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“Ted Cruz’s Exploitative New Sham”: What “Drafting” Him To Run For President Really Means

“It is time to Draft Ted Cruz for president,” says RedState diarist “razshafer,” and to that end, Raz has established, and an affiliated Draft Ted Cruz for President PAC. Raz is, Dave Weigel explains, Ted Cruz’s (now former) regional director Raz Shafer, and not just some person using Cruz’s name to convince conservatives to send along their lucrative email addresses.

Here is part of Shafer’s pitch:

I know there are other candidates who may run as conservatives, but I believe Ted Cruz has demonstrated that he’s the only consistent conservative who will do what it takes to roll back Barack Obama’s agenda. He’s the only one who has the passion, principles, and courage needed to deliver real results for Americans.

I’ve never spoken to Ted about him running for president and I honestly don’t know if he will do it, but I do know he won’t succeed unless freedom-loving Americans like you and me begin organizing this effort now.

Ted Cruz is the people’s candidate and we need to be the ones driving the effort to elect him.

So if you’re ready to be proud of your vote again and you agree that Ted Cruz should run for president, please do three things:

Go to and sign the official Draft Ted Cruz for President petition.
Urge your friends and family to join you.
Donate whatever you can to help us spread the word and build support.

My advice, even if you do support Ted Cruz and think he should run for president, is don’t do any of this. It is a waste of your time and you will be exploited. Your name and contact information will be sold. You will have no effect whatsoever on Cruz’s decision to run for president or not. Your monetary donation will have no effect whatsoever on Ted Cruz’s potential 2016 electoral chances.

Unless you have a lot of money, and giving that money to politicians is how you gain access to those politicians in order to convince them to advance your agenda, most of the time you shouldn’t give money to politicians. Especially credible presidential candidates and sitting members of Congress. Mainly because most presidential candidates and sitting members of Congress are awful, but also because generally they already have a lot of money, have access to more money, and don’t need yours. (Again, this all assumes you’re not very rich. The very rich waste plenty of money on losers and dumb causes, but they can afford it. Plus, many of their political investments show some pretty impressive returns.)

You really shouldn’t donate money — or give away your contact information — to shady (or even reputable!) organizations devoted to “drafting” someone or other to run for president. Especially if the person they are drafting is probably already going to run and doesn’t need some sort of pseudo-grass-roots demonstration of mass appeal and fundraising ability. Ted Cruz knows he is popular and can raise money and he probably will at least pretend to run for president, unless he decides it would be more lucrative to just be a right-wing media star, in which case you have still wasted your money.

This isn’t just about Ted Cruz! Hillary Clinton is almost definitely running for president too, and she really doesn’t need your support. She has a vast fundraising network and national campaign experience; you don’t need to sign a petition (or, god forbid, write a check) to nudge her toward deciding to run again. She has already done extensive polling on the subject of whether Americans are “ready for Hillary,” and (I can’t stress this enough) she has very rich friends who will write her much bigger checks than you will.

Sometimes, these PACs or other groups dedicated to drafting someone to run for office are truly aimed at convincing reluctant candidates that they have enough already existing support to make a presidential campaign feasible. In that case, your name and donation could make a real difference! And then you end up with Wesley Clark 2004. But for the most part, national politicians don’t need or deserve your money, and people running officially unaffiliated outside groups shouldn’t be gifted your valuable data. Don’t draft anyone.


By: Alex Parene, Salon, March 20, 2014

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For The Love Of Money”: How The Gas Lobby Is Using The Crimea Crisis To Push Bad Policy And Make More Money

A small group of pundits and politicians with close ties to the fossil fuel industry are using the crisis in Crimea to demand that the United States promote natural gas exports as a quick fix for the volatile situation. But such a solution, experts say, would cost billions of dollars, require years of development, and would not significantly impact the international price of gas or Russia’s role as a major supplier for the region. Rather, the move would simply increase gas prices for American consumers while enriching companies involved in the liquified natural gas (LNG) trade.

On Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) was among the first to use the crisis in Ukraine to demand that the Department of Energy speed up the approval process for new LNG terminals. “Now is the time to send the signal to our global allies that US natural gas will be an available and viable alternative to their energy needs,” said Upton in a statement. As we’ve reported, Upton’s committee is managed in part by Tom Hassenboehler, a former lobbyist who joined Upton’s staff last year after working for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the primary trade group pushing to expand natural gas development and LNG exports.

