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“Assaulted, Victimized And Wounded”: It’s Hard Out There For A Billionaire

Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America’s multi-millionaires and billionaires? Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive (you may remember the time when hedge fund billionaire Steven Schwarzman said that President Obama suggesting that we eliminate the “carried interest loophole,” which allows hedge fund managers to pay taxes at only the 15 percent capital gains rate instead of standard income tax rates, was “like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939”). America’s barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right.

David Weigel points us to this remarkable video, in which someone at the Heritage Foundation interviews an aggrieved Frank VanderSloot, an ordinary businessman whose “life changed forever” when “President Obama’s campaign included his name, and seven others, on an enemies list” because he donated to a pro-Romney superPAC. And what was VanderSloot subjected to, once he was placed on this “enemies list”? Harassment from government officials? IRS audits? Baseless prosecutions? National Park Police pulling him over, smashing one of his taillights, then giving him a ticket for having a broken taillight? Well, no. But it is true that he was mentioned on an Obama campaign web site as a major donor to a Romney superPAC. That’s the “enemies list.” As far as we can tell, no actual government action was taken against him, though he did lose some customers when people found out about his political activities. The entire part of the post concerning VanderSloot reads as follows:

Frank Vandersloot: Frank Vandersloot is the national finance co-chairman of the Romney campaign and, through his company Melaleuca, has donated $1 million to Restore Our Future. He is also a “litigious, combative, and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement” who “spent big” on ads in an “ultimately unsuccessful effort to force Idaho Public Television to cancel a program that showed gays and lesbians in a favorable light to school children.”

Shield your eyes from the brutal government oppression!

The quotes come from this Mother Jones article about VanderSloot, his political activities, and his company, a “multi-level marketing” firm that sells supplements and cleaning products. You can argue that the “multi-level marketing” industry is basically made up of con artists who make money by roping gullible people into pyramid schemes and convincing them they’ll make riches without actually working. I don’t know enough about VanderSloot’s company to say if this is an accurate picture of what it does. But what’s critical is that the Obama campaign never criticized VanderSloot’s business practices, or attacked him for being rich. The paragraph they put on their web site about VanderSloot concerned his involvement in politics.

Frank VanderSloot has a lot of money, and has decided to use some of that money to engage in politics, both in his home state and nationally, by doing things like taking out ads about issues that concern him in newspapers and on billboards, and investing heavily in the candidacy of Mitt Romney, whom he’d like to see become president. Which is fine. I’d prefer a system in which it wouldn’t be legal for multi-millionaires to buy presidential candidates, but in America today it is legal. But the whining we get from them is just unbelievable. These guys all seem to think that they are the personal embodiment of the wonder of free enterprise, and if anybody ever criticizes them for their political activities, it can only mean that economic freedom itself is under vicious assault. “We don’t hear about the American Dream anymore, do we? It’s almost a bad thing. It’s almost evil if you become successful in America today,” VanderSloot says in the video. “The whole principle of people getting out there and producing jobs for folks, we ought to go back to knowing that’s a good thing as opposed to believing it’s not.”

I’ve got a deal for Mr. Vandersloot. I’m only an underpaid political writer, but I hereby declare that I will give him one billion dollars if he can show me a time when that committed socialist Barack Obama ever said that “people getting out there and producing jobs for folks” is a bad thing.

I find VanderSloot’s whining particularly grating because as a political writer, I get attacked all the time. People say that I’m wrong, people say that I’m an idiot and a jerk, I get plenty of hate mail, and I’ve even gotten some threats. The latter are a bit unsettling, but as for everything else, it comes with the territory. Like giving a million dollars to a super PAC, writing about politics is a choice, and if you can’t tolerate anybody disagreeing with you, or even calling you names from time to time, you shouldn’t do either one. What VanderSloot obviously wants is a situation in which he can put millions of dollars into influencing the course of elections and policy debates, but nobody ever criticizes him for it. Well, that’s just not how things work in a democracy.

Speaking of one billion dollars, that’s the amount that wealthy people and corporations are planning to spend this fall to make sure that Mitt Romney is the next president. It’s a good investment on their part–just think of all the goodies a Romney administration could shower on America’s beleaguered and oppressed wealthy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, May 30, 2012

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Motivation Via Laicization”: Milwaukee Archdiocese, Under Cardinal Dolan, Paid Sex Abusers To Leave Priesthood

Laurie Goodstein reports in the New York Times:

[A] document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.

Timothy Dolan, now a Cardinal and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but at the time the Archbishop of Milwaukee, authorized the payments. He did not respond to several requests for comment, according to the Times.

