Crazy Conservatism, Trucker Rallies and Medicaid

Fishing Boats, Key West

Fishing Boats, Key West, 1903. By American painter Winslow Homer.

When the crazy never stops its like what happens to the little hair-like fibers in your ear after listening to loud music for years. Those cells become less sensitive to sound. Since there always seems to be some conservative freak or group of freaks doing something weird – and calling that weirdness patriotism, my political sensors tend to yawn at this point. I heard about the conservative trucker rally and I was not struck by anger, humor or frustration. All I could work up was a who cares. Most of the truckers I have known over the years are either pro-labor Democrats or independents. So a few truckers are against their own best interests, that describes many working class conservatives. These truckers ( Fox and other conservative media outlets said there were thousands, while in reality there were almost three dozen) had a list of demands and grievances which included,

… to change Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution on eight separate occasions to make it possible for Barack Obama to meet the eligibility requirements for the office of president. Of which, a legal investigation has proven that his documents provided are forgeries, which is a felony offense.

Birthers have lost every court challenge to Obama’s citizenship. Everyone. Mr. Radical Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antoine Scalia will not even hear the case because birthers lack even the tiniest shred of evidence. The Wizbang Conservative truckers also assert:

… illegally put our military in a “War Zone” where they currently, guard opium productions and transport, police the people of other countries based on US law, they get authorization for military action from the United Nations Security Counsel, which is High Treason, and they are exposing, and administering experimental, psychotropic, mind altering drugs for control over soldiers during secret, clandestine operations.

This is why liberals cannot win a debate about the Constitutions with conservatives. Conservatives defend the Constitution of the planet Zorn and liberals defend the Constitution of the U.S. While those two items are soaked in tin foil and BS, it is no wonder since the organizer of the Wizbang Truckers believes that President Obama is actually Osama Bin Laden in disguise and those jet trail clouds are actually are actually chemicals sprayed into the atmosphere by the government. Meet The Conspiracy Theorist Behind This Week’s Trucker Rally In D.C.

Zeeda Andrews — a co-organizer of the effort who made October 8 appearances on Fox News and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze to promote the event — apparently thinks that President Obama and Osama bin Laden are somehow the same person; that Obama is a secret Muslim; that the Boston bombings were a “false flag”; that the CIA murdered Buzzfeed journalist Michael Hastings; and that the Department of Homeland Security is stockpiling ammunition in order to slaughter Americans.

There does not seem to be a limit for the amount of freako theories that Beck and Fox News viewers will swallow.

And last, but not least is the chewy nugget on our Crazy Conservative Sundae, Greg Collett, who is a Tea Party candidate running for office in Idaho, who is uninsured and says

I don’t think that the government should be involved in health care or health insurance. The issue for me is that it is not the proper role of government.”

Except, it turns out that Mr. Collett has 10 kids, all of whom are on Medicaid. Medicaid is a government run health insurance.

My head would spin except conservatives broke that from over use as well.

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New Jersey Republicans For Sale To Highest Bidding Wealthy Freaks

 New York Harbor

 New York Harbor, 1852 by Fitz Henry Lane (1804 – 1865).

Chris Christie Endorses Koch Brothers Operative For Senate

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) endorsed Steve Lonegan (R), the former New Jersey head for the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, for U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Though Christie ran in 2009 promising a middle-of-the-road “common-sense approach,” this move puts him squarely behind a far-right Tea Party candidate best known for his attacks on immigration and Spanish-language ads — and his own record of hiring undocumented immigrants.

Lonegan and Christie are trying to get in the good graces of the tea smokers by denying climate science. Lonegan says anyone who acknowledges climate science a has a radical agenda. he and Christie represent the views of people like the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry. The Kochs are worth billions yet they whine about how some green radicals. I guess you have to smoke lots of tea to not be able to see the absurdity. BP makes billions of dollars a day in profits. Profits, not gross income. Americans concerned about the future of their children and their country are not powerless in Washington or New Jersey, but they are the Davids fighting well funded megalomaniacs that have too much money to be running around acting like scared little wussies. Lonegan and Christie believe it is best if they are in charge of every woman’s uterus. I’m not sure what credentials they have to qualify them for having the powers of the Spanish Inquisition. Of course they both claim to have values. Of course they have values, They just happen to be the values of a 17th century feudal lord. Which is something the nation’s Founders were adamantly against.

The Great Emo-Prog vs. O-Bot Debate

Atrios today:

I try to avoid the emoprog-obot debates. I don’t really get them really. It’s just posing. I never claim to have the ultimate authority over things but, honestly, I’m really not posing. That I imagine I call-em like I see-em doesn’t mean I think I’m always right, it just mean that I’m mostly not being a hack. Tell me I’m wrong when I am! I listen.

The surveillance state is obviously out of hand, super expensive, and quite likely totally pointless (for its expressed purpose) and incompetent. I don’t even consider this to be a comment on Obama, except to the extent that he is dishonest/supports dishonesty on this issue.

Translation: If you express anything short of absolute condemnation of everything the NSA has done, your Twitter feed quickly fills up with hysterical proclamations from the emo-progs that you’re a right-wing shill, a government lackey, a useful idiot for the slave state, and an obvious fool. Conversely, if you criticize the NSA’s surveillance programs, your Twitter feed quickly fills up with equally hysterical proclamations from the O-Bots that you hate Obama, you’ve always hated Obama, and you’re probably a racist swine who’s been waiting ever since 2009 for a chance to take down the nation’s first black president.

