The National Rifle Association has certain expectations when it comes to dictating developments on Capitol Hill. But once in a while, the NRA picks an important fight and loses. Take yesterday, for example.
The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed President Obama’s pick for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, after the nomination was held up for more than a year. The Senate voted 51 to 43 to confirm Murthy, who received both an M.B.A. and M.D. from Yale.More than a year has passed since anyone has served as the U.S.’s top doctor; the country’s most recent surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, served from 2009 to 2013.The final roll call on Murthy’s confirmation is online here. Note, three conservative Senate Democrats – Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) – voted with Republicans to defeat the nomination. One Republican, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, voted with the Democratic majority.
For Murthy, the fact that he’s qualified and well suited for the position was never in doubt. As regular readers know, the nation’s new Surgeon General-designate is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s also an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate – who, like so many in his field, sees a connection between gun violence and public health.And that alone was enough to draw fierce opposition from the NRA, conservative media, and nearly every Republican in the Senate, including alleged “moderates” like Maine’s Susan Collins.Indeed, let’s not forget that when Murthy’s nomination first reached the Senate floor back in March, Republicans derailed him, at least temporarily, with the help of nervous red-state Dems with election-year jitters, which is why the nation didn’t have a Surgeon General during the Ebola public-health scare.
So what changed? A couple of things, actually.
The first is that a whole bunch of red-state Democrats lost last month, and with defeat comes liberation. Dems in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, and North Carolina, while previously eager to make the NRA happy and prove their centrist bona fides, suddenly have no pressure hanging over head – they already lost; the threats of political retaliation no longer have any salience.
Besides, as Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin will soon realize, Democrats who vote to satisfy NRA demands eventually discover that the far-right group is surprisingly hard to please – Arkansas’ Mark Pryor voted exactly the way the NRA wanted on every major vote related to gun policy in recent years, and for his troubles, the NRA rewarded Pryor with brutal attack ads that helped end his career.
The other development of note was the bizarre procedural tantrum thrown by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who unwittingly helped Democrats line up confirmation votes, including Murthy’s.
On Twitter last night, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to President Obama, twisted the knife a little,writing, “There’s a first time for everything, but public health advocates can thank Ted Cruz tonight for his help in getting Vivek Murthy confirmed.”
Steve Benin, MSNBC
A petition to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for president collected 25,000 signatures in three hours.
MoveOn.org reported that in the first three hours of their campaign to draft Sen. Warren to be a 2016 presidential candidate, their petition collected 25,000 signatures, “In just over three hours, more than 25,000 people have signed MoveOn’s petition in support of the “Run Warren Run” campaign. The voting to ratify the plan (which is different than the petition) is still ongoing and will close at 9am tomorrow morning.”
MoveOn’s members are going to overwhelmingly support the draft campaign to try to get Warren into the race, but they are unlikely to be successful. Sen. Warren’s office repeated again today that she is not running for president. Sen. Warren has no campaign organization, and the progressive groups that are urging her to run lack the financial resources to compete with Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.
The petition effort is impressive and should send a message to former Sec. of State Clinton that she will not be able to win the Democratic primary by drifting to the center. The climate is ripe for challenger from the left to take on Mrs. Clinton, but that senator is likely to be Bernie Sanders, not Elizabeth Warren.
Warren was just promoted to a leadership position in the Democratic Senate caucus. She is a figure on the rise within the Democratic Party, who has a bright future either in Senate leadership or an administrative position in the next Democratic administration.
If Hillary Clinton does not run, Warren will probably jump at the chance to be the Democratic nominee. The point is that if Clinton is in the race, Warren most likely won’t be.
Liberals have been empowered within the Democratic Party after their midterm defeat. The left is growing, and they are aching for a candidate that speaks for them. If Hillary Clinton wants to coast to the Democratic nomination, she will be wise to put an ear to the ground and pay close attention to the rumblings beneath her feet.
From Politics USA
Over the weekend, Republicans in the Michigan Statehouse passed a “license to discriminate” bill that would give just about anyone the right to refuse service to LGBT people if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.
The broadly written Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow, for example, an EMT to refuse emergency treatment to a gay person or a pharmacist to refuse to refill HIV medication, because God decreed gays and lesbians should be put to death.
The measure is similar to one in Arizona that even right-wing governor Jan Brewer thought went too far and vetoed.
As The New Civil Rights Movement points out, the act is so broad it would let a Catholic high school refuse to hire a Muslim janitor, and a DMV clerk deny a new driver’s license to someone who is divorced.
Michigan Speaker Bolger fasttracked the bill, which passed 59-50 along party lines. “I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom,” Bolger said. “I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church.”
If it passes in the Michigan Senate and is signed by Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will become law.
“The idea that we need to ‘restore’ religious freedom — rights that are already enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — is a farce created by conservative lawmakers for the sole purpose of appeasing their far-right donors and the religious right,” said Lonnie Scott of Progress Michigan.
In a supreme bit of irony, the Michigan House over the weekend to pass a non-discrimination bill that protects the LGBT community.
“No one from the LGBT community has ever had fire hoses turned on them by the police department, they have never had to drink out of an LGBT water fountain,” pastor Stacy Swimp told the House committee that considered the measure. “There is no record of LGBT — homosexuals, lesbians—being forced to sit at the back of the bus in an LGBT section.”
Dan Avery. Logo TV news
For the last decade, the Supreme Court of the United States has openly refused to police partisan gerrymandering even in egregious cases where the state legislature or its congressional delegation bears little resemblance to the will of the people. A new study out of Duke University, however, casts serious doubts on the reasoning of the justices who have thus-far refused to strike down unconstitutional gerrymanders.
In 2012, Democratic U.S. House candidates in North Carolina received 81,190 more votes that Republicans. Republicans received just under half of the votes earned by the two parties. And yet, the GOP walked away with 9 of the state’s 13 congressional districts. So, despite the fact that they earned just over 49 percent of the two-party vote, Republicans won nearly 70 percent of the state’s congressional seats.
Common sense dictates that the legislative maps that could produce such a result must be deeply flawed — and that they must be biased towards Republicans, the same party that controlled both houses of the state legislature when these maps were drawn (although the state had a Democratic governor at the time of the redistricting, the governor has no veto power over congressional maps). A new study by Duke Mathematics Professor Jonathan Mattingly and undergraduate Christy Vaughn seems to confirm this insight. Their study confirms that it is highly unlikely that a fair redistricting process would have produced a map as skewed towards one political party as North Carolina’s congressional map is.
Mattingly and Vaughn’s study redrew numerous random congressional maps, all of which complied with three rules: the districts must be “connected,” they must “come as close as possible to having [an] equal number of people,” and “they should be as compact as possible.” They then ran eight different simulations, some of which gave greater preferences to compact districts over equal population, while others placed greater emphasis on maintaining exact population. Seven of the eight simulations did not produce a single map where Democrats won less than five congressional seats, assuming that every voter who cast a vote for a Democrat or a Republican in 2012 would have cast the same vote under the simulated maps. The one simulation that did produce a handful of outlier maps where Democrats won only four seats did so “in less than 5% of the samples.”
Thus, the actual result of the 2012 elections — four Democratic congressional seats in North Carolina — did not even show up in all but one of Mattingly and Vaughn’s simulations. In the simulation where it did arise, it did so only in a few unusual cases. It is exceedingly unlikely that North Carolina’s GOP-friendly maps could have arisen organically. Rather, as Mattingly and Vaughn demonstrate, they are almost certainly the product of a legislature that carefully designed the maps to produce a desired result. The study’s authors argue that this result cries out for an independent check on redistricting — “The fact that the election outcomes are so dependent on the choice of redistrictings demonstrates the need for checks and balances to ensure that democracy is served when redistrictings are drawn and the election outcome is representative of the votes casted.”
