Felix Salmon adds to the growing legend of the world’s least-likely protest sign:
Ben Furnas only has 325 followers on Twitter, but that’s all it took to make this photo of his go seriously viral over the past few days. He posted it on Twitter at 5:42pm on Saturday, with no commentary other than the hashtags #ows and #win. It didn’t take long (I’m a little bit unclear about the timezone of BoingBoing timestamps) before Xeni Jardin posted it on her hugely popular blog. And from there it went, well, everywhere.
But herein lies one of the secrets of the faux-meritocracy of the internet. Furnas may appear to be a mild-mannered law student with only 325 Twitter followers. But in an earlier life he was a key player in a ton of CAPAF’s policy products and he’s extremely well socially and professionally connected to the younger cohort of political media people. So that 325 includes reporters and editors from The Washington Post, Politico, Slate, Good, ThinkProgress, Mother Jones, and the Nation and think tank folks from CAP, Third Way, New America, and the Manhattan Institute. Given that particular nexus of people, it’s hardly a long and winding path to wide exposure for something interesting.
This, I think, is an illustration of something important. People sometimes talk about the Internet as if it somehow supplants or replaces personal relationships. But in practice, it often acts as a force multiplier for them.
Herman Cain, a former Pizza-mogul turned GOP presidential candidate, sells himself as the only political outsider in the national race.á But Cain’s relationship with the Koch brothers and their anti-clean energy “activist” group Americans for Prosperity suggests he is just another insider for the 1%.
Cain’s absurd claim that solar and wind “could at best provide only 5 percent of our total energy needs”– debunked below — makes clear he is happy to shill for the pollutocrats and against the 99%.á German politicians have explained that they were able to cross the 20% renewable energy generation threshold last month and adopt policies that will achieve far higher penetration in the coming years, “Because we don’t have … the Koch Brothers.”
A WashPost story from this weekend explores why Cain’s relationship with the politically-influential Koch Brothers is “key” to his campaign:
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has cast himself as the outsider, the pizza magnate with real-world experience who will bring fresh ideas to the nation?s capital. But Cain?s economic ideas, support and organization have close ties to two billionaire brothers who bankroll right-leaning causes through their group Americans for Prosperity.
Cain?s campaign manager and a number of aides have worked for Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, the advocacy group founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which lobbies for lower taxes and less government regulation and spending. Cain credits a businessman who served on an AFP advisory board with helping devise his ?9-9-9? plan to rewrite the nation?s tax code. And his years of speaking at AFP events have given the businessman and radio host a network of loyal grassroots fans.
AFP tapped Cain as the public face of its ?Prosperity Expansion Project,? and he traveled the country in 2005 and 2006 speaking to activists who were starting state-based AFP chapters from Wisconsin to Virginia. Through his AFP work he met Mark Block, a longtime Wisconsin Republican operative hired to lead that state?s AFP chapter in 2005 as he rebounded from an earlier campaign scandal that derailed his career.
The ?9-9-9? flat-tax plan is, of course, just another effort by the 1% to shift more of the tax burden to the 99%.
Speaking to CNN’s John King this weekend, Cain trumpeted his relationship with AFP and the Kochs:
?I know the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers helped to start an organization called Americans For Prosperity and I did some speaking when they were starting that organization. I am very proud of the relationship I have with the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity.?
?I don’t have a close relationship, but I know them and I respect them and they know me and they respect me.?
For anyone who cares about acting on climate change, deploying clean energy, or preserving public health, Americans for Prosperity are anathema. Bankrolled by the Kochs, the group has undertaken fake grassroots campaigns around the country in order to tear down carbon reduction programs, clean energy targets and environmental regulations. The group is undertaking an “Energy for America” bus tour this week to tout more oil, gas and coal extraction and discredit renewables.
Perhaps that’s why Cain is so proud of his relationship with AFP and the Kochs. His policy stances on renewable energy fit in perfectly with their vision of the world. In his book, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House, Cain claims that renewable energy “will not bring us to energy independence.”