Here are some things Dolan has commented on lately:

He suggested New York’s marriage equality bill was akin laws in totalitarian societies;

He compared gay marriage to “polygamy, adultery, forced marriages;”

After the Obama administration declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, he accused it of “hostility” toward “traditional marriage,” and a “new, more aggressive position” on gay marriage that would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions;

He found President Obama’s support for marriage equality “deeply saddening;”

He said the White House is “strangling” the church with the contraception coverage requirement;

He wrote that the contraception coverage is “un-American;”

He worried that by inviting HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak, Georgetown University showed it was moving to a more “secular model, where they would take their cues from what’s happening in contemporary events instead of the timeless wisdom of the church.”

Pertinent to the payments made to abusive Milwaukee priests—one, Goodstein reported, had sexually assaulted 10 minors—in March the National Catholic Reporter noted how Dolan was echoing the words of Bill Donohue, the vitriolic head of the Catholic League, calling the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy, a “con artist:”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, posted a link on his blog this afternoon to a statement from Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League, which suggests the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests may be a “con artist.”

The post comes as the victims’ advocacy group and its director, David Clohessy, have found support in recent days on the editorial pages of several national papers in light of attempts by attorneys representing priests accused of abuse to obtain 23 years of the group’s documents.

Dolan’s post came on his “The Gospel in the Digital Age” blog at the New York Archdiocese website. It quotes in full three paragraphs of a statement by Donohue before providing people a link to read the rest.

Donohue’s statement, titled “SNAP Unravels,” is a long rehash of some of the facts surrounding the attempts by priests’ lawyers, which resulted last January in Clohessy’s deposition in a case involving a priest accused of abuse in Kansas City, Mo.

After making numerous references to the transcript of that deposition, which was released March 2, Donohue asks: “So is David Clohessy a sincere man driven by the pursuit of justice? Or is he a con artist driven by revenge? It may very well be that the former description aptly explains how he started, while the latter describes what he has become.”

This week, according to Goodstein, SNAP sent a letter to the Milwaukee archdiocese, asking, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”

Kathryn Joyce published an extensive interview with Clohessy at RD in March about efforts by the accused Kansas City priest and the Archdiocese of St. Louis to subpoena confidential records from SNAP. There, she wrote:

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has denied that there is a national strategy for the Church to fight sex abuse cases more aggressively, even the Church’s staunchest defenders see the pattern. As William Donohue, the pugilistic president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told the New York Times this week, bishops are going after SNAP because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Clohessy told Joyce that the recent escalation against SNAP showed that the dioceses were attempting “to discredit, derail, bankrupt, and silence SNAP. And to scare anyone—police, prosecutors, victims, concerned Catholics—from contacting us and reporting crimes and exposing corruption.”

 

BY: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, May 31, 2012

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Catholic Church | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Opportunity Lost To Register A Voter Is An Opportunity Gone Forever”: Federal Judge Blocks Florida Voter Suppression Law

A federal judge blocked much of Florida’s year-old voter suppression law today as an unconstitutional infringement on speech and voting rights.

Last year, the Republican-held Florida legislature passed HB 1355, which imposed harsh new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups, requiring them to turn in completed registration forms 48 hours — to the minute — after completion, or face fines. Outside groups often register hundreds of people at a time and, before this law, had used a quality-control process that took days to ensure the accuracy of submitted forms. With the onerous restrictions now in place, some groups like the League of Women Voters were ultimately forced to cease registration drives in the Sunshine State.

In blocking the new law, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote:

The statute and rule impose a harsh and impractical 48-hour deadline for an organization to deliver applications to a voter registration office and effectively prohibit an organization from mailing applications in. And the statute and rule impose burdensome record-keeping and reporting requirements that serve little if any purpose, thus rendering them unconstitutional even to the extent they do not violate the NVRA. […]

The plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, first because the denial of a right of this magnitude under circumstances like these almost always inflicts irreparable harm, and second because when a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever.

Though state judges and the Department of Justice have already taken steps to prevent voter disenfranchisement, Hinkle’s decision is the first time a federal court has blocked one of the most recent round of state voter suppression laws.

Voters have already begun to experience the effects of new anti-voting laws. Minority voter registration is down significantly from the 2008 election. Among Latinos nationwide, voter registration has dropped five percent; for blacks, registration rates are down seven percent.

New York University’s Brennan Center, which studies voting rights issues, hailed the decision. “Florida’s law and others approved in the past year represent the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades,” said director Wendy Weiser. “Today’s decision will help turn the tide.”

