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Most Americans don’t know GOP won

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Pedestrian crosses street
Less than half of the American nation is aware that Republicans has won control of the US House of Representatives this month, a new poll shows.

The Pew Poll suggests that only 46 percent of those surveyed correctly verified that the Republican Party won control of the House as a result of the November 2 midterm elections.

Another interesting finding by the poll was that only 15 percent of Americans knew that David Cameron is the current Prime Minister of England.

The poll, aimed at assessing the US public knowledge on current affairs, surveyed 1,001 adults by telephone between November 11 and 14 with a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

MSD/PKH/MMN

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Americans Voted Few Incumbent Bums Out

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Joel S. Hirschhorn

Joel S. Hirschhorn 

For some years a number of groups have been advocating voting out incumbents in Congress, both the House and the Senate, as a path to reform and improve the US political system.  You might have thought that with this year’s incredible widespread public anger with both major parties and the remarkably low confidence level in Congress this anti-incumbency movement would have scored a huge victory.  It did not happen.

Even more surprising, perhaps, because for many months before the elections there was endless media predictions that incumbents were at risk of losing their seats, which was backed up by hundreds of polls showing historical high levels of voter dissatisfaction with Congress.

Over at voidnow.org one of the oldest and vocal anti-incumbency groups there is this delusional chest-beating good news: “Congratulations Vote Out Incumbents voters. 15 Senate Incumbents stepped down or lost, and only 25 Senators sought reelection. 57 House incumbents lost, and 37 chose not to run again. (91 House Incumbents gone, 21.6%).”

Apparently delusion rules within this movement.  First of all, no credit should be given for those members who decided not to run for reelection.  What level of reelection rate should be considered a big victory?  I would be impressed if that rate was 50 percent or less, because typical reelection rates have very high.  For example, according to data at Open Secrets, it was 88 percent in 1992 and 94 percent for 2006 and 2008 for the House.  In the Senate it was 79 percent in 2006 and 83 percent in 2008.

At the Rundown blog from the PBS Newshour a far more accurate account was given for this year’s midterm elections.  In the House 53 members lost their (this does not count members who quit, ran for higher office or lost their primary) in 2010.  But that is still just 13 percent of House incumbents who ran for office and lost – meaning that 87 percent seeking office were reelected.  Note that in 27 House races, voters had no choice because only one candidate was on the ballot.

Interestingly, this reelection result was predicted before the election by professor John Sides who found a statistically valid correlation between past reelection rates and Gallup poll results on the percentage of voters rejecting their own Representatives.  Even when that dissatisfaction rate rose to 40 percent this year, a high reelection rate resulted. In fact, that correlation indicates that even if 100 percent of voters rejected incumbents, the vast majority would still be reelected!

In the Senate, where incumbent loses are more common, only four incumbent Senators running for reelection lost their seats. That produced a 90 percent reelection rate.

What do we see?  The House reelection rate was down slightly from recent years while the rate in the Senate was higher.  To be crystal clear, out of 435 seats, 351 incumbents will be returning to the House in January, according to one analysis.  In the Senate, out of 100 seats, 77 incumbents will return in January.  Does that sound like some revolution happened this year?  And note how incumbent, establishment members will be running both the majorities and minorities in both the House and Senate.

I conclude that the anti-incumbency movement ought to fold up and close down; it has proved to be a totally ineffective movement and strategy to reform the abysmal US government system.

Why has the anti-incumbency movement failed?  There are multiple reasons, including: the stupidity of voters who succumb to all the campaign lies and rhetoric from both major parties, the way House districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or the other, the lack of voting by the most fed up citizens, voting for lesser-evil candidates, the inability of third parties to mount really effective campaigns, enormous financial backing of incumbents by many special interests, and the decision by the Tea Party movement to back only Republican candidates rather than third party candidates.

Welcome back to the reality of America’s delusional democracy where career politicians will continue to foster a corrupt, inefficient and dysfunctional government because that is what the two-party plutocracy and its supporters want for their own selfish reasons.

The first priority of all the new members of Congress will, as always, be to get reelected.  And most will succeed.  For a job with security, great pay, terrific health insurance, and countless perks, with no requirement for prior accomplishments doing the same work, nothing beats becoming a member of the US Congress.

[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com.]