Which brings us back to the Supreme Court. In the 2004 case Vieth v. Jubelirer, a total of four conservative justices joined an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia arguing that federal courts should not get involved in partisan gerrymandering cases. The essence of Scalia’s argument in Vieth is that courts are simply unable to come up with a legally manageable standard for determining which gerrymanders cross the line when they become impermissible. According to Scalia, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate opinion in which he also lamented the fact that such a standard has not yet emerged — although he seemed more open than Scalia to the possibility that it could emerge in the future. “When presented with a claim of injury from partisan gerrymandering,” Kennedy wrote, “courts confront two obstacles.” The first is a “lack of comprehensive and neutral principles for drawing electoral boundaries,” and the second is “the absence of rules to limit and confine judicial intervention.” While judges might have an intuition that a particular gerrymander crosses the line where it unconstitutionally favors the members of one party over another, Kennedy was not aware of any “comprehensive and neutral principles” that could be used to judge each congressional map to determine whether it crossed the line.
That is the genius of Mattingly and Vaughn’s study. It creates an objective methodology for assessing whether a map is impermissibly gerrymandered. Admittedly, judges would still have to apply some discretion to determine how skewed a map must be before it must be struck down. What if 10 percent of the maps produced using Mattingly and Vaughn’s methodology were in line with actual election results? What the number were 20 percent? But in truly egregious cases like North Carolina, any reasonable judge can recognize that the map could not have resulted from a fair and neutral process.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Court’s present majority — all five members of the Court’s current conservative bloc have expressed at least some reluctance to decide partisan gerrymandering cases — will allow judges to reach this question. Should the Court’s majority change in the coming years, however, Mattingly and Vaughn may have provided that new majority with the tools they need to eliminate North Carolina-style gerrymandering in the future.
From Think Progress
For six years the Democrats have been bent on committing political suicide. Or so it seems. President Barack Obama has been the point man for this bizarre self-immolation. That period represents the culmination of a long 30 year exercise in political obtuseness that has seen a steady estrangement from the party’s roots and a fatal mimicking of their Republican rivals. 2010 saw the first fruits of the project. Despite every plank in the traditional GOP program being exposed as rotten and the cause of national disasters at home and abroad, the Democrats under White House leadership contrived to allow the opposition to paint them as the problem. What should have been 1934 became 1994. Now the party has had both wrists slashed as it awaits morosely and impotently for the coup de grace in 2016.
Yet, party leaders react with surprise. They beat their breasts and gnash their teeth — how on earth could this have happened? Who could have predicted this debacle?
This bizarre tale knows no precedent in American political history. The explanation, though, is readily apparent for those willing to look at the record. The formula did not require anything as exotic as hemlock; rather the more prosaic ingredients were imbibed gradually. The most toxic have been these.
One, alienate your core constituencies. That includes reneging on a pledge to help the trade unions; launch a campaign of vilification against school teachers — from kindergarten through college; attack civil liberties protections; commit to reductions in Social Security and Medicare; stiff the environmentalists. In short, do to them in a calculated way what a Republican president would do instinctively.
Two, curry favor with your party’s traditional enemies: Wall Street, Big Pharma, the Christian Right, the energy and industrial agriculture trusts. That has the dual effect of blunting your message and blurring your image while emboldening the objects of your favors to demand even more.
Three, permit the Republicans in Congress to exploit to the fullest their irresponsible tactics by never denouncing them for what they are or moving to challenge them on their own electoral turf. As a corollary, go along with the coy designation of the Tea Party controlled radical reactionary Republican Party as self-styled “conservatives.”
Four, enable the Republicans to shape public discourse by monopolizing the airways and media. Democratic silence, timidity, defensiveness and evasion have given the Republicans the free run of the playing field. On this score, the party’s leadership has been abject — the president above all. Endless visits to daytime TV shows to schmooze about nothing in particular undercut respect for the presidency, neutralize the advantage of the incumbency and motivate the public to tune out or denigrate important messages. Mr. Obama seems oblivious to the obvious truth that most of the country stopped paying attention to what he says years ago.
At a time when Americans feel more discontent and view their prospects more darkly than on any occasion since the depths of the Great Depression, the Democrats have defaulted. They offer no interpretation that conforms to their bedrock principles; they offer no narrative that fits the pieces into a comprehensible whole; they offer no vision for the future. Instead, they have adapted themselves to the Republican narrative and Republican motifs. They present no robust defense of government as the people’s instrument for meeting communal needs and wants. Rather, they incline toward the assumption that government and public programs should be viewed skeptically.
Privatization has been taken aboard without critical scrutiny; the White House-proposed sequester has resulted in a sharp reduction of all government services, personnel and budgets. That effect has been compounded by the failure to provide assistance to state and municipal governments in 2009 that could have prevented mass layoffs and cutbacks. The president’s buying into the “austerity” snake oil went so far as broadcasting the Republican propaganda that presents the federal budget as being no different from a family budget. Above all, he went out of his way to buffer the financial barons from condemnation and accountability.
The near total neglect of the Detroit crisis pulls into focus these multiple flaws and faulty judgments. A great American city is allowed to founder at the very moment that the federal government is spending hundreds of billions to salvage predatory financial interests. Not only is this tragedy allowed to occur without assistance from Washington, it is studiously ignored. The critical financial aid is wrung out of foundations — the ultimate confirmation that public responsibilities have been shed and replaced with pleadings before the “private sector.” The earned pensions of hundreds of thousands are saved only by their generosity, not by a Democratic administration. The Detroit Museum of Arts, too, gains a reprieve from having its world class collection scattered to the four winds like the ashes from a city sacked by barbarians.
The overwhelming majority of those abandoned by their government are Democrats. Consequently, the populist passions that have raged since 2008 have been diverted from Wall Street to Washington. Almost all American politics is a contest for populist imagery. It provides the only vocabulary for political discourse. Democrats, for more than a century, identified and encouraged that current of populist thinking that found its target in the established power of big business and banking. Republicans have tried strenuously to counteract that tendency by playing on skepticism of government — especially the federal government. That great battle produced the historic victory of the Democratic conception as embodied in the New Deal. It now is in the process of being reversed.
That is the outcome of a long-term strategy that gained momentum in the Reagan years. Its successes have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be imagined at the time. The Great Financial Collapse promised to stop the movement in its tracks — to regain lost ground and to consolidate what had been won. That the diametric opposite has occurred represents the ultimate failure of Democrats and their allies. There is much blame to go around; surely, though, the largest share goes to Mr. Obama. In this sense, his presidency indeed has been one of the most consequential in our history. To call it a success, though, is to embrace the thinking of the radical reactionaries who are celebrating their triumph. Have years of appeasement — intellectual and political — led to a silent conversion?
What next? The first signs are discouraging. The noises coming out of the punditocracy, think tanks, media and the Clinton entourage suggest that the same blinkered views that have brought the Democratic Party low are being reinforced. Some of this phenomenon can be understood as sheer intellectual laziness among the inbred Washington elites. Some expresses the self-interest of those who long have reconciled themselves to a status quo that has placed them among the country’s privileged and keeps threats to their sinecures at a distance. This is not the age of conviction or empathy. The psychology of cognitive dissonance reinforces these dispositions.
Adversity is rarely the mother of invention, as the old adage has it. Experience and history tell us otherwise, as do behavioral experiments. The psychology of perceived necessity is complex. Adversity or threat in and of itself does not trigger improvisation or adjustment. Even the survival instinct does not always spark innovation. Denial, or avoidance, is normally the first reaction when facing adversity in trying to reach an objective or to satisfy an interest. Reiteration of the standard repertoire of responses follows. Hence, we already are seeing a spate of commentaries to the effect that the big test is 2016; that what happens then will determine future control of the Senate; that what really counts are the social issues — abortion, same sex marriage, immigration — where legislation is less important than executive action and the Supreme Court. Hence, we see Democrats grasping at the straw represented by the weak field of prospective Republican candidates, most with extreme views far out of line with the locus of public opinion.
