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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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The month that killed the middle class: How October 1973 slammed America

From the Arab oil embargo to the auto workers strike, one month more than 40 years ago changed this nation forever
by Edward McClelland
The month that killed the middle class: How October 1973 slammed America 
Protesters gather in front of the White House calling for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, Oct. 22, 1973. 
Early in 1974, Don Cooper, an autoworker at an Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, Michigan, was demoted from his coveted job in the crankshaft department to the final assembly line, where he had started out as a rookie nine years earlier. Cooper hadn’t done anything wrong. Rather, he was a victim of events 6,000 miles away.
The previous October, Egypt had invaded Israel. When the United States provided military aid to the Jewish state, Saudi Arabia retaliated by cutting off oil exports to Western nations. The Arab Oil Embargo raised the price of gasoline from 36 to 53 cents a gallon — when drivers could get it. To prevent hours-long lines, filling stations sold to cars with odd-numbered license plates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, even plates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Oldsmobile, known for burly, dynamic cars powered by its eight-cylinder Rocket engine, was offering its usual stable of bad-ass American iron: a Cutlass with a 270-horsepower engine; a 98 that measured 19 feet 4 inches from chrome bumper to chrome bumper. But suddenly, customers weren’t buying those gas guzzlers. And when cars weren’t selling, Oldsmobile didn’t need as many crankshafts. So thanks to the latest Arab-Israeli War, Cooper was back on the line.
“That was a rude awakening to go back to final assembly,” Cooper recalled. “I was back on the frame line. I had to ground a radio strap to a firewall, and tighten a brass nut on an air conditioning unit. It was torture to go back.”
October 1973 was a rude awakening for the entire United States. It was a watershed month for the American middle class. The Arab Oil Embargo would lead to the downfall of the American auto industry, whose generous wages and benefits set the standard for the entire economy. It was also the month of the Saturday Night Massacre, which made inevitable the downfall of Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal resulted in changes to the American political system that put more power into the hands of lobbyists, political action committees and wealthy, self-funded candidates. Cooper didn’t know it at the time — nobody knew it — but the moment he started grounding those radio straps and tightening those nuts was the moment the upward fortunes of the American worker hit a wall. From the 1947 to 1973, the golden postwar quarter-century, hourly earnings grew at an average of 2.2 percent a year. Since 1973, they’ve been stagnant, barely keeping up with inflation, even as productivity has boomed.
For the first generation after World War II, American life was defined by one word: “more.” Not just bigger cars and bigger houses, but two cars and two houses. The nation’s standard of living increased dramatically — on a pace to double every 33 years — with much of it generated by the auto industry. In 1949, America’s automobile fleet stood at 45 million. By 1972, it was 116 million — more cars than we could fill up from our own wells. The alpine graph of American prosperity had reached a plateau, and cutting off our supply of foreign oil was all it took to push it downhill.
As the auto industry was a bellwether for the American economy, autoworkers were a bellwether for American labor. In 1970, Cooper, had taken part in the United Auto Workers’ last great nationwide strike. More than 400,000 workers walked out and stayed out for 67 days, until GM gave them everything they wanted: a 19.5 percent wage hike over three years, plus a one-cent an hour raise for every 0.3 percent increase in the consumer price index, and the right to retire after 30 years, at age 58, with a full pension. As he walked the picket line, Cooper was jeered by passing drivers, but as he saw it, he was striking for every worker.
“We used to get stoned in the newspapers every time we’d get something in our contract,” said Cooper, whose father was vice president of his UAW local. “‘Well, the autoworkers drove the price up because they got a raise.’ But then everybody else started getting raises, too.”
In 1973, after a brief strike against Chrysler, the UAW won even more generous perks: a dental plan, a longer holiday break between Christmas and New Year’s and the opportunity to retire on a full pension after 30 years of service at any age. Cooper, who had hired in three months after his high school graduation, as General Motors was ramping up for its bounty of Vietnam War contracts, could now retire at 48.
The day that strike was settled — Sept. 23, 1973 — was the day the American middle class peaked. Cooper knew even then that the labor movement had finally achieved all its goals.
“The union got to a point where we ran out of things to negotiate for,” he said. “What more could we ask for? We had a good wage, we had good health care, we had good pension. Everything was there.”
Less than two weeks later, it all began to unravel. On Oct. 6, the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in an attempt to regain territory lost in the Six-Day War of 1967. As Israeli forces retreated, Golda Meir begged the United States for help. Reluctantly, Nixon sent ammunition, helping Israel repel the Arab attack — and inspiring King Faisal to declare a retaliatory embargo.
The effect on the American economy was twofold: First, the embargo contributed to a recession in which the gross national product fell 2.1 percent, unemployment reached 10 percent, and inflation hit 12 percent. Not even the UAW contract could keep up with those prices. Second, as Don Cooper was learning during his tortuous return to the assembly line, Americans stopped buying American cars. The percentage of disposable income spent on new cars dropped from 4.8 percent to 3.8 percent — the lowest since the Korean War — and a lot of the purchases were fuel-efficient Fiats, Hondas and VW Beetles, which were less expensive to fill up than those street yachts the Lincoln Continental and the Chrysler New Yorker. The Big Three found themselves in a bind, which they soon figured out how to make worse. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn’t want to build small cars, because only ginormous cars provided the profits necessary to pay the wages and benefits they had just lavished on their workers.
“We don’t believe the market is large enough for our own subcompact,” soon-to-be retired Chrysler chairman Lynn Townsend said in 1974. “The Valiant and Dart are the cars people want to buy.”
