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Archive for September, 2010

12 of America’s Most Crooked Candidates on the Ballot in the 2010 Election

Here are some of the absolutely least deserving candidates for high office.
September 16, 2010 |

Since 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has compiled a list of the dirtiest, most corrupt critters to scurry across the halls of Congress. The annual report shines some light on the double-dealing and back-scratching of some shady characters, and its release generally gets good play among political reporters.

But 2010 is the year of the upstart, insurgent candidacies — with dozens of “outsiders” on the scene dedicated to “cleaning up Washington,” “taking our country back,” etc. It’s the year of the Tea Parties, and no incumbent is safe. So it’s entirely appropriate that CREW should release a new list this year, one that looks not at the worst sitting members of Congress but at the dirtiest candidates — the people most likely to rank among the most corrupt in Congress if they go on to win their elections.

From James Traficant, running as an independent candidate in Ohio just 14 months after his release from prison on charges of bribery, racketeering and filing fraudulent tax returns, to Alvin Greene, an unemployed and apparently indigent Democratic Senate candidate out of South Carolina who can’t explain how he came up with the $10,000 fee required to file — here are 12 of the absolutely least deserving candidates for high office.

Roy Blunt — Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Roy Blunt is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Missouri. For the last 14 years, Rep. Blunt has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s 7th congressional district. As a member of Congress, Rep. Blunt came under fire for a variety of issues including employing the same corrupt tactics that forced his mentor, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, to resign. Rep. Blunt’s ethical issues were documented in CREW’s 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress.

In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Notably, Philip Morris/Altria and its subsidiaries contributed at least $217,000 to campaign committees connected to Rep. Blunt from 1996 to 2006.

Also in 2003, Rep. Blunt helped his son, Andrew Blunt, by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt lobbied on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt from 2001 to 2006.

Family connections have also helped another of Rep. Blunt’s sons, former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. Gov. Blunt received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father. Earlier in 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme, along with Rep. DeLay, to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt’s campaign committee.

MORE HERE

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How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century

Holland’s new book shows how the corporate Right obscured how they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top.
September 15, 2010 |

Editor’s note: AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland’s new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland’s research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won’t read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It’s one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It’s a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they’ve rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.

*****

The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

Yet the meltdown was global in nature, and it’s worth noting that citizens of other wealthy countries weren’t so complacent. As the Telegraph, a British tabloid, reported, “A depression triggered in America is being played out in Europe with increasing violence, and other forms of social unrest are spreading. In Iceland, a government has fallen. Workers have marched in Zaragoza, as Spanish unemployment heads toward 20 percent. There have been riots and bloodshed in Greece, protests in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The police have suppressed public discontent in Russia.” Another British paper, the Guardian, reported scenes of “Burned-out cars, masked youths, smashed shop windows and more than a million striking workers” in France. French officials went so far as to delay the release of unemployment data, “apparently for fear of inflaming the protests.”

You might wonder why Americans are so docile compared to others in the face of such a brutal economic onslaught by a small and entitled elite. Any number of theories have been offered to explain the apparent disconnect. Thomas Frank argued eloquently in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? that wedge social issues—“God, guns and gays”—that the American Right nurtures with such care, obscure the fundamental differences between rich and poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised. Class consciousness, common to other liberal democracies, has been trumped by social anxieties, according to Frank.

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10 Terrible Things Republicans Will Try to Do If They Take Over in November

Think things are bad now? Take a look at what could happen if Republicans retake Congress in November.
September 20, 2010 |

Democrats are in trouble come November. If current polling is any indication, Republicans have a good chance of reclaiming a majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate (though the Senate is a less likely prospect). That’s not because people are wildly excited about Republicans. In fact, a recent poll shows that registered voters rate the GOP’s performance as worse than the Democrats’. But the enthusiasm gap between the parties gives the GOP an advantage; a nine-point advantage among likely voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Perhaps Americans should know what’s really at stake if this batch of Republicans takes over Congress in November. Here are 10 terrible things the GOP might do:

1) Shut down government to stop health care bill. “All the Republican Congress needs to say in January is, ‘We won’t fund it,” said former Speaker of the House and likely 2012 presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, speaking about the GOP leadership’s intent to shut down the government to stop health care reform from being enacted. He should know. He did it before, back in 1995 when the Republicans reclaimed Congress during the Clinton administration. The GOP’s government shutdown was disastrous for millions of Americans.

Since Republicans can’t directly repeal the bill — President Obama would veto such an action — they may cut funding in order to hold up its implementation, forcing a stand-off with Democrats that could lead to government shutdown. Gingrich isn’t the only one sounding this threat. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said, “The endgame is a fight over funding.” Rep. Mike Pence called rolling back health reform a “mainstream GOP position.

Meanwhile, in an interview with TPM, Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, discussed the consequences of government shutdown. Services would be stopped: “Social Security checks, Medicare reimbursements…welfare checks to the state, Medicaid checks to the state.” Federal employees would be furloughed. It would “stop all new enrollees into the [Social Security] system,” Shalala said. She continued, “It bounces through: it’s grocery stores, it’s farms […] It bounces through when people don’t have money at that scale.” Shalala also pointed out that the economy is in far worse shape today than it was during the Clinton years, so the impact of government shutdown would likely be worse than in the 1990s.

