Nel's New Day

April 24, 2015

Campaign Donations – A Murky World

The media is filled with the almost two dozen potential GOP presidential candidates for 2016. Scott Walker is the Koch’s pick–no, they changed their mind and want Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush is leading–no, he’s two points behind Rubio. Hillary Clinton is guilty of fraud–or maybe not. And that’s just in the last few days.

In Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Peter Schweizer, a Republican researcher, reveals his personal perception of the  correlation between foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation with favorable State Department decisions while Hillary Clinton was secretary. Although the book won’t be published until May 5, Schweizer has already confessed that he cannot prove his allegations because of his confusion between paid and unpaid appearances. He said that “the errors would be corrected” but didn’t say whether it would be before the publication. With a long history of sloppy research and reporting—even citing a hoax press release in the book—Schweizer admitted he cannot prove the allegations in the book.

“Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do…. We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.”

While the GOP pushes a possible scandal about Clinton, Jeb Bush’s financial arrangements are decimating the crumbling foundation of campaign limits. After collection tens of millions of dollars while “not-running” for president, he has announced that he will turn over his campaign’s primary functions to a super PAC that can have unlimited funding from unknown sources. The Right to Rise (interesting name!) PAC will not only provide advertising but also carry out duties usually from a campaign, including direct mail and get-out-the-vote drives.

At this time, contributions have three levels: beneficial donations to a candidate have legal caps; donations to a party may not reach the candidate that the donor desires; and super PACs cannot legally coordinate with specific candidates. In the past these PACs have sometimes run counter to the candidates’ wishes.

Jeb claims he can coordinate with his super PAC because he says he’s not even seriously considering a presidential run, using this time to plan future campaign strategy with the super PAC and participate in dozens of fundraisers. Jeb’s tactic may be found illegal. A provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 states that if Jeb—or any other candidate—has a direct or indirect involvement in “establishing, financing, maintaining or controlling” an outside entity—such as a super PAC—that entity cannot receive or spend contributions that exceed the limit on contributions to a federal PAC of $5,000 per donor per year. The provision includes any candidate’s proxies “acting on behalf” of the candidate.

When Jeb announced his federal leadership PAC, the Right to Rise PAC, his “allies” announced the supporting super PAC, the Right to Rise Super PAC. They sound like twins, but they’re actually triplets with the Right to Rise Policy Solutions, formed by a Bush friend and former staffer, that lets Jeb’s supporters make anonymous contributions. The likely leader for the super PAC after Jeb actually declares is Mike Murphy, Jeb’s longtime political confidant.

Although Jeb’s campaign spokesperson stated that he is not really candidate, that claim has been disputed. A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission at the end of March accused four presidential hopefuls of violating campaign-finance laws by building campaign infrastructure without formally “testing the waters” for a bid. The other three are GOP Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and Democrat Martin O’Malley.

Senior counsel to Campaign Legal Center said:

“These 2016 presidential contenders must take the American people for fools — flying repeatedly to Iowa and New Hampshire to meet with party leaders and voters, hiring campaign staff and raising millions of dollars from deep-pocketed mega donors, all the while denying that they are even ‘testing the waters’ of a presidential campaign.”

The FEC has three categories: non-candidates, candidates who are “testing the waters,” and formally declared candidates. Those testing the waters can conduct polls, travel, and make calls about a potential run, but candidates who raise more than $5,000 or formally refer to themselves as candidates must register with the FEC and be subject to reporting and disclosure requirements.

Other candidates have strong connections with super PACs. One supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is run by his former campaign manager who is married to Paul’s niece. Another for Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is run by his former chief of staff and campaign manager for his 2010 gubernatorial campaign who is assisted by the campaign manager who ran Walker’s 2014 re-election race. Supporting super PAC for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is led by the co-founder of a political consulting firm with another political operative leading Rubio’s federal leadership PAC.

Early this year, the first criminal conviction for illegal coordination between a congressional campaign and a super PAC came down from the Justice Department after a campaign manager in Virginia pleaded guilty to coordinated campaign contributions and false statements. The DoJ stated:

“The Department of Justice is fully committed to addressing the threat posed to the integrity of federal primary and general elections by coordinated campaign contributions, and will aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity.”

