If all you read this week were the national polls, you'd draw the conclusion that the presidential election race is a genuine coin flip. President Obama, if he has a lead at all over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, is leading by, at best, a minimal margin.
But if you looked at state polling only over the past few weeks, you'd get a very different impression. By looking at that, as Markos noted earlier this week, Mitt Romney remains a distinct underdog, and is only marginally in a better position than he was several weeks ago.
Meanwhile, down ballot, Republicans have to be concerned about the state of play in the Senate. While dreams of a GOP majority still dance in their heads, with some real justification, recent events have made that dream a bit more difficult to make into a reality.
Add to that the start of a rather busy part of the election season coming up this week, and there is plenty to talk about as we launch into May with this edition of the Weekend Digest.
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As expected, the swift boating of the President has begun and will likely continue until Election Day. God forbid Mitt Romney would actually engage on the issues. No, he just lets his surrogates make attack ads like this one which, by the way, do not mention any specific Navy SEAL with an objection but simply contend that SEALs object.
Here are some facts you should know about the Veterans for a Strong America, the 501(c)(4) non-profit group sponsoring the ad, via MoJo:
[Joel] Arends got his start in politics as a South Dakota Bush-Cheney field director in 2000. He's currently the Republican party head in Lincoln County, South Dakota. Though he doesn't list it on his public résumé, around 2006 Arends went to work for Craig Dewey, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy outfit that's astroturfed everything from the tea party and theWisconsin union fight to public school segregation. (AFP's nonprofit 501(c)3 wing ischaired by David Koch, who founded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation with his brother Charles.)
"I was consulting with Americans for Prosperity on a state level, helping to connect them with key decision makers," Arends says. Craig Dewey initially denied this to me in a phone conversation. "Joel was never on paid staff at Americans for Prosperity," he said before conceding, "He was an adviser to me."
After leaving AFP, Arends and Dewey went into business starting "grassroots" issue groups whose names tended to overstate their reach. There was Combat Veterans for Congress, a Sarah Palin-endorsed PAC that pushed "fiscally conservative" vets to run for office; the Coalition for Cures Not Cloning, set up to combat stem-cell research; and Children Need Parents, a group that succeeded in altering the South Dakota's mom-friendly divorce and custody laws. They also oversaw efforts to roll back EPA regulations, punish businesses that dealt with Iran, and ban Shariah law in South Dakota.
As an "independent" nonprofit, VFF tried to downplay its ties to the Bush-Cheney and McCain-Palin campaign teams. It also had ties to the Donatelli Group, the conservative fundraisers who'd seeded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. Arends and most of VFF's leadership have since moved on to lucrative or influential positions in the conservative establishment. "Everybody left VFF happy," he says.
There's many, many more ties in that article. Read the whole thing.
Personally, I think it's dumb to put an ad in front of people reminding them that President Obama made that call. I think it's even dumber to claim there are angry SEALs and not produce even one, just claim they know there are some.
As for funding, we don't know, because they don't have to disclose. But pick one of the top Swift Boat Veterans donors or your favorite Republican big money donor and figure it's one of them. That guess is as good as anyone's.
Arends should be very careful, because he basically said a little bit too much.
Joel Arends, VFSA's founder, chairman, and sole staffer, tells me he's proud of his organization's viral video, even if it's characterized as swift boating. "Yes, it's the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what's perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness."
Here's the problem with that. VFSA is a 501(c)(4) organization, which means it's supposed to have a purpose that's for "social welfare". Yes, they are allowed to engage in political activities and ads, but those are supposed to be issue-oriented ads, as a general rule. Arends has basically admitted that this ad, and others he has planned, are intended to target the President politically, not educationally.
I'm not in a position to say one way or the other, but if I were the IRS, I'd be looking really hard at organizations like this which are intended to be major smear players on the general election landscape. I'd be asking why they're not required to disclose independent expenditures, and I'd also be asking whether Fox News gets to air this thing over and over again without having to declare the air time an in-kind political contribution.
