Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday Classics preview: Colin Davis's surprising triumph in Mahler


Tenor René Kollo sings "On Youth" from Mahler's Song of the Earth, with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein, in May 1972.
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth):
iii. "Von der Jugend" ("On Youth")

[English translation by Deryck Cooke]

In the middle of the little pool
stands a pavilion of green
and of white porcelain.

Like the back of a tiger
arches the bridge of jade
over to the pavilion.

In the little house friends are sitting,
beautifully dressed, drinking, chatting;
several are writing verses.

Their silken sleeves slip
backwards, their silken caps
perch gaily on the back of their necks.

On the little pool's still
surface everything appears
fantastically in a mirror image.

Everything is standing on its head
in the pavilion of green
and of white porcelain;

Like a half-moon stands the bridge,
upside-down its arch. Friends,
beautifully dressed, are drinking, chatting.

by Ken

In this series devoted to Colin Davis, my general proposition has been that most really good CD performances seem to result from our boy "just doing it" -- hearing basic qualities in music and executing them decisively. This doesn't leave a lot of room for imagination or "creative re-creation," or what in general I would think of as really enlightened or illuminating interpretation.

And then there was his recording of Mahler's Das Lied von Der Erde (The Song of the Earth), the song-symphony composed based on Hans Bethge's German translations of Chinese poems composed between the Eighth and Ninth Symphonies. Crucially, it was conceived and composed following the diagnosis of the composer's untreatable heart disease. It would be hard to think of a work that depends more on deep understanding, of empathetic projection of its tiniest musical cells. Not, in other words, material in which we would expect to hear CD at his most persuasive.

And certainly CD's other Mahler recordings -- of the First, Fourth, and Eighth Symphonies, that I know -- are the generally drab affairs one might expect. But the recording of Das Lied . . . .


Read more »

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Israeli pols take the first step toward making the country an officially racist state


Yariv Levin: laying the legal groundwork for Israeli apartheid

"If [Yariv Levin's proposed new Basic Law] will be accepted, Israel will be able to proudly hold the title of a Jewish and racist state, a unique political creation, which will certainly astonish the family of nations."
-- from an editorial in Haaretz [full text available
for subscribers and registered users only]

by Ken

Will it really? I mean, would such a concrete step toward apartheid, if enacted, "certainly astonish the family of nations"?

To Israel's detractors it would hardly mean much more than a touch of honesty in the official policy of institutional denial of basic rights to the country's Arab citizens. Whereas those who support Israel blindly will pay it no attention, just as the "Israel can do no wrong" crowd habitually ignores the evidence of Israeli fascism.

This just leaves those of us who wish Israel well, but not in the form its extreme right-wing loons have increasingly enforced on their countrymen. And what could we do but throw up our hands once again in the face of yet more evidence that the no-criticism-allowed supporters of Israel truly want to see their state go up in flames.

People with open eyes and working brains have been pointing out for a long time now that Israel is a ticking demographic time bomb -- that since it insists on living in its illegal expanded borders, it's just a matter of time before it becomes a minority-Jewish state, at which point it can no longer claim to be both a Jewish state and a democratic one.

Of course the Israeli Right by and large doesn't care, having not even a sentimental attachment to the idea of democracy. Still, it's going to be a mighty embarrassment to the outside world, especially since there's a key element missing. As the Haaretz editorial we're going to look at in a moment puts it:
The exclusion of the Arab minority in Israel has until now lacked a vital basis to its institutionalization. There is no law discriminating against Arabs, limiting where they may settle, negating their language as an official language or determining that they are challenging the state's Jewish identity.
You'll recall that following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's surprisingly tepid performance in the last election, he now heads a coaltion government in which some surprising voices are making themselves heard.

Basic Law: Apartheid in Israel

The proposal put forth by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin is nothing short of an apartheid law, aiming to provide a solid legal basis for the exclusion of Israel's Arab minority.

Haaretz Editorial | 30.05.13 |

The exclusion of the Arab minority in Israel has until now lacked a vital basis to its institutionalization. There is no law discriminating against Arabs, limiting where they may settle, negating their language as an official language or determining that they are challenging the state's Jewish identity.

Israel has been forced until now to rely on tricks, excuses and winks to prevent Arabs from working in so-called sensitive places of work, delay building plans in their communities, limit how many of them reside in Jewish communities and not enforce the use of Arabic in official correspondences. Only in a few instances did the High Court of Justice intervene and the government had no choice but to obey the ruling.

Coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin decided to put an end to this murky reality and provide the unofficial apartheid policy a legal basis. Levin is proposing the Basic Law: State of the Nation, which is nothing short of an apartheid law. If it will be accepted, Israel will be able to proudly hold the title of a Jewish and racist state, a unique political creation, which will certainly astonish the family of nations.

Levin proposes, among other things, mandatory construction of Jewish communities, while building Arab communities will need authorization; abolishing Arabic as an official language and mandating the courts to give precedence in their rulings to Jewish identity in questions of democratic values and equal rights. That is to say, to give precedence to "Jewish" over "democratic" in defining the state.

Arabs will enjoy at best the status of a tolerated minority, with the option of turning them into a non-tolerated minority down the line, one which needs to be rid of because its presence spoils the state's Jewish purity.

Levin and his comrades have a vision: The racist state won't suffice with its recognized borders. It will officially adopt the living space divinely promised to it. "The Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and where the state of Israel was established," the bill reads. Finally, the messianic dream will have a geographic, legal identity, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Levin is no joke, and he is far from being the exception. He is continuing the way paved by Avi Dichter, who failed in his efforts to legitimize apartheid. Moreover, he is a competitor with MK Ruth Calderon, a member of Yesh Atid, who is promoting together with Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked a similar bill, which at its heart subjugates democracy to the state's Jewish identity.

Instead of purging elements of racism from within its ranks, it turns out that the present coalition is also promoting apartheid in the guise of "new politics."
Listen again to the editorial writer's summation of the proposal: "Arabs will enjoy at best the status of a tolerated minority, with the option of turning them into a non-tolerated minority down the line, one which needs to be rid of because its presence spoils the state's Jewish purity."

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Joe Manchin-- Best Friend Of King Coal


Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin is very popular in West Virginia and he is widely associated with the state's coal mining industry, not necessarily with the coal miners and their families, but with the coal mine owners and managers. When Cecil Roberts, United Mine Workers president, in the video above, yells, "They tried to bamboozle us, they tried to rob us, they tried to steal from us.," no one could have mistaken him for the state's junior senator. "Peabody's got thousand dollar an hour attorneys; and they got a dollar an hour morals." Last year alone Peabody ponied up $34,100 for Manchin's reelection campaign. The crooked parent company, Patriot Coal, kicked down another $48,400. During the 2012 cycle the mining industry greased Manchin's procession into the Senate with $641,548 in legalistic bribes. Their second favorite Member of Congress was John Boehner and they gave him $379,917. Among their top 15 most bribed Members of Congress, Manchin was the only Democrat.

