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Illinois budget inspires confusing, misleading claims

Illinois budget inspires confusing, misleading claims | Coffee Party News |


A state budget, like the one Gov. Pat Quinn proposed last week, practically guarantees a flood of confusing, misleading and surprising statements. After all, it's an incredibly complex document that can stir up anger over both policy and politics.

Here's a closer look at what Illinois officials have said about spending, prison overcrowding and political leadership.

Spending: Up or down?

In his budget address, Quinn said his proposed budget "calls for $425 million less in agency spending than last year's budget." Background material from his office says agencies would spend $901 million less than they did five years ago, a 3.5 percent drop.

Meanwhile, Republicans insist Quinn's budget actually would increase spending by $50 million from last year and a whopping $3.4 billion from five years ago.

Who's right? Both sides are, depending on what kind of spending you count.

Quinn is counting the dollars that he has the most ability to control — money for salaries or rent, for instance. He calls it "agency spending," meaning the money spent by the agencies he oversees.  [MORE]

Via ChicagoCoffeeParty
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Twitter handles of Limbaugh's advertisers - 20 now dropped

Twitter handles of Limbaugh's advertisers - 20 now dropped | Coffee Party News |

by ERIC BYLER, Coffee Party USA

The Rush Limbaugh phenomenon is another case of a powerful Big Microphone (The One Percent's most effective tool) vs. lots and lots little microphones (We the People using new tools that did not exist a few years ago). An interesting trend on Twitter has the People targeting Limbaugh's remaining advertisers using @ handles naming the various companies. John Aravosis of America Blog argues, "This is the most effective way to contact them. It's public, and people will retweet it easily."

Twenty advertisers have now dropped Rush Limbaugh's radio show after he called a Georgetown law student a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying during a forum about women's health.

Here is the second half of the list Aravosis provides, alphabetically:

  • JC Penny's @JCPenny
  • Matrix Direct @MatrixDirect
  • Medipattern Corporation
  • Merit Financial @MeritFinancial
  • Netflix @Netflix
  • New York Lottery Powerball [no Twitter handle]
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts @OreillyAuto
  • Peerless Boilers @PeerlessBoilers
  • Reputation Rhino @ReputationRhino
  • RightSize Smoothies @RightSize
  • Sears @Sears (Sears says its ad ran by accident last week. Well it ran by accident again today.)
  • Sensa [no Twitter handle]
  • Service Magic @ServiceMagic
  • St. Vincent's Medical Center @StVincentsMC
  • Small Business Authority/Corporate Tax Network [none]
  • TurboTax @TurboTax
  • US Tax Shield @USTaxShield
  • Wave Home Solutions @WaveHome

for full list.

me's comment, March 6, 2012 9:19 AM
You misspelled JCPenney. Twice. Handle is wrong.
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Why Republicans are in a box: their base, and nobody else, thinks unmarried people shouldn’t have sex

Why Republicans are in a box: their base, and nobody else, thinks unmarried people shouldn’t have sex | Coffee Party News |

by ANDREW SABL, The Reality-Based Community

Those who’ve been following the birth control brouhaha may be wondering what on earth Republicans think they’re doing. The answer is that they’re expressing an opinion regarding sexual morality that’s popular among their voters but nobody else: namely that unmarried people shouldn’t have sex at all.

Gallup for many years has been polling Americans on whether certain things are “morally acceptable” or “morally wrong.” Regarding “sex between an unmarried man and woman,” the latest figures I could find (from 2011) show that 60 percent regard that as “morally acceptable” and only 36 percent “morally wrong.”

(According to the .pdf of the whole survey, that 24-point spread is up from only 11 points in 2001.)

One reason old Republican men are so out of touch on this is that there’s a huge age gap in attitudes. The Gallup figures show that premarital sex is considered acceptable by 71 percent of 18-34-year-olds, but only 47 percent of those 55 and older. This makes premarital sex the third-most divisive moral issue by age, after pornography and gay or lesbian sex.

