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The racist base of the GOP

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Not all in the GOP are racist, by any means. But there is a substantial block, particularly in the South. Paul Krugman points out in his NY Times column today:

. . . My own understanding of the role of race in U.S. exceptionalism was largely shaped by two academic papers.

The first, by the political scientist Larry Bartels, analyzed the move of the white working class away from Democrats, a move made famous in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy.

And this party-switching, in turn, was what drove the rightward swing of American politics after 1980. Race made Reaganism possible. And to this day Southern whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, to the tune of 85 or even 90 percent in the deep South.

The second paper, by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.

For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally-funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?

The answer is, 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.

And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2015 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics

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Clinton Cash Goes Missing for a Controversial 2014 NYU Speech

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This looks bad. Pam Martens and Ross Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

New York University, which has been rocked by revelations of providing multi-million dollar residences, forgivable mortgages, and sweet-deal, in-house financing forluxurious vacation homes to an elite group of staff and faculty, is now linked to the Hillary and Bill Clinton cash-by-the-truckload scandal.

According to an analysis by the Washington Post, since leaving the White House in January 2001, Bill Clinton was paid $104.9 million for speaking fees through January 2013 when Hillary stepped down as Secretary of State. In addition, their nonprofit, the Clinton Foundation, has reported over $2 billion in donations from corporations and foreign governments around the world. In May, Hillary released a new financial disclosure form in conjunction with her candidacy for President. That form covered the period from January 2014 through May of this year, showing that the Clintons earned an additional $25 million for speeches.

On May 21 of this year, the Clinton Foundation revealed that there was an additional $26.4 million in speaking fees that had been paid to Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton that had not previously been broken out to the public because the fees had been donated to the Clinton Foundation. The payments came from universities, foreign sources, and corporations. The Foundation said the funds had previously been reported to the IRS as “revenue” rather than donations and that is why the donors’ names had not previously been reported.

Two speeches given by Bill Clinton at NYU Commencements are missing from both Hillary’s financial disclosures for herself and Bill, as well as missing from the Clinton Foundation’s disclosures. One of those speeches was highly controversial and not likely to be a missed reporting detail.

On May 19, 2014, the New York Times dropped a front-page bombshell on the already disgusted faculty at NYU which had given its President, John Sexton, a no-confidence vote at five of its schools in 2013.  The Times reported that NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi had been built on the backs of abused immigrant laborers. The Times reported that “men described having to work 11 or 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week,” had their passports taken, and some men “lived in squalor, 15 men to a room.” The workers also reported having to pay up to a year’s wages in recruitment fees to get their jobs and, despite NYU’s statement on labor standards, contractors had not reimbursed the fees. Striking workers had been beaten, jailed and deported.

Just six days after that article ran, Bill Clinton was standing in front of the first graduating class at NYU Abu Dhabi on Sunday, May 25, 2014, with dozens of stern-eyed Sheikhs clad in white robes staring him down from the front rows. Here’s what Clinton had to say about the labor abuses to the graduating class in his commencement address: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2015 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Business, Election, Politics

Study: American Presidents Are Indeed Guided By Wealthy Elites

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Brendan James reports for TPM Live Wire:

Echoing a much-discussed paper out of Princeton last year that argued the U.S. is no longer a proper representative democracy, the book, “Who Governs?” is an exploration of presidents, public opinion, and manipulation.

James N. Druckman from Northwesten University and Lawrence R. Jacobs from University of Minnesota make the case that presidents from both Republican and Democratic parties mainly serve and are guided by the wishes of the wealthy and political elites and exploit public opinion in order to serve those ends.

The duo turn to previously confidential documents from presidential archives, interviews with White House officials, and previously unquantified data to argue that “elites do most of the deciding,” since presidents purposefully aim to “shirk citizen control.”

“Presidents claim to speak for ‘the people’ and to serve the ‘public good,’ but we reveal the impact of narrow political and economic interests,” they write in the introduction.

