Now that Mitt Romney has effectively won the Republican presidential nomination, major figures within the party have come out to endorse him and push the other candidates out of the race. Romney?s latest endorsement comes from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who?on Fox and Friends this morning?warned that the GOP primary could become ?counterproductive? if it doesn?t end soon:
?We need to coalesce as conservatives? around a nominee, Ryan said. ?The longer we drag it out the harder it is to win in November. ? I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles and the courage to put America back on track."
Even given the degree to which Ryan has convinced ?official? Washington that he?s a wholesome defender of fiscal sustainability, I?m positive that Romney will walk away from this endorsement with his moderate reputation intact. But he shouldn?t. Two things lie behind Ryan?s endorsement. The first, as you can see above, is political expediency. The second, however, is Romney?s genuine ideological support for Ryan?s vision of government, and vice versa.
Here is Romney in April of last year, around the same time that the budget chairman released his ?Roadmap?:
I applaud Rep. Paul Ryan for recognizing the looming financial crisis that faces our nation and for the creative and bold thinking that he brings to the debate. He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.
From then on, Romney consistently praised Ryan?s work, and used a similar framework for his own budget, which would require massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and other non-Defense spending. According to the Center on Budget and Policy priorities, Romney?s proposal would cut federal spending by 19.6 percent by 2016 (and 26.5 percent by 2022) if no program were spared. Of course, programs like Social Security are likely to be spared, in which case, the cuts to every other part of the budget (excluding defense) would reach 27.6 percent by 2016 and 38.5 percent by 2022.
It should be said that Romney also proposes a balanced-budget amendment, which?if Social Security is left untouched?would require a 34.8 percent cut to all programs by 2016, and a whopping 55.7 percent by 2022. To put this in concrete terms, Romney?s budget?as with Ryan?s?would eliminate food stamps, children?s health care, Pell Grants, Head Start, transportation funding, education funding, and a whole host of other programs for the poor, disabled, elderly, and infirm.
I know that Romney wears a nice suit, doesn?t yell at people, and seems comfortable around liberals?but that doesn?t make him a moderate. If elected president, Romney would (along with every other Republican in Congress) make an unprecedented push to roll back the welfare state and transform government into a money train for the rich. Marco Rubio knows it, Paul Ryan knows it, and you should know it too.Breaking Headline: Bouie: Romney Is No Moderate
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
A copy of H.R. 3200, America Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 sits on the desk of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
The solution of any geometric problem begins with an assumption, and the assumption in this week?s political geometry is that the Supreme Court will overturn the Affordable Care Act that first opponents, then the rest of us, have come to call Obamacare. This may or may not come to pass. Judicial history is rife with Supreme Court oral arguments that seem to go one way only for the decision to go another. The great irony of Obamacare, of course, is that its most controversial provision, and the thing about it that has rallied conservatives against it, was itself a conservative article of faith for the past two decades right up to the moment that Barack Obama embraced it; and the thing about it that has rallied conservatives against it is the notion?originally advanced as a response to Clintoncare by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and then championed until as recently as three years ago by Republicans, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former speaker Newt Gingrich?that the government could and should compel individuals to take responsibility for buying their own health insurance. The right liked this idea precisely because it put the financial onus of health care on individuals rather than where President Bill Clinton believed it belonged: on the businesses that employ individuals.
This past Tuesday, the second day of the Supreme Court hearings, made apparent that skepticism abounds among the Justices about the constitutionality of this part of the plan. By the end of the next day, Wednesday, everything was more ambiguous, not only judicially but politically when a consensus manifested itself that, without the individual mandate, the law as a whole is either meaningless or so difficult to understand as to be impossible to uphold, let alone execute. What complicates the situation particularly for Anthony Kennedy, the man in the Court?s middle and the pivotal justice in this matter, as in others, is that notwithstanding opponents? arguments as to its radicalism, the Obama plan was a compromise with conservatives, or an attempt at one?a middle-course approach finally embraced by a president who himself had raised questions about the mandate?and if the middle course should be struck down, then the Court has left the country facing two choices. One is a more far-reaching plan by which either employers or the government itself provides health-care coverage. The second is no plan at all, which is to say a status quo that even honest conservatives know is unsustainable for a national economy devoured by health care in exponentially-growing percentages.
