Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sen. Sanders (VT) Outs 26 Billionaires Buying 2012 Election

Jason Easley reported in Politicususa, in "Bernie Sanders Exposes the 26 Billionaires who are Buying the 2012 Election" that Senator Bernie Sanders (VT, Ind.) exposed the 26 billionaires in a report before a Senate panel yesterday, July 24, 2012.
In his new report, America For Sale: A Report on Billionaires Buying the 2012 Election, Sen. Bernie Sanders named names and called out the billionaires who using Citizens United to buy our democracy.

In front of a Senate panel today, Sen. Bernie Sanders outed the 26 billionaires who are members of 23 billionaire families that are using Citizens United to buy elections. Sen. Sanders estimated that these 26 billionaires are the tip of the iceberg. “My guess is that number is really much greater because many of these contributions are made in secret. In other words, not content to own our economy, the 1 percent want to own our government as well.”

Sanders explained how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision put the government up for sale, “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy, you own Wall Street, you own the coal companies, you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.’”

Sen. Sanders also did the last thing the billionaires wanted. He called them out by name.

According to the report, America for Sale: A Report on Billionaires Buying the 2012 Election, here are the 26 billionaires who are trying to buy your government:

1). Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, is worth nearly $25 billion, making him the 14th wealthiest person in the world and the 7th richest person in America. While median family income plummeted by nearly 40% from 2007-2010, Mr. Adelson has experienced a nearly eightfold increase in his wealth over the past three years (from $3.4 billion to $24.9 billion). Forbes recently reported that Adelson is willing to spend a “limitless” amount of money or more than $100 million to help defeat President Obama in November.

2. The Kochs (David, Charles, and William) are worth a combined $103 billion, according to Forbes. They have pledged to spend about $400 million during the 2012 election season. The Kochs own more wealth than the bottom 41.7 percent of American households or more than 49 million Americans.

3. Jim Walton is worth $23.7 billion. He has donated $300,000 to super PACs in 2012.

4. Harold Simmons is worth $9 billion. He has donated $15.2 million to super PACs this year.

5. Peter Thiel is worth $1.5 billion. He has donated $6.7 million to Super PACs this year.

6. Jerrold Perenchio is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $2.6 million to super PACs this year.

7. Kenneth Griffin is worth $3 billion and he has given $2.08 million to super PACs in 2012.

8. James Simons is worth $10.7 billion and he has given $1.5 million to super Pacs this year.

9. Julian Robertson is worth $2.5 billion and he has given $1.25 million to super PACs this year.

10. Robert Rowling is worth $4.8 billion and he has given $1.1 million to super PACs.

11. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made his fortune betting that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse, is worth $12.5 billion. He has donated $1 million to super PACs.

12. Richard and J.W. Marriott are worth a combined $3.1 billion and they have donated $2 million to super PACs this year.

13. James Davis is worth $1.9 billion and he has given $1 million to super PACs this year.

14. Harold Hamm is worth $11 billion and he has given $985,000 to super PACs this year.

15. Kenny Trout is worth more than $1.2 billion and he has given $900,000 to super PACs this year.

16. Louis Bacon is worth $1.4 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

17. Bruce Kovner is worth $4.5 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

18. Warren Stephens is worth $2.7 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

19. David Tepper is worth $5.1 billion and he has given $375,000 to super PACs this year.

20. Samuel Zell is worth $4.9 billion and he has given $270,000 to super PACs this year.

21. Leslie Wexner is worth $4.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

22. Charles Schwab is worth $3.5 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

23. Kelcy Warren is worth $2.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

The thing that these billionaires love most about Citizens United it is that it allows them to operate in total darkness. The American people couldn’t fight back because the billionaires were giving their money anonymously. This same cloak of invisibility is what made ALEC so effective for years. The conservative billionaire cabal works best in private, behind closed doors, far away from curious eyes.

