A new poll puts President Obama up 3 in Ohio -- up 10 with independents. [...]
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PRES. OBAMA continues to have serious challenges with middle class and white blue collar voters, but today David Stockman dismantles that it’s deserved. It’s not a question of mathematics, but one of relating to one another. Because ABC News reports yet another review of how Romney-Ryan economics hurts the middle class.
The House Republican budget for the 2013 fiscal year, passed by the House in June, would raise taxes by $1,358 for jointly-filing households earning between $50,000 and $100,000, assuming the additional income is taxed at a 10 percent rate, according to a report published earlier this summer by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, authored by its chairman, Casey.
Households with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 would see their taxes increase by $2,681, the Joint Economic Committee said.
This post has been updated.
THE CUTS to Medicare talked about in the ad above are not in disagreement. However, the Ryan plan would keep these same cuts. The devil is in how the cuts are utilized.
Obamacare reduces reimbursements to hospitals and private insurance, as well as Medicaid, all of which AARP signed on to when they came out to support the Affordability Care Act.
Paul Ryan’s notion for Medicare is to end it as an entitlement and replace it with a voucher type program that seniors could use to buy their own insurance. One issue I heard raised on PBS “News Hour” is that when Ryan’s proposed idea to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 takes effect, people between 65 and 67 would be left in no man’s land to buy insurance themselves.
I’m also wondering how the Medicare issue will end up playing in Florida, a battleground state Romney has to win because he’s got no path out west, since there’s likely no senior in that state who isn’t aware that they won’t be impacted by Ryan’s plan, because they’re over 55.
Seniors over 55 are some of the most informed voters, so nobody is going to fool them that their benefits are in jeopardy. How this plays for the next generation, especially blue collar and middle class workers living paycheck to paycheck, is another story.
Where’s that ad from Team Obama?
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At two separate events in recent days, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher has proposed to "put a damn fence on the border going to Mexico and start shooting."
Wurzelbacher first made the remarks during a campaign rally for Arizona Republican state Rep. Lori Klein on Friday, according to video published by Prescott eNews.
"For years I've said, you know, put a damn fence on the border, going to Mexico and start shooting," he insisted.
Wurzelbacher then repeated the remarks at a so-called "Patriot Rally" with Klein on Saturday.
"I'm running for Congress. How many congressmen or people running for Congress have you heard, put a fence up and start shooting? None? Well you heard it here first. Put troops on the border and start shooting, I bet that solves our immigration problem real quick."
While Klein refused to condemn the call for border violence, her District 11 opponent, Republican state House Speaker Andy Tobin, called for Wurzelbacher to apologize or go back home to Ohio.
"I would ask for him to retract the statement as made in jest, and if not made in jest, I'm appalled at him," Tobin told KTVK. "We don't do that in Arizona."
Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) launched Wurzelbacher into fame during the 2008 presidential election when he repeatedly referred to "Joe the Plumber" during a debate with then-Sen. Barack Obama. McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, called Wurzelbacher's latest idea "ridiculous." She had previously said that he was a "dumbass" who should "stick to plumbing."
Klein, who is running for re-election in the 11th District, drew charges of racism in 2011 when she read a controversial letter on the state Senate floor, asserting that "[m]ost of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters."
She is also known for pointing a loaded gun at the chest of Richard Ruelas, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, while he was interviewing her at the state Capitol.
?Oh, it?s so cute,? Klein said of the raspberry-pink .380 Ruger that she carries in purse at all times, later explaining that Ruelas had no need to worry because "I just didn?t have my hand on the trigger."
After the shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado in July, I finally started reading Dave Cullen’s Columbine, which I finished just as word broke that a white supremacist had killed six people and wounded three at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before committing suicide. There’s been a lot of conversation, particularly in the wake of The Dark Knight Rises massacre, about the desirability of denying the people who commit these crimes press and memory. At the request of victims’ families, President Obama declined to use the name of James Holmes, who is accused of the Aurora shootings. But reading Columbine, and then re-reading Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, and then the recently-released forensic report on the mental health of Jared Lee Loughner, who recently plead guilty to killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, I realized why that impulse to erase mass killers has never quite resonated with me.
I don’t really want to understand James Holmes, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, or Jared Lee Loughner, or Seung-Hui Cho to understand them, or to come up with a policy solution that would prevent such killings from happening again, especially given the overwhelming obviousness of the role legal guns and ammunition play in making these death rates possible. But I want to read about them and their acts not to fathom the unfathomable, but to gain understanding of a more common humanity: what it means to parent a child gone badly wrong, how to value life in its normalcy rather than its extraordinariness, how men like these test our commitment to the due process of law.
