The 2000 recount calamity in Florida and the 2004 voting-rights debacle in Ohio remind us just how[...]
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Ezra Klein at the Washington Post takes his turn at bat looking at whether America is a "center right nation." He does a pretty fair job but runs into the same difficulty everyone faces who tries to find a label other than "liberal" or "conservative" to describe the preference most Americans seem to have for government programs without the government that provides them.
There is, for example, this exchange that the Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi had with a participant at a Sarah Palin Tea Party rally:
"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."
"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"
"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."
I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"
Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"
"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."
"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"
"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much."
Concludes Taibbi: "Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them."
Where can you possibly fit that preference on the political spectrum?
Mostly, I think the right wing's talking point that America is a "center right" nation is nothing more than a self-serving rationalization for treating the 2008 election as an illegitimate aberration -- a speed bump along the road to a permanent Republican majority -- that conservatives use to convince themselves that they are still in charge rather than those guys who actually won the election.
But if America were really a Conservative Country then why do Republicans have to pretend they are fist-shaking, Wall Street-hating populists while they do the bidding of the privileged upper classes?
There is no question that political labels are very confusing in this country, and I think it's because we are such a heterogeneous nation where racial and tribal considerations get intermingled with economic ones to an extent you don't see in more culturally coherent Europe.
This is why, for example, there was a very strong anti-capitalist radical tradition in the Jim Crow South - essentially combining far left economic politics with far right social politics. Race issues are also why the very same white ethnic groups that formed the core of the New Deal coalition fractured over the Great Society when LBJ tried to extend the benefits of the New Deal to marginalized minority groups. It wasn't the programs themselves that these "Reagan Democrats" objected to. It was the fact that these programs were benefitting people who weren't like them. So, is that liberal or conservative?
Here is Klein's piece, "Are we a center-right nation?":
Every so often, you hear someone say that America is a center-right nation. What that means is often a bit fuzzy, but it gets applied to everything from why Republicans win about half of our elections to why we don't have a national health-care system. It's a way to explain not only Republican victories and Democratic losses, but also the need for Democrats to be cautious after victories and for Republicans to be ambitious when they take office. It's a view, in other words, with implications.
So I imagine we'll be hearing a lot about it in November. But I don't buy it. Which isn't to say we're a center-left country. I don't think that, either. Rather, the premise that policy and election outcomes are a coherent expression of national values seems like a misguided projection. Pundits and political professionals think a lot about how the details of various policies fit with their ideologies (though they often abandon those thoughts when their party asks them to), but I don't see much evidence that the average voter follows a similar process.
For instance: We know that self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals, and appear to have done so for as long as we've been polling the question. But we also know that self-described Democrats outnumber self-described Republicans -- even when conservative pollsters are asking the question -- and that's been true for decades, too. So we're a conservative country ... that leans towards the Democrats? Huh.
We know, for instance, that Americans are less bothered by inequality than Europeans. But we also know that, when given a choice (pdf), Americans say they'd like their level of income inequality to look less like America's and more like Sweden's.
America's center-rightness is supposedly proven by the fact that we don't have a government-run health-care system. But we love our Medicare. We prefer it, in fact, to our private insurance. And we're less satisfied with our system than Europeans are with theirs. So we're a country that opposes government-run health care -- except when we have it, and then we far prefer it to the private market, and we're more likely than people in other countries to demand that our health-care system gets rebuilt.
I want to be clear what I'm arguing here: It's not that Americans don't have measurably different opinions than Europeans. It's that our opinions and the outcomes of our political system are not closely correlated. Rather, I think that the exceptionalism of the American political system comes from its structure, which is conservative with a small-c.
Because it's harder for the government to do things, the government does fewer things. At least seven presidents have run for office with some sort of universal health-care plan. In another system, one of them would've succeeded, and we would have had national health care by the mid-20th century, and one of the central policy differences between America and Europe wouldn't exist. As it happens, our system makes legislative change difficult, and so they all failed. But in the cases when they succeeded -- Social Security and Medicare -- their successes are wildly popular, and efforts to roll the programs back have been catastrophic failures.