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Let’s Pass Some Laws Before the Republicans Head Into Town (after all, that’s what they’d do)

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Michael Moore in 2004

Michael Moore in 2004

…an open letter to Congressional Democrats from Michael Moore

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Dear Congressional Democrats:

Welcome back to our nation’s capital for your one final session of the 111th Congress. Come January, the Republicans will take over the House while the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

But Dems — here’s something I don’t understand: Why do you look all sullen and depressed? Clearly you’re not aware of one very important fact: YOU ARE STILL COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, LEGALLY IN CHARGE! When (and if, mostly if) you wake up to the reality that you can do whatever you want for the next seven weeks, you will realize that you have two clear options:

1. You can continue your “Sit Quietly and Hope No One Hits Me” strategy and thus lay the groundwork for an even bigger ass-kicking two years from now;

Or…

2. You can actually use the power you hold for the next seven weeks and have the Senate pass the legislation that the House has already passed!

Wake up, Democrats! You are in an awesome position right now. The House of Representatives, in this current session of Congress, has already passed an astounding 420 bills since January of 2009 — 420 bills that are just sitting there on the Senate leader’s desk. The Senate has refused to take up these House bills because they’ve been afraid of a Republican filibuster. Well, Dems, here’s the truth: You can pass all of these bills and turn them into law RIGHT NOW, TODAY, by simply calling for a majority vote of 50 Senators (plus Vice President/President of the Senate Joe Biden). Yes, you will need to change the filibuster rules. So do it. You have the votes! And yes, the Republicans will scream bloody murder — so let them! Make them. Let America see them in all their hateful, spiteful ways — it will act as a beautiful coming attraction trailer for all the world to see. Let all of America watch the Republicans as they try to derail democracy by holding up a bunch of bills that nearly every American I know would want to see as the law of the land. Many of these bills are so safe, so innocuous, I have a hard time understanding what the heck the problem was in the first place. Like the bill that’s already passed the House to name a post office after Jimmy Stewart. I know, I know, the idea of a post office named after Jimmy Stewart is really, really, incredibly controversial and divisive and somebody on the other side of the aisle might yell at you. Be brave, Democrats!

There’s a whole slew of these bills the House has passed. Some are no-brainers; others are absolutely necessary. You can pass them in the next seven weeks. And because you Dems seem to have a problem with properly naming your bills and communicating effectively with the average American, I have helpfully renamed them for you so they sound like what they actually are — things people would really want. Here’s a partial list of the bills the House has already passed and are now just in need of approval by the U.S. Senate:

• The “Give Mom a Raise Act,” officially known as the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which addresses pay gaps between men and women. Now, who out there still believes women should be paid less than men? I REALLY want to see Republicans try to stop this one.

• The “Don’t Amputate Our Feet Act,” aka the “Eliminating Disparities in Diabetes Prevention Access and Care Act of 2009.” Which Republican will stand to speak out in favor of diabetes?

• The “Pay Up, BP Act,” aka the “Audit the BP Fund Act,” which makes sure BP is paying people hurt by the Gulf oil spill as quickly as possible — and makes BP pay the cost of keeping track of where the money’s going.

• The “Stop Foreigners From Hitting Grandma Act,” aka the “Elder Abuse Victims Act.” This doesn’t really have anything to do with foreigners, but our fellow Americans seem to automatically dislike people from other countries, so this should help just in case the Republicans think an “elders abuse victims act” doesn’t sound patriotic enough.

• The “Let’s Try Not to Destroy Planet Earth Act” (aka Cap and Trade, a lousy half-way measure to begin with, but about the best you can expect from you Democrats these days).

• The “National Bombing Prevention Act” (it’s actually already called that, which is hard to improve on).

And while those of you in the Senate are taking care of all that, the House can come up with a better version of Michelle Obama‘s “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” to improve child nutrition. The Senate has already passed this bill. (The House should fix it so that it isn’t paid for by cutting food stamps to poor people. Yes, you, a Democratic Senate, did that.)

Then there are also things that neither the House or Senate has dealt with. These would take more work during the next two months, but that’s what highly-caffeinated “energy” drinks are for.

Jenni Suri of Ligonier, Indiana, has set up a petition with a good list, which anyone can sign here to tell the Congressional leadership to get started. Among the “to do” items on the list:

• Extend emergency unemployment benefits

• Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

• Pass the DREAM Act (to provide young immigrants with a path to citizenship)

• Pass the Disclose Act to force corporations to say what politicians they’re giving money to

• Pass the Employee Free Choice Act, so we can have unions again in the U.S.

• Pass Rep. Donna Edwards’ constitutional amendment that — in the wake of the Citizens United decision — would give Congress the power to regulate corporate spending on elections

So what do you say, Democrats? What’s the worst that could happen — you’d lose an election? You already did that! C’mon, here’s your one last gutsy chance to show us that you’re made of something other than wish and wash.

