Last week, 31 of the 32 Senators in the Dominican Republic’s Congress sent President Barack Obama an apology. The reason? Highly offensive comments by former Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia, who is currently seeking to reclaim the job he held from 2000 to 2004. He lost in a landslide defeat amid a national economic crisis and financial near-collapse.
Mejia recently told a gathering of New York clergy that Obama “came from Africa and grew up over there.” Watch the video:
But there are two noteworthy things about this incident for followers of American polics.
First, as ThinkProgress exclusively reported in February, Mejia has retained a U.S. lobbyist to represent his presidential campaign’s interests before the U.S. government. His lobbyist is Ignacio E. Sanchez, of DLA Piper, and that makes Sanchez a registered foreign agent.
Sanchez is one of a growing number of lobbyists who are also “bundlers” for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He’s already reaised at least $86,700 in bundled contributions for the former Massachusetts governor.
President Obama does not accept campaign contributions donated or bundled by federal lobbyists or foreign agents. In last his January State of the Union address, he said, ?Let?s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can?t lobby Congress, and vice versa — an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.? He also voluntarily discloses all of his major bundlers, as did Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and President George W. Bush (R) in their 2000, 2004, and 2008 races.
But Romney — who has not voluntarily disclosed any bundlers who are not lobbyists — is apparently all too happy to accept money from those who are paid to influence policy decisions on behalf of special interests, foreign and domestic. Apparently, even if they represent foreign leaders who make unfounded scurrilous attacks on the legitimacy of the United States president and the credibility of its political system.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the minister next to Mejia in the video, who bursts out into enthusiastic laughter at the comment, is Pentecostal Christian Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. Diaz is the rabidly anti-gay New York State senator and volunteer National Organization of Marriage spokesman. While nominally a Democrat, Diaz has crossed party lines to endorse anti-gay Republicans over pro-equality Democrats.
ST. LOUIS, MO — “Getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Washington state is as easy as buying a new set of tires,” wrote Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur last month, adding that residents of the state can obtain the permits “without taking a single gun-training class.”
The Nation Rifle Association has opposed regulatory measures that require gun training before residents obtain a concealed carry permit. Late last year, the NRA objected to a proposal in Wisconsin that would require state residents there to undergo four hours of training before getting the permit. ?It?s clear that the will is to allow people to gauge what their own needs are,? an NRA spokesperson said of the measure. ?There are some people who need additional time and others who do not.?
ThinkProgress spoke with NRA members in St. Louis last weekend at the organization’s annual meeting and exhibition. Many supported a gun safety training requirement before obtaining a concealed carry permit:
– “I don?t have a problem with doing the gun safety training or even live fire as part of the requirements.”
– “They should [require training]. They don?t give you a driver?s license if you don?t know how to drive.”
– “Yeah it?s really a good thing to go through, learn all the safety. Oh sure.”
– “I could still get my concealed carry so that, in Washington at least, Washington state, seemed a little lackadaisical. ? So I think it is very helpful and should be required.”
Watch the interview clips:
The NRA is also pushing a concealed carry reciprocity bill that will allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons to other states with similar laws.
Patricia Maisch, who grabbed a bullet-filled magazine from Jared Loughner before he could reload his semi-automatic handgun during his shooting rampage that ended up wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), criticized the NRA for opposing common sense regulatory measures. “I don’t think they care. I think that the NRA has gone from gun safety and gun training to being about selling guns and making money,” she said.
When it comes to stock-picking, it's not always about finding the best company in an industry. It's about finding the best stock in that industry.
I was reminded of that axiom after poring over first-quarter results from Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM) and Citigroup (NYSE: C). The first two banks have been the class of the field. Citigroup remains in "clean-up mode" as it emerges from a number of self-inflicted wounds from the last recession. Still, Citigroup has potentially much more upside than those better-run banks, which is why it's a member of my $100,000 Real-Money Portfolio.
