Saturday, July 26, 2014

Another Entry Into The Race For The Craziest GOP Candidate-- Meet North Carolina Sociopath Mark Walker


One of the most overlooked races in the country, NC-06, had their Republican primary runoff last Tuesday. The Republican establishment favorite, Phil Berger Jr., was expected to win thanks to his money and his Dad’s connections and high name recognition among Republican voters. Instead local teabaggers powered an even crazier candidate to victory.

There are 10 counties in NC-06 but Guilford is the biggest, by far, followed by Rockingham and Alamance. The district was drawn to be safe Republican territory but there is a 6-point Democratic voter registration edge and the beloved incumbent, Howard Coble has been in there since 1984 when he narrowly beating a freshman Democrat by riding Ronald Reagan's formidable coattails. The rematch in '86 was even tighter but Coble won, 72,329 to 72,250... 79 votes! Now ailing and in his eighties, Coble is retiring this next year and November will be the first real test of what that Democratic voter registration edge actually means. Obama only garnered 41% against Romney in 2012 but… you know.

Mark Walker is a Baptist Choral Pastor who won the Republican runoff by promising to vote against John Boehner for Speaker, instead pledging his support for Trey Gowdy.  Walker is an extremist in the mold of Jody Hice or Todd Akin. He was already running a primary against Coble when Coble was taken to the hospital and soon after announced he would retire. Hice and Walker are both are anti-Jesus preachers of bigotry and Hate and both are incredibly extreme-- even for southern Republicans, far more radical than anything to do with conservative. But, like Hice, Walker ran against the privileged son of an Establishment figure-- in Hice's case, the son of ex-Congressman Mac Collins and in Walker's case, the son of the widely despised Art Pope puppet, Phil Berger, Sr., President pro tempore of the North Carolina state Senate. Right-wing populists have the sense to know the GOP Establishment is no friend of any ordinary Americans, even if they can't figure out that fascism is not the answer.

Walker is not just anti-choice, but believes women who are the victims of rape or incest should be forced by the government to give birth to the child of her rapist. Walker wants to defund Planned Parenthood, and enthusiastically supports a so-called personhood amendment to the constitution, which would ban common forms of birth control. Everything about him reeks of statism and Big Government interfering in the private lives of regular working families.

Walker has called for what he called “radical change in our current tax code,” and expressed support for combining a "fair" and flat tax, which would be one of the most regressive tax proposals currently in Congress, something that would work really well for the wealthy and shift more of the burden onto the backs of working families, while defunding government functions that underpin a modern post-agrarian society. He opposes the raising the minimum wage, and even questioned the justification the existence of a minimum wage at all.   Walker is another climate change denier steeped in profound ignorance and calling the science behind it "contested." He has called for cutting billions from the Department of Education, and even supported raising the social security age to 70. Art Pope may have supported Berger Jr., but he'll have no problem with Walker if Walker wins in November.

Voters in north-central North Carolina have a better option, and a strong Democratic candidate running for the seat, in Laura Fjeld.  She supports marriage equality, women's right to choice, and she is a passionate spokesperson for protecting and strengthening public education, her top issue:
As a mother and the daughter of two public school teachers, I know that a strong public education system is vital to expanding North Carolina’s economy in a way that will be sustainable over time. From high school, to community colleges to our world-class university system, which I was privileged and proud to serve for years, our schools are training the citizens and work force of the future for jobs that might not even exist yet. 
• Instead of prioritizing the education of our youth and our strong future, the majority administration in Raleigh has done great harm to our students, teachers and parents with drastic cuts that have increased class sizes, cut the number of teachers and teachers’ assistants, and cut pay for public school teachers. This is bad for business, communities, and all North Carolinians, and I will fight against any strategy in Washington that would weaken our public education system in North Carolina.
• Congress should prioritize the education of our nation’s children so that they are prepared for the 21st century, global economy. Congress should provide leadership and support for local school boards, teachers, parents, and students instead of instituting national tests that limit our children’s potential by wasting time and energy on test preparation. We need to support programs that will reward innovation and creativity and allow students to develop problem-solving skills necessary for success
As of the June 30 FEC deadline she had raised $581,598 with an average contribution of under $300, and had $120,363 cash-on-hand. Walker raised $325,262 and spent almost all of it battled Berger and only had $22,671 left in his kitty. Fjeld took it right to Walker on primary night, and assures her supporters she won’t be afraid to call him out on his extremism and his radical positions. It really does look like North Carolina voters can stop an unhinged extremist in Mark Walker. This is a tough district for Democrats (R+10), but Kay Hagan won the district in 2008. Its a good jumping off point to keep another Tea Party crackpot out of Congress.

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An Unstable Republican Jumps Into A Wisconsin Primary Against Kelly Westlund-- And He Has A Pig Named Barney Frank


Mike Krsiean (left) with his 700 pound Berkshire Boar (right), who he's named Barney Frank

Mike Krsiean is a Republican crackpot who envisions himself in Congress. His attempts to run as a Republican and as an independent have failed-- and failed miserably-- so he's decided to run as an anti-Choice/pro-gun "Democrat" pushing the Republican austerity agenda enumerated in Paul Ryan's budget. And he's taking his garden variety GOP ideas to a Democratic primary against progressive Kelly Westlund. Not that he's that garden variety. Even some of his fellow-right wingers find him and his conspiracy theories off the charts. And I wonder if he's the only member of the JFPO-- Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership-- to run for Congress. From an admirer: Krsiean says his "goal is to help steer the Democratic Party toward the right and constitutional integrity. Much like Ron Paul did within the Republican party… [I]f socialists can invade the Republican party and destroy unity, why can’t a constitutionalist invade the Democratic party and stir things up a bit and possibly take a primary?" I know he hates the Republican incumbent, Sean Duffy, but I haven't heard anyone ever refer to that particular reactionary Paul Ryan-clone as a socialist before.

Fortunately for residents of Wausau, Superior, Stevens Point and the rest of WI-07 in northwest Wisconsin, the Democrats are fielding one of the best candidates they have anywhere, Kelly Westlund, a young woman Blue America endorsed last year. As we noted at the time, Kelly has been an outspoken advocate for increasing the minimum wage and for expanding opportunity so that anyone can succeed based on talent and merit, not their family net worth or their ability to exploit tax loopholes. Her other Republican opponent, the one running as a Republican, Sean Duffy, refuses to support raising the minimum wage to a living wage for working people, and made a splash on the national stage by whining that he struggles to get by on his salary of a mere $174,000/year. Is it any wonder he is incapable of relating to the trials and problems of ordinary working Americans?

Kelly served on the Ashland City Council from 2011-2014. As a small business owner, she runs a consulting firm that partners with local farms, small businesses, local governments, and civic organizations to work on economic and community development projects. Westlund previously served as executive director for the Alliance for Sustainability and was an adjunct professor of sustainable community development at her alma mater, Northland College.

