Sunday, September 30, 2012

Boxer Calls on Department of Justice to Protect Americans from Voter Intimidation

Press Release Senator Barbara Boxer:

Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
September 27, 2012  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Calls on Department of Justice to Protect Americans from Voter Intimidation  

Widespread Efforts to Suppress the Vote, Particularly in Low-Income and Minority Neighborhoods, Threaten the Right of Americans to Cast Ballots

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today wrote a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, calling on the agency to enforce voting rights laws following new reports of widespread efforts by Tea Party-linked groups to intimidate voters and suppress the vote, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

“The right to vote has been the result of a long and difficult struggle in America,” Senator Boxer said. “It has taken generations to ensure full voting rights for minorities, women, and young people. No group can be allowed to intimidate or interfere with this fundamental right that is essential for American democracy.”

Boxer added, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibit persons from knowingly and willfully intimidating or attempting to intimidate, threaten or coerce another person for voting, attempting to vote, or registering to vote.”

Senator Boxer highlighted a disturbing account in the Los Angeles Times today of an Ohio woman recovering from cancer who received a letter questioning her residence and right to vote in this election – even though she had lived at that location for seven years. In the letter, Boxer said, “This type of intimidation must stop. I don’t believe this is ‘True the Vote.’ I believe it’s ‘Stop the Vote.’ ”

You can read the full text of Senator Boxer’s letter to the Department of Justice below:

September 27, 2012

Hon. Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Perez:

I have enclosed a very disturbing article from the Los Angeles Times, which details an organized effort in Ohio to question the voting rights of thousands of Americans.

As you know, an organization called “True the Vote,” which is an offshoot of the Tea Party, is leading a voter suppression campaign in many states.

The article highlights a woman recovering from cancer who received a letter questioning her residence and right to vote in this election. She was astounded by this outrageous charge as she had lived in that location for seven years.

This type of intimidation must stop. I don’t believe this is “True the Vote.” I believe it’s “Stop the Vote.”

The right to vote has been the result of a long and difficult struggle in America. It has taken generations to ensure full voting rights for minorities, women, and young people. No group can be allowed to intimidate or interfere with this fundamental right that is essential for American democracy.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibit persons from knowingly and willfully intimidating or attempting to intimidate, threaten or coerce another person for voting, attempting to vote, or registering to vote.

Please let me know if you are investigating voter suppression incidents such as the type described in the Los Angeles Times and the steps you are taking to enforcing voting rights laws across the country to ensure free and fair elections.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your immediate response.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Catholic archbishop: If you disagree with church on marriage, don’t bother with communion

From America Blog:


How about if you disagree with the church aiding and abetting pedophilia?

And what a surprise that the Catholic church is again trying to usurp our democracy only one month out of an election. And these are the same folks who tell us not to worry about uber-religious candidates, they won’t let their church control them in office – until their church tries to control them office.  (There’s a bit of a “deny me three times” element to the ongoing denial of uber- people of faith on this point – your faith is your number one guidepost but you won’t legislate based on it.  Right.)

What a mean-spirited faith. And the Catholics wonder why they have such a hard time getting new priests and followers.  Perhaps because no one wants to wake up early on a Sunday to get yelled at.

Complete article at:

Polling Shows That Bishops' Campaign Failed

From Huffington Post:


A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that Catholics are strongly supporting President Barack Obama in the coming election. Obama leads his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, by a significant margin, 54-39 percent -- a 15 percent lead for the president. This is up from a slim two percent margin in favor of President Obama in a similar poll in June.

A lot has happened since June. On the Catholic front, in between those two polls, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) organized a major campaign, the Fortnight for Freedom, from June 21 to July 4, trying to draw attention to alleged violations of religious freedom in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. During the Fortnight, the USCCB characterized the requirement that employee insurance plans must cover preventive medications, including birth control, as an affront to American Catholics.

But the bishops' protest has not done much to unite Catholics behind this latest crusade against women's health and rights in this country. Among Catholics who heard about the bishops' protest and disagree with them, 78 percent support President Obama. Putting that together with this week's polling leads one to speculate that not only isn't the bishops' campaign working -- it's backfiring.

The 2012 election is the first time that both presidential tickets feature a Catholic candidate. This led many to speculate that the mythical, courted, supposedly monolithic Catholic vote was going to be an even bigger factor than before. However, the reality is that the Catholic vote has mirrored the popular vote in almost all of the presidential elections since President Nixon was in office. Despite this evidence, there is a presumption that Catholic voters are particularly conservative on social issues, and that their religion and the views of their religious leaders play an important role in Catholics' political decisions. This couldn't be further from the truth.

