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Member since: Thu May 7, 2009, 11:59 PM
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Pope Francis again demotes hardline U.S. cardinal

Source: USA Today

In a move that reflects the loosening posture of the Vatican on major social issues, conservative U.S. cardinal Raymond Burke was removed by Pope Francis from yet another top post.

Burke, who has long been vocal about denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion, was dismissed as head of the Holy See's highest court and given the post of Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial job overseeing charity to the elderly.

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In an interview with a Spanish Catholic weekly published last week, Burke said of the pope's leadership: "Many have expressed their concerns to me. … There is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder."

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Francis eschews elaborate papal vestments in favor of more humble garb. He has been known to celebrate holidays by washing the feet of the poor and prisoners. And, notably, he has encouraged no-cost marriage annulments for Catholics and welcomed homosexuals to the church.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/11/08/pope-francis-demotes-conservative-us-cardinal-raymond-burke/18710769/

I imagine that the conservative's corporate masters will not be happy with this because they would rather the church distract people from issues like social justice.


Billionaire Home Depot Founder Says Pope Francis Is Alienating The Rich

Billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone has a warning for Pope Francis.

A major Republican donor, Langone told CNBC in a story published online Monday that wealthy people such as himself might stop giving to charity if the Pope continues to make statements criticizing capitalism and income inequality.

Langone said he was worried the Pope's comments about an "exclusionary" "culture of prosperity" that may make some of the rich "incapable of feeling compassion for the poor."

Langone, who is leading an effort to raise money for the restoration of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan said he relayed these concerns to Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York. Specifically, Langone said he told the church leader he spoke to a donor who could give millions of dollars to the cathedral project but was worried about the Pope's "exclusionary" remarks.

This Is What Dollarocracy Looks Like - Sen. Sanders on Corporate Media

The collapse of meaningful journalism along with the flood of corporate political ads due to Citizens United has lead to the historic low turnouts coupled with record amounts spent on campaign advertisements.


Dollarocracy is about a lot more than the money raised and spent in campaigns. It is about the collapse of meaningful journalism, resulting from the downsizing and closure of newspapers, the replacement of local news and talk radio programming with syndicated “content” from afar, the reduction in political coverage by local television news outlets, and the horse-race coverage and spin that tend to characterize national news programs on broadcast and cable television.

When Americans look to television for news, what they get instead is a slurry of spin that tends, all too frequently, to reinforce a broken status quo. Nowhere is this more true that in debates about economics, which tend toward a narrow centrism rather than broad and realistic discussions of income inequality, failed trade policies, and the crisis that is created when crony capitalism replaces sound strategies for maintaining manufacturing and putting new technologies to practical use.

When the economic debate is vapid, when it does not go deep and explore the real questions that vex working Americans, the political process loses meaning. Many Americans simply opt out, which drops election participation rates to shamefully low levels—New York, with a full slate of statewide contests, had the lowest actual turnout since the state Board of Elections began tracking totals in the 1970s; turnout in California and Vermont, both of which had full slates of statewide contests, hit historic lows; in New Jersey, with a Senate contest and several tight House races, turnout was only 31 percent, “possibly the lowest the state has ever seen.”

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“Because it’s not in the interest of the corporations who own the networks to actually be educating the American people so that we’re debating the real issues. It’s much better to deflect attention away from those issues and get into the story of the day,” explained Sanders.

The GOP’s poisonous double-speak: Thomas Frank on how Republicans hijacked the midterms

Great story about how Republicans often use critiques from the left against Democrats. This only works, of course, because Republicans are given a free pass by the corporate media and, often, liberals who often see moderate or center right Democrats, not hard right Republicans or extreme libertarians, as their greatest enemy. Yes, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Etc., are bad, but they are not nearly as bad as the DLC/Third Way types.

Thus, you can have an election where extreme right wingers like Joni Ernst get a free pass while Democrats can get attacked by anonymously funded robocalls that appear to be coming from the left.


Last week, with the Republican campaign robo-calls coming one after another over the phone in suburban Kansas City — at least a dozen of them every day, the right-wing super PACs’ version of a World War I artillery barrage — I picked out one phrase from the hailstorm of words: “Washington’s liberal class.”