Both history and budgetary reality dictate either some kind of health-care reform or monetary cataclysm. Should the Court strike down the mandate on the basis that, as Kennedy put it Tuesday, the compulsion forcing individuals into the health-care market fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and the state, and should the Court thereby demolish the first-ever such reform to pass Congress, it?s not overstating things to suggest that the decision will leave the country in a kind of crisis. While it?s difficult to imagine that the Justices are unaware of this, it?s hard to know to what extent they take such a consequence into consideration, notwithstanding Justice Antonin Scalia?s musings during Wednesday?s session about what is legislatively feasible (this from the most outspoken critic of judicial activism, by which Scalia means not activism from the right but from the left). In the meantime the Obama campaign has three months to ponder what lemonade is to be made from the lemon and whether such a crisis can or should be transformed into a referendum. To be sure, this is a cynical consideration in the face of the havoc that overturning the act will have wrought, but campaigns are in the business of cynicism, and as they?ve done so often Republicans will cast the argument in its most malevolent terms, aimed at the heart of Obama?s legitimacy as both president and American, suggesting that the subversion of the Constitution by a former constitutional scholar pledged to uphold it verges on the impeachable.
It?s still not unthinkable that the Court could decide in favor of Obamacare 6-3, with Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas the dissenters. Both Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts have enough historical ego to weigh not only where all this is going and where it could all lead but where it could leave the Court?and Roberts and Kennedy?in the eyes of history. They may already suspect posterity will take a dim view of recent court decisions involving voter registration and campaign financing, and whatever their personal ideological misgivings, neither may want to be attached to what in practical terms can only be one of the most controversial and pandemoniac decisions since Dred Scott. In what currently unfolds as the Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For Election, the Court?s ruling has the clear capability of enflaming and motivating whichever side ?loses? and thrusting ownership of this vexing issue on whichever side ?wins??including Republicans if the individual mandate they once cherished and now so loathe is struck, and Democrats if the act is upheld and thus becomes something to be defended before a public conflicted and confused about the issue from the outset. When the assumption in a geometric equation turns out to be wrong, the mathematician starts over, and sometimes the assumption proves something else entirely.
I can't help wondering how many politicos?and long-suffering political spouses, too?are secretly hooked on HBO's sexy, hugely entertaining Game of Thrones, whose very lively second season kicks off Sunday. Not because they can identify, mind you. It's just hard not to imagine them envying their fantasy equivalents in George R.R. Martin's brutally uninhibited realm.
In the Seven Kingdoms, contrition is as unknown as push-polling or George Will. Shouting "Seize him!" in a tone of icy hauteur is the conventional way of indicating you feel affronted. The preferred method of character assassination is lopping an opponent's head off, and the only sex scandal likely to trigger much outrage would be an episode without any. Honestly, can't you picture Newt and Callista humming "Over the Rainbow" between fistfuls of popcorn? Or Bill and Hillary warmly texting "If only" from two different continents?
Best of all, there are no issues, no thorny policy questions, indeed no ideology as modern-day weenies like us understand those concerns. Along with any number of secondary rivalries, the show's central brawl between the House of Lannister and the House of Stark is a pure struggle for supremacy, bereft of so much as lip service to any loftier purpose. Since noblesse oblige, let alone uppity input from the shaggy lower orders, are nonstarters here, nobody in sight even has to pretend to care about the public good. They may be monsters, but unlike today's editions, they don't need to be hypocrites about it.
Instead, Game of Thrones gratifies the teenage cynic in us all with an ongoing and randy demonstration that only sex, ambition and revenge (lotsa revenge) count for much at the top. Early in the new season, reminded that "knowledge is power" by elfin Peter Baelish (Aiden Gillen), Lena Headey as Cersei?mother of evil boy king Joffrey (chillingly gimlet-eyed Jack Gleeson), the illicit spawn of her brother-sister incest under dead King Robert's nose?snappily retorts, "Power is power." While that's about the extent of Martin's political sophistication, the total absence of uplift is enjoyable just the same.