True innovation tends to occur only in extremis; indulgent complacency is built on the premise that the party is not in extremis. So they rest content with making tactical adjustments at the margins rather than alteration of core premises and patterns of action.
There are few signs that any significant slice of Democratic Party elites have the motivation, conviction and intestinal fortitude to break out of their self-induced coma. The harsh truth is that the gumption to take on the arduous task of creating a new political frame of reference in the country is in short supply. It is far easier to think in terms of personal career, to concentrate on the political maneuvers that might keep you in office or get you into a higher office. That clearly is the outlook of Hillary Clinton.
Last Thursday, her camp heralded the connection being made with the famed Austin public relations wizard who produced the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
It is this kind of puerile attitude that has the Democratic Party sinking beneath the waves — dragging with it the decent country that the party did so much to create.
We are witnessing a great contest that will determine the American destiny for generations to come. One side is mobilized for total war. The other isn’t even sure that the battle is engaged. The latter’s supposed champion expends his energy in the neutral no-man’s land searching blindly for common ground. He positions himself thus because he is a pacifist at heart — and because he sees some virtue to parts of the opponent’s creed.
Can the outcome be in doubt?
Michael Brenner, Huffington Post
A number of voters in Texas reported problems casting their ballots on Election Day, with many of the issues stemming from a restrictive new voter ID law that went into effect for the first time this election cycle. Texas is one of several states where residents are reporting problems with voting, a consequence of Congress’ failure to replace a key provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court last year.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the part of the Voting Rights Act that prevented certain states with a history of discrimination from enacting changes to their voting process without permission from the federal government or a panel of judges.
Following that decision, voting rights advocates pushed for Congress to pass legislation preventing states from making potentially discriminatory changes to election laws that could prevent citizens from casting their votes. The initiative even gained limited Republican support. But Congress failed to act.
The ramifications of congressional inaction are now being felt not only by Texas voters, but by residents of a number of other states as well. In Georgia, voters who believed they were registered reported being turned away because officials failed to process a number of voter registration forms that were submitted by an outside group. In North Carolina, a law in effect for the first time this year bans people from voting unless they show up at a specific precinct. Many voters in the state have reported time-consuming delays because they were not allowed to cast a ballot when they showed up at the wrong polling location.
Voting problems seemed especially prolific in Texas, where the new voter ID law has effectively disenfranchised many voters, especially college students, elderly voters, new residents of the state and poor people. Voters who had valid photo identification issued by other states were surprised to learn their ID wasn’t valid under the Texas law, which a federal judge last month called a “unconstitutional poll tax.” The law was, in fact, ruled unconstitutional by a federal court before the Supreme Court allowed it to go forward, at least for the 2014 election, evidently because the majority of the court believed it was too late to revert back to the previous voter ID law.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is challenging the Texas law in a lawsuit. One of the plaintiffs is a student named Imani Clark, who was unable to vote in this election because she has an out-of-state driver’s license. And she’s not alone.
Kelsey McElduff, 22, recently moved to Texas to earn a master’s degree in transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She registered to vote almost as soon as she arrived, because she was interested in propositions on commuter rail and education that were appearing on the ballot. But McElduff discovered she wasn’t able to vote with her out-of-state license. Fortunately, she had a passport and was able to bring it back in time to vote.
“I can’t help but feel as though my rights to vote in the state I’m living in are being oppressed based on where I came from,” McElduff told The Huffington Post, adding that she has other friends from out of state who didn’t register to vote because they thought the new law required them to have a Texas driver’s license.
Christina Sanders, state director at the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, told HuffPost that her group saw a “concerning” number of students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college in Prairie View, Texas, turned away because the only identification they had were student IDs or out-of-state driver’s licenses, both of which are not accepted under Texas’s new law.
Uba Okereke, who recently attended the Frank Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, said that his girlfriend went to vote in Dallas this morning with four other friends, but she was the only one who had adequate ID and was able to do so. “I was like, man, that’s crazy,” he said, adding that “voter ID laws in Texas and other southern states are truly discriminatory.”
“Voter ID is definitely emerging as a big problem this year,” said Wendy Weiser, who heads the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Weiser worked on Tuesday with the Election Protection coalition, a group of NGOs working on voting rights issues. She said that voter registration problems have been “widespread” this year, with many voters reporting that they had been “purged” from the voter rolls in states like Georgia.
The Election Protection coalition had received over 18,000 phone calls as of Tuesday afternoon, though officials noted that many of these calls were from voters simply seeking information on their polling location or asking other questions. Still, Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a member of the coalition, believed that the high volume of calls was representative of deeper problems.
“This isn’t what people call ‘voting irregularities.’ These are large-scale, systemic problems,” she said.
With Republicans expected to gain seats in the House and possibly take control of the Senate, it isn’t clear that voting rights reform will be high on the agenda.
“While in the ideal world, Congress would be responsive to actual problems, we have seen a lot of congressional dysfunction lately,” Weiser said. “We can point to a strong need. Whether that strong need leads to congressional action also depends on who wins today.”
Exit polls conducted across the country on Election Day indicate a nation suffering from severe memory loss, those who conducted the polls confirmed Tuesday night.
According to the polls, Americans who cast their votes today had a difficult time remembering events that occurred as recently as six years ago, while many seemed to be solid only on things that have happened in the past ten days.
While experts were unable to explain the epidemic of memory loss that appears to have gripped the nation, interviews with Americans after they cast their votes suggest that their near total obliviousness to anything that happened as recently as October may have influenced their decisions.
“I really think it’s time for a change,” said Carol Foyler, a memory-loss sufferer who cast her vote this morning in Iowa City. “I just feel in my gut that if these people were in charge they’d do a really amazing job with the economy.”
Harland Dorrinson, who voted in Akron, Ohio, and who has no memory of anything that happened before 2013, said his main concern was a terrorist attack on American soil.
“I really think we need to put a party in charge that won’t ever let something like that happen,” he said.
In Texas, exit polls showed strong support for George P. Bush, who was running for the Republican nomination for Texas land commissioner. “George Bush sounds like the name of someone who would be really good at running things,” said one voter.
The national exit polls revealed an electorate deeply fearful of a number of threats, including ISIS, Ebola, and, oh, what was that other thing?
ANDY BOROWITZ, The New Yorker
In the end, there was no Republican wave. Indeed, ideologically it was barely a ripple. Unlike 2010, with the Tea Party, or 2006, when the Democrats took over, there was no all-encompassing agenda or over-arching theme. The Republicans won the US midterms – there’s no denying that – but they didn’t win as big as it first seems.
This election cycle included not only conservative-friendly states but a disproportionate number of competitive states in which incumbent Democrats were stepping down. Democrats have not won Louisiana or Arkansas in a presidential election since 1996, Georgia since 1992 and Alaska since 1964. A Democrat losing in these places is no great surprise. They were low-hanging fruit, and Republicans expended a lot of energy – and even more money – trying to get to it. They were successful. Democrats fared better on Tuesday night than they did in 2010, two years after which Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney. States where Democrats fared worse, like Virginia, North Carolina or Florida (in the governor’s race), are swing states that are always in play.
This election was not a referendum on Obama. Or if it was, it was inconclusive. He is as much the president in New Hampshire, where Democrats won a Senate seat, as in Colorado and Georgia, where they lost.