So it was pretty extraordinary to see Manchin-- and Manchin looking pretty chastened-- on MSNBC with Chris Hayes Thursday evening. Not on Fox News-- on MSNBC. He seemed in shock that King Coal could be so ruthless in its unending war against West Virginia's working families. Where has he been? Oh, yeah... cashing all the checks the industry bankrolled his campaign with. Meanwhile, Patriot Coal thinks they can just steal a BILLION dollars from workers' pensions without any consequences or accountability. The Charleston Gazette called it "a travesty" in an editorial... and that was a quote from King Coal's best friend, Joe Manchin!
Here's a sobering question: If huge coal corporations like Peabody and Arch can elude pension and medical liabilities by transferring them to a spinoff firm that declares bankruptcy, why can't many U.S. companies escape their union contracts in the same manner?

This possibility is raised by Wednesday's bankruptcy court decision letting Patriot Coal shed $150 million yearly obligations owed to retired miners. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., exploded:
"This ruling is a travesty. It is wrong that Peabody can set up a company such as Patriot, fill that company with its liabilities and then spin that company off for the sole purpose of avoiding its contractual and moral obligations to its workers. I don't think bankruptcy laws were ever designed to shield corporations from their promises and responsibilities."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., added:
"Once again, we are seeing how the bankruptcy system is stacked against the American worker. I will continue fighting to put workers and employers on a level playing field by closing the legal loopholes that allow companies to pad their profits while abusing the legal system to escape from the promises they made. It's tragic to watch how some industries treat their workers after they've given much of their lives to these companies."
In 2007, Peabody Energy-- the world's largest coal firm-- created Patriot and put its unionized mines into it. The following year, Arch Coal did likewise, putting union mines into a spinoff that merged into Patriot. Then Patriot declared bankruptcy, saying it can't afford $1.6 billion worker and retiree commitments it made.

Wiping out Patriot's pension and health benefits would halt life support for about 10,000 retired West Virginia and Kentucky miners, plus 13,000 dependents. In the bankruptcy plan approved Wednesday, Patriot will cease pension contributions and put medical insurance into a voluntary system funded by $15 million up-front cash and a $300 million profit-sharing pledge. The United Mine Workers would be given 35 percent ownership of Patriot.

More complications: If Patriot leaves an industry-wide miner pension system, it may be forced to pay a $959 million "withdrawal liability," say other coal corporations who would have to make up the lost pension funds.

Further, Patriot says it may sue Peabody on grounds that the coal giant committed a "fraudulent transfer" by giving Patriot its union obligations in 2007. What a mess.

Labor professor Bob Bruno of the University of Illinois summed up:

"If you can in fact spin off ... your legacy obligations ... and then walk away ... it's going to completely undermine what it means to get into contractual obligations in the workplace."
Stacked deck anyone? Inspiration:

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DSCC Getting Its Dream Candidate, Joe Miller, Against Begich In Alaska?


DSCC & Tea Party agree Joe Miller should be the GOP nominee. The GOP... not so much

In the Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, voters across the country were clear that after weeks of intense right-wing propaganda and Establishment media drummed up poutrage, the GOP Scandalpalooza isn't as important to anyone as it is to deranged Republicans. By enormous margins-- 73-22%-- voters said dealing with the economy is a higher priority than the IRS, Benghazi, and Associated Press controversies the congressional Republicans are putting virtually all their energy into.
American voters say 43- 32 percent that congressional criticism of the Obama Administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Libya is 'just politics.' Voters say 44- 33 percent, however, that members of Congress who criticize the way the Obama Administration handled the IRS are raising 'legitimate concerns.' Criticism of the Justice Department's seizure of journalists' phone records also raises 'legitimate concerns,' voters say 37- 24 percent.

...But voters say 73- 22 percent that dealing with the economy and unemployment is a higher priority than investigating these three issues.
And the highest priority for Democrats is working to improve the economy-- especially Senate Democrats. As Greg Sargent pointed out in his Washington Post column yesterday, after reading the same Quinnipiac poll, "a variety of indicators, from rising home prices to buoyed consumer confidence to falling gas prices, suggest that the economy is improving at a stronger clip than previously anticipated."
If the recovery is strong next year, it could help Dems hold the Senate. That’s because, with Democrats fighting on defense across the board, Dem control of the Senate hinges on whether a half dozen incumbents can hang on. And an improving economy can help incumbents. As Amy Walter of the nonpartisan [actually it's extremely skewed towards Republicans but Greg writes in DC so...] Cook Political Report explains:
Good economic times are good for incumbents. After all, voters are more apt to look for change in tough times than they are in good ones. Significant economic anxiety contributed to the “wave” elections of 2008 and 2010. In 2012, the economy improved just enough to help President Obama win re-election.

This year, Americans’ confidence in the economy is as strong as it’s been in years. If that continues, it would probably mean a status quo cycle; which is the best that Democrats could hope for.

Democrats are the underdogs in 2014. They are defending seven Senate seats in deep red states, while Republicans have no vulnerable seats to protect…The best case scenario for Democrats is 2014 to limit their losses. An improving economic outlook could help them do that. The economic environment is much improved from where it was right before Election Day 2010. And, it’s even a bit better than it was in the fall of 2012.
And one of those deep red states with a Democratic senator is Alaska-- and Mark Begich, who has upset his own base with a series of wrong-headed right-wing votes, like backing the NRA demand to kill background checks (which is very popular in Alaska). Alaska is a tough environment for Democrats in statewide races. Obama only drew 41% of the vote there last year, worse than he did in Georgia, South Carolina, or Mississippi. And when Begich first won, in 2008-- with the incumbent Republican embroiled in a series of outrageous corruption scandals on the front pages of every newspaper-- it was a very slim lead: 151,767 (48%) to 147,814 (47%). Two years later, Scott McAdams, the Democratic challenger to GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski, came in third. Murkowski, who had narrowly lost the primary to a neo-fascist teabagger named Joe Miller, ran in the general as an independent write-in candidate and won with 101,091 (40%), while Miller, the official Republican candidate took 90,839 votes (36%) and McAdams trailed with a mere 60,045 (23%).