Forced into the subcompact business by the marketplace, and by the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which mandated a fleet-wide average of 27.5 miles per gallon by 1975, Detroit engineers passive-aggressively designed some of the crappiest cars ever to explode or crack a head gasket on an American roadway: the Plymouth Horizon, the AMC Pacer, the Chevy Chevette, the Ford Escort. These epically damaged the American automakers’ reputations because they were starter cars, purchased for young people by parents who weren’t over World War II enough to buy Japanese. The classic pattern was for drivers to climb the Chevy-Pontiac-Oldsmobile-Buick-Cadillac brand ladder as they became older and more prosperous. But after the floors of their Chevettes rusted out, Baby Boomers bought Corollas with their own money. In 1970, GM produced 45 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., while foreign manufacturers produced 7 percent. Now, foreign auto companies produce half, while GM makes a fifth.
The collapse of the domestic auto industry had serious political consequences for the labor movement — and serious economic consequences for the middle class. Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson all kicked off their presidential campaigns at Detroit’s Labor Day Parade, in recognition of the UAW’s status as labor’s flagship union. By 2012, the UAW was so depeopled it could not prevent the Michigan legislature from passing a right-to-work law. Republicans candidly admitted the bill would have stood no chance when the UAW had 1.5 million members — three times its current strength. Factory closings cost unions their political clout, giving Republicans an opportunity to finish them off.
October 1973’s second blow to the middle class occurred on the 20th, when President Nixon refused Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox’s demand for the Oval Office tapes. When Cox wouldn’t back down, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson resigned. So did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, leaving Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox. The so-called Saturday Night Massacre was an act of presidential lawlessness that marked the beginning of the end of Nixon’s presidency.
“Until last night,” the Washington Post reported on Oct. 21, “Congress had appeared extremely reluctant to even consider the impeachment step seriously.”
After that night, even Republicans began calling for Nixon’s removal from office. “The House of Representatives should consider to begin impeachment proceedings,” said Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. The next week, Rep. Jerome Waldie, a California Democrat, introduced a resolution calling Nixon’s “obstruction of justice” grounds for impeachment.
A politician who called his ideal voter a 47-year-old machinist’s wife outside Dayton, Nixon was a working man’s president. According to Herbert Stein, a member of his Council of Economic Advisers, Nixon was “allergic to unemployment.” In announcing his 1971 budget, he called himself a Keynesian. The following year, he proved it, ordering his Cabinet to increase spending to reduce unemployment. Nixon’s solution to inflation was wage and price controls — “a radical departure from conservative, free market philosophy” — not the job-killing interest rate hikes later imposed by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Part of it was a political strategy, to lure white working-class voters away from the Democrats, but part of it was his own hardscrabble upbringing on a California lemon ranch.
But the changes Watergate wrought on the American political system have been more enduring than the dismissal of a labor-friendly president with only two-and-a-half years left in office. The Watergate Babies — young Democrats elected to the House in the wake of Nixon’s resignation — took advantage of their numbers and of popular revulsion against The Way Things Are Done in Washington to break the power of long-serving committee chairmen who had controlled the flow of congressional legislation. The House became more democratic, but the nation didn’t. Money replaced seniority as the most important factor in moving a bill. Lobbyists and political action committees began showing up in greater numbers to make sure members cast the correct votes, rewarding those who did, punishing those who didn’t. The cost of campaigns increased.
“From an institution dominated by 20 or so powerful leaders, Congress has evolved into a collection of 535 independent political entrepreneurs with their individual interests uppermost — i.e., to get re-elected,” wrote Fareed Zakaria in his book “The Future of Freedom.” “Among the most consequential reforms of the 1970s was the move toward open committee meetings and recorded votes. Committee chairs used to run meetings at which legislation was ‘marked up’ behind closed doors. Only members and a handful of senior staff were present. By 1973 not only were the meetings open to anyone, but every vote was formally recorded. Before this, in voting on amendments members would walk down aisles for the ayes and nays. The final count would be recorded but not the stand of each individual member. Now each member has to vote publicly on every amendment. The purpose of these changes was to make Congress more open and responsive. And so it has become — to money, lobbyists and special interests.”
“Most Americans have neither the time, the interest, nor the inclination to monitor Congress on a day-to-day basis. But lobbyists and activists do, and they use the information and access to ensure that the groups they represent are well taken care of in the federal budget and the legal code.”
Since 1976, the first election following the Watergate Babies’ arrival, the price of getting elected to Congress has quadrupled, to $1.4 million. In such an environment, wealthy candidates have a huge advantage.
Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley  was the cartoonists’ model of the pot-bellied, streetwise, inarticulate back-room ward boss overthrown by the telegenic young New Politicians of the 1970s. But he believed his Machine was a vehicle for upward mobility: “The party permits ordinary people to get ahead,” he once said. “Without the party, I couldn’t be mayor. The rich guys can get elected on their money, but somebody like me, an ordinary person, needs the party.”
In telling the story of a Pennsylvania steel mill foreman elected to Congress in 1974, the Washington Post wrote, “it wasn’t nearly so unusual for a person with few assets besides a home to win and serve in Congress. But from 1984 to 2009, the median net worth of a House member increased from $280,000 to $725,000, in inflation-adjusted dollars,” while the median net worth of the average citizen remained stuck at around $20,000.
Politicians so far removed from the financial struggles of the middle class are less likely to govern with its interests in mind. The current holder of Richard J. Daley’s job is Rahm Emanuel, who earned $18 million as an investment banker. (In 2011, I dubbed him Mayor 1%, an epithet since adopted by his enemies.) The newly inaugurated governor of Illinois is Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist who is trying to prevent public-sector unions from collecting dues, and has proposed cutting pensions for state employees. This is the cynical end game of economic libertarians’ war on labor: After reducing private sector unions to a fraction of their old membership, they direct the resentment of the newly impoverished working class at public-sector employees getting a “sweet deal” at the expense of struggling taxpayers no longer earning that kind of money.

