Thursday, February 28, 2013

Peter King Declares Civil War Against Southern Republicans

Elspeth Reeve

Many people have noticed the GOP is increasingly becoming a southern party. So has New York Republican Peter King. The congressman is getting tired of his colleagues insulting his state and then begging it for money. On Thursday, he complained of two new slights: Sen. Marco Rubio raising money on Wall Street, and CPAC not inviting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to its big annual event. Republicans "are more and more taking on this anti-Northeast attitude," King told Politicker. "We say fine, if you want to be anti-Northeast, then the Northeast is going to be anti-them."

When House Republicans initially voted down an aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy in January, King said New Yorkers' campaign donations should dry up in return. "Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," King said

"Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans." King has not forgiven them, and is reminding Rubio of that. The Florida senator, who's recently been on a presidential candidate-style tour meeting Middle Eastern leaders and Wall Street donors, voted against the Sandy bill. King named Rubio, and told Politicker, "It’s bad enough that these guys voted against it, that’s inexcusable enough. But to have the balls to come in and say, 'We screwed you now make us president?'"

As for the Conservative Political Action Conference, King told The Hill's Cameron Joseph he was clad Christie wasn't invited. "If Republicans had any brains they'd stay away from CPAC," King told The Hill. "The thought that he's being penalized because he sought to get the aid for Sandy relief is disgraceful regional bias. To hold that out against him shows a narrow-minded bigotry from the party." Still, CPAC's decision makes the GOP "look like a narrow regional party."

King is not the only one who's noticed increasing tension in the GOP's regional divide. Of his 231 Republican colleagues in the House, 110 are from the South. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reported earlier this week: 
Nan Hayworth, a Tea Party representative from upstate New York who lost to a Democrat in November, told me about a Southern Republican who once tried to win her support for a colleague on some internal conference position. “He’s a good Christian man,” the congressman told her, assuming that was the first thing she needed to know. She responded, “Well, I’m married to a good Jewish man.”
The Southerners are aware, too. Georgia Rep. Tom Price told The New Yorker how a northern colleague was okay with raising taxes on the wealthy. "It hit me that what he was hearing when he’s going home to a Republican district in a blue state is completely different than what I’m hearing when I go home to a Republican district in a red state," Price said. "My folks are livid about this stuff. His folks clearly weren’t. And so we weren’t even starting from the same premise."

Subject: Congress: Sequester your own salaries

Hi, I signed a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama which says: "Any across-the-board pay cuts for federal employees must include the same pay cuts for all members of Congress and the president of the United States." Will you sign this petition? Click here:  Thanks!

Texas School Worker Shot During Handgun Training Class


An employee in a Texas school district on Wednesday was accidentally shot during a district-sanctioned handgun training class, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.
The class was spearheaded by the Van Independent School District in Van, Texas after the local school board there voted in January to arm certain school employees on campus. 
KLTV in Texas reported that the injured employee is a maintenance worker named Glenn Geddie, who is reportedly in fair condition. The school district on Wednesday issued a statement, which was also reported by KLTV:
At the conclusion of the CHL training on February 27, 2013, one certified person stayed for private instruction with the instructor and had a mechanical malfunction with his weapon. With the assistance of the instructor, the malfunction was addressed, but the gun misfired and the bullet ricocheted coming back to strike the VISD employee in the left leg. The VISD employee was attended to at the scene and transferred to Tyler for further treatment. The injury is not life threatening or disabling. Because of privacy and security issues we cannot make any further statement.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feds, media debunk Sarah Palin (R-Grifter) 'stockpiling bullets' claim


The feds say Sarah Palin is firing blanks with her claim that the government is “stockpiling bullets” for potential civil unrest in case the country defaults on its loans.
While government agencies are, in fact, purchasing large amounts of ammunition, they are doing so for training exercises and shooting ranges, according to federal officials. The Washington Post last month summed up the Department of Homeland Security’s buying of more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition for training with an article headlined, “Not so sinister: Homeland Security is stockpiling ammo for target practice.”

And last summer, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General released a public statement to squash fears - fueled by the internet - about the SSA buying ammunition.
“Our investigators are similar to your State or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty,” SSA wrote in a public post Aug. 16, 2012.
“Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered,” the statement continued, apparently referring to hollow-point bullets. “In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies. OIG’s special agents use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety. Additionally, the ammunition our agents use is the same type used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.”

Meanwhile, as the Atlantic Wire noted on Wednesday, Snopes had debunked the rumor last August tracing it (in part) to an anonymous online conspiracy letter from last August.
Palin - who wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday, “We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest” - joins conservatives Alex Jones of, who wrote about the ammo buy last year, and radio host Mark Levin, who said on his radio program earlier this month that the government is “arming up” because society is “unraveling.”

“Law enforcement and national security agencies — they play out multiple scenarios. They simulate multiple scenarios. I’ll tell you what I think they’re simulating: the collapse of our financial system, the collapse of our society and the potential for widespread violence, looting, killing in the streets, because that’s what happens when an economy collapses,” Levin said on his radio program.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Your Smile-Time Schadenfreude Headline Of The Day: Michele Bachmann Is ‘Very Proud’ That She ‘Didn’t Get Anything Wrong’ in GOP Primary Debates

Yes, she really said that. As CityPages’ Aaron Rupar reports, the woman who the AP gave up on fact-checking because she “was so full of shit, the AP would’ve needed round-the-clock staff to check all the claims she made” said this in an interview yesterday at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia:
“If you are a conservative you can never get anything wrong. I was very proud of the fact that I didn’t get anything wrong that I said during the course of the debates. I didn’t get anything wrong and that’s a huge arena.”