Yes, I know everyone will shake their head and point to Citizens United. But part of the discussion in the majority opinion was that allowing unlimited corporate contributions did not mean unlimited undisclosed contributions. If they want to go the swift boat route, they should be man enough to admit who is paying for it.
In the end, I don't see this ad really doing a lot of damage to the President anyway, which makes me smile when I think about how much money they're wasting on it. But it really galls me that they're using the subterfuge of "social welfare" organizations to play their cowardly, dirty little games.
Going away to college is one the defining moments in anyone?s life, and for Scags Morgenstern, the heroine of Deborah Emin?s Scags at 18, her first semester at an elite Vermont college, where she?s a scholarship student, shifts her world.Told in the[...]
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May Day has historically had a pro-migrant message, from its origins in 19th-century working-class Chicago, to its revival in 2006 as a day of protest for immigration reform. But this year, even with the added momentum of Occupy Wall Street, the [...]
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By TomBales1// OK, it wasn't broken, just over capacity but it went down just as I hit the submit button on this real cool tweet about Chuck Todd and his meaningless mewling about the number of empty seats at the Obama rally in Ohio so I'll accept the responsibility.
It's important that we understand that people like Chuck Todd aren't journalists. They're just simple minded corporate tools and their job is to either advance the corporatist agenda directly by fawning over Mittens or to do so by throwing dirt at the "other guys" and this was just Chuckie's feeble little effort to throw dirt. Remember when you were little and you went to the zoo and got too close to the baboon cage? That was one of Chuckie's ancestors. It's not Media Asshat of the Week material but it's typical so don't get yer bloomers all inflated over it.
One weirdo was spouting about 14k people not amounting to much so twitters swamped the system with pics of the crowds at some of Mittens' rallies... should take care of that little meme. Won't, of course but it should and would if the Rs weren't so damned desperate to counter the fact that PBO is simply smarter, more inspirational and a ton more charismatic than the little plastic guy locked behind Mitt's zipper. (Hey it was Mrs. "I never worked because I never had to" that started it, not me.) On the other hand, one guy even went so far as to claim that after today Ohio was Obama country. Overconfidence... especially in the face of the right wing propaganda media machine... can bite you in the ass too. Told him they need to dump Boner and then get back to us. THEN he can claim Ohio as Obama country.
The one thing that is almost universally acknowledged is the fact that Mitt is damnably outclassed in the speaking department I don't care how many zippers Annie pulls down. He could stand on a stage in front of one of his audiences of... dozens?... and read the exact same speech that President Obama just gave and half his audience would be asleep in about a minute and a half. I wouldn't say that Mitt Romney is about a dull a speaker as has ever stepped up to a podium but... oh hell, yes I would too. What else CAN you say? It's hard to put any conviction behind "I'm for the middle class" or similar rhetoric when you know in your mind that it's a damned lie.
Having run out of stuff to blame Obama for and with most of it having been refuted by the simple expediency of looking up the actual facts and figures at the source, Mitt has resorted to that final ploy of all wingers who find themselves in an indefensible position... he just makes up stuff that never happened and blames the President for it.
This is a variation of a tactic cribbed directly from the GOP's Debate 101 primer... If you can't demonize an opponent for saying A, claim he's really thinking B and then demonize him for that. And of course, if that doesn't work, just call him a "lefty" or a "lib" and stalk off. Used to happen to me daily on the old labor forums in the 90s.
But all in all, POTUS kicked off his reelection campaign in Boner's home state on a high note and with considerable success, no matter how hard the right wing media and talking heads try to downplay it. The fact that they're trying so desperately TO downplay it is ample proof of what I just said. If they weren't scared spitless they wouldn't be that desperate now, would they?
Now it's off to Virginia where we can hope for the same kind of support we saw today and that we hope to see every day until Election Day because believe me people, no matter what you might be thinking about Barack Obama, the last thing you want is some Homo Simulacrum programmed by the Wall Street bankers sitting in the White House. If you hate Obama bad enough to sell the rest of the country out that way, then be prepared for the consequences and for damned sure don't come crying to me afterward because all you're going to hear is a snarky "I told you so" and a hearty "Now %$#@ off!".
