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I don't know if Jon Meacham has just been ignoring the things Mitt Romney has been saying on the campaign trail, or if he knows full well and he's just being completely dishonest here. On this Sunday's Meet the Press, Meacham suggested that "religion will be less important" and that it's not "in either candidate's interest to be bringing up specific religious issues" come the general election. I guess he missed this:
Romney is already attacking President Obama's faith, but par for the course with Romney, he's doing it completely dishonestly by trying to pretend the President is an atheist. The reason for doing so being obvious, which is, as Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out the other night, the only group voters trust less than Mormons, is atheists (which I find extremely depressing).
And Meacham's suggestion that Mitt Romney's Mormonism is not going to be an issue in the general election is ridiculous, given the large number of Evangelical voters in the Republican base and their mistrust of his religion. There is exactly one candidate where it would not be to his advantage to talk about his faith for that very reason, and it's Mitt Romney.
I think we're going to hear this sort of rhetoric from Republicans on the campaign trail as their primary race finally winds down and the GOP and the media begin doing their best to revive Romney after what's been a really damaging primary season. President Obama doesn't need to go after Romney for his faith. His fellow Republican presidential candidates have already done most of the damage for him.
Transcript below the fold.
GREGORY: Jon Meacham, this question of whether-- his Mormon faith will become an issue, whether the president who has had to face down questions about-- whether he is a Muslim, which he is not-- overtime-- does this become a big issue as we move to the campaign?
MEACHAM: I'm gonna offer a counter-intuitive argument. I wonder if the cause of those two premises you just-- premises you just set out-- I wonder if perhaps explicitly religion will be less important-- i-- in the fall-- in the general election than at any time since 1972 before Roe versus Wade really transformed the landscape.
Because it's not in-- frankly in either candidate's interest to get into theological debates at this point. It is never a candidate's interest I would say. I think the great thing about the country has always been that we have created a public sphere in which reli-- religion shapes us without strangling us.
And that was the great achievement of the founders. And-- it's something that from generation to generation has been-- has been respected. Miss Lotz' father is one of the great figures in this. Billy Graham plays this enormous role in our culture. But i-- in a non-sectarian, non-divisive way. And so that's why when we talk about wars on religion we talk about th-- this-- this-- e-- eternal conflict, let's think about it.
Where do we go in moments of national crisis or mourning? We go to the National Cathedral. Where do you-- you-- people pray at inaugurations? There's-- there's-- there's a tolerance, there's an acceptance, there's a hunger for a kind of religious conversation.
And I think that the-- the more generic it is-- and I understand the theological problems with this. But the more generic it is, the more effective and the more accepted it is. And I just wonder if you get to October w-- whether it's in either candidate's interest to be bringing up specific religious issues.
Unemployed people should go back to school and get trained in the jobs of the future as the way to find a new job. That's one we hear a lot from the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" crowd. Of course, job training is expensive, the need for it tends to come when people can least afford it, and the best training in the world can't help you get a job that doesn't exist. Making matters worse:
Federal money for the primary training program for dislocated workers is 18 percent lower in today?s dollars than it was in 2006, even though there are six million more people looking for work now. Funds used to provide basic job search services, like guidance on résumés and coaching for interviews, have fallen by 13 percent.That leads to stories like those reported by Motoko Rich of the New York Times of Atlas Van Lines looking to hire 100 drivers in Louisville, Kentucky, only to find that federal driver training money had run out, leaving many aspiring drivers unable to pay the $4,000 in classes required for a commercial driver's license. Or take Dallas, where "officials say they have annual funds left to support only 43 people in training programs."
House Republicans, of course, want to further cut funding for job training.
One can only hope that the state loses even more money to other states before they finalize realize the obnoxiousness of their actions. NY Times:
Nearly a year after enacting an immigration law that supporters describe as the toughest in the country, Alabama is considering major revisions to its immigration policies.
On Thursday, a sponsor of the law, State Representative Micky Hammon, proposed eliminating or altering several of its most controversial sections. The law, which enhances police authority to deal with illegal immigrants, is popular with most Alabamians but faced a backlash from civil liberties advocates and business leaders.
The law?s supporters said the changes would make it clearer, easier to enforce and less susceptible to legal challenges.
The 15 second web-ad above makes the point that reactionary Blue Dog Tim Holden of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania isn't really a Democrat. In past years-- when Holden's 17th congressional district meandered south and west from Schuylkill-- into solid red territory-- Holden would have been happy with the meme. McCain won his old district with 51% and Holden was fine when the local media informed the voters that Holden was a steadfast ally of George W. Bush and his toxic, destructive agenda. But now the 17th has shed the GOP counties in the south and heads north and east into blue territory where Obama racked up solid victories. Holden's reactionary Republican record is a poor fit for the voters of Luzerne, Carbon, Lackawanna, Monroe and Northampton counties. Obama won Pennsylvania with 55% in 2008. Lackawanna County is the base of Matt Cartwright, the progressive Democrat challenging Holden and Obama won there with 62%. At the same time Obama lost Schuylkill, Holden's base, with 45%.