Many Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents abandoned McAdams when polls showed he had no chance and voted for Murkowski to prevent the crazed teabagger from winning the seat. Well... the crazed teabagger is back. He wants to Republican nomination again, this time to run against Begich. A recent PPP survey found that Alaska voters are angry at Begich for voting against background checks. But will they vote for a certifiably insane militant gun loon instead?
When we polled Alaska in February Lisa Murkowski was one of the most popular Senators in the country with a 54% approval rating and only 33% of voters disapproving of her. She's seen a precipitous decline in the wake of her background checks vote though. Her approval is down a net 16 points from that +21 standing to +5 with 46% of voters approving and 41% now disapproving of her. Murkowski has lost most of her appeal to Democrats in the wake of her vote, with her numbers with them going from 59/25 to 44/44. And the vote hasn't increased her credibility with Republican either-- she was at 51/38 with them in February and she's at 50/39 now.

Mark Begich is down following his no vote as well. He was at 49/39 in February and now he's at 41/37. His popularity has declined with Democrats (from 76/17 to 59/24) and with independents (from 54/32 to 43/35), and there has been no corresponding improvement with Republicans. He had a 24% approval rating with them two months ago and he has a 24% approval rating with them now.

60% of Alaska voters support background checks to just 35% opposed, including a 62/33 spread with independents. 39% of voters say they're less likely to vote for each of Begich and Murkowski in their next elections based on this vote, while only 22% and 26% say they're more likely to vote for Begich and Murkowski respectively because of this.

Alaska will definitely be a high-profile, high-priority Senate battleground state this year. There's probably no one Begich would rather see as his opponent than Miller.
Apparently, the 2010 loss still smarts. Miller seems almost to be running as much against Murkowski as Begich.

“Though I was labeled an ‘extremist’ by the likes of Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich for telling the truth, both of our sitting senators now routinely engage in such ‘extremist’ rhetoric with respect to federal overreach, government spending, and entitlement reform,” Miller writes on his Restoring Liberty website.

Miller’s political manifesto is straight out of the tea party wing of the Republican Party.

“With the re-election of Barack Obama, our very way of self-government is in peril,” he says. “The Constitution is under attack, the value of human life degraded, religious liberties are threatened, the Second Amendment is increasingly in jeopardy, and the right to protection from unlawful search and seizure is giving way to a virtual surveillance State.”

He warns of a “looming debt crisis” and “the coming downgrade of America’s credit rating.” The US senators he says he most admires: Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah-- those who will “confront President Obama, not one who will cut a deal to negotiate the terms of our surrender to his radical socialist agenda.”

...Earlier this month, a state judge ordered Miller to pay $85,000 in attorney’s fees to the Alaska Dispatch online news organization in Anchorage tied to a 2010 lawsuit to make public Miller’s employment records during his time as a part-time government lawyer. At one point in the dust-up, Miller’s security men at a town hall meeting handcuffed the editor of the Alaska Dispatch.

“Miller’s conduct, which included taking inconsistent positions, failing to disclose information during discovery, and his procedural filing, which the record did not support, all caused unnecessary delay and costs for both Alaska Dispatch” and the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides wrote in her ruling.

Is there any chance that Ms. Palin could jump into Alaska’s 2014 US Senate race? It may be unlikely, but recent polls could tempt the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee.

She enjoys a 62 percent favorable rating among Republican voters in the state, according to a Harper Polling survey earlier this month, and she leads Miller 52 percent to 19 percent in a hypothetical head-to-head match.

Miller, meanwhile, has a 49 percent to 34 percent unfavorable-favorable rating in that poll.
So, will the Democratic base forgive Begich his dalliance with the NRA and his generally conservative Republican voting record? Blue America certainly will not be adding him to our Senate page of endorsed candidates but I suspect that Alaska Democrats will hold their noses and vote for him... IF Miller is the nominee (or Palin). Miller is now publicly embracing the term "extremist" to describe him and his agenda:

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New Dem Patrick Murphy (FL) Is Asking For A Favor. Why Doesn't He Ask Big Oil Instead Of Bothering Us?


Lifelong Republican Patrick Murphy now calls himself a "New Dem"

Murphy's pathetic, pleading spam yesterday:
We've done so much together already-- we've stood up for students, called for sensible budget solutions and so much more. I'm so proud of the work we've done so far, and we have so much more to do.

But, Democrats nationwide are facing big end-of-month budget deadlines tomorrow. And, our campaign is no different. We just had not one but TWO opponents announce they were getting in against us. We need to have a strong showing... We've got to show my opponents that we mean business, so we can keep working together, for the middle class, seniors, and students.
And that's accompanied by all kinds of requests for donations-- but no mention of his many recent forays across the aisle to vote with the Republicans. "Can I count on you to make a contribution before my big May fundraising deadline," he begged at the end. Of course the answer from me is that he should hold his breath until he sees my contribution.

Among the short career highlights of Murphy's miserable first 5 months in Congress that he neglected to mention to his donors was his vote last week for the Keystone XL Pipeline. I wonder why he forgot! Maybe because there are so many times he crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans that he can't even remember the most recent ones-- like joining the Republicans to penalize workers who try to get legitimate overtime pay, voting with the Republicans to pass CISPA, and voting against the Progressive Caucus Budget and the moderate Senate Budget as alternatives to Paul Ryan's Ayn Rand budget. And those were just in the past 2 months.

Murphy has the worst voting record of any New Dem in Congress-- and a ProgressivePunch crucial vote score of 44.44, exactly the same dismal score as John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX) Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX) and fellow Wall Street whore and New Dem Sean Patrick Maloney (NY). Only two Arizona arch-conservatives, each a sure bet to lose in 2014, have voted more frequently with the GOP than Murphy has.

And he's doing even greater damage as one of the corrupt New Dems on the House Financial Services Committee, where he regularly votes with the Republicans to advance the interests of Wall Street banksters, while shafting ordinary working families. He even started his own anti-progressive caucus, United Solutions, with a gaggle of far right Republican extremists and few naive and confused Democratic freshmen.

If you want to support a progressive for Congress in Florida, someone who will be on Alan Grayson's team, not Daniel Webster's team, please consider Nick Ruiz, the Democratic candidate in the Orlando area running for the seat that John Mica has been misrepresenting for far too long. Even $5 and $10 contributions to Nick's campaign are very much appreciated.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Back to work


by Ken

Michele Bachmann and her curious withdrawal from the world of electoral politics can wait. Ditto the steady drumbeat of the Israeli march to fascism. Because I went back to work today.

I got a jolt when I settled into my desk this morning, for the first time since I shut down my computer at the end of the day on Friday, April 12, with knee-replacement surgery scheduled for the following Monday. I knew back then that I wouldn't be able to return to work until I was cleared by my doctor, and that that couldn't happen until my six-week follow-up exam on May 29. It's true, I told coworkers that if I was cleared, I was prepared to return the next day. (We're pretty thinly staffed in what no longer qualifies as a department. We're more of a nodule.) What I forgot was that I had flipped my desk calendar to Thursday, May 30.