But the midterms were a reflection on Obama’s presidency. His second term has lacked purpose and direction as it has lurched from crisis to crisis, many of which – the NSA, the IRS, White House security – have been self-imposed. Where he has taken a stand, like on gun control after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama was unable to achieve legislative change. Where he has not taken a stand, as with immigration reform, he is being punished for it. Polling shows the public actually backs Obama rather than Republicans on key issues, including mending rather than repealing Obamacare, immigration reform, increasing the minimum wage, same-sex marriage and a host of other issues. The problem is few people have any confidence that Obama will actually get any of them done.
Still, 2014 was hardly an endorsement of the Republicans. Red states like Nebraska and Arkansas voted to raise the minimum wage, Alaska and Oregon and Washington DC voted to legalize marijuana, and Washington state voted for a gun control measure. That the GOP has now taken control of the Senate marks a substantial change in terms of leadership but not a particularly consequential one in terms of legislation. The Republicans will emerge with only a small majority, and if the party’s recent experience running the House of Representatives is anything to go by, the GOP is likely to be a dysfunctional caucus – and anything Republicans do come up with that is unpalatable to Democrats, the president still holds a veto. Obama at times has proved himself in negotiations to possess the spine of a jellyfish, but unless he caves, nothing much more will get done this session than during the previous one.
Only this time the excuses will be different. Instead of Democrats blaming House Republicans for refusing to compromise, Republicans will blame Obama for thwarting the will of Congress. “Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict,” Mitch McConnell, the presumptive new Senate majority leader, said in his victory speech on Tuesday night. “I think I’ve shown that to be true at critical times in the past. I hope the president gives me the chance to show it again.”
According to a CNN exit poll, 8 in 10 Americans disapprove of how Congress has been handling its job, while almost 6 in 10 are displeased with President Obama. A full 44% have a positive view of Democrats; 40% have a positive view of Republicans. Americans have just elected the party they like the least to run the government body they least trust. Even greater cynicism is the most likely outcome.
On Tuesday night, the electorate wasn’t waving. It was drowning.
Gary Young, The Guardian
Over the weekend, the United Nations published a synthesis report of its “most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever.” As Jane C. Timm noted, “The 40-page report sums up 800 scientists’ thousands of pages of research from over 13 months, using an enormous amount of science to argue that carbon emissions must be dramatically reduced.”
The findings can fairly be described as terrifying. The New York Times’ report noted, “Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.”
The U.N. report pointed to the “increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
And though the document was specifically intended to help provide guidance to policymakers, Republican officials just don’t care.
The chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said on Sunday that a United Nations report that said the earth is heading toward “severe, pervasive, and irreversible” climate change impacts is “nothing new.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement that he appreciates efforts “to better understand the complex science of our ever-changing planet,” but adds that the new report “says nothing new.”
“Similar to previous reports, the latest findings appear more political than scientific,” he said. “People are tired of the re-packaged rhetoric. It’s time to stop fear mongering and focus on an honest dialogue about real options.”
Smith may not fully appreciate what the word “scientific” means.
For elected U.S. officials, who are ostensibly interested in Americans’ well being, to casually dismiss terrifying warnings is alarming. It is not, however, surprising – contemporary Republican politics is dominated by a fairly aggressive strain of climate denial.
Indeed, it’s about to get considerably worse.
Ron Brownstein took a closer look at the 14 most competitive U.S. Senate candidates in the Republican Party this year, most of whom are favored to win.
[W]hile all 14 GOP contenders promise to fight the proposed Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations limiting power-plant carbon emissions, Ernst would eliminate the EPA itself – a position rarely heard. […]
Other than Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, who is the least likely to win, none of the 14 has endorsed the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are driving global climate change.
Of the U.S. House members poised to get a promotion to the U.S. Senate, all of them are such fierce climate deniers that they voted to prohibit the Pentagon from even considering the national-security implications of global warming.
The more serious the crisis becomes, the more forceful the GOP becomes in rejecting the science. History will not be kind.
Steve Benin, MSNBC
Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel
San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.
Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.
The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.
The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.
The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”
The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.
“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.
The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab. The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”
“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.
Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.
The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made. When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).
“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.
The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits. The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations. Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.
—On Tuesday, Judge Christopher Brasher of the Fulton County Superior Court denied a petition from civil rights advocates to force Georgia’s Secretary of State to process an estimated 40,000 voter registrations that have gone missing from the public database.
Though early voting is well underway in the state, Judge Brasher called the lawsuit “premature,” and said it was based on “merely set out suspicions and fears that the [state officials] will fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”
Angela Aldridge, an organizer with the group 9 to 5 Atlanta Working Women who has been working to register voters for several months, told ThinkProgress she was “furious” when she learned of the outcome: “That impedes people’s rights,” she said. “People need information before they go out to vote and they don’t even know if they’re registered or not. They were discouraged, upset, kind of frazzled, not really knowing what was going on. What can you even say to people who want to vote but possibly can’t? They might get disengaged and say, ‘Why vote? It doesn’t matter.’ It’s really disheartening.”
The New Georgia Project, who spearheaded the voter registration drive and brought the lawsuit against the state, vowed Tuesday to “continue to pursue all legal avenues available.” But with the election mere days away, there may be little remedy for the tens of thousands of people who submitted all necessary documents, but have still not received a registration card. Four of those impacted voters were present at the court hearing, but were denied the opportunity to testify.
Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, who represented the 40 thousand voters in the court, called the ruling “outrageous.”
“All in all – a republican appointed judge has backed the republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” Johnson wrote in a press release.
On Monday, dozens of Georgians occupied the Secretary of State’s office to demand he meet with them and explain what happened to the tens of thousands of missing registrations. At that protest, in which eight activists were arrested, former American Government teacher and civil rights lawyer Marsha Burrofsky told ThinkProgress she suspects foul play.
“When we started registering people this spring, people were saying, ‘You know, I registered six months ago, but I haven’t gotten anything yet!’ We thought that was strange,” she said. So we sat down with our list of registrations and checked, and about 20 to 20 percent were not showing up. We truly don’t know where things stand with them.”
Burrofsky said the people she registered in Dunwoody, Georgia, a more affluent and conservative community, did show up in the system, while those in more diverse and low-income communities in DeKalb County mysteriously disappeared.
“It just hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a tactic that the Secretary of State could use. I was very naive, I guess. I feel absolutely sick that this election is being stolen,” she said.
With the races for the state’s governor’s mansion and Senate seat too close to call, the missing voters could not only sway the political control of the state, but the political control of Congress’ upper chamber. Aldridge, who has spent several months registering voters in Fulton and Cobb County, told ThinkProgress that it is imperative to increase participation in marginalized communities so that elected officials better represent the constituents.
“I don’t believe that the government represents the whole state yet,” she said. “The politicians always say, ‘These are our values.’ But it has nothing to do with my personal values! That’s why we have to get out to vote, to make sure our state represents our values.”
Longtime Atlanta resident Atuarra McCaslin with Moral Monday Georgia, who organized Monday’s action, summed up his feelings on the situation. “It’s an unjust thing going on, he said. “Those 40,000 now can’t participate in the voting process, even though it’s their right as citizens. The Secretary of State doesn’t really care about those 40,000 people, who are primarily people of color and youth. Those kids have been waking up politically, and now their voices are going unheard. It’s just not right.”
ALICE OLLSTEIN, From Think Progress
We recently wrote about how Congressional Candidate Ro Khanna is a Democrat in name only at this point – even attracting criticism from Howard Dean for his anti-Democratic statements. Now it appears Khanna is courting Republicans by repeatedly calling on the political ghost of the former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell of San Jose.
But Campbell hasn’t endorsed Khanna and, as of today, the Mike Honda campaign is pushing back with a new website, RightWingRo.com, that educates voters about the real Republicans behind Khanna’s bid for Congress – aka, none other than the disgraced former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, who recently came under fire for some homophobic remarks.