"Tim Holden says he's a Democrat," reads the ad, "but he votes Republican. He voted against affordable health care; voted to give tax cuts to the rich; and a pay increase to himself." And this year when the Democrats are talking nonstop about the Republican War Against Women, it turns out Holden was on the wrong side of those lines too. A fanatic anti-Choice zealot, Holden has been a solid supporter of all the worst crap Boehner and Cantor have thrown against the women, especially poor women, that the Democratic Party claims to be opposing. But they're not opposing Tim Holden-- even though Matt Cartwright is pro-Choice and has a long record as an effective advocate for working families and for women. Are they hypocrites? Well, sure. The Inside-the-Beltway Democratic Establishment bigwigs like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Joe Crowley, Allyson Schwartz have no principles or values. To them the Republican War Against Women is a convenient cudgel to use against Republicans in an election cycle but when Blue Dog "Democrats" like Holden vote the same way as Republicans... not a peep out of any of these villains.
According to ProgressivePunch, in the 2011-'12 congressional session, Holden voted against the progressive positions-- in crucial roll calls-- 63.75% of the time. He voted with the Republicans about as frequently as Ron Paul (R-TX) bit not as frequently as Walter Jones (R-NC). And Holden wasn't even the worst of the Blue Dogs! 10 Blue Dogs scored even lower than Holden. The two worst, Oklahoma's Dan Boren (85.66%) and Arkansas' Mike Ross (83.27%) are retiring from Congress and crossing the street to become corporate lobbyists. But corrupt Blue Dogs Jim Matheson (UT- 81.34%), Jason Altmire (PA- 77.41%), Collin Peterson (MN- 76.87%), Jim Costa (CA- 75.57%), John Barrow (GA- 75.09%), Senate candidate Joe Donnelly (IN- 72.96%), Henry Cuellar (TX- 70.9%) and Ben Chandler (KY- 67.42%) are all being supported in their bids to stay in Congress, despite their voting records, all of which have been helpful in the Republicans' War Against Women-- and in the Republicans' War Against Working Families.
My own congressional district-- one of the most liberal in America, the 28th-- has just been assigned a Blue Dog. Adam Schiff is far too right-wing to be representing Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Atwater and Silverlake. McCain only managed to win 26% in the new boundaries but in a district with a bigger LGBT community than San Francisco's, Schiff, a deranged war-monger and bigot, has routinely voted against gay equality over and over again. His crucial lifetime progressive score on LGBT issues is an abysmal 28.57, one of the lowest of any Democrat in Congress.
It's a cruel joke that the Democratic Party has a homophobic asshole and AIPAC advocate for endless wars representing West Hollywood. That's something that will have to be worked on. And all over the country-- especially since "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel has taken over the DCCC-- the Democrats have backed absurdly conservative politicians whose views are at odds with Democratic ideals and with the interests of their own constituents.
And sooner or later these right-wing Democrats, especially in Republican areas, decide to stay on the same side of the aisle where they find themselves voting. Conservative Democrats in the Texas legislature, for example, keep doing it. One sleazy right-wing anti-women Blue Dog type, José Manuel Lozano, looked at the way his district had been redrawn-- giving it a redder tint-- and BOOM! he crossed over to Darkness. An ally of Cuellar's, Lozano is now officially a Republican, bad-mouthing the Democratic Party that nurtured his corrupt career at every opportunity. "This is not San Francisco. This is Texas," the anti-working family reactionary told the media.
Lozano?s district formerly included Kleberg, Jim Hogg, Brooks, Kennedy, Willacy and part of Cameron counties, Latino heavy counties that are predominantly Democrat, based on an analysis of the 2008 and 2010 elections. These areas are now in District 31, represented by Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.
Lozano?s new district includes Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg and San Patricio counties, which are also heavily Hispanic (63 percent), but which are more evenly contested. President Barack Obama carried Jim Wells and Kleberg counties, while Senator John McCain carried the other two by more than 55 percent in 2008.
The interim bipartisan map, approved on February 28 and negotiated by several U.S. representatives and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also created two new districts that are Republican-leaning and Latino-dominated in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas, and one in each of the San Antonio and Austin surrounding areas.
...Lozano is the third Democrat to switch parties since late 2010, and the second Latino.
"I wish he wouldn't have switched," said US Representatives Henry Cuellar, whose district also changed during redistricting.
Cuellar said that Lozano was a conservative, Blue Dog Democrat like himself.