Pew: 62 Percent, Including 36 percent Of Republicans, Say GOP Out Of Touch


A majority of the country believes the Republican Party is out of touch with the American people, too extreme and inflexible to change, according to findings released Tuesday by Pew Research Center, placing the GOP in decidedly lower public esteem than the Democratic Party.
Sixty-two percent — including 36 percent of Republicans — said the GOP is out of touch with Americans, compared with 46 percent who said the same of Democrats. Only 23 percent of Democrats said their own party is out of touch.

A little more than half, 52 percent, called the Republican Party "too extreme," while 56 percent said the Democratic Party is not too extreme. Similarly, 56 percent said Republicans are not open to change, compared with 58 percent who actually said the opposite of Democrats.
Republicans claimed a small edge over Democrats in one category that was tested by Pew. Sixty-three percent of respondents said Republicans have strong principles, slightly more than the 57 percent who said the same of Democrats.

Monday, February 25, 2013

CNN Host Schools Bobby Jindal For Spouting ‘Misleading’ Economic ‘Nonsense’


CNN business correspondent Ali Velshi slammed Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) for likening the federal budget to family spending and suggesting that the Obama administration should not spend more than the government takes in.
“Every family has to balance their budget, isn’t allowed to spend more than they need, every business is more efficient, tighten their belt. The reality is it can be done,” Jindal said in remarks outside of the White House on Monday, following a meeting between the National Governor’s Association and President Obama. He added that the administration can implement the automatic across-the-borad sequestration cuts that are likely to go into effect on March 1 “without jeopardizing the economy” or “critical services” by focusing on “wasteful spending.”
Velshi rejected Jindal’s comparison as “misleading” “nonsense” and pointed out that businesses and families routinely borrow money to invest in their futures, reasoning that an investment made today in college education or a new equipment can lead to greater returns down the road:
VELSHI: It’s 3% of a small part of the federal budget which makes it a very big part of some major agencies. It’s misleading stuff Bobby Jindal is saying, number one. Number two when he says families understand they have to live within their budget. I don’t know a lot of families who buy a house with cash. Buying a house on a mortgage, is that living within your budget or not living within your budget? You would have to be 80 years old to be able to buy a house with cash. We have an understanding in our society, it may be flawed, that we borrow money based on our future earnings potential. All people do that, companies do that and governments do that. There’s a point at which you can say, we’ve gone too far with that or we’re too much of a risk of not paying back so we’ll end up paying a higher interest rate. When you borrow too much money, your personal interest rate goes up, credit cards go up. But to suggest within your means and balanced budget nonsense is just misleading. That is not how families live. It’s not how businesses conduct themselves. It is certainly not since the history of time the way governments run themselves. Bobby Jindal is a smart guy. He runs a state. He needs to not talk like this and it’s become common to hear this stuff coming out in these press conferences.

 The federal economy is fundamentally different from household budgets and economic data and history suggest that the government should be spending more, not less given the current economic circumstances. After all, overall government spending has plateaued under Obama after rising sharply under George W. Bush and the resulting fiscal contraction has resulted in a lower recovery.

Military tracer rounds cause raging fire and explosions at Texas gun range


A Dallas gun range caught on fire on Sunday after a patron reportedly fired military-style tracer rounds inside the building.
A spokesperson for Dallas Fire-Rescue said that the tracer rounds, which ignite like a flare to make projectiles visible to the naked eye, were against DFW Gun Range rules. The rounds apparently hit the back wall of the building, resulting in the four-alarm fire.
By the time firefighters arrived, popping sounds could be heard inside the building as ammunition exploded. At least 50 people were in the building at the time and were able to escape unharmed. One firefighter, however, was injured by smoke inhalation.

“It was pretty scary,” a range patron named Brett told KVUE. “There are a bunch of bullets in there, and there’s not telling how far or when they’re going to go off.”
By nightfall, the fire was under control and authorities turned their attention to securing weapons in the building — including assault rifles — from possible looters.
Authorities also said that they were concerned about the possibility that lead from melted bullets could contaminate ground water, but the results from initial tests were not available by Monday morning. 

No charges were expected because police considered the tracer rounds an accident. The patron could face a civil suit for damages, including destruction of the roof and one wall of the building.............

Republican congressman: Dick Cheney is going to hell for the Iraq war


Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina said Saturday that former Vice President Dick Cheney would likely end up in hell because of his role in the Iraq war.
At a Young Americans for Liberty conference, Jones said it was impossible under current law to prosecute a president for intentionally manipulating intelligence reports to make the case for war. He explained he co-authored a bill to change the law, but the legislation was killed in committee by his Republican colleague Lamar Smith of Texas. 

“I have no malice towards Lamar, I have respect for him,” Jones remarked. “But that again is the problem. Congress will not hold anyone to blame. Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.”
Jones initially voted in favor of the Iraq war in 2002. He infamous called for “French fries” to be renamed “freedom fries” after France refused to support the U.S. invasion of the country.
The conservative Christian turned against the war after witnessing American causalities and once it became clear Iraq was not building any weapons of mass destruction....................