Paul Bledsoe, in an opinion column for Reuters, wrote that the United States should expedite natural gas exports to “bolster transatlantic solidarity and help to form a united US-EU response to Russian intervention in Crimea.” He was identified in the piece as a member of the “White House Climate Change Task Force under President Clinton.” What wasn’t disclosed, however, is that Bledsoe is an official with a pro–fossil fuels think tank called the Bipartisan Policy Center, which is funded by the American Gas Association and energy companies with a financial stake in promoting the natural gas industry. (Although he’s not listed on the website, a representative with BPC told Republic Report that Bledsoe continues to work there.)

Groups created and funded by Charles Koch, chief executive of Koch Industries, have also demanded that America should respond to the crisis in Crimea with LNG exports. “A serious President would also fast-forward permits on new liquefied natural gas terminals that could ship to Europe,” claims a column posted by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-run advocacy group. A similar argument is advanced by the Koch-founded Cato Institute.

What’s left undisclosed, however, is the huge financial stake in the debate for Koch Industries. A brochure for the company shows that Koch has deeply expanded its footprint into the natural gas market, and is now actively engaged in shipping, sourcing and marketing LNG, in addition to becoming a leader in developing financial instruments related to natural gas. “To complement existing North American activities from Houston and to optimize their global portfolio, KS&T companies are expanding a Europe-wide natural gas business from Geneva and an LNG trading business from offices in Houston and London,” reads the document. Further, Koch federal lobbying disclosures show that the firm has pushed a bill to expedite LNG exports from America to NATO countries.

In perhaps the most ironic twist of this public debate around how to respond to Russia’s incursion into Crimea, American lobbyists with ties to Russia are calling for a solution that would not only shield Russian gas oligarchs, but enrich them. The National Association of Manufacturers has opposed tough sanctions on Russia. Instead, NAM has used the crisis in Ukraine to “urge speedier approval of liquified natural gas exports, arguing that the move would weaken Vladimir Putin’s control over Europe’s energy supply.” NAM’s chief lobbyist Jay Timmons told Politico that an LNG-export response would “send a strong signal to the Russian Federation, our NATO allies, our trading partners and the rest of the world that energy exports matter and are a critical tool of American foreign policy.”

What Timmons did not mention is that ExxonMobil is a leading member of his trade association, and that ExxonMobil has extensive ties to Russian gas giants, including partnerships to develop natural gas in the United States and around the world. (For more on the business ties, see Kert Davies and Steve Horn’s recent reporting on the Putin-sanctioned alliance between ExxonMobil and Russian state–owned oil and gas giant Rosneft.) In short, Timmons’s strong signal to Russia would help Russian gas businesses.


By: Lee Fang, The Nation, March 20, 2014; Originally Published at

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Oil and Gas Industry, Ukraine | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Education Of Scott Brown”: A Slowly Dawning Lesson, Running Against An Abstraction Is Easy

Less than two years after losing his re-election bid in his home state, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is apparently trying again, this time running in New Hampshire – where’s he still learning quite a bit.

It’s not altogether clear why Brown is running in the Granite State, but his strategy has nevertheless taken shape: the Republican intends to hit the campaign trail complaining about the Affordable Care Act. It worked in one state in 2010, Brown figures, so maybe it’ll work in a different state in 2014.

With this in mind, Brown visited with state Rep. Herb Richardson (R-N.H.) and his wife over the weekend at the lawmaker’s home, where the Senate candidate called the ACA a “monstrosity.” Sam Stein flagged an account of the meeting from the local newspaper (pdf):

Richardson was injured on the job and was forced to live on his workers’ comp payments for an extended period of time, which ultimately cost the couple their house on Williams Street. The couple had to pay $1,100 a month if they wanted to maintain their health insurance coverage under the federal COBRA law.

Richardson said he only received some $2,000 a month in workers’ comp. payments, however, leaving little for them to live on. “Thank God for Obamacare!” his wife exclaimed.

Now, thanks to the subsidy for which they qualify, the Richardsons only pay $136 a month for health insurance that covers them both.