“While Khanna has frequently drawn on the memory of former Congressman Tom Campbell in his last-ditch attempt to secure the conservative vote, Republicans deserve to know where Khanna’s support is actually coming from – former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, who Campbell defeated in the 1980s,” said Honda Campaign Manager Doug Greven in a statement. “We have launched this latest effort to provide Republicans with the facts behind the company Khanna keeps so that they can make an informed decision about who is best to represent the 17th Congressional District.”
Despite Konnyu’s questionable character, Khanna has not renounced Konnyu’s endorsement. In fact, he’s said he was “happy” to have the support of Konnyu, his highest-ranking Republican endorser who tried to rally the support of the Tea Party Express for Khanna in August.
The new website goes on to show how Konnyu was disowned by his own party in the 1980s after three aides accused him of sexual harassment. Even Campbell has attacked Konnyu for vulgarly addressing female aides and lobbyists. Campbell, who challenged Konnyu in 1988 and won, chided him for his “insensitivity” and “crassness,” and called Konnyu “a fraud,” and “a turkey,” according to media reports from the 1980s.
So, while Khanna may be courting Republicans, his highest-ranking Republican ally is a guy Republicans don’t even want on their team – not exactly a ringing endorsement for a candidate trying to establish credibility among some of the state’s savviest voters.
People have many perceptions of how the US economy or the country as a whole is doing in recent years. Depending on your political views, you may think the country is doing exceptionally well or on the verge of collapse.
Listed below are 14 objective facts, without interjecting any opinion, about the state of America under the leadership of President Obama. Every statement is followed up with a link to a source where you can verify these facts for yourself.
1. We’ve now had 63 straight months of economic expansion.
That’s right, for 63 consecutive months the US economy has gotten progressively better. That includes 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Forbes magazine, no fan of President Obama, crunched the numbers and demonstrated how the economic recovery under President Obama has been better in just about every measurable way than the recovery under President Reagan.
2. We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history.
Again, this statistic comes from the Forbes Magazine article listed above. In fact, we have now had 54 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the longest period of job creation since the Department of Labor has been keeping statistics. See the link below.
3. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 5.9% and projected to reach 5.4% by summer of 2015.
Not only has the unemployment rate dropped significantly, but since the recession ended, our economy as added over ten million new jobs. You can refer to the Forbes article above or check this article on PoliticsUSA.
4. The stock market continues to set new records since President Obama has been in office.
Since early 2009 there has been a steady trend in stock market growth. The Dow Jones Industrial averages reached an all-time high of 17,098 in August, 2014. Since most Americans have 401K retirement investments in the stock market, this stock market growth benefits millions of middle class Americans.
5. The Federal budget deficit is shrinking. It’s been reduced by two-thirds since 2009.
The $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit that Obama inherited in 2009 was in a large part due to the high rate of unemployment. When millions of people were put out of work in 2008 and 2009, it resulted in far less income taxes and less economic activity to generate federal revenue. As ten million people have been put back to work, there have been billions more tax dollars generated. As a result, the deficit has been shrinking each year. The 2014 deficit is projected to be around $500 billion, the smallest deficit since 2007 and roughly 1/3 of what it was in 2009.
6. Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president.
You may have heard critics say that President Obama is spending money wildly and running up our debt. According to this article from Forbes, Obama has increased spending by 1.4% annually, far less than President Reagan (8.7%) or George W. Bush (8.1%). In fact, Obama has increased spending less than any president since Eisenhower.
7. For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years.
After President Obama took office, thousands of Tea Party members all over the country held rallies protesting Obama’s tax increases. At that time, President Obama had actually passed several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Most of the Tea Partiers who were protesting had only seen their taxes decrease under Obama. Yet polls indicated that most Tea Party members wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.
In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That’s less than 2% of the population. Today, for the vast majority of people, tax rates are exactly where they were when Obama first took office or lower. The article below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains this in greater detail.
8. Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards.
While some people claim that oil production has declined under President Obama, the truth is just the opposite. Oil production has reached record highs. The United States now produces so much oil that we export more oil and gasoline than we import.
9. At least 7 million more Americans now have health insurance than before.
Depending on whose numbers you use, between 7 and 10 million Americans acquired health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Now that those 7 to 10 million Americans have insurance, the rest of us are no longer on the hook to pay for their health care when they get sick. This saves the American people billions of dollars in the long run.
10. The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare.
The Medicare trust fund had been on course to run out of money by the end of 2016. But due to cost savings from the Affordable Care Act and lower healthcare expenses, Medicare’s trust fund is now stable until the year 2030 without cutting benefits.
11. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960.
Contrary to the predictions from Republicans, health care costs have increased at a much slower pace since the passage of the ACA.
12. We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors and airmen in war zones than any time in over 10 years.
With the end of the Iraq war and the steady withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, we have fewer people in war zones now than any time since 2002.
13. There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on US soil since Obama became president.
Despite Dick Cheney’s claim that if voters elect a Democrat as president, we’ll be “hit again and hit hard” by al Qaeda, we have actually been far safer from terrorist attacks on US soil in recent years than we were under the previous president. There have been several unsuccessful attacks against the US under both presidents, but under Obama, al Qaeda has been largely unsuccessful in striking the US on our home soil.
14. We now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Despite the publicity from busloads of children who illegally entered the country, the numbers prove that President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.
All of the facts stated above can be confirmed through multiple sources, yet most Americans are not aware of all of this positive news. I invite you to do your own research and check these facts for yourself.
The truth is, most other presidents would envy President Obama’s record despite the fact that he inherited the worst economic crash since the Great Depression.
Here’s a bonus. If you feel particularly ambitious, feel free to research these additional facts.
- Since Obama became president, our economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to adding 200,000 jobs per month. That’s a net improvement under Obama of about 1 million jobs per month!
- Before Obama became president, our financial system was in ruins and millions of people were at risk of losing their life savings. Now, the financial loopholes have been fixed and we are no longer at risk of another financial collapse.
- In 5 years under Obama the economy has created twice as many jobs as were created in 8 years under George W. Bush.
- President Obama passed credit card reforms that protects consumers from excessive fees, rate hikes, deceptive marketing and unreasonable due dates.
- Thanks to “Obamacare”, senior citizens have saved billions of dollars on prescription drugs.
- The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of your premiums on health care. As a result millions of Americans have received refunds from their health insurance companies.
Despite the unprecedented obstructionism and record number of filibusters used by Republicans to kill even the most routine legislation, the fact remains, in almost every measurable way, the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office.
From Hub Pages
You gotta love the fact that Scott Brown is providing the comic relief for yet one more election cycle. It’s just gravy that he’s doing it this year as a carpetbagger. Today’s fun can be found in Tuesday night’s debate, moderated by NBC’s Chuck Todd. Todd asked him to provide the evidence for his contention that ISIS was poised at the border to attack the U.S. from Mexico. Scottie’s response?
BROWN: With respect, I did not say that. What I have said is that ISIS is real.
Um, no, as a matter of fact. And much to Scottie’s detriment, there’s this thing now called the internet that helps keep a record of all the times he said that ISIS could attack the U.S. from Mexico. Dave Weigel does the research. There was when he said it last month in a foreign policy speech (“these ISIS thugs have been saying for months that they’re going to send people here to kill Americans on as big a scale as they can, and never mind that a porous border is the most obvious pathway for terrorists to enter our country”), and onFox News (“There’s deep concerns that there are members of ISIS actually coming through the border right now”), and last week on the radio, when he threw in some Ebola just for fun (“I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist”).But the most entertaining whopper from Scottie of the evening, at least for the New Hampshire crowd, was when Todd asked him why he passed up on the opportunity to run for the Senate again in Massachusetts special elections. “Because I live here,” said Scottie, and you can immediately hear the laughs and the skeptical guffaws from the crowd. He doubles down, “I was born at the Portsmouth Naval shipyard!” And the crowd laughs even harder. “My mom was a waitress at Hampton Beach!” And the crowd gives up on him entirely.
