Nel's New Day

June 12, 2015

Graham, Perry Enlarge GOP Presidential Field

Two GOP presidential candidates added themselves to the mix last week, increasing the field by 25 percent to ten. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) brings the number of senators, either current or former, to five—half the string. With little chance for success, he may be angling for the vice-presidential seat. Although he tried to be coy about his running, he did slip up a couple of weeks before the formal declaration when he said, In a slip over two weeks before his formal declaration, Graham said, “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart. I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy,” Graham said.

Graham claims that he has “more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race” and then added, “That includes you, Hillary.”The so-called expertise may not survive the light of day. He claimed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and now thinks that the U.S. president can secretly order the killing of U.S. citizens. Terrorist suspects don’t deserve rights as U.S. citizens because “the homeland is the battlefield.” He would also violate the First Amendment because “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” According to Graham, there is a connection between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the 2012 attack on the Benghazi diplomatic embassy.

Graham has said “don’t vote for me” if you don’t want to sent U.S. soldiers back to war in Iraq. He said, “The only way I know to defend this country is to send some of us back to Iraq and eventually to Syria, to dig these guys out of the ground, destroy the caliphate, kill as many of the as you can, hold territory, and help people over there help themselves.” Three of the four factions in the Syrian civil war don’t want U.S. intrusion, and that’s where Graham wants U.S. soldiers to go.

Not satisfied with stopping at attacks in Iraq, Graham would move the war to Iran because “there are no moderates in Iran.” According to Graham, “Everything that starts with ‘Al’ in the Middle East is bad news.” The “expert” doesn’t know that “al” is Arabic for “the.” Graham’s experience working in a poolroom as a teenager furthered his understanding of Iranians. “Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” he said. “I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.” So says the bigoted GOP voice on international affairs.

Graham is so intent to extend funding for the military that he “wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to.” The “fix” is to remove the sequester caps for the military while starving the rest of the country. While complaining about the excessive debt, he wants to add to it with more wars.

Graham’s longtime political adviser, consultant, and pollster was a neo-Confederate magazine editor from the early 1980s until the early 2000s. Richard Quinn was listed as the editor-in-chief of the Southern Partisan. As editor, Quinn wrote that Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the Civil Rights movement was “to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul” and called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and a “bad egg.” Quinn also supported David Duke.  In his desire to lead a political party that admits it needs to demographically diversify, Graham declared, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Graham brags that he has never sent an email. That might not be notable except for his position on a technology subcommittee where he votes on, and even introduces bills about the internet.

Since Caitlyn Jenner’s portrait appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, conservatives have struggled with reactions. On a CNN news show, Graham said, “If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy — vote for me.” Then he continued by saying that he’s pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, but Jenner is welcome in his party. He wants her vote but won’t give her equal rights because Jenner is attracted to other women. As a senator, Graham opposed marriage equality, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He should understand the need for LGBT rights because of the ongoing rumors about his being gay.

In his preoccupation with fear, Graham said, “We have never seen more threats against our nation and its citizens than we do today.” That seems to include both world wars, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Two hundred years ago, the British literally set fire to the White House while Abigail Adams fled with George Washington’s portrait. The Civil War killed 620,000 people in the U.S.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry is also on the GOP presidential campaign trail. Even with the heavy black frames on his glasses, he is still searching for an intelligent way to express himself. He admitted that the wealthiest Texas got the largest earnings growth but said that income inequality isn’t a problem in Texas. “We don’t grapple with that here,” he said, ignoring the state being seventh-worst in the rich and poor gap in 2012. He added, “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”

When MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked him if he was smart enough to be the president, he responded:

“Running for the presidency’s not an IQ test. It is a test of an individual’s resolve. It’s a test of an individual’s philosophy. It’s a test of an individual’s life experiences.”

Despite the devastating drought following by horrendous floods in his state, Perry sticks to his skepticism regarding climate change. He follows the rest of the GOP pack with the “I’m not a scientist” line and says that “calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country.” Perry has a track record of fighting the EPA, and Texas has passed a law banning the ability of any city or other municipality to ban fracking.