Last week, Norman Lear's organization, People for the American Way, announced their endorsement as well. PFAW Political Director Randy Borntrager: “Kelly Westlund is a fighter for fairness and equality, and she’s a strong voice for Wisconsin’s working families. Kelly is fighting for a  Congress that represents all people instead of just millionaires and corporations."

Yesterday, we spoke with her about one of the points she's been making in her campaign, the oppressive and dysfunctional nature of how American electoral campaigns are financed. "I've always been optimistic," she told us, "about the potential for positive change-- a political process that engages people in government to build a more equal and just society. Always up for a challenge, I like to go straight to the root of the problem. And when it comes to politics, money is the problem." Let me quote her verbatim:
I jumped into this race with my eyes wide open. I knew it would take a lot of money to win. But I come from a swing district with an average household income of less than $40k per year. There's an expectation that candidates come to the table with money in hand. I came to the table with a network of waitresses, teachers, farmers, and students-- not exactly millionaires on their best days.

But some candidates can be competitive, even if they don't have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars within the first few weeks of the campaig.

As a former City Councilor, nonprofit executive, and small business owner, I had all the qualifications. But qualifications didn't seem to matter. Instead, I was expected have significant wealth or immediate access to it. In too many cases, after all, that's what it takes to win.

It's no wonder the wealthy few have so much influence on our political process. No wonder working-class people aren't represented in Congress when both parties embrace a framework that translates wealth to political power.

It's wrong, whichever side of the aisle you're on.

Always the hard-nosed optimist, I'm working hard to show that there's a better way to do politics. I'm standing with workers, talking to voters, and taking the fight to my Tea Party congressman.

It's working. We have a solid team in place and the momentum is building every day. Polls show he's vulnerable. I'm viable, organized, and determined to lead by example. I know that we can do better, and I intend to do my part.

Having to raise funds while I'm running for office on campaign finance reform? The irony isn't lost on me. But we can't change the conversation-- in government OR political parties-- until we have different people sitting at the table.
At this link you'll find every post where we ever mentioned Kelly's name. And at this link you'll find an opportunity to seamlessly contribute to Kelly's grassroots campaign against the two Republicans running against her, pig rancher Mike Krsiean from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and Sean Duffy from the Holy Church of Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand Devotion. The second link's the more important one.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The New Yorker offers a big summer online bonus as it ramps up its Web operation -- and revamps access to it


Barry Blatt, The New Yorker

by Ken

In case you've missed the announcement, made at the end of the "Talk of the Town" section of the July 28 issue and featured prominently all week on, The New Yorker has implemented some major decisions about online availability of its content. And the big news -- for nonsubscribers, at least -- is that for the summer, at least, everything is going to be made available free to one and all.
When we started, we, like everyone else, faced the dilemma of what to post online. Give it all away or hold things back? That was the question. Our approach was . . . both. We posted some pieces from the print magazine but held most of them back; our subscribers could, with a little effort, unlock those blue padlocks and read it all.

It’s fair to say that this split-the-difference approach was not ideal. Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have.
What happens after the summer?
[I]n the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces—and then it’s up to them to subscribe. You’ve likely seen this system elsewhere—at the Times, for instance—and we will do all we can to make it work seamlessly.
We've had a fair number of occasions to express our sympathy to all publications that are faced with figuring out a workable business model in a world in transition from print to digital, more or less. I always come back to the obvious point: Nice as it is to get free stuff, if publishers can't figure out a way to pay for the cost of their content, and have a shot at making some money in the process, how on earth can they continue to publish that content, in any form?

I've wished both the New York Times and the Washington Post luck in their online-content-sharing models, even as I've continued to feel that participating in their plans is economically unrealistic and inadvisable for me personally. And that's no matter how many rock-bottom "introductory" offers they offer me. (For the record, I tend in general not to be too impressed by "introductory" offers on services I'm looking to use over the longer haul,) I may not be thrilled with they way those papers do important parts of their jobs, but I don't think the world would be better off without them, and if they can't figure out how to make money on their product, I don't see how they can continue to produce that product.

I personally am in a different situation with The New Yorker, since it's hard for me to imagine getting along with the printed product. And I use the website a lot. In which connection, I can't say I'm thrilled by this:
We’ll undoubtedly remind you again, but, come fall, subscribers will be able to make use of a plan that gives them unlimited access to, and our complete archive, using a Web browser on any smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. They’ll also be able to download our magazine app for tablets and smartphones—the full issue of each week’s magazine—to read anytime, anywhere, on a wide range of devices, via the iTunes App Store, Google Play, or Amazon.
Which sounds like it means that if I want to continue to have "unlimited access to, and our complete archive" -- and the New Yorker complete archive is indeed a wondrous feature, when you consider who and what the magazine has published in its soon-to-be 90 years -- I'm going to have to buy a "plan," and it's a plan under which I'm going to be paying for access "on a wide range of devices" that I have no intention of using. Hey, that's one of the reasons I've never seriously considered buying an NYT "plan." They say they're including the smartphone and tablet features free with digital access; I say that's nonsense and an insult to my intelligence -- of course subscribers are paying for that access. It's just that some of us are being asked to pay for it without ever intending to use it. Hmm.


The "Note to Our Readers" begins by evoking the magazine's legendary founding editor: "In February, it will be ninety years since Harold Ross founded The New Yorker." The editors continue:
It’s amazing what fruits of his invention persist from that first issue until today: The Talk of the Town, Goings On, and Profiles—a one-pager on Giulio Gatti-Casazza, the impresario of the Metropolitan Opera. (Other departments—Say It with Scandal, Of All Things, and the high-society notes of In Our Midst—were more short-lived.) A chain-smoking, ulcer-inflicting worrier and genius, Ross did not ignore the details. As he wrote to a colleague, “I am forced to acknowledge that we carried an ad for a belching preventative two or three weeks ago, but that was because the advertising manager was asleep.”

And yet, for all his eagle-eyed attention, Ross could not have anticipated all the ways in which his inky corner of the world would change. He and his contemporaries relied solely on paper and the U.S. mail for reproduction and distribution. Since 2001, however, The New Yorker has also meant, a Web site, which has grown immensely, in audience and in substance, particularly in the past few years. And there is now more change on the digital front—in appearance, content, and access.
We've already jumped to the change in access-- or, rather, changes, since there are both summer and fall-and-beyond versions.

With regard to appearance, well, has changed everything, and I can report that my initial attempt to find things -- like this "Note to Our Readers," which I'd already read -- weren't easy. To put it another way: It appears that those of us who have learned to find stuff, more or less, on the old, get to start from scratch, more or less. I guess this is just the price we should expect to have to pay for having figured out how to find what we're looking for, more or less.