Modern Business Practices

GOP In Chaos

Tea Party politics cartoon by Daryl Cagle via Cagle Comics. http://www.cagle.com
‘We Really Don’t Have 218 Votes To Determine A Bathroom Break Over Here On Our Side’
We’ve known for years that the Republican Party was being overwhelmed by rabid fanatics. Now establishment Republicans are starting to admit it out loud.

Koch-Funded Professor Publicly Calls For Less Democracy

A university professor funded by the Koch brothers has very publicly and openly called for less democracy to reduce the power of the majority.…
Koch kills democracy
Over the past six  years Republicans have been on an absolute tear to restrict participation in democracy to voters who are hardline Christian Republicans, and by all appearance the purpose was more than just electing conservative extremists. No matter how one attempts to frame the GOP’s voter suppression crusade, it is beyond refute that Republicans just cannot countenance democracy. Based on the organizations driving and writing voter suppression legislation across the nation, it is obvious the Koch brothers hate democracy nearly as much as they hate government. Now, a university professor heavily funded by the Koch brothers has very publicly and openly called for less democracy to reduce the power of the majority.
The professor from George Mason University, the college where students protested the Koch Foundation’s largest-ever donation to the school, gave a speech this week straight from Koch’s vision for America. The gist of the speech was typical Koch-ALEC ideology; “we need less democracy.” The professor of Economics and the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Dr. Garrett Jones, gave a lecture targeting what is arguably the core value America is founded upon; democracy. Jones argued that the reason America needs less democracy is because “it leaves power to the majority,” and that there is a better form of governance based on ‘epistocracy.’ Epistocracy, according to the Kochs, leads to better governance “by the knowledgeable” whose only concern is long term economic growth borne of unrestricted free market capitalism. Jones did  not call for the immediate elimination of the democratic process, but he did say that a good start is to reduce democracy by 10 percent for the sake of governing according to “the knowledgeable,” and not “we the people” with complete focus on economic growth.
The reason the Kochs, and obviously Republicans, hate democracy is that as the Founders intended, it leaves power in the hands of the people instead of a small cabal of the wealthy elite. Obviously, it is something the Kochs did not share with teabaggers when they funded their rise to power; but it is woefully too late even for the “don’t tread on me crowd” now that Kochs own two-thirds of the government. What the Kochs want, and paid handsomely for, is a government founded on epistocracy that grants unrestricted power to rule on free market capitalists the Kochs have deemed “the knowledgeable.”
In the Koch’s vision, “the knowledgeable” are those laser focused on long term economic growth for the filthy oligarchs; not the people and certainly not the sustained existence of the nation. The Koch professor’s perverted sense of democracy assumes that politicians are errantly inclined to work for their constituents and therefore they are disposed to neglect long-term policies that work for the rich simply because “they are elected through the democratic process” and not “installed to govern” by the rich; something the Kochs have spent a fortune to see reach fruition.
A prime example of the Koch’s installing “the knowledgeable” to govern according to epistocracy is the new director of the one-time non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The Koch House’s Budget Chairman,  Tom Price, said appointing a new trickle-down devotee as head of the CBO “is just part of the change the Koch-GOP wants to see established to govern; particularly to advance their failed trickle down economic policy featuring austerity and deregulation. The new Koch acolyte was George W. Bush’s chief economist and will dutifully do the bidding of the Kochs because as Price said, “the answers that we get from the Congressional Budget Office aren’t the answers we think are correct.” Translation: they were honest answers borne of the facts.
Republicans are intent on “modernizing the rules” that govern and outline government finances; including rewriting rules the CBO uses to evaluate tax cuts for the rich as  always “good for long term economic growth” and spending on domestic programs as wrong because it is what “the people” want. Only a comatose American would not know what Koch Republicans think is good for long term economic growth; greater tax cuts for the rich, and slashing spending on domestic programs whether it is infrastructure repair and maintenance or providing healthcare for disabled Veterans.
Republicans were giddy about having “the knowledgeable” govern according to the Koch idea of ‘long term economic growth’ for their benefit. Republican Representative Price boasted that Bush’s former chief economist, Doug Hall, “Brings great experience. He was in President Bush’s council of economic advisers, and served also dealing with how to explain these sometimes difficult economic issues in ways that members of Congress are able to grasp, and sometimes that’s a challenge.” Americans already lived through a devastating Bush economic disaster,  and so did members of Congress, and regardless how well “the knowledgeable” explain the difficult trickle down scam, it is still giving away everything to the rich and will not benefit anyone but the wealthy elite. The Kochs understand that most Americans are not going to be fooled again, so the only way to install “the knowledgeable” to govern according to Koch economic ideology is to reduce democracy.
Although it is astounding that the Kochs are allowing their acolytes to publicly call for less democracy, it is not a novel concept. Over a year ago the Koch’s primary legislative arm in the states, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), publicly refused to sign a pledge supporting democracy; particularly after being the driving force behind every voter suppression law in the nation. Merely nine months later, every Republican politician was openly criticizing as patently wrong any measure making it easier for Americans to participate in democracy including thwarting efforts to register Americans to vote. Only a fool is surprised that the Kochs and Republicans want democracy gone, but it is stunning that they are saying it within public earshot.
Now that the Kochs have fairly reduced democracy by more than 10% and have started installing “the knowledgeable” to govern over ‘we the people’ it appears that once again President Obama is Americans’ last great hope if for no other purpose than to veto Koch legislation. Americans have to come to grips with the disparaging revelation that their right to vote is not long for this world unless they are white Christian extremist conservatives. It is likely that few Americans would have thought they would live to see a time when they would hear a public call for less democracy, but that is the price they pay for not participating in democracy when they had the chance.