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

P.S. Be sure to let the Democrats in Congress know right now you expect action from them during this next month. You can call your Senators and Representative at (202) 224-3121 or find their direct number and email at Congress.org.

P.P.S. If you missed Bill Maher or Larry King on Friday, here are the links to watch my visit to both of them: Maher, Part 1, Maher, Part 2, King, Part 1, King, Part 2, King, Part 3 and King, Part 4.

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Congress Comprised of Fewest Women in 30 Years

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

In terms of sheer numbers, there are dark times ahead for women in Congress.

For the first time in 30 years, the amount of  of women in the house has decreased, with nine representatives losing their seats. And in the Senate, it looks like the number will remain the same at 17, even with Patty Murray‘s recent win–though if Murkowski somehow gets the shaft in Alaska, that number will decrease as well. Even with all the brouhaha about the so-called mama grizzlies–of Republicans, only three women out of 30 candidates ran on open tickets–Congress is still comprised of only 17 percent women. According to Debbie Walsh, Director for the Center of American Women and Politics at Rutgers, “This year is the first time that it has gone down, it’s gone down a little bit, but going down or staying the same if you care about women’s participation in politics.”

But it goes beyond mere participation. As the Republicans take over the house, and the number of men and women aligned with anti-choice groups such as The Susan B. Anthony Foundation increase, the implications of a lack of female representation are troubling. New Hampshire‘s Kelly Ayotte, for example, defended parental consent laws during her time as attorney general–and she was propelled to her new seat thanks to cash infusions from the SBA. Similarly, while women made gains across the country in gubernatorial races, they were generally conservatives who toe the tea party line–radically anti-choice, anti-gay rights, steeped in traditional gender roles–not exactly the paths to parity.

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at November 5, 2010, 10:07 am

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Despair Follows Delusion

November 3, 2010 1 comment

Joel S. Hirschhorn

Despite all the hype and rhetoric, only one impact of the midterm elections is assured.  Notwithstanding power shifts from Democrats to Republicans in Congress there will not be any deep, sorely needed true reforms of our corrupt, dysfunctional and inefficient government.  The culture of corruption in Washington, DC will remain.  Hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate and other special interests will assure that.

Voters who think otherwise are either delusional or stupid.  It will not matter whether you voted for Republicans because you wanted to defeat Democrats (or vice-versa), or whether you voted for Tea Party candidates, or whether you voted against incumbents, or whether you voted for what you believe are lesser-evil candidates.  Americans lost however they voted, but it may take time for most to comprehend that.  That is a terribly painful reality, which is why many who chose to vote will resist facing the ugly truth.

When it comes to politics in America, delusion and stupidity are rampant, like a terrible epidemic that has killed brain cells.  Several billion dollars were spent selling candidates this year.  Who profited?  The many media outlets that received the advertising bonanza and companies that supplied mailings, posters and automatic phone calls.  At least all that spending was kept domestic.

Yes, you are thinking that this is the most cynical view possible.  Cynicism beats delusion.  I recommend it.

This is what American history tells us.  Americans have been brainwashed and tricked into thinking that elections are crucial for maintaining American democracy.  That is exactly what the two-party plutocracy needs to maintain their self-serving political system and that is also what the rich and powerful Upper Class wants to preserve their status.  But voting in a corrupt political system no longer sustains democracy.  It only sustains the corrupt political system that makes a mockery of American democracy.  Think about it.

In the months following this election, when unemployment and economic pain for all but the rich remain awful, anyone who pays attention and is able to face the truth will see that there is little chance of genuine government reforms.  Nor will any of the nation’s severe fiscal and spending problems be smartly attacked.  The Republicans will blame the Democrats, the Democrats will blame the Republicans, the Tea Party winners will blame the system, the radio and cable pundits will blabber endlessly, and Jon Stewart and other comics will have an abundance of material to take jabs at.  The two-party plutocracy will triumph.

Every member of Congress will, as before, spend most of their time and energy doing what is necessary to win the next election.  The army of lobbyists will be busier than ever legally bribing politicians to sustain the successful political strategy of the rich and business sector to make the rich and superrich still richer at the expense of the middle class.  Anyone who thinks that winner Republicans will work to overturn economic inequality is stupid or delusional.  A disproportionate and ludicrous fraction of the nation’s income and wealth will go to a tiny fraction of rich and superrich Americans.  Nothing that President Obama or the Democrats have done or championed was aimed squarely at reversing economic inequality and the death of the middle class, which by itself justified defeating them.

