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I'm getting a little tired of the Royal Romneys. Between Ann Romney's imperious delivery of her pronouncement that "you people" have all the information Queen Ann deigns to divulge, and their bilious fundraising colleagues, I start contemplating the possibility of repatriation in the event of a 2012 bought election.
It was in that mood that these words reached my already-hotheaded ears. It seems that to the Romney campaign, "real people", (who one assumes would not be the same as "you people" although perhaps they would be the same if one is a Romney and therefore entitled to hover above the rest of us) do not care about Afghanistan. That's just something we don't worry our little heads about?
Also, it seems that asking a simple policy question is now an attack, causing Ms. Wall to burst forth in indignant anger:
Unfortunately it?s disappointing that the attacks, these recent attacks on all these issues outside of what the issues are relative to Mitt Romney are diverting away from what real Americans want to talk about. And real Americans want to talk about getting back to work.
You know what disappoints this "real American"? The idea that the Romney campaign thinks that people like me who deeply care about Afghanistan's future and our role in it (or not) aren't "real Americans."
After all, she had to say something, I guess, and she couldn't actually articulate Mitt Romney's policy on Afghanistan because (gasp!) it's unintelligible.
Some things should remain mysteries. Others should not, particularly when one expects to be elected President of the United States. Mitt's taxes point directly to how he would approach tax policy. Mitt's policy ideas on Afghanistan point directly to how he would approach foreign policy.
It just isn't enough to say he'd do it like George W. Bush did, but right now, that's all we've got to go on. He has Bush advisors and Bush money boys, so we should assume he would adopt Bush neocon policies. That would mean World War III. For starters.
At least, that's what this "real American" who is now not a "real American" by virtue of her concern about Afghanistan thinks. Take it for what it's worth.
Blue America is in the final stages of endorsing a young California Democrat-- and another People For the American Way YEO (like our candidates Matt Heinz in Arizona and Nate Shinagawa in New York)-- Jay Chen. We first introduced him in May and he's been working hard to take a race the DCCC seems unaware of and make it into a real contest-- with a powerful Republican incumbent, Wall Street pawn Ed Royce, who is suddenly very vulnerable.
There's a real battle brewing for the 39th CD, a district far less likely than his old Orange County heartland to support an anti-immigrant fanatic who exists to service banksters. Royce had taken on the persona of a chest-thumping teabagger to please OC Neanderthals but now finds himself in a new district full of the same minorities he has been trying to disenfranchise for decades. Schadenfreude will be sweet in November. In Royce's old 40th CD, McCain took 51% in 2008. McCain only took 49% under the new 39th district's boundaries, where Royce looks like an odd duck. The district includes the cities of Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, Hacienda Heights, La Habra, La Habra Heights, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Walnut, and Yorba Linda. Approximately 30% of the voters are Hispanic, and another 30% are Asian. For Royce, this means a rapid recalculation of the stances that have made him popular behind the deeply conservative orange curtain.
Royce has made a name for himself in the last two decades as one of Congress? most reliable anti-immigrant votes, right up there with the vicious freakshow led by racist hatemongers like Steve King (R-IA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA). In fact, he was ranked a top ten legislator by NumbersUSA, a rabidly anti-immigrant Hate Group that wants to bring immigration levels down to pre-1965 levels.
Almost every year Royce co-sponsors a bill requiring all federal services to be English-only. The bills always fail, but that doesn?t stop him from trying to prove his nasty, xenophobic point year after year, or to show the Know Nothings he caters to that he's one of them.
While stumping for the latest English-only bill, Royce railed against multi-language ballots: ?Now think for a minute about the resources that go into [multi-language ballots] that instead could be deployed in order to teach young people English... and how much simpler that would be, in the balloting process and everything else, if English was the official language.?
For a ten-term congressman, Royce is incredibly clueless about how budgets work. Money for multilingual ballots can?t simply be removed and placed into education, and there are already programs in place to teach people English. It's called school. Ironically, Royce?s bill is correct in that this would make things simpler. With English-only ballots fewer people would vote-- especially minorities and English learners. And that is probably exactly what Royce and his crowd are aiming for.