Like Diogenes ...

Like Diogenes seeking an honest man, he has a long hard road ahead of him
(Just remember Liberals - you have to explain classic references to wingnuts and even then they still won't understand)

The Issue for the Supreme Court Is Not Obamacare, But Obama

Earl Ofari Hutchinson Headshotby Earl Ofari Hutchinson 
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was lambasted as a turncoat, traitor and betrayer by conservatives when he cast the deciding fifth vote in 2012 upholding the constitutional soundness of the Affordable Care Act. This allowed states and the federal government to put in an array of measures to fully implement the act. That didn't end the matter. Conservatives dug deep and found a provision buried in the law that purports that only states and not the federal government can set up insurance exchanges. The case is King vs. Burwell. If the court upholds the challenge it would nullify the subsidies in the form of IRS approved tax credits that the millions who signed up for coverage in those states receive.
The case is far more than just another of the never ending challenges to the act. It's a politically loaded challenge to President Obama. The GOP and conservatives bank on its four trump cards on the court, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and yes Roberts, to gut the act.
They may get their wish this time with Roberts. Despite his momentary defection in upholding the law three years ago, he and the other three justices, along with Anthony Kennedy, have turned the number 5 to 4 into a fine art. That's their reflexive vote against any and every Obama administration position, initiative, or piece of legislation that's challenged and winds up before the court.
In the Hobby Lobby ruling they, and Kennedy, ruled that privately-held corporations can refuse on religious grounds to cover the cost of contraceptives for its employees was typical. It was a blow to the Act. The ruling, though, was the standard template for Robert and the others war on Obama. They, and Kennedy, have ruled more than a dozen times that Obama has allegedly badly abused his constitutional authority in decisions, appointments, and court appeals. They undergirded the GOP's relentless gripe that Obama is a serial constitutional usurper.
In a majority of cases, Roberts and the other conservatives have ruled against the Obama administration's position on the big ticket issues of voting rights, affirmative action, corporate and property rights, and union and environmental protections. Their assault has had little to do with the law, and everything to do with politics and ideology. Their decisions put bluntly against him are blatant partisan political pandering. Roberts and the other three justices were appointed by Republican presidents. The other four justices that almost always back the Obama administration in their votes on court cases were appointed by him or other Democratic presidents.
On the presidential campaign trail in 2000, George W. Bush was asked if elected what kind of judge he'd look for and nominate. He didn't hesitate. He pledged to appoint "strict constructionists" to the court and specifically named Thomas, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist as the judges that perfectly fit that description. By then the three had already carved out a hard line niche as three of the most reflexive, knee jerk, reactionary jurists to grace the court in decades.
In the King vs. Burwell case, the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute and the litigious Competitive Enterprise Institute are running the point on the case. They bank on two things to get the court to hack saw the act. One is the inherent partisan political bias of Roberts and the other three judges. The other is that they will adhere unbendingly to the narrow of narrowest strict constructionist reading of the law. They will hold that the four words "established by the states" which is in the wording of the act makes no mention of the federal government establishing buyer exchanges complete with subsidies. The Obama administration correctly argues that the court should follow the plain sense text of the law and prior precedents which clearly permit tax credits to individuals whether the exchanges are state established or established by the federal government.
If the judges, joined by Kennedy, indeed act according to the expected script, it will be another notch in the GOP's hit plan on Obamacare. Beyond that it will stand as yet another in the long train of crude, cynical political ploys to inflame millions of Americans and stoke hostility to Obama and the Democrats. This could sharpen the already considerable political edge the GOP got when it grabbed the Senate and tightened its grip on the House in the 2014 midterm elections. A court victory on Obamacare could give it even more momentum in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.
The big loser in this cynical knock at Obama will be the millions who potentially could lose their coverage in the 34 states with federally established exchanges. That's of little importance to the GOP and their reliable four justices who have waged ruthless war against Obama. The issue for both in this case as always is not Obamacare, but Obama.

