The Wisconsin Department of Justice announced Monday that former District Attorney Kenneth Kratz won't face criminal charges over his alleged "sexting" of several women, some of them victims of domestic abuse whose cases Kratz was handling.
The DOJ said it investigated 15 complaints from "different females who alleged improprieties that warranted further investigation," eight of which involved an "identifiable criminal offense," but "prosecutors have concluded that they can not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a specific violation of a criminal law."
Kratz has been accused of sending inappropriate text messages to several women who were victims of domestic abuse, while he was handling their cases. Kratz admitted to sending one victim, Stephanie Van Groll, texts like "Im serious! Im the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize! Start convincing."
Van Groll is now suing Kratz.
Kratz resigned shortly after the allegations surfaced, and as several other women came forward with similar stories. One other woman alleged she went on a date with Kratz, during which he invited her on another date to an autopsy.
Full coverage here.
Obama administration appointees in the Department of Homeland Security purposely stonewalled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by journalists and citizens, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press. This disclosure comes days before Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is to hold an oversight hearing on the agency's handing of FOIAs -- including the claim that information requests were vetted for political reasons.
In the emails, Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan -- who was responsible for handing over FOIA requested documents to be scrutinized before release -- complained about the laborious process, and went so far as to suggest that the department might be sued over the unreasonable delays.
From the AP:
"This level of attention is CRAZY," Callahan wrote in December 2009 to her then-deputy, Catherine Papoi. Callahan said she hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover details of the political reviews, possibly by asking for evidence of them under the Freedom of Information Act itself: "I really really want someone to FOIA this whole damn process," Callahan wrote...
They [the emails] show that insiders described the unusual political vetting as "meddling," "nuts" and "bananas!" Together with other confidential emails obtained by the AP for the first time, the files reflect deep unease about the reviews and included allegations that Napolitano's senior political advisers might have hidden embarrassing or sensitive emails that journalists and watchdog groups had requested. The government said this didn't happen.
On Thursday, Callahan is expected to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during a hearing titled "Why Isn't the Department of Homeland Security Meeting the President's Standard on FOIA?"
This story comes from The Palmetto Children's Post:
Following several weeks of hearing from all state agencies, the Senate Finance subcommittees will begin making their modifications to a House approved (H. 3700) $5.4 billion state fiscal year 2011-12 state budget. On Wednesday, the subcommittee chairs are expected to report on recommended provisos for inclusion in the state budget.
In budget requests to committee members last week, Department of Social Services Director Lillian Koller said maintenance of the state general fund of $119 million will allow the agency to cover a previous reported deficit. Among the measures to save $31 million, Koller reported of an expected savings for 2011-2012 by eliminating $1 million for teen pregnancy prevention, a 50 percent reduction in transitional child care ($5.3 million), $13 million in savings from restructuring child welfare contracts and $5 million from providing child care in child welfare cases.
Health and Human Services Director, Anthony Keck, reported an agency budget request of $435 million representing an 8 percent growth enrollment rate, the loss of enhanced federal Medicaid reimbursement rate this summer and a 10 percent reduction to state health providers?representing a $125 million cut. Another $75 million of savings are expected through a more efficient health delivery model.
Earlier in the week, the state Budget and Control Board recognized another $100 million of the FY10- 11 HHS deficit. An initial $100 million was recognized in February. Keck noted $17 million remains and is seeking legislative authority to reduce provider rates for the final quarter to meet the deficit.
Among the provisos to be considered by the Finance Public Education subcommittee is $100,000 for the Community Based Child Abuse Prevention. The funds serves as the only direct support for the prevention of child abuse and provides a 3:1 federal match.
Read The Full Article:
Today’s Daily Kos has a celebration of the life and work of Joe Bageant a self-described redneck and unashamed progressive. A man who worked hard and wrote funny and illuminating commentaries on the war on terror, and those who were expected to actually fight it and pay for it too. He also wrote, ‘Deer Hunting With Jesus’, which was on my list of books to buy and now will be my next purchase.