This happens with other subjects too, of course, but the Snowden files have brought it out more than usual. I’ll confess that although the leftier-than-thou types have always been around, I’ve long been skeptical of the idea that Obama has a core group of supporters from 2008 who really do consider him The One, a shining beacon of light who can do no wrong. But I’m the one who was wrong. I don’t know how many there are, but they’re definitely out there.

UPDATE: Atrios adds a bit more here. “It’s not that I think everyone to ‘the left’ of me is a posing emo-prog and everyone to ‘the right’ of me is a posing o-bot. There are people genuinely to the left and to the right of me on policy….But there are also people who seem to enjoy judging your worth by how righteously you dislike or like the Obama administration. It’s annoying.” Yep. We’re talking about two particular subsets of the left here, not everyone who happens to disagree with us.

As briefly as I can: the NSA stuff. Most of it was and is legal. Want it to stop, get out the vote for progressive candidates in the 2014 election, get a Democratic majority in Congress that will rewrite surveillance law. Obama could reign in some of the worse excesses now and everyone has a right to be upset about that. Though as a practical matter, like all politicians he weighs the costs and benefits. He sees another 9-11 around every corner. If he stops the NSA completely and we have such an attack it will be 10 years or more before we even get close to the White House or a Congressional majority. Even though the NSA is not making us safer, it is the public’s opinion – left and right. The powers that be – the people that support the surveillance state and the Twitter folks who go on about having “nothing to hide,” combined, have a lot more power than the progressive base. Want to change things, get active, make a better case without resorting to Obama is as evil as Bush arguments or Obama walks on water arguments.

Drones: Of course we should all be concerned about civilian casualties. During WW II, the Korean War and Vietnam we had carpet bombing. Clinton used cruise missiles which have a fairly large blast radius depending on the size of the charge. The civilian casualties now, compared the past are a vast humanitarian improvement – though certainly imperfect technology – over how we wage war. Want stricter rules about how and when drones are used, vote in a more moderate Congress. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would be happy to write new drone and surveillance laws knowing that John Boehner (R-OH) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will not be able to shoot them down before they even got started in committee. And as with so many issues does anyone really think that a Romney presidency would be so much better on the surveillance or drone issues.

Malkin probably wonders why no one takes her seriously but the kool-aid drinkers who visit her web site. This is yet another reason why: Fox’s Malkin Invents Conspiracy Theory That Forever 21 Was Intimidated Into Silence On Obamacare. 

How Conservatives Zealots Influence PBS Programming

Lesson in Astronomy

Lesson in Astronomy by Giuseppe Angeli. Italy, Late 1750s. I found this in a collection of paintings I have on CD. Teaching women science? Must have been some heretical liberals of the era.

By all means let’s have a national conversation about intimidating journalists, spinning the news and buying influence, How Far Did PBS Go To Avoid Offending David H. Koch?

“Park Avenue” includes a multifaceted portrait of the Koch brothers, telling the history of their family company and chronicling their many donations to universities and think tanks. It features comments from allies like Tim Phillips, the president of the Kochs’ main advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, and from activists in the Tea Party, including Representative Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, who share the Kochs’ opposition to high taxes and regulation. (It also contains a few quotes from me; in 2010, I wrote an article about the Kochs for this magazine, noting that they were funding much of the opposition to President Barack Obama by quietly subsidizing an array of advocacy groups.)

[  ]…According to Shapiro, Koch, who rarely speaks in public, passed on the roundtable offer, saying, “I may just want to take it in and watch it, and form an opinion.” He agreed to think about contributing a written response.

Shapiro acknowledges that his call to Koch was unusual. Although many prominent New Yorkers are portrayed in “Park Avenue,” he said that he “only just called David Koch. He’s on our board. He’s the biggest main character. No one else, just David Koch. Because he’s a trustee. It’s a courtesy.” Shapiro, who joined WNET six years ago, from NBC News, added, “I can’t remember doing anything like this—I can’t remember another documentary centered around New York and key people in the city, and such controversial topics.”

PBS has standards for “editorial integrity,” and its guidelines state that “member stations are responsible for shielding the creative and editorial processes from political pressure or improper influence from funders or other sources.” A PBS spokesperson, when asked if it considered WNET’s actions appropriate, said, “WNET is in the best position to respond to this query,” noting that member stations are autonomous.

They did air the documentary, but let the Kochs and Chuck Shumer (D) have a preview, which no one else received, and a rebuttal aired afterwards. Neither the Koch,s most certainly, or Chuck lack for the resources to reply to a documentary and when did investigative documentary film makers start having their works submitted to their subjects before the public. Behavior like this muddies the waters. Is the public seeing what the filmmaker intended to show or was it toned down to placate big money donors like the Kochs (they don’t say if Shumer donates to PBS). Another aspect is that far Right zealots are sitting on the boards of this local PBS stations at all. How many decisions are made that mean a documentary is never even made. This also slays another conservative snowball of lies about PBS being run by radical leftists. It is increasingly run by anyone with lots of money a little spare time. That is not a recipe for television in the public interests. This part of a long investigative piece so I recommend reading the entire article for the clash over the film “Citizen Koch.”

Currier and Ives sleigh ride 1853 – Anti-Union Republicans Have a Lot in Common With Chinese Communists

Currier and Ives sleigh ride 1853

Currier and Ives sleigh ride, 1853. The original title for this picture was simply “The road, winter”.

A moon-light sleigh-ride

A moon-light sleigh-ride. While not in color I thought this was a beautiful rendering of a sleigh ride. It was originally published by Wellstood, W., & Co. as just a decorative art print. The exact date is unknown, though pro baby around the turn of the 20th century. Wellstood published some other art prints in a similar style in the 1890s.

