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City Lights

City Lights's Journal
City Lights's Journal
January 23, 2012

Salon: When a party flirts with suicide

Monday, Jan 23, 2012 12:50 PM UTC

The last time GOP elites lost control of their nominating process, they got Barry Goldwater – and an epic landslide
By Steve Kornacki

Everything about Newt Gingrich screams “general election disaster.” He is burdened with far too much personal and ethical baggage, is far too prone to needlessly inflammatory and polarizing antics, and turns off far too many voters with his arrogance and unconcealed contempt for his opponents.

The three most recent national polls all show his unfavorable rating at or near 60 percent — more than double his favorable score.This mirrors what happened the last time Gingrich played such a prominent role on the national stage, when he claimed the House speakership after the 1994 election and promptly established himself as the country’s most despised public figure — the star of an estimated 75,000 Democratic attack ads in the 1996 campaign cycle. The more most people see of him, the less they like him.

So while it’s theoretically possible that Gingrich would somehow defy his reputation and overcome his worst tendencies in a fall campaign, George Will was probably on solid ground when he said in the wake of Gingrich’s South Carolina triumph: “All across the country this morning people are waking up who are running for office as Republicans, from dog catcher to the Senate, and they’re saying, ‘Good God, Newt Gingrich might be at the top of this ticket.’’

The good news for Will, who recently wrote that Gingrich “embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive,” and other worried Republicans is that the former speaker’s breakthrough isn’t exactly unprecedented. Candidates widely seen as unelectable by their party’s elites have emerged during past primary seasons as threats to win the nomination, and the elites have generally managed to stop them. The question is whether they’re still capable of doing it in 2012 — or if the tricks they’ve mastered in the past few decades simply don’t work anymore.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 21, 2012

Think Progress: How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

By Josh Israel on Jan 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending.

Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” they affirmed.

Federal statutes require that for all significant “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” — the two major classifications for political expenditures made by outside groups unaffiliated with political candidates — the names and addresses of large donors must be identified.

But the FEC, through its rulemaking process, gave these groups a loophole. They said that the identities of donors behind the outside spending must be identified, but only if the money was specifically earmarked for the political expenditure. This means that a secretive right-wing group like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS need only identify the funders who pay for their attack ads if those donors explicitly say the money should be used for attack ads. Few do.

Read the entire piece at ThinkProgress.org

January 21, 2012

Salon: How Bradley Manning’s fate will be decided

Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 2:00 PM UTC

The soldier accused of giving files to WikiLeaks will likely face a court-martial -- we explain how it works
By Justin Elliott

This week, Bradley Manning came one step closer to being tried for allegedly leaking a trove of secret American cables to WikiLeaks when a military officer made the formal recommendation that Manning should face a court-martial on 22 criminal charges.

One of the counts, aiding the enemy, carries the possibility of the death penalty, but prosecutors have already said they will not seek it in Manning’s case.

The recommendation this week was made to Maj. Gen. Michael Linnington, commander of the Military District of Washington, who is what is known as the convening authority in the case. The military justice system has important differences from the civilian system, so I spoke to Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, to explain the basics.

We’ve now had the investigating officer as well as another officer this week recommend a court-martial to the Military District of Washington commander. What’s the next step?

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 20, 2012

Salon: The power of conservative victimhood

Friday, Jan 20, 2012 4:08 AM UTC

It took Newt about five minutes to steal the show at the final pre-South Carolina debate

By Steve Kornacki

If Newt Gingrich does pull off a victory in South Carolina on Saturday, he’ll owe it to the skill with which he has tapped into the right’s persecution complex this past week — and to some helpful debate moderators.

The final pre-South Carolina debate Thursday night ran for two hours and featured several sharp attacks on Gingrich. Mitt Romney, for instance, ridiculed Gingrich’s frequent claims that he worked closely with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, noting that Reagan’s published diary offered just one dismissive mention of the Georgian. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, depicted Gingrich as an erratic and unreliable leader. “Grandiosity,” he declared, “has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich.” (In a response that we’ll probably see a few more times on cable news shows Friday, Gingrich admitted that “I think grandiose thoughts.”)

But it seems doubtful any of this will really matter for much , because Gingrich may very well have won the debate before it was five minutes old.