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Conservatives Stoop To Slut-Shaming Obama's Dead Mother

From Slate:

By Friday, Sept. 28, 2012

The most surprising thing is that it took this long. Frustrated Obama obsessives, unable to believe that the rest of the country doesn't share their paranoid suspicion that the president has dark secrets lurking under his amiable exterior, have finally stooped to slurring his mother through the time-honored method of calling her a slut.

Michelle Goldberg reports for the Daily Beast on this new round of rumor-mongering about Obama's origins, which comes mainly from two sources: Dinesh D'Souza's best-selling book Obama's America and a pseudo-documentary Dreams From My Real Father that is currently being mailed out to voters in swing states.

Dreams From My Real Father peddles a conspiracy theory so convoluted that more traditional birthers must be envious of its creativity. The director, Joel Gilbert, argues that Obama's real father is Frank Marshall Davis, a labor activist and poet, and that Davis took bondage photos of Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, that he then sold to nudie magazines. Naturally, these questionable photos are prominently displayed in the documentary, and a short clip from the movie with the photos is available for embedding on every two-bit birther blog on the Internet. Gilbert claims to have mailed out a million copies to voters in Ohio, and in this post-Citizens United era, it's quite possible he does have anonymous donors who made that kind of mail push possible.

D'Souza is slightly less conspiracy-minded, but still subjects Dunham to the same icky, dirty old man treatment conservative pundits seem to have perfected. He accuses Dunham of neglecting her son so she could sleep around Indonesia, painting her as a sexual predator and pretending to be amazed that she supposedly got it on so often despite being a heavy woman. Ginning up sexual hysteria appears to be its own reward for D'Souza; any connection between his accusations and Obama's political leanings is tenuous at best. The book really serves no other purpose than to promote the notion that Obama is the dreaded Other and imply that the nerdy family man exterior is simply a front for a subversive America-hating radical.

Complete article at:

Care - Obama for America

D'oh! What We Don't Know About the White Working-Class

From Alternet:

One of the strongest biases in America is that college-educated whites are very different than working-class whites.

By Simon Greer
September 27, 2012

Remember Archie Bunker, the bigot everyone could relate to? He created and conformed to our expectations.

And while none of us believe we are one-dimensional, understanding we contain multitudes, as Walt Whitman once said, we often accept one-dimensional caricatures of other people, stereotypes reinforced in the American media.

It is unfortunate but true that it is often easier to deal with the predictability of a black-and-white world than to grapple with contradictions and ambiguities. They make our lives complex and sometimes unpredictable. We like security, and some of us don't like surprises.

But if we keep our eyes and minds open, surprises are inevitable, even desirable. In my many years working in the social change sector with people of all backgrounds, I am often surprised as my assumptions about an individual or group of people are proven wrong. The reality is almost always far more complicated and interesting than my stereotypes. 

Given my experience, I’m suspicious of the clichés about the white working-class -- their biases and conservatism; how they don’t vote in their own interests – clichés reinforced in much of the literature popular on the left.

One of the strongest biases is that college-educated whites are very different than working-class whites. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Council , funded in part by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, shows that on many issues, it is not true. Take one striking example: there is virtually no difference between whites who are working-class and college-educated in identifying with the Tea Party, 10 and 13 percent, respectively. Equal numbers from these two groups identify Fox as a trusted source of news (27% and 28%). 

And as Joan Walsh, author of What's Wrong with White People wrote on Salon , the survey’s results "confounds those who believe that white working-class people vote against their own interests. For example, those who ‘receive food stamps in the last two years’ preferred Obama to Romney 48%-36%.”

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General Strike in Greece Says "We Won't Submit!"

From Truth Out:

By Lefteris Kretsos
Saturday, 29 September 2012

Greek workers carried out a 24-hour general strike this week as 50,000 people demonstrated in Athens against austerity. The conservative coalition government is proposing $15 billion of further cuts to pensions and salaries.

Police responded with tear gas when some demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at the finance ministry and parliament.

The strike was called by the country's two biggest unions, which between them represent half the workforce. It was the latest of at least 10 general strikes since 2010.

A survey conducted by the MRB polling agency last week found that more than 90 percent of Greeks believe the planned cuts are unfair and a burden on the poor.

Official unemployment in the country runs at 25 percent; fully half of young people have no work. Those Greeks still working would labor six days a week under the new plan.

Already this year the minimum wage was cut by 22 percent, and for those under 25, by 32 percent. In January, the public electricity company raised rates 15-20 percent. The government has ordered an expiration date no later than February 2013 for all collective bargaining agreements.

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Consciousness Beyond Chemtrails - Jeffrey M Smith on GMO's

Nuclear power is the Betamax of the energy world

From The Guardian UK:

We need to stop being distracted by this techology and focus on promoting and investing in renewables

Posted by
Friday 28 September 2012

In my first month as the new Green party leader, I've spent lots of time talking about pressing economic and social issues - the need for the minimum wage to be a living wage, how benefits should be available to all who need them, and how costly and destructive the privatisation of the NHS will be.