Officially, though, here's what's happening:
This week, has a new look. On a desktop, on a tablet, on a phone, the site has become, we believe, much easier to navigate and read, much richer in its offerings, and a great deal more attractive. For months, our editorial and tech teams have been sardined into a boiler room, subsisting only on stale cheese sandwiches and a rationed supply of tap water, working without complaint on intricate questions of design, functionality, access, and what is so clinically called “the user experience.”
Well, I guess this will all work out over time, more or less. I learned how to use the old, and I suppose I'll learn how to use the new one. It's not as if my time is worth anything.

As for the change in content:
The Web site already publishes fifteen original stories a day. We are promising more, as well as an even greater responsiveness to what is going on in the world. For instance, in addition to Daily Comment, which usually concerns itself with political matters, we will also feature a Daily Cultural Comment, a regular column in which our critics and other writers confront everything from the latest debates over the impact of technology to the latest volume from Chicago, Oslo, or Lima and the ongoing sagas of Don Draper, Daenerys Targaryen, and Hannah Horvath.
Yeah, okay, I guess. As I've noted here, I like some of the online-only content that has been providing. Maybe more of it will be better.
The print version of The New Yorker is still a fine technology (try rolling up your iPad; and don’t drop it too often!), but more advanced technology has some distinct advantages. Publishing beyond the printed page allows us to present the gift of greater immediacy, the ability to respond to events when we have something to say; the site offers podcasts, video, interactive graphics, and slide shows of photographs and cartoons. The new design also allows us to reach back and highlight work from our archives more easily. Beginning this week, every story we’ve published since 2007 will be available on, in the same easy-to-read format as the new work we’re publishing. Over the summer, we’ll also provide a sampling of many of the older pieces that our readers keep asking for—including short stories by Alice Munro and Junot Díaz, Janet Flanner on Isadora Duncan, Calvin Trillin on the crime reporter Edna Buchanan, and Mark Singer on the magician Ricky Jay. We’ve also asked our writers to recommend favorite stories from the past, and those selections will be featured on the site and on social media throughout the summer.
Again, okay, I guess. Certainly "the ability to respond to events when we have something to say" is a real thing. I've shared a fair amount of content that came from regular New Yorker contributors writing on the website to take advantage of its obviously superior timeliness. Whether I'm really prepared to spend more time on the website remains to be seen; I probably already miss interesting online-only content because I just don't have time to trawl for it.

A final point—and, arguably, the most important. Publishing the best work possible remains our aim. Advances in design and technology are tools in that effort. In all forms—digital and paper—we intend to publish in the same spirit of freedom, ambition, and accuracy as Harold Ross did when he prowled the halls nearly ninety years ago, the latest model of pencil stuck behind his prominent left ear. 
Yeah, right, okay. (It's not like I have a say in the matter.)

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Food (?) Watch: It's not a leap, but the merest, tiniest jump, from selfie-mania to toast-selfies


You have to be realistic with your selfie-toast expectations. As the selfie-toaster company notes: "We are good but remember fine detail is darn near impossible to achieve with heat and toast." Which could be why so few of the great masters have worked in this little-tapped medium.

by Ken

Is it toast, or is it art?

One way to tell is that if it's just toast, then all it costs is $75 for your personally selfie-customized toaster plus your bread cost. If it's art, then the limit is what you can extract from the right sucker.

Actually, looking at the picture above, I'm not sure it even is toast. While I don't like my toast all that dark, this is, you know, kind of untoasted, isn't it?

Rest assured that this isn't one of those stories where some dizzy dame finds the living image of the Virgin Mary in her French toast, which she then has shellacked and takes on tour, trying to raise money for a French-toast pilgrimage to the Vatican for blessing by the pope. No, this is regular toast we're talking about, and the image isn't of Mary, but of ... you! Personally, I find the whole idea creepy-plus, encompassing a range of issues that should more than fill all the sessions included if you can find a nice therapy bundle on Groupon.

I've already declared my position on selfies, which is against. Somewhere online I encountered a post that really put us selfie-haters in our place, declaring that selfies are wonderful and pretty much the author's entire reason for living. I don't think I have to add anything to that. But what visionary would have dared to dream that selfie-mania could be extended to the unforgiving medium of toast? Enter the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corp., and voilà!

Credit The Frisky's Claire Hannum for flagging this one ("Today in Terrifying: You Can Put Your Selfies on Toast"):
If social media is becoming too boring of an outlet for your selfies, consider the untapped market that is personalized toast. For a mere $75, the “toast engineers” at a novelty toaster company in Vermont will splice your high-resolution photo into a toaster, forever to be printed on Wonderbread slices of your choice. After all, “you don’t have to be famous or Jesus to have your face on toast!” (Yes, that is an actual thing their website says.)

Is there any greater gift than this in today’s age of widespread narcissism? The company’s goal is to make personalized toast more accessible to us commonfolk, because celebrities shouldn’t be the only ones who get to “create fun breakfast memories” of eating their own faces. Well, I guess toast equality is one way to stick it to the one percent.
"Please keep in mind," Claire writes, "that if you serve me a slice of toast with your face on it, we probably can’t be friends anymore. Nothing personal, it just creeps me out too much." You and me both, Claire.

If you're nevertheless thinking about taking the selfie-toaster plunge, rest assured: "Comes with Full Color Water Peel Decal of Your Photograph on Front of Toaster." And the toasters themselves are: "White with Color Accents."

If course if you happen to have any pix of Jesus or Mary on your phone, you could send those in and get yourself a Jesus or Mary toaster. Toast long and prosper!


Only 7 Republican Extremists Filibustered The Latest American Jobs Bill-- And They Failed


Will the real Ron Johnson please stand up, please stand up

When the worst of the Republican crackpot extremists in the Senate tried to filibuster John Walsh's Bring Jobs Home Act (S.2569) even Ted Cruz looked at them like they were crazy. The bill "amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) grant business taxpayers a tax credit for up to 20% of insourcing expenses incurred for eliminating a business located outside the United States and relocating it within the United States, and (2) deny a tax deduction for outsourcing expenses incurred in relocating a U.S. business outside the United States. Requires an increase in the taxpayer's employment of full-time employees in the United States in order to claim the tax credit for insourcing expenses." In other words this bill-- which was cosponsored by two dozen Democrats, from progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkely, Brian Schatz and Tammy Baldwin to conservatives like Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, Claire McCaskill and Mark Pryor-- does just what the titles implies, incentivizes businesses to bring jobs back to America. Who wouldn't want that?