Okay, there were shaky moments. Like when I got on the elevator and looked at the buttons and had to guess. It was an educated guess, though -- "14" looked good. (It was right.) Probably my mind was still on going through a metal detector for the first time post-surgery. (As I've mentioned, I work in the building that adjoins the New York Stock Exchange, and we're part of the same security zone. Every time we enter the building we have to go through the bag-check checkpoint in the DMZ out on Broad Street and then through X-ray bag check and a metal detector inside. Often I don't go out during the day just to save the hassle.) The thing is, the metal detector didn't go off! Which really threw me.

Later in the day, when I was returning from a physical-therapy session, and assumed it wouldn't go off, naturally it did.

I wish I had something more profound to share about My First Day Back. I couldn't actually let myself into the office because I didn't have my electronic card, which somehow, sometime seems to have fallen out of my wallet. I did have my building ID card, though. So I had to make an entrance like company, more or less. Then I had to change my computer password in order to log on. And then there were doughnuts to celebrate my return. (There was also fruit for the health-conscious.)

It felt a strange combination of strange and not-strange. The best part is that it was Day 1 of a two-day work week. The two-day work week has long been a dream of mine. How often do our dreams come true, even on a one-time-only basis?

Actually, I wound up the day pretty tired, and that second day is looking like a challenge.

A Government Of The Rich, By The Rich And, More Than Anything Else, FOR The Rich


A bunch of slimy New Dems-- your father's Republican Party

Almost half the Members of Congress (48%) are millionaires and most of the rest are there at the sufferance of millionaires and billionaires who finance their miserable political careers. The median estimated net worth of all 535 Members is about $966,000, although higher among the freshmen-- $1,066,515. The richest freshmen are New Dem mega-millionaires who bought their seats in Congress the way you go out for a nice dinner on your birthday-- John Delaney (MD) and Scott Peters (CA), each worth a couple million bucks-- which goes a long way towards explaining why they don't vote for-- let alone comprehend-- the interests of ordinary working families. Delaney, for example, is all about wrecking Social Security... after all, who needs that pesky annoyance? A better question: why is he a Democrat? Or why did the DCCC recruit someone like that? Oh, yeah, they take any self-funder no matter what he or she thinks.

So it should be no shock to anyone's sensibilities who read the report from Reuters yesterday that Congress' top tax breaks benefit the wealthy... their own kind and the kind they're going to for money for their campaigns (and careers).
The top ten U.S. tax deductions, credits and exclusions will keep $12 trillion out of federal government coffers over the next decade, and several of them mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The top 20 percent of income earners will reap more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks that will accrue in 2013, the non-partisan CBO said on Wednesday.

Further, 17 percent of the total benefits would go to the top 1 percent of income earners-- families earning roughly $450,000 or more. The same group that was hit with a tax rate hike in January.

The benefits of preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends, a break worth $161 billion this year, go almost entirely to the wealthy, including 68 percent to the top one percent of earners.
We've been talking about how the so-called "New Dems," conservatives who have sold out to Big Business entirely, have been working with the Republicans to gut Dodd Frank and overturn progressive achievements of the past. The dozen worst New Dems in the House, who are doing the most damage to ordinary families and must be defeated as much as any Republican-- from bad to worst:
Ami Bera (CA)
Jim Himes (CT)
Dan Maffei (NY)
Scott Peters (CA)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)
Jim Cooper (TN)
Bill Foster (IL)
John Barrow (GA)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Patrick Murphy (FL)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Ron Barber (AZ)
Bob Scheer's latest column, Congress Still Puts Out For Wall Street, starts with a question: "What does it take to make a Wall Street banker squirm with shame?" Scheer implies that absolutely nothing makes the banksters feel any shame. Why don't the so-called Democrats-- or, rather, "New Democrats," on the list above realize that as well? Scheer asserts, correctly, that "[t]he Republicans, with the exception of a few die-hard libertarians, always do the bidding of the banks that finance them, but the Democrats are just as eager to pig out at the bankers’ trough."
Wall Street lobbyists were only too happy to hold a fundraising dinner last week for Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who co-sponsored the Citigroup bill, one of several such events banking groups have organized for lawmakers who support their legislation.

What is at issue here is an attempt to gut the already tepid effort of the Dodd-Frank Act to control the runaway $700 trillion derivatives trading market. One source of alarm is the extensive in-house trading in these derivatives between affiliates of the too-big-to-fail banks. As an example of the profound corruption of our legislative process, congressional staffers turned to top corporate lawyers to draft the wording pretending to rein in their activity.

For example, as the emails reviewed by the Times revealed, House committee staffers consulted Michael Bopp, a partner at the elite law firm Gibson, Dunn who represents corporations involved in derivative trading, as to the verbiage he would prefer in the legislation. His language was well received, as the Times reported: “Ultimately, the committee inserted every word of Mr. Bopp’s suggestion into a 2012 version of the bill that passed the House, save for a slight change in phrasing.”

That last sentence, conveying the essence of America’s crony capitalist system, should stand as the defining epitaph for the death of representative democracy.

“I won’t dispute for one second the problems of a system that demands immense amount of fund-raisers by its legislators,” Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut who supported the bankers’ recent bills and conveniently heads fundraising for House Democrats, conceded to the Times. Himes, who worked for Goldman Sachs before pretending to represent the people’s interest as an elected representative, is one of the top beneficiaries of Wall Street payoffs but claims to be distressed by the corruption that is his way of life. As he told the Times, “It’s appalling, it’s disgusting, it’s wasteful and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption. It’s unfortunately the world we live in.”

No, buddy, it’s the world you guys make and wallow in. Other folks just lose their jobs and homes while you manage to slither out of the slime richer and more powerful than ever.

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Keystone XL Pipeline-- The Coming Catastrophe, Politically Speaking


"If he honestly believes," says Van Jones in the video clip above, "that this pipeline-- which will be a huge part of his legacy-- is a good thing, he should call it the Obama Tar Sands Pipeline." Yes, a huge part of his legacy. The House may have made it easy for him-- whichever decision he makes. Last week they passed H.R. 3, which removes Obama from the decision-making process, despite this being a deal that involves the U.S. border, over which he has constitutional authority. So... he can veto it on that basis alone-- if it passes the Senate (a distinct possibility, since the majority of the whores in that esteemed body have already come out in favor). Of course, if Obama really wants the pipeline to go through and just would rather avoid the stain on his legacy, he could let that go through and say "Congress did it, not me," although only idiots-- so, roughly, half the voters, could possibly buy into that lame excuse.