Darn, he was only 64. It’s not how long you live, it’s how well.
For a celebration of his life from a friend– ‘Joe Bageant– We Don’t Last and There’s No Warranty’
From Hippocrates– Ars Longa Vita Brevis. Joe made the most of it.
Some of it is old from previous nuclear testing and some of it is new. I'm not sure either is very comforting at this point. MSNBC.com:
Experts had expected traces would be detected once crews began searching for it, because plutonium is present in the production of nuclear energy.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the amounts found at five sites during testing last week were very small and were not a risk to public health.
TEPCO official Jun Tsuruoka said only two of the plutonium samples were believed to be from a leaking reactor. The other three samples were from earlier nuclear tests, he said. Years of weapons testing in the atmosphere have left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world.
Heath Shuler used to brag how he lives in the C Street cult frat house for authoritarian Jesus freaks and homophobes Jim DeMint (R-SC), Zack Wamp (R-TN), and Tom Coburn (R-OK)-- as well as sexual predators like John Ensign (R-NV) and Mark Sanford (R-SC). Now he brags how he votes more often with John Boehner and his C Street fellow cultists than with the Democratic Party-- and how he's on a mission. His mission goes beyond an anti-Choice, anti-working family agenda he has in common with his Republican allies. His mission is to make the Democratic congressional caucus a mirror image of the GOP. Since being defeated in his run for Democratic Leader by Nancy Pelosi (173-11) Shuler's been busy recruiting conservatives like himself to run for Congress as Democrats-- much the same way Rahm Emanuel recruited him. He's massively financed by the same corporate interests that finance the GOP... and he's the new Blue Dog whip.
A virulent anti-immigrant bigot and anti-Choice fanatic, Shuler has next to nothing to do with the Democratic Party. When it comes to ProgressivePunch's crucial votes scores, Shuler's 40.39 shows him among the 5 Democrats voting most frequently on key issues with Boehner and Cantor. He's the most right-wing Democrat in the North Carolina delegation and has had a profoundly negative influence on weaker minded Members Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell.
Yesterday I read about Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell's decision to challenge Shuler's 2012 reelection bid. A primary would have set up an impossible situation for Bothwell, mostly because of Shuler's gigantic corporate financial support. Last year he spent $2,212,737 to fend off a challenge from a little-known teabagger, Jeff Miller. When Shuler won reelection in 2006 he took every county in the district and beat Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower 62-36%. This past November Shuler didn't have as easy a ride, barely retaining his seat at all (54-46%) and losing in Cherokee, Clay, Henderson, Polk, and Rutherford counties. In fact, in crucial Henderson, he only managed 12,786 (35%) against 23,541 (65%) for Miller-- quite the comedown from 2008 when 27,535 (54%) of Henderson County voters pulled the lever for him.
Bothwell, anticipating a strong and well-financed Republican challenge next year (because of Shuler's weak showing), decided to forget about a primary and to run as a third party Independent, offering voters a clear alternative between a conservative Blue Dog masquerading as a Democrat and a reactionary Republican masquerading as a conservative. So who is Cecil Bothwell? On his blog and his website you get a very different kind of mindset than the Heath Shuler variety:
? Created the largest grassroots campaign in Asheville City Council history with over 500 donors (average $50) and over 700 willing to volunteer.
? 30 year resident of Buncombe County and lives near Five Points.
? 25 years as a ?green builder?
? Member of the American Civil Liberties Union
? Founding member of WNC for Death Penalty Repeal
? Founding member of Asheville PARC
? Tutored at Asheville?s Hall-Fletcher elementary school for three years.
? Helped create a church jail ministry program at the Buncombe County Detention Center.
? Has owned and operated Brave Ulysses Books, a micro-publishing company, since 2000.
? Former managing editor of Asheville?s weekly Mountain Xpress.
? Author of the best-selling city guide, Finding Your Way in Asheville.