Federal Court Grants Access To GOP Computers In Wisconsin Redistricting Case


A federal panel ordered groups suing the state of Wisconsin free access to several GOP computers on Monday in a case involving legislative redistricting, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
The Legislature "must make these three computers available in their entirety immediately" to the groups suing the state, the three judges wrote.
"The computers are extremely likely to contain relevant and responsive materials that should have been disclosed during pretrial discovery. Moreover, Plaintiffs have established that substantial numbers of documents were not disclosed, which satisfies the court that some form of 'fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct' likely occurred," the unanimous opinion said.
Democrats and immigrant rights groups sued over the process Republican lawmakers used to reapporition districts in 2011, claiming they drew lines skewed towards the GOP. A court ruled last year that two districts violated voting rights of Latinos, but kept the rest of the state's district maps in place. The groups have since sued again alleging that additional discovery, including the computers, were not properly disclosed.
The Journal Sentinel has more on the judges involved in the case:
The judicial panel consists of J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois. Stadtmueller was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan; Wood was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton; and Dow was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Americans behind President Barack Obama, not GOP, on several key issues, poll finds

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is beginning his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from gun control to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll has found.
On the legislation rated most urgent -- cutting the budget deficit -- even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama's approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.

The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party's message in the wake of November election losses for the White House and U.S. Senate. Now, just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans. That compares with 32% who consider themselves Democrats, and 41% independents.
And those automatic spending cuts, known as sequesters, that are poised to take effect next week?
If no deal is reached to avert them, half of Americans say congressional Republicans will be more to blame. Less than a third would blame Obama first.

"On many of the issues, President Obama has staked out positions that seem to be closer to the public's thinking than the positions Republicans have staked out," said Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The poll is the first in a new partnership between Pew and USA TODAY. "The challenge for him is in building the public's sense of immediacy on some of these issues, particularly on climate change and guns."
Republicans have the opposite challenge. "Their focus on the deficit is in tune with the public's priorities right now," he says. "Yet their positions are not quite in step with the kind of compromises that the public tells us they want to see."
To be sure, Obama faces his own challenges.

His approval ratings for handling seven specific issues are no better than lukewarm, ranging from a low of 34% on the deficit to a high of 46% on the situation in Afghanistan. On the central issue of managing the economy, 40% approve, 56% disapprove. Americans also continue to be deeply unhappy with the country's direction. By 2-to-1, (64%-31%), they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.
Even so, those surveyed say by narrow margins that Obama has a better approach than congressional Republicans for dealing with the deficit and guns. By double digits, they favor his plans on immigration and climate change, including limits on emissions from power plants.
The president's overall job approval rating is 51%, a bit higher than it typically has been for the past three years. The approval rating for Republican congressional leaders is 25%. Democratic congressional leaders stand at 37%.
The poll of 1,504 adults was taken by land line and cell phone Feb. 13-18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Since winning re-election, Obama has outlined bolder policies and taken a less compromising stance toward the GOP lawmakers he blames for frustrating much of his legislative agenda over the past two years. In his inaugural address and State of the Union speech, and at events across the country, he has focused more on generating public support for his proposals than on forging ties with Congress to negotiate them.
"I think there is a fresh start," said Sue Mohler, 60, of Nashua, N.H., who works in information technology support. An Obama supporter, she was among those surveyed. "It's not as big a fresh start as we would like it to be, but I'm hopeful. I'm not as pessimistic as I was." She's encouraged by signs that Republican leaders are ready to shift their stance on issues such as immigration.

For her part, Lynn Wright, 47, a homemaker from Richlands, N.C., doesn't appreciate Obama's more combative tone. "I really feel like his feet are very, very, very buried in the sand," she said. "I did not vote for him, but yes, he did win. But I just don't see how he can say, 'OK, this is my time now. You guys can't tell me no.' "

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ghost Andrew Breitbart Stands By His Story On Terror Group That Does Not Exist

Andrew Breitbart would be rolling over in his grave if he had ever given a good goddamn about things like “journalism” and “not making up terrorist groups that paid off Chuck Hagel.” Fortunately, those were not at the top or anywhere else on the list of things he cared about, so his corpse remains unmolested and spin-free. Apparently, so does the conscience of one Virgin Ben Shapiro, who is perfectly happy and totally content with having written the laughingstock story about Chuck Hagel taking donations from “Friends of Hamas,” which does not exist. Let’s see how he responds to this foxy NY Daily News reporter who — whoops! — accidentally made up the whole thing! Take it away, New York Daily News reporter! READ MORE »

Contest! Can You Parse This Ghost Of Breitbart ‘Friends Of Hamas’ Non-Retraction?

We all had a good laugh this morning at pathetic bumbler Ben Shapiro, of Ghost Andrew Breitbart’s Internet Mausoleum, when it was revealed by some foxy Daily News reporter how Shapiro and The Ghost accidentally accused sad clown Chuck Hagel of being BFFs with a terror group that does not exist. And of course it was only a matter of time before Shapiro slunk off with a sad journamalism mea culpa, right? Who among us has not printed absolute balderdash made up by scoundrels? And we correct and move on!
Yeah, no. Below the jump, we will reproduce the entirety ofShapiro’s explanation of why he was TOTALLY RIGHT about this terror group that does not exist, and how foxy NYDN reporter is committing crimes against journamalism. If you can understand what the FUCK he is saying, and are the first person to explain it to our satisfaction, we will give you a prize! READ MORE »

How turned ‘Friends of Hamas’ joke into a right-wing firestorm


Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News admitted to being the unwitting source of a false rumor — promoted first by editor Ben Shapiro — that Defense Secretary nominee Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) had been paid to give a speech to the organization “Friends of Hamas.” In a piece published Tuesday, Friedman explored his own inadvertent role in creating and propagating the rumor, as well as what the story says about our current media environment and its readiness to exploit half truths and outright lies in pursuit of political agendas.