Other Perry beliefs:

  • Social Security And Medicare Are Unconstitutional. In spite of the constitutional right to “lay and collect taxes” in order to “pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” Perry thinks that the Founding Fathers had a different definition of “general welfare.”
  • All Other Federal Health Programs Are Also Unconstitutional.
  • Federal Education Programs Are Unconstitutional.
  • Nearly All Federal Laws Protecting Workers Are Unconstitutional.
  • Federal Financial Reform Is Unconstitutional.
  • Voters Should Not Be Able To Choose Their Own Senators. Gerrymandering has turned a majority of states over the GOP, so Republicans are in favor of state legislators’ appointing senators, instead of following the popular election created by the Seventeenth Amendment.
  • Taxing Investment Income Should Be Unconstitutional. Perry wants a wealthy heir to pay no taxes although his workers would not have the same advantage. A Supreme Court decision agreed with Perry in 1895 before the 16th Amendment gave Congress the right to collect taxes.

By refusing federal aid, Perry not only took health insurance from one-fourth of the Texas population but also refused $100 billion in federal funding for the over one million struggling families in the state. He took pride in the fact that he governed the state with the biggest number of uninsured people. Just the 24 lawsuits against the federal government between 2009 and 2012 cost Texas taxpayers more than $2 million. Perry’s actions have forced hospitals to suffer losses of over $5 billion each year. The expansion of the healthcare program would create over 300,000 jobs and add $3 billion to the Texas economy in ten years.

Perry told Glenn Beck that the country would have a real advantage with him as president:  conspiracy theorists wouldn’t think that President Rick Perry would invade Texas. He does have the unique qualification of being under indictment for abuse of power and coercion of a public servant while governor.

In some polls, Perry moves between three and five percent although a couple of them don’t mention him. Lindsay appears an almost none of them and even comes in fourth in South Carolina’s poll.

Next week’s announcement may be Jeb Bush. He’s finally embarrassed enough about being a non-candidate to say that he’s entering the fray on June 15. Another opportunity to get an impression of what the United States could be if one of these people gets elected in 2016.

May 16, 2015

Eight-second Bits for Your Weekend

gallery-thumbnailsTwitter has reduced information to 144 characters, and texting has decreased communication to far shorter bits. With the industrialized world concentrating on the brevity of technology, people now lose concentration after eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. To put this bit of information into perspective, the average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds. The following information has been chopped up into eight-second—or less—sections.

The media has been abuzz with Jeb Bush’s whirling this past week that went much farther than flip-flopping. Asked whether he would have attacked Iraq if he knew then what the world knows now, he produced a series of answers: yes, I misheard, I misinterpreted, I can’t answer because it’s a hypothetical, I can’t answer because it does a “disservice” to people in the service, and finally—or most recently—“I would not invade.”

A non-scientific poll of over 2,000 Republican voters has put Jeb at .85 percent, somewhere below Sarah Palin write-ins. In the same poll, 60 percent of the respondents said that they wouldn’t vote for a president in 2016 if he were the candidate. And that was before the problems in the past week. We can look forward to the next “scientific” survey to see if that opinion holds.

bush graphHouse Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) likes Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), saying that “he showed he was fairly deft in his ability to smoothly answer those same questions.” Chaffetz might be questioned about his opinion after Rubio’s speech last weekend at South Carolina’s “Freedom Summit” when Rubio told the audience that his approach to terrorism comes from the film Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.” Rubio might want to polish his policy a little.

Who’s the “greatest living president”? CNN’s Chris Moody asked this question of several possible and real GOP presidential candidates at the “Freedom Summit” event. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Donald Trump came up with Ronald Reagan. (For those who haven’t kept up with recent events, he died almost 11 years ago, and the question didn’t ask “alive in our hearts.”)

Republicans can’t say Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama which leaves them with a Bush—both of whom invaded the Middle East. Reagan is about all the GOP has, however, because Bush II caused the Middle East problems, Bush I raised taxes, Nixon had to resign, and Hoover started the Great Recession. That leaves Eisenhower who developed a great deal of the country’s infrastructure, and the GOP hates infrastructure.

A Public Policy Poll determined that only 40 percent of Republicans think that the U.S. doesn’t plan to invade Texas—forgetting that Texas is part of the U.S. Almost one-third of GOP voters think the government wants “to take over Texas,” and another 28 percent aren’t sure. The strongest believers are supporters of Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick. Among Tea Partiers, half said yes to the idea of a conspiracy, and 25 percent aren’t sure. That leaves only one-fourth of Tea Partiers who don’t believe in the myth. (For those leaning toward belief in the takeover, Jade Helm 15 is a military exercise to train people for the Middle East.)