But the fascinating part is the partisan split. Gallup in 2011 didn’t break the figures down by party. But it did in 2010 (when the overall “acceptable” figure was almost identical, 59 percent). The result was:

  • 67 percent of Democrats think premarital sex is morally acceptable;
  • 64 percent of Independents;
  • only 47 percent of Republicans.

If one did a separate breakdown by age and sex, I’m sure this would jump out even more. Probably a very small minority of older Republicans think that premarital sex is OK, but an overwhelming majority of young Democrats and Independents think so.  [MORE including polling PDF for download]

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Will Main Street or Wall Street Get Dealt the Upper Hand on STOCK Act?

Will Main Street or Wall Street Get Dealt the Upper Hand on STOCK Act? | Coffee Party News |

by CRAIG HOLMAN, Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen

In the weeks following an explosive 60 Minutes exposé on congressional insider trading, both chambers of Congress nearly unanimously passed the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge" (STOCK) Act. But there is still no law. What's the holdup?

The ball is in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) court. And everyone is waiting for him to decide how to proceed.

It's not like the problem hasn't been well-documented. In congressional hearings, Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, acknowledged that the laws against insider trading have not been applied to Congress. "There does not appear to be any case law that addresses the duty of a member [of Congress] with respect to trading on the basis of information the member learns in an official capacity," Khuzami conceded. The same is true for congressional staff. [MORE]

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Romney Urged Obama To Embrace Individual Mandate In 2009

Romney Urged Obama To Embrace Individual Mandate In 2009 | Coffee Party News |

by SAHIL KAPUR, Talking Points Memo

In July 2009, Mitt Romney called on President Obama to require Americans to buy insurance as part of his health care plan, using “tax penalties” as a backstop — in other words, the individual mandate that Republicans virulently oppose.

In a USA Today op-ed that has since been removed but remains available on, Romney urged Obama to look to his Massachusetts health care plan that contained the same policy, and touted it as effective.

“First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance,” Romney wrote. “Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”

Obama opposed that approach in his 2008 campaign, and was not on board with it at the time of Romney’s op-ed, but eventually adopted it in the sweeping bill that became law March 2010. Republican voters strongly decry the mandate as egregious federal overreach, and Romney has vowed to repeal the entire law if elected President.

The revelation could damage the GOP presidential frontrunner, who has been attacked by conservatives for enacting a similar law as “Obamacare,” but has defended himself by saying such an approach is acceptable on a state level, not a federal level.

But the July 30, 2009 op-ed, dug up by Andrew Kaczynski, makes no such distinction. In fact it implies that the Massachusetts plan is ideal as a federal approach. Romney wrote that “the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find” a “better way.” [MORE]

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Romney Parries Rivals w/ Negative Ads

Romney Parries Rivals w/ Negative Ads | Coffee Party News |


When Gov. Rick Perry began rising in the polls, Mitt Romney was ready with a potent debate-night assault: under Mr. Perry, illegal immigrants in Texas received a $100,000 tuition break.

As Newt Gingrich surged, the Romney campaign dispatched colleagues of Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, to ridicule him as “narcissistic” and “erratic” in conference calls that required a sardonic pass code: “Newt Gingrich is an unreliable leader.”

And with Rick Santorum persisting as a threat as 10 states prepare to vote on Tuesday, Mr. Romney unleashed an ad in Ohio on Thursday mocking him as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

The Romney campaign’s shortcomings have been on vivid display in recent weeks, from verbal stumbles to a failure to stir the passions of the Republican base.

But even his battered rivals acknowledge that Mr. Romney is proving unusually adept at defining, diminishing and disqualifying a serial cast of challengers through relentless attacks.

His campaign has deployed every tactic in the negative-campaign playbook. It has issued Twitter messages poking fun at Mr. Gingrich’s penchant for rhetorical excess (with the hashtag #grandiosenewt). It created digital slogans and a letterhead disparaging Mr. Santorum’s long career in government (“Rick Went to Washington,” they read, “and he never came back”). It created dozens of Web videos denigrating President Obama’s economic leadership (“Obama isn’t working”). And it benefited from the advertising onslaught unleashed against Mr. Romney’s rivals by a “super PAC” backing him. [MORE]

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So You Wanna Buy an Election?