Friedman wrote on Tuesday, “I became part of an inadvertent demonstration of how quickly partisan agendas and the Internet can transform an obvious joke into a Washington talking point used by senators and presidential wannabes.”
On February 6, said Friedman, he phoned a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill to ask about rumors that Hagel, whose nomination has been filibustered by Senate Republicans, had addressed “controversial” groups.

Republican skepticism was centered around Hagel’s supposed hostility to Israel. “So, I asked my source,” Friedman said, “had Hagel given a speech to, say, the ‘Junior League of Hezbollah, in France?’ And: What about ‘Friends of Hamas?’”
“The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them,” he wrote.

When Friedman didn’t hear back from the source, he followed up with a snarky email, “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?”
Hearing nothing from the source, he let the story drop.

The next day, conservative website blasted the headline, “SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS.’” editor Ben Shapiro wrote, “On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’”
When Shapiro called the White House for comment, they hung up on him, which he took as confirmation. Shapiro ran the story and tweeted the link out to his more than 40,000 Twitter followers, touching off a right-wing media avalanche. The story was picked up by the National Review, and other conservative media outlets. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee posited that this would be the end of Hagel’s nomination if the rumors were true.

The scandal began to gather steam, but it was only days later that Friedman contacted his source on the Hill again, asking if he had passed on information to Breitbart. No, the staffer said, but he had spoken about it to other people.
Shapiro, for his part, only gradually began to admit that perhaps Friends of Hamas did not exist. But, he said to Friedman, “his story used ‘very, very specific language’ to avoid flatly claiming it did.”

“The story as reported is correct,” Shapiro insisted. “Whether the information I was given by the source is correct I am not sure.”
As the facts of the story spread, many are having a laugh at the expense of Shapiro and the right-wing media outlets that ran with the story. A satirical Friends of Hamas website was erected by Gawker’s Max Read, featuring Shapiro’s face, dancing images of anime characters and the slogan, “LOL nothing matters.”

Shapiro responded to Friedman’s Daily News piece by calling Friedman a “hack,” and writing, “Welcome to the Obama media, where protecting Chuck Hagel and attacking any media who question Hagel is par for the course.”
“The story Breitbart News ran originally was accurate and clearly caveated [sic],” Shapiro said. “Dan Friedman was not the source of the information given to Breitbart News. But the media is already jumping to help Friedman push his narrative. It’s all part of the mission to protect Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Republicans Try To Intimidate Nonpartisan Accounting Office For Debunking Their Economic Theory


Last September, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service released a report showing that tax cuts for the rich — contrary to GOP orthodoxy — have minimal effect on economic growth or job creation. Instead, they simply increase income inequality. Republicans pressured the CRS to pull the report down; it was eventually re-posted with the same conclusions.
Last month, another non-partisan agency, the Congressional Budget Office, released an analysis showing that one of the GOP’s favorite corporate tax ideas would end up pushing jobs overseas. Again, instead of reexamining their ideas, Republicans are attacking the messenger:
The Congressional Budget Office is defending a recent report on how U.S. multinational corporations are taxed, after a top Republican criticized the analysis as biased. [...] “This report purports to provide an even-handed review of different policy issues related to the taxation of foreign source income,” [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave] Camp (R-MI) wrote to [CBO Director Doug] Elmendorf last month.
However, a closer analysis of the report reveals that it is heavily slanted and biased in favor of one specific approach to the taxation of foreign source income – and relies heavily on sources that tend to support that conclusion while ignoring sources that support a different conclusion,” he added.
Elmendorf defended the report, saying it “presents the key issues fairly and objectively and that its findings are well grounded in economic theory and are consistent with empirical studies in this area.”
The GOP’s idea — known as a “territorial” tax system — would permanently exempt U.S. corporations from paying taxes on profits they make overseas. CBO found such a system would result in “increasing incentives to shift business operations and reported income to countries with lower tax rates.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cruz: I Promised Texans I Would ‘Be a Douchebag’


Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) has opened up about his combative debut in the U.S. Senate, telling the New York Times in an article published Friday that he is satisfied with his work so far.
“I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo,” he said in an email to the Times. “That is what I intend to do, and it is what I have done in every way possible in the responsibilities that have been granted to me.”
The article focused on Cruz's aggressive questioning of defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and his speculation that the former senator may have accepted money from foreign governments. At a Senate Armed Services committee meeting on Hagel's nomination on Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said Cruz was "over the line" in his questioning of Hagel. Nelson also lamented the lack of comity that has been a hallmark of the Senate committee over the years. 
“Comity does not mean avoiding the truth,” Cruz told the Times. “And it would be wrong to avoid speaking the truth about someone’s record and past policy positions, even if doing so inevitably subjects me to personal criticism from Democrats and the media.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

HUBRIS: Selling the Iraq War - an Upcoming Documentary on MSNBC

McCain Says He’s Opposing Hagel Because Hagel Was Mean To Bush


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told us how he really feels about Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel on Fox News this afternoon, saying “people don’t forget” when you cross your own party.
Speaking to Fox News host Neil Cavuto, McCain said that he still believed that Hagel would get the votes required to be confirmed. What followed was the clearest indication yet that he’s still bitter that Hagel turned against the Iraq War:
McCAIN: But to be honest with you, Neil, it goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and say he was the worst President since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense. He was anti-his own party and people — people don’t forget that. You can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that.