When the House voted not a single Republican voted NO, although Planet Justin (Amash-R-MI) voted "present." The real horror, though was that 19 Democrats scurried across the aisle to vote with the GOP, not just for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but to remove Obama from the process. And they weren't all just the Blue Dog reactionaries and racists. Here's the whole list:
John Barrow (Blue Dog/New Dem-GA)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Cheri Bustos (IL)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog/New Dem-TN)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Bill Enyart (IL)
Al Green (TX)
Gene Green (TX)
Ruben Hinojosa (TX)
Sean Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog/New Dem-NC)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)
John Yarmuth (KY)
If any of these 19 are your congressmember... well, let me suggest you go back to the tape up top and listen to it again. As for the Senate, every single Republican plus 17 Democrats... must not see it the way Van does. These Democrats all voted for Keystone XL. Any of 'em yours?
Max Baucus (MT- $394,915)
Mark Begich (AK- $229,705)
Michael Bennet (CO- $149,920)
Tom Carper (DE- $88,060)
Bob Casey (PA- $129,100)
Chris Coons (DE- $19,373)
Joe Donnelly (IN- $7,800)
Kay Hagen (NC- $22,350)
Heidi Heitkamp (ND- $87,450)
Tim Johnson (SD- $131,506)
Mary Landrieu (LA- $1,086,084)
Joe Manchin (WV- $256,150)
Claire McCaskill (MO- $84,208)
Bill Nelson (FL- $94,617)
Mark Pryor (AR- $212,800)
John Tester (MT- $59,366)
Mark Warner (VA- $89,800)
As you've probably guessed, the money next to each senator's name is the amount of legalistic bribes they've taken so far from Big Oil and Gas. In recent years, the industry has reserved all their big bucks for Republicans (+ Mary Landrieu and ex-Senator Blanche Lincoln), but they still give some chickenfeed to a few Democratic cheap dates.

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Rob Ford, The Canadian Chris Christie


Rob Ford is certainly a "fat fuck," but-- much worse-- he's a disgusting bigot, a thug and a quintessential conservative. But what's interesting about the "fat fuck" episode (just before the 3 minute mark on the video above) is that the reporter didn't call Ford a "fat fuck." It was the goon bodyguard who came up with the accusation that the reporter called him a "fat fuck" to change the subject and rattle the reporter. He and Ford then went on the attack, like two vicious overtly threatening hoodlums, chasing the reporter out of the room and ending the embarrassing interview. Watch Ford in action. It was the pathological behavior shown on this clip, rather than his obesity, that has caused people to call him the Chris Christie of Canada.

Watching his loutish, thuggish behavior, makes it hard to believe Ford was born into great wealth and to a politician dad to boot. Daddy tried to buy him a spot on a football team-- and Ford did get on his college squad, where he warmed the bench for the whole time he was on the team... and then dropping out when he realized he would never play a game. He also never got a college degree. He's also never had a real job in his life, having "worked" for the family firm until he started running for office, as an American style right-wing extremist and overt racist, over a dozen years ago. When called out for an anti-Italian racist comment, Ford shrugged it off: "I'm a conservative and the majority of people are left-wing and cannot stand my politics."

Ford is, needless to say, a virulently anti-gay bigot-- so much so that one has to wonder why he's so obsessed with homosexuality... and when he might be caught trying to have sex with an underage boy.

He managed to slip into Toronto's mayoralty in 2010 because it was a three-way race. He won 47% of the vote. He's the most corrupt mayor in recorded history and was found guilty of conflicts of interest and enough related crap to have a judge declare the mayor's seat empty. He's appealing and is allowed to keep the seat while the appeal works its way through the courts. But that isn't why he turned to drugs. He's been a drug abuser (as well as a belligerent alcoholic) for many years and, in fact, was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs in Miami. The Florida police who pulled him over found marijuana and he was convicted of possession, something he denied while running for mayor. Being a conservative, lying comes very naturally to Ford, not just when there are court records of drug possession, but even when he denied being at a hockey game, getting drunk and abusing people and being kicked out of the stadium by the police-- with hundreds of witnesses. When he says something-- anything-- he's as likely to be lying as telling the truth. And almost no one believes his current denials about having smoked crack. Last March, when he groped Sarah Thomson, a former mayoral candidate and publisher of the Women's Post. Thomson said he was either on coke or something like it, describing him as "talking quickly, out of it, arrogant... he was definitely out of it.”

And then the biggest scandal broke-- Ford palling around with some Somali drug dealers and smoking crack... which wound up on a cellphone video.
It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.

“I’m fucking right-wing,” Ford appears to mutter at one point. “Everyone expects me to be right-wing. I’m just supposed to be this great.…” and his voice trails off. At another point he is heard calling Trudeau a “fag.” Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), “they are just fucking minorities.”
And now the cover-up, which seems to include the murder of one of the men trying to peddle the video-- has Ford's staffers resigning and running for their lives. All this promoted the national broadcasting company, the CBC, to publish a story yesterday about the outstanding questions in this case:
Where is the video?

For all the controversy that has been swirling, one crucial question remains: Where is the video?

The Star and Gawker have stood by their reports about the video. Ford has said it doesn't exist.

The Star's Doolittle has said she and Donovan were told there was more than one copy of the video. Gawker has said it has raised the $200,000 asking price, through crowd-sourcing, but has not been able to make contact with those who have the alleged video. It said Tuesday that it will give the sellers about a month to respond before it decides what else to do with the money; donating it to charities was the alternative.

According to published reports on May 28, someone on Ford's staff was told days ago about the potential location of the video, and passed that information along to police.

Has Rob Ford ever smoked crack cocaine?

Ford said on May 17 that he does not "use crack cocaine” and that he is not a crack cocaine addict. Questions remain as to whether he has used drugs in the past. Ford has yet to provide additional clarification.

What is the connection to Anthony Smith?

The people shopping the alleged Ford video would not provide a screen grab of what they had. But the alleged go-between did give the Toronto Star and Gawker a photo of the mayor with his arm around someone said to be Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old who was shot and killed outside a downtown nightclub in March.

CBC News has spoken to people who know the men in the picture, and confirmed they believe that the men in the photo are Smith and Muhammad Khattak, who was injured in that same shooting and whose face was pixellated in the original photo.

The mayor, who has a practice of coaching and working with young people, has simply said he gets his picture taken with many people.

The Toronto Star is now suggesting the cellphone with the alleged video may have belonged to Smith. Police haven't confirmed that is the case.
It's hard to imagine a nice city like Toronto could have ever elected a sociopath like Ford-- even if more people did vote against him than for him. The latest polling, though, shows him supremely unpopular and likely to be beaten by his old adversary Olivia Chow, currently clobbering him 56-36%. And that was even before this morning's new broke that he admits to knowing where the crack video is!

