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Key Question For Wisconsin Democrats: To Run “Fake” Candidates, Or Not?

Wisconsin Democrats now face a key decision in the state Senate recalls: AfterRepublicans have declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries — in order to delay the general elections from July to August, and make trouble in the Dem primaries while the GOP incumbents run unopposed — will they respond in kind and plant fake candidates on the Republican side?

Earlier on Friday, the labor-backed progressive group We Are Wisconsin called upon Dems to run some fake Republican candidates, arguing that this was necessary in order to stop the Republicans from sabotaging the Dem primaries. From their statement:

Another potential scenario created by the Republican chicanery in the primary that could severely disadvantage Democratic candidates is that Republican incumbents who do not face primary challengers advance automatically to the general election ballot. This creates a scenario where “legitimate” Democratic challengers are exposed to unlimited spending by outside groups and pro-Republican forces, which could cause the “legitimate” Democrats in the race to lose the sham primary. There would be no check on millions of dollars in shady outside money coming in to relentlessly attack “legitimate” Democrats, and full-scale mobilization of Republican resources to turn out their voters in the Democratic primary and to advocate a message such as “if you support Randy Hopper, vote for fake candidate X.”

Running fake Republicans, the argument goes, would force GOP voters to stick to their own primary and prevent a spoiler from winning on that side, thus defusing any such potential ploy.

TPM sought comment from the state Dems and was told a statement was forthcoming. So at time of writing, the gears appear to still be turning on this question at the Dem headquarters.

The filing deadline for those recalls is this Tuesday, July 13, at 5 p.m. CT. In order to qualify for the ballot, candidates must at that time also file at least 400 signatures collected from the district, with 800 signatures as the maximum allowed in order to have a buffer against disqualifications.

The key here is that recalls are now tentatively scheduled for July 12, under the state election officials’ proposed timelines, targeting six Republicans. If there were only one Democrat against each one Republican, then the July 12 date would be the general election. But if there were additional Democrats, the July 12 date would then become the primary, giving the incumbents more time to campaign for a general election in August.

Also, thanks to Wisconsin’s open primary system in which anybody can vote in a party primary, it would force the Democrats to spend time, money and resources campaigning for their own nominations.


By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, June 10, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Voters, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , | 2 Comments

Massachusetts Republican: Undocumented Immigrant Rape Victims ‘Should Be Afraid To Come Forward’

Massachusetts GOP state Rep. Ryan Fattman has such contempt for illegal immigrants that he believes undocumented women who are raped should be afraid to go to the police. Yesterday, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on Fattman’s incendiary comments, which he made while defending a controversial federal immigration program that many say will damage the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has refused to join the program out of concern that immigrants who are victims of violent crimes will be afraid to report them and seek help:

Mr. Fattman dismissed concerns of some law enforcement officials — cited by the governor — who said using local police to enforce immigration laws could discourage reporting of crime by victims who are illegal immigrants.

Asked if he would be concerned that a woman without legal immigration status was raped and beaten as she walked down the street might be afraid to report the crime to police, Mr. Fattman said he was not worried about those implications.

My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward,” Mr. Fattman said. “If you do it the right way, you don’t have to be concerned about these things,” he said referring to obtaining legal immigration status.

Instead of helping rape victims, the new federal program would have police turn them directly over to the federal government to be deported. Fattman believes that’s exactly what should happen:

Mr. Fattman acknowledged that people could be deported after an arrest even if they are not convicted of a crime, under the program in use in more than 30 states.

While citizens have the right to be viewed as innocent until found guilty in court, he said, “I don’t think that principle extends to illegal immigrants.” He said he had no concerns about racial profiling by police.

According to Fattman, deporting undocumented immigrants who have not committed a crime is more important than deterring violent crime or helping rape victims. “Innocent until proven guilty” isn’t the only principle he doesn’t think should apply to illegal immigrants — apparently basic human decency is only a luxury American citizens should enjoy. Fattman is such a radical that he believes American-born children of illegal immigrants should be deported with their parents, which would be in direct violation of the 14th Amendment.


By: Marie Diamond, Think Progress, June 9, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quorum Calls: Giving ‘Do Nothing Congress’ New Meaning

Behold, the world’s greatest deliberative body.

At 9:36 a.m. on Thursday, a clerk with a practiced monotone read aloud the name of Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii). The chamber was nearly deserted. The senator wasn’t there. Not that she was really looking for him.

Instead, the clerk was beginning one of the Capitol’s most arcane rituals: the slow-motion roll calls that the Senate uses to bide time.

These procedures, called “quorum calls,” usually serve no other purpose than to fill up empty minutes on the Senate floor. They are so boring, so quiet that C-SPAN adds in classical music: otherwise, viewers might think their TV was broken.

This year — even as Washington lurches closer to a debt crisis — the Senate has spent a historic amount of time performing this time-killing ritual. Quorum calls have taken up about a third of its time since January, according to C-SPAN statistics: more than 17 eight-hour days’ worth of dead air.

When it comes to legislative action, 2009 and 2010 were an unusually busy period, with the Senate taking up some of the most consequential legislation in the generation. Maybe, the thinking goes, such an intense period of policymaking activity will inevitably be followed by a more relaxed schedule.

But the institution has gone from frantically busy to catatonic. One is tempted to hold a mirror to the Senate’s nose, just to make sure it’s still breathing.

David Fahrenthold’s explanation of quorum calls is helpful, albeit mildly soul-crushing.

A clerk reads out senators’ names slowly, sometimes waiting 10 minutes or more between them. But it’s usually a sham. The senators aren’t coming. Nobody expects them to. The ritual is a reaction to what the chamber has become: a very fancy place that senators, often, are too busy to visit.