McCain had just voted “no” on the bid to end debate on Hagel’s nomination, supporting the Republican filibuster. Just days ago, McCain insisted that he would do no such thing, and is currently claiming that he’ll vote to break the filibuster following the Senate’s President’s Day recess ten days from now.
The two, formerly close friends, faced off during Hagel’s confirmation hearing over the success of the 2007 surge in Iraq, highlighting McCain’s lingering frustrations with the former Republican Senator from Nebraska. That frustration is shared among many of Hagel’s other opponents, including the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, forming the backbone of neoconservative opposition to his confirmation. McCain is right, however, that once the filibuster breaks Hagel is still set to be confirmed in an up-or-down vote.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Switzerland, U.S. sign pact on fighting tax evasion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Advancing a U.S. crackdown on tax evasion by Americans, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday that Switzerland and the United States have signed a pact to make Swiss banks disclose information about U.S. account-holders.
The agreement is the latest in a series between the United States and other countries designed to carry out the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, enacted in 2010.
The Swiss deal is the first of its kind and differs in key ways from previous pacts. It requires Swiss banks to sign up directly with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, while giving the banks a way to avoid violating Swiss financial secrecy laws.

FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the U.S. Internal Revenue Service about Americans' offshore accounts worth more than $50,000. FATCA was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed U.S. taxpayers hid millions of dollars overseas.
The pact announced on Thursday, known as an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), needs to be ratified by the Swiss parliament. It does not need approval by the U.S. Senate. The deal has been close to completion since December.
FATCA imposes steep penalties beginning in 2014 on financial institutions that do not comply with the law. Banks and other financial institutions failing to comply could be frozen out of U.S. financial markets.

"We are pleased that Switzerland has signed a bilateral agreement with us, and we look forward to quickly concluding agreements based on this model with other jurisdictions," Acting Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin said in a statement.
The Swiss Bankers Association said it welcomed the FATCA deal but remains critical of the compliance and administrative burdens of the U.S. law...................

Anti-Filibuster Group: Hagel Vote Shows Need For ‘Real Reform’


The Communications Workers of America, which helped lead the outside charge for weakening the filibuster, issued a statement after the GOP-led filibuster of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, saying the vote demonstrates the need for "real reform."
CWA's senior director George Kohl slammed Republicans for "breaking with tradition" to filibuster a cabinet nominee, before turning his attention to Democrats who "worked to scuttle more substantial reforms."
“A real Senate reform package would have made the obstructionists hold the floor and keep 41 of their colleagues with them over a holiday weekend. Yet, Senator Levin, who is point person for this nomination via his position at the helm of the Armed Services Committee, opposed Senate rules reform and claimed that the rules already existed to keep those wishing to filibuster to hold the floor.
“Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Hagel nomination, the news of the impending filibuster is a reminder that the Senate rules still need real reform, that the Republicans in the Senate remain intent on breaking new ground in Senate obstruction, and that Senate Democrats who worked to scuttle more substantial reforms have forfeited their right to complain.”

Canadian lawmaker gives Parliament rousing speech about the ‘zombie apocalypse’


A Canadian member of Parliament on Wednesday gave a animated speech to Parliament about the dangers of a zombie invasion from the United States turning into a “zombie apocalypse.”
“I rise today to salute the Center for Disease Control and the Providence of Quebec for putting in place emergency measures to deal with the possibility of an invasion of zombies,” Winnipeg MP Pat Martin announced. “I don’t need to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that zombies don’t recognize orders, and a zombie invasion in the United States could easily turn a continent-wide pandemic if it’s not contained.”

“So on behalf of concerned Canadians everywhere, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister of foreign affairs, is he working with his American counterparts to develop an international zombie strategy so that a zombie invasion does not turn into a zombie apocalypse?” Martin asked as other members applauded.
Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird stood up to assure Martin “and all Canadians that I am dedicated to ensuring that this never happens.”

“I want to say categorically to this member, and through him to all Canadians, that through the leadership of this prime minister, Canada will never become a safe haven for zombies ever!”
Montana residents were caught off guard earlier this week when television station KRTV’s Emergency Alert System was taken over by hackers to air a message warning about the zombie apocalypse.