So is, above all, the acting, at least when Headey, Gleeson, Gillen, and a few others are front and center. (Though Michelle Fairley as Catelyn Stark is definitely in that category, the mopey actors cast as her sons are convincing as blood relatives mostly because they're all boring.) An Emmy winner last season, Peter Dinklage surpasses them all; his sardonic Tyrion Lannister is the one character we'll likely remember long after the rest of the show has faded into vagueness in our memories. Dinklage's mesmerizingly witty, endlessly jousting performance can make you forget Game of Thrones is basically rubbish, something that's all but irrelevant anyhow. Rubbish that hits people where they want to live can be a lot tangier than art that doesn't.
Last week, I went over the major advantages and differences among the various types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) available to investors. But today I want to dig a little deeper into one particular aspect of Roth IRAs that makes them really attractive to anyone planning on leaving money to an heir.
It all starts with something I said in my last column — namely, that unlike their traditional brethren, Roth IRAs do not require you to EVER begin taking minimum distributions. In fact, as long as you keep earning income (or alimony) you can continue contributing.
What that means is that you can leave every single penny of your Roth IRA intact for your designated beneficiary. That . . . → Read More: One huge reason to consider a Roth IRA
Read The Full Article:
I'm sure Mitt Romney is thrilled that Paul Ryan endorsed him this morning, but nobody is happier than the Obama re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
To celebrate, the DNC put out this new web video, featuring a new version of "That's Amore" tailored especially to Romney, Ryan, and their plan to end Medicare as we know it.
But while Ryan's plans are popular among Republicans, everybody else hates them. Despite his lead over Santorum, Romney trails President Obama according to the same poll?and he trails badly, by 17-point margin, 52-35. So although Romney might be happy to have Ryan's support now, once the primary is over, he's going to need to figure out how to use that Etch-A-Sketch of his without anybody noticing, or he's going to flame out big in November.
This Sunday, April 1, Nashville will join with communities and cities across the United States and Canada for a National Day of Action for the Right to Exist, sponsored by WRAP, the Western Regional Advocacy Program.[...]
Read The Full Article:
News Corp to "hit back hard" at latest allegations.[...]
Read The Full Article:
From Foreign Policy, Mark Perry breaking the story:
[...] In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. “The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official told me in early February, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”
Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel’s military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf — but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries’ relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey’s most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the sources said.
The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Mossad were contacted for comment, as well as the Azeri embassy to the United States, but none was forthcoming.
Haaretz has a report pointing out problems with the supposition of Israel hitting Iran from Azerbaijan.
While this is an intriguing possibility, a cursory glance at a map hardly bears it out. A range of American military experts claim that Azeri airfields would be invaluable for Israel as it would solve some of the fuel/range issues of a 2000+km strike, they fail to address the problem of where the Israeli warplanes can fly to once they have refueled in Azerbaijan. There is no friendly route to fly back to Israel, except over Iranian or Turkish territory, hardly appealing alternatives once an attack has already been carried out and both countries will be on highest alert. Another weak point in that theory is that according to a “senior U.S. military intelligence officer” this would enable the Israeli air-force not to rely on its “pretty minimal” aerial refueling capabilities with which U.S. “military planners? are not impressed.”
This is simply nuts.
Tim, Pennsylvania's own Frackenstein Monster
I'm still laughing that clueless Blue Dog Tim Holden sent out a frantic press release to every media outlet in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district-- most of whom he was contacting for the first time since less than 30% of the district was part of his former district. In the press release he claimed, among other preposterous paranoid nonsense, that Blue America is a "SuperPac." Actually we're the opposite-- a good government, grassroots, completely independent political action committee whose average donor has given a little less than $45 dollars. As I've said before, Holden is a notorious corporate whore who will do anything for anyone who pays him enough. He takes a fortune from sleazy DC lobbyists-- and was one of the only Democrats who was bribed by Abramoff-- and he's taken $5,875,215 from PACs (and that doesn't count all the cash he's been vacuuming up since December). That's 59% of everything that's been contributed to his campaigns. Isn't that... Super?