One of the reasons that Columbine, in particular, is important, is that it dispels myths about both persons and policy that grew up in the wake of the shooting. Cullen’s reporting dismantled the idea that Harris and Klebold were social outcasts of some variety, or members of the Trenchcoat Mafia. The point ends up being, in this case as in others, not that schools should monitor social cliques more carefully or ban certain kinds of clothes from campus, but that officials and adults involved with the boys before their killings should have taken available warning signs seriously, and existing procedures should have been followed to their logical conclusions. If Detective Mike Guerra’s search warrant, based on evidence that suggested Harris might be constructing pipe bombs, had been authorized and executed, Harris and the writings on his website might have been recognized for the serious threats they were. If Wayne Harris, Eric’s father, who meticulously documented his son’s troubles, what he believed to be the roots of them, and the punishments he meted out to his son hadn’t believed that another boy was the problem, noting, ?Brooks Brown is out to get Eric. Brooks had problems with other boys. Manipulative & Con Artist,? his serious approach to his seriously malevolent son, combined with functional law enforcement efforts, might have helped avert a disaster.
We like narratives that point to entirely unaddressed issues, often cultural ones, however useless they may be, because they give us something to do that doesn’t involve rectifying past mistakes. And it’s easier to institute a dress code than gun control laws?even if both infringe on personal freedom, gun owners have better lobbyists than teenagers. But we need to report on killers and their lives to avoid falling into easy, false narratives about causation, if only because it often proves more important to fix existing safeguards than to impose new ones.
And beyond policy, knowing the true stories of spree killings helps us value the lives of the people who were lost to random violence. In We Need to Talk About Kevin, the people killed by Eva Katchadorian’s son at his school were:
a basketball player, a studious Hispanic, a film buff, a classical guitarist, an emotive thespian, a computer hacker, a gay ballet student, a homely political activist, a vain teen beauty, a part-time cafeteria worker, and a devoted English teacher…Every one of them enjoyed something. Never mind whether this passion was pursued with any flash; whatever his parents claim, I gather Soweto Washington hadn?t a chance at going pro; Denny was (forgive me,Thelma) an atrocious actor, and Greer Ulanov?s petitioning New York congressmen who were going to vote with Clinton anyway was a waste of time. No one is willing to admit as much now, but Joshua Lukronsky?s obsession with movies annoying to many more students than just our son…Be that as it may, Joshua did love movies, and even his outright irksomeness didn?t keep Kevin from coveting the infatuation itself. It didn?t seem to matter infatuation with what. Soweto Washington loved sport and at least the illusion of a future with the Knicks; Miguel Espinoza, learning (at any rate, Harvard); Jeff Reeves, Telemann; Denny Corbitt, Tennessee Williams; Mouse Ferguson, the Pentium III processor; Ziggy Randolph, West Side Story, not to mention other men; Laura Woolford loved herself; and Dana Rocco?the ultimate unforgivable?loved Kevin.
It’s one of the novel’s crucial psychological insights that the need to turn someone into a saint or genius or martyr after their death devalues and obscures who they actually were, suggesting that it isn’t enough to have been a budding film nerd, or politically engaged?or as happened at Columbine, a troubled girl who’d found new purpose through rededicating herself to faith. Cullen reported out the widely-believed story that Cassie Bernall had professed her faith before being killed at Columbine, chronicling both its untruth, and the impact that martyrizing their daughter had on Cassie’s parents: “Brad had struggled mightily in the early days, but as time wore on friends said he came to terms with Cassie?s death. Misty smoldered. Nearly a decade later, friends described her as getting angry and frustrated at the mention of the martyr controversy. Misty felt she had been robbed, twice. Eric and Dylan took her daughter; journalists and detectives snatched away the miracle.” Whether she was killed for saying she believed in God wasn’t the determining factor in weighing her death a tragedy. Cullen’s careful reporting and recreation of the scene are an important reminder of the value of Cassie’s life independent of whether or not she was a martyr.
And as much as we may desire to place blame, reading killers’ lives also allows us to be more thoughtful and nuanced about the people who live in terrible contradictions in the wake of mass shootings: the killers’ parents. “They were just kids. Something or someone must have led them astray,” Cullen writes in Columbine. “Wayne and Kathy and Tom and Sue were the chief suspects. They dwarfed all other causes, blamed by 85 percent of the population in a Gallup poll. They had the additional advantage of being alive, to be pursued.” In the wake of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, Seung-Hui Cho’s family released a statement, saying, “We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn’t know this person.”