GOP Rep. Inadvertently Makes The Case For Nearly Doubling The Minimum Wage


President Obama’s State of the Union proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and index it to inflation so that it keeps up with growth in the economy was quickly rebuked by top Republicans like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who claim the minimum wage will kill jobs and hurt small businesses.
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) chose a different reason to oppose the proposal today. A stronger minimum wage, Blackburn said, would negatively affect the ability of young workers to enter the workforce as teenagers, and would prevent them from learning responsibility like she did when she was a teenage retail employee making a seemingly-measly $2.15 an hour in Mississippi:
BLACKBURN: What we’re hearing from moms and from school teachers is that there needs to be a lower entry level, so that you can get 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds into the process. Chuck, I remember my first job, when I was working in a retail store, down there, growing up in Laurel, Mississippi. I was making like $2.15 an hour. And I was taught how to responsibly handle those customer interactions. And I appreciated that opportunity.
Making $2.15 an hour certainly does sound worse than today’s minimum wage, which federal law mandates must be at least $7.25 an hour. But what Blackburn didn’t realize is that she accidentally undermined her own argument, since the value of the dollar has changed immensely since her teenage years. Blackburn was born in 1952, so she likely took that retail job at some point between 1968 and 1970. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the $2.15 an hour Blackburn made then is worth somewhere between $12.72 and $14.18 an hour in today’s dollars, depending on which year she started. 

At that time, the minimum wage was $1.60, equivalent to $10.56 in today’s terms. Today’s minimum wage is equivalent to just $1.10 an hour in 1968 dollars, meaning the teenage Blackburn managed to enter the workforce making almost double the wage she now says is keeping teenagers out of the workforce.

For first time in U.S. history, Republicans filibuster defense secretary nominee


Republicans demanding answers from President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Pentagon forced Senate leaders Wednesday to delay a vote, throwing Chuck Hagel’s confirmation into doubt.
Senators James Inhofe and Lindsey Graham have expressed strong opposition to rushing Hagel’s confirmation process, and after Hagel was narrowly approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the Republicans insisted they would try to block a vote in the full Senate.
“This is the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered. What a shame,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor of the chamber.
To overcome the blocking tactic, Reid scheduled a vote on Friday to end debate on the Hagel nomination, but such a procedure requires a 60-vote threshold rather than the typical simple majority.
Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate. No Democrats are expected to vote against Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and Republican former senator himself, while just two Republicans have publicly stated their support.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gun Homicides Increased 25 Percent After Missouri Repealed Background Check Law


New research suggests that universal background check legislation of the sort currently being debated in Congress has had an enormous impact on gun violence in the past, according to testimony presented at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee. Daniel Webster, the Director Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, studied the consequences of Missouri repealing its “permit-to-purchase” law in 2007. This law, which required a background check as well as a brief sheriff’s review be conducted on all gun sales, closed the private sales loophole, and its repeal meant that Missouri would allow guns to be sold privately without a background check for the first time in recent history.
Webster found evidence that the expiration of the law resulted in a sharp, roughly 25 percent spike in the homicide rate in Missouri — despite the fact that gun violence was declining nationally and regionally:
Preliminary evidence suggests that the increase in the diversion of guns to criminals linked to the law’s repeal may have translated into increases in homicides committed with firearms. From 1999 through 2007, Missouri’s age-adjusted homicide rate was relatively stable, fluctuating around a mean of 4.66 per 100,000 population per year. In 2008, the first full year after the permit-to-purchase licensing law was repealed, the age-adjusted firearm homicide rate in Missouri increased sharply to 6.23 per 100,000 population, a 34 percent increase. For the post-repeal period of 2008-2010, the mean annual age-adjusted firearm homicide rate was 5.82, 25 percent above the pre-repeal mean. This increase was out of synch with changes during that period in age-adjusted homicide rates nationally which decreased ten percent and with changes in other states in the Midwest which declined by 5%.
Normally it’s very hard to ascribe changes in homicide rates to any one particular factor, but Webster and his co-workers found strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of the permit-to-purchase law was the cause. They did a careful analysis of the kind of guns used by criminals in Missouri from 2007-2011, finding an extraordinary increase in the percentage of “young” (meaning recently purchased) guns used in crime entirely at odds with the broader national trend. This would suggest that, without background checks to worry about, it was easier for criminals to get new guns. The fact that this surge in criminals getting new guns coincided with a sharp increase in the gun homicide rate gives us strong reason to believe that the repeal of the background check law directly led to a 25 percent increase in the homicide rate.
90 percent of states allow private sales to take place without background checks, suggesting that if Webster’s research is right, it’s possible that we might be able to reduce national homicides by nearly 25 percent if there were universal, federally mandated background checks. That would translate, given the 11,000 annual gun homicides in the United States, to 2,750 lives saved per year.
A bipartisan group of Senators are developing a federal law to require universal background checks. 90 percent of Americans support this legislation.

Pelosi: Boehner Was ‘Projecting’ When He Called Obama Weak


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was "projecting" his own failures when he claimed that President Obama won't cut spending because he is too weak to stand up to the liberal wing of his party. 
"I don’t understand that because he’s a gentleman, the speaker is," Pelosi said in an interview with CNN published Wednesday. "But that remark was -- I mean, it was almost as if he was projecting onto the president his lack of being able to pass any bill that created jobs since he became speaker."
CNN's Chris Cuomo clarified: "You think the speaker is projecting onto the president his own failure?"
"Exactly," Pelosi said. "Because he hasn't been able to deal with his own party. There isn't anything that he passed that we haven't' delivered the votes for him that has been job-creating."

White House Defends Minimum Wage Increase


House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) swift rejection of President Obama’s proposal during the State of the Union to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 has reignited a long running, contentious battle over the economic consequences of a price floor for labor. Perhaps predictably the latest skirmish has begun with a salvo of economic studies from each side.
“[W]hen you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning during a Capitol Hill press conference with the House GOP leadership. “And what happens when you take away the first couple of rungs on the economic ladder? You make it harder for people to get on the ladder. Our goal is to get people on the ladder and help them climb that ladder so they can live the American dream.”