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Above you see a piece of public art here in Houston. You see that some people have not treated this sculpture very well. I don’t know why people conduct themselves in such a manner. The name of this sculpture is “Houston.” It was created by Mac Whitney. I don’t know why it is called Houston. Though [...]
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Scores of pages of al Qaeda documents seized in last year’s U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden were released Thursday. They comprise 175 pages in the original Arabic of letters and drafts from bin Laden and other key al Qaeda figures, including the American Adam Gadahn and Abu Yahya al-Libi. – The Osama bin Laden documents
REPUBLICAN SCRAMBLING BEGAN the moment the reelection ad for Pres. Obama, narrated by former Pres. Bill Clinton, surfaced, but has now reached epic levels with Republicans using former attorney general Michael Mukasey’s Breitbartesque Wall Street Journal op-ed from April 30th. That Sean Hannity is using the propaganda is predictable, but that Mukasey would stoop to these levels by assuming one C.I.A. memorandum tells the story is pretty remarkable and close to professional irresponsibility.
Consider the events surrounding the operation. A recently disclosed memorandum from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta shows that the president’s celebrated derring-do in authorizing the operation included a responsibility-escape clause: “The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out.”
Which is to say, if the mission went wrong, the fault would be Adm. McRaven’s, not the president’s.
This is the exact same case made by a Breitbart column I cited.
Mukasey went on:
Moreover, the president does not seem to have addressed at all the possibility of seizing material with intelligence value?which may explain his disclosure immediately following the event not only that bin Laden was killed, but also that a valuable trove of intelligence had been seized, including even the location of al Qaeda safe-houses. That disclosure infuriated the intelligence community because it squandered the opportunity to exploit the intelligence that was the subject of the boast.
Again, Mukasey assumes this from one singular memo? Unfortunately, as the CNN story from the top of this column reveals, which came on May 3rd, he was not only wrong, but made a fool of himself by deciding to play politics himself when he also didn’t know the full extent of what was retrieved.
The Christian Science Monitor also reported on the bin Laden papers.
People can argue about whether a political ad on the OBL operation and its success is “spiking the football,” but what cannot be denied is that if Republicans were in Obama’s position they’d ram it down Democratic throats. What also cannot be argued is that Pres. Obama took huge risks in going into Pakistan without permission, something Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden criticized him for suggesting when they were all running for president in ’08.
Mitt Romney can cite Jimmy Carter in a clearly prepared line that scores with his base, but there’s still no evidence whatsoever that he’d have proceeded with the raid inside Pakistan.
?It?s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.? – Mitt Romney, 2008 campaign
You can argue Romney’s 2008 statement doesn’t preclude a daring call to send SEAL Team Six into Pakistan unannounced, but it does seem to judge national security issues on economic terms alone, not considering the blood the mission might have “cost” is equally important.
I say this also because of his statement on Chen Guangcheng, with Romney popping off when he obviously didn’t have enough facts, because few did. His injudicious politicizing of national security matters as a presidential candidate, both in 2008 and today, reveals a lack of caution and also shows he’s trying to act like he knows what he’s talking about instead of being confident enough to say, “I’m not in the position to have enough classified intelligence to make the decision from here, but the murderer responsible for 9/11 needs to be brought to justice.”
Mayor Giuliani didn’t hesitate to utilize 9/11, George W. Bush pictured 9/11 in 2004 reelect ads, and just this week Mitt Romney had lunch at Engine 24/ladder 5 firehouse that lost 11 men on that day.
This closes the case on political opportunism.
Considering Romney was nowhere in leadership on 9/11, but Pres. Obama took a lot of risks and performed his commander in chief duties with expertise on OBL, the case is closed when comparing the two as well. Romney would be wise not to try to insert himself on this front, but being a Republican he can’t help himself.