The inexplicability of these killings increases rather than diminishing with proximity to the killers themselves, an idea we reject, and the reason why not just ABC News, but those of us reading at home, jumped on the idea that James Holmes’ mother’s declaration that “you have the right person” was an admission of guilt rather than the simple act of identifying herself to a reporter on the phone. We don’t want to face the sentiments Eva gives voice to, the conclusion she reaches at the end of We Need To Talk About Kevin when she admits, “after three days short of eighteen years, I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting, and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son. He has five grim years left to serve in an adult penitentiary, and I cannot vouch for what will walk out the other side. But in the meantime, there is a second bedroom in my serviceable apartment. The bedspread is plain. A copy of Robin Hood lies on the bookshelf. And the sheets are clean.”
And there are people beyond the victims and the killers and their families and friends, too, the people who put their backs against the wall to reinforce the architecture of civil society in cases like these. Mass killings tend to test the commitment of those of us who oppose the death penalty, in part because they so grievously violate parts of our social compact, the idea that children should be safe at school, or adults of any age should be able to approach their elected representatives without fear of violence. Reading through Loughner’s competency report, I was struck by a section towards the end, recounting Loughner’s contact with his attorneys. “When Mr. Loughner first arrived to this facility, (March 2011), he was allowed to attend his attorney visits unrestrained. In other words, once he arrived to the visiting room, all of the full escorting restraints i.e., bely chain, handcuffs, and leg irons were removed. However, after he spat on his attorney and lunged at her, this practice was discontinued; he was required to wear full escorting restraints for all attorney visits. In February 2012, correctional staff slowly began removing the escorting restraints…By the writing of this report, Mr. Loughner was attending all of his attorney visits without any form of restraints.” The “her” in this case is presumably Judy Clarke, a criminal defense attorney who frequently represents the people accused of some of the most heinous crimes committed in America. What’s interesting about this report is not how Loughner treated the woman who worked to save him from the death penalty, but the reminder of Clarke’s physical courage and her commitment to making sure her clients receive the fair trials it is difficult to provide for them. If she can confront people who have done deep harm and represent them in person, it’s a brace to our further-away convictions, untested by personal confrontation with people whose acts are revolting to us.
To me, all of this makes it worth continuing to examine and interrogate the lives of people who do our communities such great harm, to continue our inquiries even in a wave of overwhelming violence?as I write this, reporting continues on a shooting that has left three people dead near Texas A&M University. I understand the fear that the prospect of infamy will provide an incentive to angry men looking to be remembered, like Seung-Hui Cho, who predicted his death would make him a figure with the same influence as Jesus Christ. But for those killers who survive their terrible acts, I wonder if We Need To Talk About Kevin got it right in on of Eva’s visits to her incarcerated son:
He said, ?Tell you what, I?m fucking tired of telling that same fucking story??from which I could infer that, rather, his fellow inmates were tired of hearing it. Over a year and a half is a long time for teenagers, and Kevin is already yesterday?s news. He?s getting old enough to appreciate, too, that one of the differences between a ?perp,? as they say in cop shows, and your average newspaper reader is that onlookers are allowed the luxury of getting ?fucking tired of the same fucking story? and are free to move on. Culprits are stuck in what must be a tyrannical rehearsal of the same old tale. Kevin will be climbing the stairs to the aerobic-conditioning alcove of the Gladstone High gym for the rest of his life.
Wells Fargo will pay $6.5 million to settle charges that it peddled complex financial products to non-profits and municipalities without fully disclosing their risks. The Securities and Exchange Commission said that the bank “abdicated its fundamental responsibility” by not fully researching how dangerous the products were before selling them. Under the terms of the settlement, Wells Fargo does not have to admit any wrongdoing, making this the latest in a long line of SEC settlements allowing big banks to escape responsibility for bilking clients.
East Longmeadow Selectman Enrique John “Jack” Villamaino III (R), a candidate for the Massachusetts state legislature, is reportedly being investigated for voter fraud. The Boston Globe reported today that the county’s District Attorney is looking into a possible “illegal scheme to cast absentee ballots on behalf of hundreds of voters in hope of winning a primary election.” The paper notes that:
A friend of Villamaino?s who works in the East Longmeadow town clerk?s office is suspected of having changed the registrations in the office computers after work hours, according to one investigator who asked not to be named because the investigation is confidential.
Republicans have attempted to mislead voters into believing that voter fraud is a widespread problem — and used the issue to push suppression laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote in-person.
These photo identification laws would, of course, do absolutely nothing to prevent this sort of election fraud. And while the Secretary of State of Massachusetts note that this sort of fraud is highly unusual, those involved will face criminal prosecution under the robust existing laws, if the investigation determines they are guilty.