With his report today, Sen. Sanders has made it more difficult for thieves of liberty to keep operating in the night. We now have a list of names and we know what they are trying to do to our government. Sen. Sanders is one of the few federally elected officials who has the courage to talk about these people in public.

Most of the members of the House and Senate are too afraid to speak of, much less take on, the billionaires. Even those decent members of Congress who might speak out against them have been terrified into silence by threats of multimillion dollar negative ad buys that will run against the incumbent back home.

Bernie Sanders is displaying a brand of political courage that is sorely lacking in American politics today, and he needs you to stand with him to protect our liberties, our freedoms, and to battle to return the government back to the American people.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Yo Soy 132" Movement (Mexico) Urges Authorities to Overturn Election Results - Hispanically Speaking News

"Yo Soy 132" Movement Urges Authorities to Overturn Election Results - Hispanically Speaking News

The youth-led Yo Soy 132 movement has urged authorities to overturn the July 1 presidential election. Protesters charge that the vote producing a victory for Institutional Revolutionary Party or Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto was marred by fraud and vote-buying.

It is holding a nation-wide march, July 22, 2012, to urge the overturning of the election.  This follows a call for the same by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidiate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

However, Lopez Obrador has ruled out protest camps and blockades.

Thousands of protesters turned out Sunday, but fewer than in past protests against the July 1 election results, according to Huffington Post, this afternoon, "Thousands march in Mexico against election results". Huffington Post ran the following Associated Press report:
Thousands are marching through Mexico City's center and protesting what they call the "imposition" of the candidate of Mexico's old ruling party as the new president.

Marchers are carrying signs and chanting that presumed victor Enrique Pena Nieto won the July 1 election through fraud and vote-buying. He was the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Rival leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador finished more than six points behind.

The PRI has vehemently denied the charges and on Friday accused Lopez Obrador of trying to "disqualify the entire electoral process with lies."

Authorities did not release an official crowd estimate, but the march appeared to draw fewer people than similar protests with as many as 90,000 participants. The events have attracted people from a new student movement and leftist groups supporting Lopez Obrador.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The 14 States with Health Exchanges On the Way; Key Flaw Opens Exemption to Health Care

There are 14 states that are on their way to getting health care exchanges.

These are the states that have passed legislation to establish health care exchanges, in cooperation with the Affordable Care Act:
First there are not too many surprises:
the West coast states: Washington, Oregon and California,
some New England states: Massachusetts (the pioneer), Vermont (it is on its way to establishing the nation's first single payer system), and Connecticut,
and in the Middle Atlantic states there is Maryland and West Virginia.
But there are some surprises: in the West, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.
States that have health care exchanges by executive order include:
Indiana, New York and Rhode Island.
Governors in New Jersey and New Mexico vetoed such medical exchange legislation.

Reference: National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Actions to Address Health Insurance Exchanges"
Liz Goodwin, July 19, 2012 in Yahoo News, "Experts argue Obamacare mistake could doom key part of law"
States could dodge a key part of the health care reform law because of a little-noticed mistake in the lengthy bill, according to a white paper by conservative health care experts Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler.
A missing word in the law's definition of a health insurance exchange could prevent the federal government from doling out crucial subsidies to aid middle class and lower-income people in buying insurance in states that refuse to set up their own exchanges. (Only 14 states are close to setting up exchanges so far. The federal government will set up back-up exchanges in states that don't have their own by 2014.) If Cannon and Adler are right, the federal government would also not be able to fine large employers in states without exchanges if their lack of coverage leads employees to buy insurance in a federal exchange.
The law defines a health insurance exchange as a "governmental agency or nonprofit entity that is established by a state" in one section of the law, and then says later that individuals who participate in exchanges under that definition are eligible for subsidies. Because the law only says a "state" and not "a state or the federal government," Cannon and Adler argue that the federal government cannot legally dole out subsidies or tax breaks to people who buy insurance from federal exchanges.

