Newt Gingrich announces his ego will stay in this race forever (Chris Keane/Reuters)
Newt Gingrich has abandoned Illinois, saying it's a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, but he still says he's taking his campaign to Tampa.
But when asked Friday what conditions could lead him to withdraw from the race, he says, "Probably none."Forget the 176,000 donors. Sheldon Adelson is the only one that counts. And he's done nothing to suggest that he's stepping forward with another $10 million to bankroll Newt.
Gingrich tells the network "I have 176,000 donors at Newt.org. They want me to stay in the race."
I'm sure Gingrich would deny it, but given that Adelson hasn't done anything to suggest he's going to make another deposit into Newt's Super PAC, isn't "probably none" the first step towards "I'm done"?
Lee Fang at Republic Report is on fire. The Jimmy Olsen Award for best incoming investigator is his for the asking.
We featured his work here (our "buying Buck McKeon" piece) and here (our "why you can't smoke nice things" piece).
Next up, what ThankYou Street is offering at the going rate. I'll give you a taste of Fang's great prologue, and then just one of his many examples. Our intrepid reporter writes (my emphasis; some reparagraphing):
Selling out pays. If you?re a corporation or lobbyist, what?s the best way to ?buy? a member of Congress? Secretly promise them a million dollars or more in pay if they come to work for you after they leave office.That last link is worth clicking, by the way. (Just helping out.)
Once a public official makes a deal to go to work for a lobbying firm or corporation after leaving office, he or she becomes loyal to the future employer. And since those deals are done in secret, legislators are largely free to pass laws, special tax cuts, or earmarks that benefit their future employer with little or no accountability to the public.
While campaign contributions and super PACS are a big problem, the every day bribery of the revolving door may be the most pernicious form of corruption today. (See our post on Monday about current members of Congress already negotiating for jobs on K Street).
Republic Report combed through the few disclosures that are out there to find out how much lawmakers make when they sell out ... Republic Report?s investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1452% on average from the last year they were in office[.] ...Consider this:
Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush?s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies.
During the [Obama] health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin?s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme.
Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin?s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110%.
As supporters try to put Orrin Hatch, 78, out to pasture and literally dislodge Dick Lugar, 79, zealots in the Senate now are showing their hand against all older Americans by trying to end Medicare for current retirees and enrolling them in a health insurance plan now offered to federal employees by the year after next.
A proposal by Sens. Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee would, by their own admission, do nothing to lower long-term costs of Medicare but start the federal program on the road to privatization.
Eligibility age would rise by three months a year for 20 years from age 65 to 70, and premiums would increase on a sliding income scale until those with a $1 million or more a year would pay the full amount.
It?s curious that pols who bitterly oppose raising rates for all billionaires now have no qualms about punishing the older rich, presumably on the theory that their work as ?job creators? diminishes with age.
The plan differs from earlier Republican proposals, which excluded those in or near retirement. Asked what he would tell older Americans who expected to be covered by Medicare for the rest of their lives, Sen. Graham offered a politician?s familiar answer that has always set American teeth (even false ones) on edge: ?Trust me. It?s a good deal.?
My fellow octogenarians will be thrilled to learn that the GOP wants to spare us from what Sarah Palin called Democratic death panels under Obamacare, but her fellow ideologues have no such qualms about impoverishment.
?Happy 90th birthday, sir, now fork over what?s left in your bank account.?
Read The Full Article:
James Poniewozik points out that, because of how television production works, the economy characters have to work with in television shows will always lag behind where we actually are:
Does TV have some sort of agenda to talk down the economy? Do programmers realize that average Americans are hurting far more than the statistics and positive spin might make it show? The truth, if you follow the TV business, is neither so nefarious nor profound. Whenever TV chases social trends and zeitgeist plots, there?s a lag time. It takes months or even years to develop scripted shows, and often by the time TV jumps on a trend in the headlines, the headlines have changed. Just as it was quite a while before primetime shows addressed the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, you?d have to expect it to be a while before they reflected any recovery. (Just look at the recent Work It, thankfully no longer with us, in which two guys dressed in drag to get jobs to play off the already-dated ?mancession? trend.)
Though I also suspect that any recovery and boom?if and when there is one?will have to be well along before primetime TV is willing to acknowledge it. TV networks want a great economy to sell ads in, but TV writers probably like working with the assumption that it?s tough out there?not for propaganda reasons but dramatic ones. Hard economic times create conflict. They provide stakes, and they supply motivation. TV thrives on characters with challenges in extreme situations, and a recession provides a perfect reason to have characters go to extremes to put food on the table.
