Tag Archives: scott walker

GOP Attacks the Idea That Black Lives Matter

Republican presidential candidates attacking Black Lives Matter appear not to understand the optics of attacking a group whose message is, you know, that Black Lives Matter. Or maybe they do understand the optics…

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The NSA Loses in Court, but the Police State Rolls On

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Edward Snowden has been vindicated.

This week marks the first time that a court – a real court, not a sick joke of a kangaroo tribunal like the FISA court, which approves every government request and never hears from opponents – has ruled on the legality of one of the NSA’s spying programs against the American people.

Verdict: privacy 1, police state 0.

Yet the police state goes on. Which is what happens in, you know, a police state. The pigs always win.

A unanimous three-judge ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, states unequivocally that the Obama Administration’s interpretation of the USA Patriot Act is fatally flawed. Specifically, it says, Congress never intended for Section 215 to authorize the bulk interception and storage of telephony metadata of domestic phone calls: the calling number, the number called, the length of the call, the locations of both parties, and so on. In fact, the court noted, Congress never knew what the NSA was up to before Snowden spilled the beans.

On the surface, this is good news.

It will soon have been two years since Snowden leaked the NSA’s documents detailing numerous government efforts to sweep up every bit and byte of electronic communications that they possibly can — turning the United States into the Orwellian nightmare of 1984, where nothing is secret and everything can and will be used against you. Many Americans are already afraid to tell pollsters their opinions for fear of NSA eavesdropping.

One can only imagine how chilling the election of a neo-fascist right-winger (I’m talking to you, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker) as president would be. Not that I’m ready for Hillary “privacy for me, not for thee” Clinton to know all my secrets.

Until now, most action on the reform front has taken place abroad, especially in Europe, where concern about privacy online has led individuals as well as businesses to snub American Internet and technology companies, costing Silicon Valley billions of dollars, and accelerated construction of a European alternative to the American dominated “cloud.”

Here in the United States, the NSA continued with business as usual. As far as we know, the vast majority of the programs revealed by Snowden are still operational; there are no doubt many frightening new ones launched since 2013. Members of Congress were preparing to renew the disgusting Patriot Act this summer. One bright spot was the so-called USA Freedom Act, which purports to roll back bulk metadata collection, but privacy advocates say the legislation had been so watered down, and so tolerant of the NSA’s most excessive abuses, that it was just barely more than symbolic.

Like the Freedom Act, this ruling is largely symbolic.

The problem is, it’s not the last word. The federal government will certainly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take years before hearing the case. Even in the short run, the court didn’t slap the NSA with an injunction to halt its illegal collection of Americans’ metadata.

What’s particularly distressing is the fact that the court’s complaint is about the interpretation of the Patriot Act rather than its constitutionality. The Obama Administration’s interpretation of Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” said the court ruling. However: “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”

Well, ain’t that peachy.

As a rule, courts are reluctant to annul laws passed by the legislative branch of government on the grounds of unconstitutionality. In the case of NSA spying on us, however, the harm to American democracy and society is so extravagant, and the failure of the system of checks and balances to rein in the abuses so spectacular, that the patriotic and legal duty of every judge is to do whatever he can or she can to put an end to this bastard once and for all.

It’s a sad testimony to the cowardice, willful blindness and lack of urgency of the political classes that the New York court kicked the can down the road, rather than declare the NSA’s metadata collection program a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: John Kasich’s Ohio Fantasy

 

There’s denial.

There’s self-delusion.

There’s hallucination.

Then there’s John Kasich.

It’s just another political horse-race story about another white guy running for president, but “Kasich Looks to Republican Primaries, ‘Ohio Story’ in Hand” in the March 19th New York Times would have made me fall out of my seat had I not been confined by a seatbelt and squished in by a pair of chubby fellow airplane passengers.

John Kasich is the other Scott Walker, another Republican governor of a Midwestern state contemplating a run for president next year.

Kasich runs Ohio. Ohio is my home state.

Says the Times, Kasich is touting his “Ohio story” to make his case for moving into the Oval Office: “On his watch, Ohio’s $8 billion budget shortfall has turned into a $1.5 billion surplus. He has increased funding for mental health services and takes credit for 352,000 new private sector jobs.”