The American political system isn't so much biased against the left or the right as against change in general, and though there are occasional moments when events and majorities align to allow a political party to achieve a lot of the items on its agenda, they're quite rare, and almost never durable.
The former housekeeper of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman charged Wednesday that the former eBay CEO knew her maid was in the country illegally, but continued to employ her and treated her poorly.
Whitman's campaign said that the maid, Nicky Diaz, was being "manipulated" by her high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred for "political and financial purposes," and said the candidate did not know Diaz was in the country illegally.
But Allred said Thursday that she had a copy of a so-called "no-match" letter sent by the Social Security Administration to Whitman back in 2003. That letter, which indicated that Diaz's name did not match with the housekeeper's name, indicates that Whitman knew her housekeeper was not authorized to work, according to Allred.
She planned to release the letter at a press conference at noon Pacific time. The Whitman campaign announced it would preempt Allred with a press conference at 10:30 p.m. PT.
So what do we know so far?
Documents supplied by the Whitman campaign to TPM and other media outlets last night seem to confirm that Diaz did indeed lie when she declared in paperwork in May 2000 that she was able to work in the U.S.
Allred alleged that Whitman knew the truth about her housekeeper's status, not only because of the letter but because she said Diaz made references to not being able to leave the country during her employment. When asked whether her client falsely filled out paperwork, Allred wrote in an e-mail to TPMMuckraker: "No comment. News conference at noon."
According to the campaign, Whitman and her husband Griff Harsh used an unnamed California-based placement agency to assist them in finding a housekeeper. Diaz, whose full name is Nicandra Diaz-Santillan, filled out a form in May 2000 and provided a driver's license number and Social Security number. She was hired in November of that year, and filled out a standard IRS W-4 form, and provided a copy of her driver's license and social security card. Diaz also signed an I-9 stating that she was a lawful Permanent Resident Alien, according to the Whitman camp.
Whitman said at a campaign event yesterday that she never received the no-match letter, which Allred said Diaz had found in the trash.
An immigration lawyer told TPMMuckraker that it could be the employment agency who is on the hook if they didn't properly verify the applicant's status.
"Ordinarily, if an agency is paid to recruit someone, the agency should do the employment eligibility verification and the employer might not be required to do anything," Angelo Paparelli said.
It is unclear how long Diaz was employed by the agency and when she because directly employed by Whitman. But when Whitman allegedly received the no-match letter in 2003, there was no requirement that employers check on the employment status of their employees based on a "no-match" letter, said immigration lawyer Charles W. Cook.
The SSA website says that when employers receive a so-called "no-match" letter, they should make sure there was not a typographical error and ask to see the employee's Social Security card to ensure they have the right information. If the issue cannot be resolved, they are supposed to ask their employee to contact their local Social Security office.
It is unclear if Whitman informed Diaz about the letter and told her to get in touch with the SSA. Allred said Diaz found the letter in the trash.
The National Immigration Law Center says that no-match letters have been unfairly used as a reason to fire employees because employers have said that the letters give them reasonable suspicion that a worker is unauthorized to work. NILC said that there are other reasons for so-called "no-match" letters, including misspellings, clerical errors, or name changes due to marriage or divorce.
Witman's campaign said that Diaz also filed out a I-9 form, even though the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that employers do not need to complete I-9 forms for employees who are "employed for casual domestic work in a private home on a sporadic, irregular, or intermittent basis" or are "providing labor to you who are employed by a contractor providing contract services."
In a statement sent to TPMMuckraker, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said that the agency was focused on "effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts to target dangerous criminal aliens and others who present the greatest risk to our communities." She declined to comment directly on Diaz.