Surveying the Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan administrations, the authors found evidence “that presidents — Reagan, in particular — were highly attentive to the demands of privileged segments of the electorate with high incomes and other politically valued resources.” (Druckman and Jacobs note that additional research on more recent presidents meshed with their general findings.)

Sticking with Reagan as an example:

When the general public’s opinions shift from 10 percent below to 10 percent above the average [in a conservative direction], Reagan became 3.5 percent more conservative, compared to a whopping 20 percent more conservative for an analogous move among the affluent …

Put simply, these results demonstrate that Reagan clearly paid dramatic attention to the views of the wealthy on economic issues.

It gets worse, according to Druckman and Jacobs: not only is the White House pursuing the interests and goals of elites at the expense of the public, it is also dedicated to “shaping public opinion to advance its interests and those of its narrow group of supporters.” Polling is a chance to exert further influence on the majority, rather than to learn what they want.

“Private White House polling that might on the surface appear to confirm responsiveness to the general public is used for quite different purposes — to cater to narrow interests and mobilize new political constituencies,” they write. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2015 at 11:14 am

Bridgegate gets worse for Christie

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Government, Politics

Clinton sleaze and an unattractive lust for money

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The Clintons’ unbridled avarice is unattractive if not actively repulsive. Deborah Sontag, doubtless now on a Clinton “enemies” list—and that seems in keeping with their style—reports in the NY Times:

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, a Czech model who survived the disaster by clinging to a palm tree, decided to pull out all the stops for the annual fund-raiser of her school-building charity, the Happy Hearts Fund.

She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramisù and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation.

The gala cost $363,413. But the real splurge? Bill Clinton.

The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.

Happy Hearts’ former executive director believes the transaction was a “quid pro quo,” which rerouted donations intended for a small charity with the concrete mission of rebuilding schools after natural disasters to a large foundation with a broader agenda and a budget 100 times bigger.

“The Clinton Foundation had rejected the Happy Hearts Fund invitation more than once, until there was a thinly veiled solicitation and then the offer of an honorarium,” said the former executive director, Sue Veres Royal, who held that position at the time of the gala and was dismissed a few weeks later amid conflicts over the gala and other issues. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 9:50 am

How Money Runs Our Politics

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Elizabeth Drew writes in the NY Review of Books:

With each election come innovations in ways that the very rich donate and the candidates collect and spend increasingly large amounts of money on campaigns. And with each decision on campaign financing the current Supreme Court’s conservative majority, with Chief Justice John Roberts in the lead, removes some restrictions on money in politics. We are now at the point where, practically speaking, there are no limits on how much money an individual, a corporation, or a labor union can give to a candidate for federal office (though the unions can hardly compete).

Today a presidential candidate has to have two things and maybe three before making a serious run: at least one billionaire willing to spend limitless amounts on his or her campaign and a “Super PAC”—a supposedly independent political action committee that accepts large donations that have to be disclosed. The third useful asset is an organization that under the tax code is supposedly “operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” The relevant section of the tax code, 501(c)(4), would appear to be intended for the Sierra Club and the like, not political money. But the IRS rules give the political groups the same protection.

The contributions to these last groups have come to be called “dark money” because the donors can remain secret. The very wealthy can contribute to such dark money groups in the knowledge that people won’t know who is trying to buy a candidate.

At this stage of the campaign, while some politicians are ostensibly still agonizing over whether or not to run, the would-be candidates are engaged in setting up the “independent” fundraising groups that will support them; they aren’t even bothering to call mere millionaires. And the idea that campaign contributions aren’t intended as a quid pro quo is fast crumbling.

Fortunately for the candidates, given the way the benefits of the economy are concentrated there’s an adequate supply of billionaires—people who enjoy investing in a candidate, in whom they may actually believe, and whose gratitude would be most useful if that candidate were to win. Meanwhile, the billionaire can indulge in name-dropping, in the reality or illusion of being on the inside of a campaign with the prospect of access to the candidate who ends up in the Oval Office.