Glad you asked. Every single senator was there and cloture passed 93-7. The 7 filibustering extremists and obstructionists:
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
These 7 don't like closing tax loopholes for their big donors and none of them care what the voters think of that. The senator most likely to suffer the consequences is Ron Johnson, who is up for reelection in 2016 and who Wisconsin voters have come to regret sending to Washington in the first place. If Russ Feingold challenges him, it won't even be close. This particular loophole Johnson was filibustering for allows for deductions of expenses incurred when companies wind down domestic operations and send jobs to foreign countries. The bill-- if it gets through the Republican House-- uses the savings to establish a tax credit worth 20% of the overall cost to a company of bringing jobs back to the United States. Elizabeth Warren was one of the senators celebrating the bipartisan victory. "Big corporations and their armies of lobbyists have rigged the tax code to reward businesses when they ship jobs overseas," she said. "This isn't right. I'm glad that after years of blocking this proposal, Republicans have finally agreed to allow us to debate this legislation. We should pass this bill and send it to the House as soon as possible-- to reward companies that return jobs to the United States and to give our workers and businesses a fair shot to succeed."

Not unrelated, last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called for a "new sense of economic patriotism. from companies looking to avoid paying taxes by moving their addresses offshore. Yesterday President Obama lashed out at "corporate deserters" who are taking advantage of another loophole the Republicans refuse to close. Right now corporate criminals like Walgreen and dug makers Mylan and AbbVie are in the middle of these kinds of shenanigans and American consumers have started a low key, grassroots boycott of Walgreen, the pharmacy chain. 50 companies have already taken advantage of the loophole.

Yesterday David Gelles, writing in the NY Times reported how Obama is trying to work out a deal with reluctant Republicans to stop these inversions. The goal of course is to "retroactively strip the tax advantages away from many of the year’s biggest mergers and acquisitions."
There is growing consensus on Capitol Hill that the rush of inversions should be stopped. Lawmakers from both parties worry that the more companies move their headquarters to countries like Ireland and the Netherlands, the more the American tax base is being compromised.

And given the unlikelihood of comprehensive tax reform getting passed anytime soon, both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree that a short-term fix is needed.

But already, there is partisan disagreement about what anti-inversion legislation should look like.

The Obama administration has proposed effectively banning inversions, and making any legislation retroactive until May of this year. Such a move would affect several big deals, including AbbVie‘s $54 billion acquisition of Shire, and Medtronic‘s $43 billion takeover of Covidien.

…But at a Senate Finance Committee hearing this week, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, signaled he would not support backdating a new law.

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Mark Takai Proposed Testing Homeless Veterans For Drugs


"I am proud to support Stanley Chang for Congress. Stanley knows what needs to be done to fix Wall Street and protect the rights of consumers. He has declared his support for the Better Off Budget, which would create 8.8 million jobs by 2017 and reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years. Stanley is a champion for civil rights for all and will work toward a more secure and peaceful world. The Progressive Caucus and its members will work hard to support Stanley to see that he joins us in the 114th Congress."
- Keith Ellison, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

"Stanley Chang is the clear choice to represent Hawaii’s first district in Congress. His Agenda for Change calls for universal early childhood education, which has been a key focus of my work as a member of the Committee on Education and The Workforce. Stanley has proposed a bold job creation plan and is fighting for an increase in the federal minimum wage. I look forward to working with him on important environmental priorities such as preserving wilderness and protecting endangered species. We need more bold progressives like Stanley in Congress."
- Raúl Grijalva, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Congressional candidate Mark Takai wants to subject homeless veterans to drug tests.

Ironically, he’s campaigning as a supporter of military veterans. Takai, who is running for the open seat in Hawaii’s First Congressional District, campaigns in his National Guard uniform-- which isn't legal-- and recently secured a Vote Vets endorsement. More identity politics, like EMILY's List endorsement of the other conservative in the race, Donna Mercado Kim.

As the Vote Vets PAC has highlighted for years, unemployment and homelessness have long been rampant among veterans.

As a Democratic back bencher in Hawaii’s legislature for the past 20 years, Takai has compiled precious few legislative accomplishments. Takai is a former athlete at the University of Hawaii, and much of his work has focused on raising money for the school’s athletic department (notably, not for its libraries). But over the last three years, his other pet cause has been imposing warrantless, suspicionless drug tests on anyone seeking public benefits.

Served your country in Iraq and Afghanistan, but returned home to face difficulty finding good work and feeding your kids? Takai wants you tested for drugs.

He introduced legislation for that purpose in both 2012 and 2013. The 2012 bill would have imposed the most stringent drug-testing program in the country, requiring all applicants for temporary assistance for needy families to pass a drug test as a prerequisite to receiving any benefits. A failed test would result in the applicant being denied benefits. That bill went nowhere. The 2013 bill had an even more far-reaching policy goal: “to ensure that only those who choose not to use illegal drugs” would be eligible for any “public assistance programs.” The proposal was mitigated by the prerequisite of cost-benefit analysis. Takai’s colleagues recognized suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients is not only cruel, but also inefficient, and also defeated this bill.

In Wednesday night’s debate-- the final candidate forum before the August 9th Democratic primary-- Takai had the nerve to express concern for the more than 800 homeless veterans in Hawaii. But it’s clear he’s much more of a pro-military candidate than a pro-veteran candidate.

He’s been most comfortable in debates talking about the need for more Pentagon spending. It’s a topic he turns to again and again-- often including strong critiques of President Obama (despite this being Obama’s birthplace and a 70-percent Obama district)-- even giving exclusive interviews to right-wing blogs and talk shows.

Takai’s use of his military uniform while campaigning and constant defense references are attempts to give him some foreign-policy gravitas. But he in a recent debacle, he showed he’s over his head when it comes to foreign affairs, while also committing a serious ethical breach.

Takai took a free trip-- valued at $8,000-- to Azerbaijan last year to participate in a conference sponsored by oil companies. He came back home and promptly introduced two resolutions drafted by the Azerbaijan government-- expressing anti-Armenian viewpoints-- and actually scheduled them in his committee. An international embarrassment was narrowly avoided as Armenian-Americans from Hawaii and U.S. Mainland expressed outrage and convinced Takai’s colleagues to defeat the resolutions.

Ben Lowenthal, a local newspaper columnist has more on the story:
And what about an oil-company sponsored holiday? Is that an ethical problem? No way, says Takai. Civil Beat reported that Takai explained to its reporters that at the time of the trip, the Hawaii Legislature had not addressed any relevant issues that directly would benefit Azerbaijan so there was no ethical problem in going on the trip.

But that may not be the case for the future. Taka and Cabanilla introduced in the House this session two resolutions addressing a very touchy subject in that part of the world.

House Resolution 13 states a number of facts that you would not expect to find floating around our legislature. It addresses an armed conflict that broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia as the Soviet Union collapsed. The countries have been (and continue to be) locked in a territorial dispute for some time.