(Note the qualifier “takes credit for.”)

To be fair, the paper quotes Ohio State Senator Joe Schiavoni, who notes that “nearly half of Ohio households are getting by paycheck to paycheck, and 43% of students in public schools are on free or reduced lunch.”

When obscure governors run for president — Carter in 1976, Clinton in 1992, Bush in 2000 — their case to the nation is: Look what I did for my state! Elect me, and I’ll do the same for the country. The fact that Kasich is bragging about what he did to Ohio indicates that he’s (a) politically suicidal and/or (b) has absolutely no idea what’s going on there, especially in the state’s urban centers.

When I looked it up, I was surprised to learn that Kasich has actually visited Dayton, the southwestern Rust Belt city where I grew up. It’s a mess.

To be fair, this disaster predates Kasich by decades. Like many of my friends, I left after we graduated high school in the early 1980s because there were no jobs. Dayton Press, where they printed magazines like Time and Newsweek, closed. Mead Paper moved away. Department stores were boarded up, abandoned and demolished; factories rusted and rotted and were carted away. It got so you could take a nap in the middle of Main Street without being disturbed by traffic.

But things have only gotten worse under Kasich. Dayton’s population has plunged by 40% since I left. The local economy has been devastated since GM’s huge Moraine Assembly plant closed in 2008, throwing 5,000 people out of work.

Forbes listed Dayton as one of the ten fastest-dying cities in America. Four out of 10 were in Ohio. (The others were Youngstown, Canton and Cleveland.)

Forbes tried to put a bright face on Dayton’s problems: “Cash register and ATM manufacturer NCR is based in Dayton, and one of the region’s major employers, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is not going anywhere.”

NCR moved to Atlanta two years later.

Every day I check the Dayton Daily News app on my phone to follow the latest mayhem. Grim accounts of grinding poverty, drug epidemics and random violence are routine. The national story about the boy who found his neighbor’s mummified body while exploring an abandoned house somehow spoke volumes about the collapse of the city of Dayton. Facing foreclosure, the dude had hung himself five years ago. Bank officials never bothered to look inside.

Even the national economy recovered, Dayton’s contracted last year.

Kasich’s “Ohio Story” is a nightmare.

Cleveland, Dayton, Canton and Youngstown aren’t the Buckeye State’s only urban disasters — though they are some of the state’s biggest cities.

Toledo is so broke that its mayor asked residents to cut the grass in public parks. So many Cincinnatians are dying of heroin overdoses that the morgue is facing a budget crisis. The infant mortality rate is soaring in the capital city of Columbus.

Under John Kasich, Ohio is in danger of becoming a failed state.

Just what America needs!

The Ohio political blog Underbund has the goods on Kasich.

“The so-called ‘Ohio Story’ Gov. Kasich is out shilling to ruby red western and southern states will never include the kind of statistics reveled Friday in a report by the Pew Charitable Trust, which painted a different portrait of the state,” writes John Michael Spinelli.

Spinelli quotes the Pew report:

  • “In John Kasich’s Ohio, the share of households that are middle class has fallen from 50.9% in 2000 to 45.7% in 2013.
  • “Meanwhile, median income has also taken a dive under Gov. Kasich, from an inflation-adjusted amount of $56,437 in 2000 to $48,081 in 2013, a dip of nearly 15%.
  • “And the share of households spending at least 30% of income on housing as gone up, from 25% in 2000 to 30% in 2013.”

I have a question for Governor Kasich: If you manage to gain traction in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination, how will you keep reporters away from Dayton?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Presidential Campaign 2016: Who’s In, Who’s Out, Who’s a Joke

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

Predicting the outcome of presidential primaries and general elections is a fool’s errand one month before the first Tuesday in November in a leap year. This far out, nearly two years ahead of time, it’s beyond impossible.

Then again, we already know enough about the current likely crop of Democratic and Republican contenders to see the way that the race is likely to shake out. Here’s my US Presidential campaign preview below, beginning with the Dems.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D): Hers to lose

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On the Democratic side, the nomination is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. She has already amassed a formidable campaign war chest, assembled experienced staffers from within the party establishment, and successfully created a sense of inevitability that has kept other potential rivals at bay. At this stage, only two occurrences could stymie her “rumbling tank” of a campaign: a scandal, or a seismic shift in the political landscape created by an earth-shattering news event, like 9/11 or a huge stock market crash.