From Mukasey to Romney, Republicans are tripping over themselves to try to beat Obama at the national security game, which they owned from Vietnam until the disastrous Iraq war. That Obama is offering a solid chance for Democrats to out tough Republicans, I’d say leaning too far on the hawk side, must be infuriating to the right, but they need to get over themselves, because right now they’re making fools of themselves.
Why does the FBI hate freedom and America? The blows to the America of yesterday just won't stop. Yes, everyone realizes that we live in a different era but spying on Americans and launching attack after attack on the general public is getting ridiculous. Budgets for these programs appear to be readily available since the political class is much too afraid of being labeled as "soft on terrorism" even though there's no proof that spying like this makes us safer.
Before launching a full assault on the public, shouldn't the FBI and other agencies have to prove to the public - not just the politicians - that extreme actions contribute to making us safer? The defense and spying agencies have free reign these days and that needs to stop.
More on the latest attack via CNET:
The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.
In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.
The FBI general counsel's office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
Viviette Applewhite is 93 years old and has voted in nearly every election for the last 60 years. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Georgia. She has tried for years to obtain photo ID to no avail. Under Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, Ms. Applewhite's vote will not be counted. She is a plaintiff in our lawsuit to stop voter ID.Mrs. Applewhite doesn't have a photo ID. Her purse was stolen and she hasn't been able to replace her identification because state officials can't find her birth certificate. And she won't be able to vote in Pennsylvania this fall. She's the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state's new voter suppression law that was recently filed by the ACLU, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and the Washington, DC, law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP.
The lawsuit alleges that the state's voter photo ID law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution by depriving citizens of their most fundamental constitutional right - the right to vote. The plaintiffs are asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of the law before November's election. If the law is not overturned, most of the plaintiffs will be unable to cast ballots in the fall, despite the fact that many of them have voted regularly for decades.Among the other petitioners:
In order to get the accepted Pennsylvania photo ID, would-be voters have to provide a raised seal birth certificate and an official Social Security card. In a perfect Catch-22, those who don't have Social Security cards need photo IDs in order to obtain them. The $10 fee to get a copy of a birth certificate is non-waivable. The state is supposed to provide state IDs for free, but that's not been the experience of would-be voters. "Dozens of reports have been received about PennDOT's refusal to issue free IDs, insisting, for example, that people must pay because they have had an ID in the past, their ID has not been expired long enough, they don't replace lost ones for free, or people with outstanding child support or fines don't qualify for free IDs."
- Pittsburgh resident Henrietta Kay Dickerson was required by PennDOT to pay for the ID because her old one had not been expired for more than a year, a qualification not contained in the law but which PennDOT is regularly enforcing." In other words, this is a poll tax.
- Asher Schor is a transgender man (female to male) whose driver's license has a picture of a woman and says he is female, but because he now looks, dresses and sounds like a man is likely to encounter problems at the polls in November.
- Bea Bookler is a 93-year-old woman with limited mobility who uses her walker to get to the polling station next door to her assisted-living facility, but she does not have ID and the burden of getting the necessary documents and the ID itself would be too much for this senior citizen.
- Joyce Block is an 89-year-old resident of Doylestown who was rejected for a voter ID by PennDOT because she did not have legal documents proving that her married name on the voter registration really was the same person listed on her birth certificate. Her only evidence was a marriage certificate in Hebrew, which the PennDOT staff could not read.
Pennsylvania's voter ID law, like so many of the other states', is nothing less than a poll tax. Lawyers have asked that the court block implementation of the law, and have requested an expedited hearing of the case, hoping to have the suit settled by November.
For more of the week's news, make the jump below the fold.
The "unofficially unemployed":
Last year there were 86 million people who didn't have a job and weren't consistently looking for one, according to Labor Department data.
Older people, ages 65 and over, account for more than a third. Young people between 16 and 24 make up another fifth. More than half don't have a college degree and more than two thirds are white.
Many of the teens and 20-somethings may be enrolled in either high school or college full-time. And many of the over 65 crowd are probably retired.