“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” according to both Lord Acton and later George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Several state legislators have suffered from this problem in the past year. New York’s criminal indictment against the Democrat state Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, in January was preceded by indictments against Republican House Speakers Bobby Harrell (SC) and Mike Hubbard (AL)–all for misuse of money. The most recent criminal indictment against a state House Speaker, however, was against Missouri’s John Diehl for sexual texting with a teenage intern. The texts were discovered in April, but Diehl denied them until this past week when he confessed. The anti-birth control, anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-safety net, anti-health care, anti-union, pro-family values House Speaker then waited a few days to resign, probably hoping that his problems would blow over. The 49-year-old ex-House Speaker is married with three children. Missouri Family Policy Council, the state affiliate of the Family Research Council, had earlier praised the speaker “for demonstrating moral leadership and true integrity”; Diehl’s website features “personal responsibility.”

In Vermont, state Sen. Norm McAllister, one of nine Republicans n the 30-member chamber, refuses to resign while facing felony sexual-assault charges. Charges include sexual assault and prohibited acts for demanding sex from tenants to offset rent payments, raping an employee, and attempting to have a woman provide sex to farm workers. The dairy and goat farmer lost a possible $20,000 agricultural grant for his farm after his arrest, and conviction could mean a life sentence. He can keep legislative his seat until then.

What’s more pathetic than a man going blind because he refused to get “Obamacare”? Maybe blaming his lack of health insurance on President Obama. South Carolina self-employed Luis Lang, 49, lives in a house worth $300,000 and used to take pride in not having health insurance. After a series of mini-strokes, bleeding in his eye, and a partially-detached retina tied to diabetes cost him almost $10,000 in health care, he changed his mind. The Affordable Care Act would have let him get a subsidy for health insurance because his income/assets were too high for Medicaid and he couldn’t be turned down for pre-existing conditions. Lang decided to get insurance a few weeks after the 2015 enrollment deadline, and Medicaid isn’t a possibility because South Carolina refuses to expand the program, free to the state with federal dollars.

Lang and his wife blame President Obama and congressional Democrats. Mary Lang said, “[My husband] should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues. We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.” Where was she when he could have enrolled 30 months ago? According to his (semi-illiterate) GoFundMe page, he knew about his serious health problems 18 months ago. The Langs learned absolutely nothing about the disaster they have made of their lives because they hate the president and the Democrats. suggested a way to solve Lang’s dilemma: the new Apple Watch. During a stop in Tempe (AZ), Jeb Bush suggested that people won’t need health care insurance in the future because of the Watch’s health apps. Jeb’s using his Watch to lose weight with the Paleo diet, the latest trendy diet, which is high in saturated fats by trying to replicate what people assume a diet from two million years ago. Some people swear by it; other studies show that it may cause brain change such as a “know-it-all” attitude, dementia, and memory loss. Maybe that was Jeb’s problem with answer the question about attacking Iraq again.

North Carolina has suffered from accusations of unconstitutional voter practices, but officials may not escape the most recent one. Federal law requires states to encourage voter registration in every state office, including public assistance and motor vehicle, but an analysis shows that the inauguration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013 caused the program to collapse. Up to 40,000 poverty-level citizens in the state may have been disenfranchised because 75 percent of visitors to state public assistance offices were never asked if they wanted to vote. Many offices don’t even stock voter registration application forms. Although the state Department of Health and Human Services expressed surprise at the finding, the State Board of Elections said they had been trying to get the DHHS to address to the issue and proved it with over 60 emails and calendar entries for meetings.

Ohio plans a more direct approach to eliminate low-income voters: 24 GOP members of the state House have co-sponsored a bill to charge Ohio citizens for the ID card required for voting, in essence a poll tax forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. Legislators claim that this will stop voter fraud, a problem found in 0.002397 percent of votes cast in the 2012 election. The bill exempts individuals with an annual income of $11,770 in 2015, but it’s still unconstitutional.

All news is not bad. The Vatican is preparing to sign a treaty which will recognize Palestine as a country. Israel, which refuses to grant legitimacy to their neighboring country, and the U.S. right-wing will have another reason to hate Pope Francis.