But with the government's energy bill on the horizon, serious questions around the coalition's wobbly-looking commitment not to subsidise new nuclear, and an anti-nuclear protest at Hinkley Point on 8 October, I've also spent lots of my time explaining why I think renewable energy - wind, solar and, in the future, tide and wave - combined with energy conservation, provide an excellent way forward for British energy.

I talk about the fact that the first two are technologies that are ready to scale up right now, providing jobs and affordable supplies for Britain. And about the fact that we know exactly what all of their "fuel" supplies will cost indefinitely into the future - ie nothing.

I talk about the way they can provide a decentralised, resilient energy system that is able to withstand climate or other shocks. And I discuss how nuclear is a distraction from the need to promote and invest in renewables.

Fuelled by a fierce and well-funded industry lobby claiming that nuclear would address the dire, if exaggerated, warnings about "the lights going out", as well as the urgent need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the nuclear idea has gained some traction recently in the UK.

So I think it is worth spending a little time talking about why nuclear power is the Betamax of the energy world - a technology that was briefly in the hunt, but now could be ready to fade away into a museum curiosity. And you don't have to just believe me on this - consider this recent front page from the Economist.

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Importing Nations Feel the Squeeze as Global Oil Exports Steadily Decline

From Oil Price

By Kurt Cobb
Mon, 24 September 2012

It is with trepidation that independent petroleum geologist Jeffrey Brown has watched global oil exports decline since 2006. With all the controversy in the past several years over whether worldwide oil production can rise to quench the world's growing thirst for petroleum, almost no one thought to ask what was happening to the level of oil exports. And yet, each year a dwindling global pool of exports has been generating ever greater competition among importing nations and has become a largely unheralded force behind record high oil prices.

Even though the trend in oil exports has been evident in the data for some time, the analyst community was caught by surprise when a Citigroup report released earlier this month forecast an end to oil exports in 2030 from Saudi Arabia, currently the world's largest oil exporter.

Brown, as you might expect, wasn't surprised at all. His own forecasting model, which he calls the Export Land Model, has been predicting more or less the same thing for some time. He doesn't think the Saudis will actually let exports to go all the way to zero because they'll probably want at least some revenue from exports. But "one to two million barrels per day of exports [from Saudi Arabia] between 2030 and 2040 will not be a big deal in the world," said Brown, who runs a joint venture exploration program based in Ft. Worth.

Brown estimates that worldwide net exports of petroleum liquids--a number that includes both crude oil and refined products such as gasoline and diesel--declined from 45.6 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2006 to 43.7 mbpd in 2011. He uses the net exports number because importers such as the United States export some of their imported crude back into world markets in the form of refined products such as gasoline and diesel. Even so, the United States remains the world's largest net importer of petroleum products.

The decline in global net exports may seem small for now. But it is persistent and comes in the face of growing demand among the rapidly expanding economies of Asia, particularly China and India. And the trend lines, if they were to continue, would mean that China and India alone would consume all the world's available petroleum exports by around 2030. Something's bound to give before then, but it's not clear exactly what.

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Climate Change Takes a Bite Out of Global Food Supply

From Inter Press Service:

By Stephen Leahy
Sept. 29, 2012

MONTEREY, California, Sep 29 2012 (IPS) - Humanity’s ability to feed itself is in serious doubt as climate change takes hold on land in the form of droughts and extreme weather, as well as on the world’s oceans.
Less well known to many is the fact that emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are both heating up the oceans and making them more acidic. That is combining to reduce the amount of seafood that can be caught, according to a new report released here.

Seafood is a primary source of protein for more than a billion of the poorest people in the world, said Matthew Huelsenbeck, report author and marine scientist at Oceana, an environmental NGO.

“For many island nations like the Maldives, seafood is the cheapest and most readily available source of protein,” Huelsenbeck told IPS.

The Maldives, Togo and Comoros top the list of nations whose food security is threatened by climate change, according to the report, “Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World”, which ranks the vulnerabilities of nations. Surprisingly, Iran is fourth on that list. This is the first-ever look at how climate change may affect food security for countries that are dependent on fish and seafood.

