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City Lights

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Home country: United Corporations of America
Current location: Chicagoland
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 23,726

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TPM: McConnell’s Revisionist History: Congress Gave Obama Everything He Wanted!

Sahil Kapur

January 31, 2012, 5:36 AM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has embraced the argument that President Obama was able to pass every bit of his legislative agenda in his first two years thanks to large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. It’s intended as a counterpoint to the President’s re-election strategy of attacking the congressional GOP as do-nothing obstructionists. But it’s also a revisionist history of the 111th Congress, during which McConnell more than any other Republican in Washington stood athwart Obama’s agenda to great effect.

The White House has “been trying to pretend like the President just showed up yesterday, just got sworn in and started fresh,” McConnell declared Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “In fact, he’s been in office for three years. He got everything he wanted from a completely compliant Congress for two of those three years… We are living in the Obama economy.”

This isn’t a new claim for McConnell, but it’s audacious even by Washington’s lax standards. It was McConnell, after all, who led Senate Republicans in serial filibusters — a record-setting number — successfully thwarting large chunks of Obama’s agenda.

By forcing Democrats to find 60 votes to nearly every action, McConnell and his members were able to block major initiatives including climate change and immigration reform bills, various appropriations bills, myriad presidential appointments, and arguably also a Democratic effort to let the Bush tax cuts expire for high incomes. Meanwhile, big legislative items that did pass, such as health care reform and the economic stimulus package, were notably scaled back as a result of the GOP filibusters.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

Sirota: Overconsumption won’t save America

Friday, Jan 27, 2012 1:00 PM UTC

To avoid another crisis, we need an economy based on thrift and sustainability not loans and credit card debt

By David Sirota

In 1977, two Boeing 747s collided on an airstrip in the Canary Islands. According to accident investigators, those who survived the initial blast in one plane had time to escape before a fire consumed the wreckage. But eyewitnesses reported that many remained in their seat looking perfectly content — as if nothing was wrong.

Not surprisingly, dozens of these dazed victims were burned to death, and the episode became a reminder of the so-called normalcy bias — a cognitive phenomenon whereby many who are faced with imminent disaster instantly convince themselves that everything is normal and that they don’t have to modify their behavior.

Unpleasant as this anecdote is to recount, it exemplifies the psychology at the root of one of America’s most destructive traits: our obsession with materialism and consumerism. To extrapolate the metaphor, if our damaged economy, record-low savings rate and sky-high personal debt levels are that smoldering plane about to explode, then America’s “shop till you drop” normalcy bias may be engineering yet another avoidable tragedy.

The most recent holiday binge exemplified the impending crisis. Despite persistent unemployment, flat wages and higher prices for necessities (food, healthcare, etc.), America nonetheless went on its usual post-Thanksgiving buying spree.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

Beutler via TPM: Three Key Questions Raised By Romney’s Tax Revelations

Brian Beutler - January 25, 2012, 5:44 AM

Mitt Romney’s campaign has tried desperately to put a lid back on the can of worms that burst open weeks ago when the one-time GOP presidential front runner declined to release any of his tax returns.

But by actually releasing his 2010 return, and an estimation of his 2011 return, camp Romney has provided reporters with some, but not all, of the answers they’re looking for as they try to paint a complete picture of the finances of one of the wealthiest candidates for President in U.S. history.

Romney’s revelations confirm that his effective tax rates in the past couple years have been as low or lower than those of workers with truly modest means. They also confirm that he’s availed himself of truly complex tax strategies designed to boil his liability down to the lowest level allowed by the country’s heavily rigged, labyrinthine tax code. And we know, too, that these are things Romney didn’t want voters to know — at least not yet.

But they raise a series of new questions that will likely require Romney to disclose several years’ worth of additional tax returns if he wants to answer them satisfactorily. Here are three big ones that touch generally on the theme of Romney’s efforts to reduce his tax burden by taking advantage of areas of the law that simply aren’t available to most people.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

Kornacki via Salon: Obama’s 99 percent speech

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012 4:33 AM UTC

There was plenty of mush in his State of the Union, but also an unmistakably combative and populist tone
By Steve Kornacki

Before Tuesday night, it had been 16 years since a Democratic president gave a State of the Union address in his reelection year.

