Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecil Richards testified before a Congress.
During the five-hour-long hearing, Congresswoman Mia Love asked Richards how many mammogram machines Planned Parenthood has at their disposal. Contrary to the organization’s long-standing claims, Richards admitted they have none.
Big deal, Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms, right? Perhaps, except that the federally subsidized organization has long claimed a crucial cornerstone of the women’s health care services they provide include mammograms.
In every instance where “federal budget cuts” or “defunding” are used in conjunction with “Planned Parenthood,” the organization rallies the troops and holds a full court public relations campaign to talk about the healthcare services they provide; demagoguing Republicans and pro-life advocates for wanting to prevent access to women’s health care.
The women’s healthcare services Planned Parenthood offer (minus the baby killing), are services most, if not all General Practitioners provide. They’re also (again, minus the baby killing), requisite under Obamacare.
To illustrate the minimal healthcare offerings of Planned Parenthood, a graphic:
86% of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from abortions, another tidbit unearthed in Tuesday’s hearings. Not helping their give us ALL the tax money case was the revelation that Planned Parenthood raised $127 million over their expenditures last year. When asked how the $127 million was spent, Richards stammered, began listing expenses until she was corrected, and struggled as she attempted to explain how the organization spent their multi-million-dollar overage.
Outside of abortions, Planned Parenthood’s primary function is filtering money to and from Democratic organizations, giving in excess of $574,000 to candidates seeking federal office alone.
Planned Parenthood does not provide unique or special healthcare services like mammograms, they profit from killing babies and harvesting their brains, tell me again — why are we paying for this?
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee have taken drastic steps to restructure the GOP’s presidential primary process, including cutting the number of debates, compresing the nominating schedule, and introducing harsh penalties for candidates and states that violate party rules.Notice how all of the proposed so-called "innovations" favour big moneyed Establishment types who can essentially afford to run 50 state primaries in parallel and thereby stack the deck against a less-well-funded populist candidate struggling to support a serial one-state-at-a-time campaign?
But with the RNC this week finalizing its rules and regulations for next year’s primary, Priebus said in an interview that there is unfinished business he’d hoped to handle ahead of 2016 and expects the party to address before the next cycle: shaking up the early states on the primary calendar.
“It’s a hot topic. These early states are very used to fighting this out every four years. It’s just something I think we ought to look at as a party,” Priebus said. “If you look at my history, I’ve been very supportive of the early states as general counsel and as chairman. But I don’t think anyone should get too comfortable.”
Such statements are known to sound alarms in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the nominating schedule, where party leaders guard their special status with a righteous zeal. Iowans, in particular, feel perpetually targeted by national Republicans and worry that their leadoff status could be in jeopardy after 2016. Many party officials there feared the collapse of this year’s straw poll could foreshadow the demise of their caucuses.
If anything, the RNC offered protection to those early states this cycle like never before, approving severe penalties for any state that leapfrogged them on the calendar. But Priebus said every aspect of his party’s primary system will be reevaluated after this upcoming election, and said no special treatment will be given to the traditional early states.
“I don’t think there should ever be any sacred cows as to the primary process or the order,” he said.
Priebus raised the issue unsolicited when asked what, if anything, he’d failed to fix ahead of the 2016 primary season. The chairman said he understands the difficulty of displacing any of the four “carveout” states at the front of the calendar—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada—but said the party would benefit from bringing new ideas and fresh blood into the process.
Disussions about changing the order have intensified inside the party, Priebus said, and he expects the issue to be “front and center” when the RNC’s rules committee meets at July’s national convention in Cleveland.
It’s too late to change the rules for 2016, and in fact, the RNC will release a finalized itinerary this week for next year’s primary contests. But party officials are continually debating the contours of a new system.
Priebus said the changes made to next year’s primary process are “just the beginning,” and said even though he won’t serve a fourth term as RNC chairman meaning he won’t be in a position to implement a system after 2016—he’s got some ideas of what it could look like.
“One of the things I would have been interested in doing is sort of like a rotating primary process, where you would divide the country into five quadrants and have a primary about once every two weeks. And then you could have about a 10-week primary process,” Priebus said. “I’ve always been intrigued by that idea.”
Several other plans have been floated in recent years, Priebus said, including a “random lottery” that would assign each of the 50 states with a number 1 through 5 and result in five primary dates with 10 states voting on each.
Such proposals reflect, at least partially, the enmity some states feel toward Iowa and New Hampshire, which have hogged the front of the calendar for decades and enjoy an outsize role in choosing presidents because of it. Many Republicans also criticize those two states for their homogenous demographics, and argue the GOP will struggle to attract minority voters until the primary campaign runs through diverse areas.
“There are always people in our party with hangups about Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, and there are people on the committee right now who don’t like the order of the primary states, and there are people who love it,” Priebus said. “There certainly is not unanimity of opinion, I can guarantee you that.”
While such disagreement over the early states has always loomed over the party in recent cycles, Priebus took extraordinary measures to neutralize the issue in 2016. The RNC, in January 2014, designated February as a carve-out month and announced fierce consequences for any state that held its contest before March 1. (States with more than 30 delegates to the national convention would be stripped down to nine, while states with fewer than 30 delegates would only send six.)
Priebus said any future push to reorder the primary calendar won’t be about singling out states, but rather making the national party more dynamic and competitive.
“It’s just the concept of whether or not the same old order and the same old system is the best system for how we choose nominees of our party,” he said.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Outgoing House Speaker John A. Boehner, in his first one-on-one interview since announcing his resignation last week, compared conservative hard-liners in his party to biblical "false prophets" who promise more than they can deliver.