Jeb has a history of controlling donations. While Florida governor, he shifted $150 million of pension funds toward his cousin, George Herbert Walker IV, at Goldman Sachs and at least another $1.7 billion of state workers’ retirement money to higher-risk, higher-fee investments at the financial firms that donated over $5 million to the campaign of older brother, George W. Bush.  Jeb is now reaping donations for Walker and other financial firms that received state business from Jeb’s administration.

Even conservatives such as columnist Kathleen Parker have serious doubts about the power of super PACS. In a column on “our corrupt campaign finance system,” she wrote, “There’s nothing free about paid-for elections—unless everybody knows where the money came from.” She expressed two concerns about massive shadow funding that bodes poorly for the GOP. One is the recent trend of large numbers of GOP presidential candidates, each with his or her own billionaire, who stay in an unwinnable race while tearing down an opponent who might have a better chance without the controversy about him that it causes, what Parker describes as “death by a thousand insults.”

Another issue is the “withering” of political parties, dooming “political comity.” To succeed, political parties have to agree within themselves whereas super PACs, unaccountable to no one, “form around extreme ideas” with anonymous donors. Even worse to Parker, the current system takes campaign control from the candidates. (She may have written this before Jeb Bush figured out a way around the problem.)

Parker is right about the destructiveness within the GOP. Talk show host Mark Levin attacked Karl Rove’s super PACs because it’s attacking Rand Paul in favor of Jeb Bush. Levin claimed that they are distorting Citizens United by attacking conservatives. Fox’s allowing Karl Rove to use his position to “clear the field” for Jeb is another Levin gripe. Levin called people like Rove “pretend conservatives, who are really on there with an agenda, and so they sit there, they pretend they’re analyzing…that to me is dishonest, it’s flat out dishonest.” He added, “I am trashing the fools like Karl Rove, who are taking advantage of their positions, pretending on the one hand that they’re analysts and on the other hand, they’re trying to defeat every conservative and clear the field for their Bush family candidate.” (Does the word “irony” come to mind?)

The disastrous Supreme Court rulings in Citizens United and its worse follow-up, McCutcheon v. FEC, have permitted almost unlimited donations for candidates. The first decision opened the donation floodgates; the second one ruled that government may restrict political contributions only to target quid pro quo corruption. This corruption is far more difficult to prove that the former criteria of “the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.” As a result, 25,000 people made 40 percent of the donations to 2016 campaign funds, compared to the 16 percent of the contributions that came from the elite in 1980. With the advantage of McCutcheon and the high stakes for the 2016 election, the percentage will most likely go beyond 50 percent, giving 25,000 people a greater voice than the other 125 million donors in the United States.

donations chartSheldon Adelson gave over $100 million to 2012 political campaigns. Jeb Bush could give Adelson an estimated $139.7 million tax break by eliminating the federal capital gains tax. Cruz could give him $144.1 million, and Rick Perry could give $141.9 million. Scott Walker would be far more generous in shifting tax liability from the rich to working families. The Koch brothers plan to donate at least $1 billion in the current round. The wealthy look at their donations at merely an investment in future fortunes.

December 10, 2014

GOP Offers Sample of Next Two Years in Spending Bill

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 8:34 PM
Tags: , , ,

Without a renewal of government spending, the lights go off around the country in federal agencies in fewer than two days. Conservatives have been flexing their blackmail muscles by threatening to shut down the government again if they aren’t allowed to punish the president and get everything that they want. Today, the House tackled the “cromnibus,” a spending bill that encompasses 11 appropriations bills covering most of the government for the rest of fiscal 2015 and one continuing resolution that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February.

One fight leading up to the bill was an argument over the renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act that supports businesses in case of an attack. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were on the verge of an agreement, but Hensarling insisted on the repeal of a Dodd-Frank rule that ensures banks don’t engage in risky derivatives trading. If the provision becomes law, banks can then gamble with money insured by the FDIC leading to another taxpayer-funded bailout of big banks like the 2008 collapse. Wall Street institutions spent over $435.9 million this year to buy people in Congress, hoping that their investment pays off.

The $1.1 trillion dollar spending package has a number of problematic issues:

Campaign donations: One great benefit for Republicans is found on Page 1,599, four pages before the end of the 1,603-page bill. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) provision would increases the maximum amount lawmakers can solicit from individual donors for their party committees each election from $259,200 to $1,555,200, a 500-percent increase. Who needs the increases from the Supreme Court when you have Page 1,599. To sweeten this pot, the bill also blocks the president from requiring federal contractors to disclose their political donations. Each corporation is already making $760 for every donated $1; the bill would make this profit skyrocket.

