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“Who’s Sorry Now?”: The Republican Art Of The Non-Apology

Ralph Reed reached out to Rush Limbaugh via Twitter yesterday and accepted his apology. “Apology accepted. Let’s move on,” he said — a magnanimous gesture had Rush Limbaugh actually apologized to Ralph Reed. Too bad that, despite the too-quick headlines, Limbaugh not only hadn’t apologized to Reed — he  hadn’t really apologized to anyone at all.

Instead, Reed and Limbaugh, with the backing of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, started up the ole vast right-wing fake apology machine — designed to temporarily quell a too-hot controversy while at the same time not giving an inch.

Unfortunately for them, after too much use of the fake apology, people are catching on.
Although considered by some in the GOP to be a little too rough around the edges, Rush Limbaugh has always been considered a net asset to Republicans. Like fellow right-wing shock-jocks Glenn Beck and Bryan Fischer, he reaches a wide audience with toxic sludge that is ultimately helpful to the Republican Party, saying all the things that fire up the right-wing base, but that the politicians wouldn’t want to be caught saying themselves. But Limbaugh has a peculiar kind of power — no matter how outrageous his comments, members of the establishment Right tiptoe around him, afraid that his toxic words might one day be directed at them. George Will said it best: “They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

The latest boot-up of the right-wing apology machine began when Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student and contraception coverage advocate Sandra Fluke a “slut,” saying “She wants to be paid to have sex.” And, as if contraception was sold by the gallon or the pound, he added,  “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.”

President Obama immediately stepped up, calling Fluke to check in and encourage her after she had been smeared on national radio.

Rick Santorum, in contrast, called Limbaugh’s comments “absurd,” but then reasoned that “an entertainer can be absurd… He’s in a very different business than I am.”

Mitt Romney’s response was flimsier and even more timid. Asked about it while shaking hands at a rally, he said that it was “not the language I would have used.” Apparently, he had no problem with Limbaugh saying that birth control advocates want the government to pay for them to have sex. He would just use different words.

Finally, Limbaugh himself fake-apologized. “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke,” he said — before blaming the left and going on to repeat his accusation that she was “discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress.”

“I wouldn’t have use those words” is the new “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Ms. Fluke did not accept Limbaugh’s fake-apology. Ralph Reed, however, accepted it on her behalf.

Republican leaders can’t be responsible for everything that comes out of the mouths of every right-wing blowhard. But if they want to be president they can be expected to provide clear responses when comments like Limbaugh’s are this outrageous, instead of hiding their heads in the sand hoping that the public exposure of these outrages will go away. How hard is it to say that women who advocate for insurance coverage for contraceptives should be heard and shouldn’t be called prostitutes for stating their position on the topic? Is it really worth compromising basic decency to stay in the good graces of Rush Limbaugh?

The Republican Party is increasingly buoyed by a small base whose values are antithetical to those of most other Americans. If they want to survive politically, they are going to have to stand up and no longer be fake apologists for the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, March 6, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Rising Gas Prices Could Backfire On The GOP In November

Eight months before the fall elections, Republican strategists are in a dour mood.

-The economy has begun to gain traction.

-Their leading candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is universally viewed as an uninspiring poster child for the one percent, with no core values anyone can point to except his own desire to be elected.

-Every time Romney tries to “identify” with ordinary people he says something entirely inappropriate about his wife’s “two Cadillacs,” how much he likes to fire people who provide him services, or how he is a buddy with the people who own NASCAR teams rather than the people who watch them.

-The polls show that the more people learn about Romney, the less they like him. The Republican primary road show doesn’t appear to be coming to a close any time soon.

-Together, Bob Kerrey’s announcement that he will get into the Senate contest in Nebraska and the news that Olympia Snowe is retiring from the Senate in Maine, massively increase Democratic odds of holding onto the control of the Senate.

-The Congress is viewed positively by fewer voters than at any time in modern history — and two-thirds think the Republicans are completely in charge.

-Worse yet, the polling in most presidential battleground states currently gives President Obama leads over Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

The one thing Republican political pros are cheering right now is the rapidly increasing price of gas at the pump and the underlying cost of oil.

The conventional wisdom holds that if gas prices increase, it will inevitably chip away at support for President Obama — and there is a good case to be made. After all, increased gas prices could siphon billions out of the pockets of consumers that they would otherwise spend on the goods and services that could help continue the economic recovery — which is critical to the president’s re-election.