And in some ways, the speech that Barack Obama delivered was very similar to the one that Bill Clinton offered back in 1996. But if you put aside all of the platitudes, mushy rhetoric and feel-good proposals, the heart of Obama’s remarks demonstrated that he’s intent on pursuing a far more combative and populist path to a second term than the one Clinton followed.

It was during his Jan. 23, 1996, State of the Union that Clinton uttered the signature line of his presidency. “The era of big government is over,” he told a joint session of Congress that night. The line captured the essence of an election year message that largely conceded the broad themes of the Reagan revolution while offering the incumbent as a more compassionate implementer of them than his Republican opponents.

Obama’s address included no shortage of appeals to unity, bipartisanship and overriding national purpose, and he articulated plenty of vague, popular-sounding policy goals, much as Clinton did during his ’96 campaign. But his central message stressed a sharp and basic philosophical contrast with his partisan opponents – one he clearly plans to make the centerpiece of his reelection effort.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

Walsh: Mitt pounces, Newt pouts: Two rich guys squabble

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 5:45 AM UTC

Gingrich gets "sad" about "personal, nasty" attacks as Romney tax returns show he paid 13.9 percent on $21 million
By Joan Walsh

Newt Gingrich clearly missed the rabid South Carolina crowds at Monday night’s debate. NBC asked the Tampa, Fla. audience not to cheer, and mostly they didn’t, leaving Gingrich listless without angry mob energy. He didn’t bash the media the way he did in last week’s Fox and CNN debates, and he tried to act presidential when Mitt Romney jabbed him about his work for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

But he failed. Presidents don’t pout. A sulky Gingrich complained the GOP campaign had become “unnecessarily personal and nasty, and that’s sad.” Gingrich objecting to “personal and nasty” is as believable as Romney pretending he does his own laundry. That’s really sad. But Romney had the better night, hitting Gingrich early and often for having to resign the House speakership “in disgrace” due to ethics charges. And when Gingrich tried to claim he left his leadership post voluntarily, Ron Paul double-teamed him with Romney. “He didn’t have the votes, that was what the problem was,” Gingrich’s former House colleague told the crowd.

Also Monday night, Romney made partial tax returns available to reporters. They showed he paid a rate of 13.9 percent in 2011 and 2010, on income of around $21 million both years. That means in a single day, Romney earned more than the median income for U.S. workers, just over $31,000. He paid a lower tax rate than workers making $40,000 to $50,000, because his income came from investments (somehow it seems he didn’t have to declare the $374,000 he made last year from speaking fees; it’s still not clear how he dodged that.) Tuesday morning the focus will be back on Romney’s shamefully low tax rate, and the way he earned his wealth at Bain Capital. Monday night he got his licks in on Gingrich.

Romney hammered Gingrich hard on some financial information Gingrich released Monday: his contract with Freddie Mac. While Gingrich insists he didn’t lobby, Romney noted that his newly released contract showed he was hired by the firm’s chief lobbyist. “We have congressmen who say you lobbied them,” he told his rival. “I didn’t lobby them,” Gingrich shot back, his voice getting high and whiny the way it did when that Iowa voter told him he was a disgrace to his party last spring. At one point he fell awkwardly silent. “You can call it whatever you like, I call it influence peddling,” Romney concluded. Score that round for the wealthy former frontrunner.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

Chi-Trib: Sen. Mark Kirk undergoes surgery after suffering stroke

9:31 a.m. CST, January 23, 2012

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk underwent surgery today at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after suffering a stroke, his office said.

"On Saturday, Senator Kirk checked himself into Lake Forest Hospital, where doctors discovered a carotid artery dissection in the right side of his neck," his office said in a statement.

"He was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where further tests revealed that he had suffered an ischemic stroke," it said. "Early this morning, the senator underwent surgery to relieve swelling around his brain stemming from the stroke. The surgery was successful.

"Due to his young age, good health and the nature of the stroke, doctors are very confident in the Senator's recovery over the weeks ahead."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-sen-mark-kirk-hospitalized-after-suffering-stroke-20120123,0,6664285.story

Salon: When a party flirts with suicide

Monday, Jan 23, 2012 12:50 PM UTC

The last time GOP elites lost control of their nominating process, they got Barry Goldwater – and an epic landslide
By Steve Kornacki

Everything about Newt Gingrich screams “general election disaster.” He is burdened with far too much personal and ethical baggage, is far too prone to needlessly inflammatory and polarizing antics, and turns off far too many voters with his arrogance and unconcealed contempt for his opponents.

