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Jeff Danziger’s Take on Republican Consistency… February 23, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Humor.
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ACORN Has Long Been in Republicans’ Cross Hairs October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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Peter Overby, NPR

Morning Edition, October 15, 2008 · Republicans continued the drumbeat of allegations against ACORN on Tuesday. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee and others accuse the grassroots group of widespread voter registration fraud. It’s the latest, and most bitter, battle in a long conflict between conservatives and ACORN.

ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, makes no secret of its progressive tilt. Its top job isn’t CEO, it’s chief organizer.

“We’re like a community union,” says Bertha Lewis, the interim chief organizer. “Our folks are low and moderate income. And we’ve been doing the fight on bread-and-butter issues for 38 years.”

Those bread-and-butter issues have recently included predatory lending and mortgages. Not long ago, ACORN forced Countrywide Financial into an agreement to help homeowners trapped in their subprime loans. In 1996, it led a campaign in Philadelphia to stop Pennsylvania from selling liquor stores to raise money for sports arenas.

“We have huge needs around education, around housing, around jobs programs, around social services,” Bruce Dorpalen of ACORN Housing said at the time. “And to devote that kind of money to sports stadiums is just wrong.”

At a 2006 rally in Miami, ACORN featured a friend who now seems surprising: McCain. As a senator, he was pushing an immigration reform bill supported by ACORN and other progressive groups. ACORN members waved “McCain ’08” signs at the rally as McCain said, “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight. That’s what makes America special.”

Now, McCain’s campaign has accused ACORN of flooding America’s polling places with illegal voters. The campaign and the RNC also have played up Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s ties to ACORN.

Obama responded Tuesday, calling his relationship to the group “pretty straightforward.”

In 1995, Obama said, he represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois. “My partner in that representation was the U.S. Justice Department, in having Illinois implement what was called the motor voter law, to make sure that people could go to DMVs and driver’s license facilities to get registered. It wasn’t being implemented,” he said.

There are other connections that conservatives have highlighted. Obama ran a voter-registration project in Chicago in 1992 under the banner of Project Vote, and years later, the national Project Vote affiliated with ACORN. Earlier this year, his presidential campaign indirectly paid ACORN more than $800,000 for campaign work in the primaries. And ACORN’s political action committee has endorsed Obama.

But conservatives have been after ACORN for years.

“It is an organization that has a very outsized role in the democratic process,” says Tim Miller of the business-backed Employment Policies Institute, which produced a 2006 report titled “Rotten ACORN, America’s Bad Seed.”

Miller points to the ouster of ACORN’s founder earlier this year after the controller, the founder’s brother, had embezzled nearly a million dollars.

“When you think about a truly transparent organization, there would never be any way somebody could embezzle such a large amount,” he says.

The Employment Policies Institute also criticizes ACORN’s organizational structure. ACORN has dozens of subsidiaries. Some get federal funds. Some get money from charities such as the liberal Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the not-so-liberal Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

Miller says ACORN moves money around among the subsidiaries. He says it “essentially gives them a cloak that prevents people from seeing really how they’re spending money that comes, in some cases, from the taxpayers, in other cases, comes from members of their organization who pay dues.”

But right now, voter fraud is the GOP’s top campaign message. The Republican National Committee produced an online ad called “ACORN Chicago” that reads: “Nationwide voter fraud. Barack Obama. Bad judgment. Blind ambition. Too risky for America.”

Lewis, ACORN’s chief organizer, says the group’s profile has never been so high. “This election, this linking us to Obama in order to try to damage him, that’s a great opportunity,” she says.

Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting contributed to this piece.

Republican Racist McCarthy Desperation Tactics October 12, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: Frank Rich, The New York Times

Frank Rich believes that, “the McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism.” (Photo: Reuters)

    

If you think way back to the start of this marathon campaign, back when it seemed preposterous that any black man could be a serious presidential contender, then you remember the biggest fear about Barack Obama: a crazy person might take a shot at him.

    Some voters told reporters that they didn’t want Obama to run, let alone win, should his very presence unleash the demons who have stalked America from Lincoln to King. After consultation with Congress, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, gave Obama a Secret Service detail earlier than any presidential candidate in our history – in May 2007, some eight months before the first Democratic primaries.

    ‘I’ve got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying,’ Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

    Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of ‛Treason!’ and ‛Terrorist!’ and ‛Kill him!’ and ‛Off with his head!’ as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

    All’s fair in politics. John McCain and Sarah Palin have every right to bring up William Ayers, even if his connection to Obama is minor, even if Ayers’s Weather Underground history dates back to Obama’s childhood, even if establishment Republicans and Democrats alike have collaborated with the present-day Ayers in educational reform. But it’s not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that’s going on here. Don’t for an instant believe the many mindlessly ‛even-handed’ journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign’s use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign’s hammering on Charles Keating.

    What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama ‛launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.’ He is ‛palling around with terrorists‘ (note the plural noun). Obama is ‛not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.’ Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

    By the time McCain asks the crowd ‛Who is the real Barack Obama?’ it’s no surprise that someone cries out ‛Terrorist!’ The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

    That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. ‛Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family’ was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 – when Obama was 8.

    We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed ‛patriotic’ martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.

    Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers’s behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that ‛a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.’ To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

    It wasn’t always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated himself from a speaker who brayed ‛Barack Hussein Obama’ when introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a Florida sheriff ranted about ‛Barack Hussein Obama’ at a Palin rally while in full uniform.