According to the resolution, the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan was the site of a massacre on February 25 and 26, 1992. There, the resolution states that six-hundred men, women, and children were killed, and thousands were wounded and captured by Armenian and Russian forces. The resolution marks the twenty-second anniversary of the “Khojaly tragedy.” The other resolution urges the United States to strengthen ties to Azerbaijan in coming up with some kind of settlement with Armenia over this disputed region.

The factual claims in the resolutions have been hotly disputed by our local Armenian-American community and the greater Armenian population.

. . . Mark Takai doesn’t seem to have a problem with taking sides. Last year he-- along with other American legislators-- signed off on a birthday note to the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Takai congratulated Aliyev in his efforts to reduce crime within the country and promoting allegiances abroad.

Aliyev has been criticized by many diplomats and those that follow international relations as an autocrat. After taking office in 2003, he eliminated term limits for himself from the constitution. He’s been accused of running a corrupt government, clamping down on a free press, and rigged elections. The infamous Wikileaks website released a cache of diplomatic cables in 2012 that compare him to a mafia crime boss. Surely, Takai was aware of this before congratulating him on reducing crime in his country eight time zones away, right?
With just over two weeks left in what figures to be a close election (with seven candidates), Takai is scrambling for support and even reaching out to gun guys. The Hawaii Rifle Association recently lauded him for his “supportive record,” which the organization noted contrasts with his two main rivals in the congressional race, Donna Kim and Stanley Chang. A Hawaii-based gun rights blog last week featured this entry: “I have been personally been contacted by Mark Takai requesting my vote and monetary contribution toward his campaign. . . He claims to be the closest one that will get an endorsement from HRA.” On his campaign website, Takai goes out of his way to voice his support for hunting and notes he’s only concerned about regulating “military grade weapons.”

Courting the Right has been part of Takai’s campaign strategy throughout his tenure. For instance, he’s repeatedly bragged to the Hawaii Family Forum that he opposes the right of rape victims to receive emergency contraception at all hospitals.

Amazingly, Takai is being touted in some circles as the progressive choice in this race. But how could anyone who pays attention to his record possibly fall for that one?

Thankfully, Chang provides an actual liberal alternative.

He’s been winning the debates with clearly stated progressive views-- he was the only candidate Wednesday to state concern about children refugees at the border-- as noted in real time via social media:
A committed environmentalist and civil libertarian, Chang has been endorsed by People for the American Way, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the new Climate Hawks Vote and Blue America. With absentee voting already underway, Chang needs help in getting out the vote to ensure the only progressive candidate emerges as the victor in this crowded field, and that neither of the two conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, Kim and Takai, pulls the wool over voters' eyes and succeeds as passing themselves off as progressives.

Stanley with Juan Antonio Vargas

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Not Your Father's Republican Party-- Meet Jody Hice, Who Wants A Bazooka In Every Home


John Birch Society stalwart and former drug addict Paul Broun has widely been considered Congress' most extreme Member. He ran in the May Georgia Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate nomination and lost miserably, failing to even crack 10%. But in his own north central Georgia district, GA-10-- stretching from just east of Atlanta to just west of August and from Athens in the north and Milledgeville in the south-- he's pretty popular. The Democrats didn't bother running anyone against him in 2012. The district has a PVI of R+14 and Obama only managed 36%. When Broun last faced a Democrat, Russell Edwards, in 2010, he beat him 137,262 (67%) to 66,574 (33%)-- despite the fact that Edwards beat Broun in the district's biggest county, Clarke, 63-37%. Broun won every other county. His endorsement of Hated Talk Radio host and wigged out Baptist preacher Jody Hice as his House successor, over Establishment Republican Mike Collins, helped Hice win the race on Tuesday.

Presuming Hice wins in November, he will enter Congress as the craziest and most extreme Member, and most observers have remarked that he almost makes lunatics like Broun and Michele Bachmann, both of whom are retiring, look vaguely conventional. The only outside spending in the primary were from 2 gun-nut/domestic terrorism groups who find the NRA "too liberal," Gun Owners of America (who hasn't run ads for anyone in the country but Hice) and the National Association for Gun Rights (whose only other race this cycle was opposing Thad Cochran and supporting Chris McDaniel in Mississippi). Why are the gun worshippers so wild about Hice? Watch the clip up top from his crackpot radio show. "It is my belief that any, any, any, any weapon that out government and law enforcement possesses ought to be allowed for individuals to possess in this country, provided they can afford it." He goes on the explain why people should have cannons and bazookas and missiles. Really. He just got 54% of the vote against a former congressman's son-- not despite his views but because of them. It was a low turnout runoff primary and the nuts came out in force. That's what happens.

With the Republicans still hoping to change their image before the midterms in order to appeal to a broader swath of the population, Hice is having none of it. He regularly lambasts the LGBT community and Muslim-Americans and he insists that gals who want to run for office get permission from this husbands. I suppose if they're not married, they could get permission from a father, brother, uncle or son. And if you don't think there are Republican women in Congress who wouldn't agree with him, you've never come across Virginia Foxx (NC), Diane Black (TN), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Susan Brooks (IN) and Martha Roby (AL).

The Democrat in the race, Ken Dious, has virtually no support and the DCCC is studiously ignoring the race, not lifting a finger to keep this lunatic and sociopath out of Congress. Right Wing Watch has been doing a great job keeping an eye on Hice and making sure that when he tried to make some of his craziest rants disappear-- so independent and plain vanilla conservatives in Georgia wouldn't realize what they are being asked to vote for-- the archives would still exist. A lot of it is about his deranged, hysterical hatred for gay men and women but I kind of took a fancy to the baying at the moon clip:

"God is a God of war and he is not playing hide and seek. He has spoken. He has made himself known. It's very difficult for me to look at something like this [blood moons] occurring on Jewish holidays in two consecutive years that it just seems wise to take notice." This freak is probably going to be a Member of the United States Congress. I hope he brings a bazooka or a missile to a Republican caucus meeting on the first blood moon of his term.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Right Wing Nuts Welcome Their New Majority Leader With An Embarrassing Defeat-- For Him And America


I was in New York Tuesday and could concentrate on the votes that were going down in the House and I'm afraid people may have missed a vote on Eric Swalwell's H.R. 1022, the Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act. The Boehner/McCarthy/Ryan clique that's still fighting to control the House Republican Caucus, felt it had the votes to suspend the rules and pass the bill with a 2/3 majority and no amendments. They should have asked their own chief vote-counter, Republican Whip Steve Scalise, the Louisiana extremist, who was opposed to it.