Boehner announced Friday that he would step down Oct. 30 after nearly five years as speaker amid constant pressure from his party's right flank. Asked Sunday by host John Dickerson on a live broadcast of CBS's "Face the Nation" whether those hard-liners are "unrealistic about what can be done in government," Boehner exploded.
"Absolutely, they're unrealistic!" he said. "But, you know, the Bible says beware of false prophets, and there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done."
Boehner referred, as he has in the past, to the ill-fated 2013 shutdown over funding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare: "This plan never had a chance," he said, but he blamed outside forces for leading Republicans down an ill-advised path: "We got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know! — are never going to happen."
Dickerson followed up by asking whether Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the leading proponent of the 2013 shutdown, was a "false prophet."
"Listen, you can pick a lot of names out; I'll let you choose 'em," Boehner said as he sipped from a coffee mug. He added: "I refer you to my remark at a fundraiser I made in August in Steamboat Springs, Colo." — a reference to a report, published in the Daily Caller, that he had called Cruz a "jackass" behind closed doors.
Earlier Sunday, the leader of one of those outside groups who have pushed for greater confrontation cheered Boehner's departure. Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action for America, said on Fox News Sunday that Boehner and his allies treated conservatives as "crazies" to be marginalized, not as central players in developing the party agenda.
"[Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi does not talk about her base that way; Barack Obama doesn't think about his base that way," Needham said. "We need a Republican leadership that is showing conservative values. ... That's not what we've had. We've had to fight our own speaker."
Boehner addressed the remaining five weeks of his speakership, in which he pledged to "get as much finished as possible." Pressing matters include striking a deal with President Obama to keep the government open through the coming fiscal year, raising the federal borrowing limit, passing a long-term transportation bill and extending popular tax breaks.
"I don't want to leave my successor a dirty barn," Boehner said. "So I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets here."
On Friday, he offered words of support for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a successor. He did not mention McCarthy on Sunday but offered advice to whoever follows him in the speaker's chair: "Have the courage to do what you can do. ... Just go do it."
"In our system of government, it's not about Hail Mary passes; it's the Woody Hayes school of football," he said, referring to the legendary Ohio State University coach. "Three years and a cloud of dust. It's a slow, methodical process."
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Speaker John Boehner's resignation has set off an intense round of jockeying for all four House leadership slots, setting up what's expected to be a hypercompetitive internal party battle in the middle of a key stretch of the legislative session this fall.Where is the House Freedom Caucus? The Tea Party Caucus? The Liberty Caucus? SPLITTERS!
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is expected to run for speaker, and no other Republican has come forward to challenge him yet. The most formidable potential rival for the top spot, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said Friday he will not run.
Though McCarthy is the heavy favorite to succeed Boehner, who announced Friday that he would step down at the end of October, it's unlikely he'll be unopposed.
Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) said Friday he plans to run for speaker, though he faces redistricting problems back home. Webster was nominated for speaker by hard-liners at the start of the current Congress and received a dozen votes.
The real competition, though, may be for the leadership jobs directly under the speaker.
Among those who are expected to run for majority leader, or are at least thinking about it, include Georgia Rep. Tom Price, chairman of the Budget Committee; Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current majority whip; House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington; and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who runs the Rules Committee and is former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"There are still a lot of names floating around. We've just been having a lot of conversations with members," Scalise said. "Everybody is just dealing with the shock of what happened this morning. We'll make an announcement at an appropriate time."
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who lost a leadership race in 2014, is eyeing the landscape, and could make a run for one of the open posts, possibly even majority leader, according to sources. Roskam was handily defeated by Scalise last year in a contest for whip after Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) shocking primary loss. Roskam scored major points with fellow Republicans for his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and Scalise has not overwhelmed members with his performance as whip.
Scalise is a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and has strong ties with conservatives throughout the conference. But he suffered political damage last year when it was revealed that he had spoken to a white supremacy group in 2002.
But Boehner and McCarthy stood by him, and Scalise has worked hard to rebuild his public standing. He also works hard and is a shrewd political infighter, and would be a tough opponent in any leadership race.
McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP leadership, is a good fundraiser and has been working in recent months to try to craft a "mission statement" for Republicans. The project has put her in touch with dozens of members.
But McMorris Rodgers has liabilities. She already passed on one leadership race — forgoing a run for whip last year — and may not want to risk losing her spot at the leadership table if she doesn't win this fight.
Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin is running for House majority whip, according to multiple sources. Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) will likely run for that post as well, and his current role in the leadership could give him a major advantage. A third contender is Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida, who sent a "Dear Colleague" letter Friday saying that he plans to "spend the next few days personally reaching out to members of our conference to discuss my intentions to run for Majority Whip."
Current NRCC Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon, who is close to Boehner, gets good marks from other Republicans and will remain in his current post.
The maneuvering within GOP ranks has been ongoing for weeks as rumors swirled that Boehner would step down before the end of this Congress. Scalise and McMorris Rodgers have been laying the groundwork for the majority leader contest, making calls to other members for support "if some opportunity to move up appeared," according to one Republican who spoke to both of them.
Some Republicans even complained that they were under too much pressure to back one leadership candidate or the other, noting that up until Friday, there hadn't been any leadership spots actually open.
The Texas Republican delegation, the largest bloc of votes in the GOP Conference, met Friday to see whether it will line up behind any of the leadership aspirants. Winning the backing of the Lone Star lawmakers would be a major plus for any of the hopefuls. Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who once served in leadership, is mulling his own bid for a leadership post.
Many of the expected candidates in the mix have run before. In 2012, Price lost his bid to become Republican Conference chairman to McMorris Rodgers.
Friday, September 25, 2015
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World leaders open a summit Friday to formally approve an ambitious and costly 15-year blueprint to eradicate extreme poverty, combat climate change and address more than a dozen other major global issues.