The far Right has been demagoguing unions for decades. Back in the 1910s and 20s, there was a socialist element within some union organizing. part of America’s heritage. We’re talking about the era of the Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York, where unsafe working conditions -locked doors and exits – 146 garment workers burned to death. Strong oppression tends to inflame strong reactions. For the most part American unions have never advocated socialism, and certainly not communism. The conservative movement likes to use accusations of associations with the far Left as a gudgeon. In the real world the far Left has hated unions. Unions interfere with the power of the state. Hitler took away union powers and Stalin made them powerless – in the old Soviet Union they existed in name only (Stalinist Laws to Tighten “Labor Discipline,” 1938-1940). While the Right’s second favorite history hack Jonah Goldberg tried to meld communism, fascism and liberalism all into one political movement and failed miserably, it certainly can be said that the far Right and the far Left are two forms of totalitarianism, or in some cases, at least authoritarianism.Thus there are parallels between conservatism’s hatred of unions – the average worker having any self empowerment and authoritarianism. The Lansing-Beijing connection

“China has a problem: rising inequality. The gap between profits and wages is soaring. Although elements of the government have sought to boost workers’ incomes, they have been thwarted by major companies and banks “that don’t want to give more profit to the country and let the government distribute it,” Qi Jingmei, a research fellow for a government think tank, told the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, if China permitted the establishment of unions, wages would rise. But for fundamentally political reasons — independent unions would undermine the Communist Party’s authority — unions are out of the question.

Meanwhile, the United States also has a problem of a rising gap between profits and wages. The stagnation of wages has become an accepted fact across the political spectrum; conservative columnists such as Michael Gerson and David Brooks have acknowledged that workers’ incomes seem to be stuck.

What conservatives haven’t acknowledged, and what even most liberal commentators fail to appreciate, is how central the collapse of collective bargaining is to American workers’ inability to win themselves a raise. Yes, globalizing and mechanizing jobs has cut into the livelihoods of millions of U.S. workers, but that is far from the whole story. Roughly 100 million of the nation’s 143 million employed workers have jobs that can’t be shipped abroad, that aren’t in competition with steel workers in Sao Paolo or iPod assemblers in Shenzhen. Sales clerks, waiters, librarians and carpenters all utilize technology in their jobs, but not to the point that they’ve become dispensable.

Yet while they can’t be dispensed with, neither can they bargain for a raise. Today fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are union members. That figure may shrink a little more with new “right to work” laws in Michigan — the propagandistic term for statutes that allow workers to benefit from union contracts without having to pay union dues.Defenders of right-to-work laws argue that they improve a state’s economy by creating more jobs. But an exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevans of Hofstra University found that states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states than in those without such laws, Stevans concluded, though proprietors’ incomes are higher. In short, right-to-work laws simply redistribute income from workers to owners.” ( as many of you probably already know, WordPress has been buggy for some time now – thus some strange things like lack of block quotes)

As Harold Myerson notes and its certainly obvious to the radical Right, this union busting is not about helping anyone get a job, better pay or even about helping businesses. It is about undermining one of the major organizing platforms of the Democratic Party. While Republicans do not have anything like 100% support from police or firefighters unions, they generally can expect a fair amount of support from those groups ( who knows why – another example of people voting against their rational self interests). It appears then that police and firefighters unions escaped the Republican axe in Michigan. Republicans did not go after those unions ( they represent only about 2% of union membership in Michigan), partly for obvious  political reasons and partly because they would have had a protracted battle changing the state’s constitution.

One police captain told a reporter that he though what Republicans were doing to labor unions was wrong. Conservatives are pulling out the usual arsenal of talking heads and propaganda to win the national debate. Myths And Facts About “Right-To-Work” Laws

“On Fox, Dobbs And Mallory Factor Describe States Without Right-To-Work Laws As “Forced-Union” States. During the December 10 edition of Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs and his guest, anti-union activist Mallory Factor, were highly critical of states that do not have right-to-work laws, repeatedly calling them “forced-union” states. Graphic from the show:

[Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/10/12]
FACT: Workers In States Without Right-To-Work Laws Are Not Forced Into Unions

Economist Dean Baker: “Workers At Any Workplace Always Have The Option As To Whether Or Not To Join A Union.” In a 2011 post for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, economist Dean Baker pointed out that workers always have a choice whether to work for a union, whether or not their state has passed right-to-work laws:

“Right to work” is a great name from the standpoint of proponents, just like the term “death tax” is effective for opponents of the estate tax, but it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is widely believed that in the absence of right-to-work laws workers can be forced to join a union. This is not true. Workers at any workplace always have the option as to whether or not to join a union.

Right-to-work laws prohibit contracts that require that all the workers who benefit from union representation to pay for union representation. In states without right-to-work laws unions often sign contracts that require that all the workers in a bargaining unit pay a representation fee to the union that represents the bargaining unit. [Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2/28/11]

Maine Center For Economic Policy: “Right-To-Work Laws Are Essentially Unfair” And “Not Needed To Protect Nonunion Workers.” The Maine Center for Economic Policy similarly found that right-to-work laws are not fair because nonunion employees in a unionized workplace would have a “free ride” and the laws are “not needed to protect nonunion workers” because federal laws already protect workers from being forced into joining a union:

Right-to-work laws are essentially unfair. If Maine passed a right-to-work law, nonunion employees in a unionized workplace would have a “free ride.” They would receive the benefits of union representation, in terms of job protections, wages and benefits, without paying for any of the costs.