Although every Democrat but right-wing nut Nick Rahall voted yes and the Boehner/McCarthy clique delivered 78 Establishment Republicans, the healthy majority wasn't quote healthy enough. With 29 Members absent or not voting, 260-143 does not add up to 2/3. It failed, 9 votes short. House Science Committee chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) backed it and told fellow Republicans it would help the U.S. find ways to produce rare earth elements on its own without relying on other countries. "This bill," he said, "helps ensure that the United States remains globally and economically competitive, and that our energy sector and military have the critical elements that they need."

Boehner pawns like Eric Cantor (VA), Fred Upton (MI), Mike Simpson (ID), Dave Camp (MI), Dave Reichert (WA), Tom Cole (OK), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), David Joyce (OH), Greg Walden (OR), Peter King (NY), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Tom Reed (NY), Chris Gibson (NY), Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (Mafia), Devin Nunes (CA), Corey Gardner (CO), Charlie Dent (PA), Vern Buchanan (FL) and Ken Calvert (CA) crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats on something the business community generally favors. The kooks-- like Broun (GA), Coffman (CO), Stockman (TX), Jordan (OH), Ross (FL), Salmon (AZ), Cotton (AR), McHenry (NC), Bachmann (MN), Clawson (FL), Gohmert (TX), Bridenstine (OK), King (IA) and Gowdy (SC)-- and the Republicans hoping to get votes from teabaggers and Hate Talk Radio victims-- like Daines (MT), Kline (MN), Capito (WV), Roskam (IL), Mica (FL), and Schock (IL)-- went along with demands from far right operations Club for Growth and Heritage Action, who threatened Republicans backing the bill. Swalwell, after the failure:
"Under the threat of punishment from Heritage Action and Club for Growth, a majority of House Republicans voted against America's manufacturing and national security interests. Rather than support research and development that will help create jobs here at home, 142 House Republicans just voted to send good-paying American jobs overseas."

If you're still with us… you earned this-- and I can't imagine DWT will ever have another opportunity to share it. Ladies and gentlemen… Rare Earth:

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You're des-THPIC-able, Miss Mitch! (You tell it, Daffy!)


Isn't this a better look for Senate Minority Leader "Miss Mitch" McConnell? Even with the still-clenched body language, doesn't he seem worlds kinder and gentler?

by Ken

So this morning on the radio they were playing clips from the Senate dialogue on a bill that I gather is intended to increase transparency in political contributions.

So there was Maine's Independent senator, Angus King, saying that you couldn't get up and speak at a town meeting, perhaps our truest form of democracy, with a bag over your head. After all, he went on, who you are is an important part of the package of comment you're delivering; listeners need this information to help evaluate the comment.

Interesting, no?

Then there was "Miss Mitch" McConnell, declaring in that repulsive lying drone we've come to know and hate that that this is nothing more than yet another atttempt to limit free speech.

Now I'm not sure either senator had it quite right, or quite meant exactly what he was saying. As I'm sure Miss Mitch might have pointed out, if it had been paying attention, you certainly could speak at a New England town meeting with a bag over your head. Who's to stop you? I think Senator King is certainly correct to the extent that such speech wouldn't be taken terribly seriously, but I don't see that you couldn't do it.

And I for one regret that Miss Mitch didn't stick it to Senator King by wearing a paper bag over its own personal head, as illustrated above. Not only is it allowable on the Senate floor, it's an unarguable improvement.

To go with this much-improved new look, I think Miss Mitch could look to deploying a new voice. Once no one has to look at its loathsome face, there will be even less tolerance for the droning sound of savage imbecility that accompanies it. My first thought was something along these lines:

But on reflection, I had to conclude that Daffy is too upright, too characterful to serve as the voice of Miss Mitch. I think something more along these lines might be more suitable:


Even as hopelessly pathological a liar as Our Miss Mitch knows that limiting free speech isn't what this legislation is about. It just says that because . . . well, because even an "it" has free speech and knows it can say it.

We already know that what Miss Mitch thinks of as "free" speech isn't free at all; it's in fact quite expensive -- it might be better to call it "top-dollar speech." This Miss Mitch believes in fervently. It also believes fervently in dishonest speech, which after all is the lifeblood of its public career.

And, regrettably, neither of these -- top-dollar speech nor dishonest speech -- is being challenged here. The Supreme Court, alas, regards it as a done deal that money is speech, and as for dishonest speech, well, it's well established that it's as much protected as honest speech; we don't distinguish, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. The traditional remedy for objectionable speech is supposed to be more free speech., though of course when it's actually top-dollar speech, it's not so easy to counteract, which of course is what proponents of Miss Mitchified "free" speech count on.

Which still leaves the "secret" part, and here Senator King's town-hall analogy seems to me quite interesting. The last I checked, even as fervent an upholder of the dictatorship of the overprivileged as Supreme Court Justice Nino Scalia was writing in no uncertain terms that the Constitution provides no protection for the identity of a free-speechifier. So when Miss Mitch demands protection for Top-Dollar, Lying, Secret Speech, in reality only two of those things are protected. And the legislation at issue is in fact aimed at the unprotected "secret" part.

Consider that even with a paper bag over its head, we'll still know that it's Miss Mitch.

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Hawaii: A Bastion Of Progressivism-- Let's Keep It That Way


Hawaii's primary is August 9, a week from Saturday. Saturday? Sure, that's how to encourage voter participation in a democracy-- have the elections when people aren't working. Conservatives are generally terrified at the prospect of more people voting-- especially working class people-- so they tend to block legislation like Hawaii's. Hawaii is a pretty progressive state, first to mass a $10.10 minimum wage, first to start the process of marriage equality. The Republican Party is pretty moribund there and the Democratic Party has been in charge since 1962. In recent times Bill Clinton won twice, George Bush lost twice and Obama won twice-- with over 70% both times. There are no Republicans in federal office, only one Republican state senator (out of 25) and only 7 Republicans in the 51 member House. In the last U.S. Senate race, pitting progressive Democrat Mazie Hirono against conservative (not extremist) Republican Governor Linda Lingle, Hirono beat Lingle 269,489 (63%) to 160,994 (37%).

That's not to say Hawaii doesn't have a powerful conservative faction working against the interests of working families. The problem is that they're smart enough to embed themselves in the Democratic Party and tell lo-info voters that they are also "progressives." So you wind up with shady career politicians like Ed Case, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, Donna Mercado Kim, Mark Takai, who would be Republicans in any other state, festering as Democrats in Hawaii. Donna Kim, for example, is the state Senate president but just voted against increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and against marriage equality for Hawaii's big LGBT community. And now she wants to bring her right-wing bigotry to Washington to replace fellow conservative Colleen Hanabusa, the anti-Social Security New Dem who is being pushed by EMILY's List against progressive Senator Brian Schatz.