The Obama administration has said that the intention of the law is clear, and that they fully plan on handing out subsidies when they set up federal exchanges in states that do not set up their own. (Other legal experts agree. Tim Jost, a law professor at William and Lee University, told Yahoo News the pair's thesis is "wishful thinking.") But Cannon and Adler argue the "mistake" was an intentional choice to push states to set up exchanges, and that the administration must deal with the consequences.

If the law's opponents sue over the missing language and win (both big hypotheticals), it would mean considerably fewer people will gain health insurance under the law than was planned--because the lack of subsidies means those without insurance would not be forced to purchase coverage. (If the cheapest plan available costs more than 8 percent of a person's income, that person is no longer penalized under the law if he or she remains uninsured.)
But, there may be a compelling reason for opponents of the law to hold their fire. Another part of the law says that no state can cut their existing Medicaid rolls until an exchange is up and running in their state. Under the new, narrower definition pushed by Adler and Cannon, that would mean that no state could ever tighten up its eligibility requirements for Medicaid unless it first sets up a health care exchange of its own.

Drought's Impact on Economy - Shouldn't We and Obama Be Talking About This?

This is the drought of a generation:

The summer, 2012 drought is the worst in decades, and John Eligon in the New York Times tells us that it will likely last into October. (See this series of drought maps in the New York Times for the continental United States, reaching back decades. This is the worst drought since 1956, in terms of our widespread the drought is against the lower 48 states.)

And its affect on the food economy? Huge. Particularly since the parts of the United States where it is hitting hardest are grain producing areas.

The United States is a rice producer and the signature states in this chart are in the impacted area. (See this article on home brew sake for major rice producing states: "Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas are the rice producing states.")
The area of severe to extreme drought reaches pretty much continuously from central Kentucky and Tennessee west to eastern Utah. The severe or extreme drought areas reach to Nebraska and parts of Wyoming and South Dakota. Basically, the drought reaches into America's breadbasket heartland.

Corn prices, and all the foods reliant on corn or corn syrup, are expected to head up. Mark Huffman, July 16, 2012, in Consumer Affairs, wrote that corn futures have already increased 50 percent since the drought started. The effects reach beyond straight corn. Corn syrup is used in a wide range of baked foods such as breads, crackers and chips, as CNN reported this week. Expect the up-to-now cheap drinks sweetened by high fructose corn syrup to increase in price. Ethanol and vitamins also rely on corn. Livestock are fed corn, so impacts will be felt with chicken, egg, pork and beef prices. As Akweli Parker wrote at the How Stuff Works site, besides ethanol, industrial uses of corn include vitamins, paper and cardboard production.

So, as some observers anticipate global consequences of the drought of 2012 (noted by Naomi Spencer and by contributor at Business Insider, is it not time for the last doubting Republican politicians to stop playing chicken and to start acting constructively to reverse the climate changing impact of global warming? Will traditionally red, conservative states tilt more liberal in this cataclysmic year?

And Barack Obama thinks that he's got problems with the manufacturing and service economies? Using climate change and food prices would seem a good strategy to whip Republicans into shape, or at least to whip up public sentiment to turn the troglodytes out of office.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zimmerman Groped Woman Repeatedly Over Years, Woman Charges