Native American land giveaway: Last week, the House voted to transfer 2,400 of Apache ancestral and ceremonial lands in the Tonto National Forest to Resolution Copper of Rio Tinto, owned by an Australian-English mining company. This location is used for coming-of-age ceremonies for girls and sunrise dancers. The Native Americans would be sealed off from acorn grounds, medicinal plants, and prayer areas. When Apache leaders attended the White House Tribal National conference, they learned that the provision will be part of the spending bill.

Closed internet: While the Federal Communications Commission is gearing up to announce historic open Internet rules in early 2015 (hopefully), this bill would freeze their funding at $340 million. If passed, big telecoms, who gave millions to members of Congress this election, get their money back plus a lot more.

Loss of birth control: The “conscience clause” allows all employers to opt out of the requirement to provide birth control in its insurance policies—sort of a forerunner to GOP plans to pass restrictive anti-abortion legislation in the coming year.

Defunding ACORN: Another ludicrous, continued fight from the far right is against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an anti-poverty nonprofit staffed by low-income people. A bill this past week would deny ACORN any funds. ACORN folded four and a half years ago with no hint of resurrection. With the Congressional majority next year, the GOP can successfully pass this bill, and the president will probably sign it—because THERE IS NO ACORN!

Big government control of Washington, D.C.: Residents of Washington, D.C pay federal taxes but have no control over their laws because Congress controls the city’s policies. After declaring that the city cannot have the gun-sense laws that they want, GOP congressional members have decided to stop Washington’s legalization of up to two ounces of marijuana for adult recreational use. Democrats don’t care about the city’s new law, and Republicans believe in small federal government with local control—unless they don’t like how the locals control themselves. The bill doesn’t overturn the marijuana law, but it prevents Washington from spending any time or resources to get permission from Congress.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) spearheaded the bill because of possible health risks. The question here might be whether a GOP Congress will try to overturn the new laws in Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon, and Washington state that legalized recreationalized marijuana. Or the 23 other states that have legalized medical and/or decriminatized marijuana use, including Harris’ home state of Maryland. [Green – recreational/medical; dark blue – medical/decriminalized; light blue – medical; teal – decriminalized]

Map-of-US-state-cannabis-laws.svg

Decreased truck safety: A proposed rider would remove truck drivers’ safety requirements which mandate the time periods of truckers’ rest periods. Taking away these requirements would extend the maximum time per week from 70 to 82 hours. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has been vocal about an increase in the hours because the American Trucking Associations’ lobby has convinced her that fewer hours means more trucks on the road during daylight hours. Last summer, a Walmart tractor trailer crash put comedian Tracy Morgan into a coma, killed his friend, and left two other passengers of the struck limousine with serious injuries. Kevin Roper, the truck driver, had gone 24 hours without sleeping.

Cuts to IRS: In revenge against a misguided believe that the IRS attacked conservative PACs, the GOP has cut enforcement funding in the bill’s provisions to under $4.9 billion, the second significant cut in two years. The cuts would benefit the fat cats that the GOP represents because reduced funding means decreased investigation into income tax fraud.

Benefits to the wealthy: Another cut would also benefit the wealthy if the budget for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) loses $30 million from last year, down to $250 million. It also requires 20 percent of the budget to be used for information technology which decreases money for staff to regulate the financial industry. The CFTC is already unstaffed.

Increasing homelessness: The homeless and low-income families would suffer from the loss of $300 million for permanent supportive housing programs for the homeless and funding for low-income housing would be kept flat.

Cuts to student loan: The $303 million cut from Pell Grants for low-income college students would be given to student loan debt collectors. At this time, the Pell program is operating at a surplus, but last year’s money-shuffling created a shortfall in payments to the companies.

Environment: The GOP has taken whacks at the environment, including a $60 million-cut for the EPA staff in cleaning up Superfund sites and enforcing basic public health protections to 1989 levels. Other provisions would block prohibition of funds to regulate lead in ammunition and fishing, to help developing nations deal with climate change through the Green Climate Fund, and to “implement or enforce” standards for light bulb efficiency.