The question hanging in the air when the candidates took the stage was whether and how the interview that Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, just gave to ABC News would be addressed. The interview had hijacked the Thursday’s political conversation, with ABC teasing salacious details — like Marianne Gingrich repeating on-camera for the first time her claim that Newt had asked her for an open marriage after revealing his affair with Callista — throughout the day and promising the run the full version on “Nightline” after the debate. Would moderator John King bring it up? Would one of Gingrich’s rivals? Or an audience member? Or maybe the former speaker himself? Or maybe somehow it wouldn’t come up at all.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 20, 2012

Conservatives Freak Out Over Romney’s Kryptonite: Money Mitt Romney

Benjy Sarlin January 20, 2012, 5:28 AM

Sometimes Mitt Romney can seem like Superman versus the rest of the GOP field, more powerful than a locomotive against President Obama, able to leap fundraising targets in a single bound. But like the Man of Steel, he has a glaring weakness that instantly negates his abilities on contact. It’s green, hard to come by, and his opponents are always plotting new schemes to use it against him. No, not Kryptonite — money.

In Thursday’s debate he awkwardly stumbled over questions about his tax returns, at one point drawing boos from the audience for wavering on whether he’d release multiple years.

For those watching Romney on the trail, the awkward response was nothing new. In the span of just a few short weeks, Romney has had a parade of cringe-inducing moments: “pink slips,” “I like being able to fire people,” “quiet rooms,” and claiming his $375k-a-year speaking fees are “not very much” are all moments he’d probably rather forget.

Conservatives are becoming increasingly concerned about the issue as the general election grows closer and as Romney faces a renewed round of pressure to release his tax returns.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

January 19, 2012

George Romney, Mitt’s Father, Paid A 37 Percent Effective Tax Rate

By Pat Garofalo on Jan 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Mitt Romney yesterday finally admitted that he pays a tax rate of about 15 percent, though he continues to put off releasing his full tax returns. However, when Mitt’s father, George Romney, ran for President in 1968, he released 12 years of tax returns, which revealed that he paid a 37 percent effective tax rate. From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, November 25, 1967:

Romney became a millionaire on company stock options after he introduced a compact car as president of American Motors Corp. The figures show his adjusted gross income ranged from $661,427.68 when he was president of American Motors Corp. to a low of $78,483.85 last year. The figures indicate he paid $1,099,555.18 in taxes on an income of $2,972,923.58.

These numbers show Romney paying a 36.9 percent effective tax rate (but this was also a time when the top income tax rate was 70 percent). Lee Fang noted that the returns also “showed that George Romney donated 19 percent of his income to church, 4 percent directly to charity, and most surprisingly…that the Michigan governor ‘seldom took advantage of tax loopholes to escape his tax obligations.’”

Romney, meanwhile, is the beneficiary of a huge tax loophole that lets private equity managers like himself pay a lower tax rate on their earnings than millions of middle class families. He has also advocated a tax plan that would cut his own taxes nearly in half, while raising taxes on half of middle class families with children.

Link to piece at ThinkProgress.org
January 19, 2012

TPM: Hospitals Step Up War On GOP’s Cuts For Payroll Tax Package

Sahil Kapur January 19, 2012, 5:38 AM

Hospitals are reigniting a battle with House Republicans that grew bitter last month after the GOP pushed to offset its payroll tax cut package with deep cuts to hospital payments under Medicare. The undercurrents of this fight are deepening fissures between hospitals and Republicans over the passage and future of the Affordable Care Act.

The American Hospital Association, the industry’s top lobbying group, on Friday issued an action alert — provided to TPM by a source — to its roughly 40,000 members, mobilizing them against some $14 billion in cuts pushed by the House GOP to hospital bad debt payments and outpatient services to help fund a longer payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and a two-year Medicare doc fix. A hospital source told TPM the cuts are very much in play.

“These critical issues, and others, will still be on the table when Congress returns,” the AHA alert read. “Please contact your representative and senators and urge them to reject cuts to Medicare payments for hospital services as part of any final agreement to extend the SS tax holiday, UI benefits and physician fix.”

After the GOP bill was unveiled in December, AHA and other hospital advocacy groups, shocked at the magnitude of the cuts, immediately pushed back and embarked on an ad campaign casting the prospective reductions as ominous for seniors and hospital care.