This is what happened: Decades ago, senators didn’t have offices. They spent their days at their desks on the Senate floor. So clerks really needed to call the roll to see if a majority was ready for business.

Now, senators spend much of their time in committee rooms, offices and elsewhere. If no big vote is on the horizon, often nothing at all is happening on the Senate floor.

But Senate rules don’t allow for nothing to happen. That would require a formal adjournment, which would mean lots of time-consuming parliamentary rigmarole. Instead, the last senator to speak asks clerks to fill the time by calling the roll.

We’re not, by the way, talking about pro-forma sessions, intended to prevent presidential recess appointments. This is just the norm of the Senate most of the time, even during the course of its usual schedule.

Of course, senators could be doing something, at least in theory. The Democratic majority doesn’t bring bills to the floor, because they know Republicans will filibuster them (and even if they passed, the GOP-led House would never consider them). Dems could bring nominees to the floor, but Republicans won’t allow that, either. Dems could work on a budget, but they not only know the House won’t cooperate, but also know even trying would become fodder for attack ads.

“Why are we here?” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) asked. “The Senate is not operating the way it was designed, because politicians don’t want to be on record.”

Well, that’s partially true, but the Senate is also not operating the way it was designed because guys like Coburn filibuster everything that moves.

Regardless, let’s go ahead and retire “the world’s greatest deliberative body” description. No one appreciates the humor.


By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, June 10, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Crisis, Democracy, Democrats, GOP, Government, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kicking The Unemployed When They Are Down

Recent highly publicized national jobs reports showing private-sector gains being offset by public-sector losses have drawn attention to the macroeconomic costs of the austerity program already underway among state and local governments, and gaining steam in Washington.  But the effect on the most vulnerable Americans–particularly those out of work–is rarely examined in any systematic way.

At The American Prospect, Kat Aaron has put together a useful if depressing summary of actual or impending cutbacks (most initiated by the states, some by Congress) in key services for the unemployed and others suffering from economic trauma.  These include unemployment insurance, job retraining services, and family income supports.  In some cases, federal funds added by the 2009 stimulus package are running out.  In others, the safety net is being deliberately shredded.

A recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the most important family income support program, TANF (the “reformed” welfare block grant first established in 1996) is becoming an object of deep cuts in many states, precisely at the time it is most needed:

States are implementing some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The cuts will affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.A number of states are cutting cash assistance deeply or ending it entirely for many families that already live far below the poverty line, including many families with physical or mental health issues or other challenges. Numerous states also are cutting child care and other work-related assistance that will make it harder for many poor parents who are fortunate enough to have jobs to retain them.

This is perverse precisely because such programs were once widely understood as “counter-cyclical”–designed to temporarily expand in tough economic times.  Not any more, says CPBB:

To be effective, a safety net must be able to expand when the need for assistance rises and to contract when need declines. The TANF block grant is failing this test, for several reasons: Congress has level-funded TANF since its creation, with no adjustment for inflation or other factors over the past 15 years; federal funding no longer increases when the economy weakens and poverty climbs; and states — facing serious budget shortfalls — have shifted TANF funds to other purposes and have cut the TANF matching funds they provide.

This retrenchment, mind you, is what’s already happening, and does not reflect the future blood-letting implied by congressional Republican demands for major new cuts in federal-state safety net programs–most famously Medicaid, which virtually all GOPers want to convert into a block grant in which services are no longer assured.

If, as appears increasingly likely, the sluggish economy stays sluggish for longer than originally expected, and both the federal government and states continue to pursue Hoover-like policies of attacking budget deficits with spending cuts as their top priority, it’s going to get even uglier down at the level of real-life people trying to survive.  If you are unlucky enough to live in one of those states where governors and legislators are proudly hell-bent on making inadequate safety-net services even more inadequate or abolishing them altogether, it’s a grim road ahead.

By: Ed Kilgore, Democratic Strategist, June 10, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting For Insecurity: GOP Soft On Terrorism

Has any political party in history been as hypocritical as the modern GOP in terms of paying lip service to principles they undercut with policies?

Republicans say they are all about supporting our troops, and then they slash veterans benefits. They loudly proclaim their religious devotion to gatherings of evangelicals, but their philosopher queen is the faith-hating atheist Ayn Rand (see video in Noteworthy box above). Turns out they have two faces even for matters of critical national security, as yesterday’s editorial in the New York Times, “Budgeting for Insecurity,” makes disturbingly clear. An excerpt:

House Republicans talk tough on terrorism. So we can find no explanation — other than irresponsibility — for their vote to slash financing for eight antiterrorist programs. Unless the Senate repairs the damage, New York City and other high-risk localities will find it far harder to protect mass transit, ports and other potential targets.The programs received $2.5 billion last year in separate allocations. The House has cut that back to a single block grant of $752 million, an extraordinary two-thirds reduction. The results for high-risk areas would be so damaging — with port and mass transit security financing likely cut by more than half — that the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King of New York, voted against the bill as “an invitation to an attack.”

The Times editorial goes on to explain that the “Republicans made clear that budget-cutting trumped all other concerns…One $270 million cut, voted separately, would eliminate 5,000 airport-screening jobs across the country, according to the Transportation Security Administration.” They also fought to cut more than half of funding for first responder training, but the Democrats were able to restore most of it.

As the Times editorial asks, “Are these really the programs to be cutting?” Not if we put national security before politics.

By: Democratic Strategist Staff, June 10, 2011

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Federal Budget, Freedom, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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