But Republicans shouldn’t be so quick to lick their chops at the prospect of rising gas prices.

Here’s why:

1). What you see, everybody sees.

The sight of Republicans rooting against America and hoping that rising gas prices will derail the economic recovery is not pretty.

The fact is that Republicans have done everything in their power to block President Obama’s job-creating proposals in Congress, and they were dragged kicking and screaming to support the extension of the president’s payroll tax holiday that was critical to continuing economic momentum.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell actually announced that his caucus’ number one priority this term was the defeat of President Obama. The sight of Republicans salivating at the prospect of $4-plus per gallon gasoline will not sit well with ordinary voters.

2). Democrats have shown that they are more than willing to make the case about who is actually responsible for rising gas prices — and the culprits’ footprints lead right back to the GOP’s front door.

Who is really to blame for higher gas prices?

-The big oil companies that are doing everything they can to keep oil scarce and the price high;

-Speculators that drive up the price in the short run;

-Foreign conflicts, dictators and cartels — that have been important in driving up prices particularly in the last two months;

-The Republicans who prevent the development of the clean, domestic sources of energy that are necessary to allow America to free itself from the stranglehold of foreign oil — all in order to benefit speculators and oil companies.

The fact is that the world will inevitably experience increasing oil prices over the long run because this finite, non-renewable resource is getting scarcer and scarcer at the same time that demand for energy from the emerging economies like China and India is sky rocketing.

Every voter with a modicum of experience in real-world economics gets that central economic fact.

That would make Republican opposition to the development of renewable energy sources bad enough. But over the last few months the factor chiefly responsible for short-term oil price hikes have been the Arab Spring and Israel’s growing tensions with Iran — all of which are well beyond direct American control.

But with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, any idiot knows we can’t make ourselves materially more energy independent solely by drilling for more domestic oil. In fact, it is obvious that to have any hope of controlling the prices we pay for energy in the future, we must free ourselves from the dependence on oil in general and foreign oil in particular.

We need an emergency “all of the above” energy independence program that accesses all of the domestic sources of oil that can be developed in an environmentally safe way – plus a major investment in renewable, clean energy sources that free us from dependence on oil – and especially foreign oil.

President Obama has proposed a big first step in exactly that direction, and the Republicans have answered: “Hell no — drill baby drill.”

If they are forcefully challenged by Democrats this year — as I believe they will — that Republican position is simply laughable.

Domestic drilling has increased substantially under President Obama’s administration. And our dependence on foreign oil imports has gone down every year of his presidency. The president has put in place new mileage standards for cars that will save massive amounts of potential oil imports — standards that Republicans have opposed for decades.

But that fact remains, that for all his administration can do on its own to increase energy independence, it is impossible to free America from the stranglehold of foreign oil dependency without the kind of massive national commitment to domestic, renewable energy that must be passed by Congress. The Republicans have said “no” because their biggest energy patrons — the oil companies — oppose a crash program to create renewable energy sources for one simple reason. Every day that we fail to act, the value of their oil goes up — it’s that simple.

If you doubt that Mitt Romney and the Republicans are bought and paid for by Big Oil — just ask the infamous Koch brothers — who finance major Republican “super Pacs” — how much they stand to make personally every time the long-term price of a barrel of oil increases by another dollar.

Simply put, the Republicans have put the profits of their patrons in Big Oil well above the economic and national security interests of the United States of America.

The Republicans even continue to do everything in their power to block the elimination of the astonishing taxpayer subsidy of the oil industry, that continues notwithstanding the fact that big oil companies are more profitable today than any other companies in the history of humanity. And the Republicans do it all the while they blather on about how if we once again install them in the White House, they will bring us $2 a gallon gasoline.

Whoever is pushing those kinds of lines must be studying the techniques of the late, famous circus impresario, P.T. Barnum, who famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

But in fact, polling shows that American voters simply are not so gullible that they buy either of these preposterous positions.

3). Speculators.

A final contributing factor that has recently amplified increases in gas and oil prices is the role of speculators.

In a purely competitive market, oil prices should settle in the long run at the marginal cost of producing the next barrel of oil — currently between $60 and $70 a barrel. Oil closed last week at about $106 per barrel and ran up to twice the marginal cost of production during the Bush era 2008 oil spike.

Currently about 80% of positions on oil commodity markets are held by “pure speculators” — who bet on changes in oil prices — rather than “end users” who actually consume oil and use the markets to hedge against price increases.