I’d argue, though, that the current crop of recession shows hasn’t actually confronted the economy particularly head-on for the source of drama. The use of Ponzi schemers rather than investment bankers is a perfect example of this. Television’s littered with Madoff-like Ponzi schemers from 2 Broke Girls, to Revenge, to Don’t Trust The Bitch in Apartment 23 all out of proportion to the actual number of Ponzi schemes operating and the damage they did. Outright fraudsters may be sexy and dramatic, but they’re not actually the reason the economy ended up in a recession.
Explaining what did happen is a much more complicated process, something that many shows don’t seem particularly interested in tackling. But there are other ways to get at the long-term changes in the economy that are going to affect characters and constrain their choices for years. Both 30 Rock and 2 Broke Girls have alluded to student loans their characters carry?Liz, when interviewing with a co-op board explains of her loan that “It is outstanding,” and Max labors in service to her debt rather than their future. But rather than shaping their decisions. In both shows, the loans show up briefly and then disappear?Liz talks to Jack about wiping out her debt and saving for retirement, and Max and Caroline pay off Caroline’s debt with a party. In neither show is debt the long-term problem it is in real life. Similarly, we haven’t had a lot of programing that addresses the lack of retirement security: there’s a generation of workers who are going to have to keep working much longer than they anticipated, and there’s drama in that, even if it’s not of the “what desperate act will I take to put food on the table this week” variety. It’s true America may be going to work. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll suddenly stop bearing the consequences of long-term changes in our economy that were under way before the recession started and will have consequences long after it’s over.
A judge in Russia has this week upheld the Ministry of Justice’s ban on organizing a Pride House for LGBT athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. In her decision, Svetlana Mordovina reiterated several of the claims that have motivated recent legislation to ban the distribution of gay “propaganda,” including that homosexuality threatens children and families and undermines national security:
MORDOVINA: The aims of the organization contradict the basics of public morality and the policy of the state in the area of family motherhood and childhood protection. The activities of the [Pride House] movement leads to propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state, provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity. Moreover it can undermine the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation due to the decrease of Russia?s population.
Such aims as creating an understanding of the necessity to fight against homophobia and the creation of positive attitudes towards LGBT sportsmen contradicts with the basics of public morality because they are directed towards the increase of the number of citizens of sexual minorities which breaches the understanding of good and evil, good and bad, vice and virtue.
Mordovina seems to believe the canard that supporting the LGBT community will somehow prevent or discourage heterosexual couples from having children. It’s not even true that a less homophobic society will make more people gay ? though more may come out instead of entering sham marriages. Nevertheless, her decision is a blow to LGBT athletes from around the world who will travel to an already unfriendly place to find they have no hub where they can gather and support each other.
The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver featured the first-ever Olympics Pride House, and this year’s Summer Games in London will also have such a facility as well as a festival running alongside the games. Watch a clip from Stephen Colbert’s visit to the Vancouver Pride House:
Food safety advocacy groups are fighting a proposed rule that would allow private companies to assume some of the food inspection duties currently handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service currently oversees all poultry for blemishes and defects before the carcasses are fully processed, but under the new rule, poultry plants would assume those responsibilities.
The USDA estimates that the program, known as HIMP, would save the USDA just under $100 million over the next three years while providing a $520 million shot in the arm to poultry companies. At the same time, the USDA claims, it will reduce 5,200 poultry-related illnesses each year. Advocacy groups like Food & Water Watch, however, share a different story. FWW examined more than 5,000 USDA documents and found that companies already operating under trial versions of HIMP are missing defects at absurd rates, Food Safety News reports:
FWW said they found that company employees often miss quality defects like “feathers, lungs, oil glands, trachea and bile still on the carcass.”
Their analysis found that the average error rate for these types of defect in chicken slaughter facilities was 64 percent and 87 percent in turkey slaughter facilities. And for one turkey slaughter facility, nearly 100 percent of samples found this category of defect. FWW also found that the vast majority of non-compliance records filed for the 14 plants under the pilot was for “fecal contamination found on the carcasses.” Out of 229 NRs filed from March to August 2011, 208 (90 percent) were for visible fecal contamination that was missed by company employees.