At first blush, investors are understandably attracted to Wells Fargo and JP Morgan. Warren Buffett has . . . → Read More: This Giant Bank Stock Could Gain 50% in a Couple Years
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If you're a deeply religious person seeking guidance as you navigate the political realm, sacred scriptures can be distressingly puzzling. The problem is that (depending on your religion) they were written a long, long time ago, when no one knew about the problems we have to confront in the modern world. The Bible is full of specific instructions for things that most people today don't do (the proper method of ceremonial animal slaughter, for instance), and general instructions that different people apply to particular situations in radically different ways. Jesus says we ought to treat other people as we would have them treat us, but that doesn't really tell you whether net neutrality or an extension of copyright limits is a good idea.
But that doesn't stop people from trying. Today NPR has an interesting story about Christians having a "fierce debate" about which policy moves the Bible actually commands. You'll be shocked to learn that people mostly find scriptural justification for what they'd like to believe anyway. And that's what's so great about scripture: it'll tell you whatever you want. This is hands down my favorite part, featuring the right's favorite "historian," David Barton, whom you may recognize from his writing and speaking on how the Founding Fathers wanted to establish something like a Christian theocracy:
For other religious conservatives, the Bible is a blueprint for robust capitalism. Recently, on his radio program WallBuilders, David Barton and a guest discussed Jesus' parable of the vineyard owner. In it, the owner pays the worker he hires at the end of the day the same wage as he pays the one who begins work in the morning. Many theologians have long interpreted this as God's grace being available right up to the last minute, but Barton sees the parable as a bar to collective bargaining.
"Where were unions in all this? The contract is between an employer and an employee. It's not between a group," Barton said. "He went out and hired individually the guys he wanted to work."
Well obviously. And you know what else isn't mentioned in this parable? Bathroom breaks, that's what. Or power tools. Or rubber-soled shoes. So clearly, workers should not have the opportunity to avail themselves of any of those things either.
When conservatives complain about faith being pushed out of public debate, we should ask exactly what role people like Rick Santorum want faith to have. One of the foundations of debate is that I have to argue in terms you'll accept if I'm to have a chance to persuade you. So if I'm a Muslim and you're a Christian, I can't say we ought to cut agriculture subsidies just because the Quran says so. You don't believe in the Quran, so that reason has no persuasive power for you. Conservative Christians seem to want their own interpretations of vague passages of their particular scriptures to have some kind of persuasive force when discussing policy. But they don't. That doesn't mean they aren't free to try?they can argue all day if they like that, as Richard Land says in the NPR piece, "the Bible tells us that socialism and neosocialism never worked." But if they can't come up with a better justification than "the Bible says so," they won't persuade anybody who doesn't already agree with them.
Look, it's nonworking parents raising their kids to be indolent and unproductiveFor a guy who thinks being a mom is the hardest job in the world, and no one has worked harder than his wife, Mitt Romney sure has a funny attitude when it comes to other nonworking mothers who aren't married to multimillionaires. As Mitt wrote in his book:
In some quarters, however, the American work ethic is waning. Some people devote themselves to find ways not to work. Some seem to take a perverse kind of pride in being slipshod or lackadaisical. In many cases, where our work culture has deteriorated, shortsighted government policies share a good part of the blame.Not only does Mitt think poor mothers "need to go to work" so they'll have "dignity," and not only does he think that drug testing poor mothers is "an excellent idea," but he also thinks that nonworking parents raise rotten children. Except, of course, for Ann Romney, the hardest working nonworking parent ever.
Welfare without work erodes the spirit and the sense of self-worth of the recipient. And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to an indolent and unproductive life. Hardworking parents raise hardworking kids; we should recognize that the opposite is also true. The influence of the work habits of our parents and other adults around us as we grow up has lasting impact.
(Caricature by DonkeyHotey)Ben Smith points out that, according to a copy of an email he received from a former executive of the Marriott hotel chain on whose board Romney sat, the GOP candidate is offering access to a special "Presidential Inaugural retreat." But only to those who contribute $50,000 or more to a joint fundraising committee known as "Romney Victory":
Those donors will be named "Founding Members" of Romney Victory and invited to a California retreat with Romney and offered "yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August."Yep. That's just the first Inaugural being talked about there. He's planning on being in charge for eight years.