So You Wanna Buy an Election? | Coffee Party News |

Mother Jones has a fantastic infographic demonstrating exactly how corporations and people (unless you count them as one and the same) can spend unlimited funds to influence the federal political process.

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Obama Calls Student Attacked by Limbaugh in Birth-Control Debate

Obama Calls Student Attacked by Limbaugh in Birth-Control Debate | Coffee Party News |


President Obama on Friday called a Georgetown law student to thank her for publicly backing the administration’s policy requiring health insurance coverage of contraceptives for women, despite an escalating war of words between Democrats and Rush Limbaugh.

The president made the call just before the student, Sandra Fluke, was to appear on MSNBC.

“What was really personal for me was he said to tell my parents that they should be proud,” she told Andrea Mitchell, the cable news host.

Last month, Ms. Fluke supported Mr. Obama’s policy in informal testimony on Capitol Hill, prompting Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host, to call her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for supporting the policy, even if it violates an employer’s religious beliefs.

Under heavy pressure from Democratic leaders, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Friday condemned Mr. Limbaugh’s comments as “inappropriate.” [MORE]

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In suit, Koch brothers seek bigger control over Cato Institute

In suit, Koch brothers seek bigger control over Cato Institute | Coffee Party News |

by T.W. FARNAM and DAN EGGEN, The Washington Post

The billionaire Koch brothers, whose outsized political spending has become an issue in the 2012 elections, are attempting to take control of a prominent Washington think tank in a move that would expand their influence in conservative politics, according to court records and interviews.

Charles and David Koch, owners of a Wichita-based conglomerate that ranks as one of the largest private corporations in the world, filed a lawsuit this week in Kansas seeking an option to increase their 50 percent control of the Cato Institute.

Cato President Ed Crane blasted the lawsuit Thursday as an attempted “hostile takeover” of a venerable Washington institution that he co-founded with Charles Koch in the 1970s.

“Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda,” Crane said in a statement. He vowed to fight the move “vehemently.”

Charles Koch said in a statement that he and his brother were only seeking to uphold the terms of the shareholder agreement that governs Cato and were not “acting in a partisan manner.”

“We support Cato and its work,” he said. “We want to ensure that Cato stays true to its fundamental principles of individual liberty, free markets, and peace into the future, and that it not be subject to the personal preferences of individual officers or directors.”

With a $39 million budget last year, Cato is one of the largest think tanks in Washington, espousing a libertarian ideology of limited government and free-market economics. [MORE]

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Twelve Zeros - Understanding the United States Federal Budget

Twelve Zeros - Understanding the United States Federal Budget | Coffee Party News |

Watch the budget instead of reading about it with National Priorities Project's Monday morning Budget Briefs on YouTube. Executive director Jo Comerford stars in the Twelve Zeros campaign.  In last week's video she explained discretionary spending in the president's new budget.

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Michigan, We Have a Hidden Money Problem — Coffee Party Radio

Michigan, We Have a Hidden Money Problem — Coffee Party Radio | Coffee Party News |

Vince Lamb guest hosts for Jeanene Louden today on "Louden Clear." Vince's guest is Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Rich has been studying the way that hidden money influences elections, including the recently concluded Michigan primary. Vince and Rich will also talk about the Michigan results and what they mean for the issue of money in politics, and the GOP nomination process.

LOUDEN CLEAR with guest host Vince Lamb

MORE about Coffee Party Radio.

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Maryland governor to sign same-sex marriage into law on Thursday

Maryland governor to sign same-sex marriage into law on Thursday | Coffee Party News |


Maryland's governor plans to sign a bill making same-sex marriage legal later this week, his office said on Monday, while opponents were making plans to challenge the new law at the ballot box.

The legislation, making Maryland the eighth state in the nation to legalize gay and lesbian nuptials, heads to Governor Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature at a ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, his office said.

The Democratic governor has supported the measure and promised to sign it once it was passed by lawmakers. The state Senate voted in favor of the bill last week after it was passed by the state's lower House of Delegates.