[…]

A right-to-work law is not needed to protect nonunion workers. Several federal laws already protect the rights of nonunion employees in unionized workplaces, such as the NLRB vs. General Motors Supreme Court decision in 1963, and the Communication Workers vs. Beck decision of 1988. Under federal labor law, workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract. [Maine Center for Economic Policy, 2/19/11]

Center For American Progress: “Right-To-Work Has Nothing To Do With People Being Forced To Be Union Members.” The Center for American Progress report titled “Right-to-Work 101″ explained that federal laws already guarantee that no worker can be forced to join a union…”

Some anti-worker conservatives will claim the fee, where a worker benefits from a labor contract, is the same thing as being forced to join. “In states where the law exists, “right-to-work” makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.

Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don’t support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract — such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline — without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.

That’s because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues. [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2/2/12]”

Not to put a gloss on a law that is clearly terrible, not just for unions, but non-union employees that benefit from being in the same industry as union workers (non-union auto workers in the U.S. make almost as much as union workers because of the upward pressure unions put on wages. Why work for say a non-union Toyota plant for lousy wages when you could work for union wages at a Ford plant). But I think this going after workers and their unions is going to backfire the same way that the conservative movement’s attack on women’s rights backfired. Most of the American public think issues like access to contraception was a settled issue. Access to health that was was equal to mens was a settled issue. That what constituted rape as opposed to Todd Akin’s “forceable rape” was a settled issue. When conservatives decided to shake that hornets nest of issues, the public went to the polls in November, fired up about the attack on basic rights of individual citizens.

Since Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and his conservative co-conspirators the right to mug workers law into affect there have been protests. What does the Right do, They try to provoke labor protesters into fights. And blame unions for any violence or property damage. Things have not changed much since the days of the Colorado Labor wars when mine owners sent the National Guard and Pinkerton agents ( paid thugs) to attack labor union members.

Historian J. Bernard Hogg, who wrote “Public Reaction to Pinkertonism and the Labor Question,” observed:

Much of the hard feeling toward the Pinkertons was engendered by the fact that not infrequently detectives worked their way into high positions in the union and then revealed the intentions of the organization to the employer.[118]

A second and similar function of the detective was to work his way into the union during strikes. From this advantageous position information could be secured against the leaders; and if arrest and conviction followed, the strike would be broken…

A detective will join the ranks of the strikers and at once become an ardent champion of their cause. He is next found committing an aggravated assault upon some man or woman who has remained at work, thereby bringing down upon the heads of the officers and members of the assembly or union directly interested, the condemnation of all honest people, and aiding very materially to demoralize the organization and break their ranks. He is always on hand in the strikers’ meeting to introduce some extremely radical measure to burn the mill or wreck a train, and when the meeting has adjourned he is ever ready to furnish the Associated Press with a full account of the proposed action, and the country is told that a “prominent and highly respected member” of the strikers’ organization has just revealed a most daring plot to destroy life and property, but dare not become known in connection with the exposure for fear of his life![119]

There is a new version of this going on in Michigan. The Koch brothers have agents there provoking violence and pointing fingers at the unions. In one scuffle the union protesters pulled back one member who got a little out of control. A collapsed tent occupied by the Koch agents seems to be the Right’s big gotcha. Only it not clear how the tent came down.

 

Some of the nation’s leading executives drop opposition to boosting taxes on wealthiest Americans. How good of them not to fight against that unreasonable 3% increase.

Currier & Ives Hues of autumn on the Racquet River – Mitt Romney’s Tax Reurns and Conservative Spin Show a Movement Out of Touch With Most Americans

Hues of autumn on the Racquet River by Currier & Ives. Published between 1856 and 1907. Hand colored as all Currier & Ives lithographs were. They had a small army of colorists, mostly women. They would work in an assembly line like manner with each colorists adding blues, greens, browns and so forth until it was finished. Currier & Ives work has grown on me over the years. Overly idealized in some ways, but that is the way our memory works looking back on special times and events in our lives.

American railroad scene. Snow bound. Lith. By Currier & Ives, 1872. Anyone watching Hell on Wheels. That would be a more accurate description of the eastern leg of U.S. railroad expansion. This lithograph looks almost like a scene from The Polar Express. It might well have been a relief to work in the snow rather the heat of the summer. Earning about $35 a month ( for white laborers) they would have all been part of the class of Americans who Romney views with such disdain. This is a very rough approximation: $35 a month is 1870 would be about $412 today.

John Podhoretz (New York Post) is a major movement conservative intellectual. One should thus read him prepared for some bias. Though even for him, he might have thrown back a little too much of the Republican Rube Juice in defending Romney’s tax returns, Romney the giver

We learned yesterday that last year Mitt Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes on an income of $14 million — and gave $4 million to charity.

We’re all supposed to bow our heads and beg forgiveness at this point for suggesting that Romney is anything, but a stellar tax payer. Romney paid a tax rate of less than 14%. The money rolls in from those ever so scary investments we here millionaires will stop making if they are taxed even 5% higher – to build thing like schools and aircraft carriers.

With open arms: Mitt Romney has given $7 million to charity the last two years, while paying $5 million in taxes.

But the release of these tax records leaves no doubt about one thing: Mitt Romney is an extraordinarily, remarkably, astonishingly generous man. A good man. Maybe even a great man.

Only a conservative with the steel trap intellect of Podhoretz could see Romney as generous. Mitt gives most of his money to the Mormon Church and to a foundation that Mitt himself started. While he is free to do that t hardly makes him a great man. The Mormon Church also gets tax breaks, but it operates much like a corporation: The Vast Majority Of Mitt Romney’s Charitable Donations In The Past Two Years Have Gone To The Mormon Church

In 2010, Mitt Romney took $3 million in charitable deductions on his tax return, against adjusted gross income of $22 million.