The state lawmaker added that the health care law, which Brown claims to abhor, has been a “financial lifesaver” for his family.

According to the local reporter, the former senator listened to the Richardsons’ perspective and then changed the subject.

Running against an abstraction is easy; running against a law that’s currently benefiting millions of families nationwide is a little trickier. That may slowly be dawning on Brown right about now.

Speaking of New Hampshire, Stein also had this report out of the Granite State the other day.

The former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party will save $1,000 a month in premiums for his family’s health care package after signing up for a new policy through the Obamacare exchange.

But Fergus Cullen said the savings aren’t enough to turn him into a supporter of the new health care law.

Apparently, Cullen’s catastrophic-coverage plan was phased out under ACA guidelines, which forced the former state GOP chair to transition to a new plan – with no annual or lifetime caps, and which can’t be taken away if Cullen gets stick – that will save the Republican and his family $12,000 a year in premiums.

For his part, Cullen, concerned about out-of-pocket costs, says he still prefers his old plan and wrote about his experience in the Union Leader, acknowledging the trade-offs.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2014

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Scott Brown | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan Is Victim-Blaming Men Now”: No, Men Don’t Lack A “Culture Of Work”, They Lack Decent Jobs

Last week Paul Ryan provoked an outcry when he claimed that poverty in America was in large part a product of a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working, just generations of men not even thinking of working, or learning the value and the culture of work.” Ever since the heyday of Ronald Reagan, the phrase “inner city” has been criticized as a GOP dog whistle for “black people,” so Ryan has rightly faced a backlash for his comments. (While claiming they were “inarticulate,” he insists his comments had “nothing to do with race whatsoever.”)

But another aspect of this much-remarked-on incident has drawn no notice: his focus on inner city men. Ryan’s comments seem to be based on an unstated assumption that what he calls the “culture of work” is especially relevant to men.

That assumption in turn is a product of an increasingly anachronistic and indeed reactionary world view, in which working for money is the epitome of what it means to be a man. More precisely, to be a man, on this view, is to work a “real job” — that is, a job that at least pays enough to allow him to be the provider, the breadwinner, for his family.

Ryan’s inner city men, who have never “learned the value and the culture of work,” are therefore not merely failing, but failing specifically as men, by failing to provide for their families.

The problem with this neat little morality tale is captured by what ought to be some startling statistics. Note that another unstated assumption behind comments such as Ryan’s is that the American economy actually produces enough decent-paying jobs to allow a reasonable number of Americans to have such jobs, as long as they embrace “the culture of work.”

To say this isn’t the case is an understatement. What is a “good” job, financially speaking? One which pays $50,000 per year? $40,000? $30,000? The latter figure, which represents take-home pay of less than $2000 per month, and which is only twice the minimum wage (which itself has declined sharply in real terms since the 1960s), is an extremely generous definition of what constitutes a decent-paying job.

But let’s use it anyway, to determine how many Americans of working age have such jobs. If we make a couple more unrealistically optimistic assumptions — that nobody under 18 or over 69 is working, and that no one has more than one job — the answer is: three out of 10.

Nearly 70 percent of American working-age adults do not have jobs that pay at least $30,000 per year, because there are only three such jobs for every 10 American adults between the ages of 18 and 69. In other words, the vast majority of working age Americans cannot possibly acquire decent-paying jobs, even if one defines a decent-paying job extremely broadly, because there aren’t nearly enough such jobs, not because people fail to embrace “the culture of work.”

Here’s another statistic that those who embrace the culture of math will find relevant to Ryan’s claims that inner city men in particular are poor because they have a bad attitude toward gainful employment: the labor force participation rate. This is the percentage of non-institutionalized adults who are either employed or actively seeking work.

The year Paul Ryan’s father reached working age (1948), 86 percent of American men, but only 32 percent of American women, were participating in the labor force. (A large portion of women who worked outside the home were poor, usually non-white, domestic workers. It was fairly unusual for a white middle class woman over 30 to work for income).

Since then, the labor force participation rate among men has declined by 18 percent, while the rate among women has nearly doubled. Another consequence of this social shift is that most men make less money than they did 40 years ago, even though the country as a whole is vastly wealthier: for 60 percent of men, real wages are actually lower now than they were in 1973.