Ah, Scottie, thanks for all the laughs. But we really won’t miss you when you’re gone. On the other hand, there are 48 other states you could try.
Joan Carter, Daily Kos
Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers
San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.
“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.
At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.
The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”
The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”
The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
The Koret Board is expected to attend the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.
The full text of the letter is below:
Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors
October 17, 2014
It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.
“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”
Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.
From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.
Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.
We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.
While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.
We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.
National Domestic Worker Alliance
Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*
Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas
Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition
Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*
Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas
Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*
Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*
*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement
Once in a great while, a politician will slip and accidentally tell the truth. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), for example, who inadvertently praised the Affordable Care Act.
“Repeal and replace” has been a Republican mantra for nearly as long as Obamacare has been in existence. Yet one of the GOP’s rumored 2016 front-runners isn’t playing along.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to cruise to reelection this year and then seek the Republican nomination in 2016, recently told the Associated Press that repealing the Affordable Care is “not gonna happen.” “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological,” he said. “I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”
You could almost hear Kasich’s national ambitions evaporating as the AP article made the rounds.
In context, it’s hard to tell whether the Ohio Republican was speaking about the Affordable Care Act overall or specifically the part of the law related to Medicaid expansion, which Kasich has long supported. In either case, for a prominent GOP policymaker – a former Fox News analyst, no less – to admit out loud that all or part of “Obamacare” is making “real improvements in people’s lives” is a striking development. Kasich’s assessment, which happens to be true, is a reminder that the right’s repeal crusade has already died with a whimper.
Of course, Kasich was forced to scramble last night, undoing the political damage done by his candor. The Ohio governor turned to Twitter to say, “As always, my position is that we need to repeal and replace,” but the damage was already done. Kasich has already made clear – in words and deeds – that he sees no future in repealing the entirety of the federal health care system. Indeed, was fairly explicit on this, telling the AP that the right-wing arguments don’t hold water “against real flesh and blood.”
Jonathan Cohn added a good point:
This is heresy on the political right, although it shouldn’t be. It’s easy to forget, but the basic idea of Obamacare – a system of competing private insurance plans, with subsidies to help lower income people pay them – used to have the support from many conservatives. Many of the law’s features, like a cap on the tax exemption for group health insurance, remain popular on the right. And while Republicans don’t typically like Medicaid, there’s a long history of Republican governors working with Washington to implement the program in ways that ultimately benefit their states.
The reason you don’t hear more praise like this from Republicans is largely political (it’s Obama’s law) and ideological (it involves some government intervention) – which, of course, was precisely Kasich’s point.
In fact, I’d add that Kasich, during his congressional tenure, introduced a health care reform plan of his own, and looking back at his 1994 blueprint, Kasichcare looks pretty similar to Obamacare.
In the short term, Kasich’s candor on health care probably won’t have much of an effect on his career – the incumbent governor has a big lead in the polls over his Democratic challenger, and with just two weeks remaining, it’ll take more than honest rhetoric about health care to shake up that race.
But in the long term, the Ohio Republican has committed a mortal Republican sin by giving away a secret the GOP tries to keep hidden: President Obama’s health care reform system is actually helping people, and its opponents on the right largely deserve to be ignored. Were Kasich to run for national office, this would be quite an albatross.
Steve Benin, MSNBC
Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, who have been together for 58 years, became the first same-sex couple to get married in Arizona after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.
They met in college, where they lived in the same dorm, and started out as friends. But things blossomed a few months later: “I came back from spring break and told Nelda I loved her,” Bailey revealed to Why Marriage Matters Arizona, “It was all so new and amazing for me.”
Outside the Maricopa County Superior Court today, Majors, 76, said, “I have no words to express how I feel. It’s wonderful!”
Another couple—David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31—married outside the county clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix. Patterson rushed straight from the gym when the verdict was announced and was so excited he forgot to bring a ring.
“I feel a lot of gratitude that this day finally came,” he told The Republic.
One Arizonan who’s not feeling gracious, however, is Governor Jan Brewer. (You know, the lady shook a pointed finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac with armed Secret Service only a few feet away.)
She’s furious that gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to marry in her state, now that Attorney General Tom Horne revealed he wouldn’t appeal today’s ruling.
In a press release Brewer ranted that “the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people” and eroded individual states’ rights.
It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than 200 years.
As Justice Scalia opined, such action is tantamount to ‘an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’ and is an image of the judiciary ‘that would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.’
Brewer insisted that determining who can get married “is not the role of the judiciary.”
Perhaps she’s forgotten landmark cases like Loving v. Virginia? Or maybe it’s just more convenient to ignore them.
Regardless, congratulations to all the lucky couples today!
by Dan Avery, Logo TV
Democratic Congressional challenger Ro Khanna seems determined to isolate the last of his Democratic supporters – and give new meaning to his moniker, ‘Republican lite.’
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Democrats nationwide are questioning Khanna’s loyalties after he released campaign mail criticizing his opponent, Congressman Mike Honda, for … consistently voting with fellow democrats on issues including the budget. Huh?
Even Howard Dean, a Honda supporter and founder of Democracy for America, voiced his confusion in a mass email on Wednesday: “As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” Dean wrote. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”
It’s no wonder every major Democrat here and across the U.S. – from President Barack Obama, Khanna’s former boss, to Gov. Jerry Brown and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi –endorsed Honda.
The only high-profile Democrat missing from Honda’s extensive endorsement list is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who became Khanna’s highest-profile elected endorser back in April. Newsome is probably regretting it.
Not only is Khanna the choice of Republicans, including the homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu and the Tea Party, but his latest mail piece proves he’s on the warpath against liberal values.
Sticking by Khanna is a no-win situation for Newsom, who has his sights set on higher statewide or national office. Now that Khanna has made his right-wing politics crystal clear, the Lieutenant Governor would be wise to withdraw his support.
President Barack Obama may be facing some of his lowest approval ratings to date, but that isn’t stopping Paul Krugman from defending the president’s overall track record. In fact, the Nobel Prize-winning economist is arguing Obama is one of the most “successful presidents in American history.”
Krugman, who was once among the president’s more notable skeptics, made his case in a new feature for Rolling Stone aptly titled “In Defense of Obama,” in which he dismissed persistent attacks from Republicans and mounting disappointment expressed by Democrats with an outline of the Obama administration’s key achievements in several areas including healthcare, the environment, national security, and the economy.
It’s a tough time to be making that case. Americans are increasingly frustrated byObama’s handling of ISIS and continued unrest in Iraq. As for the economy, even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently blamed Obama’s economic advisers for repeatedly failing ordinary Americans in favor of Wall Street.
But in a follow-up interview with ABC News, Krugman told Jonathan Karl the recent onslaught of criticism is unwarranted, noting Americans have experienced more “consequential” changes under Obama’s presidency than ever before.
“People who had this idea that Obama was going to bring a transformation of America, I thought were being naïve,” Krugman said in the interview. “But, by God, we got health reform, and we got a significant financial reform. We are getting the environmental action … it’s not everything you would have wanted, but it’s more than anyone else has done for decades.”
By Inae Oh, Mother Jones
Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding Dean of UC-Irvine School of Law and a renowned legal scholar, has some scathing words for the Supreme Court: It “has frequently failed, throughout American history, at its most important tasks, at its most important moments.”
This critique is contained in the progressive legal luminary’s new book, provocatively titled “The Case Against The Supreme Court.”
Chemerinsky tells TPM he wrote the book after realizing he had been “making excuses” for the Court over three decades of teaching it, and decided to make the case that it has often failed its duty to protect individual and minority rights against the passions of the majority.
