1) Ted Cruz Believes George Soros Leads A United Nations Conspiracy To Eliminate Golf: In 1992, President George H.W. Bush joined the leaders of 177 other nations in endorsing a non-binding UN document known as Agenda 21. This twenty year-old document largely speaks at a very high level of generality about reducing poverty and building sustainable living environments. Nevertheless, Cruz published an article on his campaign website claiming that this non-binding document is actually a nefarious plot to “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.” To top it off, Cruz lays the blame for this global anti-golf conspiracy at the feet of a well-known Tea Party boogieman — “The originator of this grand scheme is George Soros.”
2) Ted Cruz Wants To Gut Social Security: In an interview with the Texas Tribune Cruz labeled Social Security a “ponzi scheme” and outlined a three-step plan to gut this essential program. Cruz would raise the Social Security retirement age, cut future benefits, and implement a George W. Bush-style plan to privatize much of the program. In other words, in addition to forcing them to work longer for fewer benefits, Cruz would place retirees at the mercy of a fickle stock market. Had Social Security been privatized during the career of a worker who retired near the end of the Bush Administration, that worker would have retired with less money in their privatized account than they would have if they’d simply kept their money between their mattress and box spring.
3) Ted Cruz Wants To Party Like It’s 1829: The Constitution provides that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land,” and thus cannot be nullified by rogue state lawmakers. Cruz, however, co-authored an unconstitutional proposal claiming two or more states could simply ignore the Constitution’s command and nullify the Affordable Care Act so long as they work together. Although the Constitution does permit states to join in “interstate compacts” that have the force of law, under the Constitution such compacts require the consent of Congress and can be vetoed by the President. Cruz falsely claimed that states do not need to meet these Constitutional requirements to undermine laws they don’t like.
4) Ted Cruz Is An Islamophobe: At a campaign event earlier this month, Cruz touted another of the Tea Party’s favorite conspiracy theories, claiming that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in this country. Although it is common for far right politicians to claim that American law is somehow being replaced with Islamic law, these claims have absolutely no basis in reality. Few American courts have ever even mentioned Sharia or Islamic law, and those that have generally only do so in contracts or similar cases where a party before the court agreed to be bound by Sharia law.
5) Ted Cruz Campaigned On How He Helped Texas Kill A Mexican: Cruz’s very first campaign ad encouraged GOP primary voters to support him because he helped make it easier for Texas to kill an “illegal alien.” According to the ad, “Cruz fought all the way to the Supreme Court” after “the UN and World Court overruled a Texas jury’s verdict to execute an illegal alien.” In reality, the case Cruz won had nothing to do with whether Texas had the authority to kill this man. Rather, it concerned whether Texas could defy a treaty requiring it to inform foreign nationals who are arrested of their right “to request assistance from the consul of his own state.” Even North Korea honored this treaty that Cruz fought to undermine.
Weeks before the Obama administration’s immigration order to protect undocumented students is set to go into effect, a group of activists are launching a modern day “freedom ride” bus tour of the United States to highlight the ongoing civil rights struggles of undocumented people in America. The “UndocuBus,” which departed from Phoenix, AZ on Sunday, aims to protest officials who have targeted immigrant and Latino communities and the increased numbers of deportations and broken families at the hands of the federal government. Their destination is the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.
Prior to the ride, many of the participants had chosen to hide their immigrant status. But, as a recent New York Times editorial noted, “weary of life in the shadows and frustrated by the lack of progress toward reform, [the riders] will be telling federal authorities and the local police: Here are our names. This is our plan. If you want us, come get us.”
Leticia Ramirez, one of the UndocBus riders, wrote in a Charlotte Observer op/ed:
When I first came here in 1994, families could go to the store or the park without looking over their shoulders. Now the parks in our neighborhoods have police cars just monitoring us…Everywhere we go now, we find harassment. It feels like everyone is looking and pointing at you just because you’re brown.
That environment is what drove me to get involved in my community. Now we’re teaching undocumented people that they have rights and we can come together to get our loved ones and neighbors out of immigration detention centers. In Arizona, we’ve learned that there’s no reason to be afraid when our community is united.”
In two weeks, DHS’s deferred action policy is slated to go into effect. The new order will grant DREAM-eligible youth the chance to apply for temporary reprieve from deportation and will allow them to apply for work permits after going through an application process. But this policy change only helps DREAMers, not their parents, family members, or other members of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. The UndocuBus riders’ aim is to mobilize people across the country in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Visiting Poland for the final leg of his gaffe-filled trip abroad, Romney praised how the nation has “lifted the heavy hand of government” to become one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.
The problem with Romney’s speech, however, is that the the Polish government plays a larger role in its economy than the U.S. government plays here. The Associated Press noted that the reality of Polish government spending doesn’t match Romney’s rhetoric:
While it’s true that Poland is one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies and boasts dynamic entrepreneurs, Romney’s depiction of Poland as a place of small government is debatable. Even 23 years after throwing off a communist command economy, the Polish government continues to have a strong presence in people’s lives: it gives women $300 for each baby they have, doubling that sum for poor families; it fully funds state university educations; and it guarantees health care to all its 38 million citizens.