Darrell Issa Humiliates Himself On CNN While Calling For Criminal Charges Against Hillary Clinton

During an interview on CNN, Rep. Darrell Issa embarrassed himself by first admitting that Hillary Clinton didn’t break a law for which there was a penalty, but he called for criminal charges against Clinton anyway.
During the same CNN interview, Rep. Issa (R-CA) first admitted that Hillary Clinton committed no crime:
So did she comply with the public integrity requirement? No, she didn’t. Did she break a law for which there is a penalty? Not really. But there’s a big difference between being open, transparent, honest and having public integrity and only when you get caught do you turn in documents. And I think, Michael…
Later, Issa suggested that Clinton could face criminal charges related to the Republican subpoena for documents that they already had:
Michael, Trey — Trey — Trey Gowdy, the chairman, and Adam Schiff have one thing in common. They both served in U.S. attorney’s office. And they both know that voluntary cooperation does not guarantee that it’s a crime not to deliver all.
A subpoena which Trey Gowdy issued is so that in fact it will be a crime if she knowingly withholds documents pursuant to subpoena. He needed to do that because she wasn’t forthcoming two-and-a-half years ago. She, in fact, hid the very existence of this until she was caught. And the fact that they knew in August..
Darrell Issa Hillary Clinton emailsIn typical Issa fashion, the California Republican admitted that Hillary Clinton hadn’t committed a crime, but he warned that in the process of not committing a crime she could face criminal charges based on a subpoena that was issued for documents that already exists.
At some point, CNN needs to stop giving Darrell Issa airtime. The man manages to embarrass himself while making no sense every time they put him in front of the camera. Issa’s answers highlighted the main problem with Republican scandal. How can Hillary Clinton be not guilty of committing a crime, but at the same time guilty of crimes that Republicans imagine that she committed? The more that Republicans talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails, the faster this “scandal” falls apart.
Republicans are a party in search of a scandal. If a scandal doesn’t exist, Republicans like Darrell Issa will make one up while humiliating themselves in the process.

Republican Colin Powell Deals a Death Blow to Hillary Clinton Email Scandal

On ABC’s This Week, former Sec. of State Colin Powell admitted that he used a private email account for public business. Powell’s explanation of why he used a private email account amounted to a death blow for Republicans who are trying to build a scandal out of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Transcript via ABC’s This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I do want to ask you one final question on this Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy. Which, of course, put you back in the news a bit this week, as well.

You were secretary of State during the early days of e-mails. You were one of the first secretaries, I believe, to set up a personal e-mail account. And you pushed to modernize the State Department’s system.

Based on your experience, what do you make of these revelations this week and what would you recommend that she do now?

POWELL: I — I can’t speak to a — Mrs. Clinton and what she should do now. That would be inappropriate.

What I did when I entered the State Department, I found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly.

So we put in place new systems, bought 44,000 computers and put a new Internet capable computer on every single desk in every embassy, every office in the State Department. And then I connected it with software.

But in order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century.

But I retained none of those e-mails and we are working with the State Department to see if there’s anything else they want to discuss with me about those e-mails.


POWELL: (INAUDIBLE) have a stack of them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — they’ve asked you to turn them over, but you don’t have them, is that it?

POWELL: I don’t have any — I don’t have any to turn over. I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files.

And, in fact, a lot of the e-mails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system. They were addressed to State Department employees and the State.gov domain. But I don’t know if the servers the State Department captured those or not.