Implementing the new development goals — expected to cost between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion every year until 2030 — is expected to be the focus of the three-day summit that will include speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama, China's President Xi Jinping and the leaders of Egypt, India, Iran, Germany, Britain and France.
Kenya's U.N. Ambassador Macharia Kamau, one of the facilitators of negotiations, insisted in early August when the goals were agreed on by the U.N.'s 193 member states that the trillions needed are "not unattainable" because most money will come from domestic resources raised in countries, complemented by international development assistance.
But Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said Thursday that "there's certainly no chance that that amount of money will be available next year," adding that "we'd be doing very well to have anywhere near that amount of money available by 2030."
Gates said, however, that if there is new innovation, for instance in nutrition by getting better seeds or a vaccine against tuberculosis, as well as economic growth, "we still think we can meet the goals, even though that specific number will be very, very hard to reach."
The document — called "Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" — which sets out the 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets, will be adopted after opening speeches at the summit.
Its overarching aims of reducing poverty and inequality and preserving the environment are expected to dovetail with an address to the General Assembly by Pope Francis immediately before the summit opens.
The 17 non-binding goals will succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders 15 years ago. Despite significant progress, however, the only one achieved before this year was halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, due primarily to economic growth in China.
Among the other new goals are ensuring "healthy lives," quality education for all, clean water, sanitation and reliable modern energy — and achieving gender equality, making cities safe, reducing inequality within and among countries, and promoting economic growth.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 7-9pm
1311 West Jarrettsville Road
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
We are honored this month to host YouTube Phenom and Libertarian commentator Julie Borowski. Julie is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks and a regular speaker at venues including LPAC, CPAC, Liberty Forum, and the Smart Girl Politics Summit. She’ll be outlining some of the major policy shifts having the biggest impact on younger generations, and how these policies will affect younger voters for years to come.
Not familiar with Julie? Check out some of her entertaining commentary on YouTube or at www.julieborowski.com.
Click above to watch Julie’s latest YouTube posts!
Plus, we’ll get an update on the latest move by the Center for the Arts. Their website has been completely remodeled – are their finances more or less transparent now? Join us as we Fact Check the CFA’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Try some great locally made wines, enjoy some light refreshments, meet the gracious staff of the winery, and get informed on the latest policies affecting your family!
As always, questions for the speakers are welcome, and ANYONE can sign up for 1-3 minutes of “Open Mic” time.
Don’t forget our new meeting site:
Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 7-9pm
1311 West Jarrettsville Road
Forest Hill, Maryland 21050
Bring a friend! Or come make a new friend!
Can’t make it on the 22nd? Go online to sign the petition against wasteful taxpayer spending at https://www.tinyurl.com/nocfa and SHARE it with your friends! All petitions will be hand-delivered to the County Council next month.
Harford Campaign for Liberty
Saturday, September 19, 2015
The typical man with a full-time job–the one at the statistical middle of the middle–earned $50,383 last year, the Census Bureau reported this week.The REAL Reason is that corporations have been off-shoring all their profits and capitalizing new facilities overseas. Capitalism is now a global, and not just an "American," phenomena. And none of it benefits the American worker.
The typical man with a full-time job in 1973 earned $53,294, measured in 2014 dollars to adjust for inflation.
You read that right: The median male worker who was employed year-round and full time earned less in 2014 than a similarly situated worker earned four decades ago. And those are the ones who had jobs.
This one fact, tucked in Table A-4 of the Census Bureau’s annual report on income, is both a symptom of an economy that isn’t delivering for many ordinary Americans and at least one reason for the dissatisfaction, anger, and distrust that voters are displaying in the 2016 presidential campaign.
What about women? Well, they haven’t closed the pay gap with men, but the inflation-adjusted earnings of the median female worker increased more than 30% between 1973 and 2014, to $39,621 from $30,182, according to census data.
But back to men. Why are wages for the typical male worker stagnating? After all, the U.S. economy has grown substantially since 1973. Output per person in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1973, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. And output per hour of work (minus depreciation) has increased nearly 2.5 times, according to a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank that produces reliable statistical analyses.
As I often do when confronted with puzzles like this, I contacted Larry Katz, the Harvard University labor economist.
He identified three factors to explain the stagnation of men’s wages:
1. Although this is not the major factor, workers have been getting more of their compensation in benefits as opposed to the cash wages that the Census tallies. (The EPI chart takes that into account and tracks total compensation.)
2. Labor’s share of national income has been declining since 2000 and capital’s share has been rising. Labor’s compensation (wages and benefits) has not been keeping pace with productivity growth. In their new analysis of this phenomenon, EPI’s Josh Bivens and Larry Mishel argue, “ This decoupling coincided with the passage of many policies that explicitly aimed to erode the bargaining power of low- and moderate-wage workers in the labor market.”
3. The “most important factor,” Mr. Katz says, is the rise in wage inequality, the gap between the earnings of the best-paid workers and the ones at the middle and the bottom that has been widening steadily since about 1980. Economists differ over how much of this is the result of globalization, technological change, changing social mores, and government policies, but there is no longer much dispute about the fact that inequality is increasing.
It’s easy for Republicans to blame wage stagnation on Democrats and vice-versa. It’s not hard to understand why so many voters (who don’t need Census Bureau tables to understand what’s happening to their paychecks) are drawn to candidates who acknowledge this reality, lambast incumbents for not doing more to address it, and style themselves as outsiders with fresh approaches to one of the nation’s most alarming economic problems.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Why Now? Did One Woman Create the Entire European Immigration Crisis with a Single Stroke of Her Pen?