There is good news for the Pentagon and Israel.  The Pentagon can buy 38 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, nine more than last year; and Israel gets $619.8, including $175 million for the Iron Dome missile-defense system to add to the $225 million that the U.S. gave the Iron Dome just four months ago. The F-35 weapons system flies only in good weather, and computers lack software necessary for combat. Last summer, one of the $100-million-dollar behemoths caught fire and was destroyed. Luckily for Lockheed Martin, the U.S. keeps pouring money into its mistakes.

Moving to the absurd, the cromnibus bill requires the Secretary of Defense to report to congressional defense committees the progress in carrying out revised grooming standards. The issue emerged when black female service members stated that descriptions of certain hair styles were “offensive and discriminatory.” Obviously this is as important as keeping the homeless without shelter.

All seems to be quiet tonight before a possible vote tomorrow. Passing the bill may be difficult if Democrats oppose it because the conservatives think that the bill doesn’t provide sufficient punishment for the president. The Tea Party strategy may be to pass a Continuing Resolution that funds the government for one month before the GOP strips the country of the resources that it gives to the wealthy.

July 27, 2013

House Paid to Vote Security over Privacy

Many people, including myself, may not know that the conservative Supreme Court chief justice picks the super secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that has become less secret since Edward Snowden made his announcements about the National Security Agency spying on all the people in the United States. Ten of the court’s 11 judge, appointed to the bench by GOP presidents, have been assigned to this all-important court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

The court’s conservative bent—maybe more of a far-right curve—will most likely give it a tendency to follow NSA’s desire to expand its spying program. Roberts’s assignments have been far less ideologically diverse than those of the two previous chief justices, Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, despite their own conservative leanings. Robert’s assignments have been 86 percent GOP appointees, compared to the 66 percent GOP appointees by the other two justices.

“Viewing this data, people with responsibility for national security ought to be very concerned about the impression and appearance, if not the reality, of bias—for favoring the executive branch in its applications for warrants and other action,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  He proposed that each of the chief judges of the 12 major appeals courts select one district judge for FISC. The chief justice could still select the review panel that hears appeals of the court’s decision, but the selection would have to be approved by six other Supreme Court justices. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) has introduced a bill moving the selection of FISC judges to the president.

When FISC was established as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 35 years ago, its purpose was to review applications for wiretaps regarding whether there was sufficient evidence that the FBI’s targeted person was a foreign terrorist or spy. As recently as 2005, according to former FISC Judge James Robertson, “In my experience, there weren’t any opinions. You approved a warrant application or you didn’t—period.”

Midway through the George W. Bush administration, the executive branch sought and obtained the court’s legal blessing to continue secret surveillance programs that had originally circumvented the FISA process. In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to allow NSA to continue the Bush warrantless program supposedly only on foreigners abroad. The court was allowed to create rules for the program, giving it the power of an administrative agency that makes rules for others to follow. Robertson said, “That’s not the bailiwick of judges. Judges don’t make policy.”

Rulings have greatly expanded to lengthy ones that interpret the meaning of surveillance laws and constitutional rights instead of the former up-or-down approvals of secret wiretap applications. Court decisions are classified with no opportunity for contrary arguments or appeals if the government wins the case. The public doesn’t know what FISC determines—sort of like a person on the “do not fly” list not knowing they are there until they try to fly or not knowing whether they’ve successfully gotten off until they try to board a plane.

At least no one knew what the court was doing until Snowden released information about an order to a Verizon subsidiary requiring it to submit three months of calling records for all customers, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, Reagan’s appointee who tried to strike down Obamacare.

Blumenthal, a past U.S. attorney and state prosecutor, said that executive branch lawyers were more likely to have a “get the bad guys” mentality and cooperate in giving the Justice Department unlimited surveillance powers. Vinson has been replaced with Michael W. Mosman, a federal prosecutor; Raymond J. Dearie, a United States attorney; Reggie B. Walton, a prosecutor who also worked on drug and crime issues for the White House; and F. Dennis Saylor IV, chief of staff in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The only Democratic appointee, Judge Mary A. McLaughlin, was also a prosecutor.

The only requirement for selection of judges is geographic diversity. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) has filed a bill allowing Congressional leaders to pick eight of the court’s members because the court should have a more diverse membership.