George Zimmerman, the shooter of Trayvon Martin, repeatedly groped a woman, she charges. She, a family friend, said the abuse began when she was 6 and continued to when she was 16.
Key points from a New York Times story by Lizzette Alvarez:
MIAMI — An Orlando woman now in her mid-20s told investigators that George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, groped and touched her inappropriately over a decade, beginning when they were both young children, according to an audiotape released on Monday. Pool photo by
George Zimmerman in court last month. An Orlando woman in her 20s said that he touched her inappropriately in episodes that spanned a decade, the last time when she was 16 and he 18.
The woman, whose parents were close to the Zimmerman family, talked to investigators on March 20. Identified only as Witness 9, she said she had come forward, a decade after her last encounter with Mr. Zimmerman, because “with everything going on, I know he’s not going to be out in public.”
It is unclear how, or whether, prosecutors plan to use the allegations in their case against Mr. Zimmerman, who is free on $1 million bond.
Additional details:
The witness said that Mr. Zimmerman, who at 28 is about two years older than she is, first touched her when she was 6. She was staying in the Zimmermans’ Virginia home while her parents were moving to Orlando, Fla., from Louisiana. The woman said Mr. Zimmerman had groped her while they lay under a blanket as they watched television with a group of other children.
Other groping episodes followed, she said. She visited the family “at least once a year” and said he touched her inappropriately during some of those visits, including once behind a curtain when she was 7 or 8 and another time on a bunk bed when she was around 12.
“Before we left the room or left any place, he would say we weren’t doing anything — we were just laying there or we were just playing hide-and-seek,” said the woman, whose voice cracked as she recounted the events. “He would always make sure that he told me that. And I didn’t know. I was a kid. I didn’t know any better.”
Complete story at the New York Times.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nice chart from Krugman: Taxes on the very rich are at historic lows

Progressive economics columnist of the New York Times Paul Krugman on July 12, 2012 had a revealing chart. It shows that taxes on the very rich are at a historic low.

We know that taxes on the very rich are at a historic low right now, which will go even lower if Mitt Romney wins. But how low, exactly?

All these estimates show that taxes on the rich are the lowest they have been in half a century. But what about before 1960? Well, we know that the top marginal tax rate was even higher in the 40s and 50s than in the 60s; and it was very high by modern standards through much of the 30s too.

So I think it’s safe to say that taxes on the rich are currently lower than they have been for not 50 but 80 years. And if Mitt Romney gets his way, we’ll bring those taxes down to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge.

Thanks, again, Mr. Krugman.
New York Times reference: The Long Run History of Taxes on the Rich

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will Growing Wildfires Tip Opinion on Global Warming?

You see the wildfires in record acreage, burning for days and days, covering more and more territory in California, New Mexico, Colorado. You wonder: will this break people's being stone-deaf to the reality of global warming.
Will people get burned out of their home or hosting others that have been burned out of their home saying, "gee, the fires are getting worse. I wonder if human activity has anything to do with this?"
(The above picture is of a Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)
One Colorado-based writer and Democratic strategist has written a great rejoinder to George Will's arrogant "Get over it" on ABC's Sunday political talk television show, "The Week." (See this video link on George's wisdom.) Here are her terrific "How Can George Will Still Deny Global Warming?" on U.S. News and World Reports' site:
LAKEWOOD, COLO.—On ABC News's This Week this past Sunday morning, climate change denier George Will had an interesting take on the wildfires in the west and the powerful thunderstorms in the east:
How do we explain the heat? One word: summer. I grew up in Central Illinois in a house that had no air conditioning. What is so unusual about this? ... We're having some hot weather. Get over it.