I wouldn’t bet on a scandal. Everything the media can find out about Clinton it has already learned over the course of a quarter-century in the national political spotlight. Even if the big news story threatens to change everything, who could take advantage of it at this late date?

VP Joe Biden (D) is a long, long, looong shot.

And what about Joe Biden? He keeps making noise about maybe possibly running, but the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar makes the case why that won’t happen. So I’ll just quote him here. “The veep,” he writes, “has done absolutely nothing to staff up for a prospective campaign—a necessity against a well-prepared, well-funded Clinton operation. At 72, he’d be the oldest future president in history. As vice president, he brings all the baggage that comes with serving under a polarizing president but carries none of the same excitement from the base. His approval numbers are weaker than Obama’s, and in his two past runs for president, he’s fallen far short of expectations. He trails Clinton by nearly 60 points—66 percent to 8 percent—in the latest CNN/ORC survey, conducted last month. A Biden campaign would be a bigger long shot than even Mitt Romney running a third time.”

Don’t bet on this this horse.

Liberal Elizabeth Warren (D): Lacking supporters with cash

Liberal Democrats who believepresidential-campaign-preview-ted-rall-Elizabeth-Warren Clinton is too far to the right and have never forgiven her for her positions on free trade agreements and voting in favor of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 keeps saying they want Massachusetts senator and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. Pictured at left, she would be challenging the former first lady from the Left. But Warren has repeatedly said she isn’t running, her fans don’t have much money, and her actions – well, more like her inaction in not showing up in key primary states like Iowa – support her repeated denials. Count her out. Way out.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D): The other great liberal hope

presidential-campaign-preview-2016-ted-rall-Joe-BidenThe other great liberal hope is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-identified “socialist” (though not a member of an organized socialist American party, and who caucuses with the Democrats and usually votes with them). Unlike Warren, he actually is spending a lot of time in Iowa and has said that he is seriously considering a 2016 primary run. Money is a serious problem for the “class-based campaign” Sanders says he’s interested in pursuing: he only has $7 million in the bank, and the price for running for President of the United States these days can easily exceed $1 billion.

If Sanders runs, it will be in the tradition of the hopeless liberal challenger to the establishment candidate: less Ted Kennedy, who actually gave incumbent resident Jimmy Carter a run for his money in the 1980 Democratic primaries, more George McGovern’s principled 1984 challenge to former vice president Walter Mondale. Sanders wouldn’t be running to win, but in order to articulate the traditional liberalism largely abandoned by the Democratic Party during the 1990s Clinton years of  “triangulation,” micro issues focus grouped by the toe-sucking Machiavellian pollster Dick Morris

Nice symbolism, but Hillary still gets to give the big speech in New York, Philadelphia or Columbus, Ohio.

Now, the Republican side of things is a far more wide-open affair.

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Jeb Bush (R): His last name will haunt him

With the decision of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney to bow out of the 2016 sweepstakes, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the Republican Party establishment’s top choice. But he is far from a shoo-in.

Both party insiders and mainstream political pundits think Bush’s relatively lax views on illegal immigration, though appealing to the Latinos that Republicans need to win in the future and more likely to succeed in the general election in November, would make it difficult for him to get enough votes from the right wing conservatives who dominate the primary process to secure the nomination. Also, he’s a bit late to the races. Although he is already conducting major fundraisers, and is connected to wealthy political patrons through his father and brother, both former presidents, it’s hard to put together that billion bucks in the allotted time.

Bush’s biggest impediment, of course, is also his greatest asset: his surname. Do Americans want to elect a third President Bush in 30 years — especially when neither the first or the second one are held in particularly high regard? From John Quincy Adams to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Robert F. Kennedy, we know Americans are not allergic to political dynasties – and Hillary Clinton is about to prove that again – but Bush is a toxic name for both his aggressive post-9/11 foreign policy and his dismal handling of the banking crisis that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown.