That phrase, delivered with sneering emphasis on the second word, may have been a key to the whole confusing affair. Consider the many ironies of the 2014 elections. Georgia, the state with the highest unemployment in the nation, just elected as its United States senator a businessman who is “proud” of his career of outsourcing. The voters of Illinois overwhelmingly approved a referendum calling for a higher minimum wage, but they also chose as their governor a Wall Street type who in the past has asserted that the minimum wage ought to be reduced or eliminated. And the public as a whole, driven to fury by the spectacle of Washington gridlock, just handed over the U. S. Senate to a party that has enshrined obstructionism as its most precious article of faith.

Low turnout is one reason for these contradictory results. Big money is a second. But a third reason voters did these futile, clashing things is that this is our fourth hard-times election in a row. Lashing out blindly and in all directions against the powerful — against low wages as well as against a comfortable “class” that is amply represented in Washington — is still our political default position, some six years after the financial crisis and the Wall Street bailout. For many Americans, the recession is still on. They know that their region hasn’t recovered … that their household wealth isn’t coming back … that people like them no longer have a shot at the middle-class life in which they were raised.

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There is no danger of either happening any time soon. Indeed, it is now possible for a Republican soldier like Frank Luntz to explain the Republican victory by writing, “People say Washington is broken and on the decline, that government no longer works for them — only for the rich and powerful.” You read that right: After deliberately breaking Washington, the Republican Party just rode to power by protesting Washington’s brokenness. Having done all they could to enrich the rich and empower the powerful, the GOP has now succeeded in presenting itself as America’s warrior for social justice.

The Unicorn and Contradiction of Dean's 50 State Strategy

I am a supporter of Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy, but some of the loudest current proponents of it, may not actually support the reality of what it entailed.

Yes, it helped lead to Democratic control of Congress. Yet, in the early years of the Obama Presidency, I recall many of the more outspoken folks on this Board attacking Dean's 50 State strategy because it entailed recruiting non-traditional Democrats. For example, I remember the complaints about how the 50 State strategy lead to Jim Webb in Virginia or Claire McCaskill in Missouri who hardly anyone would consider liberal. The strategy worked by recruiting candidates who might be more ideologically consistent with the State's electorate even if this meant that they were noticeably to the right of most Democrats, particularly on issues such a gun control and military spending.

Yet, in the aftermath of the 2014 elections I see threads arguing that the key to winning back Congress is to, "Bring Back the 50 State Strategy" and to insist on supporting candidates who will vigorously fight for a progressive agenda. This is the unicorn of Howard Dean's 50 State strategy. These are two competing goals. If you recruit candidates who can win in purple or red areas like McCaskill or Jim Webb, then you are compromising on ideological purity.

My take is that I support the idea of a big tent, particularly if it leads to control of Congress. However, this means that you have to ac accept candidates who might be more attuned to the interests of the electorate in purple or red states. You have to be flexible to accommodate the diverse and sometimes conflicting views of a diverse electorate.

Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?

Interesting report by Pew Research back in July predicting just based on turnout projections that Democrats would likely lose Congressional seats. In addition, far from being a hinderance, in Presidential election years, President Obama's coat tails helped Democrats by expanding the electorate. However, in midterms, those new voters don't show up.


With three-and-a-half months to the midterm elections, it’s still unclear the extent to which Republicans’ advantage in voter engagement will translate into more actual House and Senate seats. But we’ll go out on a limb on two predictions: A lot fewer people will vote this year than did in 2012, and Democrats are likely to suffer accordingly.

Voter turnout regularly drops in midterm elections, and has done so since the 1840s. In 2008, for instance, 57.1% of the voting-age population cast ballots — the highest level in four decades — as Barack Obama became the first African American elected president. But two years later only 36.9% voted in the midterm election that put the House back in Republican hands. For Obama’s re-election in 2012, turnout rebounded to 53.7%.

Who turns out to vote and why is of much more than academic interest. In an era of increasingly polarized politics, campaign strategists must decide how much effort to put into persuading independent-minded voters to come out and support their candidate without antagonizing their party’s core supporters, who are more likely to vote anyway. Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were largely due to his campaign’s success in expanding the electorate — inspiring new voters and increasing turnout among blacks.