Republicans love to talk about the wisdom of the free market in general and the irresistible laws of supply and demand in particular, but Ryan (who is currently touted as his party’s economic whiz kid) seems to be failing Econ 101. Poverty in America has nothing to do with the shiftless “inner city” men haunting Paul Ryan’s all-too vivid imagination, and everything to do with the fact that seven out of 10 American adults of working age can’t get a decent-paying job, because those jobs don’t exist.

In a culture in which it’s now assumed that every non-elderly adult who isn’t a full-time student or the primary caretaker of small children should be working for wages, this fact has especially devastating consequences for precisely those men whose plight Ryan addressed in such an “inarticulate” way.


By: Paul Campos, The Week, March 19, 2014

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Paul Ryan, Poverty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Can’t Win By Attacking Health Care In 2014”: We will Turn The Corner If Progressives Do Not Sit On The Sidelines

For me, the fact that Republicans keep using the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – as a political football is a tragedy. Sure, the law has problems, but it is already saving lives and improving the health of millions of Americans.

Thankfully, it seems that Republicans who are counting on attacking the health reform system to get them into the end zone will be stopped short of the goal line based on numbers coming out of a March special election for a Florida House seat

For me, the Affordable Care Act comes down to people’s lives and health. Consider the story of a young man I met who told me that this new avenue to becoming insured had saved his life.

He had some symptoms that made him worry about his health. But he, like many Americans without insurance, ignored them, as he couldn’t afford to see the doctor. After the Affordable Care Act became law, he got coverage through his parents’ health insurance plan, and on visiting a doctor, found out he had stage 4 — that’s advanced — cancer. Fortunately, he got to the doctor in time to save his life.

That young man is far from alone. As of the end of February, some 11 million Americans have health coverage under the new law. Repealing it, as Republicans continue to insist, would take away coverage from each and every one of them.

In the Florida election, Republican David Jolly said “I’m fighting to repeal Obamacare, right away.” His opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, countered, “We can’t go back to insurance companies doing whatever they want. Instead of repealing the health care law, we need to keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong.”

The key part of Sink’s message was to remind voters why people wanted health care reform in the first place. As one of Sink’s TV ads said, “Jolly would go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage.”

That’s an effective reminder of the huge problems Americans have had for decades, when insurance companies could deny care because of a pre-existing condition, charge people higher rates because they were sick, and even charge women higher rates than men. The ACA ended all that.

The candidates in Florida pushed especially hard for the votes of seniors, which is not surprising given both Florida’s high senior population and the fact that seniors vote more frequently than other age groups.

In its ads for Jolly, The Republican Congressional Campaign repeated the same misleading charge that Republicans used successfully in 2010 to scare seniors against the ACA, that it cut $716 billion from Medicare. But unlike 2010, when Democrats did not respond to attacks on the ACA, Sink pushed back.

She reminded seniors that the ACA actually provides important new Medicare benefits, including closing the infamous prescription drug “donut hole.” Sink’s ads accurately said, “His [Jolly’s] plan would even force seniors to pay thousands more for prescription drugs.”

By Election Day, voters had a clear contrast between the positions of the candidates on the ACA. It was a close election, with Jolly winning by a small margin (48.4 percent to 46.5 percent) in a district with an 11-point Republican advantage, one that has been represented by the GOP for nearly 60 years.

But polling found that independent voters in the district supported the “keep and fix” position over the “repeal” position by a margin of 57 percent to 31 percent. Sink actually gained ground over Jolly during the election on the question of which candidate had a better position on the ACA.

I am very much looking forward to the time when Congress can start having real debates on how, as Sink said, “we can keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong” with the Affordable Care Act. However, it looks like it will take at least one more election, in 2014, to get us to that point.

We will turn the corner if progressives do not sit on the sidelines, but instead welcome the debate that Republicans insist on having about repealing the ACA.

That debate is an opportunity for people to be reminded in concrete terms that the new health care program, for all its shortcomings, is about providing every American with the peace of mind that comes with having health coverage.


By: Richard Kirsch, Senior Fellow at The Roosevelt Institute; Published in The National Memo, March 20, 2014

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Election 2014 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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