    From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.

    McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani’s mocking dismissal of Obama as an ‛only in America’ affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.

    No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was ‛regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.’ In the ‛60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: ‛Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.’

    This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan – or William Ayers – in Denver.

    The operatives who would have Palin quote Pegler have been at it ever since. A key indicator came two weeks after the convention, when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals.

    There are no black faces high in the McCain hierarchy to object to these tactics. There hasn’t been a single black Republican governor, senator or House member in six years. This is a campaign where Palin can repeatedly declare that Alaska is ‛a microcosm of America’ without anyone even wondering how that might be so for a state whose tiny black and Hispanic populations are each roughly one-third the national average. There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place.

    Could the old racial politics still be determinative? I’ve long been skeptical of the incessant press prognostications (and liberal panic) that this election will be decided by racist white men in the Rust Belt. Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black – as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign ‛suspension,’ a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.

    To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year – the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died – The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama’s chances to win the state fell ‛between slim and none.’ Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms’s Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.

    But we’re not at Election Day yet, and if voters are to have their final say, both America and Obama have to get there safely. The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise.

Taxpayers, Congress Push Back Against Bailout September 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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22 September 2008

by: Matt Renner, t r u t h o u t | Report

photo
Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has entered into negotiations with the Bush administration over the Wall Street bailout. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Washington, DC – Push back against the massive $700 billion Wall Street bailout proposal has come hard and fast from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

    The bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration would give the Treasury Department and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson – a former Wall Street CEO himself – the power to buy up extremely risky mortgages and other dangerous debt using taxpayer dollars. Because the US government continues to run a deficit, under the plan, the Treasury would have to borrow money to buy this private sector debt – essentially using the taxpayer’s credit card to buy home loans that are currently weighing down Wall Street firms.

    Members of Congress point to a severe lack of oversight in the proposed Bush administration plan. Section eight of the draft bailout plan states: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency,” essentially stripping Congress of its responsibility to oversee the how these tax dollars could be spent.

    Constituents have been blowing up the phone lines on Capitol Hill, calling House of Representatives members, Republicans and Democrats, objecting to the no-strings-attached bailout, and the representatives have responded. Democrats are currently crafting various proposals to help prop up Wall Street firms which have gotten themselves into trouble, but without simply throwing away taxpayer money and without letting CEOs of the affected firms off the hook with fat retirement packages.

    Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), spoke out against a bailout, calling the current proposal “cash for trash,” and proposing a distribution of the assets back to the taxpayers.

    “Since the bailout will cost each and every American about $2,300, tomorrow I will offer legislation to create a United States Mutual Trust Fund, which will take control of $700 billion in stock assets, at market value and not higher, convert those assets to shares, and distribute $2,300 worth of shares to new individual savings accounts in the name of each and every American,” Kucinich said in a statement.

    “The Wall Street financial disaster is an opportunity to create a genuine ownership society. If Congress invests $700 billion in the market, then the American people must get something of real value for their investment,” Kucinich said.

    “The seven and a half year march toward deregulation and unfettered greed in our financial markets has exacted a heavy toll on American taxpayers,” Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) said in a statement, adding, “I am not comfortable allowing the same Wall Street insiders and manipulators who got us into this mess to get a free pass. At the very least, the Government Accountability Office should be camped out at Treasury and Congress must be continually updated on the status of the bailout.” Speier sits on both the House Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform Committees. She said she would be watching the situation closely.

    Conservative Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana was the first to loudly oppose the bailout plan from within the Republican Party.

    “The Administration’s request amounts to the largest corporate bailout in American history. Congress should act, but should act in a way that protects the integrity of our free market and protects the American taxpayer from more debt and higher taxes,” Pence said in a statement Saturday.

    Pence makes his argument based on his belief in the Republican mantra of “free market” economics. “To have the freedom to succeed, we must preserve the freedom to fail. Any solution to our present crisis must preserve our essential economic freedom,” Pence said.

    Democrats have begun to craft a counterproposal, the details of which are not yet set at the time of this publication. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has been pushing for a plan that includes more oversight and possibly direct financial help to indebted homeowners as well as to Wall Street.

    Frank would also like to see compensation limited for Wall Street executives who have created the current situation.

    “The notion that while they are getting this help from the federal government we can’t tell them not to have golden parachutes, not to pay millions to some of the very people who made bad decisions, as a retirement gift, is unacceptable to us,” Frank said to CNN.

    CNBC is reporting that Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) are negotiating with the Bush administration. According to Frank, administration officials have agreed to take control of pieces of the companies that they are bailing out – equity stakes in the companies – equal to the amount of taxpayer money invested.

    According to CNBC, the administration has agreed to creation of a Congressional oversight board of some kind, but details have not yet been released.

    However, according to Frank, limiting pay for business executives is a key sticking point for the administration.

    The rush to bail out financial institutions and the willingness to defend executive compensation comes as no surprise to campaign finance experts. Massie Ritsch, communications director for the money in politics watchdog group The Center for Responsive Politics, examines the effect of campaign contributions to politicians in Washington.

    “Wall Street is one of the biggest campaign givers in American politics. When you combine donations from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors [all of which stand to gain from the bailout], they become the largest contributor, splitting roughly $311 million evenly between Republicans and Democrats,” Ritsch said.

»


Matt Renner is an editor and Washington reporter for Truthout.

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