Last year, Royce was also all over the airwaves trying to make SB 1070, Arizona?s controversial ?Show me your papers? bill, a federal law. The law gives police officers the right to stop anybody and question their immigration status. It would legalize racial profiling and is meant by right-wing Republicans as a way of hassling and humiliating immigrants so that they, in Mitt Romney's words, "self-deport."
Royce hasn?t just introduced bills to reduce minority rights; he has tried to repeal one of the most important bills of all, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2007 he joined a small extremist faction representing a mere 6% of Congress that voted against the bipartisan decision to extend the act, the cornerstone of the civil rights movement.
Who is financing this hate-mongering? Royce, who has taken in $12,413,016 in campaign contributions since 1989-- most in legalistic bribes from the insurance industry, the real estate industry and Wall Street (his top 3 career-long sources of funds)-- is still sucking up the bribes this year. For the current cycle, the Credit Union National Association, Bank of America, Well Fargo, UBS and JPMorgan Chase are his 5 top donors... five predatory shameless corporations who don't mind underwriting bigotry and hatred as long as they have a congressman in their pockets well-placed to oppose consumer protection legislation-- which just happens to be Royce's specialty on the House Financial Services Committee. Royce also runs his own shady political action committee, which he uses to buy the loyalty of other Republicans less well-connected to Wall Street banksters. This cycle the $167,977 he's handed out to other right-wing immigrant haters (like Lou Barletta, Brian Bilbray, Mike Coffman, Frank Guinta, Bill Huizenga, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Dan Lungren, Gary Miller, Steve Stivers and, of course, Allen West) comes in large part from $10,000 bribes the PAC received from the Credit Union National Association, Deloitte and Touche, Experian, Investment Co Institute, Lockheed Martin, Northwestern Mutual Life and UBS.
In Congress, Royce hides his antipathy towards immigrants through bills that have no hope of passage. In February of 2011, however, his true colors came out. At an Orange County fundraiser for battered women and the homeless, organized by the Islamic Circle of North America, a viral video captured the anti-Muslim hate rally that formed to harass the fundraiser participants. Protesters screamed at Muslim-American families and children to ?go home? while local politicians encouraged violence against the participants.
Royce was one of several local officials who spoke in support of the event, and instead of calming the crowd, incited violence, egged it on with premeditated attacks on diversity:
?A big part of the problem we face today is that our children have been taught in schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others? positions, no matter how odious-- and what do we call that? They call it multiculturalism it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgments we need to make.?
"It's clear that Huma Abedin, as a key advisor to the Department of State, has provided years of dedication and wise counsel to American diplomacy. Allegations of her relations with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood are unsubstantiated attacks on a woman who has provided nothing but service to this country, and are no more than political fundraising tools for Tea Partier and former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann... This is an attack on our nation's foundational principles of tolerance and cultural inclusiveness. When standing members of Congress seek to call into question a service member's loyalty to this country simply because of their ethnicity and religion, they threaten the core freedoms that make this country great."
It's gone now.
Walmart is under fire after an investigation by Mercy for Animals revealed inhumane practices at a plant operated by one of its pork suppliers, Christensen Farms. The non-profit sent an investigator to a Christensen plant in Minnesota who came away with video evidence documenting several practices, including gestation crates and tail-docking, that are widely condemned by animal advocates and banned in a number of states. Watch it (warning for intensely graphic content):
Christensen, one of the largest pork producers in the country, claimed its practices are “within standard animal welfare practices.” Both a veterinarian and an animal behavior expert who reviewed the footage disagreed in strong terms. One said, “what I saw in this video is all too familiar to me from other factory farm footage I have seen: it is an unremitting hell on earth.” Gestation crates — the impossibly small cages that cause much of the pain documented in the video — are being phased out in the EU after a comprehensive expert review of the harm they do to animals.
Mercy for Animals has had success working with corporations to stop doing business cruel suppliers in the past. A campaign against egg producer Sparboe Farms caused both McDonald’s and Target to drop the company. Costco recently decided to end its relationship with farms that employ gestation crates, though the company claims the decision was unrelated to Mercy for Animals’ investigation. Many other major restaurant and grocery corporations have voluntarily asked suppliers to stop using gestation crates.
Mercy for Animals is circulating a petition asking Walmart to end its relationship with Christensen.