The two were supposed to work together in a proposed Blue Dog session for state and federal representation. But the animosity on the floor from the Democratic leadership was such, Lozano said, that it just was not possible to follow through with plans for the Blue Dog caucus.
"I admire him because he works with everyone," Lozano said of Cuellar. Yet, he said the Democratic caucus was oblivious to his constituents? needs.
"It's wrong," he said. ?I tried, but the party leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the Hispanic community."
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, in a prepared statement, called Lozano?s decision to switch parties ?unprincipled and cowardly.?
?Just 15 months ago, Lozano was elected to office as a Democrat. The instant things got tough, Lozano jumped ship and joined a party that has betrayed his constituents,? Richie said. ?He?s proven he has no core and stands for nothing, but his quest to grab and hold power.?
By now, it’s well known that while presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney says he wants to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” and curtail women’s rights, he was once a staunch defender of the right to choose. He even attended a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in 1994, to whom his wife once wrote for $150.
Now, Buzz Feed digs up a photo of Romney at another fundraiser for a pro-choice group, this one of Romney at the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC) awards ceremony in 1995:
The MWPC is the state affiliate of the National Women’s Political Caucus, which was founded by feminist Gloria Steinem. The group lists “[r]eproductive freedoms and the right to choice” as one of its top priorities and ?prides itself in increasing the number of pro-choice women elected and appointed into office every year.?
Energy has turned into a contentious campaign issue in 2012, pitting “drill-baby-drill” against “clean energy now.” But multiple polls now make clear that the clean energy issue is a winning one for progressives.
The way the media and cable TV frame the national debate may make it seem like there’s an even split between supporters of fossil fuels and supporters of renewable alternatives. However, a new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that clean energy has far more support than fossil fuels support across the political spectrum ? except among conservative Republican males.
The poll illustrates how clean energy has become a wedge issue among Republicans moving into the presidential election. This is precisely what has happened on climate (see “Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming“).
Pew found that 52% of Americans believe “alternative” resources are the most important energy priority for the country. That’s still a substantial increase over oil, coal and gas, which received preferential support from 39% of respondents.
This poll shows that clean energy still has very strong bipartisan support. But that support has shifted in the last year, with an increase in Americans saying domestic production of fossil fuels should be a top priority. With previous polls showing support for offshore drilling increasing as gas prices climb, that shift isn’t much of a surprise. (It should be noted that multiple analyses, including one from the Associated Press, have shown no correlation between lower gas prices and more drilling.)
The poll showed a shift in favor of domestic fossil fuel production among a variety of voters. But the most striking change was among older, conservative Republican males:
Over the past year, there has been an increase in the percentage of Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, who view the expansion of exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas as a more important priority for addressing the nation?s energy supply than the development of alternative energy sources.
Conservative Republicans now prioritize traditional energy sources over alternative sources by a 65% to 26% margin; a year ago they were divided (47% oil, coal, natural gas vs. 43% alternative energy).
In the current survey, men 50 and older say it is more important to expand exploration from traditional energy sources, by 51% to 37%. A year ago, older men prioritized the development of alternative energy sources by a comparable margin (54% to 35%).
Here’s the chart:
While there’s clearly a partisan gap between Republicans and Democrats over fossil fuel production, this poll shows that it’s really the Tea Party crowd that is the primary factor widening that gap. Support for fossil fuels hasn’t grown nearly as much among moderate Republicans and Independents.
These findings back up what we already know: The only voters who may get turned off by clean energy ? conservative Republican males ? would likely never support a progressive candidate anyway. So talking about clean energy and pushing federal clean energy policies, which still has solid support among the rest of the electorate, can only be a political positive, making it a classic wedge issue.
In upcoming talks between the P5+1 and Iran, U.S. officials are hoping to make progress in persuading Iran to suspend high-level uranium enrichment and close a nuclear facility near the city of Qoms. While rejecting any pre-conditions for talks, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi acknowledged that “we have our opinions and the P5+1 have theirs but we have to find common areas.”
Indeed, the international sanctions regime has increasingly squeezed Iran’s ability to engage in the global economy, according to U.S., European and Israeli sources, and given Iran growing incentives to engage the P5+1 in negotiations on its nuclear program. But in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced misgivings:
It is clear that the depths of the sanctions is different for what we had in the past, and it has its impact both the closing of the SWIFT clearing system as well as the sanctions on the oil export and, of course, the coming negotiations that will probably encourage them to move.
But to tell the truth, we hope for the better, but I don’t believe that this amount of sanctions and pressure will bring the Iranian leadership to the conclusion that they have to stop their nuclear military program.
But Barak’s pessimism isn’t shared by other Israeli government officials. Last week, Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, wrote that sanctions have been “much more effective than people think” and “hopefully it might change behavior patterns if we continue with us.”
And Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the CBC last week, “there is evidence that these sanctions are hurting, that it?s impacting on their economy, it?s impacting on their ability to govern themselves.”