In the words of Saturday Night Live: "Really?"
Memo from Colorado and the west: These pictures look like a little bit more than "summer".
[See Photos of Erratic Western Wildfires.]
I challenge Mr. Will to say "get over it" to the faces of the families that lost more than 700 homes in my state. I challenge Mr. Will to say "get over it" to the thousands of firefighters—many of whom lack insurance—who worked backbreaking shifts battling the Waldo Canyon Fire, the High Park Fire, the Flagstaff Fire, and any of the dozens of wildfires that have burned in Colorado and the West in the past couple of months.
As the AP put it, this summer is what global warming looks like. According to the New York Times on June 28, "There was agreement that this week's events fit into a pattern of extreme weather events and catastrophic fires that climate scientists predict will only worsen in decades to come."
This picture also looks like a bit more than "hot". That would be the United States Air Force Falcons football stadium in the foreground. Part of the Air Force Academy base housing had to evacuate because of the Waldo Canyon Fires.
[See Photos as Summer Heat Arrives in Full Force.]
Colorado is home to a few other things, including The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The center's scientists won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for their work on climate change. This year they were evacuated due to the Flagstaff fire. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute for Science and Technology also have offices in Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is in Golden. They were, fortunately, not evacuated, although they were on alert just in case.
All of these agencies and their scientists are engaged, in some way or another, with coping with climate change. They are analyzing it, measuring it, and figuring out ways to mitigate it. They don't pooh-pooh it from the seat of an air-conditioned TV studio, maybe because they can see it from their window.
Once upon a time, George Will was a mildly amusing mainstream conservative. But his descent into flat-earther madness on climate change is emblematic of a larger problem: the right's refusal to address, or even acknowledge, the environmental catastrophe right in front of us.
As Molly Ivins once put it about George Bush, "Real Texans do not use 'summer' as a verb." And decent human beings do not use it as a noun to belittle the real suffering of people coping with a natural disaster.
(See this Mike Papantonio video link, "Papantonio: Republicans Bury Their Heads In The Sand on Climate Change.") The New York Times' 2012 electoral projection map for the presidential race is calling the presidential race in Nevada and Colorado. Those states are super hot, and now wildfire season in Colorado is worse than usual. Could the fires and the record temperatures tilt the vote to the Democratic column there this year?
Will 2012's western fires and record temperatures tilt votes so that appointed incumbent Republican Nevada senator Dean Heller (to fill the seat of scandal-plagued John Ensign) gets turned out by Shelley Berkley, Democratic congresswoman from suburban Las Vegas?
* * *
PRESIDENT OBAMA DIRECTS THAT WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS BE OFFERED INSURANCE Readers abroad would read that headline aghast that firefighters have no insurance.
Cheers for President Obama for offering federal health insurance to uninsured firefighters, the Denver Post reported yesterday, July 10, 2012. Some background:
The 15,000 or so temporary seasonal workers who descend into fire zones are usually young people who work sundry outdoor jobs, depending on the time of year. Some pick up contract work removing trees in the fall or they work at ski areas in the winter. Many are college students.
But because they are not full-time U.S. Forest Service employees, before Tuesday's announcement they did not have the option of purchasing federal health insurance.
Read more at the Denver Post: Obama directive offers wildland firefighters health insurance -
-Thanks to for the reference. Better than Scranton, Pennsylvania, whose mayor is reducing firefighters' pay to minimum wage.

Monday, July 9, 2012

One percent couple demos their house while 100s of 1000s jobless or underemployed

Oh, the troubles of the one percent.
The garage was in the wrong place. So they demolish a new home to soon rebuild. They will waste a few million dollars in the process. "The new Southampton, N.Y., home of Eric and Margaret Friedberg was almost half completed when they decided to tear it down and start over because the garage was in the wrong spot . . . both [spouses are] former federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York's Eastern District." --For those not in the know, the Hamptons are where much of the New York uber-rich have their conspicuous consumption vacation mansions. Don't get misled by the demographics in wikipedia articles on "The Hamptons," Southampton or East Hampton. Yes, overall, the permanent populations in these towns are middle class. But property prices commonly run in the eight digits, house properties are the sorts of places advertised in the back of "The New York Times Magazine" or "The New Yorker."
From Yahoo News from ABC News' "Good Morning America", July 2, 2012: By Sydney Lupkin, "New Home Demolished Because Garage in Wrong Spot."
Meanwhile there are stagnant job numbers in the June 2012 U.S. jobs report, the Economic Populist site tells us.
Read this July 6, 2012 report, "June Jobs Report Shows Economy Still in the Dumps," in AlterNet.
Only in America are people not putting it together in a mass movement to connect the dots.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Court approval of health law sets national stage for the cost limits that Massachusetts is seeking

Court approval of health law sets national stage for the cost limits that Massachusetts is seeking

Massachusetts, with its universal, albeit private, health insurance system, established with the endorsement of Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, is apparently the model for the nation.

So, all eyes are on the commonwealth of Massachusetts and its experience with the Romneycare/Obamacaresystem.

The above article is from the Boston Globe, July 1, 2012.