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told senior aides not to worry about a video appearing to show him smoking crack cocaine because he knew where it was, sources told the Star.

Ford then blurted out the address of two 17th-floor units-- 1701 and 1703-- at a Dixon Rd. apartment complex, to the shock of staffers at a city hall meeting almost two weeks ago, the sources said.

The mayor cited “our contacts” as the source of his information, according to insiders familiar with the unusual May 17 session in his office.

Staffers were alarmed by the implication of hearing so precise a location, sources said.

Now, I hope no one misinterpreted what I said about conservatives to mean that all conservatives smoke crack. That's crazy! I just meant that all conservatives are liars and sociopaths and corrupt. That's all.

UPDATE: Has Ford's Whole Staff Walked Out On Him?

These crazy conservatives! Now the Star is reporting that two more staffers have resigned as of today-- so five so far this week. One was his executive assistant, Kia Nejatian, which probably means he might as well resign now and save Toronto any further agony over his mayoralty. Ford's brother, Doug, who has been an adjunct of his career, is now being shunned by Ontario Conservatives, who are hoping he disappears along with big brother asap. They used to call him a superstar... but that was almost a whole month ago. The Conservative leader in the provincial legislature, Jim Wilson, said that Doug Ford "is not our candidate. I don’t even know the guy... personally I’ve never even met him." Cold!

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What's Wrong With The Republican Party?


I know... it would take too long and it's all been said before. And whatever it is, let's all hope they choke on it and writhe around in pain before finally expiring. But let's look at it from the perspective of people who don't want to see piles of congressional Republicans on the floor screaming in agony and begging God for their own deaths to come as fast as possible. Bob Dole, who was the Senate Republican Leader for what seems like decades long before he was either the GOP presidential nominee or a Viagra salesman, doesn't wish any ill on his GOP colleagues and friends. But he was on Fox News Sunday tearing them a new one this past weekend. "I doubt [I could fit in with the modern party],” Dole said. “Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it." Fact of the matter is, no one who puts country over party-- or, more precisely, crackpot, extremist ideology, can possibly make it in today's Republican Party. You want to find "your father's Republican Party?" That's now called the New Dems and the Blue Dogs.

Anyone with any ideas of appealing to a national mainstream might as well do what conservatives like Florida Republicans Charlie Crist and Patrick Murphy did-- quit the GOP and started working to make the Democrats more conservative.

And Tuesday morning on MSNBC, former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) explained why she agrees with Dole that the Republican Party should be "closed for repairs" before they seriously run any national races again. "I certainly do agree with the former majority leader, Bob Dole, with whom I worked when I first entered the Senate and who was a consensus builder and understood what was essential and important for the Republican Party brand-- what was important for America and that unfortunately has been lost today on Capitol Hill... The Republican Party is undergoing some, you know, significant and serious changes and they are going to have to rethink their approach as a political party and how they are going to regroup and become a governing majority party that appeals to a broader group of Americans than they do today."

But do they even care about becoming a governing party again? The power inside the party has shifted to the nihilists, fascists, ignorant teabaggers and radicals and Greg Sargent says the whole "governing thing" isn't something they take seriously. Wrecking the government... that they're good at. But working for the betterment of ordinary American families? That's antithetical to the interests who finance their plush careers.
I’m not sure anyone could consciously create a headline that more perfectly captures the current GOP’s fundamental unseriousness about governing than this one from The Hill:
Senate GOP feels jilted after being wined and dined by Obama on deficit talks
As Jed Lewison points out in a good post, it’s stunning that Republican Senators actually feel no sense of embarrassment about making this self-refuting claim. Their complaint, per The Hill, is this:

Senate Republicans who shared laughs with President Obama over dinner at the Jefferson Hotel in March are grumbling there has since been little follow-through from him on deficit talks. [...]

Some Republicans think the president has become distracted from the deficit by intensified public controversies over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups and the Justice Department’s investigation of the Associated Press.

Of course, Republicans themselves are the ones that are working feverishly, often in the face of clear and unequivocal evidence to the contrary, to tie Obama to these “public controversies.” What’s more, the GOP leadership has said that no budget compromise is possible if it involves any concession on revenues, which is to effectively say that no compromise is possible unless Democrats make 100 percent of the concessions. And not only that, but as Steve Benen notes, Obama has already offered Republicans the entitlement cuts they claim they want as part of a larger deal, only to have Republicans suddenly decide they no longer want those cuts, after all.

Yet for Republicans, the problem continues to be that Obama isn’t sufficiently wooing them adequately. As The Hill puts it, paraphrasing one senator who remained anonymous but whose sentiments echoed many others: “The lawmaker said Obama needs to sit down regularly with about five or six GOP senators to begin making substantial progress toward a deficit-reduction deal.”

Yeah, that’ll work.

Even as Senate Republicans call for Obama to woo them harder, their leader, Mitch McConnell, is absurdly claiming that Obama’s plan to nominate people to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals amounts to an effort to “stack the court.”
And we can't just blame Miss McConnell-- all 45 Senate Republicans, every single one of them, who have been obstructing the president's appointments since the day he took office-- signed a brief to the Supreme Court calling Obama's recess appointments an unconstitutional abuse of power. Unhinged right-wing sites are drumming up a "stacking the courts" jihad to help raise money for reactionary nihilists.
President Barack Obama is planning to simultaneously push through the appointments of three judges to what has been called the second-most-important court in the country, in a move seen by Republicans as an attempt to stack the court toward a liberal agenda.

...McConnell and other GOP lawmakers reportedly are preparing to challenge the appointments. One plan involves shifting the three empty slots from the court to other parts of the country. Failing that, Senate Republicans could filibuster the nominees if they can pull together 41 of their 45 members.

...Democrats say that if Republicans move to block Obama's three nominations in close succession, the public will take notice and disapprove. With a tide of public opinion in their favor, Democratic leaders argue, they could try to change Senate rules to prohibit filibusters on judicial nominations, even though Democrats themselves have blocked Republican judicial nominations in the past by using the filibuster.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Ballpark bipartisanship," Al Kamen calls it


"McKinley and DeGette initially hoped to get 50 members to sign up for the outing, but they’re at nearly 100, and the new goal is to get 150 participants."
-- from the item "Ballpark bipartisanship"
in Al Kamen's
Washington Post "In the Loop" column

by Ken

"Ask old-timers why Congress is so divisive these days," our pal Al Kamen writes, "and many will say it’s because lawmakers of opposing parties rarely hang out and socialize like they did in days of yore."