Late last month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joined with his pals Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for a “Preserving America?s Strength” series of town-hall style meetings aimed at highlighting the potential impact of defense cuts. But while McCain’s office said that the “official trip” was being paid for entirely with campaign funds, a ThinkProgress analysis of McCain’s donors reveals that much of that money comes from defense industry political action committees.
The Budget Control Act of 2011′s budget sequestration provisions — which McCain voted for — would cut about $917 billion in federal spending over a decade, including about $487 in defense expenditures.
Though even with these cuts, 2013 defense spending would still exceed 2006 levels, the Republican Senators ironically made the tour to sound the alarm that cuts to the federal budget mean fewer private sector jobs. In their announcement statement, they agreed:
We look forward to visiting communities in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire to sound the alarm about the profound negative consequences of these cuts to our national security and economy. These communities ? which provide our troops the equipment and support they need to defend our country ? will bear the brunt of the defense sequestration cuts. Their voices must be heard in Washington.?
The cuts would also, of course, mean less money for the military-industrial complex.
At the recommendation of the Senate Ethics Committee, a McCain spokesman announced the trip would not be paid for with public funds, explaining that it was “an official trip being paid for with campaign funds ? the recommended way to pay for travel such as this outside of a member?s home state.” Since the start of 2010, McCain’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have received more than $125,000 in combined contributions from defense contractors’ corporate PACs. Over his career, according to the Center for Responsible Politics data, he had taken more than $1.2 million in defense industry donations.
The New Hampshire stop on the tour was at BAE Systems? Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center in North Merrimack. Only BAE Systems employees were permitted to attend. BAE Systems Inc.’s corporate PAC gave McCain $2,500 in 2010. the PAC also gave $5,000 to Ayotte in the same year and $10,000 to Graham in 2008, when he was last up for re-election.
The City Council of Mankato, Minnesota voted 4-1 last night to oppose the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. Mankato joins 11 other Minnesota cities as well as several companies in its stand against the discriminatory measure.
by Joe Mendelson, via Wildlife Promise
By now our news media has probably made you aware of the historic drought that is gripping the country. Almost 80 percent of the nation?s agricultural land is experiencing drought conditions not seen since the 1950?s. In mid-July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated this year?s corn harvest will drop by 12% and food prices for all of us will start to rise. But hardly anyone is connecting the dots to the fossil fuel producers who pollute our atmosphere, bank record profits, and pay none of the costs of climate change.
The drought is the latest manifestation of the extreme weather that is gripping the U.S. and placing a striking economic toll on our country. And as pre-eminent NASA climate scientist James Hansen has recently stated (and backed up with peer-reviewed science):
Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change (watch Dr. Hansen explain here).
Rising Costs to All of Us
The costs to all of us resulting from the drought and other extreme weather (watch extreme weather video) continue to mount. Consider some of these numbers:
And yes, these are mere bullets in the growing price tag. Whether it is the direct human toll caused by recent heat waves, property damage from the wildfires that have raged in Colorado, New Mexico or Oklahoma (to note a few), or losses to the outdoor economy as sportsmen see fish dying by the thousands because of warming streams, the year?s full cost of climate change fueled extreme weather is staggering.
Climate Change Free Loaders
What should strike all of us is how these rapidly escalating costs are shining a spotlighting on our country?s major free rider problem. In economics, a free rider is someone who enjoys the benefits of an activity without paying for it. When it comes to the extreme weather costs of climate change, fossil fuel producers are the poster children for the free ride.
In the fiscal year of 2011, major energy companies extracted the following fossil fuels from federal lands?those are lands that are the property of all of us taxpayers:
What is more, these fossil fuels are extracted at below market prices. A recent report highlights that below market leases for coal extraction from public lands has cost the U.S. Treasury approximately $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. And of course this doesn?t include the non-market cost to our government for dealing with the impacts of climate change when it hits home.
So let?s be clear when we look at the costs and consequences of extreme weather. Right now, families at the dinner table, farmers, insurance companies, and the fiscal solvency of the country are all paying for the costs of climate change and extreme weather. Those who produce and sell the fossil fuels that result in carbon pollution being dumped into our atmosphere like an open sewer, cause the extreme weather, and drain our wallets are shouldering zero, zip, nada responsibility for the costs they are creating.
It is time to end the carbon polluter freeloading. The current situation should make the case for putting a price on carbon clear and out in the open. Look at the simple math. A one-time, $1 climate change impacts surcharge for each barrel of oil or ton of coal extracted from our public lands in 2011 (just one fiscal year!) would yielded over $1B in revenue. That certainly isn?t chicken feed and beats slashing agriculture conservation programs by $383M to help drought stricken ranchers.
Joe Mendelson serves as the National Wildlife Federation’s Director of Policy, Climate & Energy Program. This piece was originally published at National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Promise and was reprinted with permission.