The USDA says it is trying to “modernize” its outdated and inefficient system, but previous attempts to expand the HIMP program faced similar criticism. In 2002, the Government Accountability Office reported that some plans participating in HIMP had higher results of contamination than before. Five of 11 plants had higher rates of salmonella contamination while only two improved, and tests found higher rates of defects in seven of the plants. At the time, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) called the program a “recipe for food safety disaster.”
And if the various analyses of HIMP plants is true and it fails to decrease the instance of foodborne illness, the program likely won’t save taxpayers money, as FSIS claims. One out of six Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, with 128,00 resulting in hospitalization and 3,000 resulting in death. According to Georgetown University’s Product Safety Project, those illnesses come at a cost of $152 billion a year.
The Obama administration notified Texas yesterday that it was officially stopping funds to the Texas Women’s Health Program because of the state’s decision to block abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, from participating in the program. About half of the participating clinics were cut off by the new state rule that went into effect this week, affecting 130,000 women in the health program:
Twenty-nine states participate in the Medicaid?s Women Health Program, which extends Medicaid coverage for reproductive health services to lower-income women who do not qualify for the rest of the entitlement program?s benefits. [...]
?We very much regret the state?s decision to implement this rule, which will prevent women enrolled in the program from receiving services from the trusted health care providers they have chosen and relied on for their care,? Medicaid director Cindy Mann wrote in a Thursday letter to Texas officials.
While nine states have passed legislation to end abortion provider?s government funding, Texas is the first to lose federal dollars over it. Other states? laws have only affected state spending, or have been held up by court challenges.
Federal law prevents states from banning specific providers from Medicaid programs, leading to the Women’s Health Program showdown. Mann said that while they try to give as much flexibility as possible, “on this case, federal law precludes us from doing so.”
Last year, the federal government gave $39 million for the program. The state pays $1 for every $9 Medicaid puts into the program, but Gov. Rick Perry (R) has insisted the state will fill the gap to keep the program going without including Planned Parenthood. Texas Democrats are seeking alternate federal funds to continue the program through a different route.
A poll earlier this month showed that a majority of Texans disagreed with the Republican push to cut off Women’s Health Program funds to clinics simply because they also provide abortions. Fifty-nine percent of voters opposed the new rule, while 38 percent agreed with it.
Perry reacted angrily to the news that federal officials were cutting off funds. He tweeted, ?Obama Admin ends #WHP via media conference call; @GovernorPerry pledges state will keep pgm going? and ?This is how Obama Admin works? Notifying press before the state administrators? Purely political. #WHP.?
by Mary Anne Hitt, reposted from the Sierra Club
As coal use drops dramatically in the U.S. and clean energy continues to grow, King Coal is looking for new customers. The coal industry is now pursuing its corporate profits via coal exports at the expense of the health, safety, and quality of life of thousands of families in several states, including Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Right now, several major coal companies are proposing to develop Northwest ports to export coal from the Powder River Basin to Asia; including ports at Cherry Point, WA; Longview, WA; Grays Harbor, WA; Coos Bay, OR; St. Helens, OR; and Port of Morrow, OR. You can see a map of the proposed ports here.
Coal exports could make thousands of Northwest residents sick with serious respiratory health problems in cities along the rail line, while fouling the air and water that farms and Main Street businesses depend on. For residents in Montana who have been battling the effects of coal mining in the Powder River Basin, the idea of coal companies tightening their grip on their resources and quality of life to tap international markets is particularly threatening.Millennium Bulk Terminals’ recent permit application for Longview, Washington, proposes exporting 44 million tons of coal annually, making it the largest coal terminal on the West Coast. In February 2011, the company was exposed for deceiving Washington state officials about the amount of coal to be exported from the Longview terminal – although the company originally claimed they would only export five million tons of coal per year, news coverage revealed they actually planned to ship up to 60 million tons per year. Decision-makers sent them back to the drawing board, and now they?re pushing for the terminal yet again.
Another active coal export proposal is at Cherry Point near Bellingham, Washington, where SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal would handle up to 48 million tons of coal annually. The health and environmental effects would be drastic in this beautiful coastal area north of Puget Sound, as coal piles and massive diesel tanker ships contaminate waterways and devastate local fishing and tourism industries.
Meanwhile, three other questionable coal export proposals are active in Oregon and Washington. In these projects, the coal companies are trying to bypass the public permitting process by negotiating with municipalities without public comment or input.
The International Port of Coos Bay in Oregon has been especially secretive, keeping coal export development plans behind closed doors. The Sierra Club recently filed a legal challenge in order to obtain more information about the plan. The Port of Coos Bay has already secured a state dredging permit which would be the largest in state history and could devastate local oyster farming and fishing industries.
