A Senate re-election announcement you'll never hear

A make-up woman brushes a small lock of my hair so it drapes slightly over my forehead. That errant wisp tested well with focus groups of women. I glance at the TelePrompter, reciting silently the first few lines. My administrative aide, a former K Street lobbyist doing a two-year turn of “public service” before returning to her high six-figure income, reminds me to at least act humble. The director raises his hand: “five, four, three, two …” and points to me. I begin to speak to the many millions of registered voters in my state whom I have deluded and misled for three terms.

Good evening, my fellow Americans. I’m here tonight to announce that I will seek re-election to another term as your United States senator. I’d like to tell you why it’s important that you return me to a fourth term in office.

I have accumulated power on the Hill. Continue reading

Filibuster reform and the zombie apocalypse

Once I was a believer in the time-honored Senate filibuster tradition, although by “believer” I don’t necessarily mean that I loved it or revered it, exactly. I was more like a guy worried about a zombie apocalypse stocking up on 12-gauge shells. In case things go to hell, at least the good guys have the filibuster to slow the lumbering herd of dead meat down a little, right? So, I believed in the filibuster the way a B-grade horror flick protagonist might believe in ammunition.

The main difference between the Senate and a zombie apocalypse, of course, is that zombies aren’t real but the Senate is very much upon us. Also, in neither case does it look like we have enough ammo.

The last few years have changed the equation significantly. Continue reading

How to get ahead on Capitol Hill: Use a leadership PAC to buy power

I’m in my second term in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m a Republocrat. I like the job. It pays $174,000, has great medical benefits, provides a really nice private gym to use, and lots of people have to be nice to me. And there are those $110,000 in taxpayer-funded fringe benefits I get (including plush retirement plans, paid time off, and contributions to Social Security and Medicare taxes). I’ve got a staff to answer the phone and email, run my Twitter and Facebook stuff, and deal with those damned constituents. And I’m in a relatively safe district, thanks to that Republocrat-friendly redistricting bill passed in my state last year. Hey, sometimes people let me use their corporate jets! (Well, as long as I keep quiet about those trips and pay commercial airfare for it.)

Yeah. This is a sweet gig. I want to stay here. In fact, I want to … move up. Be in the leadership. Be a mover and shaker. Now how am I gonna do that beyond kissing the speaker’s ass (and those of his damn deputies, too) and voting however he (or she) tells me to?

It will take money for that Republocrat to ascend higher in the House’s toadying ladder of leadership. Lots of money. And as we know, House members (and senators) have a vehicle to collect and dispense money to other House members — the leadership political action committee. A principal reason for the existence of leadership PACs to is buy friends and influence on Capitol Hill. Apparently, hard work and intelligence are insufficient.
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The 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards (corrected)

[*B.S. means “Bad Science.” What did you think it meant?]

by Peter H. Gleick
Crossposted at Forbes and Huffington Post. To see S&R’s climate-related posts, click here

[Correction: Katharine Hayhoe was misidentified as a Republican in the original post at Forbes and HuffPo. This has been corrected below.

Peter Gleick updated the original posts at HuffPo and Forbes and removed Ben Webster from the Second Place text. S&R has updated this post to bring it in line with Gleick’s update.]

The Earth’s climate continued to change during 2011 – a year in which unprecedented combinations of extreme weather events killed people and damaged property around the world. The scientific evidence for the accelerating human influence on climate further strengthened, as it has for decades now. Yet on the policy front, once again, national leaders did little to stem the growing emissions of greenhouse gases or to help societies prepare for increasingly severe consequences of climate changes, including rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea-levels, loss of snowpack and glaciers, disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and much more.

Why the failure to act? In part because climate change is a truly difficult challenge. But in part because of a concerted, well-funded, and aggressive anti-science campaign by climate change deniers and contrarians. Continue reading

End poverty. Attack it. Now.

You know someone who lives in poverty. You may not realize it, but you do. Given that one of every six Americans lives in poverty, someone you know suffers from one of the most punishing and oppressing of all human conditions.

Too many of us blithely consider poverty to be limited to certain geographical locations such as the “inner city.” Too many of us believe poverty is limited to, perhaps, mostly a certain skin color. Too many of us attribute poverty to the lack of an “appropriate” work ethic, a lack of ambition, or a desire to “cheat the system.” The poor live in cities, they’re not white, they’re lazy, and they’re sucking up my tax dollars unfairly.

Discard that attitude. It’s disgusting. Poverty privileges no race, no gender, no occupation, no geography.
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The tax break that didn't create jobs, and now corporations want another one

Imagine corporations telling you they want to create American jobs in exchange for a tax break. Thanks to a compliant Congress, they get a cheap rate on billions of dollars of profits — and cut thousands of American jobs instead. (Pfizer and Hewlett-Packard come to mind.)

After the turn of the century, hundreds of multinationals, such as Pfizer and H-P, nominally headquartered in the United States had a problem. They had about $300 billion in profits parked overseas. They wanted to bring that money home — a process artfully called repatriation of funds.

