra that Obama wants to raise taxes. But he doesn't say that the true "man of the people" President Obama is fighting to make the wealthy pay their fair share, as the top one percent did when Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon were in office. The truth is that under President Obama, taxes have decreased, but polls say Americans have swallowed Rushspeak. Rush doesn't say that the President is fighting an obstructionist Republican Senate to establish a Consumer Protection Agency that will fight for "us," Why? Because Rush wants all of "us" to fail because he's all for protecting the profits of his friends, the Wall Street elite who are picking our pockets every day, to keep "us" from getting ahead. Rush openly brags that he wants Obama to fail. Rush's megaphone is echoed by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and New York Times and Fox News. Main stream media spread Rush's propaganda as truth, far and wide as people die from lack of insurance, devastated by a lingering recession and a jobless recovery that hurts children by depriving them of education health care. Rush has built his empire on the backs of ordinary working people, laughing all the way to the bank. It's time for "us" to call his bluff and expose his agenda as a GOP return to power to crush "us." It's time to fight the smears that are confusing Americans and leading "us" down the wrong track.

Click on the picture to watch the Brave New Films VIDEO

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Leaked GOP Memo Plays on Donor Fears of Obama, Socialism

Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'

3/3/10 4:23 PM EST

The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to "save the country from trending toward socialism."

The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”

The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.

In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party’s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.

For the whole slide show and article, click here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bunning Blockade Leads To 21 Percent Fee Cut For Doctors

By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo
March 1, 2010, 3:22PM

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is already infamous for blocking a temporary extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits for out of work Americans. But included in that package is legislation to prevent a mandatory pay cut for doctors--and by standing in its way, he's triggered a 21 percent fee reduction to doctors seeing Medicare patients starting today.

Republicans say they support a temporary measure to avoid the cuts, but they have been unable to rein in Bunning, and, as such, the Senate has failed to act on a House bill that staves them off.

The American Medical Association warned of this last week: "A Medicare meltdown now seems certain, as the U.S. Senate has left early for the weekend, abandoning seniors, military families and baby boomers," reads an AMA statement from Friday. "The Senate failed to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula that will cause a drastic 21 percent payment cut to physicians who care for Medicare and TRICARE patients. On Monday, the 21 percent cut goes into effect, forcing many physicians to limit the number of Medicare and TRICARE patients they see in order to keep their practice doors open."

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) put it this way: "By his actions, Bunning has prevented people from receiving Unemployment, health care access, transportation projects from going forward, and Doctors who provide Medicare services from getting paid."

Today, for the seventh time, Bunning objected to a request for unanimous consent to temporarily extend benefits. In addition to cutting doctor's fees, his exploitation of the Senate's filibuster rules has cost thousands of out-of-work Americans their benefits and has even put thousands of federal employees out of work.

Democrats hope to resolve the issues in a longer-term way by passing jobs bill (which includes benefits extensions and a so-called "doc-fix" for Medicare reimbursement rates) next week. In the mean time they're bracing for Bunning and the GOP to take as many steps as possible to delay legislative progress.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to force an end to debate on the confirmation of Barbara Keenan to the fourth circuit court of appeals. Keenan's nomination is so non-controversial, that she was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously. But hat one procedural delay will eat up over two days of floor time.

It's unclear at this point whether the lost benefits and reimbursements can be retroactively restored.

Monday, March 1, 2010

GOP Sen. Kyl: Unemployment Benefits Make People Not Want To Get A Job

By Ryan Grim
Huffington Post

A debate on the Senate floor Monday over unemployment compensation crystallized, at least for a moment, the divide between the two parties in Washington.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting "because people are being paid even though they're not working."


Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.

"I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here," said Kyl.

Unemployment benefits are generally so small that much of it is often used to pay for COBRA health insurance, even when subsidized. The size of the benefits does not generally cover the cost of living and it would be hard to find a single person who would prefer unemployment to having a job so that they could get subsidized COBRA.

HuffPost readers: Have you received a letter notifying you that you would lose your benefits? Have you missed a check? Please let us know -- email arthur@huffingtonpost.com.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), about as far from a populist as can be found in the Democratic Party, appeared surprised at Kyl's claim.

"The Senator from Arizona argues that unemployment insurance is a disincentive to jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't know anybody who's out of work and is receiving some unemployment insurance believes that that payment is sufficient not to find a job. The payments are so much lower than any salary or wage would be, it's just ridiculous. I might add, there are five unemployed Americans today for every job opening in the economy," said Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee. "People are looking for work. They're not unemployed because of choice."

He added that Kyl's economic argument was flawed, as well. Unemployment benefits do create jobs because the recipients cycle the money through the economy. He cited a Congressional Budget Office analysis that said the Gross Domestic Product grew $1.90 for every dollar the federal government paid out.

Baucus, ever the bipartisan, gave Kyl a chance to take his accusation back.

"I don't know if the senator really meant this, but he certainly strongly implied, in fact, I took him to mean that unemployment insurance is a disincentive for people to look for work," said Baucus.

Kyl asked to clarify. "My colleague quoted me correctly -- almost correctly," he said. "I said, it's not a job creator. If anything, it could be argued that it is a disincentive for work, because people are being paid even though they're not working. I certainly did not say, and would never imply, that the reason people don't have jobs is because they're not looking for them. Now, it is true that a lot of Americans have gotten so tired of looking for jobs or -- or believe that they're not gong to find them, that they have stopped looking."

Still, Kyl concluded by standing by his statement.

"What I said is true and if my colleague could find a source that says it's not true, then please show me. But providing unemployment benefits does not create jobs," he said, though Baucus had already directed him to the CBO analysis.

Kyl could also consult economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "It puts money into people's pockets and they spend almost all of it. That creates jobs," he said.