His disenchantment is shared: The Court’s popularity with Americans is near an all-time low of 44 percent, down from 60 percent in the early 2000s. Forty-eight percent now disapprove of it, according to a Gallup poll last week.
Chemerinsky spoke to TPM about why the Supreme Court is broken and how to fix it. A lightly edited transcript follows.
Your book is called “The Case Against The Supreme Court.” That could be read as meaning you want to abolish the Supreme Court, but that’s not what you’re saying. What should be done with it?
I don’t believe we should eliminate the Supreme Court. I believe that the Supreme Court is essential to enforce the Constitution. But I do propose many reforms, ranging from a clear definition of the role of the Court, to merit selection of Supreme Court justices, to changing the confirmation process, to term limits for justices, to changing the way the Court communicates — like cameras in the Court, to applying the ethics rules that apply to lower court judges for Supreme Court justices, and also changing recusal policies in the Supreme Court.
You also argue that Supreme Court nominees should clearly express their views on constitutional issues like the right to an abortion, which they don’t do today.
All presidents through history have considered ideology in choosing who to appoint for the Court. It’s fully appropriate for the Senate to consider ideology. I think the Senate should insist as a condition for confirmation that all candidates answer certain questions about their views.
There are only two reasons I could think of to not ask somebody their views. One is that the views of the nominee don’t matter to what he or she is going to do on the bench. And that seems clearly wrong. If you put somebody on the Court who strongly opposes or strongly supports abortion rights, the odds are overwhelming that’s how he or she is going to vote. The other is the idea that it’s inappropriate to know somebody’s views before they deal with cases because that means they’re not longer impartial. But that seems wrong. We know how Antonin Scalia is going to vote on abortion, we know how Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to vote on abortion, based on what they said in prior cases. The fact that we know somebody’s views is not disqualifying.
Of the changes you discuss in the book — merit selection of judges, making nominees express their views, 18-year term limits, broadcasting oral arguments — if you had to pick one change that’d best fix the Court, what would it be and why?
I would choose term limits for the justices. It’s also the hardest to bring about because I think it would take a constitutional amendment.
There are a couple of reasons why. Life expectancy has thankfully increased tremendously since 1787. Clarence Thomas was 43 when he went on the Court in 1991. If he remains until he’s 90 years old, the age which Justice [John Paul] Stevens stepped down, he’ll be a justice for 47 years. John Roberts and Elena Kagan were each 50 when they went on the Court. If they stay until they’re 90, they’ll be there 40 years. That’s too much power for any one person to hold for too long a period of time.
Also, too much now depends on the fortuity of timing with vacancies. Richard Nixon got four vacancies in four years; Jimmy Carter got no vacancies in four years. Eighteen-year term limits would mean a vacancy every two years — every president with the same ability to shape the composition of the Court.
You write that the Court has “sanctioned terrible injustices” throughout its history in ruling like Dred Scott to uphold slavery, Plessy v. Ferguson to validate racial segregation and when it upheld Japanese internment camps. Have you in your years as a legal scholar always felt this way about the Court?
I’ve always felt that those decisions have been tragically wrong. I think what I was doing implicitly in my teaching was making excuses in the Court. I tried to portray the Court’s Dred Scotts and Plessys as exceptions and that the Court overall has really succeeded. And it’s only in the last few years that I had this realization that the Court has often failed at its most important tasks at the most important times.
To what extent have the Roberts Court decisions, which you and many others have criticized, on issues like race and minority rights, factored into your dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court?
I think my criticism of the Court is much broader than the Roberts Court. I didn’t want to write the liberal case against the Supreme Court. In the first few chapters I criticize the Supreme Court on race, and at times of crisis, and the Lochner Era [an early 20th century period when it struck down minimum wage and federal child labor laws]. I think liberals and conservatives would agree that those decisions were wrong.
You have high praise for the Warren Court and its decisions for equality likeBrown v. Board of Education which overturned the doctrine of separate but equal. Was that the Supreme Court at its best, in your view? Has any other iteration of the Court matched it?
I think the Marshall Court was the best iteration of the Supreme Court. I think decisions likeMarbury v. Madison [which established judicial review] laid the foundations for all constitutional law. I applaud the Warren Court but as I argue, it didn’t do nearly enough in key areas like school desegregation and like in making sure that everyone tried for a crime has competent counsel.
What are the best three or four decisions the Court has made in its history?
That’s a great question. I’d certainly put Brown v. Board of Education there. I’d put Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland there. I’d put Gideon v. Wainwright. I’d put Baker v. Carrand Reynolds v. Sims.
And the worst?
Well, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu [which said Japanese internment camps were constitutional]. That’s a good hall of shame to start with.
What are the worst misconceptions about the Supreme Court in popular society? What does the general public most get wrong about it?
The belief that the justices are objective. The belief that the justices are just applying the law and not making law. The belief that the justices are just umpires. Supreme Court justices have tremendous discretion in the kind of cases that come before them. And I think people don’t recognize that.
Are all Supreme Court justices politically motivated?
I don’t think it’s political in the sense of Democrats versus Republicans. I think it is political in the sense of ideological. The ideology of justices matters enormously. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia so often disagree. It’s not that one is smarter. It’s not that one knows the Constitution better. It’s that their ideology is different.
SAHIL KAPUR, Talking Points Memo
As Paul Krugman argues in his piece In Defense of Obama, this has not been a feel-good presidency. But it has been a consequential one. The policy victories Obama has delivered have been hard-fought, messy and politically fraught. The achievements may not be all that the president’s 2008 boosters hoped for, but change has come. Here, six years of progress, by the numbers:
Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2014: 2.8 percent of GDP
Average under Ronald Reagan: 4.2 percent of GDP
Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719
Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent
Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030
Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000
States with medical marijuana, 2009: 13
Jurisdictions with medical marijuana today: 23 states, plus Washington, D.C.
States with legal recreational pot 2009: 0
States with legal recreational pot today: 2
Jurisdictions with marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2014: Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C.
States where gay marriage was legal inauguration day 2009: Massachusetts, Connecticut
States where gay marriage is legal: 24, plus Washington, D.C. (soon to be 30 plus D.C., following Supreme Court refusal to intervene)
Immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children now shielded from deportation: 800,000
Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity
San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing. The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican. The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.
Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.
“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.
“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported. “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.
“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”
Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades. He said about the suit:
“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”
The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”
Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”
The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland. “
While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.
Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.
Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger, and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”
The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.
Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.
Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.
Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed. She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.
She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions: the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.
“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split. This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.
The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.
“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation. A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.
Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.
The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:
- The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do. Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty. His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.
Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.
While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.
- Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.
- Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University. From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.
In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.
The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:
- Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.
- Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.
- Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.
- Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.
- Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.
- Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.
- Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.
Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors. She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.
The Republican Party is throwing a temper tantrum after one of their own candidates was purged from the Arkansas voter rolls, and they only have themselves to blame.
Leslie Rutledge is the GOP candidate in the race to become Arkansas’ next Attorney General. Well, she used to be anyway. As it turns out, the state constitution requires candidates for public office to be registered voters, but because of voter suppression laws passed by the GOP, Rutledge has not only been disqualified as a voter, she could be disqualified as a candidate because of it.
Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge via ThinkProgress
Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane booted Rutledge’s name off the voter rolls because she failed to follow proper procedure. She failed to cancel previous registrations in Washington DC and Virginia before she moved to Pulaski County, where she failed to re-register to vote.
Of course, this caused Republicans to accuse Crane, a Democrat, of engaging in “dirty tricks,” but Crane says he was legally bound to remove Rutledge’s name from the rolls after receiving a letter about the issue of her registration.