Many Americans still blame Dubya for problems that are occurring today, such as the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Rand Paul (R): The Republican hopeful to watch

rand-paul-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI think Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the Republican hopeful to watch. Although Paul had less than a stellar week – I would say unfairly, since members of the media radically and intentionally spun his nuanced remarks about whether parents ought to have the right to choose to vaccinate their children against diseases like measles, but hey, that’s politics, he’d better get used to it – he has a lot going for him at this particular point in time.

For one thing, he’s a lot less scary to Democrats than many of his fellow Republicans. Particularly on civil liberties and foreign policy, his anti-interventionist views, opposition to unfettered spying on Americans by the NSA, skepticism about the Obama administration’s drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and his critiques of torture and indefinite detention at Guantánamo, Paul comes off as more liberal than many so-called mainstream Democrats, like Hillary Clinton. Were Paul to face off against Clinton in a general election, many liberals might not be able to stomach voting for him, but enough of them might sit home on election day to hand him the presidency.

Within the Republican Party there is also a sense that it’s time to let the libertarian wing takeover from the current dominant corporate and neoconservative strains within the party. Dating at least back to Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party has always relied on its libertarians, but hasn’t rewarded them with a presidential nomination in half a century. Given the disastrous George W. Bush administration, which many conservatives criticized for having run up the deficit and started wars that didn’t put America first, and the growing class divide that even Jeb Bush alluded to, many Republicans may decide to turn to Paul by default – simply for not being a Mitt Romney-type corporatist viewed as out of touch with the country, or another crazy Dick Cheney trying to take over the Muslim world.

One thing’s for sure: with Rand Paul as the nominee, there would be no shortage of impassioned young volunteers counting the pavement in 2016.

Chris Christie (R): Just too much working against him

chris-christie-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-previewI’m going to go out on a limb and say that the idea of Chris Christie, the outspoken New Jersey governor who made a splash for hugging President Obama, as a serious candidate is a joke.

Christie has so many things working against him – ongoing ethics investigations; the lingering hangover of Bridgegate, in which his officials were charged with shutting down the George Washington Bridge to get even with a local politician who didn’t kowtow to him; his – to be charitable – less than telegenic physicality; the fact that he is from New Jersey, which isn’t an important state electorally – that people really shouldn’t be spending a lot of time talking about him.

Moreover, this week’s New York Times story pretty much drives a stake through the governor’s core narrative – that he’s a plainspoken, average Joe just like you and me. Turns out that he routinely stays at five-star hotels and flies in private jets with a huge entourage, like a gangster rapper, and lets the taxpayers or, even worse, politically connected lobbyists with matters pending before his office, pick up the tab.

Maybe people shouldn’t care about these things, but I think they do and they will. In politics, you don’t have to be genuine, but if you’re a hypocrite, you can’t let people find out.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Probably really running for vice-president

marco-rubio-ted-rall-presidential-campaign-preview-2016Conservative intellectuals – yes, there is such a thing – argue that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the next big candidate of big ideas, not to mention a natural for attracting Hispanic votes. But Rubio has an unfortunate tendency to try to weasel out of answering direct questions, even when they aren’t really dangerous.

I suspect that is because Rubio, as you might expect based on his age, is really running for vice president. Sure, maybe you’d like to be president someday, but he knows that 2016 isn’t that year. It’s pretty easy to imagine him paired up with pretty much any other top Republican, with the exception of fellow Floridian Jeb Bush.

Former Arkansas governor and FoxNews personality Mike Huckabee is another much talked about candidate whom I don’t take too seriously. He’s just beginning to test the water now. Really? In early 2015? For a campaign that begins late this summer? I say he’s not really running.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R): Not gunning for the top spot

kasich-walker-presidential-campaign-preview-ted-rallFinally, there’s two other governors, both from the Midwest: John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

My gut tells me that both men are serious about running, but are really in it for the vice presidency. Ohio in particular is a key battleground state, but Wisconsin is important too, and either governor would serve as a nice counterbalance to a presidential standard bearer who is a senator, like Rand Paul. Furthermore, both of them have reputations as political attack dogs, traditionally the role of a running mate.

Walker has antagonized public-sector workers and trade unions in general, and has just proposed a budget that would gut the state’s education system. Kasich, on the other hand, did exactly the opposite, seeking to increase funding for his state’s school systems. Advantage: Kasich. Whether he runs or not, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him wind up as the 2016 vice presidential nominee.