The report was released this week at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World: Ocean Acidification, where nearly 600 scientists from around the world presented their research.
Rising ocean temperatures are pushing many fish away from the tropics towards the poles where waters are cooler, researchers have documented. And in a well-understood process, human emissions of CO2 have increased the acidity of oceans by 30 percent, threatening fish habitats such as coral reefs and thinning the shells of shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tammy Baldwin And Tommy Thompson Debate Marriage Equality: She Supports Equality/He Believes in Discrimination

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in Iowa: Vote Early

Atheist Giving More Compassion-Driven than Giving By the Religious

From The Center for Inquiry:

By Tom Flynn
September 27, 2012

Don't know how I missed this before, but a study appearing in the July 2012 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that atheists are more motivated by compassion than givers with strong religious beliefs. This was not a study of whether atheists give more or less than churchgoers -- that's a whole other controversy -- but rather a study of why religious and nonreligious givers give.
 A May 1 MSNBC story reported the key point in these words:
Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not," study co-author and University of California, Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer said in a statement. "The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.
That would seem to support a suggestion I made in my op-ed "Are Secularists Less Generous?" in the August / September 2010 FREE INQUIRY:
Remember, Christianity strongly encourages charity-sometimes past the point of good sense. Prosperity preachers urge the poor to send in their rent money and hope God will provide. Granted, many Christians look down their noses at prosperity preachers. But I have yet to meet a Christian who doesn't think highly of Jesus, and he praised the widow for giving the temple her last money in the world (Mark 12:42–44; Luke 21:1–4). Beyond doubt, Christianity demands and praises charity. Close-knit congregations can be hotbeds of social pressure to contribute, the pressure coming from clergy and fellow congregants alike.
In light of that, suppose for the sake of argument that churchgoers do give more generously than seculars. Far from demonstrating that they are more virtuous or caring, it may instead show that, driven by expectation and community pressure, they give too much. Some may be giving more than is compatible with their families' financial well-being. And if churchgoers are giving too much, it might be us seculars, free from slick-talking ministers and prodding, prying pewmates, who are making more rational giving decisions and contributing at sustainable levels.
Continue reading at:

Marriage at the Supreme Court

From Ms Magazine:

September 24, 2012

Are you or someone you love in a committed same-sex relationship, hoping to get married?

The national debate over marriage equality is about to enter a new phase, as multiple cases make their way to the United States Supreme Court. SCOTUS begins a new session next Monday, and today, in private conference, the Court will decide which new cases to review. The Proposition 8 case and several cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are among those the Court may decide to take up, and their choices today—which could be announced as early as tomorrow but certainly by the start of the session on October 1—will have wide-reaching effects.

Take the Proposition 8 appeal. So far, California’s ban on same-sex marriage has not fared well in court and has been ruled unconstitutional, first by Judge Vaughn Walker, and then by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which  upheld his ruling. Proponents of marriage equality successfully argued that rights shouldn’t be put up to a vote, and that the marriage ban treats lesbians and gays as second-class citizens. Supporters of Prop 8 want the Supreme Court to re-affirm it, and in doing so keep marriage bans around the country intact. If the Court does decide to take the case, the decision could be quite narrow—only concerning California and, perhaps, only concerning situations in which marriage rights were granted prior to a public vote, or it could be a sweeping decision in one direction or the other.

What if the Court decides NOT to hear the Prop 8 case? That would be a disappointment to those on both sides who want to see the case set precedent, but the immediate effect would be hugely positive for same-sex couples eager to marry. Proposition 8 would be removed from the books, and marriage equality would then be legal in the most populous state in the union. Here come the bride-brides and the groom-grooms!

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Sarah Silverman on Yetta Kurland Live!

Illinois Court Permits Religious Pharmacists To Refuse To Dispense Emergency Contraception

From Think Progress:

By Nicole Flatow
Sep 26, 2012

An Illinois appeals court upheld a ruling Fridaythat exempted pharmacists with religious objections from prescribing emergency contraceptives, finding that the medical professionals were protected by state law. The plaintiffs, both individual pharmacists and corporations that own pharmacies, had challenged an order by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich requiring that pharmacists sell “Plan B,” a brand of the contraceptive also known as the “morning-after pill.”

The court rejected the ACLU’s argument that prescribing emergency contraceptives fell under an exception in the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience for “emergency medical care,” even though doctors testified that the contraceptive was most effective when taken immediately after unprotected intercourse.

The three-justice panel did narrow the scope of the lower court’s ruling, which had entirely blocked the governor’s requirement to provide contraceptives. The appeals court held instead that the state law merely prohibits enforcement of the order against plaintiffs who claim a religious exemption.

The court’s decision to allow individual pharmacists to claim the protection of the law is not particularly surprising, given the Illinois statute’s broad wording: “No physician or health care personnel shall be civilly or criminally liable to any person, estate, public or private entity or public official by reason of his or her refusal to perform, assist, counsel, suggest, recommend, refer or participate in any way in any particular form of health care service which is contrary to the conscience of such physician or health care personnel.”

Complete article at:

Todd Akin Suggests Employers Should Be Able To Pay Women Less

From Talking Points Memo:

Friday September 28, 2012 

Todd Akin appeared to endorse allowing employers to pay women less than men at a town hall on Thursday.
Gender discrimination in compensation has been illegal in the United States since the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. But in video provided by Sen. Claire McCaskill's campaign, Akin responded to a question about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- which made it easier for workers to sue over unequal pay -- by suggesting that employers shouldn't even be barred from paying women less in the first place. 