Academic studies have demonstrated that there is a big speculative premium in oil prices, above and beyond any “risk premium” that might normally develop from fear of some immediate, short-term shortage. That speculative premium could be materially dampened if steps were taken to limit the market’s domination by pure speculators.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill — which was opposed by most Republicans in Congress and all of their presidential candidates — allows the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to limit the percentage of market positions held by pure speculators as opposed to end users.

Already the CTFC has position limits on the percentage of positions that can be held by individual companies or investors to prevent one from cornering the market. Many economists have proposed imposing similar position limits on pure speculators as a class.

Ordinary voters don’t like speculators. But far from supporting limits on speculation, Mitt Romney wants to go back to the “good old days of yesteryear” where wild, unbridled speculation led to the worst economic collapse in 60 years and costs eight million Americans their jobs.

None of this is good politics for Republicans.

Voters don’t want to be held hostage by the big oil companies or foreign oil. They don’t want to have their pockets picked by oil market speculators. They understand that when world oil prices go up, it benefits oil-state dictators: it’s like allowing Iran’s Ahmadinejad to levy a tax on American consumers. And voters sure as hell don’t want to pay a taxpayer subsidy to oil companies like Exxon that made more in profits in one minute last year (about $85,000) than the average American worker earns all year long.

If Republican strategists think they can reverse their fortunes by focusing on the gas price debate, the odds are good they will be wrong.

 

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post, March 6, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Philosophy Of A Psychopath”: How Ayn Rand Became The New Right’s Version Of Marx

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

The poor die like flies as a result of government programmes and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate. One, for instance, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife “who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing”.

Rand’s is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand’s evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading “Who is John Galt?” and “Rand was right”. Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has “distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose”. She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for instance; or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the word a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victimhood. She tells them that they are parasitised by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires’ doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis’s BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you’ll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as “the ‘greed’ of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer”. As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a “superlatively moral system”.

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru’s philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that “capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral”, he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

 

By: George Monbiot, The Guardian, March 5, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hands-Off Policy”: Did Clear Channel Muzzle Mitt Romney Who Won’t Criticize Rush Limbaugh

Fourteen directors of Clear Channel, the company that hosts the Rush Limbaugh show, have contributed $726,400 to Mitt Romney since 1994, most of it in the current presidential campaign. Romney has come under attack for refusing to criticize Limbaugh’s comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, other than to say that calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” was “not the language I would have used.”

Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, acquired Clear Channel in 2008 with another Boston-based investment firm, Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), so five of the entertainment company’s directors that have given to Romney come from Bain, while three are affiliated with the Lee firm. Three other directors are members of the Mays family that founded the company and continued to run it until 2011, when CEO Mark Mays stepped down. The remaining three donor directors come from other investment firms.

The $26 billion merger, which was launched simultaneously with Romney’s first presidential candidacy in late 2006 and placed Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and much of the talk-show right under Bain/Lee control, also involved Romney’s longtime law firm, Ropes & Gray, whose managing partner is the trustee of the family’s blind trust. David C. Chapin, a lead Ropes lawyer on the merger, has also given $12,700 to Romney, and five other partners who worked on it added another $10,400.

While Bain partners, employees and family members, including the Clear Channel directors, have given a combined $4.7 million to Romney’s two presidential campaigns, THL also has a long history of Romney support, with some donations dating back to Romney’s first, unsuccessful run against Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994. THL tallies $180,300 including its Putnam affiliate and led by its co-chairs, Scott Schoen, Anthony Dinovi, and Scott Sperling. With Sperling’s wife and son contributing as well, Sperling has donated $25,100 to Romney, starting in 1994. In The Real Romney, the recent biography written by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Sperling is credited with spearheading “the biggest investment of Romney’s career,” the highly lucrative purchase and quick sale of a credit company named Experian. Sperling is a Clear Channel director, and THL and Bain are deeply invested in the company, one of the largest deals ever done by either equity firm.

Clear Channel director Steven D. Barnes and his wife, Deborah, have given $346,200 to Romney, also starting in 1994. John Connaughton, also a Bain partner on the Clear Channel board, and wife Stephanie have contributed $296,300 since 2002, when Romney was elected governor in Massachusetts. Other directors with Bain ties who donated to Romney include Ian Loring (with Isabelle, $10,600), Edward Han ($4,800), and Blair Hendrix ($4,800). In addition to Sperling, THL partners on the Clear Channel board include Charles Brizius (with Kathleen, $8,200) and Kent Weldon ($2,600).