$1.5 million was a direct cash donation to the LDS Church
$1.5 million was a stock donation to the Romney’s private foundation, which is called the Tyler Foundation. The Tyler Foundation, in turn, gave away $647,500 in 2010, of which $145,000 went to the church. (The Tyler Foundation is controlled by the Romneys, so any money the Tyler Foundation gives away is effectively money the Romneys are giving away)

In 2010, therefore, Romney gave third parties (other than his foundation) a total of $2.1 million, with a total of $1.7 million going to the church. 78% of Romney’s donations in 2010, therefore, went to the church.

In 2009, meanwhile, Romney’s private foundation gave away a total of $631,000. This was comprised of four gifts:

The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints ($600,000)
My Sister’s Keeper ($5,000)
The Becket Fund ($25,000)
Mass General Hospital Cancer Center ($1,000)

In 2009, therefore, 95% of the money Romney’s foundation gave away went to the church.

(Interestingly, the Becket Fund, the second-largest recipient of Romney’s donations in 2009, is also a religious organization. It promotes “religious liberty.”)

Admittedly my bias about what constitutes charity, but the only charity I see on that list is the $1000 to a hospital. More Corporate Greed and Tax Evasion

Those are a few of the conclusions that can be drawn from an analysis of the church’s finances by Reuters and University of Tampa sociologist Ryan Cragun.

Relying heavily on church records in countries that require far more disclosure than the United States, Cragun and Reuters estimate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings in some $7 billion annually in tithes and other donations.

It owns about $35 billion worth of temples and meeting houses around the world, and controls farms, ranches, shopping malls and other commercial ventures worth many billions more.

So Romney is giving huge sums of money to a church which runs commercial ventures and has no obligatin to pay taxes on them. Sounds perfect.

“Most of the revenue of the religion is from the U.S., and a large percentage comes from an elite cadre of wealthy donors, like Mitt Romney,” said Cragun. ” is a religion that appeals to economically successful men by rewarding their financial acuity with respect and positions of prestige within the religion.”

The church is full of successful businessmen, including chemical billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., the father of the former presidential candidate, J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. and his hotel-owning family, and even entertainer Donny Osmond.
[…]
The Mormon church has no hospitals and only a handful of primary schools. Its university system is limited to widely respected Brigham Young, which has campuses in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, and LDS Business College. Seminaries and institutes for high school students and single adults offer religious studies for hundreds of thousands.

It counts more than 55,000 in its missionary forces, primarily youths focused on converting new members but also seniors who volunteer for its non-profits, such as the Polynesian Cultural Center, which bills itself as Hawaii’s No. 1 tourist attraction, and for-profit businesses owned by the church.

The church has plowed resources into a multi-billion-dollar global network of for-profit enterprises: it is the largest rancher in the United States, a church official told Nebraska’s Lincoln Journal Star in 2004, with other ranches and farms in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Great Britain, according to financial documents reviewed by Reuters.

Ranching and farm industry sources say they are well-run operations.

It also has a small media empire, an investment fund, and is developing a mall across from its Salt Lake City headquarters, which it calls an attempt to help revitalize the city rather than to make money.

I guess if you’re like Podhertz, who like his conservative brethren who thought Dubya and Dick Cheney were a divine gift to America’s foreign policy, you have a very very low threshold for what constitutes greatness. I’m not going to make anymore fun of Podhertz today. The guy is probably in terrible pain from all the blisters on his knees. This is a very good post with lots of links within for those looking for documentation, You Know Mitt Romney is Out of Touch When

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when he tells his guests in the Hamptons that “I spend a lot of time worrying about those that are poor” after previously declaring, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when repeatedly makes false charges about welfare policy while never mentioning his father was “on welfare relief for the first years of his life.”

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when one of his Hamptons donors explains “the common person” and “the lower income” voter “don’t understand what’s going on.”

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch he expresses his disdain for those common people who wear polyester and plastic rain ponchos, while praising his friends who own NASCAR and NFL teams.

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when he criticizes President Obama’s call to let the Bush tax cuts expire for only the top two percent of earners as a “massive tax increase” for “on families, job creators, and small businesses,” while proposing an average $264,000 annual windfall for the top 0.1%.

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when his tax cut proposal supposedly focused on “the people in the middle” could save his own family tens of millions of dollars and his billionaire backers billions more by ending the estate tax.

You know Mitt Romney is out of touch when his surrogate Haley Barbour says Mitt’s tax returns don’t “amount to diddly,” the same expression he used to describe slavery after his state of Mississippi omitted mention of it in its Confederate Heritage Month declaration.

There are at least two constituencies in the conservative movement. Romney and Podhertz belong to the legion watch is really in charge of the Republican agenda. They make sure that the wealthy and powerful stay that way regardless of merit. The other part  is most of Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin’s crowd. They’re the ones you’re likely to encounter on internet forums blaming the recession on Fannie May, spreading the urban conspiracy theories about Democratic politicians being part of some U.N. plot to take everyone’s guns. This latter group is very sure it runs things. On the contrary, Romney, Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, the Koch brothers throw those people a bone in the platform, promise to keep a boot in the face of women, organized labor, people of color and anyone else who gets uppity. If they have to get sleazy and underhanded about it. If they have to break the letter and spirit of the law to do so, they will,  Voting Wrongs 

The Republicans’ plan is that if they can’t buy the 2012 election they will steal it.