Their opponent was the U.S. tax code: To repatriate profits, the code said they’d have to pay 35 cents on every dollar brought home. So they sweet-talked (that’s called lobbying) their friends in Congress (their hired elected minions) to fix the problem. Their congressional chums were glad to help out by lowering the tax bite to 5 cents for every dollar brought home. The lobbying effort was a good investment: For every buck the corporations spent, they got $220 back.

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'Oh, Congress! Oh, Congress! God mend thine ev'ry flaw'

When the national anthem is sung, I place my hand over my heart. I didn’t always. But I’m old enough now to appreciate, to be grateful for, what being an American citizen has afforded me.

If I wish, I can own a firearm. I can assemble peaceably with others. I can criticize the government. I can practice a religion — or not — without governmental dictation. The Constitution protects me from unreasonable search and seizure (Patriot Act not withstanding). When I was a journalist, the government could not abridge the freedom of my press. I can own property. I can depend on contracts being enforced. I have more constitutionally guaranteed rights as an American than any citizen of any other country.

Yes, I have duties as well. I must pay taxes for the general welfare and the common defense. I must be willing (and able) to stand in judgment of a citizen charged with a crime by the government. I ought to be sufficiently knowledgeable and intelligent to vote wisely.

I love my country. Most of us do. But I no longer have faith that my elected leaders love it as much as they love power and the ability to demean those they oppose. I don’t like, respect, or trust my elected leaders any more, and their public personae and political actions show they don’t give a damn about me in any way beyond my ability to cast a vote.
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Reinventing ourselves again

Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird … it’s a plane. Nope, it’s Super Congress. Where caped, congressional crusaders will wage the battle between good and evil far above the heads of mere mortals and senior citizens living on Social Security. It will be where the “leaders” of both parties (and they’re not leaving any room in this Super Congress for a desperately needed third party) get together to make the big decisions, so it will also function as a reward for years of dedicated ass-kissing, lying and soul-selling. There’s a good reason why the leadership of both parties is for this Super Congress idea; they always manage to find common ground when it’s time to screw you and me. And the best – by far – way to grind the American people into destitution is to enshrine the oligarchy with extra-political rights.

Never let a crisis go to waste, even if you have to invent the crisis to seize.
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The Fourth four years later: Nothing’s changed

As I predicted four years ago on the Fourth of July, little has changed. This year’s fireworks and barbecues offer only a brief respite from the problems of the nation, how they are worsening, and how those who are supposed to address them remain mere chanters of their respective ideologies.

Four years ago, I predicted that the cost of federal elections would continue to rise, that the role of money would increase dramatically. I did not predict — or even dream it could happen — the outcome of the Supremes’ consideration of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that deepened the hole in which corporate money could hide while paying for “electioneering communications.”

Sadly, I did not predict that more than 30,000 journalists would lose their jobs in the past four years, lessening the ability of the press to hold government accountable. To me, corporations are now essentially the American government; more journalists, not fewer, trained in the same accounting chicanery that allowed Enron to flourish, are necessary to hold corporate government accountable, too.
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Real News terminated by Arnold coverage

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Who cares about Arnold?? I feel very sorry for Maria Shriver and most sorry for all the children involved in the mess, but it shouldn’t be dominating the national news. Adultery, sadly, occurs frequently. Shriver is not the first nor will she be the last cuckolded spouse.

But there is real news going on all over the planet that is getting less coverage as the media hounds the other woman, Arnold himself (who cares about him anyway? He’s a former and future actor who used to be governor of financially broke California).

I did care about the arrest of International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, just until he stepped down overnight. Now he is no longer running the IMF he is unimportant except for what it says about what he’s seemingly gotten away with as an alleged sexual predator for years.

I do care about real news–like what is going on in Libya, Pakistan, Iraq, India and Syria. Continue reading

America's wild horses and burros need your help!

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Wild Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act that guaranteed some level of protection and humane treatment for the nation’s mustangs and burros.

These canny horses and burros are under scrutiny once again as equine advocates are embroiled in yet another skirmish with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program and the U.S. Forestry Service (both agencies under separate federal departments are charged with managing the populations) over round-ups, birth control and the genetic viability of the herds spread across public lands in 10 western states.

To weigh in on the BLM’s plans for the future, email comments to wildhorse@blm.gov  and type “Comments on Strategy” in the subject line. The deadline for comments is March 30, 2011.

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Kansas rep, a friend of industry, axes product-safety database

A neophyte freshman representative from Kansas who slipped into Congress on the strength of hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations from heavyweight industries does not want you and me to see a product-safety database compiled by a federal consumer agency.

In 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Among its mandates: Consumers will have access to a public database to report and learn about hazards posed by unsafe products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has compiled that database, and it’s ready to launch next week.

But Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) doesn’t want consumers to see it. He does not want them to see “reports of defective products from a wide range of sources, including consumers, health-care providers, death certificates and media accounts,” reports Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post. He does not want consumers to change how they make purchasing decisions. He does not want them to see a database that is “limited to complaints about safety and does not deal with product reliability or performance,” reports Layton.
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