And most — they were all unclassified and most of them, I think, are pretty benign, so I’m not terribly concerned even if they were able to recover them.
colin powell hillary clinton emailsPowell’s description of his own emails as pretty benign matches up with Rep. Adam Schiff’s description of the Hillary Clinton emails that the Benghazi committee has read. According to Sen. Chuck Schumer, Clinton’s private email system was based on the system that Powell used.

The technology available in most federal agencies is woefully outdated. It isn’t surprising that appointees would use technology that is available in the private sector because it is better. Powell’s emails from his personal account went into the State Department system because they were addressed to employees in State. The same is the case with the Clinton emails. Powell’s discussion of his own experience with his personal email account adds credibility to the claim that there is nothing to see here.
If Hillary Clinton broke the law, as some Republicans are claiming, then Colin Powell also broke the law.
The more that is revealed about the use of private email, the more it looks like Republicans are trying to make something out of nothing. It has been a bad day for the Republican Clinton email scandal, and it is only going to get worse for the Republican Party as they continue to go down what looks like a dead end.

The Clowns


Republican Senators Write To Leaders Of Iran, Attempt To Sabotage Nuclear Deal

by Igor Volsky
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Forty-seven Republican senators are seeking to undermine the international negotiations aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear program with an open letter to the government of Iran, warning the Persian leaders that any deal they strike with the United States and its international partners will not last past the Obama administration.
Arguing that the Senate must ratify a treaty by “a two-thirds vote,” the senators argue that they “will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.” “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they warn.
The letter, which was organized by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), was first reported by Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin.
The administration has sought to bypass Congressional approval of the deal, noting that Republicans — and some Democrats — have attempted to scuttle an agreement even before it is reached and are not working in good faith on an issue that would be a big win for the president. If a deal is in fact reached, Obama will use executive actions and waivers to suspend some sanctions, but will ultimately need to rely on Congress for more substantial relief.
Administration officials could also argue that Congress will have a hard time derailing any agreement that is reached by the United States and its international partners — Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — particularly if the Iranians comply with nuclear inspections. Doing so could jeopardize America’s relationships with its allies and be seen as internationally provocative towards a military conflict with Iran.
The ongoing negotiations are seeking to limit Iran’s ability to enrich weapons-grade uranium, reduce its number of operating centrifuges and advanced centrifuges, and lower its low-enriched uranium stockpiles. The emerging agreement would allow Iran to retain some parts of its nuclear infrastructure but delay the “breakout” period for developing a weapon by more than a year.
Cotton, a freshman senator from Arkansas, has a long record in trying to scuttle any deal with Iran. In 2013, Cotton labeled an interim agreement that froze Iran’s nuclear program “humiliating defeat” for the U.S. and a “total victory” for Iran and pressed for additional sanctions. He pressed Congress to supply Israel with bunker buster bombs to aid Israel in a military strike against Iran and introduced legislation to punish the family members of people who violate Iran sanctions, a measure that he later withdrew after legal experts called it unconstitutional.
Iran and its negotiating partners must agree to broad principles on limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities no later than March 24 and reach an agreement on the technical aspects of the deal by June 30.

Illinois Republican Facing Numerous Ethics Violations

by Randa Morris 
This week the US Justice Department announced that it intends to charge Democratic Senator, Bob Menendez. Menendez is accused of accepting gifts, including lavish vacations, in return for political favors. Good. If Menendez is corrupt, and I’ve no doubt he is, then he needs to be removed from office and held accountable for his crimes. My only question is, why is it taking the Justice Department so long to bring charges against Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock?
Schock is currently serving his third term in Congress. Yet, the first allegations of corruption against him surfaced in 2009. That year he used money from his election campaign to pay for things like a flight on a sea plane and an expensive hotel in Greece. While travel expenses can be covered with campaign funds, those expenses must be related to official campaign activities. Unless Schock was attempting to recruit foreign voters or solicit foreign donations to his election campaign, there’s no way spending money on travel to Greece was legal.
Schock repaid the money he spent on his trip to Greece, but questions about his ethics have only compounded since then.
In 2012, an ethics complaint filed against Schock by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleges that Schock attempted to solicit a $25,000 contribution from House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. The money was to go to a super PAC backing Schock’s campaign. The only problem is that it is illegal for federal officeholders to solicit donations over $5,000 on behalf of a super PAC.
Following a review by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE ) the House Ethics Committee also began an investigation. In December of 2014, the investigation was extended.
More recently, Schock again made headlines in February, after unveiling his newly remodeled ‘Downton Abbey’ style office. The lavish furnishings and extravagant interior redesign was valued at $40,000.
According to CREW:
The redesign featured lavish accoutrements, including a crystal chandelier, a gold wall sconce, and arrangements of pheasant feathers. The redesign was provided by Anne Brahler, an interior decorator from Illinois, and her firm, Euro Trash. A member of Rep. Schock’s staff told the Post Ms. Brahler “offered her services for free.” Ms. Brahler also redesigned Rep. Schock’s previous congressional office.
If you’ve been following the case against  Senator Menendez, you’re probably already aware that it is illegal for federal officeholders to accept gifts valued at more than $50.00.
Menendez will soon be facing federal charges, all of which appear to relate to undisclosed in-kind gifts of travel from a long-time friend, Salomon Melgen.
According to the Associated Press, Schock has a long list of questionable travel expenses, including trips to Saudi Arabia and London, where he enjoyed the horse races and attended events at both Windsor and Buckingham Palaces. Additionally, it seems as if taxpayers may have picked up the tab for a whole lot of other outlandishly extravagant stuff, from expensive personal cigars to Taylor Swift concert tickets.
Additionally, Schock has spent a shockingly large amount of taxpayer money on expenses paid to some of his largest campaign contributors. The Associated Press found that between 2011 and February of this year, Schock had spent more than $40,000 for travel on private planes, owned by donors to his campaign. Prior to January, 2013, House rules prohibited representatives from using office funds to pay for travel on private air craft at all. Yet the AP reports that the majority of Schock’s payments were made before that date. For details on individual expenses, who was paid and how much, click here.
CREW has also asked the OCE to investigate a real estate deal, in which Schock was paid more than $100,000 over market value, for a property he sold to another of his campaign donors.