“Let?s face it, wind and solar energy development will not bring us to energy independence,” the former Godfather?s Pizza CEO wrote. “Even the Department of Energy?s ?Billion Ton Study? has shown that these two sources combined could at best provide only 5 percent of our total energy needs.”
In order to set the record straight, Politifact checked up on Cain’s claims and determined ? surprise, surprise ? that his claim was “false.” Here is an excerpted version of Politifact’s findings:
In fact, the “Billion Ton Study” mentions only solar and wind energy in passing. The crux of the report is to explore whether there?s enough biomass in the U.S. to replace 30 percent or more of the nation?s petroleum use. (Their answer is “yes,” assuming that certain policies and technologies are in place.) Now, just because Cain?s claim isn?t backed up by the “Billion Ton Study” doesn?t mean his broader point about solar and wind is wrong. We dug further.
All in all, Cain has it wrong on solar and wind energy. The federal government?s “Billion Ton Study” did not say that wind and solar energy combined “could at best provide only 5 percent of our total energy needs.”
The scientific consensus is that there is more than enough sunshine and wind to supply the nation?s total energy needs, experts told us, thanks to the wind-swept Great Plains and Texas and sun-baked states such as New Mexico.”I don?t think anybody can contend there isn?t enough. There?s more than enough,” said Noam Lior, who has studied solar and other alternative energy technologies and their potential at the University of Pennsylvania.
But could it actually happen? Could solar and wind actually provide, say, 10 percent of the nation?s total needs?
“It?s not just possible,” said Daniel Matisoff, who studies environmental policy at Georgia Tech. “It?s likely.”
For instance, a 2008 Energy Department report said it?s possible for wind energy to provide 20 percent of the nation?s electricity supply by 2030, with significant upgrades in the nation?s energy grid, policy changes that support the growth of the wind industry, and some wind turbine technology improvements.
Scientists think solar and wind alone can top 5 percent of the nation?s total needs with policy and infrastructure changes. They could even power the entire nation if the U.S. commits to an energy overhaul, though it would take a lot of resources, time, political will, and possibly some new technologies to get this done.
Cain earns a False.
And let’s not forget, Germany just crossed the 20% renewable energy generation threshold last month. German political leaders ?even those in the most industrial parts of the country ? are pushing for 35% by 2022. Why are they able to accomplish this task with strong political support across party lines? “Because we don’t have … the Koch Brothers,” explained Franz Untersteller, a German state minister for environment, climate and energy in a meeting at the Center for American Progress earlier this month.
Meanwhile, leading candidates like Cain spew false Americans for Prosperity talking points on the campaign trail in an attempt to move the U.S. further from true “prosperity” based on entrepreneurial innovation, environmental accountability and citizen empowerment through renewable energy and efficiency.
'Hey, look! I think I finally figured it out! GENIUS!' (Leschnyhan/Dreamstime.com)
Byron York quotes a source within the Rick Perry campaign on Perry's plan for tonight's GOP debate in Las Vegas (broadcast live at 8PM ET on CNN and of course we'll be liveblogging it here):
"Clearly Romney has a significant problem sealing the deal with Republican voters," the source says. "He's been running for six years and his numbers have stayed in the low- to mid-20s for much of that time. The challenge is who will emerge as the standard-bearing conservative to counter Romney's flip-flop, inconsistent, not-very-conservative record. That continues to be our challenge and our task. There's no magic wand, we need to just continue to grind it out."
Okay, they're just realizing this now? I mean, that's a pretty solid assessment of what Perry needs to do, but it's something that should have been obvious to them all along, and Perry's troubles on the campaign trail have largely been related to his inability to execute on anything resembling that strategy.
Maybe this simply indicates that the Perry campaign has finally gotten itself up to speed and their candidate will be able to deliver from here on out. If so, Romney's toast and Perry will be the nominee. But it could just as easily reflect a chronic inability on the part of Perry and his campaign to grasp the magnitude of a presidential campaign.