Last week, the House voted 217-205 not to check NSA’s phone-spying dragnet, with 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans voting to not fund the phone-call collection program. In a Guardian article, Glenn Greenwald gives a vivid detailed picture of the peculiar coalition that voted to continue the NSA program. Conservative Republicans against the president’s administrative abuse of power joined liberal Democrats opposed to intrusive intelligence programs.

President Obama’s strongest support in war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, and secrecy comes from the radical far-right GOP party. Pro-war and anti-Muslim Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has given extensive praise to the president as did Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who repeatedly warned that NSA bulk spying on U.S. citizens was necessary to stop “Islamic jihadists.” The conservative wing of the Supreme Court supported the president in his argument that plaintiffs objecting to surveillance lack standing to sue because the NSA successfully conceals the identity of which Americans are subjected to the surveillance. Thus government wiretapping laws cannot be challenged in court.

An analysis of campaign donations for the bill shows that House members who voted to continue NSA’s metadata spy program collected 122 percent more money from defense and intelligence contractors than those who voted against it. Firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, and Honeywell International donated almost $13 million for the years 2011-12. Legislators who voted for NSA’s program averaged $41,635; the naysayers averaged $18,765. Only one of the top ten money makers, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) voted against the program.

Tea Party member Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who proposed the bill with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), got $1,400, which put him in the bottom 50 in donations. Rep. Howard McKeon (R-CA), who voted to continue the surveillance, led the House in defense contributions with $526,000. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) voted against the measure and ranked 15th in defense earnings with a $131,000 take. Another vote to keep the surveillance came from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who got $47,000 from defense firms during the two-year period.

Two 2016 GOP presidential wannabes showed the differences among the GOP membership regarding the surveillance program. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s “strain of libertarianism” on national security “very dangerous.” Paul retorted in a tweet:

“Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.”

The two men are topping the list of a very diverse—let’s say wingnut—set of potential candidates for the GOP primary.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will ‘live to regret it’ if it fails to do so. That time is getting closer. The Pentagon is sending two blimps to hover over Washington that can surveil the area for 320 miles in every direction. The ostensible reason is to look for threats.

The question is what else they will see while they’re 10,000 feet up in the air looking at an area from Niagara Falls (NY) to North Carolina. I agree with Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information center, when he said, “When the government is conducting real-time aerial surveillance within the United States, there are privacy issues that need to be addressed.”

If you wonder how legislators feel about privacy, follow the money.

October 5, 2012

Lies, Hypocrisy from the Right

Busy news day! So much news, so few words.

Yesterday I gave a source for Mitt Romney’s 27 lies at Wednesday’s debate. He’s been busy this week; Steve Benen has recorded 50 for the week. It fits with that old joke, “How do you know when (fill-in-the-blank) is lying? …”

After Romney’s statement 17 days ago that 47 percent of the people in this country are freeloaders, he said his choice of words were “inelegantly” stated. Two weeks later another Romney persona is saying that he was “completely wrong.” Would the real Romney please …?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that payrolls expanded by 114,000 last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. That’s such good news that former GE CEO Jack Welch tweeted that the books were cooked. Although there is no evidence of this, other conservatives are also insinuating that the figures are rigged.  For conservatives, bad job numbers are cheered; good job numbers are accused of being false.

In fact, 873,000 Americans reported having found jobs in September (in the so-called household survey), the most since 1983, and 1.3 million job s were added this year. The labor force grew by 418,000 people, so the drop in the unemployment rate was not due to people giving up on looking for work the say that Romney claims. After shedding over 800,000 jobs in the past few years, the public sector added 10,000 jobs this last month. The unemployment rate would be under 7 percent without public sector jobs cuts, and the American Jobs Act that Republicans filibustered in Congress would have added millions of jobs, according to economists. And earnings rose 7 cents to $23.58. Average hourly earnings have risen by 1.8 percent over the last year.

There was a time when Supreme Court justices didn’t announce their rulings before they heard the cases. Justice Antonin Scalia has changed that policy as shown by a speech in Washington last March. Claiming to be a constitutional “textualist,” he knows how the framers of the Constitution thought. “The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state,” Scalia said at the American Enterprise Institute. It’s pretty obvious how he’ll vote on any marriage-equality cases. He doesn’t even need to show up and listen to the lawyers.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who is running for re-election, considers Scalia a “model Supreme Court justice,” and Romney’s website states, “As president, Mitt will nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.”