* * *
In any event, if 2014 follows the trend Democrats are almost certain to lose seats in the House and Senate this November, and many pollsters predict as much. As Knight notes, since 1842 the President’s party has lost seats in 40 of 43 midterms — the exceptions being 1934, 1998 and 2002. (Whether Republicans will pick up enough Senate seats to take control of that chamber is a much closer question.) And as Campbell concluded in his paper, “For the congressional candidates of the president’s party, the return to normalcy at the midterm represents a loss.”

Pew - "No matter how tight the race, midterm voter turnout likely to remain lackluster"

If you ever wondered by Republicans were working so blatantly to suppress the vote and turnout...


For all of the money spent on this year’s midterm elections — $3.67 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — less than half of eligible voters will actually cast ballots in the nation’s 435 House districts, if history is any guide.

Political scientists (and practical politicians) long have recognized that voter turnout surges in presidential election years and falls off in midterm elections. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, nearly 59% of estimated eligible voters voted in that year’s House elections. Two years later for the midterms, only about 41% of eligible voters went to the polls. (We estimated eligible voters in each district from 2006 through 2012 using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and obtained vote totals for every House race from the House Clerk’s office. Our analysis excluded a handful of races in which unopposed candidates weren’t listed on the ballot.)

You might think there’d be some relationship between how competitive a given election is and turnout. A race where victory could go either way might spur more interest and rev up get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides; a race where one candidate is a prohibitive favorite could lead many people to conclude there’s no point in heading out to vote. But our analysis shows little, if any, correlation between a House election’s competitiveness (measured by the winner’s victory margin) and turnout.

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People who identify with the Republican Party generally are considered more likely to vote, especially in non-presidential years. In a Pew Research Center poll last month, for instance, 77% of registered voters who supported the Republican candidate in their district said they definitely would vote in the election, versus 70% of registered voters who supported the Democratic candidate. And in each of the election years from 2006 through 2012, House districts won by Republicans had slightly higher average turnout than districts won by Democrats.

Republicans Outspend Democrats in Most Expensive Midterms Ever

Source: Newsweek

Nearly $4 billion will have been spent on this year’s midterm elections, a staggering figure that makes them the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, and $333 million more than the 2010 midterms. The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) estimates the candidates and parties will have spent around $2.7 billion, while outside groups funding candidates will likely spend $900 million, a total of $3.67 billion.

Republican candidates and right-leaning outside groups will have spent more money than Democrats and liberal-leaning groups, at $1.92 billion for the GOP compared to the Democrats’ $1.76 billion, CRP predicts. But despite the billions spent to woo voters, midterms have a historically low voter turnout compared to presidential elections. The Pew Research Center predicts it will be no different this year, with less than half of eligible voters likely to get to the polls.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for corporations to donate unrestricted funding to candidates, has had a profound effect on the huge sums spent on elections and is "directly traceable" to the spike in spending, Lawrence Norden, a deputy director for New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News. Both Super PACS and more elusive "dark money" groups, which are classified as non-profit organizations and don't have to send their donor lists to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), have benefited from Citizens United. This year, dark money groups have spent $200 million in 11 of the most competitive Senate races, nearly double the amount they forked out in 2012, ABC News reports.

Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/republicans-outspend-democrats-most-expensive-midterms-ever-282154

The most money spent on a low turnout President lame duck midterm. I can only imagine how much money will be funneled into the 2016 elections. If you counted Fox News as a 24/7 in kind contribution to the GOP, it will easily be in the billions.

"Record Low Level Of Interest In The Election" - Where's The Mandate? Yet, Watch Media...

Push the meme that this mid-term election with record low turnout fueled by Fox News mad right wingers somehow gives Republicans a broad mandate to pass their agenda. Of course, this is the same media that insisted that neither the 2008 nor the 2012 elections gave President Obama or Democrats any type of mandate.

Republicans won by either suppressing the vote while relying on a slim minority of folks who were driven insanely mad by Fox News who lived in a deluded world where they could reverse the 2012 election by voting Republican. The corporate media pandered to this to satisfy their advertisers by focusing on disapproval of the "unpopular" President whlle ignoring voter discontent with Republicans and Congress.