The plan, long in the making and now well into its execution, is to raise great gobs of money—in newly limitless amounts—so that they and their allies could outspend the president’s forces; and they would also place obstacles in the way of large swaths of citizens who traditionally support the Democrats and want to exercise their right to vote. The plan would disproportionately affect blacks, who were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment; but then that right was negated by southern state legislatures; and after people marched, were beaten, and died in the civil rights movement, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now various state legislatures are coming up with new ways to try once again to nullify that right.

[   ]….Eight states have already passed Voter ID laws—requiring a state-approved document with a photograph in order to register or vote, a form of identification that an estimated 11 percent or over 21 million of American citizens do not possess. But these laws are just part of an array of restrictions adopted to keep Democrats from voting. Some use other means to make registration difficult, or put strict limits on the number of days before the election that votes can be cast , or cut back the hours that polling places can stay open.

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, which was characterized in Ohio by lines at voting places in black districts so long as to discourage voters, Ohio Democratic officials made voting times more flexible; after the Republicans took over the state they set out to reverse that.

Iowa, Florida, and Colorado tried to purge the voting rolls of suspected unqualified voters, but their lists turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

While I’m sure conservatives will say so, Elizabeth Drew is no wild eyed lefty. She is a serious journalist who has been covering politics  a long time. James Fellows points out some other articles  written about, what amounts to Jim Crow-Lite laws, Meet the Pontius Pilate of Voting Rights: Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court and Voting: Right or Privilege? By Garrett Epps. The Constitution mentions “the right to vote” five times. Judges, and voter ID law proponents, don’t seem to be getting the hint.

This is handy post to have in any arguments with friends about who is a moocher and who is carrying their fair share of taxes – Understanding the Federal Tax Debate

People are much less likely to owe income taxes at the end or the beginning of their careers.  Many non-income taxpayers are age 55 and over and have paid considerable income taxes during their younger, working years.  Others are students under age 25 who will pay income taxes when they complete their education and enter the full-time workforce.

Romney and Ryan are being sold to the American electorate as the two brights guys, the brainy wonks who have all the answers inside their pointed heads. If that is the case why do they have a completely upside down view of who the producers are and who the leaches are. Without American workers there is no economy. The wealthy can start all the businesses they care to, but could luck running them without workers.

 

Some Memorial Day Art – Conservatives Have Only Themselves To Blame for Their Sordid Reputation

Some historical art and artifacts for Memorial Day. Starting from the oldest to newest.

Drummer Seen from the Back – Winslow Homer. Probably done around 1864. Homer is one of my favorite American artists. Like Norman Rockwell, his work has become symbolic of the American experience. Picture courtesy the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

WW I Recruitment Poster – Women Marines. The first unofficial female Marine ( marines are Marines, not soldiers) was Lucy Brewer. She pretended to be a man to join  in the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Constitution during the War of 1812. officially the first female Marines were allowed into the service in 1918 during the Wilson administration. Though they could only serve as clerical workers. In May 1978, Brigadier General Margaret A. Brewer became the first general grade Woman Marine, serving as Director of Information. Currently female Marines receive combat training, but are not officially allowed to be sent to fight in combat zones. This all gets a little tricky since they are sent to support areas, have actually engaged enemy combatants and have been killed in combat.

America Calls Navy Recruitment Poster WW II. Most of my family served in the Navy. I especially like this poster because of the Lady Liberty element and a style that was probably inspired by Rockwell.

Merchant Marine War Shipping Administration1942. A frequently forgotten part of the armed services. partly because they’re just civilians during peace time, but when at war they serve as an auxiliary to the U.S. Navy. I had a couple of relatives that served in the Merchant Navy during WW II. The guy in the poster looks a lot like a friend of mine who died about a decade ago, also Merchant veteran.

An interesting artifact from 1955. Robert Leon Bacon, an African-American’s  letter protesting his prohibition from joining the Virginia National Guard. By way of the African Burial Ground National Park Service and The Library of Virginia.

Robert Leon Bacon Letter to the Governor, December 2, 1955

State and local laws throughout the South and in some other parts of the United States denied basic civil rights to many African Americans in spite of the Fourteenth Amendment’s prohibition on states’ denying people the equal protection of the laws and due process of law. In the face of continued discrimination, many black citizens began contacting politicians like Governor Thomas B. Stanley to discuss their plight or file protests against discrimination. Letters like Robert Leon Bacon’s described everyday conditions of life in a racially segregated society. Bacon outlined the places in his community, including restaurants, hotels, and public transportation vehicles, that he was not allowed to frequent because of Jim Crow laws. Bacon specifically mentioned his fear of being lynched if he did anything that whites deemed inappropriate, which was a fear that many other African Americans shared. Lynchings were the execution of an individual without the due process of the law for real or perceived crimes against the community-at-large. By late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century, lynching and other forms of racial violence were used by whites, especially in the South, to intimidate and control African Americans. Bacon also expressed his frustration toward not being allowed to go to certain parts of the city and his inability to join the Virginia National Guard because of his race.

The pdf available at the link is much easier to read.

Delegates at the 2004 RNC Convention mocking war veteran and decorated hero Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). The little band-aids were meant to mock Kerry’s Purple Heart among other awards such as the Bronze Start and Silver Cross. Conservatives have multiple arbitrary standards when it comes to honoring military service. They get to have the last word on value judgements, and lies suddenly become fair. If smearing a veteran is what it takes to win, so be it.

 

Conservative Republican Propagandists Replay Lie About Obama’s Spending Record. They’re just not going to let the myth of Obama and Democrats as big spenders go. It might be just the impression I have from the last week or so, but the spending spree lie seems to be their favorite leading into the fall election. Some conservatives like Fox’s Stuart Varney and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis are even clever enough to push some lies that require some math to refute. Thus giving your loyal kool-aid drinkers something to cling to.