 Complete article at:

Republicans Lost the War With Women the Moment They Declared It

From Truth Dig:

By Peter Z. Scheer
Sep 27, 2012

A new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll has the voting women of Ohio giving Barack Obama 25 points over Mitt Romney. In Pennsylvania, women prefer Obama by 21 points and in Florida the president has a 19-point advantage, according to the same poll. That might have something to do with the war on women Republicans have been accidentally waging this summer. Well, the war is not accidental—it’s quite intentional—it just wasn’t meant to be this public.

Let’s talk about women.

My grandmother didn’t think her daughter needed to go to college. Mom could find a husband to provide for her. She went anyway and worked her way through school until she got herself a “copyboy” job at the Los Angeles Times at a time when women, if they were hired to write at all, wrote about clothes and food.
My mom became a reporter, an editor, a bureau chief, an edition chief, an associate editor in charge of 10 sections and a vice president of a company that, when she got there, thought she might be an aspiring secretary.

Let’s get back to my grandmother, the one who didn’t care if her daughter went to college. Obviously she turned out to be wrong. But Grams was, herself, an extraordinary woman, the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

Everyone agrees my grandfather was one of the most decent people ever, but the least decent thing he did was to leave my grandmother to raise the youngest of three children by herself. So she was a single mom. She was also a United States Marine who fought Hitler, Hirohito and pretty much anyone who didn’t chew his food properly. A Polish-Ukrainian, she was initially treated like livestock in the home of her Italian in-laws, but it was preferable to the home she had left behind.

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This Presidential Race Should Never Have Been This Close

From Rolling Stone:

Matt Taibbi
September 25, 2012

The press everywhere is buzzing this week with premature obituaries of the Romney campaign. New polls are out suggesting that Mitt Romney's electoral path to the presidency is all but blocked. Unless someone snags an iPhone video of Obama taking a leak on Ohio State mascot Brutus Buckeye, or stealing pain meds from a Tampa retiree and sharing them with a bunch of Japanese carmakers, the game looks pretty much up – Obama's widening leads in three battleground states, Virginia, Ohio and Florida, seem to have sealed the deal.

That's left the media to speculate, with a palpable air of sadness, over where the system went wrong. Whatever you believe, many of these articles say, wherever you rest on the ideological spectrum, you should be disappointed that Obama ultimately had to run against such an incompetent challenger. Weirdly, there seems to be an expectation that presidential races should be closer, and that if one doesn't come down to the wire in an exciting photo finish, we've all missed out somehow.

Frank Bruni of The New York Times wrote a thoughtful, insightful editorial today that blames the painful, repetitive and vacuous campaign process for thinning the electoral herd and leaving us with only automatons and demented narcissists willing to climb the mountain:
Romney's bleeding has plenty to do with his intrinsic shortcomings and his shortsightedness: how does a man who has harbored presidential ambitions almost since he was a zygote create a paper trail of offshore accounts and tax returns like his?

But I wonder if we're not seeing the worst possible version of him, and if it isn't the ugly flower of the process itself. I wonder, too, what the politicians mulling 2016 make of it, and whether, God help us, we'll be looking at an even worse crop of candidates then.

How The Right's Latest Conspiracy Theory Might Unleash a Wave of Domestic Terrorism if Obama Wins

From Alternet:

Some types of spin are more dangerous than others.

By Joshua Holland
September 25, 2012

In a somewhat desperate attempt to maintain morale among a Republican base that disdains its standard-bearer, a number of conservative media outlets are pushing an alternate reality in which Mitt Romney is leading in the polls by wide margins and American voters have a decidedly negative view not of the challenger, but of Barack Obama.

It's an exceptionally dangerous game that the right-wing media are playing. If Obama wins – and according to polling guru Nate Silver, he'd have a 95 percent chance of doing so if the vote were held today – there's a very real danger that this spin -- combined with other campaign narratives that are popular among the far-right -- could create a post-election environment so toxic that it yields an outburst of politically motivated violence.

A strategy that began with a series of rather silly columns comparing 2012 with 1980, and assuring jittery conservatives that a huge mass of independents was sure to break for Romney late and deliver Obama the crushing defeat he so richly deserves, entered new territory with the bizarre belief that all the polls are wrong. And not only wrong, but intentionally rigged by “biased pollsters” – including those at Fox News – in the tank for Obama. (See Alex Pareene's piece for more on the right's new theory that the polls are being systematically “skewed.”)