In an oddity from Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that President Obama’s sociability—or lack thereof—has “no effect on policy.” He said that the two of them didn’t do much together because “we don’t agree on much.” Conservative columnist David Brooks has argued that the president and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) could understand each other better if the legislator were invited to the White House for lunch. Brooks thinks that schmoozing makes all the difference. Lots of other people have agreed with Brooks. McConnell has blown up the urban myth.


gallery-thumbnailsNow you can check your goldfish to see how long it pays attention to you.

March 2, 2015

Send in the Clowns to CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference last week started with speaker Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) saying that the GOP needs to support and elect “principled, positive, and proven” conservative candidates instead of rewarding “the guy who can shout “freedom” the loudest.  In other words, stop sending in the clowns. Nobody took his advice.

Some CPAC messages: waterboarding works, the Muslim Brotherhood controls one-third of all mosques in the U.S., and the nation is currently experiencing Islam’s “third great jihad.”

tomi lahrenSouth Dakota TV host Tomi Lahren, 22, explained that women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren can be classified as male because they get attention through their words and wisdom. Then she said she wasn’t apologizing for being white and she’s rich because she grew up in South Dakota. She concluded, “Let’s look at the top three Democrats for 2016. You’ve got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden? Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits, male too?” She also doesn’t want the government near her body, so that would make her pro-choice if she thought about it. This may be a rising GOP star!

Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said, “Bring your Bible to the Oval Office, and your woman, ’cause the hippies are coming to get you.” No one seems to know what he meant although the rest of the speech concerned the possibility of Republicans getting sexually transmitted diseases.

Heritage Foundation vice-president Jennifer Marshall said that the three legs of the conservative stool are marriage, small government and a stable economy because “the sexual revolution has made relationships between men and women much more challenging.” Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute followed up by saying that poverty can be erased “by having stable, two-parent households.” Poverty might be eradicated by just having “stable” households.

Donald Trump still questions the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, and Rick Santorum gave a birtherism “joke”: “The president’s popularity is so bad around the world today that I heard this report from a source that the Kenyan government is actually developing proof that Barack Obama was born in America.” Both men were greeted with silence.

Trump also said he would be the best commander-in-chief because he has the best skills to negotiate with terrorists. Trying to follow the GOP mantra of non-negotiation, however, he said he would “hit [ISIL] really hard,” maybe with “some boots on the ground for a period of time until you get rid of the cancer.” Then he would put lots of sanctions on Iran despite Iran’s opposition to ISIL. As for the national debt, the man who has personally filed bankruptcy declared:

“I understand debt, I understand business better than anybody that’s ever run, in my opinion, for office. Nobody’s had the success, in a business sense that I’ve had. I know how to get rid of debt… and I would do it quickly.”

Governors don’t know enough about foreign affairs to be president, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), trying to flaunt his personal knowledge. His strategy to defeat ISIL: defeat them “on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States.” Although a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he claims that the president doesn’t have a military strategy “because he doesn’t want to upset Iran.” ISIL and Iran are actually enemies, and Iran has already gone after ISIL targets. The president has already launched a military offensive against ISIL targets, as Rubio suggests. Rubio wants “a sustained air campaign,” increased  “efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria,” arming and supporting “forces in Iraq confronting it,” and work with “with nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it”—everything that President Obama is already doing.

Triangulation in politics: exploiting public disapproval of both major parties by separating from both. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) approach: GOP congressional leaders have sold out to Democrats on immigration, and people should support him because he’ll be farther right than all those Washington “politicians.” He wants everyone to stand up to the Republicans.

Sarah Palin inadvertently skewered leading GOP candidates for president when she said:

“It’s said that old men declare wars, and then they send the young ones to fight ‘em. So it’s the duty of he who sends them to actually make sure that we can win those wars. And it’s our duty to elect an honorable commander-in-chief who is willing to make the same sacrifices he sends others away to make.”

That lets out those who didn’t serve, some of whom actually dodged the draft: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and perhaps a few others.

The biggest reaction from the media, however, came from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s comparison of Wisconsin protesters and ISIL: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Non-violent Wisconsin protesters didn’t hold hostages, behead people, or burn them alive; they just marched, chanted, held signs, and sang. Walker, however, equates U.S. citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights with violent terrorists killing people and blowing up the infrastructure.

joan walker

Walker’s spokesperson tried to cover for him by saying that he wasn’t comparing the protesters to ISIL, but Walker made the situation worse when he said, “That’s the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there’s any parallel between the two.” In other words, he admitted he has no experience with terrorism. Even Jim Geraghty wrote in the highly conservative National Review that “Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”

Walker's protesters These are some of Walker’s ISIL look-alikes in Wisconsin. More images are available here.