They will also "have preferred status at the first Presidential Inaugural retreat," the email says.
Well before the ancient Lydians started turning coins into money, the wealthy got better access to leaders than the less affluent. Modern politicians are no different. It doesn't take a genius to know that a candidate is more likely to answer a call from a contributor who is pouring a lot of coin into an election campaign than some poor citizen who is stretching her budget to feed the kids. Before the election, and most importantly, afterward, the rich aren't like you and me when it comes to catching the ear of the person whose decisions could have an impact on us.
But in recent years, there's been at least an attempt to be a bit circumspect about this process, about not making the access too obvious. Mitt Romney seems determined to change that. Which is no surprise given his notorious hoi oligoi take on the prerogatives of the wealthy.
Unlike Newt Gingrich, who was charging $50 to have a photo taken with him, at a campaign event on June 11, couples can get a photo of themselves with Romney if they contribute $10,000 to the campaign.
The "Founding Members" of Romney Victory will certainly be getting a lot more than that. Unless, of course, their candidate doesn't make it to the White House. Then they may have to settle for a photo of themselves next to the Romney car elevator.
When Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney never worked a day in her life, the comment was at first touted as an enormous misstep, a jab at mothers, a slip of the lip that could sink Obama's post-contraception-scuffle 19-point lead among women.
Do you see it? All I've seen is a little scuffling among pundits who are competing to say that either, a) it's true that Ann Romney has no idea what economic insecurity feels like, or b) Hilary Rosen is an elitist lezzie, or some combination thereof.
But you know what? I think the "mommy wars"?which, as I wrote a few years ago, never really existed in the first place, except as a media creation?are over. Most women have to work for their families to stay in the middle class. The situation is impossible for all of us, whether we're working in an office or working at home or taking a few years out of the workforce to manage the house and children and then find it difficult to get back in at a reasonable-enough wage to ensure a decent Social Security check in old age. The United States is set up on the assumption that everyone who works should do so around the clock ... and that children should be a parent's full-time focus at all times, so much so that you must abandon the rest of your life to pick them up from school at appallingly early hours so that you can then ferry them to an endless array of after-school activities. The problem with this clash isn't personal; it's a structural problem. We have set our society up in a way that makes it impossible to both work and parent. And I don't see any interest in solving this as a society. We're all left to patch together solutions on our own. If I want to go out of town, my mother-in-law has to come down from Maine to meet my stepson after school. If she can't, we panic. And I know we're not alone.
The most illuminating thing I've seen on this lately was written by Jennifer Conlin in the New York Times about a week ago. Here are some excerpts:
?[I]It wasn?t until 18 months ago, when my husband and I finally returned to the States, that I first experienced motherhood in America. Until then, all I knew were the joys of European parenting as presented by Ms. Druckerman, from the way my children ate everything from coq au vin to kedgeree to our tranquil family life of weekend walks, nightly dinners and relaxing vacations.
Sadly, I now know it is easier to preach benign parenting from one?s pretty perch in Paris than it is to import those traits to the trenches of America. ? Suddenly I get it. Before, they always enjoyed a healthy extracurricular life of sports and school clubs, but never one that overtly conflicted with my career or social life ? on the contrary, in Brussels I did some of my best networking at the local playground cafe, which served chilled bottles of Pouilly-Fumé and Stella Artois to half-watching parents. ? In Paris, my children had only a half day of school on Wednesdays (the norm in France), giving them an afternoon free for ballet classes, music lessons or circus school, which made it easy for me to compress into one day the delivering to and fro.
I now look back appreciatively at my daughter?s early morning field-hockey schedule in London. The team practiced three mornings a week from 8 to 8:30 a.m., with the odd game taking place from 4 to 5 p.m. every other week, weather permitting (it usually rained).