While still controversial, same-sex marriage has been gaining acceptance nationally in recent weeks as Washington state legislators voted to allow gay marriage and the New Jersey legislature passed a gay marriage law through both houses, although it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. [MORE]

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Why We Need a Buffett Rule

Why We Need a Buffett Rule | Coffee Party News |

by SETH HANLON, Center for American Progress

In recent months President Barack Obama articulated a fairness principle known as the “Buffett Rule,” named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who disclosed that he pays a smaller percentage of his income in federal taxes than his secretary. The Buffett Rule holds that no millionaire should pay a lower effective tax rate than middle-class families.

On February 1, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Paying a Fair Share Act of 2012. The bill would turn the principle behind the Buffett Rule into a rule of the U.S. tax code, requiring that all households with incomes above $1 million pay at least a 30 percent minimum tax rate (with a phase-in for incomes between $1 million and $2 million).

Here are seven compelling reasons why we need a Buffett Rule.

1. The incomes of the top 1 percent have skyrocketed over the past three decades, nearly quadrupling and leaving middle-class incomes far behind. Rising inequality has meant that the very rich have captured an outsized share of the country’s economic gains.

2. During these same years, tax rates on millionaires dropped sharply as a result of the Bush tax cuts and successive rounds of tax cuts on investment income (capital gains and dividends). [MORE]

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2012 or Never: Republicans worry Nov. could be last chance to stop history

2012 or Never: Republicans worry Nov. could be last chance to stop history | Coffee Party News |

by JONATHAN CHAIT New York Magazine

Of the various expressions of right-wing hysteria that have flowered over the past three years — goldbuggery, birtherism, death panels at home and imaginary apology tours by President Obama abroad — perhaps the strain that has taken deepest root within mainstream Republican circles is the terror that the achievements of the Obama administration may be irreversible, and that the time remaining to stop permanent nightfall is dwindling away.

“America is approaching a ‘tipping point’ beyond which the Nation will be unable to change course,” announces the dark, old-timey preamble to Paul Ryan’s “The Roadmap Plan,” a statement of fiscal principles that shaped the budget outline approved last spring by 98 percent of the House Republican caucus. Rick Santorum warns his audiences, “We are reaching a tipping point, folks, when those who pay are the minority and those who receive are the majority.” Even such a sober figure as Mitt Romney regularly says things like “We are only inches away from no longer being a free economy,” and that this election “could be our last chance.”

The Republican Party is in the grips of many fever dreams. But this is not one of them. To be sure, the apocalyptic ideological analysis — that “freedom” is incompatible with Clinton-era tax rates and Massachusetts-style health care — is pure crazy. But the panicked strategic analysis, and the sense of urgency it gives rise to, is actually quite sound. The modern GOP — the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes — is staring down its own demographic extinction. Right-wing warnings of impending tyranny express, in hyperbolic form, well-grounded dread: that conservative America will soon come to be dominated, in a semi-permanent fashion, by an ascendant Democratic coalition hostile to its outlook and interests. And this impending doom has colored the party’s frantic, fearful response to the Obama presidency.

The GOP has reason to be scared. Obama’s election was the vindication of a prediction made several years before by journalist John Judis and political scientist Ruy Teixeira in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Despite the fact that George W. Bush then occupied the White House, Judis and Teixeira argued that demographic and political trends were converging in such a way as to form a ­natural-majority coalition for Democrats.  [MORE]

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The GOP can no longer avoid its Rush Limbaugh problem.

The GOP can no longer avoid its Rush Limbaugh problem. | Coffee Party News |

Washington Post Editorial Board

"...Under the influence of Mr. Limbaugh and his ilk, the Republicans risk coming before the voters in 2012, and after, with nothing but grievances. This is what former Florida governor Jeb Bush was trying to tell his fellow Republicans when he observed, apropos of a recent discourse in the GOP primary: “It’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are.”