? Winner of national and regional awards for investigative reporting, criticism and humorous commentary from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the Society of Professional Journalists.
? Weekly radio commentator on WNCW 88.7FM for three years, DJ on WPVM 103.5FM for five years.
? Dubbed the Most Courageous Elected Official of 2010 by the American Atheists.
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Third Way released a brand new memo on how the Democratic Party?s only hope for the 2012 election is to cut the programs for the broad middle class that are their most popular legacy and the cornerstone of their brand: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It is an interesting strategy based on this reasoning:
Alongside these political arguments, naturally, they restate their long-held policy argument that cutting these benefits is the right thing ? indeed the ?progressive? thing ? to do. And after making these points, they then do a tutorial for those Democrats who want to follow their lead as to how to talk about making these cuts, which leads with the exact same line the Republicans are using, which is that only by cutting these programs will we be able to preserve them for the long run. (Third Way?s talking points on how to sell these cuts to voters ? i.e. we are making these cuts to ?ensure that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will always be there for those who need it? ? actually remind one how popular these programs actually are.) They then go into the Pete Peterson rhetoric about all the new retirees overwhelming the system, tell people to emphasize that these are ?small adjustments, not major sacrifice,? and make it clear that ?Washington must do its share.? They emphasize that this must be ?bipartisan from start to finish.?
It is an interesting argument given how strong and overwhelming the polling is, and always has been, to not mess with Social Security and Medicare. For an organization that spends so much time focusing on polling data and making political arguments based on it, this can only mean one thing: they really, really want to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. I mean I knew they did already, given their January policy memo on doing just that; despite acknowledging that the future shortfall of Social Security could easily be fixed by lifting the payroll tax cap for wealthier people, Third Way preferred cutting benefits. But rather than speculating as to why they want to do this, even though the average senior citizen gets just $14,000 a year from Social Security, let's analyze the political arguments they are making on their own merits:
1. If this election is about deficits, Democrats will lose. Elections are definitional, and if the narrative of this one is how about government is too big and needs to be cut, the Republicans will win that argument. Democrats just don't get much credit for being better at cutting deficits, even though they tend to be. Jimmy Carter was far better at cutting the deficit than Ford or Nixon had been before him, or than Reagan was after him, but it didn't matter. Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2 all exploded the deficit; Clinton created a surplus. Guess which party gets the blame for being the party of big government and big deficits? The facts don?t matter: whenever voters are focused on deficits and cutting the size of government, Republicans win.
If this election becomes about which party is better at winning/investing in the future, as Obama is trying to make it, Democrats will win. If it becomes about who is fighting harder for jobs and the hard-pressed middle class, as we progressive populists prefer, Democrats win. But if it is just about which party is better at slashing the deficit and shrinking the size of government, Republicans will win that argument hands down ? they always do and always will. That's not to say Democrats don't need to have a credible argument about how their plan will cut the deficit; they certainly do. That's why progressive Democrats like me have been pushing so hard for ending corporate subsidies, taxing the big banks on Wall Street, cutting wasteful defense spending, reforming government contracting, and in general taking on the wealthy special interests that waste government money. But if the election's narrative is mainly about cutting the deficit, the only question will be about how big the Democratic losses are.
Third Way argues that we have no choice, that voters care about deficits more than just about anything else (they do acknowledge that they care about jobs, but say that since not much can be done about that in the short term, that will be a wash anyway.) But all voters have been hearing about from the Republicans is deficits, and if the Democrats continue to listen to Third Way's advice, that's all they will hear about from Democrats too. If Democrats lay out a strong case for the future, and show how they will fight for jobs and the middle class, this election might actually be on Democrats' turf, not Republicans.