Now our entire adult life revolves around the children?s activities. The last two weekends alone, my daughter was in three performances of the school musical, had softball practice, a state solo ensemble competition (that ended at 12:30 p.m., a 40-minute drive from the musical, which started at 2 p.m.) and a forensics tournament.... .
It is hard to look forward to summer, because we have already been told our annual August vacation with the cousins can?t happen because ?preseason? for both of my children?s fall sports starts in mid-August.... Not only has my gas bill grown astronomically because of the chauffeuring, but my waist size has also multiplied from walking less and eating more. (Who has time to cook when the clock says it?s pickup time again?)
Any contemporary American parent has a comparable story. And of course, any meaningful career requires the same kind of around-the-clock, work-when-you're-needed-which-is-always schedule, while waged work increasingly requires a willingness to work crazy shifts without much advanced notice. Our system is just not humane?or to put it differently, we leave no time to be human. But I don't see any change on the horizon. Do you?
Rep. Paul Ryan introducing his budget. Let the posturing begin. (Jose Luis Magaua/Reuters)Today, while Senate Republicans will be trying to stop the very popular Buffet Rule to tax the rich, their buddies in the House are mapping out new and exciting ways to screw over everyone else.
Six different House committees have been tasked with trying to make Rep. Paul Ryan's magical "budget" work, and they're tackling it with gusto, ready to decimate programs for low and middle income Americans while increasing defense spending.
Expected targets for cuts include food stamps, farm subsidies and crop insurance, federal employee pensions and health care. A repeal of President Barack Obama's health reform law would prevent new coverage expenses from occurring from 2014. [...]Don't forget that they're also going to gift millionaires with the lowest tax rates in 80 years (funded by getting rid of still unidentified loopholes and, apparently, unicorn poop). They've certainly made their priorities clear: more defense spending and tax cuts for millionaires, while taking food out of children's mouths and health care away from the vulnerable. And don't forget those Medicare vouchers!
Importantly, Republicans want to shield military and security spending from these cuts by shifting them to domestic programs. And fiscal conservatives want to demonstrate to voters even deeper spending cuts.
It would all just be so much show, if not for the fact that Republicans are determined to try to actually enact these cuts, breaking the budget deal they agreed to in the Budget Control Act settled last year. That risks yet another government shutdown stand-off this summer or fall. Somehow they seem to remain convinced that this is what will win the election for them.
The Obama campaign is looking to expand the battleground states map to include Arizona, opening campaign offices and registering voters across the state despite its Republican governor, two Republican senators, and a history of voting Republican in presidential elections broken, in the past 50 years, only by Bill Clinton. But things may be changing:
?It is going to be a swing state,? said Jim Messina, the president?s campaign manager. ?The question is, whether we can get enough people registered to put it in play this year.?Markos has extensively analyzed some of those census numbers, along with Latino voting margins in 2008 and polling this year:
?If you just close your eyes and look at the census numbers, look at the number of unregistered voters, look at how this is the only state in the country that didn?t have a primary or a contested general in 2008, so there was no organizing,? Mr. Messina said as he ticked off the factors that work in their favor. ?And look next door. Look at New Mexico, look at Colorado, look at California. All that stuff is going to come to Arizona. The question is, can we get it there in time? How expensive is it do it??
In 2008, John McCain won his home state of Arizona by nine points. Sixteen percent of the voters were Latino, and they went to Obama by a 56-41 margin.When you look at it like that, it becomes clear why the Obama campaign thinks it's at least worth making an early effort; later, they'll assess if they're succeeding at putting the state in play and decide whether to keep Arizona in the general election game plan. And the beautiful thing is, even if the Obama campaign ultimately decides not to contest Arizona, Democrats running in downballot races will benefit from increased voter registration.
Had Arizona Latinos voted Obama 80-20, and had everything else remained the same, it would've been a one-point state, well within the exit poll's margin of error.
Good columnists like Edward Luce are explaining some of the basics of the ongoing housing/mortgage crisis, but they're still assuming that the decisions open to Ed DeMarco will have a greater effect than is being discussed. That's because his decisions[...]
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