Berlin took the lead in efforts to resolve the European refugee crisis on Monday by declaring all Syrian asylum-seekers welcome to remain in Germany – no matter which EU country they had first entered.Three weeks later, the scene at Europe's borders look like this:
Germany, which expects to take a staggering 800,000 migrants this year, became the first EU country to suspend a 1990 protocol which forces refugees to seek asylum in the first European country in which they set foot.
The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ratified an order suspending the so-called Dublin Protocol. “Germany will become the member state responsible for processing their claims,” a government statement said.
All current expulsion orders for Syrian asylum-seekers will be revoked, the government said. New Syrian arrivals will no longer be forced to fill in questionnaires to determine which country they had first arrived in. In the first six months of 2015, Germany registered 44,417 applications from Syrian asylum-seekers.
The decision piles further pressure on other EU countries – including Britain – which have used the 1990 protocol as the legal basis for refusing to take any share of the refugees from the Middle East and Africa now pouring into Europe to escape war, oppression or famine.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Economy: After six-plus years of President Obama's big-spending, tax-raising policies, middle-class families have seen their incomes decline and more families have fallen into poverty, Census data show.
The Census Bureau's latest annual report on income and poverty in America shows that there was little to cheer about in 2014.
Median family income dropped slightly to $53,657, down from the year before. Every income group suffered losses, with the lowest fifth of households dropping close to 1%.
The overall poverty number barely budged. But it climbed by almost 600,000 among blacks in 2014, more than half of whom were under age 18.
This isn't exactly the picture that Obama has been painting. In fact, there's little that Obama likes to do more than brag about the economy.
A couple of months ago, he was in Wisconsin, crediting his policies for "record" job growth, tumbling deficits and big gains in the stock market.
"Step by step, America is moving forward," he said. "Middle-class economics works. It works. Yes!"
It's hard to see any evidence of that in the Census numbers. Indeed, the latest report shows that, despite more than six years of economic "recovery," the middle class is, incredibly, worse off than at the end of the Great Recession.
From 2009 to 2014, real median household income dropped by more than $1,000 — or 2.3% — to $53,657. (And that decline would likely have been steeper if not for a 2013 change in the way the Census does its annual survey.)
Obama's economy has been particularly harsh on those already at the bottom. Census data show that the bottom fifth of households saw their average income fall by 8% from 2009 to 2014.
Looked at another way, the share of households with incomes below $25,000 climbed from 22.4% to 23.6% over those years.
Among blacks, it went from 35.5% to 36.8%.
The statistics on poverty are just as unpleasant.
In Obama's first year in office, 43.6 million people — or 14.3% of the population — lived in poverty.
By 2014, that number had climbed by more than 3 million, pushing the poverty rate up to 14.8%.
The poverty rate among blacks was 26.2% last year, up from 25.8% in 2009. Is that "moving forward," too?
Even the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index is lower today than it was when Obama took office.
If anyone but Obama had presided over such results, his economic legacy would be in shambles and his policies in disrepute.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
(CNN)For far too long, Democrats have been too afraid to stand up to the gun lobby.
It's time for that to change. If I am elected president, I will make reducing and preventing gun violence one of my 15 goals to rebuild the American dream. And right now, I am putting forward a comprehensive policy plan for cutting deaths from gun violence in half -- homicides, suicides, and accidents -- within 10 years.
My plan starts with expanding safeguards to all gun purchases, whether from a licensed dealer, online posting, or private sale. Under my plan, a background check would be required for each and every gun purchase. And every person seeking to purchase or transfer a gun would have to obtain a fingerprint-based license, including completing safety training and a waiting period. Without such protections, it will remain far too easy for criminals to legally buy guns.
My plan will also cut gun violence by focusing on the largest purchaser of firearms: our government. By adjusting federal procurement policies, the federal government can encourage both gun manufacturers and dealers to prevent trafficking and violence, while spurring innovations that improve gun safety. This means requiring agencies to purchase only cutting-edge guns, such as those that have hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced.
Guns are now the second leading cause of death among children and teens, so I would take steps to require safe storage of guns at home. Because gun violence is committed disproportionately by young people, I would set a national age requirement of 21 for all handgun purchases and handgun possession. And because the U.S. is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence, I would fight to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to own and purchase guns.
Above all, law enforcement must be empowered to uphold these protective measures -- by revoking the licenses of dealers whose guns routinely end up in the hands of criminals. And to shut down the pipeline of illegal guns that flow from states with weak gun laws to states with strong ones, we should establish strong federal penalties for gun traffickers. Possessing marijuana can be a felony under federal law; outrageously, trafficking guns is not.
Even as the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding, we know the immense harm that comes if guns end up in the wrong hands. By establishing a national firearms registry, we can track guns to the root cause of tragedies. By requiring all lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement, we can monitor the number of illegal guns in our communities.
My comprehensive plan will not stop every senseless gun death. But it will ensure that fewer families are needlessly torn apart by gun violence.
I am not new to this fight. In 2003, seeing the epidemic of gun violence wash over my city of Baltimore when I was mayor, I called for a ban on assault weapons in our state.
In 2013, after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I made passing comprehensive gun safety laws my No. 1 priority as governor. The National Rifle Association launched an all-out attack: It flooded the Maryland state house and threatened state legislators, who ended up enacting the strongest gun safety laws in the nation -- including the assault weapons ban I had started fighting for 10 years before.
Even today, the NRA is targeting me as a "menace" to its cause. I've never given in to the NRA, and I certainly won't as president. I believe that we shouldn't be taking gun safety advice from groups that only exist to sell more guns.
This work is more urgent than ever. Eight law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty last month. Over Labor Day weekend alone, at least 145 people were killed by gunfire, and twice as many were injured. And yet, Washington still isn't doing anything about it.