We can?t let coal companies make huge profits at the expense of these communities? public health, economies, and environment – not to mention at the expense of climate disruption on our planet as they export US coal for others to burn, polluting communities every step of the way, including those living near huge power plants abroad.
This summer, officials from local counties, the Washington state Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are collaborating on a statewide environmental review process of these proposals. It’s critical that Northwest leadership ensure state and federal agencies fully analyze all the health and environmental impacts of exporting coal from the Powder River Basin through any Northwest Port.
The Sierra Club’s “Coal-Free Northwest” campaign and the Power Past Coal Coalition are mounting an effort to ensure that public agencies fully and fairly consider impacts on communities across the region in their permitting process for the coal export terminals at Cherry Point and Longview – and beyond.
We are determined to stop these dirty coal exports across the region and instead build a clean energy future that protects the Pacific Northwest?s environment, health and economy.
– The American staff sergeant suspected of conducting a massacre of 16 Afghan villagers last weekend had been drinking alcohol and suffering from stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife, a senior American official told the New York Times.
– Mohammad Javad Larijani, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said in an interview with CNNs Christiane Amanpour that “every possibility is on the table” in regards to an Iranian response to a possible attack on its nuclear facilities but added that — despite claims from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Islamic Republic does not want to “wipe Israel off the map” in a military sense.
– The Iraqi government has refused American requests to stop Iranian cargo flights to Syria. Intelligence indicates that the panes are transporting up to 30 tons of weapons.
– A new Pew poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose intervening militarily in Syria and 63 percent opposed sending weapons to rebels fighting the Assad regime.
– Over the objections of rights groups, the U.S. is set to waive a requirement in this year’s foreign aid laws that the State Department certify Egypt’s compliance with human rights norms before dispersing $1.3 billion in military aid.
– As Russian courts sentenced opposition activists to jail terms, the U.S. sought to overcome Cold War-era restrictions and free up $50 million in funds to support democracy there using funds that had invested in nascent Eastern European democracies.
– Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) demanded that the administration hand over legal memos laying out its justification for killing American citizens abroad suspected of involvement in terrorism, dismissing a recent speech by Attorney General Eric Holder touching on the administration’s position as a “Cliff’s Notes” version.
– The Chinese government is moving forward with a multi-billion dollar plan to blanket Chinese cities with surveillance cameras supplied by Uniview Technologies, a company purchased in December by a Bain Capital-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings.
President Obama again on Thursday urged Congress to put an end to expensive subsidies for the largest US oil companies amid rising gas prices. In a speech in Maryland, Obama told supporters that Congress ?can stand up for the oil companies?or [they] can stand up for the American people,? a line that?s sure to play prominently during the general election campaign.
A top Iranian official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said in an interview that ?every possibility is on the table” if Iran is attacked. He also claimed that President Ahmadinejad?s remark that Israel be ?wiped off the map? was ?definitely not? meant in a military sense and is not the ?policy of Iran.?
Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) was ruled ineligible to vote at the Indianapolis house he sold decades ago. Lugar has vowed to appeal the county board of elections ruling.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) fears a Romney nomination would neutralize the health care reform issue, noting that because RomneyCare was so similar to the Affordable Care Act, “you are effectively giving that issue up” by selecting Romney as the nominee.
In the wake of the fallout over Goldman Sach?s practices, JP Morgan chief Jamie Dimon instructed his bank?s employees not to profit from the controversy. ?I want to be clear that I don?t want anyone here to seek advantage from a competitor?s alleged issues or hearsay ? ever. It?s not the way we do business,? Dimon said in an internal memo, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
The U.S. soldier being held in connection with the shooting of 16 Afghan civilians was under the influence of alcohol and ?snapped,? according to a report in the New York Times. The soldier?a 38 year old father of two?was on his fourth tour of duty and was struggling to work through marital difficulties at the time of the massacre.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan writes that ?there is a war against women? in American public life. She argues, ?In this war, leaders who are women are publicly demeaned and diminished based on the fact that they are women. They are the object of sexual slurs, and insulted in sexual terms.?
A handful of Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are warning that the Patriot Act is being used by the Obama administration in stunning ways to conduct surveillance on the American public. ?In recent months we have grown increasingly skeptical about the actual value of the ?intelligence collection operation,?? Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall wrote.
And finally: The Hasidic cleric known as Michael Jackson?s rabbi is now running for Congress in New Jersey.