The White House shot back against Boehner’s claim that the policy would lead to job losses and particularly harm low-skilled workers.
“We have a lot of empirical evidence on this question, and the best studies consistently find that the minimum wage has no adverse effect on unemployment,” a senior administration official told TPM on Wednesday afternoon.
The official said Boehner’s hypothesis is based on the theory that when the cost of employment goes up, business want to hire fewer people. But that’s only part of what happens, the official said, arguing that studies find that it is offset by reduced turnover, more motivated workers and a more productive workforce. The official said studies find that the second effect tends to be about the same as the first effect when it comes to employment.

The official also cited a statistic by the liberal Economic Policy Institute that raising the minimum wage would give some 20 million American workers a raise, which would substantially improve labor markets and boost consumer demand. EPI, which has strong ties to the labor movement, has been pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.
The administration official cited three research papers as the best, most recent studies that inform the White House’s views: a 2010 paper in the Review of Economics and Statistics, a 2012 paper in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, and a 2011 paper in Industrial Relations.
To back up Boehner’s argument, spokesman Michael Steel pointed TPM to a 2012 paper by the libertarian Cato Institute, a 2009 paper by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and two opinion pieces published last year by Michael Saltsman, a researcher for the industry-backed Employment Policies Institute: a letter published in the New York Times and an op-ed for the New Jersey Daily Record. Separately, Steel also cited a statement by the National Federation of Independent Business, a Republican-aligned group, and an article in Forbes by NFIB’s chief economist William Dunkelberg.
Obama explained his objective on Tuesday night: “Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.”

Slamming the door on a minimum wage increase may be bad politics for the GOP, argues longtime Republican strategist Ed Rogers.
“I worry that being too anti minimum wage plays to the Republican negative stereotype,” Rogers told TPM in an email. “The commonsensical appeal of there being a minimum wage and having occasional raises is powerful. Plus I think we could argue for some good policy, like a youth exception, if we did something other than just slammed the door.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cops torch cabin where Christopher Dorner was held up

Scanner recording of Cop Killer Christopher Dorner Held up in cabin.Listen to the actual conversation between the police as they plan and burn the cabin down.

Republican-backed for-profit school caught deleting bad student grades


A for-profit school that was hyped by Republican lawmakers as a solution to Tennessee’s education problems recently admitted deleting bad grades to “more accurately recognize students’ current progress.”
A December email obtained by WTVF showed that Tennessee Virtual Academy’s vice principal instructed middle school teachers to delete “failing grades” from October and September.

“After … looking at so many failing grades, we need to make some changes before the holidays,” the email says, adding that each teacher needed to “take out the October and September progress [reports]; delete it so that all that is showing is November progress.”
“If you have given an assignment and most of your students failed that assignment, then you need to take that grade out.”
Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson said she was horrified because the school’s instructions amounted to cheating.
“Does it talk about we need to make changes in curriculum? Does it talk about we need to make changes in our teaching strategy? No,” Johnson told WTVF. “Those changes we need to make are deleting grades from the computer system.”
“To come in and say ‘everybody who made failing grades the first two months, we need to delete those grades,’ to me that’s a huge issue,” she explained. “To me, this appears like it’s grade fixing.”
Tennessee Virtual Academy Principal Josh Williams insisted that the school had taken the steps to “more accurately recognize students’ current progress.”

“By going back into our school’s electronic grading system and recording students’ most recent progress score (instead of taking the average throughout the semester) we could more accurately recognize students’ current progress in their individualized learning program,” he told the station in an email.
The Virtual School Act was pushed through by lobbyists and approved by Republican lawmakers in the closing minutes of the May 2011 legislative session. The bill allowed Union County Public Schools to contract with K12 Inc. to set up Tennessee Virtual Academy. In exchange, Union County was expected to keep 4 percent of the $5,387 being sent to the private company for each student.
Democratic lawmakers are now attempting to cap enrollment at 5,000 after 2011 test scores showed that only 16.4 percent of middle school students were proficient in math, and only 39.3 percent were proficient in language arts.
At the end of last month, there were 3,149 students enrolled in the online school.
The K12 Inc. CEO was compensated more $2.6 million in 2010. The company’s chief financial officer made more than $1.7 million. By comparison, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman had a salary of $200,000 in 2011, making him the highest-paid cabinet officer at the time..........................

‘Senator Cruz Has Gone Over The Line’: Colleagues Slam Ted Cruz For Irresponsible Rhetoric On Hagel


Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) criticized Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during an Senate Armed Services Committee meeting today on Chuck Hagel’s Defense Secretary nomination for suggesting that Hagel is being influenced financially by foreign countries.
During the meeting, Cruz objected to moving forward with Hagel’s nomination, saying — without offering any evidence — that the former Republican senator may have received money directly from countries like North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“This Senator feels like that Senator Cruz has gone over the line,” Nelson shot back at Cruz. “He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee.” The Florida Democrat continued:
NELSON: In your conclusions which you are entitled to come to about him in essence about him being cozy with Iran. And you have also stated your opinion that you don’t think he has been truthful with this committee. Now those are two fairly strong statements. And I couldn’t help but having had the privilage of serving on this committee for a while, and seeing the two former chairman on either side of the nominee and I looked at the former Repubican chairman John Warner’s face as some of the questions were asked as he visibly winced. There’s a certain degree of comity and civility that this committee has always been known for. And clearly in the sharpness difference of opinion to question in essence whether somebody is a fellow traveler with another country I think is taking it too far.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) piled on: “I just want to make it clear. Senator Hagel is an honorable man. He has served his country and no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity,” he said......................