Anyway, one of the most notoriously sleazy lobbyists in Washington-- one of the congressional paymasters for AT&T, J. Michael Schweder-- threw Holden a big fundraiser. Schweder first started funneling money into Holden's smarmy career in 2002 but he gives widely-- to anyone he thinks is corruptible-- like the Republican Party of New Jersey, which he gave $1,500 last year. Holden spent Saturday evening raising campaign cash with Schweder at a fundraiser. Consider yourself cleaner if you weren't invited. AT&T has doled out $48,239,446 in bribes to Congress-- most of it to Republicans-- since 1989. And they spent $134,989,336 lobbying Congress in that same time period. And, of course, they've been involved in several controversial incidents involving privacy and pricing. Throughout his career, Holden has accepted $114,800 from PACs controlled by communications and technology companies like AT&T.
After passage of Bush's grotesque legislation, the so-called ?Patriot Act,? which Holden supported, AT&T was repeatedly accused of allowing the National Security Agency to tap into circuits carrying customer's phone calls and e-mails. A recent case involving GPS technology in smartphones has also called into question whether AT&T allows the government access to their systems to track the movements of U.S. citizens without legal authority.
In an attempt to seek immunity from violations of federal law, AT&T successfully secured special legislation from its friends in Congress. Tim Holden supported the exception for AT&T. Holden always supports exemptions for corporation who write him big enough checks. It's what he's known for.
As for Schweder-- no one could have been a better fundraiser for someone as corrupt as Holden. Schweder was also a contributor to Mike Veon, Brett Feese, Robert Mellow, John Perzel and Vincent Fumo... all of whom have been convicted of the same kinds of government corruption Holden specializes in-- and each of them either has served time, is serving time or is awaiting sentencing.
Holder likes to style himself "the Dean of the Pennsylvania Delegation." Well, Dean Holden is whistling a happy tune and cashing checks from corporations who have backed corrupt political insiders. Every single one of those checks comes with strings attached-- and Tim "Quid Pro Quo" Holden knows it well. Conservative voters in Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon, and Perry counties may not care about being ripped off by politicians but Holden is about to meet voters in places he's never run in before-- far more enlightened parts of Pennsylvania like Lackawanna. Monroe, Luzerne, and Northampton counties where people are disgusted with this "politics as usual" attitude. This kind of greasy money corrupts and Holden is cozying up to a lobbyist and mega-corporation that routinely backs corrupt politicians.
The Blue America campaign in PA-17 has been about Holden's role as Dr. Frackenstein and his quid pro quos regarding the cash he's taken from fracking-related companies and lobbyists in return for getting the Halliburton Loophole passed. But we wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that that's the only thing wrong with Holden. It's just all our "SuperPAC" could afford. Have you ever contributed to a SuperPAC-- or, I should say, a "SuperPAC." Try it here-- and help us make Pennsylvania one Blue Dog cleaner.
No One Is Accusing Holden Of Blowing Up The Gas Compressor Near Scranton, But...
This wouldn't have happened yesterday if Holden didn't take massive bribes from fracking-related companies to push through the hideous Halliburton Loophole.
The incident in the Lathrop compressor station off Route 29 in Springville Twp. drew emergency responders from nearby counties and shook homes as far as a half-mile from the compressor complex.
...The Lathrop station pressurizes gas from Marcellus Shale wells in the county for transport through pipelines. It was sold to Williams by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as part of a deal announced in 2010 that also included a second compressor station and 75 miles of the natural gas drilling company's gathering pipelines.
A group including seven municipalities Thursday sued the state of Pennsylvania over its new law regulating the rapidly growth of natural gas exploration, saying among other things that it unconstitutionally takes away the power to control property from towns and landowners for the benefit of the oil and gas industry.