Consider how a loosely-hinged member of the right-wing fringe – an unstable individual among the third of conservative Republicans who believe Obama's a Muslim or the almost two-thirds who think he was born in another country – expecting a landslide victory for the Republican might process an Obama victory. This is a group that has also been told, again and again, that Democrats engage in widespread voter fraud – that there are legions of undocumented immigrants, dead people and  ineligible felons voting in this election ( with the help of zombie ACORN ). They've been told that Democrats are buying the election with promises of “free stuff” offered to the slothful and unproductive half of the population that pays no federal income taxes and refuses to “take responsibility for their lives” – Romney's 47 percent.

They've also been told – by everyone from NRA president Wayne LaPierre to Mitt Romney himself – that Obama plans to ban gun ownership in his second term. (Two elaborate conspiracy theories have blossomed around this point. One holds that Fast and Furious – which, in reality, is much ado about very little – was designed to elevate gun violence to a point where seizing Americans' firearms would become politically popular. The second holds that a United Nations treaty on small arms transfers (from which the United States has withdrawn) is in fact a stealthy workaround for the Second Amendment.)

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The GOP is turning in fraudulent voter registration forms...

Why the Poor Pay Far More than Romney

From Op-Ed News:

September 25, 2012

Every study of taxes and taxation has been virtually unanimous that GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney got it dead wrong that millions of poor and working people pay no taxes and in essence leech off the system. The taxes that the 47 percent that Romney blew off as tax losers pay are for Medicare, Social Security, payroll taxes, and excise taxes. They pay a far higher percentage of the state taxes than the top 1 percent of income earners in nearly very state, as well as sales taxes, Even the number that supposedly pay not a dime in federal tax is badly overstated. T he Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center whittled the number down to 14 percent of households that paid neither federal income tax nor payroll tax in 2009. Even this is misleading. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that between 1989 and 2006 more than half of the tax filers who received the Earned Income Tax Credit received it for no more than a year or two at a time and generally paid substantial amounts of federal income tax in other years.

It's not solely a matter of splitting hairs over dollars and cents and percentages that pay and don't pay to. The poor and lower income workers pay more than Romney for several well calculated reasons. There are too few rich people, who pay too little taxes, and while the government bills still have to be paid and they continue to rise.   This is more than simply a case of armies of corporate shilling tax lobbyists that rig the tax system to insure that the rich duck and dodge their fair share. The poor have always been viewed as a ready, easy, and accessible piggy bank for state and federal governments to pay their always increasing bills.

The prevailing thinking is that workers consume while the rich and corporations (their employers) produce. In other words they produce the capital that fuels the engine of commerce and that in turn fuels the engine of government, so therefore the tax burden for every type of consumption fee from food to gasoline, must be borne by the poor and workers. Romney may have been "inelegant" as he put it in stating this, but he has hit on that theme repeatedly on the campaign trail. That government is a major impediment to private industry revival and expansion. His answer is even less taxes on the rich and corporations and though unstated since it would be the political kiss of death in an election year to openly say it, that the poor and workers must bear even more of the tax burden to make up for the shortfall.

This is what happened when Reagan slashed taxes (prematurely it turned out and had to increase them later). Bush Sr. despite his disastrous campaign promise that there would be no tax hike on his watch then promptly turned around and reneged on that promise once in the White House did the same. They shifted upward the tax burden even more to the workers. The two Bush tax cuts had the same effect. The rich paid even less and the tax burden shifted upward again   to the poor and workers   In 2008 nearly 1 in every 200 high-income taxpayers paid no federal income tax, up from about 1 in 1,500 in 1998.

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Mitt Romney blurts out the truth about neo-conservatism

From The Toronto Star:

By Linda McQuaig
Monday September 24, 2012

Ironically, in the now-famous video that seems likely to end his political career, it could be said that Mitt Romney was speaking truth to power.

Of course, “speaking truth to power” is a phrase normally used to describe courageous souls who risk their own hides to take a principled stand challenging those in power — not exactly what Mitt was doing.
Rather, assuming he was speaking privately to like-minded multi-millionaires, the Republican presidential candidate told the $50,000-a-platers what they wanted to hear: that he hasn’t any intention of helping the 47 per cent of Americans too poor to pay income tax. “My job is not to worry about those people.”

With this truthfulness caught on tape, Romney has probably done more than incinerate his own presidential bid. He has so vividly exposed the cynicism and greed that lies at the heart of what is now called “conservatism” that he may have inadvertently begun its undoing.

Once upon a time, “conservative” could be used to describe people — Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark — who had a vision of society in which a privileged elite dominated but also had a responsibility to less fortunate citizens and to the broader “public good.”

But about 30 years ago, a new breed of “conservative” slithered onto the political scene. Stealing the moniker of conservatism, this new breed embraced the inequality of traditional conservatism (driving it skyward) while unburdening itself of the responsibility for others and the public good.

This new breed has proved itself to be self-centred, greedy and indifferent to the public good.