For the good of U.S. political culture — or at least its own political self-interest — the GOP must distance itself from Mr. Limbaugh. In response to listener complaints and, apparently, the promptings of its own corporate conscience, Sleep Train Mattress Centers has quit advertising on Mr. Limbaugh’s show. Dare Republican leaders show less decency?" [MORE]

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Wisconsin State Senators promote civility, bipartisanship in politics

Wisconsin State Senators promote civility, bipartisanship in politics | Coffee Party News |

Wisconsin State Sen. Tim Cullen (D) and State Sen. Dale Schultz (R) will tour state promoting civility, bipartisanship in politics

Excerpt by Sen. Cullen:

When I decided to run for Senate in 2010, one of my top priorities was to work to restore civility to the Legislature—a goal of mine well before Gov. Walker announced he would work to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, an announcement that further divided an already-polarized Legislature. While the task is daunting, I believe the Legislature can—and should—work to return to an era of civility and mutual respect.

That is why Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and I launched our “Common Ground Tour” last summer. Together, Sen. Schultz and I are touring Wisconsin and promoting our shared goal of restoring civility to Wisconsin politics. I was honored to welcome Sen. Schultz to the 15th Senate District as we visited with local businesses and met some of the hard-working families in south-central Wisconsin. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with laborers and manufacturers in Sen. Schultz’s district, as well. [MORE]

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Despite millions spent on TV, opinions about Scott Walker aren't changing

Despite millions spent on TV, opinions about Scott Walker aren't changing | Coffee Party News |

by Craig Gilbert, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Republican Scott Walker and his allies are vastly outspending the other side on TV, yet the latest polling suggests it’s having minimal impact on public perceptions of the governor.

Instead, the polls remind us just how fierce and entrenched those perceptions are.

In surveys by Public Policy Polling, Walker’s approval rating was 46% a year ago, 43% last May, 45% last August, 47% last October and 47% in the firm’s latest poll released Tuesday. Since PPP’s previous survey four months ago, Walker has lost his advantage in head-to-head matchups with leading Democrats.. [MORE]

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Possum Republicans Must Become Rhino Republicans

Possum Republicans Must Become Rhino Republicans | Coffee Party News |

Excerpt from David Brooks' column in The New York Times:

All across the nation, there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid. This year, they have an excellent chance to defeat President Obama, yet the wingers have trashed the party’s reputation by swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next: Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum.

But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise? They were lying low, hoping the unpleasantness would pass.

The wingers call their Republican opponents RINOs, or Republican In Name Only. But that’s an insult to the rhino, which is a tough, noble beast. If RINOs were like rhinos, they’d stand up to those who seek to destroy them. Actually, what the country needs is some real Rhino Republicans. But the professional Republicans never do that. They’re not rhinos. They’re Opossum Republicans. They tremble for a few seconds then slip into an involuntary coma every time they’re challenged aggressively from the right.

Without real opposition, the wingers go from strength to strength. Under their influence, we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuse the others of tribal impurity. Two kinds of candidates emerge from this process: first, those who are forceful but outside the mainstream; second, those who started out mainstream but look weak and unprincipled because they have spent so much time genuflecting before those who despise them.

Neither is likely to win in the fall. Before the G.O.P. meshugana campaign, independents were leaning toward the G.O.P. But, in the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll, Obama leads Mitt Romney among independents by 49 percent to 27 percent.

Leaders of a party are supposed to educate the party, to police against its worst indulgences, to guard against insular information loops. They’re supposed to define a creed and establish boundaries. Republican leaders haven’t done that.

[READ full column]

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Corporate tax plan: Job council quiet

Corporate tax plan: Job council quiet | Coffee Party News |

President Barack Obama’s jobs council isn’t ready to come out in support of his new corporate tax reform proposal.

Instead, most of the 27 business leaders Obama signed up last year for the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness have avoided taking a position in the week since the president announced the plan.

That’s despite a consensus among the members in favor of cutting tax rates, the main thrust of Obama’s proposal. But the president’s decision to back a minimum tax on global earnings, going directly against his council’s recommendation, snubbed the advice of Jeff Immelt, the General Electric CEO and chairman of the jobs council.