And while Poland’s economic growth has certainly been impressive in recent years, this is partly the result of economic redistribution in the form of subsidies that have been flowing in from the European Union since it joined the bloc in 2004.
In addition to praising higher government spending, this is also the second time Romney has inadvertently lauded universal health care — a far cry from his criticisms of the individual mandate. He first complimented universal health care in his comments on Israel’s relatively low health spending.
U.N. Secretary-General Appoints CAP’s Podesta To High-Level Anti-Poverty Panel | United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed Center for American Progress chair and counselor John Podesta to a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals. “I have asked my High-level Panel to prepare a bold yet practical development vision to present to Member States next year,” Mr. Ban said in a news release. “I look forward to the Panel’s recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core,” Mr. Ban said.
Massachusetts Passes Bill To Control Health Costs | The Massachusetts legislature approved a bill today that aims to save $200 billion over the next 15 years by connecting health care cost increases to the state’s economic growth. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is expected to sign the legislation, which passed the House 132-20 and was unanimous in the Senate. The new measure follows up on the state’s 2006 health care overhaul that then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) backed. The original law focuses primarily on insurance coverage, so the new bill will address the underlying costs of health care that push up the prices for insurance premiums.
As states fight to implement voter ID laws in time for the November election, it is becoming glaringly obvious that the current election system cannot handle the added burden of implementing voter ID laws. Judging from a new report on ballot design flaws by the Brennan Center for Justice and a recent study of chaotic election procedures in another swing state, Ohio, voters with or without an ID stand to be disenfranchised through a fragile bureaucratic maze likely to collapse under the extra burden of the new voter ID laws.
Pennsylvania, currently mired in a legal battle over its voter ID law, is one of the states facing an impossible logistical burden of getting voters the proper identification in the next 100 days.
During a call about the voter ID lawsuit Tuesday, State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-PA) stressed how unprepared Pennsylvania is to implement the law without disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
“It is absolutely unequivocally clear that the state cannot pull this off by Election Day,” he said. “There’s not enough information or staff time to implement this in time, and it will cost the state an extra amount of millions of dollars to get this done.”
A state court is expected to rule on the law in August, giving the state just a few months to implement a voter ID structure certain to tax an already overtaxed system.
Hughes said he and other district officials have encountered many individuals who were given mixed messages about what kinds of identification were permitted and what exactly they needed to do in order to get the proper photo ID. He blamed the confusion on lack of training:
We don’t fault those staffers. This is completely brand new to them and not part of their historic responsibility. Their responsibility in PennDOT is to work on drivers licenses, not to focus on the proper info for photo ID measures. But what we do fault is the training that is clearly not occurring at the executive level for these individuals so they can do their job or do this new responsibility as part of this law.
What’s more, handling the number of voters who need the ID — a conservative estimate found more than 750,000 people without ID — is far beyond these offices’ resources.
“There’s no way PennDOT could process anywhere near that number of IDs, even if people could get the documents and the transportation to get there,” said Penda Hair, co-counsel for the voter ID lawsuit.
Pennsylvania has the lowest percentage of government workers in the nation. When Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010 and slashed public sector jobs, the number of government employees dropped by more than 3 percent in a year, among the sharpest declines in any state. Republican legislators now expect the remaining employees to take on even more responsibility with no preparation.
In a weak attempt to meet this challenge, the state may expand the hours of some PennDOT offices, many of which are only open two or three days a week and will only process ID applications within limited hours during the work day. But Hughes remains skeptical, pointing out the “hidden costs” of expanding office hours, coordinating services and data between offices and departments, which requires even longer hours from the reduced workforce.
On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding hearings to provide an “update” on climate science. While presumably the Senators will discuss the new Koch-funded study that changed a prominent climate change “skeptic’s” mind, the Republicans on the Committee probably won’t want to hear it.
Almost to a man, the GOP Senators on this key committee have consistently denied the brute fact that humans are causing climate change and/or worked to obstruct any possible solution to the mess we’re making:
1. James Inhofe, Oklahoma: Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Committee, is one of America’s most famous climate deniers. He has written a book alleging that climate science is a conspiracy “perpetrated” by the United Nations and that any climate change that is happening is part of God’s irreversible plan for the Earth. When confronted with the fact that 97% of climate science accepted anthropogenic warming, he – surprise! – denied it.
2. David Vitter, Louisiana: Vitter has referred to evidence for climate change as “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage” and, though his home state was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and is at serious risk from future warming-caused storms, attempted to block federal funding for efforts to mitigate the worst byproducts of global warming.
3. John Barrasso, Wyoming: Barrasso appeared on Glenn Beck’s show to suggest he had a “smoking gun” suggesting the attempt to regulate CO2 emissions was simply an EPA power grab. Relatedly, Barrasso claimed the EPA’s main goal was no longer protecting the environment, but rather “remaking society,” and introduced legislation stripping the agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions.
4. Jeff Sessions, Alabama: Senator Sessions reserved his strongest ire for congressional regulation of carbon pollution, calling cap-and-trade a “conceit” that “we can manage the climate.” He has also, in the process of denying the moral importance of addressing the consequences of global warming, described CO2 as “a naturally occurring gas that plants breathe and they can’t grow without” as if that were some sort of evidence that it couldn’t harm the environment (which, of course, it isn’t.)