Walker’s CPAC comment followed his claim a week earlier that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was then-President Ronald Reagan’s move to break up the union for the air traffic controllers by firing about 11,000 of them during a 1981 strike. He explained that this event proved to countries throughout the world that “we weren’t to be messed with.” Walker, 47, missed two wars in Iraq, START treaties, Nixon in China, ending the Vietnam War, the Camp David Accords, negotiation of the Northern Ireland peace process, Osama bin Laden’s death, the Iranian hostage crisis, wars in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran/Contra, and much more.  Foes around the world also didn’t stop “messing” with the United States after 11,000 people lost their jobs. Walker’s naïve statements show his approach toward foreign affairs.   Walker and ISIL militants have something in common: their hatred for unions. Walker may also not know that Reagan supported unions in other parts of the world.

Mark Salter, a top adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign added this comment to an article about Walker on Salter’s Facebook page:

“I want to like him but Scott Walker is kind of a dumb ass.”

Matt Taibbi called Scott Walker, “God’s Gift to the Democratic Party.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came out the winner of the CPAC with over one-fourth of the votes. Koch-supported Walker got 21.4 percent among the 17 GOP contenders, and Cruz, with 11.5 percent, was third. Fourth and fifth were Ben Carson (11.4 percent) and Jeb Bush (8.3 percent). Some of his votes probably came from the people he bussed in from downtown Washington, D.C. The remainder of the wannabes got under 5 percent. Paul had a position that everyone can agree with: “It’s time for a new president.” That’s because of term limits for U.S. president. Of the 3,007 CPAC voters, 42 percent were students.

A report from Pew Research Center released last week shows that “majorities say the Democratic Party is open and tolerant, cares about the middle class and is not ‘too extreme.’ By contrast, most Americans see the G.O.P. lacking in tolerance and empathy for the middle class, and half view it as too extreme.”

December 15, 2014

‘Scouting’ Exposes GOP Possible Pres Candidates

scouting bridgeHave you finished your holiday shopping yet? If you need one more item, you might consider this book. Intended to help GOP presidential candidates research their opponents—probably to tear them apart–it may also make a great gift to share with progressives and conservatives alike. You don’t even need to buy the guide; the pdf is available here.

Sections in the book include voting positions, key issues, “problems with the base,” and questions about effectiveness. Here are some samples from the 20 politicians described:

Letter from Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 1993 when he was the state’s agricultural commissioner:

“Dear Mrs. Clinton: I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable.” And it concludes: “Your efforts are worthy … Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.”

Currently, Perry is under indictment on abuse-of-power charges and two counts of felony abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. CNN reported that “the indictment alleges that the circumstances around Perry’s veto threat amounted to a misuse of state money earmarked by the Legislature.”

Jeb Bush: The GOP needs to get over its “nostalgia” for conservative icon Ronald Reagan, according to Bush. There are also questions about his $2-million payment as a board member of Tenet Health Care, which has endorsed the Affordable Care Act. When Bush joined the private equity advisory board at Lehman Brothers, the company sold more than $800 million worth of mortgage-backed securities to the Florida State Fund that defaulted in just four months and cost the state taxpayers $500 million. He also “supports instant background checks for gun-show purchases, an unpopular position with the NRA” and avoids attending NRA events.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich: He cast the “deciding vote” in the House to pass the 1994 assault weapons ban, and the NRA endorsed his Democratic opponent in 2010.