Pre-election polls showed a record low level of interest in the election, and those who did show up were not happy. Exit polls showed that 54 percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s performance, and 79 percent gave the thumbs down to Congress.

LA Times - "Voters at Risk from Big Money"

A frequent refrain you hear to explain why Republicans have made their biggest inroads during the midterms, , particularly in a post-Citizens United World, is that the Democrats are bad at messaging. Yet, this simply ignores the heavy role of corporate money that is now flowing into elections. Worse, this money is often pumped in outside of the normal fundraising apparatus so the true disparity in contributions is not seen. Finally, the corporate media, which depends on advertising dollars, generally is reluctant to disclose the ultimate source of these campaign contributions as billionaires and corporations demand policies that are contrary to the interests of most consumers.

Bottom line: Fox News, the Wall Street, Comcast, etc., are not going to suddenly portray Democrats in a better light due to better messaging. The fact of the matter is that corporate America has become increasingly willing to buy the policies that they demand.


Voters are usually inclined to vote their pocketbooks. But that's become more difficult with every election, as the pocketbooks that carry the most weight aren't those of the individual voter, but corporations and plutocrats.

Recent history tells us that the magnitude of big donors' campaign spending rises as their commitment to the public interest shrinks. Mercury Insurance and its founder and chairman, George Joseph, spent a combined $31 million in 2010 and 2012 to pass two almost identical ballot initiatives to remake state auto insurance rules in Mercury's favor and to the public's disadvantage. The spending was so conspicuous that voters recoiled, rejecting both measures.

* * *
The torrent of cash from corporations and the wealthy has begun to drive small donations out of the political marketplace, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In every midterm election through 2010, the number of individual donors contributing $200 or more increased, reaching a high of 817,464 that year. This year it's down, to fewer than 667,000 as of last week. The center expects the number to rise until Tuesday, but not by enough to top 2010.

"As the post-Citizens United campaign finance system matures," says the center's executive director, Sheila Krumholz, "we're seeing evidence that the traditional campaign apparatus has been overtaken by shadow counterparts."

Germany’s flagging economy: Build some bridges and roads, Mrs Merkel

This is an interesting article, particularly since it comes from a center-right publication, The Economist, that has typically been critical of President Obama and Democrats efforts to stimulate the U.S. economy out of the deficit through deficit spending. Yet, compared to most European countries, the U.S. economy is now in much better shape and far better shape than countries that Republicans have hailed as examples that the U.S. should follow, such as Ireland with its low corporate taxes.

This just goes to show the Republican tilt of our corporate media. You get glimpses of the truth when you look at countries abroad, but can you imagine the Economist applying the reasoning below to an analysis of economic visions offered by Republicans versus Democrats. It would conflict with narrative that Republicans are better on fiscal policy, even though they aren't.


FOR the past few years Germany has been a shining exception to Europe’s economic weakness. But suddenly the Teflon Teuton is in trouble. Germany’s GDP fell in the second quarter and more recent news has been grimmer still. Industrial output and exports plunged in August. The ZEW index, a measure of investor confidence, has tumbled to its lowest level in almost two years. The economy may well be in recession

This weakness has many outside Germany deeply worried. But inside the country the reaction is one of stoic nonchalance. Even as the government this week slashed its official growth forecasts from 1.8% to 1.2% for 2014, and from 2% to 1.3% for 2015, it argued against any shift from the long-standing goal of balancing the budget next year. “A dip in growth is not a cataclysm,” says Sigmar Gabriel, the economy minister; there are “no economic-policy grounds” for changing course.

Good politics, lousy economics
Politically, this position has a certain logic (see article). The promise of no government borrowing in 2015 was at the heart of Angela Merkel’s election campaign. Sticking with it is popular with German voters, who see deficits as dangerous, ineffective and probably immoral.

Economically, the logic is feeble. Obsessing about a balanced budget in the teeth of recession is risky. Fiscal stimulus, focused on infrastructure investment, would leave the country safer in the short term and able to grow faster in the long term. And it would not break the country’s fiscal rules.
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