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Barack to Mitt: Corporations Run the Economy

From Common Dreams:
by Ralph Nader
Published on Friday, September 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

Here is an open letter that Barack Obama should write to Mitt Romney – pronto!

Dear Mr. Romney:

Not a day goes by without you blaming me for every slumping or stagnant economic indicator. 
Unemployment, increases in the number of food stamp recipients, government borrowing, and spending, home foreclosures, economic uncertainty for businesses, trade deficits – you name it. Only for droughts and hurricanes have you absolved me from responsibility.

I won’t go into what was inherited from your Republican party’s years in office. Deregulation, non-enforcement, non-disclosure by the financial industry, and subsidies and bailouts were that period’s hallmarks. But if I were to be held responsible for the state of the American economy, there would have to be a “command and control” economy enforced by the White House. You know full well that is not the case for several reasons.

First, our economy is dominated by corporations that make their own investment and hiring decisions. Two-thirds of the tens of millions of low-wage workers are employed by fifty large corporations, such as Walmart and McDonald’s. Thirty million American workers are laboring between the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and what the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation from 1968, should be now – about $10 per hour. These companies are successfully opposing in Congress any increase in the minimum wage to such catch up with 1968. By the way, you favored an inflation-adjusted minimum wage for years. During the Republican primaries earlier this year, you changed your long-standing position and now oppose raising the minimum wage.

Moreover, many companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion in inactive cash reserves. I have no power to get more of that capital invested, other than to appeal to their USA corporate patriotism. I could also use that patriotic appeal to urge them to increase their dividends to shareholders which would pump tens of billions of dollars into our consumer economy to encourage much-needed spending. Some of these successful companies like Google, EMC and others offer no dividends at all to their owners. Those exhortations are just exhortations. CEOs can do what they want.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Taylor Ferrera

Blasphemy Is Good for You

From The Nation:

Katha PollittSeptember 26, 2012

As I write, mobs all over the world are rioting about an amateurish video portraying Muhammad as a horny buffoon. Death toll so far: at least thirty, including Christopher Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staffers. Not to be outdone, Pakistan’s railways minister announced he would pay $100,000 to anyone who murdered the videomaker, and added, “I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous.” More riots, embassy closings and a possible assassination attempt or two followed the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s retaliatory publication of cartoons of Muhammad naked. To bring it all full circle, an Iranian foundation has raised to $3.3 million the reward it’s offering for the murder of Salman Rushdie. (Just out and highly recommended: Joseph Anton, Rushdie’s humane and heroic memoir of his years in hiding.)

Shocking as these events were, some reactions here at home were not helpful: Newsweek’s notorious “Muslim Rage” cover, for example, with its photo of crazed-looking zealots. All together now: there are 1.6 billion Muslims, only a tiny minority of whom are involved in this nonsense. Would Newsweek present a story about opposition to gay marriage with a photo of the Westboro Baptist “God Hates Fags” church and the headline “Christian Rage”? 


What if the right to be a wanker—a jerk, an annoying obsessive—is indeed where freedom begins? On WNYC’s The Takeaway, John Hockenberry had a confusing exchange with BBC chief Jeremy Bowen:
Hockenberry: I’m wondering if it’s possible for the United Nations to create an initiative that would talk about some sort of global convention on blasphemy, that would create a cooperative enterprise to control these kinds of incidents, not to interfere into anybody’s free speech rights but to basically recognize that there is a global interest in keeping people from going off the rails over a perceived sense of slight by enforcing a convention of human rights, only in this particular case it would be anti-blasphemy?

Bowen: It would be a great idea if they could make it work, but of course you know, you think that the United Nations struggled for ages, and I don’t think it’s yet succeeded in coming up with a definition of “terrorism.” So, in the end, how do you define “blasphemy”?
So the only thing preventing some sort of international convention against “blasphemy” is that people can’t agree about what it is? Perhaps the UN could ask Vladimir Putin, who was eager to send three members of Pussy Riot to prison for appearing at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to perform an anti-Putin “punk prayer” to the Virgin Mary. Their crime: “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The rise of the Russian Orthodox church in the former Soviet Union, and its connections to a corrupt authoritarian regime, shows that Islam has no monopoly on religious freakouts or their exploitation for political purposes. But you already knew that, having lived through mosque burnings in several states, and of course the extraordinary ongoing wave of arsons, bombings, assaults, stalkings and murders committed against abortion clinics, their doctors and staffs, almost all by deeply devout Catholics and evangelicals.

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A Sokal-style hoax by an anti-religious philosopher

From Why Evolution is True:

September 25, 2012

I’m a big fan of Dr. Maarten Boudry, a Belgian philosopher who’s a research fellow in the Department of Philosopy & Moral Sciences of Ghent University.  Boudry has spent a lot of time showing that religion and science are incompatible, attacking the distinction between “metaphysical naturalism” and “methodological naturalism” (a distinction much beloved by accommodationists), and generally pwning “Sophisticated Theologians™.”