Mitt Romney: Newt Gingrich accused him of “looting companies” during Romney’s time at the private equity firm Bain Capital. A pro-Gingrich super PAC spent millions to produce and promote a 28-minute documentary, “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” portraying Romney as a heartless corporate raider. Perry and then Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) also attacked Romney for not releasing more information about his finances. [The only piece in the book is a photo with “Mitt Romney 2016?”]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: As U.S. attorney, he was legendary for escaping being ticketed and prosecuted after a variety of incidents such as hitting a motorcyclist while Christie drove the wrong way down a street and later driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle. He also has a long record of spending far more than travel expenses allowed.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): Illegally claiming to be a “board-certified” ophthalmologist, Rand’s only certification is from a board that he personally created and led—and that has been out of business since 2011.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: While a state representative In 1997, he wrote a bill requiring “out-of-state political committees to file reports with the state elections board that show the source of all funds spent in the State of Wisconsin” because  “Wisconsin voters have a right to know the source of all the money being poured into the state from Washington,D.C. and beyond.” Since then his campaign and the Republican Governors Association illegally worked with Americans for Prosperity and others to coordinate spending by outside special interest groups on Walker’s behalf, according to government prosecutors.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): Despite his opposition to government spending, his family’s business, RYAN, Inc., has accepted  more than $25 million in government subsidies since 1995.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): While speaker of the Florida House, he offended Republicans through spending $2.5 million on renovations to his office and expanding his roster of staffers. Between 2006 and 2008, he charged more than $100,000 on the Florida Republican party’s credit card, including over $10,000 for his family reunion, over $4,000 for flooring renovations to his home, and thousands of dollars for meals and car repairs as well as a haircut that cost $134.  He also double-billed the party and Florida taxpayers for plane tickets costing almost $3,000. In 2012, Rubio was fined $8,000 by the Federal Elections Commission for accepting more than $210,000 in illegal excessive or unreported donations from individuals and corporate PACs for his 2010 Senate campaign. His claims that his parents came to the United States after Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba in 1959 were proven false after the revelation that his parents’ visas, approved in 1956, stated that they wished to become permanent residents of the U.S. He also suffered from a flip-flop on immigration reform, first criticizing the McCain/Kennedy plan and then crafting a package much like the plan before again rejecting immigration reform.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: A series of ethics scandals began with her employment as fundraiser by the Lexington Medical Center while serving in the state house, allowing her to raise money for hospitals by companies with official business before the state.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Five of his many ethics probes from using government resources to accepting gifts and violating campaign finance law have resulted in official ethics violations. While governor, he received $112,000 in gifts and appointed his gift-givers to state boards. He also used public resources for his personal gain, taking gifted furniture from the governor’s office and using state funds earmarked for the governor’s mansion for personal expenses. The right criticizes him regarding his support for moving away from greenhouse gas energy sources and his support for cap and trade.

Louisiana Gov. Bobbie Jindal: While campaigning for governor in 2007, he missed more than 100 votes as a representative in the U.S. House. Jindal loved Common Core education before he sued the federal government because he said it was unconstitutional. Conservatives didn’t support either action because he promised to spend up to $275,000 on the lawsuit. After the last presidential election, he called the GOP the “party of stupid” before he changed his mind on that front too. Jindal also helped perform an exorcism on a female friend while he was in college.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence: Despite his ultra-conservative positions, he expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and refused to fight the Supreme Court after it removed the state’s ban on marriage equality, both of which upset the Tea Party.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez: She used taxpayer funds for personal luxuries such as $100,000 kitchen upgrade, a home gym renovation and high-end coffee maker for the governor’s mansion. Reports of other excessive expenditures follow her throughout her political history.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): His popularity has continued to drop since his insistence on the government shutdown in October 2013, and his recent debacle in the Senate leading to the confirmation of two dozen nominees, including the controversial Vivek Murthy for Surgeon General over the objections of the NRA, has made even the GOP unhappy with him.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): Conservatives are upset because of his support for the LGBT community in marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while moderates are upset because he supports free-trade agreements that outsource U.S. jobs. [Portman said last week that he won’t be running for president.]

Josh Bolton: He’s an aggressive bully with no social skills.

Ben Carson: His comments are over the edge: i.e., the Affordable Care Act is worse than the Jim Crow laws because it is slavery, and racist Cliven Bundy and his militia members are “upstanding people.”

Other potential candidates suffering from ethics issues: Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

The Conservative Review is doing the same thing from the opposite perspective—but equally enlightening. Here’s its piece about Jeb Bush. The conservative America Rising PAC also has an attack on Hillary Clinton in Failed Choices, but the verbiage is more hateful and less factual.

On both sides, it’s only the start.

May 8, 2014

Is Rick Perry Smarter Wearing Glasses?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is worried about me. I found that out when he talked on Sunday’s Meet the Press about his “family … the “90 million people that are out of work.” What he doesn’t know, however, is that in April the United States had 9.8 million unemployed people—a horrifying statistic but 80.2 fewer people than Perry cited.

Rick Perry

The Bureau of Labor Services did show 92.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 15 who were “not in the labor force.” I’m one of those because I retired several years ago. And I don’t plan to look for a job. Perry doesn’t need to worry about me.