2) Attempt to privatize Social Security. Back in 2005, former President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security by creating independent spending accounts, similar to 401Ks. He failed. But unlike Republicans today, Bush did not have the advantage of Tea-Party backed ultraconservative Republicans, some of whom honestly believe the only role of the federal government is to fight wars and protect our borders. Among the GOP’s up and comers is Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee. He wants to create personal spending retirement accounts invested in the stock market, which sounds a lot like the current 401K system: You know, the one that lost nearly 40 percent of its value during the financial crisis.

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Understanding the Witch-Hunt Against Obama

The paranoid style of American politics is alive and well, using all the classic smear tactics used against minorities and citizen heroes like Martin Luther King.
September 14, 2010 |

America is in the midst of a 21st-century witch hunt. A loose-knit network of right-wing ideological strategists, Republican Party operatives and media demagogues generate the odious smears. Their goal is to stymie the Obama administration’s policy initiatives, capture Congress in November and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012. This propagandizing echoes the scapegoating of liberals, union and community organizers, peace activists, gay people, Jews and people of color during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era.

Anti-Obama rhetoric also mimics 1960s slurs dubbing Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a dupe of a communist conspiracy — claims circulated by groups like the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, the white supremacist “Citizens’ Councils” and the Ku Klux Klan. Billboards and flyers with this revelation appeared across the South, and postcards were distributed nationwide.

The underlying message is that liberals are either tools or agents of the plot to build collectivism and global governance. Such claims, once used to label President Franklin D. Roosevelt a fascist, and have resurfaced against Obama, who is tagged as Hitler and Stalin. Such sloganeering is a classic trope that distorts a complex idea into a short metaphor full of rich cultural or political baggage.

Into this guilt-by-association cesspool swims Aaron Klein, who fancies himself a shark of an investigative journalist but is really just another bottom-feeder. Klein, a senior staff reporter for the hard-right conspiracist World Net Daily, worked with Internet crank Brenda J. Elliott (therealbarackobama.wordpress.com) to write the new book The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists.

Similarly gawdy anti-Obama books include: Newt Gingrich’s To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, Sean Hannity’s Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda and Brad O’Leary’s The Audacity of Deceit: Barack Obama’s War on American Values. Slightly more histrionic are: Jerome R. Corsi’s The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality, and Floyd Brown and Lee Troxler’s Obama Unmasked: Did Slick Hollywood Handlers Create the Perfect Candidate?

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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano: DHS Report On Right-Wing Extremists Is ‘Ancient History’

TPM Muckraker

Ryan J. Reilly | September 17, 2010, 4:42PM

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday referred to a controversial report issued by DHS in April 2009 on the potential for an increased in right-wing extremism as “ancient history.”

TPMDC asked Napolitano at a lunch hosted by the Christian Science Monitor if she thought the report DHS was criticized for issuing on the potential for a rise in right-wing extremism due to the election of Barack Obama has been vindicated in the year and a half since it came out.

Incidents like the allegations against the Hutaree militia, the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the shooting at the Holocaust Museum and the arrest of an ex-Marine with ties to right-wing movements possessing a grenade launcher seem to be right up the alley of what the DHS foreshadowed.

Napolitano — who had apologized to the country’s largest veterans organization for the part of the report that suggesed right wingers were trying to recruit disgruntled soldiers — said that it was time to move on.

“The kind and quality of the products we put out for law enforcement now are so much more operational,” Napolitano said Friday. “What we needed to do in our department was really think through what is it that a standard local fusion center needs — how do we inform them about trends, about tactics, how do we get information back from them. And so that report to me is almost ancient history, and I’ll put it there.”

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13 US Strikes in 12 Days in Restive Agency

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, September 15, 2010

Yesterday a pair of US drone strikes against Bushnarai and Datta Khel in North Waziristan Agency killed at least 16 people. Today, two more US drone strikes involving at least 10 more missiles struck. The new attacks hit homes in Dandi Derpakhel and Datta Khel, killing at least 21 more “suspects” and wounding an unknown number of others. This brings the total to four attacks in two days with 37 dead. All of the slain have been termed “suspects” primarily because North Waziristan, which has only a nominal Pakistani government presence, is known to be home to the Haqqani network. None of those slain in the attacks have been “high value” targets, which is to say people conclusively linked with the group. The attacks also mark the 12th and 13th attacks by US drones against the region in the past 12 days. Though a number of civilians have been confirmed killed (including several children) none of the attacks appear to have killed anyone “high value,” though officials were bragging that a drone strike inside Afghanistan managed to kill a cousin of a top Haqqani family figure.

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The Pope visits Britain today and to mark the auspicious occasion I have posted a video of Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag.

On a more serious note, here is an article on the ongoing debate about pedophile priests which the Pope’s visit has highlighted.

Investigation: Many Convicted Pedophile Priests Are Still Priests

Just in time for Pope Benedict‘s taxpayer-funded trip to Britain, a Channel 4 investigation shows that at least 14 priests who have served time for molesting children remain in the clergy, and some even made it into the Church’s yearbook.

The report, which will air tonight on Britain’s Channel 4, is the result of an investigation into public records and court documents detailing 37 crimes involving child molesting priests in England and Wales. Besides the rampant sex abuse by members of the clergy, recommendations made by a judge that offending priests be “laicised,” or dismissed from the priesthood were ignored by the church. Of 22 priests who have served a year or more in jail for child molestation, 14 are still priests and 10 of them appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Directory. But hey, they’ve been punished! And they’re probably very remorseful.

The Pope is due to meet victims of sex abuse during his trip, but if it’s anything like a 2008 meeting between Benedict and American victims, they will have to sign confidentiality agreements before meeting him.

http://gawker.com/5638525/investigation-many-convicted-pedophile-priests-are-still-priests

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