2. You know what the two biggest Republican advertising expenditures were about in 2010? Attacks on Democrats for government bailouts for the bankers, and attacks on Democrats for paying for health care reform through cuts in Medicare. As distorted as these ads were (TARP was the Bush administration's idea, and the Medicare dollars being cut mainly involved a wasteful insurance company subsidy), they were effective because populist middle-class swing voters hated the idea of helping Wall Street while cutting Medicare. And when George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security, it stopped his political momentum dead in its tracks after the big Republican victory in the 2004 election. My friends at Third Way claim the whole privatization thing didn't really hurt the Republicans very much, but any unbiased Democratic strategist is going to have to beg to differ. Third Way's argument is that is that in the last three elections, Democrats didn't do all that well in the elections with seniors in spite of Bush's privatization plan, but there are a number of things wrong with that line of reasoning.
First, it isn't hard to figure out why the privatization debate didn't have any impact on the 2008 and 2010 elections: it wasn't being talked about much by anyone. Those elections were about the economic crisis and how you felt about Barack Obama, period, end of story. To wonder why Bush's privatization plan wasn't impacting the senior vote in the last two elections doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out.
Second, the whole argument is designed to be misleading: as a group, senior citizens have been trending more and more Republican in recent elections for quite a while now, which anyone who studies polling trends knows. Seniors are much whiter than younger generations, for one thing, which makes them more Republican than other more racially diverse generations. They are much more likely to be churchgoing Christians, which is a more Republican demographic. They have much more traditional values on things like gay rights and immigration than younger voters. And they came of political age in the backlash years: the late ?60s and ?70s, when politicians like Nixon and Reagan were successfully scaring traditional middle-class whites with tales of welfare queens and acid dropping, abortion getting hippies. Seniors have not been a Democratic leaning demographic group since the generation that came of age in the FDR years mostly passed away. The fact that this generation of voters went 50-50 for Democrats in 2006 is actually a testament to how powerful the Social Security issue is.
One final point here: Third Way's implication in this argument is that seniors are the only ones who care about Social Security and Medicare. That is simply not the case. People in their 40s and 50s beginning to look forward to their retirement but not having as much in the way of pensions or savings as their parents did are counting on Social Security and Medicare being there for them. Younger generations in general are taking care of older parents and grandparents, and know how much they depend on those programs. These are universally supported and heavily valued programs for middle and working class voters of all ages.
3. After making all these flawed political arguments, Third Way turns back to policy, arguing as they have in the past that, in fact, cutting these programs is the right ? the progressive ? thing to do. Their point is that entitlements are crowding out spending on the most important things for our future, things like "innovation, children's health, education, pure research, teen pregnancy prevention, space exploration, medical research, infrastructure, school lunches, and the arts and humanities." Now if I thought for a minute that all those worthy programs would be getting extra money out of a fair bipartisan deal on the budget if progressives opened up to a few very modest cuts in Social Security and Medicare targeted to those who needed it the least, that might be worth discussing. But we all know that is not what is happening here. What is being discussed instead is slashes to all those programs, plus cuts in benefits to seniors, while not doing anything to raise money from all those sources that actually caused the federal deficit to explode, and are still gorging themselves at the government trough: defense contractors, wealthy agribusiness conglomerates, multinational companies getting tax breaks to invest overseas, Wall Street bankers, and millionaires whose taxes got cut dramatically by Bush 10 years ago.
Look, rather than do business with this group of extremist right wingers in the House Republican caucus on something as fundamental to the Democratic Party?s identity, to middle-class Americans, and to swing voters as Social Security and Medicare, why not work to refocus the political conversation on other things that matter to them: creating good paying manufacturing jobs, shoring up public education, rebuilding our infrastructure, getting our health care and energy costs under control, and making sure middle-class homeowners get help by holding Wall Street banks accountable? Wouldn't that make more political sense than negotiating benefit cuts for seniors who are getting $14,000 a year from Social Security, or making them pay more for their Medicare coverage? The answer is yes, unless your political obsession is to be in the D.C. "center" by making those cuts. Arguing that Democrats? only political salvation is to anger swing senior citizen voters and their base in order to cut a deal with Republicans on the deficit only makes sense if you think that the swing voters who determine elections spend all their time at Georgetown cocktail parties. Let's not destroy the Democratic Party coalition in order to try and save it. It won?t work politically, and it is bad policy.