The three Mays directors and their families that gave were Lester Lowry Mays, the founder, and Mark and Randall, all of whom combined for $18,800. The other directors that gave were David Abrams of Abrams Capital ($4,500), Jonathan Jacobson of Highfields Capital ($2,500), and Thomas Shepherd of T.S.G. Equity Partners, who is only a director of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, the advertising affiliate of the company. Like so many others on the Clear Channel board, Abrams and Shepherd began giving to Romney in the 1990s.

The timing and size of these donations demonstrate Romney’s continuing close ties to those at the helm of this media giant, which has so far taken a hands-off policy about Limbaugh. “We respect the rights of Mr. Limbaugh, as we respect the rights of those who disagree with him,” Clear Channel’s Premiere Networks said in a statement. While media companies, including Clear Channel, have terminated or suspended hosts for over-the-top comments, the company appears as unwilling to take on Limbaugh as Romney has. Clear Channel awarded Limbaugh an eight-year, $400 million contract when the Bain/Lee acquisition closed.

 

By: Wayne Barrett, The Daily Beast, March 3, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Campaign Financing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fundamental Dishonesty”: When Do Reporters Start Calling Mitt Romney A Liar?

Two days ago, Barack Obama went before AIPAC (which is commonly known as “the Israel Lobby” but would be better understood as the Likud lobby, since it advocates not Israel’s interests per se but the perspective of the right wing of Israeli politics, but that’s a topic for another day), and said, among other things, the following:

“I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

This didn’t surprise anyone, because it’s the same thing Obama has been saying for a while, in scripted and unscripted remarks alike, in both speeches and interviews. Yet later that day, Mitt Romney went out and said the following:

“This is a president who has failed to put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. He’s also failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand, and that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

So here’s my question: Just what will it take for reporters to start writing about the question of whether Mitt Romney is, deep within his heart, a liar?

Because he does this kind of thing frequently, very frequently. Sometimes the lies he tells are about himself (often when he’s trying to explain away things he has said or done in the past if today they displease his party’s base, as he’s now doing with his prior support for an individual mandate for health insurance), but most often it’s Barack Obama he lies about. And I use the word “lie” very purposefully. There are lots of things Romney says about Obama that are distortions, just plain ridiculous, or unfalsifiable but obviously false, as when he often climbs into Obama’s head to tell you what Obama really desires, like turning America into a militarily weak, economically crippled shadow of Europe (not the actual Europe, but Europe as conservatives imagine it to be, which is something like Poland circa 1978). But there are other occasions, like this one, where Romney simply lies, plainly and obviously. In this case, there are only two possibilities for Romney’s statement: Either he knew what Obama has said on this topic and decided he’d just lie about it, or he didn’t know what Obama has said, but decided he’d just make up something about what Obama said regardless of whether it was true. In either case, he was lying.

The “Who is he, really?” question is one that consumes campaign coverage, but in Romney’s case the question has been about phoniness, not dishonesty, and the two are very different things. What that means is that when Romney makes a statement like this one, reporters don’t run to their laptops to write stories that begin, “Raising new questions about his candor, today Mitt Romney falsely accused President Obama…” The result is that he gets a pass: there’s no punishment for lying, because reporters hear the lie and decide that there are other, more important things to write about.

To get a sense of what it’s like when reporters are on the lookout for lies, remember what Al Gore went through in 2000. To take just one story, when Gore jokingly told a union audience that as a baby his parents would rock him to sleep to the strains of “Look for the Union Label,” everyone in attendance laughed, but reporters shouted “To the Internet!” and discovered that the song wasn’t written until Gore was an adult. They then wrote entire stories about the remark, with those “Raising new questions…” ledes, barely entertaining the possibility that Gore was joking. Why not? Because it was Al Gore, and they all knew he was a liar, so obviously if he said something that wasn’t literally true it could only have been an intentional falsehood.

That is not yet the presumption when it comes to Mitt Romney. There’s another factor at play as well, which is that reporters, for reasons I’ve never completely understood, consider it a greater sin to lie about yourself, particularly about your personal life, than to lie about your opponent or about policy (I wrote about the different kinds of lies and how the press treats them differently here). Because Romney is lying about his opponent and about a policy matter, reporters just aren’t as interested. But at some point, these things begin to pile up, and they really ought to start asking whether this dishonesty is something fundamental in Romney’s character that might be worth exploring.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, March 6, 2012

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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