Now you or I might find the idea of hanging out and socializing with the average run of today's congresscreeps kind of chilling, but maybe it takes one not to know one. Anyway, Al has a breakthrough in bipartisan hanging out to report (links onsite).
Harkening to an earlier era, members of Congress are planning a bipartisan evening at Nationals Park, where next Wednesday they’ll leave politics aside and take in a game between the New York Mets and the Nats.

While we can’t guarantee that there won’t be some friction between, say, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and such fanatic Mets boosters as Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the event’s fare is more likely to include hot dogs and beer than political bickering.

Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) are organizing the event, which will include a reception before the game (at which the only rule is “no talking about work”), the Capitol Police Honor Guard presenting the flag and a performance of the national anthem by the Congressional Chorus.

McKinley had initially hoped to throw a bipartisan holiday party, but the “fiscal cliff” negotiations at the end of last year ensured that no one had time for such a fete — not to mention that few were in a festive mood.

It appears their colleagues are now game: McKinley and DeGette initially hoped to get 50 members to sign up for the outing, but they’re at nearly 100, and the new goal is to get 150 participants.

The event benefits the Wounded Warrior project, which helps injured veterans transition to civilian life.

And as if you needed more evidence that it won’t be business as usual, the lawmakers are paying for the $34 tickets (or $36 for seats in the right-field corner) out of their own pockets.
Let's hope they all have a ball. (Sorry!)

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Bronze Age Morals-- Roberto De Mattei Teaches Hatred And Bigotry As History


Backwardness in a suit and tie

Roberto De Mattei isn't some redneck from rural Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama. He's not from Mississippi or Utah. In fact, he's a Rome-based professor, well known for his anti-Science perspective and as an apostle of religious hatred and bigotry. He's also the president of a right-wing outfit in DC-- the Lepanto Foundation, an anti-gay operation that manages to cow the IRS enough so it pays no taxes. Lately the history professor with strong ties to Italy's criminally corrupt former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been running around declaring that European public opinion is in the midst of an anti-gay renaissance. "I say Latin because in France you’ve had enormous protests against same-sex 'marriage' and in Italy we have the March for Life, where we are of the same mind as the American March for Life. Each is characterized by being spontaneous, grassroots movements." A real right-wing dirt-bag, this guy.

He's facing calls to resign as the vice president of the Center of National Research after his latest outrageous statements that twist history for his own hate-fueled ideology. Sounding like a garden variety evangelical huckster from the South, he blamed the Japanese tsunami on "Divine Punishment." And now went on the radio to tell people that "The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians was due to the spread of homosexuality. The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals and they infected many others... The invasion of the Barbarians was seen as punishment for this moral transgression. It is well known effeminate men and homosexuals have no place in the kingdom of God. Homosexuality was not rife among the Barbarians and this shows God’s justice comes throughout history."

Actual historians are outraged that De Mattei's close ties with the Vatican, with Berlusconi and with education minister Maria Stella Gelmini put him into unmerited positions to spread his calumny and hatred.
Historian Emilio Gabba, a leading light in Roman history, said: "It is highly improbable homosexuality led to the fall of the Roman Empire."

Professor Lellia Cracco Ruggini, an expert on Roman history from Turin University, said: "There is no proof Rome had a high number of homosexuals. I can safely say Rome did not fall because it was gay." However research would seem to suggest homosexuality was rife in ancient Rome.

The 18th century expert Edward Gibbon wrote that "of the first 15 emperors, Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct."

Homosexuality is widely portrayed in ancient Roman art and was seen as acceptable 2,000 years ago.
This marriage equality demonstration at the Vatican is , apparently, not part of De Mattei's "Latin Spring:"

In the new issue of New York, Frank Rich has a long, emotive piece on ancient gay history. Except "ancient" is more like the pre-Stonewall 1960s than Roman times. The new Out deals with a very different straight man than Roberto de Mattei, with a very different message. De Mattei is clearly stuck in Bronze Age superstitions filled with fears and hatred but Ben Haggerty is... well, a more modern kind of guy. You may know him as Seattle's white rapper, Macklemore.
Handsome, fabulously dressed in a bright red suit that fits snugly on his slender frame, with perfectly cropped and coiffed hair. At first glance, one could take Macklemore (real name: Ben Haggerty) for the nation’s first mainstream gay rapper. He is, after all, a flashy 29-year-old dandy who saunters around in $450 blue velvet Stubbs & Wootton slippers, an MC who struck gold with a number 1 hit about vintage shopping, and a flamboyant showman who cemented his arrival in March with a rousing performance on Saturday Night Live in which he literally skipped across the stage (it drew 5.8 million viewers). But such an assumption would be relying too much on the same stereotypes Macklemore himself tackles in his breakthrough single, “Same Love.” No, he’s not gay. (In fact, he’s engaged to his tour manager and girlfriend of seven years.)
I hope this video of "same Love" will help you wash the satanic ugliness of Roberto de Mattei out of your consciousness.

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Cheri Bustos Wants Help To Fend Off Teabagger Bobby Schilling-- But Did She Earn It?


When the Democratic-led Illinois state legislature redistricted the congressional districts, Bobby Schilling looked like a marked man. The legislature cut out red area in Quincy, Decatur and Springfield and replaced them with blue areas of Rockford and Peoria. Schilling, who acknowledges Glenn Beck as his "leader," had first won his 17th district seat in 2010 beating Democratic freshman Phil Hare 53-43%. Although laughable prognosticator and conservative shill Charlie Cook was predicting Schilling would be reelected right up 'til the end, Cheri Bustos, a former East Moline City Council Alderwoman, beat him 53-47%. She rolled up big margins in the district's most populous counties: Peoria (64%), Rock Island (55%) and Winnebago (65%), leaving him doing well in small rural counties like Henderson and Warren.

An inconsequential backbencher, he went back to his family-owned pizzeria in Moline, Saint Giuseppe's Heavenly Pizza, and no one expected to ever hear from him again-- unless he decided to serve gluten-free pies.

But yesterday Cheri Bustos added to the speculation that Schilling is plotting a come-back bid. "All signs point to Bobby Schilling making a run against me to try and regain his seat in Congress," she wrote in a fundraising letter. "If he makes the jump, we need to be ready. Last year, Schilling and his band of Tea Party backers spent millions of dollars attacking our campaign with distortions and misleading ads. We succeeded, but only because of our grassroots strength."

And the rest of her letter is all about "Tea Party," "Tea Party, "Tea Party" and "send me money." I had high hopes for Cheri because at freshman orientation one of the congressmen I most respect said she was the smartest one he met. I suspect he's changed his mind since then. I sure have. Her over all, ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is 44.44, worse than any other Illinois Democrat in Congress, even worse than corporate shills like Dan Lipinski and Bill Foster. She didn't mention to prospective donors that she voted with Republicans on her committee to slash food stamps by $20.5 billion or that she joined the Republicans in an attempt to deregulate derivatives in return for support from criminal Wall Street banksters. And not only did she oppose the progressive budgets offered as alternatives to Ryan's Ayn Rand budget, she even voted against the moderate Senate budget. I can't imagine why she forgot to mention any of that! Nor why she didn't mention she voted to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline but unconstitutionally removing President Obama from the process.