According to a Gallup poll released this week, Americans now believe obesity is a more serious problem than smoking. In the study, 81 percent of adults said obesity was an “extremely serious” or “very serious” social problem, compared with only 67 percent who reported the same about smoking. This is the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 2003 that Americans indicated that they are more worried about global obesity than smoking.
The Union of European Football Associations announced today that it would be fining Italian striker Antonio Cassano ?15,000 for anti-gay comments he made in advance of the Euro 2012 championships. In response to a question about whether or not there were gay players on the Italy squad, Cassano replied, “I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that?s their business.” He later said that he regrets that his statements “have sparked controversy and protest from gay rights groups.”
Imagine a train speeding down a track, just a few miles away from a wall that it will crash into. You can't see the wall yet, but you're told it's there anyway. As . . . → Read More: Warning: Here’s How the "Fiscal Cliff" Could Ruin Your Portfolio
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For the sake of our national and economic security, I urge the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Congress to send me comprehensive legislation so I can sign it into law.The bill has been revised to address many of the concerns of civil liberties and privacy advocates, and has answered the concerns of many. In fact, the ACLU says the improvements in the bill on civil liberties are "good news." They detail those changes:
? Ensure that companies who share cybersecurity information with the government give it directly to civilian agencies, and not to military agencies like the National Security Agency. The single most important limitation on domestic cybersecurity programs is that they are civilian-run and do not turn the military loose on Americans and the internet.The legislation also makes what were mandatory standards on the relevant industries optional, but still "establishes a 'National Cybersecurity Council' to 'coordinate with owners and operators of critical infrastructure.'" Congressional Republicans were intent on not allowing the federal government to enforce any regulation on these industries to make them protect themselves. The disastrous House-passed CISPA bill included no regulation or responsibility on the part of industry, so this is a modest improvement there. It's a huge improvement over the House bill on the civil liberties front.
? Ensure that information shared under the program be ?reasonably necessary? to describe a cybersecurity threat.
? Restrict the government?s use of information it receives under the cyber info sharing authority so that it can be used only for actual cybersecurity purposes and to prosecute cyber crimes, protect people from imminent threat of death or physical harm, or protect children from serious threats.
? Require annual reports from the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Defense and Intelligence Community Inspectors General that describe what information is received, who gets it, and what is done with it.
? Allow individuals to sue the government if it intentionally or willfully violates the law.
The bill is slated to come to the floor of the Senate next week, and could certainly be subject to anti-privacy amendments, but it is a definite improvement on the first iteration of the Senate bill.
James E. HolmesPolice in Aurora, Colorado, have arrested James Eagan Holmes, 24, in the killing of 12 and injuring of at least 38 people at a midnight premiere showing of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.
? KMGH TV has reported the police as saying Holmes is not cooperating. He is slated to appear for arraignment in court on Monday.
? The FBI states that Holmes is a white male, 6 feet, 3 inches tall. He was born on Dec. 13, 1987.
? Holmes had attended high school in San Diego. His mother still lives there. Family members have said their "hearts go out" to the victims.
? He enrolled as a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Medical Center in 2011. He was in the process of withdrawing from that program.
? The U.S. Army, concerned over speculation that the shooter might have been a veteran ? and eager to stifle the meme of the psychotic veteran before it spread ? felt compelled to email that a database check of the suspect resulted in ?no evidence suggest[ing] this individual served in the Army.?? Holmes was dressed in black, wearing a gas mask and a bullet-resistant vest. He was carrying several firearms, including two handguns, what has been described as an "AK-47-style" assault rifle, and a shotgun.
10:19 AM PT: CNN is reporting that the assault rifle is a "knock-off" of an AR-15 (the civlian, semi-automatic version of the military M-16).
The University of California, Riverside, has confirmed that James Holmes graduated with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience in 2010.
Yesterday, President Obama went to Florida and told seniors that Mitt Romney wants to end Medicare as we know it, and it appears that this argument (and some related ones) will be a central feature of the Obama campaign's message in the coming days. It's entirely possible, as Jonathan Chait has suggested, that all the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's finances and record at Bain Capital are the first stage of a two-stage strategy that culminates with an attack on the Ryan budget. Since we'll be talking about this a lot soon, I thought it might be worthwhile to refresh our memories on what this is all about, particularly with regard to Medicare, and how it relates to the current campaign.