As the fight over funding the federal government heats up in Congress, one sticking point is sure to be Title X money for Planned Parenthood, which House Republicans voted to eliminate earlier this month. In the Senate, Republicans Scott Brown (MA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) have broken with their party in support of continued funding for Planned Parenthood, noting it is one of the nation’s largest and most effective providers of womens’ health services.
In an interview this weekend with the Anchorage Daily News, Murkowski A letter sent to Vice President Biden recently signed by 20 Democratic senators explained the stakes :
“More fundamentally, without the care Planned Parenthood provides — without access to Pap smears, pelvic exams and breast exams — women will die,” the senators said.
Indeed, one in five women in the U.S. have used one of Planned Parenthood’s 800 health centers, where the organization provides nearly one million Pap tests and more than 830,000 breast exams each year. The organization also administers nearly four million STD tests every year, including those for HIV. Just three percent of the organization’s work is related to abortions.
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that a number of moderate Republicans are signaling willingness to re-instate funds to Planned Parenthood. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) called “the outright elimination” of funding “a step too far,” while a spokesperson for her colleague Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called the House vote “unwise.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said he “has always supported Planned Parenthood and family planning efforts.”
The three senators didn’t say how they would vote on a measure to defund Planned Parenthood, and Brown and Murkowski have both voted for the House-passed full-year government funding bill that contained a provision eliminating funds for the organization. As CAP’s Matt Yglesias wrote of Brown’s statement in support of the group, “If he?s voting to defund Planned Parenthood, then all the statements in the world don?t mean a thing.”
On Saturday, ThinkProgress interviewed GOP presidential aspirant Herman Cain regarding his controversial statements on Muslims in America. We asked the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza if he would be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in his cabinet or as a federal judge. Cain definitively declared, “No, I would not”:
An uproar over Cain’s comments ensued, both because of the GOPer’s bigotry towards Muslims as well as the obvious violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Today, the Cain campaign walked back his previous statement. In an interview with Salon’s Justin Elliott, Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael stated that:
Mr. Cain would consider any person for a position based on merit, as anybody else would, as is the law.
While Cain’s apparent change of heart about allowing Muslims (or anyone for that matter, regardless of faith) in his administration is both positive and appropriate, questions regarding Cain’s beliefs about Muslims in general remain. After all, when ThinkProgress asked him about the controversy over his statements that Muslims “have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them,” Cain approvingly quoted his grandfather: “I does not care, I feel the way I feel.”
The Republicans' scorched earth Affordable Care Act repeal obsession has veered into the truly stupid. In their zeal to paint the law as the result of nefarious deals struck by various organizations in the law's development, they've decided to attack the AARP, according to The Hill.
The Ways and Means health and oversight subcommittees are hauling in the seniors lobby's executives before the panel for an April 1 hearing on how the group stands to benefit from the law, among other topics. Republicans say AARP supported the law's $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program because it stands to gain financially as seniors replace their MA plans with Medicare supplemental insurance ? or Medigap ? policies endorsed by the association.
The hearing will cover not only Medigap but "AARP?s organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade."
The charge against AARP is being led by Reps. Wally Herger (CA) panel, and Dave Reichert (WA), who accuse the organization of being "a mouthpiece for this president at the expense of what is best for America's seniors," profiting from reform. According to Reichert, "AARP's support for healthcare reform 'just doesn't make sense' until 'you dig a little deeper and see that [a lot] of their revenues come from these royalties.'" Because there is no motivation other than the profit motive if you're a Republican. Maybe it honestly doesn't occur to them that the extension of health insurance to tens of millions of previously uncovered Americans is just something individuals and organizations could support because it's the right thing to do.
At any rate, go for it Republicans. Between this and the all-out assault on Social Security and Medicare, you're doing a bang-up job winning the hearts and minds of the most committed voting bloc in the country.