President Obama, of course, will continue his self-serving rhetoric with the sole goal of winning reelection in 2012.  The presidency just made him destructively delusional.  Of course he will speak about working with Republicans.  Wait and see.

Here is what non-delusional Americans can hope for: Maybe a decent third party presidential candidate will emerge.  Maybe the Tea Party movement will wake up to the reality that electing Republicans is a terrible strategy for reforming the government and restoring the health of the nation and shift their interest to forming a third party.  I doubt very much whether any of the Tea Party winners in Congress will stand up and aggressively work for and demand true reforms.  The new Republican Speaker of the House is a classic establishment Republican.  Maybe the greatly expanded calls for an Article V convention (mostly by Republicans and conservatives) as the constitutional path to reforms through constitutional amendments will gather more energy (especially from Tea Party people) and finally succeed.

Welcome to the good old USA where citizens, unlike those in Europe, do not riot in the streets demanding justice but keep believing in the nonsense that voting for either Republicans or Democrats will work for them and the nation.

Despair follows delusion.  Despite the endless media hype, the political revolution of 2010 is like a badly made firecracker – a dud.  President Obama, Republicans and Democrats will have learned nothing profound, not enough to dedicate themselves to real reforms.  Along with economic pain, widespread anger will persist as nothing tangible results to make the lives of ordinary Americans a lot better.  Will Americans demand smarter strategies than voting in regular elections with choices between Democrats and Republicans?  What do you think?

[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com.]

 

The unbearable stupidity of American voters

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Obama lowered taxes, and the economy is (slowly) growing. But that’s not what the people believe. Why?

The unbearable stupidity of American voters

Reuters

For those of us in the media business, which, supposedly, at least some of the time, implies a mission of informing readers about what’s actually happening in the world, the results of a a poll conducted by Bloomberg last week are incredibly depressing.

For example:

By 52 percent to 19 percent, likely voters say federal income taxes have gone up for the middle class in the past two years.

Except, that’s just not true.

The Obama administration has cut taxes — largely for the middle class — by $240 billion since taking office on Jan. 20, 2009. A program aimed at families earning less than $150,000 that was contained in the stimulus package lowered the burden for 95 percent of working Americans by $116 billion, or about $400 per year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Other measures include breaks for college education, moderate- income families and the unemployed and incentives to promote renewable energy.

Even a plurality of Democrats believe Obama has raised taxes. Poll respondents also think the U.S. economy is continuing to shrink, when in fact it has grown for the last five quarters.

The incumbent majority political party usually is fighting an uphill battle in a midterm election, but when you throw in headwinds of ignorance on this scale, it’s easy to despair. It’s one thing to argue that Obama probably shouldn’t have included a big tax break as part of the stimulus, instead of pouring more money directly at infrastructure spending and aid to states. But when he cuts taxes and everyone assumes that their tax burden rose, the strategy is doubly undercut.

There are two takeaways:

1) Unemployment trumps GDP.

No one cares about statistics indicating that gross domestic product rose at 2 or 3 or 4 percent in a quarter. The unemployment rate is by far the most important economic indicator. If you’ve lost your job, can’t find a job, or are in fear of losing your job, you are unlikely to believe that the economy is growing. The Obama administration made a bet that a $787 billion stimulus bill would bring the unemployment rate down to a politically reasonable point by the midterm election. It did not, and Democrats will be punished for it.

2) Republicans have won the messaging game for the last two years.

It seems remarkable that a party that governed so badly while it was in power, preaching smaller government while engaging in total fiscal irresponsibility, would be trusted by anyone on anything. But GOP talking points, fueled by Tea Party mobilization, appear to have taken hold almost immediately after Obama’s election. Even as Obama was lowering taxes, he was labeled with the hoariest of Republican attack-mantras: tax-and-spend. He was immediately blamed for a budget deficit that was largely constructed by Republicans and the result of recession-induced shortfalls in tax revenue. He is now saddled with responsibility for an unemployment rate that is the consequence of a crisis that occurred before he took power, and that would undoubtedly be higher if not for the stimulus.

But that’s all for naught. Whether the Obama administration could have dented the misinformation by more aggressively making the case for its own actions is something we’ll never know. High unemployment is a very difficult jam to talk your way out of. We knew that. What we didn’t know is that high unemployment can actually twist perceptions of objective reality into an alternative universe. Obama lowered your taxes. It might not have been the smartest thing to do, but it’s what actually happened!

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The Media’s Serial Habit of Insulting and Undermining Female Candidates

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By Megan Tady, In These Times
Posted on November 1, 2010, Printed on November 2, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148707/

There is a fear both subtle and obvious running rampant through our news media. It is not fear of a U.S. economy stuck in recession, or more housing foreclosures, or Obama-care, or the Tea Party, or feigned socialism, or terrorist attacks, or the flu, or immigrants.