"As a matter of policy, ICE does not disclose whether it will conduct a specific law enforcement action in the future," Kice said. "In the workplace, ICE's enforcement strategy focuses on identifying employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and engage in related crimes such as worker exploitation, visa fraud and human smuggling and trafficking."
Both Whitman and Diaz agree that on June 20, 2009, Diaz confessed that she was not a legal resident.
"We have no jobs, no food, no place to live, and for that reason we made a decision to come here," the housekeeper said she told Whitman. "I told her that I don't have papers to work here, and we need her help."
Diaz said that she told Whitman she wanted her to help in getting an immigration attorney.
"Ms. Whitman just laughed and turn her face to one side. At that moment Dr. Harsh entered," Diaz said. "Dr. Harsh was very angry and said, "I told you, I told you she was going to bring us problems!"
The Whitman camp said Diaz was suspended from employment that same day. Diaz said Whitman left a voicemail message on June 22 informing her that she had contacted her lawyer. Whitman's camp said she informed Diaz that she had been terminated on or about June 29, 2009.
"She said 'I cannot help you, and don't say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job'," Whitman told Diaz, according to the former housekeeper's account. "From now on you don't know me, and I don't know you. You have never seen me and I have never seen you'," Diaz said Whitman told her.
There has been no further contact between Ms. Diaz and Meg Whitman since her termination, according to the Whitman camp.
Video from Allred's GMA interview, Diaz's press conference and audio from Whitman's call with campaign reporters below.
When James O'Keefe dressed up like a telephone repairman and started poking around with Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) phone system, breaking the law, Andrew Breitbart -- who backed O'Keefe's ACORN stings -- stood by him. He said Big Government had nothing to do with O'Keefe's stunt, of course, but he also defended O'Keefe, gave him a platform from which to make a public statement and continued to pay him for his contributions to the BigGovernment site.
But not this time around, as O'Keefe finds himself the subject of condemnation from the right for apparently plotting to "punk" CNN by luring a reporter onto his boat and seducing her.
Breitbart didn't respond to our requests for comment, but he has been using Twitter to lash out at those who describe O'Keefe as part of Breitbart's "crew."
"Not his employer. When criticizing journalism always try to practice good journalism," he tweeted to Nicole Sandler, a radio host who had retweeted something that called Breitbart O'Keefe's "employer/coward."
And the incident hasn't been mentioned at all on Breitbart's sites BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com.
In honor of Halloween, we want to send you a FREE gift package! As seen in the picture below, we have biodegradable Halloween bags, "Treat Kids and Vote" pumpkin stickers, and "Kids Need Our Vote" posters.
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by William S. BeckerA new poll in California indicates a dead heat among that state?s voters on Proposition 23, the ballot initiative in which out-of-state oil companies are trying to cripple the nation?s most progressive law to combat global climate[...]
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It had to happen. The ultimate, definitive, bestest Christine O'Donnell evah. We start with this pic from 2002 with Christine spending some quality time with Ozzy Osborne. Perhaps during a moment of backsliding toward the Occult? Everyone has their[...]
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The tape is mostly bullish for stocks right now: the S&P 500 breakout above 1130 appears to have been successfully retested last week. On the other hand, buying activity is far from enthusiastic. Relatively low volume suggests major players lack commitment. Nonetheless, all pullbacks have been rather shallow, and the path of least resistance is up. The next level to watch is 1150.
Market reaction to last week’s Federal Reserve announcement has evolved, and analysis is clearer this week with the benefit of hindsight. For those who may not have noticed, the Fed decided that what we need is more inflation. Not surprisingly, inflation-protected bonds gained strength, gold hit another all-time high, and the dollar weakened. These are exactly what…. . . → Full Story: Risk in Treasury Bonds Takes Backseat to Demand
Pres. Obama’s “the choice” election midterm mantra isn’t working out very well in one key area. Big Democratic donors have a choice and they’ve decided to sit out the midterms. Who’s shocked by this story? Pres.[...]
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