I’m in good company: 36 million other people are 65 or older. Another 11 million teenagers, age 16 to 19, are unemployed—not looking for jobs. In the 20- to 24-year-old catgory, 6.8 million people, many of them still in college, aren’t looking for jobs. The rest are stay-at-home parents and/or spouses, early retirees, people who may have inherited money, and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be officially “unemployed,” someone without a job had to make an effort to get one within the four weeks before the BLS survey. Right now the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, evenly divided among those who haven’t looked for employment in the past year and those who have searched for work in the past year but not in the past four weeks.

Of those 9.8 million people, 6 million are actively searching for jobs, and 2.2 million are “marginally attached” to the labor force, those who looked for work within the past year and not the past four weeks. Others are “discouraged workers” who quit looking for jobs because they think there’s nothing available.

Perry leftPerry is also worried because “there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history, that’s just not right.” He’s correct: it’s not right. It’s the lowest rate since 1988, but the women’s labor force participation is almost twice as much as it was in 1948. Just like the overall labor force participation rate, the percentage of working women peaked in early 2000 and declined after that because the country’s population is aging. The decline is expected to continue because of that reason.

If Perry wants to worry, he should consider employment in his home state of Texas. Although he boasted about 95 percent of Texas workers earning above the minimum wage, the state was tied for first with Mississippi in 2010 for the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage. At that time, 9.5 percent of people in Texas earned at or below minimum wage. By 2013, Texas got better, moving to fifth worst among 50 states with the percentage dropping to 6.4. States with higher percentages are Tennessee (7.4 percent), Idaho, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Perry, however, is worried only about the “maximum wage,” not the minimum wage.

The appearance on Meet the Press—and the new glasses—are just part of the governor’s attempt to reinvent himself for the 2016 election after the gaffes of 2012. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel, traveled out of the country, and appealed to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He even spent some time at MSNBC with Joe Scarborough.

The “oops” times of cuddling a bottle of maple syrup in Vermont and the inability to remember three items—a traditional check for Alzheimers—might disappear if he had figured out how many people in the country are unemployed. That’s not likely to happen with comedians like Jon Stewart tracking such moments like the ones on last night’s The Daily Show. About Perry’s transition to a wiser man, Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant, said, “The margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12.”  Last night he did.

His current problems may not be as serious as those for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who closed an important bridge and failed to spend a large percentage of funds for Superstorm Sandy after over a year, but he’s still being investigated by a grand jury. He wanted to unseat Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and thought that he could succeed after her arrest for drunk driving. She refused to quit, and, as punishment, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public-integrity unit that traces fraud and corruption.

The Texas GOP has put the dismantling of the Public Integrity Unit into its platform for over three decades. One of its cases was the criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay for money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. Getting rid of Lehmberg would also mean that Perry could have named her replacement.

Lehmberg’s office was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, a pet project of Perry’s, when he decided that she had to go. Eighteen scientists, including the Nobel laureate director, had resigned in protest from the multibillion-dollar agency, claiming that investment decisions were made without scientific review with tens of millions of dollars going to Perry supporters and donors for their business ventures. A pending case concerns the indictment of an agency executive for an improperly awarded $11 million grant.

Prosecutors only need to show that Perry offered considerations in return for actions by District Attorney Lehmberg for him to be determined guilty of breaking a state law. A Travis County judge said that Lehmberg was told that funding would be restored, even after the veto, if she resigned. Grand jurors could easily see this behavior as bribery or coercion. Last year Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint for alleged abuse of power. That grand jury’s term expired, and a new one has been seated.

Technically, a guilty charge would put Perry in a worse position than Christie because obstructing justice is determined worse than blocking a thoroughfare. Unless, of course, the federal government discovers that Christie offered favors in exchange for Superstorm Sandy funds.

perry 1

Perry’s latest move is to pay Toyota $40 million to move from California to Texas. That’s $10,000 for each job, the highest rate of corporate welfare in a decade. The last time Texas was in fiscal trouble, Perry used billions of dollars in federal money for a bailout. His refusal to take Medicaid, however, stops him from using that solution again.

Humorist Andy Borowitz wrote, “With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters.” Perry forgot the second suggestion.

Decisions for both Christie and Perry may decide the fate of Jeb Bush. With them out of the way, the GOP might be forced to consider a third Bush for a presidential candidate.  But then Rick Perry can stop worry about me.

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