London Mayor Boris Johnson may face legal action for nixing bus advertisements that promoted discredited ex-gay therapy. The Christian groups behind the campaign “said they were likely to seek a judicial review of the mayor’s decision on the grounds that it breached their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression as guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.” “Since Boris Johnson intervened, there seems to be a much broader issue about freedom of speech at stake and that is weighing heavily upon us,” said the Rev Lynda Rose, a spokeswoman for Anglican Mainstream. “We feel it is not right that people are not able to express legitimate views that are not an incitement to hatred.” The posters would have appeared on five different routes in the capital and would have read, ?Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!?
Hundreds of protesters, including religious leaders, union workers, and other 99 Percent Movement activists, gathered outside Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting in San Francisco today, protesting the bank’s fraudulent foreclosure practices. Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage servicer, has a well-documented history of using fraudulent practices like robo-signing, and even more came to light last week when an insider account detailed the bank’s foreclosure unit as operating “exactly like an assembly line.”
Ahead of the protests, a Wells Fargo spokesperson told San Francisco’s ABC news affiliate that the bank has paid taxes and is a “responsible corporate citizen” that “makes an effort to keep people in their homes“:
Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido released a statement early this morning saying the bank is a “responsible corporate citizen” and paid $6 billion in taxes for 2011.
“Wells Fargo makes efforts to keep people in their homes,” Pulido said. “Over the past year, less than 2 percent of owner-occupied loans in our servicing portfolio have resulted in foreclosures.”
Wells Fargo was among 30 corporations that paid nothing in federal income taxes from 2008-2010 — its tax rate over that time period, in fact, was -1.4 percent. Adding 2011 to that time period just barely inches the bank’s rate into the positive.
The idea that Wells Fargo makes every attempt to keep homeowners in their homes, meanwhile, is laughable. The bank has been among the worst perpetrators of practices like robo-signing and dual tracking — the process of simultaneously offering homeowners loan modifications while also pushing them toward foreclosure. It has wrongly foreclosed on homes it didn’t own, and its victims may include thousands of members of the American military.
The initial protests drew roughly 500 people, according to early reports from a local NBC affiliate. Early marches through the city shut down numerous San Francisco streets and remained peaceful, according to NBC, though there have been arrests reported on Twitter. Later, there were more than a thousand protesters, according to other estimates, and clergy members and protesters who had purchased shares in Wells Fargo attempted to enter the meeting. Here are some pictures of the protest:
This isn’t the first time religious leaders or Occupiers have targeted Wells at its San Francisco headquarters. Local churches moved $10 million from the bank in February to protest its foreclosure practices, and they held Ash Wednesday services outside Wells Fargo asking it to repent for its wrongful practices.
Here are some resources for preparation for understanding what is a stake at the NATO Summit in Chicago. They relate to the necessity for the US to review its 65-year old national security institutions, including NATO, that are rapidly driving a[...]
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The United States is a low-wage country. (Here a chorus of Republicans pipes up: Yes, but it's the greatest low-wage country in the world, and don't you forget it!) In fact, in 2009 the United States led developed nations, with 24.8 percent of workers earning less than two-thirds of the median income. By comparison, the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and Germany all came in at between 20 and 21 percent of workers earning less than two-thirds of their respective median incomes. (Republicans: We're number one!!!)
John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research offers a set of policy conclusions stemming from this observation. A key problem is that the United States has set its minimum wage too low, so that the minimum wage doesn't exert upward pressure on low wages defined in relation to the median: "In France in the mid-2000s, for example, the minimum wage was set near the country?s low-wage threshold and that country had among the lowest levels of low-wage work in the OECD." In the United States, though, that's not the case even in states with minimum wages set well above the federal level.
The growing prevalence of low-wage work in the United States contributes to income inequality from the bottom, just as the increasing wealth of the top 1 percent, and especially the top 0.1 percent, adds to inequality from the top. The middle is a shrinking place, and you can bet that, without a major shift of economic and political direction, its future is not only to shrink but to be be squeezed downward.