Schatz, who has been endorsed by President Obama, Elizabeth Warren and every senator who has endorsed in the race, is the lead sponsor of the Strengthening Social Security Act, which would increase benefits by an average of $65-70/month and extend the viability of the Social Security system by removing the wage cap on Social Security, so that all Americans pay their fair share, even rich people. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare endorsed him because of this bill and because of Hanabusa's awful vote in favor of the Simpson-Bowles budget framework and her eagerness to "compromise" away hard earned benefits for working people and seniors, primarily by raising the age of retirement and by recalculating down the cost of living adjustments for retired and handicapped people, which is the Republican position, not the Democratic position.

Hanabusa and her shady lobbyist supporters have been trying to deceive voters in Hawaii by claiming that Schatz's vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act in 2013 cut Social Security benefits by extending provider cuts under Medicare for 2 years. This is total nonsense, and Hanabusa is trying to misrepresent her vote in opposition to the BBA as a vote to protect Medicare and Social Security. Although the BBA was not perfect, it rolled back sequestration cuts and Democrats would not agree to any deal unless Social Security and Medicare benefits were not touched. That's exactly what happened in the deal. As a result, every Senate Democrat and President Obama supported the legislation. Essentially, Hanabusa joined Senate Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz on this vote. On top of that, the "cuts" to Medicare/Social Security that Hanabusa is squawking about are actually decreases in provider reimbursements under Medicare that were extended from 2021 and 2023. These provider decreases were actually established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 which Hanabusa neglects to mention that she voted for. Essentially, she voted to establish sequestration and Medicare reimbursement cuts, spent all of 2013 complaining about the negative impacts of sequestration, and then when she had a chance to help fix the worst aspects of sequestration that she helped create, she voted against BBA in a thinly veiled effort to create a difference in position between her and Schatz.

And it gets worse since Hanabusa also bitterly complained that the BBA cut military retiree pensions. Senator Schatz and other Democrats didn't like this aspect of the legislation, and after the BBA passed, Schatz introduced legislation to eliminate that portion of the BBA. This repeal passed-- with Hanabusa and other conservatives voting against the repeal. Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America said this about Hanabusa's Republican posture on Social Security:
Hanabusa has been desperately trying to evade responsibility for her vote to cut Social Security and Medicare. At a recent debate, Schatz looked directly at Hanabusa and asked if she regretted her vote for the Simpson-Bowles plan to cut Social Security. She tried to say her vote wouldn't have cut benefits or raise the retirement age.

Schatz then pulled out his trump card. He read out a letter the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare wrote to her, pleading with her to vote against the Simpson-Bowles plan that would have cut benefits and raised the retirement age. The facts are clear-- Hanabusa can't be trusted to protect Social Security.
Hanabusa's claim that Schatz voted to cut Social Security benefits because he voted to extend Medicare reimbursement cuts by two years is typical, sleazy Beltway garbage. Medicare and Social Security are separate programs with different funding and trust funds, so it is absolutely false that Schatz voted to cut Social Security benefits. He's been endorsed by all the organizations voting to protect and expand Social Security. She's backed by conservatives like herself. "The Republicans in the House and the Tea Party," said Schatz, "seem bound and determined to undermine Social Security and I think it's important that for we Democrats in the Senate to stake out a position that not only are we not entertaining cutting Social Security, but we ought to be thinking about ways to enhance the program-- both for the beneficiaries and for the trust fund to be healthy over the long run."

Although EMILY's List promised Hanabusa they could "deliver" Elizabeth Warren's endorsement if she ran against Schatz, Warren not only refused, she enthusiastically endorsed Schatz. In a stunning rebuke to EMILY's List and Hanabusa's deceitful campaign, this week she told her supporters that "I am proud to stand with Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, and a growing number in Congress who are committed to protecting and expanding Social Security benefits. The most recent discussion about cutting benefits has focused on something called the Chained-CPI. Supporters of the Chained-CPI say that it’s a more accurate way of measuring cost of living increases for seniors. That statement is simply not true. Chained CPI is just a fancy way of saying cut benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a measure of the real impact of inflation on seniors. It’s called the CPI-E. If we adopted it today, it would generally increase benefits for our retirees-- not cut them. In the end, this is not just about math. It’s about our values. If we want a robust middle class-- a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country-- then we must take the retirement crisis seriously."

As we've discussed before, Hanabusa was one of the congressmembers from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who refused to sign the Grayson-Takano Social Security pledge or to back Schatz's Strengthening Social Security Act. And on the same Saturday voters in Hawaii are choosing between Hanabusa and Schatz, they are also picking Hanabusa's replacement for the first congressional district (basically, Honolulu). Blue America, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, DFA and People for the American Way have all endorsed Stanley Chang against two well-funded conservative Democrats, Donna Kim and Mark Takai. Chang, who was one of Elizabeth Warren's students at Harvard Law, has backed the same ideas for strengthening and extending Social Security as Schatz. When we asked him this morning, this is what he told us:
I categorically oppose all cuts to Social Security and I am proud to have repeatedly pledged support for the Grayson-Takano Letter, which reads in part: “We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits-- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” For me, this promise is the first step in bold strategy to not only protect and defend Social Security, but to expand its critical benefits so that all of our kupuna can retire in dignity after a lifetime of work.

Social Security is the bedrock of the safety net our seniors have earned. The common-sense progressive solution that will ensure Social Security’s solvency for decades to come would be to “scrap the cap.” Currently, only the first $117,000 of income is taxed for Social Security, but if we eliminate this loophole, we will have the necessary funds to ensure that our seniors remain healthy and financially secure.

I am opposed to using so-called “chained CPI” to calculate cost-of-living adjustments. This is merely another way to enact deep, harsh cuts to Social Security, which keeps 22 million seniors out of poverty.
You can help Stanley Chang with his crucial get out the vote effort here and you can do the same for Brian Schatz here. They're both from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

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Fake Democrat Gavin Newsom Is Only Lt. Governor Now, But He Can Do A Lot Of Damage In The Future


Like Rick Perry, Gavin Newsom is certain new glasses make him look serious

Gavin Newsom presents well. When he still thought he was running for governor, he called a meeting of L.A. political bloggers in some sleek West Hollywood hotel and did a free-flowing Q and A. He was as sleek as the hotel and everyone swooned. Except me. Having recently exited the corporate world, Newsom's glitz and studied expertise in everything didn't impress me. Good hair, yes... but I could sense that guy at the head of the table was a quintessential Republican no matter what party label he worse and no matter San Francisco gay couples he had married. Jon Ward wasn't at that meeting, but he's got Newsom's number as well-- and he shared it this week at HuffPo-- The Right's Strange New Hero: Gavin Newsom.