Read the entire piece at TPM.com

January 17, 2012

Joan Walsh: Juan Williams stands in for Obama at Fox debate

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 1:00 PM UTC

The GOP celebrates MLK day by booing the black pundit as Gingrich belittles him for asking tough questions on race

By Joan Walsh

The Fox News debate began auspiciously, with moderator Bret Baier noting that it was our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Then his actual question had nothing to do with Dr. King. But those of us who feared the debate would duck racial issues worried for naught. The night climaxed with the South Carolina crowd giving Newt Gingrich a standing ovation for smacking down Fox’s leading black contributor, Juan Williams, for his impertinent questions about race.

Williams asked for it, of course. What was he thinking making tough racial queries at a GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.? First, he asked Romney how he squared his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric with his own family’s story of moving to and then from Mexico seeking religious freedom. He asked Rick Santorum, who purports to care about poverty, what he would do about high African American poverty rates. He asked Ron Paul whether he thought the nation’s harsh drug laws were bad for black people. Then he made the mistake of asking Newt Gingrich about his comments that poor urban children came from communities that lacked a “work ethic,” and his calling Barack Obama “the food stamp president.”

Gingrich couldn’t believe his luck. With a gleam in his eye, he thrashed Williams, and Steve Kornacki believes he may have given his candidacy one last shot with his savvy thumping of Fox’s leading black commentator. It hurt to watch. If Newt gets the nomination – he won’t, but a Democrat can dream – he’ll have to thank Williams at the GOP convention in Tampa, even before he thanks Callista.

Sure, Santorum took his chance to demagogue on race, telling Williams that it only took three things to stay out of poverty in America: “Work, graduate from high school, and get married before you have children.” He didn’t allow that any residue of racism or discrimination might make it harder for African Americans to work, graduate from high school or marry. Santorum also made unfounded allegations, again, about the Obama administration forbidding certain federal programs from talking about marriage. But at least he answered Williams with some personal respect.

Read the entire piece at Salon.com

January 16, 2012

Think Progress: On MLK Day, Romney Campaigning With Anti-Immigrant Official Tied To Hate Groups

By Amanda Peterson Beadle posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Jan 16, 2012 at 9:00 am

On a day set aside to honor civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitt Romney plans to tout his extreme immigration positions during a campaign stop in South Carolina today — with Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona’s and Alabama’s immigration laws, at his side. He will attack his competitors Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for their softer immigration stances, which could resonate with South Carolina voters who support that state’s harmful immigration law.

“Mitt Romney stands apart from the others. He’s the only one who’s taken a strong across-the-board position on immigration,” Kobach said, and he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Romney was much farther to the right on illegal immigration than his fellow presidential candidates. Watch:

Considering Kobach’s own opinions and associations, however, his endorsement may not be one Romney wants to tout.

Before he became Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach worked for Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal branch of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as a “nativist hate group.” One of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which “ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” FAIR’s founder John Tanton has said that he wants the U.S. to remain a majority-white nation through limiting the number of non-whites who enter the U.S.

Read the entire piece at ThinkProgress.org
January 16, 2012

TPM: GOPers Suddenly Want To Wrap The Nomination Up… Fast

Pema Levy January 16, 2012, 5:30 AM

If there was one clear message from the Republican establishment this weekend, it was this: If Mitt Romney wins in South Carolina, he will be the nominee.

On Sunday, less than a week from the January 21 primary in South Carolina, Republicans were explicit in framing Saturday’s primary in the Palmetto State as the last chance for the other candidates to stop Romney’s momentum or concede defeat. They were also clear about one other thing: they want Romney to wrap up the nomination ASAP.

“If Romney wins South Carolina, I think the game’s over,” Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) said on Meet the Press Sunday. “This is the last stand for many candidates.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, appearing with Scott on the show, echoed this sentiment: If ” Mitt Romney wins South Carolina, no one’s ever won all three, I think it should be over. That would be quite a testament to his ability as a candidate and a campaigner, and I’d hope the party would rally around him if he did in fact win South Carolina.”

On other networks, the message was the same. “It`s kind of a last stand for a lot of the candidates,” South Carolina’s other Senator, Jim DeMint, said on Face the Nation. On CNN, Rick Perry sounded optimistic about his prospects there but wouldn’t completely rule out suspending his campaign if he did not do well in South Carolina. Going on to Florida is “our intention,” he repeated.

Read the entire piece at TMP.com

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