On paper, I'd still bet on Perry to take the nomination, and based on his career in politics, it's hard to imagine that Perry is as much a political bumbler as he's seemed over the past few weeks. But the fact remains, as a presidential candidate he's bumbled and stumbled, and with barely more two months before the voting begins in the GOP primary, Perry can't afford to keep on screwing up.
The good news for Perry is that heading into tonight's debate, expectations will be exceptionally low. More importantly, he won't be the target of the debate, a position that clearly makes him uncomfortable. Instead, the focus will be on Romney and Cain, and they'll both be facing tough questions.
In Cain's case, he'll need to defend his 9-9-9 plan from conservative critics as well as convince voters that he's not merely running a vanity campaign. Romney, meanwhile, will continue to face questions about why he cannot manage to build a lead over his rivals despite having been seeking the presidency since the middle of Bush's second term and enjoying the support of nearly the entire DC Republican establishment.
With both Romney and Cain in the spotlight, Perry's biggest challenge will probably be making himself relevant to the debate. He was a wallflower last week in New Hampshire, and if he doesn't adopt a more aggressive stance, he'll face a fate worse than losing the debate: he'll become irrelevant to it.
Lieberman, well, Lieberman: "When you look at the president's jobs act, even if you break it into bite-size pieces, it's spending money we don't have, and you've got to raise taxes to pay for it, and to me, all that just makes the job of the debt reduction committee ? even harder." Yep, with us on everything but the war.
Nelson's opposed because he's Nelson, rather incoherently arguing, "If I didn't think much of it on the one thing, you've got to assume that I won't think much of it for something else." What he means is no new taxes.
Tester says, "I've got more of a concern about a state aid package and what it?s going to do and how the money is going to spent and whether it's really going to create jobs." Here's some suggested reading from Matt Yglesias for to answer that concern. First, a picture, showing the downward trend for employment just among educators.
Imagine a world where unemployment is low and wages are rising. In a world like that, teachers who get laid off would get new jobs quickly. Private firms, after all, would be looking to expand but they?re having trouble finding workers.
In the real world, unemployment is high and wages are flat so this doesn?t happen. Instead the teacher?s family just faces an immediate need to restrain spending. Defer any purchases of durable goods, stop eating at restaurants, don?t update the wardrobe this season, etc. So now there?s a drag on employment of cooks and waitresses, of clothing retailers, of truck drivers, of guys who install refrigerators, and so forth.
Tester says he's concerned whether this bill will actually create jobs. Well, how about as Yglesias correctly argues, not actually losing more jobs because of lack of demand for goods and services because of high unemployment, particularly among teachers and other public employees? This ain't rocket science. They're not spending their money supporting local businesses if they don't have money to spend.
The question for Tester is why he wants to be lumped in with these two on an issue as critical as getting people back to work? There's also a key reminder for Tester, with reelection looming, embodied in that picture up top: Having the fire-fighters on your side is really smart politics in Montana.
But while you can always speculate, you should never draw conclusions based on a single poll, especially when you get fresh data every week. If I had done so seven days ago, I'd have lost a lot of money, because I definitely would have bet that Obama's numbers would come back down this week. But not only have they not done so, they've gone up again. Indeed, in the first two weeks of October, the president's job approval has gone from -13 to -3, a jump of ten points. Such dramatic movement is generally quite rare, except in the face of major news.
And again, we haven't seen confirmation from other pollsters. Gallup (which runs a daily tracker) has shown Obama pretty steady over the last month. Few other organizations poll as frequently as we do, though, so we still need to wait to see whether we get any kind of confirmation here, or whether our numbers will continue to stick out like... well, I can't really say like a proverbial sore thumb, since these are positive!
It may be that we're on to something here, something that Gallup is in fact missing. Maybe Obama sticking it to Republicans over the jobs bill is paying dividends. Maybe the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement is generating new-found enthusiasm on the part of Democrats. Or maybe we're just wrong, and our numbers will soon fall in line. Time will, indeed, tell.