But what about the other 36 million folks who fall in between?
A senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, "suspects the number of "disengaged" Americans, like Everett, is higher than usual as a direct result of the recession."
With 115,000 new jobs created in April, and unemployment at 8.1 percent, Mitt Romney says that he would create 500,000 jobs per month and a standard unemployment of 4 percent. He also promised everyone pink unicorns with glitter.
NEW YORK (April 30, 2012) ? Today, Occupy-affiliated demonstrators who were illegally held for two hours against their will on November 30, 2011 inside a pen built of interlocking metal barricades filed a civil rights action in federal court. The group is represented by the law firms of Rankin & Taylor and Beldock Levine & Hoffman. In addition to damages, the group seeks an injunction on behalf of all demonstrators in New York City that would prohibit similar Police tactics.
The federal court monitor tracking reforms in the Oakland police force said Monday that the effort had met "outright stagnation," and raised questions about officers' use of beanbag shotguns and other weapons during what he called a "military-type" response to Occupy demonstrations.
In the first case: activist Zachary Dempster said that six NYPD officers broke down the door of his Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment at around 6:15am this morning. Dempster said they were armed with a warrant for the arrest of his roommate, musician Joe Crow Ryan, for a six-year-old open container violation. But Dempster believes this was an excuse to check in on him, as he'd been arrested in February at an Occupy Wall Street Party that was broken up by cops, and charged with assaulting a police office and inciting a riot.
Tennessee Passes Abstinence-Based ?Gateway Sexual Activity? Bill
This is the state that just made it possible to sue teachers who tell children how human reproduction works.
A few weeks ago we talked about how our friends at Cuéntame were calling out corrupt hypocrite Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her scandalous role in the prison-for-profit system. Cuéntame wants to know why Wasserman Schultz, the head of the DNC is "siding with the Corrections Corporation of America and not her constituents in Southwest Ranches? 99% of her constituents DO NOT want a new for-profit immigrant detention center!" Although CCA "donates" their bribe money primarily to right-wing Republicans like Steve Womack (AR), Kevin McCarthy (CA), John Culberson (TX) and Marsha Blackburn (TN), Wasserman Schultz is one of the few Democrats taking payoffs from them as well.
The New York Tiimes recently published an article called "Terrorist Plots, Helped Along by the FBI." Undercover operations have become a mainstay in counterterrorism, targeting suspects because of speech or angry postings on the internet. And as in the case on May Day, the use of informants who are often convicted felons or agents posing as terrorists. Claims of entrapment most always fail, even in one case, when the judge, as she was sentencing one man to decades in prison admitted that the guy wouldn't be a "terrorist" if it weren't for the FBI:
"Only the government could have made a 'terrorist' out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope," said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a "fantasy terror operation" but called his attempt "beyond despicable" and rejected his claim of entrapment.
A blogger and member of Occupy San Francisco believes that police plants -- not Black Bloc -- were behind the spree of vandalism before the march on May Day.
Jamie Dimon acknowledges that Occupy Wall Street has "legitimate complaints"
Asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement against financial greed and economic inequality, Dimon acknowledged that the protesters have some ?legitimate complaints.? He argued, however, that it?s unfair to paint all institutions with one brush: ?It was everyone guilty. That?s another form of discrimination.?
He also added: "When things go wrong, finance gets blamed." Poor guy, think he may have been feelings pangs of what used to be his conscience?
From Jason Leopold at Truthout: Latest batch of Occupy Wall Street documents released by DHS show White House was approving talking points for DHS.
Atrios explains how to stop the nation's spiraling debt:
Basically if you become that irresponsible government which prints money instead of collecting taxes in order to pay its bills, you can get high and rising inflation. But there's a simple solution. You print up a giant amount of money and then stop. You convince people you're no longer going to be irresponsible by having one last bender and then going cold turkey. The final bender gives you enough cash to pay your bills. You might lower the value of your currency, but it's a one time thing. Then it stops.