 

By: Scott Keyes, Think Progress, May 31, 2012

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Is A No-Risk Racket”: Why The Bain-Solyndra Comparison Is Terrible Strategy

Is asking voters to compare Romney’s vulture capitalism to Solyndra a good idea? The Romney campaign and its cohorts seem to think so. Within the past few days, American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s super PAC, released an ad that counters Obama’s attacks on Bain by highlighting Solyndra, a bankrupt solar panel company that had been given a government-backed loan guarantee, as well as the auto industry bailout. George Will made the Bain-Solyndra comparison on This Week; Paul Ryan did the same on Fox News Sunday; Michael Barone piled on in National Review Online.

The underlying argument is that the White House has been making the same risky bets as a private equity firm, bets that produced their own failures. (The grim-voiced narrator of the Crossroads ad, which is captioned, “President Obama is playing Wall Street games with our money,” asks, “Obama’s attacking private equity. But what’s his record on public equity investing?”)

It’s not the smartest response in the world. First off, Romney allies typically explain away Bain’s failures as just the way capitalism works—sometimes, bad companies are swallowed by the market. Solyndra, whose solar technology was priced out of the market by cheaper Chinese solar panels, is a pretty classic example of this, and by citing its Adam Smithian demise in response to attacks on Bain, Romney allies have diminished their ability to dismiss Bain’s loser companies as just the natural cycle of capitalism.

But the larger risk of this approach is that comparing any of Bain’s failures to Solyndra asks voters to examine private equity alongside public stimulus. The former is a game in which a tiny group of stakeholders set out to create as much value as possible for themselves: buying companies, often loading them up with debt they can’t bear, and extracting exorbitant fees for themselves before they reintroduce the company to the public and it either fails or succeeds. It’s essentially a no-risk racket, one Timothy Noah describes in fuller detail here.

Then there’s government stimulus, which is aimed at benefitting the public, and which the Obama administration has distributed with considerable success. Take the Department of Energy loan guarantee program through which the administration backed Solyndra. That program has been hugely effective for shoring up projects that the private market underinvested in. A recent, independent audit (pdf) by the former national finance chairman for John McCain found that it was due to come in about $2 billion under budget, and had subsidized mainly low-risk, critical electricity projects. The American Crossroads ad goes a step further and offers, as a comparison with Bain Capital’s failures, the government’s auto bailout, which an independent group found saved 1.45 million jobs, when no private equity dollars could be found to do the same.

On balance, the White House seems to be playing Wall Street games—if that’s what you want to call massive investment in underfunded public infrastructure—pretty decently, and in a manner that produces more value for the public than private equity firms. Bain and Solyndra are really nothing alike. And by insisting that they are, Romney boosters have given Obama’s campaign an opening to brag about what American Crossroads is calling Obama’s public equity presidency—and all its successes.

 

BY: Molly Redden, The New Republic, May 30, 2012

 

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pin The Tail On The Donkey”: Mitt Romney Should Put Up Or Shut Up On Syria

It’s time for Mitt Romney to put up or shut up.

It’s irresponsible for Romney to criticize President Obama for not being aggressive enough with Syria and then fail to tell Americans how he would handle the crisis if he became president.

It’s time for Americans to pin the tail on Romney and make him accountable for his bellicose statements.

Romney is all hat and no cattle on national security problems. The last time we elected a governor without foreign policy experience, George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to lead us into a tragic war that cost Americans dearly.

Romney has only two things on his thin foreign policy resume. He has millions of dollars stashed in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. And he sent American jobs overseas while he ran Bain Capital.

Romney’s demonstrated that he was clueless when the former governor and former liberal identified Russia as our number one geopolitical enemy. The party boys in China must have had a hearty laugh when they heard that. My guess is they chuckled in Moscow, too. The commissars in the Kremlin know better than anyone that Russia has as much control over international politics as Charlie Sheen has over his temper.

Romney is clearly out of touch with Americans on defense spending. Thanks to President Obama, we are out of Iraq and close to an exit in Afghanistan. But the former moderate and current conservative GOP presidential candidate wants to increase defense spending. Americans are tired of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on wasted wars and overpriced weapons systems. Defense contractors love Romney as much as bankers, billionaires, and oil company executives do. The military industrial complex is alive and well in Romneyworld.

National surveys indicate that Americans give Barack Obama good grades as commander in chief of the armed forces. Americans credit the president for his handling of national security problems because he has an impressive record.

Barack Obama was able to do something in two years (kill Osama bin Laden) that President Bush couldn’t get done in eight. The former president sacrificed the lives of more than 4,500 brave young Americans and spent hundreds of billions of dollars to depose Saddam Hussein.

The current commander in chief built an international coalition which drove Muammar Qadhafi out of power without the loss of a single American life. The would-be president might want to think about the current president’s success with Libya before he gets the United States into another drawn out and costly war.

The United States is playing high stakes poker in the world and Mitt Romney would show up at the game without cards and without a clue.

 

By: Brad Bannon, U.S. News and World Report, May 31, 2012

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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