The remaining state AG's still trying to reach a settlement with banks over foreclosure fraud have come up with yet another idea: require the banks to allow some "underwater" owners to refinance. It looks similar to a plan proposed for mortgages owned[...]
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Early October saw more new ETFs come to market. The twelve recent introductions push the year-to-date count of new ETFs and ETNs to 260. The industry is on pace to have the most prolific year yet for new exchange-traded products.
October’s early dozen includes four new ProShares ETFs, Russell’s expansion of its Disciplined Index ETFs into the small cap space, additional Chinese Renminbi-based products from CurrencyShares and Market Vectors, a TrimTabs actively-managed fund from AdvisorShares, and a UBS leveraged cloud computing ETN.
Here is a brief description of each new product along with my initial comments:
CurrencyShares Chinese Renminbi Trust (FXCH) (FXCH overview) was launched by Rydex on 10/4/11 and is designed to track the price of the Chinese . . . → Read More: A Dozen New ETFs in the First Dozen Days of October
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Cynthia Archer, a former aide to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is back in her state job after her house was raided by the FBI last month.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Archer reported to her job at the Department of Children and Families for the first time on Monday, eight weeks after her medical leave began, according to department spokeswoman Sara Buschman.
Archer will work half days this week and full days next week, Buschman said. Buschman did not say if Archer's time off this week would be treated as medical leave, vacation or another type of leave.
The FBI's search of Archer's home is thought to be connected to an ongoing "John Doe" investigation -- a secret proceeding in which witnesses can be subpoenaed to testify under oath, but are forbidden from talking publicly about the case. The investigation originally stemmed from a Walker staffer resigning in 2010, when she was found using her county time to post reader comments on online newspaper article promoting Walker's gubernatorial candidacy and criticizing his opponents.
Late last month, Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie was given immunity in the investigation.
A federal prosecutor who was transferred out of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Unit more than two years ago in the fallout of the mishandling of the corruption case against late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has returned to his position, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports:
Edward P. Sullivan, who had been working on international affairs at Justice Department headquarters since June 2009, will appear in federal court in D.C. today as a member of the government team handling the sentencing of Trevor Blackann, a lobbyist and former GOP Senate aide. Blackann pleaded guilty for failing to report $4,100 in tickets and other gifts he received in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
Sullivan's lawyer Brian Heberlig told NPR that Sullivan was cleared of wrongdoing in the ethics investigation.
"The Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility completely exonerated Mr. Sullivan," Heberlig said. "He should not have been included in the investigation of the Stevens matter in the first place, as he was not on the trial team, had no decision-making authority, and exercised sound judgment in his supporting role. Now that he has been vindicated, Mr. Sullivan has put this matter behind him and is rightfully back prosecuting cases for the Department's Public Integrity Section."
Two other prosecutors had been found to have engaged in misconduct in a draft copy of the OPR report, according to media reports in November. NPR reports that the process isn't complete and the two attorneys -- Joseph Bottini and James Goeke -- continue to work at DOJ. Another member of the trial team, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide last year, before the probe wrapped up. Friends told TPM that he felt he had been scapegoated.
The Justice Department requested on Monday that a federal judge prevent the public dissemination of the cover names used by undercover FBI employees who allegedly worked with Rezwan Ferdaus to plot a (far fetched) attack on the Pentagon and Capitol Building using remote controlled planes.
"During the course of the criminal investigation of the defendant, Ferdaus had numerous meetings and conversations with two FBI UCEs," federal prosecutors in Massachusetts said in a Monday filing. "In interacting with Ferdaus, the UCEs used cover names (first and last names). For public safety reasons, the defendant and his counsel have agreed not to publicly disclose the cover names of these UCEs in any pre-trial filing or at any pre-trial hearing (including the detention hearing) in open court."
Instead, both the defendant and his lawyer will refer to the FBI undercover agents collectively or as UCE1 or UCE2. If he chooses to go to trial, the names used by the undercover agents may be disclosed.
The government also sought to prevent audio and video recordings involving the FBI undercover agents from being distributed to anyone not involved in the case.