This was depressingly predictable now that the Social Security Trustees report it out. The media (that includes you, Kevin Drum) got this story all wrong. Let's just take Reuters for a typical example.
Aging baby boomers got some jolting news on Monday when the U.S. government said the Social Security retirement program is on track to go bankrupt three years earlier than expected if reforms are not made.I think bankrupt doesn't mean what this reporter (well, any Social Security reporter) seems to think it means. It means out of money. Full stop. It does not mean that for a period of time that you've planned for, you're spending more than you take in. The federal government and particularly Social Security has this thing called a trust fund where there's savings. And then there's the part that after 2033, Social Security will still not be all out of money, (unless the Republicans and their Very Serious compatriots manage to succeed in killing it) and it will still be about to provide about 75 percent of benefits earned.
The baby boomers?those 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964?started retiring last year. With 10,000 of them expected to retire every day for the next 19 years, according to the Pew Research Center, they will increasingly strain Social Security.Zombie lie alert! There are so many baby boomers retiring in the next two decades, they'll suck up all the money! Yeah, no. Let's go back to that trust fund and the $2.7 trillion surplus the program has (how come that never shows up in press reports in Social Security?) and the fact that the retirement of the baby boomers was planned for. Baby boomers retiring is not coming as a surprise to anyone. (Except Social Security Trustee and Koch-sponsored concern troll Charles Blahous, who screeches to Reuters, "Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to the point of trust-fund depletion as we are right now." Which also isn't true. In 1994 the trustees said it would happen in 2029.)
Then we get to the "fixes."
An alternative, in order to keep payments at 100 percent, would be to raise the payroll tax on employers and employees to 16.7 percent from its regular 12.4 percent rate.You know what else is an alternative? Lifting the damned payroll tax cap, so that people making more than $110,000 annually have to payroll taxes on that income, too. People like, oh, say Mitt Romney, who made $27 million in 2010 and now pays exactly the same into Social Security as someone making $109,000. That has to end. Granted, old people wouldn't have to suffer a cut in benefits, put more "skin in the game," with that fix. Which is why the Very Serious People and their stenographers in the press seem to always ignore it.
Members of Congress also have mulled raising the retirement age or cutting some benefits to the wealthy. But no action is expected before the November elections.
Ironically, Reuters columnist Mark Miller warned his traditional media brethren about all of the pitfalls of reporting on Social Security that the Reuters report includes. Unfortunately, he penned his column too late to influence his Reuters coworker.
The sad part is, this kind of journalistic malpractice is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to Social Security. The way lies proliferate in these stories makes it almost as bad as the Iraq War reporting. It's the norm, as Columbia Journalism Review's Trudy Lieberman writes:
For nearly three years CJR has observed that much of the press has reported only one side of this story using ?facts? that are misleading or flat-out wrong while ignoring others. Whatever the reason?ideology, poor understanding of how the program works, gullibility, or plain old reportorial laziness?news outlets have given the public a skewed picture of the financial health of this hugely important program, which is the sole source of retirement funds for millions of Americans and will continue to be for decades to come.That skewed picture of Social Security is exactly what the Right has been working on for years and years. The only way they can finally kill this very popular program is to make people think it's doomed. The stenographers in the traditional media are only too happy to help them send that message. And the Very Serious People parrot whatever they read in the "real" news and here we are. Supposed "liberals" are joining the gloom and doom pain caucus.
Not so much a person as an ego with feet.
Businessweek notes that the supposed fiscal conservative Newt Gingrich is a pretty lavish spender when it comes to other people's money:
His think tank went bankrupt. His campaign is $4.3 million in debt. He doesn?t hold a prayer of beating Mitt Romney, something he has all but conceded. And yet since March 6th, the Secret Service has honored his request for protection at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $40,000 a day (or, to translate that into a metric Newt might favor, enough to supply 13,333 people a day with food stamps). [...]We'll see. Rumors have it that Newt may give up if he doesn't do well tonight. In the meantime, however, he wants to play at being president, and that means having Secret Service around to make him look important. And, presumably, to protect him from glitter attacks. And maybe to tell him where to find the cheapest hookers (this is Newt Gingrich we're talking about).