Gun violence can be stopped. As president, I will work with anyone, from any party, with the courage to put the right policies in place to do so. We know what works. We simply need the courage and leadership to act to save lives.
Monday, September 14, 2015
WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has been bashing Hillary Clinton for being too cozy with Wall Street, but he's got some ties of his own to financial big-wigs.
O'Malley has been looking to show he's a populist warrior in the Democratic presidential primary, hoping he can get to Clinton's left and capitalize on the anti-Wall Street mood coursing through the progressive base while ripping Clinton for her well-heeled support.
"When you have somebody that's the CEO of one of the biggest repeat-offending investment banks in the country telling his employees that he'd be fine with either Bush or Clinton, that should tell all of us something," O’Malley said on ABC Sunday, pointing out that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has said he'd be happy with either Clinton or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the White House.
O'Malley also warned the "bullies of Wall Street" during his Saturday campaign announcement that "the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families."
But while he was the finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2008, Goldman Sachs gave $100,000 to the organization.
O'Malley admitted on Wednesday that he "probably" had asked for big checks from financial giants in the past before refusing to rule out soliciting more from the financial industry for his presidential bid.
"I probably have. I was the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. I'm quite sure I've called everybody that they've put up sheets in front of me," he said when asked about past donations during an event in Washington with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, referring to the fundraising call sheets candidates dial through looking for donations.
"I'm not prone to call up the head of Goldman Sachs or those individuals, nor am I inclined to tell those people in the financial industry that they shouldn't be involved in my campaign, in fact I think they should," he continued. "There's a lot of good people who work in our financial industry."
That's a different tune than a Wednesday fundraising email from O'Malley's campaign that asked for donations to "help us fight back against Wall Street."
According to CNBC, O'Malley wined and dined with Wall Street leaders including Robert Wolf, president and chief operating officer of UBS Investment Bank, and Marvin Rosen, a corporate and securities lawyer, at the swanky Lever House in November 2013.
Some of O'Malley's current campaign supporters have ties to big banks as well.
George Appleby, who introduced him last weekend in Iowa, is a registered Des Moines lobbyist who counts Wells Fargo and OneMain Financial, formerly the Citigroup Management Corporation, among his clients.
O'Malley began his career as a member of the business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, and his current rhetoric runs counter to a 2007 op-ed he coauthored with the group's then-leader and former Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), who currently works for Morgan Stanley and at the time was at Merrill Lynch.
The two wrote then that Democrats must seek a "centrist agenda" and praised Bill Clinton's presidential campaign for its "sensible ideas."
And when O'Malley was governor, he appointed former Legg Mason CEO Richard C. Mike Lewin to the Maryland Transportation Authority and former Deutsche Bank Alex Brown managing director Mark Kaufman to head Maryland's committee on financial regulation.
Kaufman helped O'Malley keep banks from foreclosing on families during the financial crisis and was named the 2014 consumer advocate of the year by the Maryland Consumer Rights Association.
O'Malley is now calling to break up the big banks and reimpose the Glass-Steagall Act, which would impose tighter restrictions on the banking industry.
Professor Adam Sheingate of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said O'Malley "never took a populist anti-Wall Street stance" when he was mayor or governor, though he pointed out that O'Malley successfully pushed through some new financial regulations while he was in office.
"He can say he took on the financial services industry, and he did some things that I don't think went very far in terms of curtailing payday loans and require banks to renegotiate mortgages instead of foreclose on people," he said.
O'Malley's campaign downplayed his ties to banks.
"Governor O'Malley's strong call to finally rein in Wall Street has clearly struck a chord with the powers that be. They can try to leak as many meaningless tidbits as they want, but Governor O'Malley has shown he will stand up to his own party to call for real structural and accountability reforms of Wall Street," O'Malley spokeswoman Haley Morris told the Daily News.
"Rather than engaging in this silly back and forth, every candidate should have the courage to say where they stand on this issue."
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Slavoj Zizek: We Can’t Address the EU Refugee Crisis Without Confronting Global Capitalism The refugees won’t all make it to Norway. Nor does the Norway they seek exist.
from In These Times
In her classic study On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the famous scheme of the five stages of how we react upon learning that we have a terminal illness: denial (one simply refuses to accept the fact: “This can’t be happening, not to me.”); anger (which explodes when we can no longer deny the fact: “How can this happen to me?”); bargaining (the hope we can somehow postpone or diminish the fact: “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”); depression (libidinal disinvestment: “I'm going to die, so why bother with anything?”); acceptance (“I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”). Later, Kübler-Ross applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (joblessness, death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction), and also emphasized that they do not necessarily come in the same order, nor are all five stages experienced by all patients.Correction: this story initially said that the anti-immigrant Democratic party overtook the Social-Democrats in Sweden when it meant to refer to Denmark. It has been corrected.
Is the reaction of the public opinion and authorities in Western Europe to the flow of refugees from Africa and Middle East also not a similar combination of disparate reactions? There was denial, now diminishing: “It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it.” There is anger: “Refugees are a threat to our way of life, hiding among them Muslim fundamentalists, they should be stopped at any price!” There is bargaining: “OK, let’s establish quotas and support refugee camps in their own countries!” There is depression: “We are lost, Europe is turning into Europa-stan!” What is lacking is acceptance, which, in this case, would have meant a consistent all-European plan of how to deal with the refugees.
So what to do with hundreds of thousands of desperate people who wait in the north of Africa, escaping from war and hunger, trying to cross the sea and find refuge in Europe?