Rutledge isn’t the only person in Arkansas to be tossed from the voter pool. Thousands of Arkansas voters have faced the same treatment. They’ve been thrown off the voter rolls, interrogated about their personal information, and had their legal vote discarded entirely due to restrictive anti-voting measures passed by Republicans. But because their own laws are affecting one of their own, only now are they upset. In fact, Republicans are so pissed that karma came back to bite them in the ass that they’re complaining about a tactic that they themselves have defended ruthlessly for months across the country. In short, they’re being hypocrites.
The chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association decided to defend Rutledge by whining about her being “systematically removed from voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.” He also claimed that Democrats were responsible for this voter suppression.
The fact is that it is a clear and unmistakable attempt at the most harmful kind of voter suppression in violation of federal law – removing a qualified female voter from the rolls notwithstanding her valid registration and actual votes in the last 4 elections in violation of her civil rights. Democrats should be embarrassed.
Democrats, however, are not the ones who have pushed voter suppression laws in states around the nation. The Republicans did that. Where were they when citizens who have been voting for decades were denied their right to vote because of the laws they themselves passed? Oh, that’s right, they didn’t give a damn because the laws they passed are supposed to target Democratic voters, not Republican voters.
But in this case, the voter suppression laws enacted by the GOP not only affected a Republican voter, it took down a Republican candidacy. And now they’re throwing a fit and accusing Democrats of voter suppression. Unfortunately for the GOP, Democrats are not to blame for their own misfortune. They already know who the true culprit is, all they have to do is look in a mirror.
Stephen Foster, Addicting Info
GOP media manipulator, Vinny Minchillo, is the mastermind of this crusade to remake the Republican image into one that embraces a human component. He tried to do the same thing a couple of years when for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Now Minchillo has created a website called “Republicans Are People Too.” and posted a video there to make a case for that dubious proposition (video also posted below). But the text accompanying the video conveys only a determination to whine about the plight of the poor, mistreated Republican. He moans that…
“It isn’t easy being a Republican these days. [...] We love political discourse. We encourage political discourse. But when did “Republican” become a dirty word?”
Perhaps the answer to that question is: When Republicans started calling Democrats fascists, communists, moochers, whores, traitors, and devils.
Minchillo’s video is a simple production that seeks to enumerate a series of “regular” folks that he labels with a the hashtag “IAmARepublican.” It is a fairly comprehensive list of average Americans who are not generally associated with the exclusivity, racism, and intolerance of the Republican Party. It is no wonder that the GOP is yearning to attract more of the type of people in the video, because it is a cross-section of the nation that represents its diversity, a word that makes the right tremble. The video consists of a parade of alleged party members and asks “Did you know Republicans…”
Drive Priuses, recycle, listen to Spotify, put together IKEA furniture, are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, read the New York Times, use Macs, are grandmas, daughters, moms, are left-handed, are doctors, welders, teachers, donate to charity, enjoy gourmet cooking, shop at Trader Joe’s, like dogs, and cats, have tattoos, have tattoos and beards, have feelings, are people who care.
The problem with the argument that Minchillo is making is that the people claiming to be Republicans in his video are not actually Republicans. And by that I don’t simply mean that those types of persons are not Republican, which on the whole they are not. I mean that those specific people in the video are not. In fact, they were photos taken from stock image suppliers. A search for a random selection of the photos in the video found many of them in the iStockPhotowebsite’s library of images. The persons in the paragraph above that are links will lead you to the stock image page for each one.
So the video produced in order to convince everyone that Republicans are real people is populated by fakes. They are models pretending to be the characters that the video claims represent actual members of the Republican Party. And that’s about as real as it gets for the GOP.
This would be a hilarious aside to the pathetic PR that is constantly pushed by right-wing propagandists. But it is actually just another rung in their ladder of deception. It is reminiscent of the effort by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to persuade voters that “We’re Not Stupid.”When you have to mount an advertising blitz to sell the public on the notion that you’re not stupid, you have already lost the battle. And the same thing goes for a campaign to assert your people-ness. If the public doesn’t already know that you’re people, good luck trying to convince them.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) want to investigate the Federal Reserve’s relationships with the banks it oversees after the release of taped conversations between managers and a former bank examiner at the Fed.
The recordings were made surreptitiously by a former Fed employee named Carmen Segarra, who is trying to prove in court that she was fired in retaliation for her attempts to bring a cultural shift to the supervisory work of the powerful central bank. They include a reprimand from her boss that she is “arrogant,” that she should “have a sense of humility” about her work, and should be guided more by the consensus within her working group than by her own instincts as a 10-year veteran of regulatory compliance work in the banking industry.
Segarra says she began making the tapes after her own colleagues tried on multiple occasions to cajole her into changing her notes from meetings with Goldman Sachs executives because they didn’t want an official record of some of the executives’ comments about the bank’s willingness to bend the rules.
The tapes document the former examiner’s experience pushing for a tougher approach to Goldman Sachs and being rebuffed by members of the team who had been there much longer. The audio recordings, published last week by This American Life and Pro Publica, appear to indicate that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York continues to have too cozy a relationship with the private bankers it is supposed to supervise despite an internal 2009 report that documented serious problems with how the Fed ran its oversight division in the run-up to the financial crisis.
While the Fed “categorically rejects” that depiction of its work to protect the economy from the most dangerous forms of risk-taking that the financial sector engages in, it declined to participate in the radio story beyond a written statement.
On Friday, Warren said the recordings require action from Capitol Hill. “Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by today’s whistleblower report when it returns in November, because it’s our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs,” she said in a statement. “When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting the American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street, it threatens our whole economy.”
Brown, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee with Warren, backed her request in a statement of his own. “These allegations deserve a full and thorough investigation, and American taxpayers deserve regulators who will fight each day on their behalf,” the Ohio senator and frequent financial industry critic said.
Segarra’s allegations and the 2009 internal report cited by This American Life and Pro Publica paint a picture of what’s called “regulatory capture” at the Fed. That means that an independent oversight body has stopped acting on its intended motivations of protecting the public from misdeeds by the entities it regulates and started acting on behalf of those entities’ own interests. Regulatory capture is a subtle thing defined less by concrete facts and figures and more by the tone of meetings and the way friendships between regulators and businesses color the regulators’ actions and views. If capture takes hold and goes unchecked, the regulatory cops on the beat turn into enablers. In the radio segment based on Segarra’s tapes, host Ira Glass compares captured regulators to “a watchdog who licks the face of an intruder, and plays catch with the intruder, instead of barking at him.”
Regulatory capture is just one example of the many abstract cultural forces on Wall Street that create an environment where financial misdeeds can flourish, imperiling the real economy that employs everyone else in the business of making and selling goods and services. Surveys of industry insiders have repeatedly found worrying evidence of ethical lapses among people in the financial business, including outright disregard for the law. A quarter of those surveyed in 2013 said that they would knowingly break the law for financial gain. That number jumped to 38 percent for respondents who have worked in finance for less than a decade. The same survey also found that women are twice as likely to fear retaliation for whistleblowing as men.
Wall Street culture holds immense power over the world’s economic fortunes. The products that firms were creating and trading and gambling on in the run-up to the financial crisis were widely understood to be unrealistic, according to white collar crime expert William Black, but there was a cultural understanding that everybody was going to get rich if they kept up the charade. Black and other experts use the acronym “IBGYBG” — I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone — to describe the dominant mentality among the highly skilled and technically savvy financial professionals who got rich trading pieces of paper that later proved to be valueless. These critics argue that Wall Street professionals knew they’d be able to cash out big bonuses and walk away before the crisis hit.
For outsiders, the consequences of that culture of greed are both massive and ongoing. More than five years after the Great Recession officially ended, earnings have rebounded for the wealthiest people in the country, business is booming for banks, and working Americans continue to face a bad job market and flat earnings despite increased productivity.
Alan Pyke, Think Progress