The three most recent national polls all show his unfavorable rating at or near 60 percent — more than double his favorable score.This mirrors what happened the last time Gingrich played such a prominent role on the national stage, when he claimed the House speakership after the 1994 election and promptly established himself as the country’s most despised public figure — the star of an estimated 75,000 Democratic attack ads in the 1996 campaign cycle. The more most people see of him, the less they like him.

So while it’s theoretically possible that Gingrich would somehow defy his reputation and overcome his worst tendencies in a fall campaign, George Will was probably on solid ground when he said in the wake of Gingrich’s South Carolina triumph: “All across the country this morning people are waking up who are running for office as Republicans, from dog catcher to the Senate, and they’re saying, ‘Good God, Newt Gingrich might be at the top of this ticket.’’

The good news for Will, who recently wrote that Gingrich “embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive,” and other worried Republicans is that the former speaker’s breakthrough isn’t exactly unprecedented. Candidates widely seen as unelectable by their party’s elites have emerged during past primary seasons as threats to win the nomination, and the elites have generally managed to stop them. The question is whether they’re still capable of doing it in 2012 — or if the tricks they’ve mastered in the past few decades simply don’t work anymore.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

Think Progress: How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

By Josh Israel on Jan 21, 2012 at 9:00 am


Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending.

Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” they affirmed.

Federal statutes require that for all significant “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” — the two major classifications for political expenditures made by outside groups unaffiliated with political candidates — the names and addresses of large donors must be identified.

But the FEC, through its rulemaking process, gave these groups a loophole. They said that the identities of donors behind the outside spending must be identified, but only if the money was specifically earmarked for the political expenditure. This means that a secretive right-wing group like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS need only identify the funders who pay for their attack ads if those donors explicitly say the money should be used for attack ads. Few do.

Read the entire piece at ThinkProgress.org

Salon: How Bradley Manning’s fate will be decided

Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 2:00 PM UTC

The soldier accused of giving files to WikiLeaks will likely face a court-martial -- we explain how it works
By Justin Elliott

This week, Bradley Manning came one step closer to being tried for allegedly leaking a trove of secret American cables to WikiLeaks when a military officer made the formal recommendation that Manning should face a court-martial on 22 criminal charges.

One of the counts, aiding the enemy, carries the possibility of the death penalty, but prosecutors have already said they will not seek it in Manning’s case.

The recommendation this week was made to Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington, who is what is known as the convening authority in the case. The military justice system has important differences from the civilian system, so I spoke to Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, to explain the basics.

We’ve now had the investigating officer as well as another officer this week recommend a court-martial to the Military District of Washington commander. What’s the next step?

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

Salon: The power of conservative victimhood

Friday, Jan 20, 2012 4:08 AM UTC

It took Newt about five minutes to steal the show at the final pre-South Carolina debate

By Steve Kornacki

If Newt Gingrich does pull off a victory in South Carolina on Saturday, he’ll owe it to the skill with which he has tapped into the right’s persecution complex this past week — and to some helpful debate moderators.

The final pre-South Carolina debate Thursday night ran for two hours and featured several sharp attacks on Gingrich. Mitt Romney, for instance, ridiculed Gingrich’s frequent claims that he worked closely with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, noting that Reagan’s published diary offered just one dismissive mention of the Georgian. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, depicted Gingrich as an erratic and unreliable leader. “Grandiosity,” he declared, “has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich.” (In a response that we’ll probably see a few more times on cable news shows Friday, Gingrich admitted that “I think grandiose thoughts.”)

But it seems doubtful any of this will really matter for much , because Gingrich may very well have won the debate before it was five minutes old.

The question hanging in the air when the candidates took the stage was whether and how the interview that Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, just gave to ABC News would be addressed. The interview had hijacked the Thursday’s political conversation, with ABC teasing salacious details — like Marianne Gingrich repeating on-camera for the first time her claim that Newt had asked her for an open marriage after revealing his affair with Callista — throughout the day and promising the run the full version on “Nightline” after the debate. Would moderator John King bring it up? Would one of Gingrich’s rivals? Or an audience member? Or maybe the former speaker himself? Or maybe somehow it wouldn’t come up at all.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com
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