In spite of Romney’s determination to voucherize Medicare, the public—including conservatives—are opposed to this plan. With a 59 percent–37 percent margin favored continuing Medicare as it is today, the public rejects giving seniors a fixed amount of money to purchase either a private health plan or traditional Medicare. That’s the Kaiser Health Tracking poll; the CBS News/New York Times poll supports the current Medicare system more strongly with 78 percent of respondents favoring the current system and 14 percent recommending a change to giving seniors a fixed amount on money to purchase health insurance.

A while back Murray Energy coal miners in Beallsville (OH) were required to provide an unpaid backdrop for a Romney campaign appearance. Since then it has been revealed that these employees are also coerced into donating to Romney’s campaign and attending political fundraisers. Those who don’t, get scolded, and their names are put on a list sent to employees. This coercion has resulted in more than $1.4 million for Republican companies since 2007 and $120,000 for Romney from the 11 Murray subsidiaries.

Supervisors tell employees when they are hired that they are expected to contribute to the company PAC by automatic payroll deduction—typically 1 percent of their salary, a level confirmed by a 2008 letter to employees from the PAC’s treasurer. Although the letter tells employees that they won’t be “disadvantaged” if they don’t give, there is a reference to their bonus in a veiled threat about losing it without donations. That letter also assures employees that they would not be “disadvantaged” by not giving, but Bob Murray wrote in a March 2012 letter. “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.”  And it’s all “legal.”

People who want to prevent abortions might heed a new study showing that free birth control drastically reduces the number of abortions and births to teenage girls.  The study’s participants were 9,200 low-income women in the St. Louis area during a four-year Contraceptive CHOICE study. Birth rates among the teens who received free birth control in the CHOICE project were less than a fifth of the national teen birth rate,  just 6.3 births per 1,000 teens as compared to 34.3 per 1,000 teens nationwide in 2010, and abortion rates were less than half of both the regional and national rates.

Women of reproductive age currently spend about 68 percent more than men do on out-of-pocket health care costs, partly because of high contraception costs. A year’s supply of oral birth control pills typically costs over $1,200. Nearly one in three U.S. women report they have stopped using their preferred contraceptive method, or used it less consistently and effectively, at some point because they could not afford it. Yet conservatives are determined to stop the Affordable Health Care Act’s mandate on free birth control for women.

What issues should polled under the term “values”? The National Election Pool exit polls determined that religious conservatives were most concerned about abortion and marriage equality. The reason is probably that such topics as poverty, environment, health care, and the Iraq War weren’t listed as “values.” After the Center for American Progress conducted a similar poll but asked questions differently and broadened the definition of values to include a wider range of issues, 64 percent of the respondents said that “poverty and economic justice” and “greed and materialism” were the most urgent moral problems facing America. Only 27 percent cited abortion and marriage equality.

This year the National Election Pool will not conduct exit polls this year in 19 states not considered to be competitive; that’s 38 percent of the country. Evidently issues only matter if the selection of president is in question. Information about voters in those states–age, race, sex and other pertinent data–will not be available from these states, most of which end to trend conservative.

When I read an article about Rick Santorum suggesting that Big Bird should not only be killed but also eaten, I wondered if it was a parody. It wasn’t. According to the video, Santorum said, “You can kill things and still like them, maybe to eat them.”

For anyone who lives under the delusion that we live in a post-racial nation, the following excerpts from a new book by a Republican in the Arkansas House of Representatives, Jon Hubbard, may disabuse this notion. In  Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, Hubbard writes: 

“… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (Pages 183-89)

“[African Americans must] understand that even while in the throes of slavery, their lives as Americans are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa.”“Knowing what we know today about life on the African continent, would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?” (Pages 93 and 189)

“… one of the stated purposes of school integration was to bring black students up to a level close to that of white students. But, to the great disappointment of everyone, the results of this theory worked exactly in reverse of its intended purpose, and instead of black students rising to the educational levels previously attained by white students, the white students dropped to the level of black students. To make matters worse the lack of discipline and ambition of black students soon became shared by their white classmates, and our educational system has been in a steady decline ever since.” (Page 27)

“American Christians are assuming a similar stance as did the citizens of Germany during Hitler’s rise to power.” (Page 158)

Thus it appears that conservatives want to reward lies, erase government, raise the number of abortions (illegal, of course), force employees to contribute to campaigns whether they want to or not, bring back slavery, and eat Big Bird. What a group!

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