Candidates must meet certain benchmarks earn Secret Service protection. Oddly, though, once protection has been awarded, there is no level of support beneath which it gets revoked. Newt will only stop leeching off taxpayers when Romney becomes the nominee or when he voluntarily gives up his security detail. But the latter option would be an admission that his campaign is hopeless.
Forty grand a day for protection that I don't think anyone really believes Newt needs, though. That's a lot of money just to prop up the famous Gingrich ego.
Right-wing media have seized on a National Journal report quoting an anonymous State Department official saying that "the war on terror is over" to claim that President Obama has "surrendered." In fact, both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to "eliminat[ing] terrorism" and have repeatedly said "we are at war" with Al Qaeda and other extremists.
National Journal: "One Senior State Department Official" Said " 'The War On Terror Is Over.' " From an April 23 post by Michael Hirsh on a National Journal blog:
In an article in the current National Journal called "The Post Al Qaida Era," I write that the Obama administration is taking a new view of Islamist radicalism. The president realizes he has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively "moderate" Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. (The Muslim Brotherhood officially renounced violence decades ago, leading then-dissident radicals such as Ayman al-Zawahiri to join al Qaida.)
It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists. "The war on terror is over," one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism." [NationalJournal.com, 4/23/12]
Drudge: "ADMIN: 'War On Terror Is Over' ..." On April 23, the Drudge Report linked to the National Journal post with the following headlines:
Breitbart.com: "Obama Is Truly Declaring An End To The War On Islamism. ... He Has Surrendered." From an April 23 post on Breitbart.com's Big Peace:
Today, the National Journal reported that a senior State Department official has announced, "The war on terror is over."
"Now that we have killed most of al Qaida," the source said, "now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."
The article itself describes the Obama administration's new vision of foreign policy, which admits no enemies. Everyone, in this view, is a friend. Islamism, says the Obama administration, is just fine, so long as it does not openly support terrorism.
In truth, Obama isn't declaring an end to the war on terror -- terrorism continues unabated each day in Egypt and the Palestinian territories and Iraq and Afghanistan and Sudan and Yemen and Syria and Lebanon and a dozen other hotspots around the globe. Obama is truly declaring an end to the war on Islamism. He has made his peace; he has surrendered. In doing so, he has condemned broad swaths of the world to darkness, and more immediately, he has condemned America to a defensive position in the world. Now there is no proactive America shaping the world to her own ends. Now there is only an atomistic world, a series of billiard balls, in which America waits to be struck before bouncing back. [Big Peace, Breitbart.com, 4/23/12]
Kilmeade: Obama Admin. Is Saying That Now "Those Islamic Extremists That Had To Live In Caves" Can "Be President." From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Did you guys know that the war on terror is over?
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Pop the champagne!
CARLSON: Yeah, I mean, all of those sort of efforts here in New York City alone to have a war on terror here, 10 plots, I think, that have been stopped by the NYPD here. Apparently all for naught, because the war on terror, according to one State Department official, is technically over. Here's the quote. "Now that we have killed most of Al Qaeda, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into Al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): So, fantastic. In other words, they're saying those Islamic extremists that had to live in caves?
KILMEADE: Now they can be president. That's the magic of Arab Spring and the -- where it's turning -- because our hands are off the bicycle seat.
KILMEADE: So how disturbing is this that the State Department feels this sentiment? At the same time, you've got simultaneous court cases going on -- talking about blowing up the Long Island Railroad, the subway bomber that was going to blow up four or five different lines at the same time, and more and more Americans going over to Pakistan to train. What are they training for?
DOOCY: Maybe it shouldn't be surprising. I mean, how long did this administration go before they would call them terrorists? They simply would not do that.