It’s the fear of women — specifically, fear of women politicians and leaders. Because of this fear, female politicians, candidates and leaders face blatant sexism and misogyny in both corporate media and parts of the blogosphere for challenging the male-dominated political system.

Sure, it’s been going on for decades. Strike that: centuries. But recent asinine attacks against female politicians in the media based on their gender, sexuality, appearance, outfits, hairstyle, age, weight, number of children (and how, or if, they hold those children), indicate that the trend is on the rise.

During Sonia Sotoyamor’s Supreme Court nomination hearings last year, conservative radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy said, “Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.”

In September, Boston radio producer Bill Cooksey of WRKO-AM “endorsed” Republican State Treasurer candidate Karyn E. Polito, but not because of her campaign promises or qualifications. Cookesy said on the air: “I think she’s hot. She’s tiny, she’s short. She’s got a banging little body on her. Facial wise, I give her about a seven. Body wise, I give her about an eight-and-a-half. Tight little butt. I endorse Karyn Polito.”

Also that month, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called fellow Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand the “hottest woman in the Senate”; the label was echoed in the media. In 2009, Glenn Beck called Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) a “high-class prostitute” and former CNBC show host Donny Deutsch said “men want to mate with” Sarah Palin.

And then, of course, there’s Krystal Ball, Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 1st District. A few weeks ago, a right-wing blogger released “racy” photos of Krystal Ball taken when she was 22-years-old. In a Huffington Post column, Ball spoke out about the photos and her bid for the Democratic seat. “For millions of people around the world, I am a joke named Krystal Ball, a party girl or a whore,” she wrote.

In 1982 Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine at the same age, but the media hardly harped on this fact when he was running for election last year year.

Finally, during a recent episode of Hardball on MSNBC discussing Christine O’Donnell’s candidacy for a Delaware Senate seat, Chris Matthews referred to her as “irresistibly cute” and said she was “playing on the cute thing.” He even seemed to know he is crossing a line, saying, “I have to be careful about how I say anything; I’m a male talking about a female.”

Yes, you do Chris. But is it really that hard? Just tell us if you’ve uncovered anything we should know as voters. Referring to O’Donnell’s appearance is irrelevant to the race and devalues her as a candidate. Television hosts and reporters take note: If you wouldn’t say it to or about a male politician, then don’t say it about a female politician.

Stopping sexism

This mistreatment must stop. The merits of female candidacies should be based solely on experience and policy positions, regardless of their party affiliation or ideology.

Name It. Change It.,” a new campaign created by the Women’s Media Center, the Women’s Campaign Fund and the Parity Project, is aimed at drawing attention to sexism in the media. The campaign recently released studies that found even mild sexist language has an impact on voters’ likelihood to vote for a female candidate. That may be why only 2 percent of the 13,000 people that have served in U.S. Congress have been women. Or why just 31 women have ever served as Governors, compared to 2,317 men.

People should be angry that our media so often fails to report the track records of female politicians, and place them on a level playing field with male opponents. A platform, for those in the media who don’t know, is a list of issues a politician runs her or his candidacy on; it is not a type of shoe that reporters should be comparing with stiletto heels.

When vitriolic and disparaging comments about women become normalized in our national political dialogue, they harm us culturally. They create deep wounds in women and girls and have a chilling effect on those considering a run for office.

Sam Bennett, president of the Women’s Campaign Forum, put it well during an interview with C-Span’s The Washington Journal: “We have to come out in outrage when comments like this are made–irrespective of the party, irrespective of the situation–because what we have to do… is de-normalize these types of comments. No candidate–male or female–deserves to be on national television being referred to in a sexually explicit way.”

Despite the abuse, more and more brave women are stepping up every year to run for office and endure the media gauntlet. Politics shouldn’t be easy and women should be prepared to defend themselves, but they should be defending their platform, their positions and their views, not their gender, appearance or sexuality.

Ball is refusing to let the negative attention derail her campaign, saying: “We are young women. And we are dedicated to serving this country. And we will run for office. And we will win.”

That is what the established political machines and the corporate media fear most of all.

Megan Tady is a National Political Reporter for InTheseTimes.com. Previously, she worked as a reporter for the NewStandard, where she published nearly 100 articles in one year. Megan has also written for Clamor, CommonDreams, E Magazine, Maisonneuve, PopandPolitics, and Reuters.

© 2010 In These Times All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148707/

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