With enough money behind him or her, even a preposterous candidate can at least for a while be a real factor in the nominating contest. The billionaires sometimes seemingly come out of nowhere. Few had heard of Foster Friess, who suddenly popped up in 2012 supporting Rick Santorum—a seemingly improbable prospect for winning the presidency given his retrograde social views and his reputation for having been a brash but mediocre senator. Friess, a business investor and evangelical Christian conservative, kept Santorum in the primaries for a lot longer than would have been reasonably expected. Friess himself became famous when, defending Santorum’s opposition to contraceptives, he asserted that women (“gals”) could stave off pregnancy by putting an aspirin “between their knees.” He is now supporting Santorum again for the 2016 race.

The erratic but seldom boring Newt Gingrich, never a serious candidate for the presidency, came in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire in 2012, but with the help of the billionaire Las Vegas–based casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, he swept the important South Carolina primary and seemed to truly believe that he could win the nomination.

Thus, a single exceptionally rich person can distort the nomination race, meanwhile confusing candidates into thinking that they’re more popular than they are. Of course other factors can play into the successes of the well-backed candidate: Gingrich benefited from what were seen by many as strong performances in debates.

Adelson’s prominence in 2012 as well as his generosity to congressional candidates has made him one of the most powerful people in the country. His wealth is estimated at over $35 billion, and he and his wife, Miriam, a dual citizen of Israel and the US, are fervent supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive policies. Adelson is reported to have spent at least $92 million on the 2012 election. As a casino owner, Adelson unsurprisingly also seeks a ban on Internet gambling. Lindsey Graham, said to be nearing an entrance into the 2016 Republican free-for-all, is the principal sponsor of this Adelson cause in Congress. Graham recently told The Wall Street Journal, “I may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America because of the pro-Israel funding.”

As early as March 2014, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich flew to Las Vegas to appear before a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition—the pilgrimage was to seek Adelson’s favor. Christie had to apologize to Adelson for having referred to “occupied territories.” Walker let the group know that he owns a menorah. This year a larger number of Republican candidates trooped to Las Vegas. Adelson pressured the donees to support Netanyahu’s position against the nuclear deal with Iran.

Most of the candidates for the nominations for 2016 have their pet billionaires. Hillary Clinton has more than one. Among them so far are Alice Walton of Walmart and Marc Benioff, a San Francisco businessman who supported Barack Obama. All contributed early to Clinton’s Super PAC, Ready for Hillary. For now, to give the impression that her campaign is supported by the ever-expanding idea of who the “grassroots” are, donations to Ready for Hillary are limited to $25,000. Clinton also enjoys the support of some Hollywood billionaires, such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban, an entertainment executive worth an estimated $3.4 billion who has been generous to the Clintons in the past and is another supporter of right-wing Israeli policies. The big money for Clinton is expected to go both to Priorities USA, a Super PAC that backed Obama but is now switching to support her and will spend dark money on ads, and also to another group, called Priorities USA Action, that won’t be hiding its contributors.

Clinton’s side hoped to scare off serious rivals for the Democratic nomination by letting it be known that she planned to raise a staggering $2.5 billion for her campaign. . . [that is, she planned to buy the nomination, pure and simple; does anyone believe that this amount of money does not have some serious strings attached? Perhaps the title should be “How money ruins our politics.” – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2015 at 4:00 pm

Faux Democracy and the Tea Party: How Far Back Does It Go?

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Interesting article by Pam Martens and Russ Martens:

Manipulating Americans to organize or protest against their own interests is the sine qua non of big corporate front groups. These groups are alternately known as astroturf organizations because the grass in “grassroots” is fake turf.