Every major Democratic blogger has made it clear over the years they do not encourage or condone violence or genuinely dirty tricks ( parody and some pranks are exceptions). There are the all too obvious moral reasons. The other reason is one of rational self interests. Democratic bloggers and our political aims are simply not served by bad behavior. There is always blow-back. Even relatively minor shenanigans get blown out of proportion by the same people who thought it was oh-so patriotic to lie 4000 Americans to their deaths over non-existent WMD and non-existent ties to aL-Queda. For those who have not heard of him there is a little nutball named Brett Kimberlin who has been behaving badly – we have to take the right’s word for that, but there does seem to be some substance there. Kimberlin is a despicable little scum. He apparently engaged in something called SWATing – where you spoof someone’s phone and call the SWAT team to someone’s house because shots have been fired. The object being  the victim of the prank might get shot. Horrible stuff. As much as I clearly have a very low opinion of the conservative agenda, that is no way to fight it. Conservatives have moved past the we’re all victims of the left stage and moved on to martyring themselves in the brave fight against Kimberlin, Barbara Streisand and George Soros. You just cannot have a good conservative Republican conspiracy without throwing Soros in the mix. Anyone that wants to catch up to the latest in the conservative pity-fest can do so here – The Breitbart spooks

The document goes on to describe exactly how the video evidence could be ginned up.

The danger is, of course, that the lie becomes the official truth, and so it would be necessary to immediately deconstruct this story on friendly networks and media outlets. The goal isn’t to draw out the scandal after all, rather just to embarrass CNN by having them report a false story. So immediately reporting on the falseness of the story would be key…

Uproariously, O’Keefe calls his operation Project Veritas.

As I said I think there is a nugget of truth about Kimberlin. The Right’s over half century long habit of dirty tricks and lies has left the distinct cloud of crying wolf over every story they write. Not the incident(s) it self, but the level of which the Right is milking this story for all they can get, is also remarkable in its timing. They just recently had a Republican Nazi ( not name calling he was an active ember of the Nazi party) who murdered several people. And the war on women is not going well.

WaPo Post Columnist Marc Thiessen Distorts Success Rate Of Clean Energy Investments. Marc also has a torture fetish. Like torture, hates facts. Like like most of the WaPo editorial staff.

How Florida Governor & Known Criminal Rick Scott(R) Could Steal The Election For Mitt Romney

    1. Scott has created a massive list of Floridians to purge from the voting rolls before the election. Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” But Browning did not have access to reliable citizenship data. The state attempted to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing the voting file with data from the state motor vehicle administration, but the motor vehicle data does not contain updated citizenship information. The process, which created a list of 182,000 people, was considered so flawed by Browning that he refused to release the data to county election officials. Browning resigned in February and Scott has pressed forward with the purge, starting with about 2600 voters.

2. The list of “ineligible” voters is riddled with errors and includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens. According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as “non-citizens.” Already, 359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county. The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing them of their purported ineligibility. Similar problems have been identified in Polk County and Broward County.

3. Scott’s list is heavily targeted at Democratic and Hispanic voters. A study by the Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls.” For example, Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the list but just 13 percent of eligible voters. Conversely, “Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.”

4. Florida election officials have acknowledged that, as a result of Scott’s voter purge, eligible voters will be removed from the rolls. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress. On or about June 9, anyone who hasn’t responded to the ominous and legalistic letter informing them of their purported ineligibility will be removed from the rolls. Some eligible voters won’t have been able to respond by that time due to travel, work obligations, family obligations or confusion as to the purpose of the letter. Some will forget to open it. Others may have moved.

5. Florida will likely be a close contest in 2012 and purging eligible Democratic and Hispanic voters could tip the balance to Romney. In the latest Real Clear Politics average of polling in the state, Romney and Obama are separated by just 0.5 percent. Hundreds of eligible voters in Democratic strongholds, wrongfully purged from the rolls, could easily make the difference for Romney.

6. Winning Florida could clinch the election for Mitt Romney. Nationally, the race between Obama and Romney is within two points. It’s expected to be close all the way to election day and Florida’s 29 electorial votes would be the deciding factor in many plausable electorial scenarios.

Black and White Shore Rocks wallpaper II – Five Reasons The Wealthy Are Getting a Free Ride Off American Workers

Black and White Shore Rocks wallpaper

Ship in the Storm by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky. Ivan Aivazovsky(Born July 29, 1817, Died May 5, 1900) was an Armenian born in the Crimea. Considered by art experts was one of the finest seascape painters in history Fully sixty percent of his work was seascapes. If you happen to come across one at a garage sale hang on to it. On June 14, 2007 his painting “American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar” sold for 2,710,000 pounds (over $4 million).

I do not have time for a full post today. This is an interesting essay from Paul Buchheit, Five Reasons Why The Very Rich Have NOT Earned Their Money

The wealthiest Americans believe they’ve earned their money through hard work and innovation, and that they’re the most productive members of society. For the most part they’re wrong. As the facts below will show, they’re not nearly as productive as middle-class workers. Yet they’ve taken almost all the new income over the past 30 years.

Any one of these five reasons should reinforce the belief that the rich should be paying a LOT more in taxes.

1. They’ve Taken All the Middle Class Wage Increases

In 1980 the richest 1% of America took one of every fifteen post-tax income dollars. Now, according to IRS figures, they take THREE of every fifteen (doc) post-tax income dollars. They’ve tripled their cut of America’s income pie. That’s a trillion extra dollars a year.

For every dollar the richest 1% earned in 1980, they’ve added three more dollars. The poorest 90% have added ONE CENT.