After he was elected Lt Governor, Jerry Brown told him to keep out of his hair and go find some ribbons to cut. Instead he wrote a book, Citizenville, although I'm not certain if the proceeds are owned by the state government which was paying his salary while he wrote it. As Ward explains, "the ideas he espouses in the book have Washington conservatives sitting up and taking note." Like Newt Gingrich: "It is a tremendous book which I recommend all the time."

Ward's article goes well with the Tim Donovan piece at Salon we've been looking at, Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future. Newsome was born in 1967, so he's not a millennial, just ahead of his time. And he isn't from a rich family, but a very politically connected one. He was appointed, rather than elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and when he ran he ran in the most Republican district in town-- Pacific Heights, the Marina and Sea Cliff-- and ran on both the Democratic and Republican slates. when people weren't thinking of him as just an opportunistic Republican calling himself a Democrat, he's just been considered a conservative and a part of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

His personal wealth-- he's a multimillionaire-- comes from his connections, particularly to oil heir Gordon Getty who was the primary investor in 10 businesses Newsom started, almost all of them bars, cafes and wine shops. And his policies are the policies that serve the interests of business rather than families. Citizenville is an anti-government screed that any Ayn Rand fan would happily recognize and, according to Ward, the "central premise is that government can be better, more relevant, more engaged with the public by embracing technology-- and getting out of the way." Newsom, channeling his inner Republican: "Government can do best by simply getting out of the way."
Newsom's critique of government’s failures and weaknesses dovetails with the narrative that some on the right are crafting to critique the Democratic Party and spark a revival of the moribund GOP. A loose coalition of thinkers-- including Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs magazine, and Alex Castellanos, a veteran political consultant working on rebranding the GOP-- have been busy promoting the idea of "reform conservatism."

Levin and Castellanos, in particular, are each working independently to craft a way of talking about conservatism that can change perceptions of the right, even among those Americans who don’t pay close attention to politics. It’s a significant ingredient in the GOP’s hopes for resurgence. Their argument is that liberalism is a top-down, antiquated approach to modern governance.

Devolving decision-making power and authority to local institutions is a better way, they say, to approach a technology-driven world that is increasingly complex, diverse and bottom-up.

Put more simply, they say Democrats are the party of old ideas, and conservatives-- who have struggled with being identified as the party of old, white men-- are actually the best fit for the future... Newsom’s steady cultivation of Silicon Valley moguls should help him raise funds for any statewide run.
If the gays want to marry and dopers want to smoke pot, he's all for that but high-speed rail-- investment in the future that will cost rich people money-- he's against it. Compare the fluffy bullshit and hype of Citizenville with the paper, Eliminating Extreme Inequality, Joe Stiglitz and Michael Doyle published for the Carnegie Council's Ethics And International Affairs and you can't help but see the contrast between the striving, self-serving huckster and the thoughtful problem solver.
At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, UN member states took a dramatic step by putting people rather than states at the center of the UN’s agenda. In their Millennium Declaration, the assembled world leaders agreed to a set of breathtakingly broad goals touching on peace through development, the environment, human rights, the protection of the vulnerable, the special needs of Africa, and reforms of UN institutions. Particularly influential was the codification of the Declaration’s development related objectives, which emerged in the summer of 2001 as the now familiar eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be realized by 2015:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

• Halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education.

• Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
• Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality.

• Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

5. Improve maternal health.
• Reduce by three-quarters the ratio of women dying in childbirth.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
• Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability.

• Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
• By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.
• By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8. Develop a global partnership for development.
• Develop further an open trading and financial system that includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction-- nationally and internationally.

• Address the special needs of the least developed countries, and the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states.

• Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries.
• Develop decent and productive work for youth.

• In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
• In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies-- especially information and communications technologies.
While the accomplishment of these goals would have been an impressive achievement, even taken together they do not represent a complete or comprehensive vision of human development. They were constrained by what the member states could agree upon in 2000 and, in particular, they lacked a vision of equitable development. As the international community thinks about the set of goals that will follow the MDGs, it is time to address that shortcoming by adding the goal of “eliminating extreme inequality” to the original eight... Extreme inequalities tend to hamper economic growth and undermine both political equality and social stability.

...Economists of widely differing philosophical outlooks agree that inequalities of incomes and assets have harmful economic effects. Increasing inequalities, with top-heavy income distributions, lessen aggregate demand (the rich tend to spend a smaller fraction of their income than the poor), which can slow economic growth. The attempt of monetary authorities to offset these effects can contribute to credit bubbles, and these bubbles in turn lead to economic instability. That is why inequality is often associated with economic instability. In this perspective, it is not a surprise that inequality reached high levels before the Great Recession of 2008 and before the Great Depression of the 1930s. Recent International Monetary Fund research shows that high inequality is associated with shorter growth cycles.

Much of the inequality observed around the world is associated with rent-seeking (for example, the exercise of monopoly power), and such inequality manifestly undermines economic efficiency. But perhaps the worse dimension of inequality is inequality of opportunity, which is both the cause and consequence of inequality of outcomes, and causes economic inefficiency and reduced development, as large numbers of individuals are not able to live up to their potential. Countries with high inequality tend to invest less in public goods, such as infrastructure, technology, and education, which contribute to long-term economic prosperity and growth.

Reducing inequality, on the other hand, has clear economic as well as social benefits. It strengthens people’s sense that society is fair; improves social cohesion and mobility, making it more likely that more citizens live up to their potential; and broadens support for growth initiatives. Policies that aim for growth but ignore inequality may ultimately be self-defeating, whereas policies that decrease inequality by, for example, boosting employment and education have beneficial effects on the human capital that modern economies increasingly need.

Gaps between the rich and the poor are partly the result of economic forces, but equally, or even more, they are the result of public policy choices, such as taxation, the level of the minimum wage, and the amount invested in health care and education. This is why countries whose economic circumstances are otherwise similar can have markedly different levels of inequality. These inequalities in turn affect policy-making because even democratically-elected officials respond more attentively to the views of affluent constituents than they do to the views of poor people. The more that wealth is allowed unrestricted roles in funding elections, the more likely it is that economic inequality will get translated into political inequality.

...One of the most pernicious forms of inequality relates to inequality of opportunity, reflected in a lack of socioeconomic mobility, condemning those born into the bottom of the economic pyramid to almost surely remain there. Alan Krueger, former Chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, has pointed to this link between inequality and opportunity. Inequality of income tends to be associated with less economic mobility and fewer opportunities across generations. The fact that those born into the bottom of the economic pyramid are condemned to never reach their potential reinforces the correlation between inequality and slower long-term economic growth.
I don't expect Newsom, who suffered from a severe learning disability in school, to ever understand this stuff on anything but the most superficial level. And who cares? All we need to care about is to make sure he never advances out of the harmless office he now holds as Lt. Governor.

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