There are two main answers. Left liberals express their outrage at how Europe is allowing thousands to drown in Mediterranean. Their plea is that Europe should show solidarity by opening its doors widely. Anti-immigrant populists claim we should protect our way of life and let the Africans solve their own problems.
Which solution is better? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse. Those who advocate open borders are the greater hypocrites: Secretly, they know very well this will never happen, since it would trigger an instant populist revolt in Europe. They play the Beautiful Soul which feels superior to the corrupted world while secretly participating in it.
The anti-immigrant populist also know very well that, left to themselves, Africans will not succeed in changing their societies. Why not? Because we, North Americans and Western Europeans, are preventing them. It was the European intervention in Libya which threw the country in chaos. It was the U.S. attack on Iraq which created the conditions for the rise of ISIS. The ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic is not just an explosion of ethnic hatred; France and China are fighting for the control of oil resources through their proxies.
But the clearest case of our guilt is today’s Congo, which is again emerging as the African “heart of darkness.” Back in 2001, a UN investigation into the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Congo found that its internal conflicts are mainly about access to, control of, and trade in five key mineral resources: coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold. Beneath the façade of ethnic warfare, we thus discern the workings of global capitalism. Congo no longer exists as a united state; it is a multiplicity of territories ruled by local warlords controlling their patch of land with an army which, as a rule, includes drugged children. Each of these warlords has business links to a foreign company or corporation exploiting the mining wealth in the region. The irony is that many of these minerals are used in high-tech products such as laptops and cell phones.
Remove the foreign high-tech companies from the equation and the whole narrative of ethnic warfare fueled by old passions falls apart. This is where we should begin if we really want to help the Africans and stop the flow of refugees. The first thing is to recall that most of refugees come from the “failed states”—where public authority is more or less inoperative, at least in large regions—Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Congo, etc. This disintegration of state power is not a local phenomenon but a result of international economy and politics—in some cases, like Libya and Iraq, a direct outcome of Western intervention. It is clear that the rise of these “failed states” is not just an unintended misfortune but also one of the ways the great powers exert their economic colonialism. One should also note that the seeds of the Middle East’s “failed states” are to be sought in the arbitrary borders drawn after World War I by UK and France and thereby creating a series of “artificial” states. By way of uniting Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is ultimately bringing together what was torn apart by the colonial masters.
One cannot help noting the fact that some not-too-rich Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Egypt, Iraq) are much more open to the refugees than the really wealthy ones (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar). Saudi Arabia and Emirates received no refugees, although they border countries in crisis and are culturally much closer to the refugees (who are mostly Muslims) than Europe. Saudi Arabia even returned some Muslim refugees from Somalia. Is this because Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist theocracy which can tolerate no foreign intruders? Yes, but one should also bear in mind that this same Saudi Arabia is economically fully integrated into the West. From the economic standpoint, are Saudi Arabia and Emirates, states that totally depend on their oil revenues, not pure outposts of Western capital? The international community should put full pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia Kuwait and Qatar to do their duty in accepting a large contingent of the refugees. Furthermore, by way of supporting the anti-Assad rebels, Saudi Arabia is largely responsible for the situation in Syria. And the same holds in different degrees for many other countries—we are all in it.
A new slavery
Another feature shared by these rich countries is the rise of a new slavery. While capitalism legitimizes itself as the economic system that implies and furthers personal freedom (as a condition of market exchange), it generated slavery on its own, as a part of its own dynamics: although slavery became almost extinct at the end of the Middle Ages, it exploded in colonies from early modernity till the American Civil War. And one can risk the hypothesis that today, with the new epoch of global capitalism, a new era of slavery is also arising. Although it is no longer a direct legal status of enslaved persons, slavery acquires a multitude of new forms: millions of immigrant workers in the Saudi peninsula (Emirates, Qatar, etc.) who are de facto deprived of elementary civil rights and freedoms; the total control over millions of workers in Asian sweatshops often directly organized as concentration camps; massive use of forced labor in the exploitation of natural resources in many central African states (Congo, etc.). But we don’t have to look so far. On December 1, 2013, at least seven people died when a Chinese-owned clothing factory in an industrial zone in the Italian town of Prato, 19 kilometers from the center of Florence, burned down, killing workers trapped in an improvised cardboard dormitory built onsite. The accident occurred in the Macrolotto industrial district of the town, known for its garment factories. Thousands more Chinese immigrants were believed to be living in the city illegally, working up to 16 hours per day for a network of wholesalers and workshops turning out cheap clothing.
We thus do not have to look for the miserable life of new slaves far away in the suburbs of Shanghai (or in Dubai and Qatar) and hypocritically criticize China—slavery can be right here, within our house, we just don't see it (or, rather, pretend not to see it). This new de facto apartheid, this systematic explosion of the number of different forms of de facto slavery, is not a deplorable accident but a structural necessity of today's global capitalism.
But are the refugees entering Europe not also offering themselves to become cheap precarious workforce, in many cases at the expense of local workers, who react to this threat by joining anti-immigrant political parties? For most of the refugees, this will be the reality of their dream realized.
The refugees are not just escaping from their war-torn homelands; they are also possessed by a certain dream. We can see again and again on our screens. Refugees in southern Italy make it clear that they don’t want to stay there—they mostly want to live in Scandinavian countries. And what about thousands camping around Calais who are not satisfied with France but are ready to risk their lives to enter the United Kingdom? And what about tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries who want to reach Germany at least? They declare this dream as their unconditional right, and demand from European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also the transportation to the place of their choice.