Just how fake that turf is came into crisp perspective on April 2 when Christine Stapleton, an investigative reporter at the Palm Beach Post, revealed that a protest rally called by the Tea Party of Miami and Florida Citizens Against Waste used paid actors from the Broward Acting Group as faux protesters. (Watch a video here.)

The fake protest was in response to more than 100 real citizens turning out the prior month to demand that the South Florida Water Management District, a state agency, exercise its option before it expires to purchase 48,600 acres of corporate land owned by U.S. Sugar, a huge sugar cane grower in South Florida. According to studies and experts, the land purchase is vital to preventing marine life die-offs in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River basins and along the Indian River Lagoon.

Laura Reynolds, Executive Director of the Tropical Audubon Society, explained what’s at stake: “The purchase can solve the problems of getting sufficient water for the Everglades and greatly reducing the damaging pulses of polluted fresh water to the northern estuaries while delivering much needed clean water to the southern estuaries.”

Corporate front groups do not want to see more land owned by government because with it comes the ability to regulate it against pollution. The Tea Party’s mantra against “big government” is a pseudo cover against government regulation of big business. The Koch brothers involvement in the modern Tea Party movement is by now well known. Much less understood is just how far back the roots of our Faux Democracy under Koch brothers’ financing extend.

On February 8, 2013, the health professionals’ journal, Tobacco Control, published a comprehensive report on the roots of the Tea Party, dating it to the 1980s.  The research was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), a Federal Agency and titled ‘To Quarterback Behind the Scenes, Third Party Efforts’: The Tobacco Industry and the Tea Party.

The authors reveal that Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks in 2004, “was co-founded in 1984 by David Koch, of Koch Industries, and Richard Fink, former professor of economics at George Mason University, who has worked for Koch Industries since 1990.” According to the report, “CSE supported the agendas of the tobacco and other industries, including oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and telecommunications, and was funded by them.”

Long before the Tea Party attracted media attention, CSE started the first online Tea Party in 2002, calling it the US Tea Party. The NIH-funded study shows that between 1991 and 2002, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies gave CSE at least $5.3 million.

CSE was a pure Koch-created organization and considered an integral part of the Philip Morris strategy to thwart Federal regulation of cigarettes and second hand smoke. The study shows that Philip Morris  designated CSE a “Category A” organization for funding and it was assigned its own Philip Morris senior relationship manager.

In 1994 and 1995, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies launched an assault, using nonprofit front groups including CSE, to undermine the credibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which was attempting to regulate second-hand smoke. One Philip Morris memo in late 1994 indicated that CSE and other front groups were working “to define the FDA as an agency out of control and one failing to live up to its congressional mandate regarding regulation of drugs and medical devices.”

Beginning in December 1994, the memorandum stated, “these groups conducted an aggressive media campaign toward these goals, incorporating the issuance of policy papers, conducting symposia, filing petitions with FDA and taking other steps to keep the public and media focus on the agency.” CSE developed a 15-page strategy document for gutting the FDA’s funding and keeping it under withering media glare.

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the largest tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The government charged that the tobacco companies engaged in a 40-year conspiracy to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking, distort the dangers of secondhand smoke, and target the youth market as “replacement smokers.”

After a nine-month bench trial, on August 17, 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a 1,683 page opinion.  The Court found that “Cigarette smoking causes disease, suffering, and death. Despite internal recognition of this fact, defendants have publicly denied, distorted, and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades.”

The Court also found that lawyers for Big Tobacco had played an unconscionable role in the conspiracy, writing: . . .

Continue reading.

Corporations will do absolutely anything, including actions that are immoral, unethical, and/or illegal, in order to protect and increase profits. Corporations, as persons, are total sociopaths. The only entity that can control (and punish) them effectively is the government and the only entity that can protect the interests of their workers are unions. Thus corporations have made it a priority to destroy unions and take control of the government so that they will be able to do as they please. And they are succeeding. (One major component of the strategy is to destroy education, substituting in its place vocational or occupational training.)

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2015 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Business, Politics

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