KILMEADE: Well, we don't pick up terrorists anymore, so we're not talking to anybody. We're letting our Al Qaeda guys play soccer in -- at Gitmo, so how do we even know if the war is over? We kill them all. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/24/12]
January 2009, Obama's Inaugural Address: "Our Nation Is At War Against A Far-Reaching Network Of Violence And Hatred." During his January 20, 2009, inaugural address, Obama said, "Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." He later added: "We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." [WhiteHouse.gov, 1/21/09]
March 2009: Obama: "To The Terrorists Who Oppose Us, My Message Is ... We Will Defeat You." During his March 27, 2009, speech about a "comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama said the U.S. was in Afghanistan because "al Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan." He later said:
OBAMA: So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you. [USNews.com, 3/27/09]
December 2009, Obama's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: "We Are At War," And "Negotiations Cannot Convince Al Qaeda's Leaders To Lay Down Their Arms." During his December 10, 2009, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Obama referred to the "effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks" and stated that "we are at war, and I'm responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land." He later said:
OBAMA: I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. [WhiteHouse.gov, 12/10/09]
March 2010: Obama: "Al Qaeda And Their Extremist Allies" Are "A Threat To People All Around The World." During a March 28, 2010, speech to the troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Obama said, "Al Qaeda and their extremist allies are a threat to the people of Afghanistan and a threat to the people of America, but they're also a threat to people all around the world." He later said:
OBAMA: Our broad mission is clear: We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies. That is our mission. And to accomplish that goal, our objectives here in Afghanistan are also clear: We're going to deny al Qaeda safe haven. We're going to reverse the Taliban's momentum. We're going to strengthen the capacity of Afghan security forces and the Afghan government so that they can begin taking responsibility and gain confidence of the Afghan people. [WhiteHouse.gov, 3/28/10]
May 2011: Obama: "Our Fight Is Focused On Defeating Al Qaeda And Its Extremist Allies. In That Effort, We Will Not Relent." During a May 25, 2011, speech that Obama gave in London to the U.K. Parliament, Obama said:
OBAMA: Terrorists have taken the lives of our citizens in New York and in London. And while al Qaeda seeks a religious war with the West, we must remember that they have killed thousands of Muslims --- men, women and children --- around the globe. Our nations are not and will never be at war with Islam. Our fight is focused on defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies. In that effort, we will not relent, as Osama bin Laden and his followers have learned.
Obama later said, "[W]e will ensure that Afghanistan is never a safe haven for terror, but is instead a country that is strong, sovereign, and able to stand on its own two feet." [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/25/11]
March 2012: Obama: "We Can't Afford To Have Non-State Actors, Terrorists, Get Their Hands On Nuclear Weapons." During a joint speech President Obama gave with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani in March 2012 at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Obama said that "the United States and Pakistan have a host of mutual interests," including "combating terrorism, both internationally and in our respective countries." Obama later said, " I think that we all agree that given the threats that have been directed in Pakistan, the terrorism that has taken place on their own soil, and obviously our experiences with terrorism, we can't afford to have non-state actors, terrorists, get their hands on nuclear weapons that could end up destroying our cities or harming our citizens." [WhiteHouse.gov, 3/27/12]
October 2009: Clinton: "We Feel Very Strongly ... That The Extremists And The Terrorists Who Deploy Violence Have To Be Defeated Wherever They Are." During an October 28, 2009, press conference in Pakistan with then-Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Clinton said:
CLINTON: These extremists are committed to destroying that which is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well, and we commend the Pakistani military for their courageous fight, and we commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security. We will give you the help that you need in order to achieve your goal.