The approximately 120-page lawsuit was filed in state Commonwealth Court and includes Robinson, Peters, Cecil and Mount Pleasant townships in Washington County; South Fayette Township in Allegheny County; and Nockamixon Township and Yardley Borough in Bucks County.
Among the provisions cited by the lawsuit are requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed.
"As municipalities can expect hundreds of wells, numerous impoundments, miles of pipelines, several compressor and processing plants, all within (their) borders, they will be left to plan around rather than plan for orderly growth," the lawsuit said.
The industry began descending on Pennsylvania in 2008 in earnest to tap into the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas formation deep underground that is considered the nation's largest-known reservoir.
Opponents of the sweeping, six-week-old law say it prevents municipalities from protecting homes or businesses, and possibly even schools or parks, from drilling activity that could damage a community's quality of life and property values.
Several land-use lawyers have said the new law seemed unprecedented for its detail in limiting what a municipality can require when it comes to exploration of the Marcellus Shale. However, none said they viewed it as unconstitutional.
Click here to view this media
How embarrassing and shameful is this? We've got lies being spread on Fox News, a Supreme Court Justice repeating those lies during hearings before his court and then Fox repeating the lies told by the Justice in their "reporting" that evening.
Here's more from Steve Benen on Antonin Scalia telling repeating the falsehood that the "Cornhusker kickback" was part of the Affordable Care Act -- There is no 'Cornhusker kickback':
It's not fair for anyone to expect Supreme Court justices to become experts in every area of every law that comes before them. There are simply too many cases, spanning too broad a legal spectrum.
That said, it's not unreasonable to think justices should be relatively well informed about the basics of health care law, since literally tens millions of Americans are counting on them to make a fair and reasoned decisions. It makes displays like these rather embarrassing. [...]
In this case, Scalia doesn't seem to realize that the so-called "Cornhusker kickback" wasn't included in the Affordable Care Act; it was taken out before passage. Scalia probably heard something about it on Fox News, assumed it was true, and internalized his party's talking points. More than two years later, the conservative justice is still parroting a claim that has no basis in fact -- indeed, he's practically boasting about it during Supreme Court oral arguments.
Scalia is bringing to the discussion all the sophistication of a House freshman appearing at a Tea Party rally.
And here's more on Fox repeating the lie on Greta Van Susteren's show that evening --- Fox's Bream Falsely Suggests "Cornhusker Kickback" Is Part Of Health Care Law:
Fox News reporter Shannon Bream said that during Supreme Court deliberations on the health care reform law, "some of the different justices talked about the Cornhusker Kickback and other things that were tucked into the law so that votes would be gotten along the way." In fact, the provision in question, which would have provided extra Medicaid funding for Nebraska, was removed and is not part of the health care reform law.
Bream: "Some Of The Justices Talked About The Cornhusker Kickback And Other Things That Were Tucked Into The Law." From Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (host): Fox News' Shannon Bream was inside the Supreme Court hearing today. She joins us. And Shannon, I probably should hold up at least the 2,700 pages of the bill that apparently nobody's read. Nobody read it before it was voted on, and now nobody's read it before the decision is going to be made about whether it's constitutional. But anyway, what happened today?
BREAM: It's quite a workout there. By the way, Justice Breyer did have sections of the law with him today, and he acknowledged in open court, Hey, I haven't read this whole thing. But he talked about the fact that if you shoot down the mandate, how do you decide what parts of the law live? And he talked about the fact that there are coequal branches of government. Do I jump in and do Congress' job, telling them which pieces I'm going to going to keep and not keep? And there was discussion in the court as well that there were deals made for some of the votes, he said -- you know, some of the different justices talked about the Cornhusker Kickback and other things that were tucked into the law so that votes would be gotten along the way. And they -- several of them expressed concern: How do we undo all of that? Is that our job? [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 3/28/12]
And there's more in the Media Matters report on how the provision did not make its way into the health care law.