“We support a broader tax base, lower statutory corporate tax rate and the adoption of a territorial tax system used by almost every other advanced economy, even if it means higher taxes for companies like GE,” said Deirdre Latour, a spokeswoman for the company. [Read More]

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America Is Europe

America Is Europe | Coffee Party News |

Excerpt from column by David Brooks for The New York Times:

The complexity of our tax code allows us to believe that we’re not a welfare state, but that’s false.  And because they are hidden, many of the tax expenditures go to those who need them least, the well connected and established over the vulnerable and the entrepreneurial.

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Comparing Romney’s and Obama’s tax plans, in one chart

Excerpt from article by BRAD PLUMER and EZRA KLEIN, The Washington Post

Romney's plan would lower tax rates for the top quintile by 5.4%, saving the wealthiest an average of $16,134. (The top 1% of earners, meanwhile, would save an average of $149,997.) The lowest fifth of earners, by contrast, would see a small tax increase of 1.3%.

Obama’s tax proposal would keep tax rates roughly the same except for married couples making over $250,000 per year (or single earners making more than $200,000 per year). On average, the top 1% would be paying about $87,173 more per year." [MORE]

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2012 Election: Campaigns can push mega-donors’ pet causes

2012 Election: Campaigns can push mega-donors’ pet causes | Coffee Party News |

Excerpt from piece by KENNETH VOGEL, Politico

"...A look at the candidate’s stump speeches and super PAC ads shows the potential for the signature issues of mega-donors to get major play, even if they aren’t a top priority with voters.

Take Foster Friess, for example. The 71-year-old retired mutual fund manager has been a key donor to the super PAC keeping former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign alive, the Red White and Blue Fund. Friess considers the threats of Islamic extremism, Iran and Sharia law among his top political issues and primary reasons for backing Santorum.

Friess — who provided the seed funding for the super PAC and has donated at least $1 million — suggested he may have urged it to focus on those issues. The group has spent $6.2 million boosting Santorum, including with ads casting him as “a resolute leader of the fight against radical Islam.”

Though Friess said he doesn’t set the super PAC’s strategy, he told POLITICO: “I can still encourage an ad, give a suggestion. Let’s say on the issue of violent Islamic extremism. I don’t think it’s out of the order to point out that Rick Santorum has been studying this for like five years. He knows the names. He not only can pronounce Ahmadinejad (but) he knows what he’s doing with Chávez in Venezuela.”

Friess has been a friend and financial backer of Santorum since 1995. It’s unclear which man first came to consider radical Islam an important political issue.

But by 2005 — after Friess had emerged as a major donor to Santorum’s Senate campaigns and the groups supporting them — Santorum was sponsoring legislation to allocate $10 million to facilitate regime change in Iran.


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The Republican crack-up

The Republican crack-up | Coffee Party News |

by MATT MILLER, The Washington Post

Put aside Mitt Romney’s wife’s Cadillacs and Rick Santorum’s fringe fetishes, and the Republican predicament as we head toward Super Tuesday is clear. Despite Romney’s wins Tuesday, the GOP is cracking up because the party’s most fervent supporters are misguided or clueless about what the country needs to do to solve its biggest problems, and none of the Republican candidates has the wit or courage to tell them. We are watching a party implode at the hands of its base.

Bob Kerrey — who I hope will announce he’s back in politics this week — told me once that a campaign is not the time to try to convince voters of anything they don’t already believe. A campaign is about showing how your values align with theirs. “In a political campaign it’s too risky to lead them,” Kerrey said, speaking of the undecided voters who in the final sprint decide most contests. “And so what you do is pretend to lead while basically you’re trying to follow their opinions.”  

Let’s savor that truth for a moment: You pretend to lead while basically you’re trying to follow their opinions. If ever there was a Unified Theory of Political Ambition, this is it.

Seen this way, Mitt Romney’s tragedy has been to choose the wrong voters for his path to power. [MORE]

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NPR: Congress Works To Mend Economy, Approval Ratings

NPR: Congress Works To Mend Economy, Approval Ratings | Coffee Party News |
House Majority leader Eric Cantor is pushing a package of small business bills that also has the support of President Obama.