First: Is it fair to tar Mitt Romney with the Ryan plan? No question. While Romney's own policy proposals are quite a bit more vague than the Ryan plan is, they follow the same contours, and when Romney is asked about the Ryan plan he never hesitates to praise it. When asked about it last month, Romney's chief strategist Eric Fehrstrom said of his boss, "He's for the Ryan plan." Or in Romney's own words, "I'm very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It's a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it's very much consistent with what I put out earlier." Enough said.
Next: Does the Ryan plan actually "end Medicare as we know it"? This is the phrase that Democrats have used in the past to describe it, and that Obama will continue to use. Republicans claim the phrase is unfair and demagogic. But while it would be inaccurate to simply say the Ryan plan "ends Medicare," because if the plan were enacted there would still be a program going by the name of "Medicare," it is fair to say that Medicare would be a drastically different program, and some of the critical things that make it so successful would no longer exist.
Today's Medicare is an insurance program. If you're a senior, you go to your doctor, and your doctor gets paid by Medicare. It is a single-payer program that covers every senior, and though it doesn't pay for every conceivable procedure, because of Medicare's universality there are essentially no uninsured seniors in America, no seniors who are subject to the tender mercies of the notoriously unmerciful insurance companies, no seniors who need to worry about their pre-existing conditions or their lifetime limits or any of the other ways those companies find to screw their customers, and almost no seniors who find it impossible to pay their insurance premiums (seniors do contribute premiums to Medicare, but they are quite modest).
The Ryan plan in its initial incarnation eliminated Medicare as an insurance program, and replaced it with "premium support." There's an argument about whether premium support can be described accurately as a "voucher," but that's nothing more than a silly disagreement about semantics; premium support in practice is no different from any voucher. Under this plan, seniors would have to get their insurance from private companies, and the government would pay part of the cost. If those private premiums go up, then seniors will have to pay more out of their own pockets; indeed, this is a feature, not a bug, of the Ryan plan. The whole point is to limit government spending on Medicare by limiting how much seniors get in their vouchers/premium support.
And those limits could be vicious. The Ryan plan caps the growth of Medicare at GDP growth plus 0.5 percent. If health costs rise faster than that, seniors will have to pick up more and more of the tab. That means that if the Ryan plan were enacted, there would likely be many seniors who couldn't afford private premiums and would have no health coverage. This feature of the plan eliminates one of the fundamental pillars of Medicare: that it is an entitlement, meaning that if you qualify, you're entitled to the benefit. If this year's costs are higher than we'd like, we can make changes to the program for next year, but nobody goes without coverage. Under the Ryan plan, that would no longer be true.
But here's an important thing to keep in mind: After Ryan released the first version of his plan in 2011 and caught a whole bunch of flak for basically destroying Medicare, he came back with a revised plan earlier this year that has one critical difference: it allows seniors, if they so choose, to stay on traditional Medicare. Mitt Romney's Medicare plan does the same thing (Romney's plan, such as it is, is basically a Cliff Notes version of the Ryan plan). In other words, under political pressure they embraced a public option. But since the plan still caps overall spending at GDP+.05, seniors would likely have to pay more and more out of their own pockets, likely thousands of dollars.
At this point, it's good to remind ourselves that Medicare does a far better job of controlling costs than private insurance does, partly because of the negotiating power it has and partly because it spends just a fraction of what private companies do on overhead (around 98 percent of Medicare's costs go to paying for care, while private companies often spend 20 percent or more of their costs on administration, marketing, underwriting, and so on). Yet Republican philosophy tells us that no matter what the facts say, this is just impossible. A government program can't possibly be cheaper and more efficient (and deliver service that its customers love, by the way) than a private sector alternative. So if we introduce private competition, then costs will of course come down.
But there isn't much reason to believe they will, which means seniors will be left holding the bag, and most importantly, lose the security they have now. Anyhow, to return to the question we started with: Is it fair for the Obama campaign to charge that Mitt Romney wants to end Medicare as we know it? If you define "Medicare as we know it" as an insurance program that provides affordable, efficient, and most importantly secure health coverage for every American senior, then the answer is clearly yes.