You can find my earlier discussions of Boudry’s work here, here and here, and, if you’re familiar with the unctuous theologian Alvin Plantinga, be sure to read Boudry’s new review of Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Boudry’s review is free online, starting on p. 21 of the latest newsletter from The International History, Philosophy and Science Working Group.

But today I’m presenting something else: a real Sokal-style hoax that Boudry has perpetrated. He informed me yesterday that he had submitted a fake, post-modernish and Sophisticated-Theological™ abstract to two theology conferences:
By the way, I thought you might find this funny. I wrote a spoof abstract full of theological gibberish (Sokal-style) and submitted it to two theology conferences, both of which accepted it right away. It got into the proceedings of the Reformational Philosophy conference. See Robert A. Maundy (an anagram of my name) on p. 22 of the program proceedings.
To save you the trouble of downloading it, I reproduce below, with Boudry’s permission, “Maundy’s” abstract. Note that he made up a college, too, but the quotation from John Haught is real.

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My Job - Obama for America

Shocking Study: Suicide Overtakes Car Accidents As Leading Cause of Death -- Is the Economy to Blame?

From Alternet:

The suicide rate has increased dramatically between 2000 and 2009.

By Kathleen Geier
September 24, 2012

An extremely disturbing new study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that  suicides have replaced car accidents  as the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. This is partly because deaths from automobile accidents are down — that’s the good news.

But the truly catastrophic news is that the suicide rate has increased dramatically: between 2000 and 2009, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, deaths by suicide went up by 15%, and deaths from poisoning increased by a whopping 128%. Moreover, researchers say that many of the poisoning deaths, which are labeled as “accidental,” may actually be intentional. According to the study’s author, Professor Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe.” He added “there may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides.”

Experts note that much of the increase in poisoning deaths is due to prescription drug overdoses, but none of the reports I found about the study speculate about what psychological, social, or economic causes are behind the spike in suicides. (I was unable to find an online copy of the study itself). But there is strong evidence elsewhere that our disastrous economy may be playing a significant role. Last year, a  report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[s]uicide rates in the U.S. tend to rise during recessions and fall amid economic booms.”

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See Also Bilerico:  Death By Austerity

Mitt Romney and Steve King: Partners in Extremism

Tea Party favorite Steve King in trouble

From Salon:

Two new polls show Iowa Republican and Tea Party favorite Steve King in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent

Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

An internal poll released today by Democrat Christie Vilsack shows her essentially tied with GOP Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s new 4th District. A separate public poll, conducted by PPP and also released today, found similar results, with King leading Vilsack by just 3 points at 48 to 45, within the margin of error. The congressional race gives Democrats a chance to take down one of the country’s most prominent Tea Party leaders, a man who once remarked that the president “favors the black person” and, in 2008, predicted that al-Qaida would be “dancing in the streets” if Barack “Hussein” Obama won the presidency.

The internal poll (see the full memo here), conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shows King at 46 percent and Vilsack at 44 percent. “This one will likely go down to the wire. But two concurrent surveys show all the momentum behind Christie Vilsack,” the pollsters write. A May GQRR showed King up by 16 points.

Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt told the Ames Tribune of King, “He should have much higher ratings … I don’t read it as ‘Christie Vilsack is a little bit behind anybody else,’ but I would read it as ‘Jeez, an incumbent should have an advantage in a question like that.’”

“As voters learn more about these candidates, it’s not surprising that congressman King is losing steam,” said Vilsack Campaign Manager Jessica Vanden Berg. The GQRR poll also shows that King’s approval rating is now underwater, with 44 percent opposed to the job he has done in Congress and 41 percent in favor.

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Repackaging Mitt as a Compassionate Conservative? It’s Too Late

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

“My heart aches for the people I’ve seen,” Mitt Romney said, on the second day of his Ohio bus tour. He’s now telling stories of economic hardship among the people he’s met.

Up until now, Romney’s stories on the campaign trail have been about business successes – people who started businesses in garages and grew their companies into global giants, entrepreneurs who succeeded because of grit and determination, millionaires who began poor. Horatio Alger updated.

Curiously absent from these narratives have been the stories of ordinary Americans caught in an economy over which they have no control. That is, most of us.

At least until now.

“I was yesterday with a woman who was emotional,” Romney recounts, “and she said, ‘Look, I’ve been out of work since May.’ She was in her 50s. She said, ‘I don’t see any prospects. Can you help me?’”

Could it be Romney is finally getting the message that many Americans need help through no fault of their own?

“There are so many people in our country that are hurting right now,” Romney says.  “I want to help them.”

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