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Olympia Snowe is right about American politics. Will we listen?

Olympia Snowe is right about American politics. Will we listen? | Coffee Party News |

Excerpt from this piece by EZRA KLEIN, The Washington Post

We use “polarization” as an epithet. It’s what’s wrong with America’s politics. It’s what’s wrong with America’s political parties. It’s what’s wrong with America’s politicians. It’s what’s wrong, finally, with America.

And polarization is certainly bad for moderate legislators who want to wield influence by brokering deals between the two parties. But for the political system as a whole, “polarization” is a neutral term. It simply means the two parties disagree, and clearly. It doesn’t mean they disagree angrily or unproductively or in service of extreme ideologies.

To imagine this, consider two political systems. In one, the two parties aren’t polarized, because the Democratic Party is filled with conservative arch-segregationists. In another, the parties are very polarized, but it’s because everyone agrees segregation was a moral blight, and with that out of the way, the conservative Democrats who kept their seats by appealing to racism were replaced by Republicans. Which system is more extreme? Or unproductive? Or hateful?

Polarization doesn’t describe people’s opinions. It just describes how those same people, with those same opinions, sort themselves. For political scientists, it was long a puzzle and a frustration that the Democratic Party contained so many conservatives and the Republican Party so many liberals. But race was the reason for much of that, and as race has receded as a driving force in American politics, the two parties have sorted themselves in a more sensible way. The problem is, the political system hasn’t responded.

Our system, as any historian will tell you, was built by men who hated parties and anticipated their absence from American politics. That didn’t quite work out. But for much of American history, and particularly for much of the 20th century, our political parties have been unusually diffuse and unable to act as organized, ideological units. That left them well-suited to a system that, for reasons ranging from the division of powers to the filibuster, required an unusual level of consensus to function.

But as the two parties have polarized, we’ve learned that a system built for consensus is not able to properly function amid constant partisan competition. The filibuster has gone from a rarity to a constant. Compromise has become rare. Crises of gridlock, such as the recent showdown over the debt ceiling, have become common. And no one can say that this is what the American people want: The approval ratings of Congress have been on a downward slide for decades, and they have never been lower than they are today.

Snowe’s retirement will have many lamenting the endangered moderate and wondering how we can turn back the clock. But we can’t. About that, Snowe is right. Polarization is with us now and will be with us for the foreseeable future. The question is whether we will permit it to paralyze our political system and undermine our country or whether we will accept it and make the necessary accommodations.

Doing so would require taking on cherished, consensus-promoting features of the old system, like the filibuster. But in today’s girdlocked world, those features no longer promote consensus. They simply promote gridlock.

[MORE including video]

james's comment, March 1, 2012 12:42 PM
I am sorry, but the US has a one-party system called the Republocrats. The illusion of two parties is merely to make people feel that they have Democracy™ and before anyone gets on their high horse that there are differences, take a look at your tax bill, the lack of both so-called parties balancing any kind of budget or making changes to entitlement programs. Republicans blame Democrats for the entitlement programs, but Bush Jr signed the largest entitlement program without a means of funding it. The illusion of polarization is essential so that the public doesn't unify to go after the common "enemy" of Capitol Hill and business as usual. The US has been steadily declining for 60 years, which is the same amount of time it shifted from being a working class economy to a consumer class economy. The switch worked well after WWII until 1959, but neither so-called party changed policies to switch back to manufacturing from a consumer-driven economy. The Republocrats have run a failed economic policy for 60 years and no one seems to be looking to dissolve the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US government and call for re-election. A second round would be based on candidates qualified, not parties. "We the People" have the right and only need 75% of the voters on a referendum. Fortunately we can do the referendum at any time, not just election day. Let both so-called parties spend their funds on this election and then lets all call for a referendum for a vote of no confidence and do some major spring cleaning. We are not talking about a revolution, we are talking about converting from a Republic to an actual Democracy (something the US has never quite reached yet)