Watch Bill Maher Let Loose On ‘Blatant, Bald-Assed Liar’ Bill O’Reilly

by Mark NC :
The heat is being turned up on pathological liar Bill O’Reilly and his enablers at Fox News. The numerous accounts of his deliberately falsifying his resume with self-aggrandizing tales of journalistic heroism continue to be the source of deserved criticism and ridicule. The latest dishonorable mention for O’Reilly comes from comedian Bill Maher, who was characteristically candid on his HBO program last night (video below).
Bill O'Reilly - Bill Maher
Maher was puzzled about the lack of attention that O’Reilly has received from much of the press for his obvious embellishments and outright lies about his experiences as a reporter. So Maher let O’Reilly’s own words bury him by merely reading the things that O’Reilly said that have been proven to be false.
“These are out-and-out lies. Now, I understand why Fox News backs him because they’re not really a news service. They’re like, ‘You expect the truth? That’s not what we do here.’ But why isn’t the mainstream media going after him with the same ferocity – the supposedly ‘liberal media’ – as they did to Brian Williams?”
Good question. At this point the evidence of O’Reilly’s dishonesty is overwhelming. His resorting to overt threats aimed at reporters covering the story is typical of his bullying tactics. His cowardly refusal to address the substance of the allegations proves that he has no defense other than to shout and stamp his feet and brag about his ratings.
Indeed, O’Reilly’s ratings are quite good for a cable news program. But that’s nothing to brag about when your product is unmitigated bullcrap. By failing to hold O’Reilly accountable, Fox News is embracing and condoning his moral and professional transgressions and conceding that their network proudly employs liars and engages in unabashed deception. It is an insult to their viewers who they presume will accept any heaping portion of steaming shitola that’s put in front of them. Well, on that note Fox may be right. After all, their viewers have been eating up O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin and Donald Trump for years.
The mindset of Fox was perfectly framed by Maher’s conservative panelist, Genevieve Wood of the ultra-rightist Heritage Foundation. She excused Fox’s failure to sanction O’Reilly because, unlike Williams who acknowledged and apologized for his embellishments, O’Reilly stubbornly denies that he misrepresented anything in his past, the facts notwithstanding. In a state of severe delusional panic, Wood said…
“Fox is going to defend him as long as he’s saying ‘I did what I said I did,’ and nobody else is really able to challenge it.”
Huh? Everybody else is able to challenge it. And it isn’t just people who have different recollections of the distant past. There are contemporaneous videos and tape recordings of O’Reilly himself that contradict his present day mythologies about his grand adventures. But Wood’s justification neatly fits the Fox view of news. They regard it as a mutable commodity that can be molded to whatever serves their agenda. And Fox will indeed continue to defend O’Reilly because he is doing what they pay him to do – which is to lie.
Consequently, it is time that the rest of the media acknowledge that Fox is not in any way, shape, or form a news enterprise. They are purveyors of propaganda and disseminaters of deception. They have no journalistic principles or respect for their audience. They are comfortable with liars like O’Reilly because lying doesn’t violate their standards, it upholds them. And for those who say that O’Reilly’s malfeasance is different than Williams’ because O’Reilly is an opinion commentator and not a journalist, they need to remember that he was, in fact, a journalist when he did the things about which he is lying today. Also, when discussing factual events there is no exemption from truth-telling for opinion commentators.
Finally, for those who say that catching Fox News lying isn’t newsworthy because everyone knows they do it, that is a cop-out. It remains the obligation of legitimate news operations to report the sort of serious departures from the truth that O’Reilly has demonstrated. And any news organization that condones such dishonesty must not be treated as a credible news source. The media cannot continue to pretend that Fox has anything to do with news.