So what happens in the general election?

If I had to put my money on it now, and I’m really happy that I don’t have to, I‘d bet that the Republican nominee will be Rand Paul or Jeb Bush.

In a Paul versus Clinton campaign, I see it as Paul’s to lose. If he doesn’t screw up with some kind of Romney style boneheaded 47 percent remark, and manages to overcome his greatest weakness – the perception that he doesn’t believe that government has a role in helping people – and doesn’t get embroiled in some sort of scandal, he will attract or neutralize enough left-of-center Democrats to beat Clinton, who at this point isn’t exciting to anyone other than older women hoping to see one of their own finally get into the White House.

A Bush versus Clinton match would be much harder to call. Both are highly professional, self-disciplined and somewhat likable on the campaign trail. But it’s hard to imagine anyone getting excited about either one. The prediction I would make about that campaign is that the biggest winner of all would be apathy.

That’s it for now. Excited yet?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Phony Budget Crisis

Forget Austerity. Tax the Rich.

Everywhere you look, from the federal government to the states to your hometown, budget crises abound. Services are being slashed. Politicians and pundits from both parties tell us that the good times are over, that we’ve got to start living within our means.

It’s a lie.

Two case studies have made news lately: California, where new/old governor Jerry Brown is trying to close a $25 billion shortfall with a combination of draconian cuts in public services and a series of regressive tax increases, and Wisconsin, where right-winger Scott Walker says getting rid of unions would eliminate the state’s $137 million deficit.

Never mind the economists, most of whom say an economic death spiral is exactly the worst possible time for government to cut spending. Pro-austerity propaganda has won the day with the American public. A new Rasmussen poll funds that 58 percent of likely voters would approve of a shutdown until Democrats and Republicans can agree on what spending to cut.

The budget “crisis” is a phony construction, the result of right-wing “starve the beast” ideology. There is plenty of money out there—but the pols don’t want it.

There is no need to lay off a single teacher, close a single library for an extra hour, or raise a single fee by one red cent.

Every government can not only balance its budget, but wind up with a surplus.

The solution is simple: tax the rich.

Over the last 50 years tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of wage earners have remained almost static. Meanwhile the rich have received tax cut after tax cut after tax cut. For example, the rate paid by the top 0.01 percent—people who currently get more than $6.5 million a year—fell by half (from 70 to 35 percent).

Times are tough. Someone has to pay. Why not start with those who can most afford it?

Europe has the world’s best food, its best healthcare system and its best vacation policy. It also has one of the fairest ways to generate revenue for government: a wealth tax. In Norway, for example, you pay one percent of your net worth in addition to income tax.

What if we imposed a Norwegian-style wealth tax on the top one percent of U.S. households? We’re not talking upper middle class here: the poorest among them is worth a mere $8.3 million. This top one percent owns 35 percent of all wealth in the United States.

“Such a wealth tax…would raise $191.1 billion each year (one percent of $19.1 trillion), a significant attack on the deficit,” Leon Friedman writes in The Nation. “If we extended the tax to the top 5 percent, we could raise $338.5 billion a year (one percent of 62 percent of $54.6 trillion).”

But that’s just the beginning. Wealthy individuals are nothing next to America’s money-sucking corporations.

Business shills whine that America’s corporate tax rate—35 percent—is one of the world’s highest. But that’s pure theory. Our real corporate rate—the rate companies actually pay after taking advantages of loopholes and deductions—is among the world’s lowest. According to The New York Times, Boeing paid a total tax rate of 4.5 percent over the last five years. (This includes federal, state, local and foreign taxes.) Yahoo paid seven percent. GE paid 14.3 percent. Southwest Airlines paid 6.3 percent. “GE is so good at avoiding taxes that some people consider its tax department to be the best in the world, even better than any law firm’s,” reports the Times‘ David Leonhardt. “One common strategy is maximizing the amount of profit that is officially earned in countries with low tax rates.”

America’s low effective corporate tax rates have left big business swimming in cash while the country goes bust. As of March 2010 non-financial corporations in the U.S. had $26.2 trillion in assets. Seven percent of that was in cash.

The national debt is $14.1 trillion.

Which is a lot. And, you see, entirely by choice.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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