It doesn't look like anyone is going to primary her, but what I expect will happen in 2014 is that Democratic base voters will just stay home-- the way they did in 2010-- and she'll lose the seat. Then the DCCC can start the whole process all over again-- recruiting a garden variety Democrat with no ideas and no strongly-held values (at least not on economic justice issues), persuading them that to raise money they have to sell out to Wall Street and that to win reelection, they have to vote with the Republicans. Nancy Pelosi claimed that Steve Israel, a complete failure as chair of the DCCC, is "reptilian" enough to do a good job. She's lost her mind. Israel is incapable of learning from his own mistakes and because of that Pelosi will never be Speaker again and we'll be stuck with Boehner until we wind up with something equally horrible like Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Steny Hoyer.

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How The DCCC Is Making Hay Of The GOP Vote To Force Up The Student Loan Rate Against Vulnerable Congressmen


Last week, the House passed John Kline's dreadful Make College Less Affordable Act, 221-198. Although only 4 conservative Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans, 3 of the four are viewed as extremely vulnerable and are top priorities for the DCCC bad Democrat retention operation. The 4 anti-student voters were all corporately-controled New Dems, of course:

• Jared Polis (CO)
• Scott Peters (CA)
• Joe Garcia (FL)
• Dan Maffei (NY)

Polis, the richest Democrat in the House-- and in a solidly blue district-- can probably get away with almost anything and he isn't on anyone's list. He won reelection last year 56-39% and Obama took CO-02 with 57.9% to Romney's weak 39.5%. Ironically, the Democratic heartland of the district is Boulder, home to the University of Colorado, which boats 30,000 students. And Polis ran up a gigantic lead in Boulder County-- 90,448 (73%) to 26,775 (22%) for Republican Kevin Lundberg. The Republicans would need a lot of imagination to target Polis for his vote-- along with all 4 of the state's Republicans, right-wing extremists Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton-- against reducing the interest on student loans. I guess they could make the point that the super-wealthy shouldn't be representing ordinary people because they can't usually too sharply beyond their own piles of gold and silver. But, like I said, it isn't Polis anyone is worried about. It's conservative freshman Scott Peters (San Diego), Joe Garcia (Miami) and Dan Maffei (Syracuse) who they have to worry about. Each has been voting too far right for their Democratic bases. Maffei's district is also college student heavy and he depended on college students to help him defeat crazy teabagger Ann Marie Buerkle last November. Peters, another multimillionaire incapable of representing the aspirations and dreams of ordinary working families, has plenty of college students in his district and so does Miami.

Of course none of this has stopped the DCCC from going right after the Republicans they view as among the most vulnerable-- for doing exactly what they'll have to defend Maffei, Garcia and Peters for. Over the weekend, media in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley got this press release in regard to Buck McKeon's vote for higher student loan rates. It's reminiscent of the Buck McKen Hates Students Facebook page from last year, when he voted to take away health insurance from college students:
VOTE ALERT: Congressman McKeon Supports ‘Students Pay More Act’

Congressman Buck McKeon just joined House Republicans to approve the “Students Pay More Act,” a measure to force college students to pay more interest for their education loans. With the average college student shouldering $26,000 in debt, the Associated Press this week described how “student loan rates could steadily climb and cost students more over the long haul under the plan House Republicans are considering.”

While Congressman McKeon voted today to make student loans more expensive, he and Republicans refuse to end taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil companies that are already making record profits.

“Congressman McKeon voted today to make student loans more expensive, but heaven forbid that oil companies’ subsidies end,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Instead of solving the problem of loan rates that will double at the end of the month, Congressman McKeon and House Republicans are putting a bigger burden on the backs of future students. The simple fact is that Congressman McKeon and House Republicans would rather force students to pay more than ask oil companies to pay their fair share-- and those are the wrong priorities.”


Congressman Buck McKeon Voted To Raise Student Loans by 8.5 Percent. [H.R. 1911, Vote #183, 5/23/13]

AP: House Republican Plan Would Raise Student Loan Interest Rates Up to 8.5 Percent. According to the Associated Press: “Under the GOP proposal, student loans would be reset every year and based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus an added percentage. For instance, students who receive subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford student loans would pay the Treasury rate, plus 2.5 percentage points. Using Congressional Budget Office projections, that would translate to a 5 percent interest rate on Stafford loans in 2014, but the rate would climb to 7.7 percent for loans in 2023. Stafford loan rates would be capped at 8.5 percent, while loans for parents and graduate students would have a 10.5 percent ceiling under the GOP proposal.” [Associated Press, 5/16/13]

  Headline: Republicans move forward with student loan plan that could mean higher rates later [Associated Press, 5/16/13]

Under the “Students Pay More” Act, Graduates Would Pay Almost $5,000 More in Student Loan Interest. The Associated Press reported: “In real dollars, the GOP plan would cost students and families heavily, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The office used the CBO projections for Treasury notes’ interest rates each year. Students who max out their subsidized Stafford loans over four years would pay $8,331 in interest payments under the Republican bill, and $3,450 if rates were kept at 3.4 percent. If rates were allowed to double in July, that amount would be $7,284 over the typical 10-year window to repay the maximum $19,000.” If the Republican plan were implemented, college graduates would pay $4,881 more in interest, compared to the current rate. [Associated Press, 5/16/13]

The Average College Graduate Has $26,600 in Student Loan Debt; Total National Student Loan Debt Exceeds $1.1 Trillion. According to the Washington Post: “A recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that there 38 million student loan borrowers in the United States and the total debt load has passed $1.1 trillion. The Project on Student Debt has estimated that 66 percent of graduating college seniors in 2011 had some student loan debt, with an average balance of $26,600.” [Washington Post, 5/20/13]

CBO: Federal Government Turns $51 Billion Profit on Student Loans. According to the Huffington Post: “The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation's most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets. Figures made public Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office show that the nonpartisan agency increased its 2013 fiscal year profit forecast for the Department of Education by 43 percent to $50.6 billion from its February estimate of $35.5 billion.” [Huffington Post, 5/14/13]

I guess you heard by now that Michele Bachmann, under investigation by the FBI for serious financial shenanigans involving campaign funds and a coverup (and brand new to term limits fandom), has decided to not run for reelection. This endless and excruciating ad below is like nothing I've ever seen before (except as part of a Saturday Night Live skit):

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