In his CNN interview, Barak said Iran is moving forward with a “nuclear military program” and also said Iran is “determined to reach nuclear military capability.” Top U.S. officials and the IAEA agree that Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear capability and that some of their activities may have military dimensions. But the IAEA, and U.S. and Israeli Intelligence agree that Iran has “not made the decision to actually produce a nuclear weapon? as Panetta said last week.
Jarrod Scarbrough and Les Sewell — the gay couple urging President Obama to sign an LGBT-inclusive executive order at this morning’s Egg Role at the White House — told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts this morning that the measure could shield their family from anti-gay discrimination. The decree, which would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity, has been rubber stamped by the Labor and Justice Departments and is now awaiting approval from the White House.
“Jarrod works for a company that the government contracts through, and we live in New Mexico — we’re actually protected, we don’t have to worry too much about being discriminated against. However, in June we’re moving to Florida where that protection, we’ll no longer have that,” Sewell said. “Without this administrative action, Jarrod could lose his job and then where would this family be?” Watch it:
Last week, a group of 72 lawmakers led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) called on Obama to sign the measure. “This order would extend important workplace protections to millions of Americans, while at the same time laying the groundwork for Congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a goal that we share with you,? the lawmakers wrote, noting that the initiative would also build on President Johnson?s Executive order ?prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.?
As a candidate in 2008, Obama committed to supporting a ?formal written policy of non-discrimination that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression ? for all Federal contractors.? Meanwhile, over 100,000 have signed a Freedom To Work Change.org petition urging the President to take action.
Last week, the Alaska legislature was set to take up and pass a presumably non-controversial resolution honoring the Girl Scouts for its 100 years of service. But Rep. Wes Keller (R-Wasilla), vice chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, refused to give his assent.
Interrogating the bill?s sponsor, Sen. Bettye Davis (D-Anchorage), Keller referenced ?information that?s floating around the internet? to demand whether there?s a connection between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. ?Is there not?? Keller wondered. ?Frankly, I haven’t looked into it, but I see it’s out there. I just wondered if you want to make a statement on that.”
Davis was rightly bewildered by the false right-wing internet meme. “I would like for you to give the information you?re referring to because I don?t even know what you?re talking about,? Davis said. Keller proceeded to announce that ?he was going to hold up the resolution until he got answers,? but he assured Davis he did not want to be “the death knell” for the resolution honoring the Girl Scouts. Watch the proceeding:
Since the initial dust-up, the Girl Scouts have issued a statement clarifying that they ?take no position on the subjects of birth control or abortion,? and that ?neither Girl Scouts of USA, nor Girl Scouts of Alaska has a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood.” And Keller backtracked on the House floor, touting the Girl Scout?s ?fantastic reputation.?
But even if the Girl Scouts were involved with Planned Parenthood — which, to be clear, they are not — why would that be grounds for rejecting a simple resolution honoring them for their service in developing young girls? Sadly, the Girl Scouts have become subjected to the right-wing war on women, in which advocacy for women?s health is cause for public shaming.
Recall, Indiana state rep. Bob Morris was mocked earlier this year for refusing to honor the Girl Scouts? 100th anniversary because he believes they are a ?radicalized organization? that promotes homosexuality and abortion. Morris ended up apologizing.
Last year, Citizens for Tax Justice found that 30 major corporations had made billions of dollars in profits while paying no federal income tax between 2008 and 2010. Today, CTJ updated that report to reflect the 2011 tax bill of those 30 companies, and 26 of them have still managed to pay absolutely nothing over that four year period:
– 26 of the 30 companies continued to enjoy negative federal income tax rates. That means they still made more money after tax than before tax over the four years!
– Of the remaining four companies, three paid four year effective tax rates of less than 4 percent
(specifically, 0.2%, 2.0% and 3.8%). One company paid a 2008-11 tax rate of 10.9 percent.
– In total, 2008-11 federal income taxes for the 30 companies remained negative, despite $205 billion in pretax U.S. profits. Overall, they enjoyed an average effective federal income tax rate of ?3.1 percent over the four years.
Amongst the 30 are corporate titans such as General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, and Mattel. The only four companies that slipped into positive tax territory were DTE Energy, Honeywell, Wells Fargo, and DuPont, with DuPont the only one that paid more than 4 percent over the four years.
Corporate taxes in the U.S., contrary to the constant protestations of conservatives, are at a 40 year low, with many of the most profitable companies paying nothing at all. CTJ noted that “had these 30 companies paid the full 35 percent corporate tax rate over the 2008-11 period, they would have paid $78.3 billion more in federal income taxes.” And this is not a problem that only afflicts the U.S., as the UK found out last week that online retailer Amazon made billions in sales in 2011, while paying nothing in corporate taxes.