Clinton later said in response to a reporter's question, "We feel very strongly, as the foreign minister said, that the extremists and the terrorists who deploy violence have to be defeated wherever they are. ... [T]his is, as the foreign minister said, a fight that cannot be avoided." [State.gov, 10/28/09]
October 2010: Clinton: U.S. And Pakistan "Are Working Closely Together With Governments Around The World ... To Eliminate Terrorism." During an October 2010 press conference in Washington, D.C., with Qureshi, Clinton said: "To build the kind of bright future that young Pakistanis deserve, people of courage must stand against these extremists. And our two governments are working closely together with governments around the world, and millions and millions of people who understand the threat that is posed, to eliminate terrorism." [State.gov, 10/22/10]
May 2011: Clinton: "It Is Especially Important That There Be No Doubt That Those Who Pursue A Terrorist Agenda ... Will Be Brought To Justice." During a May 2011 press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, Clinton said:
CLINTON: With respect to the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Usama bin Ladin's death sent an unmistakable message about the strength of the resolve of the international community to stand against extremism and those who perpetuate it. But let us not forget that the battle to stop al-Qaida and its affiliates does not end with one death. We have to renew our resolve and redouble our efforts not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but around the world, because it is especially important that there be no doubt that those who pursue a terrorist agenda, the criminals who indiscriminately murder innocent people will be brought to justice. [State.gov, 5/5/11]
October 2011: Clinton: "Stopping Terrorism Is An Urgent Interest That" The U.S. And Pakistan "Share." During an October 2011 press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Clinton said: "We recognize and we sympathize with the fact that violent extremism has taken the lives of thousands of Pakistanis, also thousands of Americans and thousands of Afghans. So stopping terrorism is an urgent interest that we share." [State.gov, 10/21/11]
Right-Wing Media Falsely Claimed Obama Failed To Label Fight Against Terrorists "A War." Following Obama's January 7, 2010, speech about the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing, right-wing media falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a "war." [Media Matters, 1/8/10]
Fox's Kilmeade Falsely Claimed Obama Was Neglecting War On Terrorism. On the May 4, 2010, broadcast of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed President Obama wasn't serious about fighting terrorism because he was "reaching out" to the Muslim world and because Obama has said that America is not at war with Islam. [Media Matters, 5/4/10]
Conservative Media Spent Years Attacking Obama's Commitment To Fighting Terrorism And Calling Him Weak On Terror. Right-wing media have repeatedly suggested that Obama is not serious about defending America from terrorism threats. In March 2010, Fox News host Sean Hannity said that Obama was "weak" and "an appeaser." In January 2010, Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said that "when it comes to terror," the White House's "tone" is "not quite that serious." In August 2009, frequent Fox News guest Michael Scheuer said on Fox & Friends that Obama "obviously does not care" about "protecting Amercians." [Media Matters, 5/2/11]
One of the heartening pieces of news from Public Policy Polling's latest data: support for the amendment from black voters has dropped from 61/30 to 51/39. PPP: "There is some reason to think a huge upset in two weeks is within the realm of possibility."[...]
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If I didn't know better, I'd think that Republicans are completely FUBARing their primaries to prove their contention that government is not the answer. But I think the truth of it is that Republicans are so fundamentally incompetent in running efficient systems that they're not capable of not messing up.
After hemming and hawing and literally designating at different times three of the then four Republican primary candidates the winner, it looks like Ron Paul has won both the Minnesota primary and the Iowa caucus away from presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
Et tu, Paul?
The Texas congressman took 20 out of 24 of the delegates from the Minnesota Congressional Districts, RNC committeewoman Pat Anderson tweeted. Those delegates will go on to the state convention, scheduled to be held May 18-19, where the final 13 delegates representing Minnesota at the GOP convention will be chosen.
The news was ignored by the mainstream media, including the Associated Press, which estimated the delegate breakdown would go 17 Santorum, 10 Paul, and 6 Romney. Tweet from Minnesota's RNC National Committeewoman announcing Ron Paul's win.
In Iowa, the Des Moines Register reports that ?six of the new Iowa GOP state central committee members elected at district conventions Saturday have publicly expressed support for Paul,? and ?two more new central committee members have close ties to Paul.? The new state chairman is also a Ron Paul supporter, who served as a co-chairman for the congressman?s Iowa state organization.
While the pundits are quickly scrambling to say how Iowa doesn't really matter, this kind of stealth victory (which Paul has continually claimed to be his strategy) really fuels his already rabid supporters. Given these symbolic challenges to Romney's ascendance, I think the convention may be very, very fun to watch. Grab your popcorn.