There is something enigmatically utopian in this impossible demand: as if it is the duty of Europe to realize their dream, a dream which, incidentally, is out of reach to most of Europeans. How many South and East Europeans would also not prefer to live in Norway? One can observe here the paradox of utopia: precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger, and one would expect that they would be satisfied by a minimum of safety and well-being, the absolute utopia explodes. The hard lesson for the refugees is that “there is no Norway,” even in Norway. They will have to learn to censor their dreams: Instead of chasing them in reality, they should focus on changing reality.
A Left taboo
One of the great Left taboos will have to be broken here: the notion that the protection of one’s specific way of life is in itself a proto-Fascist or racist category. If we don’t abandon this notion, we open up the way for the anti-immigrant wave which thrives all around Europe. (Even in Denmark, the anti-immigrant Democratic party for the first time overtook Social-Democrats and became the strongest party in the country.) Addressing concerns of ordinary people about the threats to their specific way of life can be done also from the Left. Bernie Sanders is a living proof of that! The true threat to our communal ways of life are not foreigners but the dynamic of global capitalism: In the United States alone, the economic changes of the last several decades did more to destroy communal life in small cities than all the immigrants together.
The standard Left-liberal reaction to this is, of course, an explosion of arrogant moralism: The moment we give any credence to the “protection of our way of life” motif, we already compromise our position, since we propose a more modest version of what anti-immigrant populists openly advocate. Is this not the story of last decades? Centrist parties reject the open racism of anti-immigrant populists, but they simultaneously profess to “understand the concerns” of ordinary people and enact a more “rational” version of the same politics.
But while this contains a kernel of truth, the moralistic complaints—“Europe lost empathy, it is indifferent towards the suffering of others,” etc.—are merely the obverse of the anti-immigrant brutality. Both stances share the presupposition, which is in no way self-evident, that a defense of one’s own way of life excludes ethical universalism. One should thus avoid getting caught into the liberal game of “how much tolerance can we afford.” Should we tolerate if they prevent their children going to state schools, if they arrange marriages of their children, if they brutalize gays among their ranks? At this level, of course, we are never tolerant enough, or we are always already too tolerant, neglecting the rights of women, etc. The only way to break out of this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance or respect of others to a common struggle.
One must thus broaden the perspective: Refugees are the price of global economy. In our global world, commodities circulate freely, but not people: new forms of apartheid are emerging. The topic of porous walls, of the threat of being inundated by foreigners, is strictly immanent to global capitalism, it is an index of what is false about capitalist globalization. While large migrations are a constant feature of human history, their main cause in modern history are colonial expansions: Prior to colonization, the Global South mostly consisted of self-sufficient and relatively isolated local communities. It was colonial occupation and slave trading that threw this way of life off the rails and renewed large-scale migrations.
Europe is not the only place experiencing a wave of immigration. In South Africa, there are over a million refugees from Zimbabwe, who are exposed to attacks from local poor for stealing their jobs. And there will be more, not just because of armed conflicts, but because of new “rogue states,” economic crisis, natural disasters (exacerbated by climate change), man-made disasters, etc. It is now known that, after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Japanese authorities thought for a moment that the entire Tokyo area—20 millions of people—will have to be evacuated. Where, in this case, should they have gone? Under what conditions? Should they be given a piece of land or just be dispersed around the world? What if northern Siberia becomes more inhabitable and arable, while vast sub-Saharan regions become too dry to support the large populations that live there? How will the exchange of population be organized? When similar things happened in the past, social changes occurred in a wild spontaneous way, with violence and destruction (recall the great migrations at the end of the Roman empire)—such a prospect is catastrophic in today’s conditions, with arms of mass destruction available to many nations.
The main lesson to be learned is therefore that humankind should get ready to live in a more “plastic” and nomadic way: Rapid local and global changes in environment may require unheard-of, large-scale social transformations. One thing is clear: National sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new levels of global cooperation invented. And what about the immense changes in economy and conservation due to new weather patterns or water and energy shortages? Through what processes of decision will such changes be decided and executed? A lot of taboos will have to be broken here, and a set of complex measures undertaken.
First, Europe will have to reassert its full commitment to provide means for the dignified survival of the refugees. There should be no compromise here: Large migrations are our future, and the only alternative to such commitment is a renewed barbarism (what some call “clash of civilizations”).
Second, as a necessary consequence of this commitment, Europe should organize itself and impose clear rules and regulations. State control of the stream of refugees should be enforced through a vast administrative network encompassing all of the European Union (to prevent local barbarisms like those of the authorities in Hungary or Slovakia). Refugees should be reassured of their safety, but it should also be made clear to them that they have to accept the area of living allocated to them by European authorities, plus they have to respect the laws and social norms of European states: No tolerance of religious, sexist or ethnic violence on any side, no right to impose onto others one’s own way of life or religion, respect of every individual’s freedom to abandon his/her communal customs, etc. If a woman chooses to cover her face, her choice should be respected, but if she chooses not to cover it, her freedom to do so has to be guaranteed. Yes, such a set of rules privileges the Western European way of life, but it is a price for European hospitality. These rules should be clearly stated and enforced, by repressive measures (against foreign fundamentalists as well as against our own anti-immigrant racists) if necessary.
Third, a new type of international interventions will have to be invented: military and economic interventions that avoid neocolonial traps. What about UN forces guaranteeing peace in Libya, Syria or Congo? Since such interventions are closely associated with neocolonialism, extreme safeguards will be needed. The cases of Iraq, Syria and Libya demonstrate how the wrong type of intervention (in Iraq and Libya) as well as non-intervention (in Syria, where, beneath the appearance of non-intervention, external powers from Russia to Saudi Arabia and the U.S.? are fully engaged) end up in the same deadlock.