Yet the average American factory worker, according to Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, produces $180,000 worth of goods a year, more than three times what he or she produced in 1978, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

So workers have TRIPLED their productivity over 30 years while the richest 1% have TRIPLED their share of income. Worker pay remained flat as the top 10% took almost all the productivity gains since 1980.

2. They’ve Mismanaged Key American Industries

We have the most expensive health care system in the world. Failing banks have survived because of taxpayer bailouts. Management-approved shortcuts have led to workplace deaths and chemical leak disasters. Companies lobby for cap and trade laws so their profits can pay for their pollution.

Over twenty percent of Americans are unemployed or underemployed as big companies hoard $2 trillion in cash. 93% of post-recession income (pdf) is going to the 1% “job-creators” with no appreciable increase in jobs.

Private tuition is skyrocketing, with student loans reaching the $1 trillion mark. Bonuses continue for executives at Ford and Bank of America and Sirius and other companies who have underperformed and/or laid off workers.

No, the captains of industry have not earned their money because of their top-notch management skills.

3. They’ve Benefited from 50 Years of Public Research

The very rich have made their fortunes in good part because of taxpayer-funded research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the Internet), the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and numerous other government agencies.

Consider just a simple communications device. Computer chips and audio/video/voice technologies grew out of decades of funding at the Department of Defense, the Air Force, NASA, and public universities. The pieces of the device were put together by a procession of chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production-line workers, market analysts, testers, troubleshooters, etc., etc. They, in turn, couldn’t have succeeded without another layer of people providing sustenance and medical support and security and administrative assistance and transportation and office maintenance for the technologists. ALL of them contributed to the final product.

But over the years private businesses have received government contracts to produce and market the results, and “entrepreneurs” have rearranged the pieces into products that seem to appear out of the magical world of a single individual.

4. They’ve Increased Their Incomes By Not Paying Taxes

The richest 10% own 80% of the stock market, providing billions in “unearned income” that is taxed at less than half the rate of income earned through real work.

Hedge fund managers call their income “carried interest” instead of “income” to keep their tax rate at 15%. Even this small amount may not be paid. Hedge fund managers with incomes in the billions can pay ZERO income tax by deferring their profits through their companies indefinitely.

Real tax rates for the richest Americans have gone way down over the last 30 years, from 34% in 1980 to 23% in 2006. Yet the 1% claim they pay most of the taxes. They don’t, if all taxes are considered. Based on recent data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the total of all state and local taxes, social security taxes, and excise taxes (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) consumes 22% of the annual incomes of the poorest quintile. For the top 1% of Americans, the same taxes consume less than 10% of their incomes.

In addition, most inherited wealth goes untaxed, with estates valued up to $5 million exempt from federal taxes. The average tax rate on inheritance is less than 3 percent.

It’s no different for corporations. U.S. Office of Management (OMB) figures show a gradual drop over the years in Corporate Income Tax as a Share of GDP, from 4% in the 1960s to 1.3% in 2010. That’s ONE-THIRD of their previous share. From 2008 to 2010, the top 100 U.S. corporations paid only 12.2% of their income in taxes, and thirty of them paid nothing at all (pdf).

The lack of SEC regulation has also allowed corporate America to seek tax dodges beyond our borders. Citizens for Tax Justice reports that the 280 most profitable U.S. corporations sheltered half their profits from taxes – up to $337 billion a year (pdf) – between 2008 and 2010.

Most shocking is the long-term shift in the tax burden from corporations to middle-class workers. For every dollar of workers’ payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it’s 16 cents.

5. They’ve Contributed Little to Society

The richest individuals and corporations have shown little regard for the majority of Americans who depend on sound financial management for their economic security. According to sources such as the New York Times and ProPublica, Wall Street firms including JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs have been repeatedly charged with fraud only to avoid punishment by paying a fraction of their profits in fines.

Financial insiders have figured out how to cheat other investors by timing the purchase of a stock option to precede good corporate news, timing the sale of a stock option to precede bad corporate news, and changing the purchase date (pdf) on a stock option to a time when the price was lower.

One hedge fund manager, John Paulson, made $4 billion by working with Goldman Sachs to create a financial product that would allow him to bet on the collapse of the housing market. Other financial masterminds packaged toxic derivatives for sale to unknowing pension funds, as ratings agencies were paid to ensure the worthless packages received AAA ratings.

Meanwhile, the banks were roughing up the homeowners. Bank of America foreclosed on tens of thousands of Americans by using unverified evidence called “robo-signing.”

Disdain for average citizens goes way beyond fraud, and well outside our borders, into the areas of environmental and human rights abuses. Computer and phone makers like Apple save money by obtaining their coltan from the Congo, where children dig it out of the mines. The “blood coltan” goes to China, where teenagers stand for 12 hours a day performing repetitive tasks for a few dollars. Monsanto’s herbicides and pesticides cause biological damage, promote the growth of ‘superbugs’ and ‘superweeds,’ and generally don’t outperform organic methods of farming. Exxon is not only the biggest profitmaker and polluter, but the company has conducted a lengthy campaign (pdf) to deceive the public about global warming. Corporate Accountability International named Monsanto, Exxon, Koch Industries, Chevron, Blackwater, and Halliburton to its Corporate Hall of Shame.

And finally, how well is society served when valuable resources are spent on a yacht complete with golf course, submarine, beach, and helicopter, and which qualified for a second-home mortgage deduction? Or on a $250,000 playhouse for the kids?

Studies show that increased wealth is correlated with a lesser degree of empathy for others. Despite their dependency on society for everything else, the super-rich have apparently earned the right to live in their own privileged world.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press).