The 22 GOP Men that are in Favor of Violence Against Women

Analysis: As U.S. gasoline prices soar, hedge fund oil bets near record

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. motorists searching for someone to blame for the highest gasoline prices ever at this time of year have an easy target: hedge funds who have been quietly amassing winning bets on hundreds of millions of barrels of oil.
At a filling station in Midtown New York last week, several people were prepared to blame traders on Wall Street as they paid more than $4 per gallon to fill up their cars.
"It really is not supply and demand. It's definitely speculation," said John Keegan, an exterminator with pest control company Terminate Control, who was filling up his van. A cab driver said he was convinced the price would be just $1 a gallon if the government "stopped Wall Street trading oil."
It is all very reminiscent of the anger in 2008 when gasoline prices were sent surging by a massive oil spike - also a time when there was a lot of speculative interest from investors.

And yet five years on, there is still no consensus among traders, analysts, and regulators over how big of an impact speculators have on the market - and what, if anything, should be done to limit their participation in oil trading.
Stories about booming U.S. oil production help create expectations among consumers for lower prices. But it remains a global market and the United States is still reliant on around 8 million barrels of crude imports every day.
Hedge funds say they are just an easy target and blaming them ignores global reasons for higher oil prices and the benefits they have brought to the U.S. economy.
"Consumers shouldn't complain," said a London-based manager of a commodity hedge fund who declined to be named. "Sustained higher prices led to a massive increase in U.S. production and decreased U.S. demand, which is helping the economy in a big way."

Hedge funds have almost doubled their bets on higher oil prices since December 11, regulatory and exchange data in New York and London show, taking their total position close to the highest level ever reported.
As of last week, speculative traders held paper contracts equivalent to almost 420 million barrels of oil. That's more crude than the United States consumes in three weeks.
At the same time, lower oil production from Saudi Arabia and stronger Chinese demand are just two factors that have boosted the price of the world's most important commodity. U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's disputed nuclear program have further cut supplies.

The way things are going, Americans could spend more on gasoline this year than ever before. The average U.S. household is already spending nearly $3,000 a year on gasoline expenditures, according to a recent government estimate.
That could become a political hot potato for President Barack Obama's administration ahead of the summer driving season, which officially starts on the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of May.
Plans by U.S. regulators to curb the number of oil contracts hedge funds can hold are currently on appeal. A judge ruled last year they had failed to demonstrate position limits are necessary because there was not enough evidence linking speculation to big price swings.
On Tuesday, U.S. crude oil traded above $97 a barrel, up from $85 a barrel in mid-December. Brent crude was near a 5-month high above $118, having risen from near $108 a barrel two months ago.
U.S. gasoline prices have closely followed, surging 28 cents to $3.60 cents per gallon on average since December 11, according to data provided by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Gasoline prices can vary widely by region due to local taxes.

"Motorists are paying more for gasoline at this time of year than they've ever paid," said AAA spokesman Michael Green. The average price could rise as high as $3.73 a gallon in May of this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday.


The extent of speculators' impact on oil - and, by extension, gasoline prices - is complicated by the way the commodity is traded.
Unlike stocks or bonds, which are issued by a specific business and only available in limited quantities, companies all over the world can produce oil and sell it against U.S. and European benchmarks.
So even though U.S. production is expected to grow at the fastest pace on record this year, according to the Energy Information Administration, the market is also taking its price cues from elsewhere, analysts say.
"The market is looking at the potential for supply disruptions around the world, not just the U.S.," said Andrew Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates, a Texas-based crude oil consulting firm.
Alongside lower output from Saudi Arabia and growing demand from China, both potential and real supply disruptions in Venezuela, Nigeria, North Africa and the Middle East have also put markets on edge, said James Williams, energy economist at WTRG in London, Arkansas.

"I think in the last three months we've seen certainty about uncertainty," Williams said.
That uncertainty is attractive to speculators, who want to be ready should a big supply disruption hit. Some analysts say that can lead to even more buying as funds don't want to be left behind by their peers.
"The market's going up because (speculators) are buying it and they're encouraged to buy it because the price is going up," said Tim Evans, energy futures specialist at Citi Futures Perspective in New York.
Ultimately, the big bets can backfire.
The rush of funds into the oil market at the start of the year mirrors moves seen in early 2011 and 2012, when speculators' paper bets topped out at 444 million and 422 million barrels' worth of crude oil, respectively.
In both 2011 and 2012, prices rose into the second quarter before collapsing. After topping $110 a barrel in March of last year, U.S. crude oil plummeted below $80 a barrel by late June. Brent fell from above $125 to below $90 over the same period. Gasoline prices followed the market lower.

Many funds booked huge losses when they were caught by the rapid sell-off - especially in 2011 when oil prices dropped $10 during just one day in May.
"It's a wonderful party," said Citi's Evans. "Just don't be the last one to leave."
(Additional reporting by Barani Krishnan in New York and Douewe Miedema in Washington; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)