Fourth, the most difficult and important task is a radical economic change that should abolish social conditions that create refugees. The ultimate cause of refugees is today’s global capitalism itself and its geopolitical games, and if we do not transform it radically, immigrants from Greece and other European countries will soon join African refugees. When I was young, such an organized attempt to regulate commons was called Communism. Maybe we should reinvent it. Maybe, this is, in the long term, our only solution.
Is all this a utopia? Maybe, but if we don’t do it, then we are really lost, and we deserve to be.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Rate adjustments for Harford County’s public water and sewer services are necessary in light of a recent analysis showing that both systems have been chronically underfunded for a decade and will run out of operating cash next year.More on "How Much?"
By law, each of Harford County’s systems must operate as a separate “enterprise fund”, which is required to be self-sufficient using revenue derived from service users rather than from the county’s general revenue. Legislation was introduced Tuesday to the County Council on behalf of the Glassman administration outlining the needed adjustments for all of the county’s public water and sewer customers, including all residential, commercial and institutional users. If approved, the adjustments will take effect beginning January 1 and be reflected in customers’ bills beginning in April 2016. Under the proposed legislation, the water and sewer bill for the average residential user will remain the lowest among peer jurisdictions.
The proposed rate adjustments are in response to a report to the Glassman administration by the global consulting firm, Black & Veatch, which analyzed Harford County’s water and sewer rates and operations. The analysis was initiated in 2012 at the request of the County Council. The last rate study prior to the Black & Veatch analysis was done in 1995.
The Black & Veatch analysis shows that water and sewer operating revenues, which are based on the rates paid by users, have failed to cover the systems’ operating costs for more than a decade. Calling the current situation “dire”, the analysis indicates that the failure to adjust rates appropriately over the past ten years now requires rate adjustments to ensure sufficient revenue to fund water and sewer operations.
Prior revenue shortfalls were made up by tapping into the water and sewer operating fund balance, which declined from a surplus of $18 million two years ago, to an expected $2 million surplus by the end of the current fiscal year. Without increased revenue, the Black & Veatch analysis shows an operating fund deficit for next year that will increase exponentially, ending next fiscal year at an estimated $7.5 million, doubling to $18 million in fiscal year 2018 and nearly doubling again to $35 million in fiscal year 2019.
“Unfortunately, decisions made in the past have brought the water and sewer enterprise funds to this critical point,” said County Executive Barry Glassman. “My administration’s rate adjustment plan softens the immediate impact on users as much as possible, but we have a responsibility to put these systems on a sound fiscal path in accordance with the law. We also must ensure the availability of clean water and reliable services for citizens living and doing business in Harford County.”
Federal and state environmental regulations, infrastructure maintenance and customer demand are among the cost drivers in the public water and sewer systems. The proposed rate adjustments will provide adequate funding for future operations, while keeping Harford County’s rates lower than peer systems, including Harford’s municipalities and Cecil, Frederick, and Carroll counties. Combined water and sewer rates will also remain below the combined national average in fiscal year 2016, keeping Harford County among the nation’s most cost-effective systems in meeting customer needs.
Harford County’s water and sewer rates are set forth in tables listing the individual factors that comprise the total rates. The adjusted tables of rates were included in the legislation introduced Tuesday, which will be posted on the county website. A public hearing on the legislation will be held on October 13. The hearing will include a financial presentation by representatives from Black & Veatch. The presentation will also be posted on the county website following the public hearing.
The bill would increase the quarterly base water charge for customers with a standard residential 5/8-inch meter, from $6.04 to $9.02, but would significantly lower the base charge for all meters larger than that, mostly commercial, industrial and institutional customers. The residential flat rate charge would rise from $60.29 to $77.46. The quarterly water usage rate, meanwhile, would increase from a universal $2.43 per 1,000 gallons to $3.45. The excess water usage rate would go up from $3.04 per 1,000 gallons to $4.31. Quarterly sewer usage rates would also increase, from $3.09 to $4.99 per 1,000 gallons in 2016, $5.42 Jan. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2017, $6.77 July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, $6.79 July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 and $7.22 starting July 1, 2019. Sewer usage is calculated based on water consumption. The legislation also creates a water and sewer asset reinvestment charge, a quarterly surcharge that would be paid by all customers, including wholesale buyers and governmental customers buying under contract, for water each connection based on the size of the largest water meter installed. The surcharge, which would range from $3.89 to $486.25 for water and for sewer, will be used to fund facilities, equipment and infrastructure.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson called for a truce with front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday after the two traded personal barbs over their faith.
Carson, a former pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital who is polling in second place nationally, questioned Trump's faith at an event in California on Wednesday.
"I realize where my successes come from, and I don't in any way deny my faith in God," Carson said. "And I think that probably is the big differentiator... That's a very big part of who I am -- humility and fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him."
Trump, predictably, fired back.
"Who is he to question my faith?" Trump, a Presbyterian, asked in an interview on CNN. "He doesn't even know me. I don't know Ben Carson. "He was a doctor, perhaps an OK doctor, by the way -- you can check that out, too. We’re not talking about a great -- ."
Trump also questioned Carson's commitment to the anti-abortion movement.
By Thursday morning, Carson was dialing down his rhetoric -- and blaming the whole episode on the media.
"The media frequently wants to goad people into wars, into gladiator fights, you know," Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist, told The Washington Post. "And I'm certainly not going to get into that."
"Everyone is going to be saying, 'Oh there's a big fight, everyone come watch the fight,'" he said. "But it's just not going to be as great as they think, because I'm not going to participate."
Friday, September 4, 2015
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Enceladus, his body lightning-scarred,
lies prisoned under all, so runs the tale:
o'er him gigantic Aetna breathes in fire
from crack and seam; and if he haply turn
to change his wearied side, Trinacria's isle
trembles and moans, and thick fumes mantle heaven.