McConnell’s Message To Minorities On Selma Anniversary: Your Vote Won’t Count

When asked about the Voting Rights Act on Face The Nation, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s message to minority voters was that he has no interest in making sure that their votes will count.
Transcript via Face The Nation:
SCHIEFFER: Yesterday, down in Selma, the president made an impassioned plea to Congress to restore Voting Rights Act. Will you support that?
MCCONNELL: Well, the Voting Rights Act is still intact. It prevents discrimination in the voting behavior all across America based on race.
The Supreme Court took out a portion of it. We are taking a look at that. Certainly, this is an important, important occasion. Bob, just interestingly enough, I was a young man in 1965 visiting one of my senators from Kentucky, and he took me over to the Rotunda, and I actually saw Lyndon Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act.
And that was, of course, four or five months after Bloody Sunday. It has been an extraordinarily important piece of legislation. It prevents discrimination in voting on the basis of race all over America. And we all revere the changes that have been brought in our country as a result of this important legislation.
mitch mcconnell voting rights act face the nationThat was a big no on restoring The Voting Rights Act from Sen. McConnell. Mitch McConnell has repeatedly dodged any questions about the Voting Rights Act. His answer on Face The Nation was to claim that the law is still intact. The problem is that the Voting Rights Act is not intact. It was gutted by the Supreme Court. The shell of what remains is called the Voting Rights Act, but it a law with no teeth.
McConnell tried to dodge the question after the Supreme Court decision, but he gave away his position when he said, “Well, I haven’t read [the decision] yet. Obviously, it is an important bill that passed back in the sixties, at a time when we had a very different America than we have today. […] I think I’m just going to have to read it first, but I would say that I do think America is very different from what it was in the 1960s.”
In Mitch McConnell’s America, billionaires like the Koch brothers get unlimited power while minorities and others have to fight to have their votes counted. The message in McConnell’s statements on Face The Nation was that voting rights aren’t a priority, and unless you are a rich Koch brother, Sen. McConnell doesn’t care about your role in the democratic process.

Republican Selma


Arizona Wants To Kick 500,000 Low-Income People Off Of Medicaid

The state wants to put a five-year limit on the program and add a work requirement.

Kentucky GOP Clears Path For Rand Paul's Bids For Senate, White House

From the "Inbreeders" Department: 
Rand Paul 

Florida Officials Banned The Term 'Climate Change'

From the "Idiots on Parade" Department:
Rick Scott

Next Time Someone Talks About Welfare Fraud, Tell Them About These Farmers

by Wendy Gittleson 
Republicans, in their efforts to deflect blame for our economic problems, have managed to successfully put it on the backs of the poor – whether they be people wanting a livable wage, or people who need a little help.
“Welfare fraud” is code for elitism. People who are barely middle class turn their noses up at the lesser, often black, people. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in “real America,” a.k.a. all the rural land between Fresno and Buffalo.
Everyone should know that welfare fraud is almost non-existent. Let me rephrase that. Welfare fraud does exist, but the vast majority of it comes from charities and storeowners, not the poor recipients.
But there is another type of fraud which is being perpetrated by the recipients of government money. It’s farm insurance fraud and it’s costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Now, this type of fraud, like welfare fraud, is only being perpetrated by a tiny fraction of farm insurance policy holders but instead of $100s of dollars, we are talking millions.
There was the North Carolina couple who faked hail damage to their crops by telling workers to throw ice cubes and scatter mothballs onto a tomato field; the South Dakota couple who fleeced the government by collecting $1 million in wool payments for sheep they didn’t own; and the Texas man who spent one year in prison for filing a claim for cotton he never planted.
Fraud is one of the biggest issues in the federal farm program and costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year, according to Chad Marzen, a lawyer and Florida State University professor who specializes in insurance law and regulation.
Source: Associated Press
In one case, the Johnson brothers intentionally made their crop of potatoes rot by adding already rotten potatoes and boosted the heat to make them all rot.
Aaron and Derek Johnson will likely be sentenced to prison after being found guilty by a jury, but their lawyer is arguing that if they stay out of prison, they might have a chance to pay the government back. They frauded the U.S. Agriculture Department of more than $1 million.
There are many more like the Johnsons, but they are hard to catch. The Johnsons were only caught because a farm hand who was in his own legal trouble made a deal and became an informant.
While surveillance techniques and other law enforcement tools are helping to catch the fraud, the farm subsidy and farm insurance programs need a serious overhaul. Depending on the market, farmers can often make more by losing or simply not growing a crop than by selling it.
Farmers are subsidized to grow the crops like soy and corn, that go into the most unhealthy types of processed foods. Like welfare, farm subsidies and insurance were intended as temporary lifelines, but have since turned into a regular income.
The SNAP program (food stamps) is by far the largest portion of the farm bill, but there is no way an individual food stamp recipient can milk the government out of $1 million, especially when the average monthly payment for food stamps is just $133 a month.