5. Mike Crapo, Idaho: Crapo’s official website features a page full of misinformation about climate science, claiming among other things that “the underlying cause of…climactic shifts is ultimately not well-understood” and implying that “[n]atural factors such as solar activity, volcanic eruptions and orbital changes” may explain our current period of warming (nope). He has also decried air pollution and then, in the same breath advocated expanded oil drilling in the United States.
6. Mike Johans, Nebraska: Like his compatriots, Johans has rejected the scientific consensus of anthropogenic warming, calling it “contested science.” Johans was also the author of a procedural maneuver designed explicitly to block the majority from overriding Republican obstructionism on cap-and-trade.
7. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee: Alexander is a comparative standout from the group – he believes climate change is both real, anthropogenic, and a serious problem – but that’s only if you’re grading on a curve. He opposed cap-and-trade but voted to block the EPA from regulating emissions because “that’s Congress’ job.” Though he appears to think a carbon tax is a somewhat better alternative, he has dithered on any real action to try to implement it.
There’s nothing about being a Republican or a conservative that requires legislators to be this blinkered about the climate change crisis: Former GOP Representative Bob Inglis recently founded an initiative to develop and push Republican ideas for pricing carbon.
Unfortunately, the vitriolic reaction to similar ideas from the Republican establishment and the views of the GOP leaders most responsible for establishing the party’s position on the global warming crisis suggests that we’ll have to wait for some time for Republican sanity on climate change.
In a report released today as part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “Romney U,” CAP’s Lawrence Korb looked at the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s defense and military spending numbers and found that they “don’t add up.” Romney’s plan would mean at least $2 trillion in increased spending over the next decade and as of yet, his campaign can’t explain how he plans to pay for it. Korb’s report charts the numbers:
Romney “promotes this approach while simultaneously promising to cut taxes and balance the budget, which is pure intellectual dishonesty,” Korb writes. “By exploding the deficit or gutting domestic programs, Gov. Romney’s plan would compromise our national security.”
Senate Republicans last week proposed a plan that would raise taxes on more than 20 million Americans, while maintaining the high-end Bush tax cuts. Letting those tax cuts on income in excess of $250,000 expire would affect just two million wealthy taxpayers, by comparison.
Now, House Republicans have adopted the same plan, and the effect is the same: roughly 24 million middle- and lower-class Americans will see their taxes raised so that roughly two million of the richest taxpayers can maintain a tax cut, as this chart from the Center for American Progress’ Seth Hanlon and Sarah Ayres illustrate:
Even worse, more than a third of families with children — a total of 18.6 million households, including 9.2 million single parents — would see a tax increase, according to Hanlon and Ayres’ analysis:
According to the analysis, roughly 11 million American families would lose some or all of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides a tax break on college tuition payments, at an average cost of $1,100 each. About 12 million would lose part or all of the Child Tax Credit, costing them an average of $800, and about 6 million would lose all or part of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which saves each recipient an average of $500.
The Senate GOP plan failed last week, as the Senate instead adopted a Democratic proposal that would extend a tax cut on just the first $250,000 in income.
I’m still trying to figure out what I think about Bunheads, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s delightfully weird and very, very female show about a dance school in California. But in Willa Paskin’s long and fantastic interview with Sherman-Palladino, she points out something I’ve found utterly baffling about the entertainment industry:
I always find it funny that people take the wrong message from any success. Like “Bridesmaids” comes out and people go, “Oh, women are funny, they shit in the street. Let’s make sure now everybody shits in the street!” Not like, “OK, but it’s a well-constructed script with very good characters and the core of it is actually about female relationships,” nothing about that. They take the one shitting in the street thing and then for months you’re going to have every actress that you love shitting in the street. Until they realize, “Oh, it doesn’t work that way, I guess, so now women aren’t funny.” No, no, no! It’s not that women aren’t funny, it’s just that all of them don’t have to shit in the street!
I feel the same way with these sitcoms. It felt like dirty girl sitcoms, that’s the way to go, and NBC especially made these giant deals with like Whitney Cummings, and Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman and all these women whose stand-up acts are so filthy they will never translate to television because they can’t! Sarah Silverman cannot do her act on TV, it’s not allowed! I’m not saying that her sitcom won’t be great — or I don’t know if they picked her up or not — but it’s like this trend of like “OK, so that’s how every woman is going to be now.”
I don’t even know that this is a trait that’s specific to women. It’s been fascinating to watch actors like Brandon Routh and James Marsters, who began their careers as pretty faces, score successes by treating their looks as if they’re less important than their acting chops, even by turning their extreme good looks into a joke by playing porn stars and maniacally excited dance show hosts. And I can even see why casting directors would value a surface thing like handsomeness, which is very, very broadly applicable, over a talent for self-parody or silliness, which are narrower skills. But it’s funny to see how an industry can both seize on a single, wildly aberrant scene in a movie instead of its overall themes and tones, or ignore that there’s an intimate connection between a comedian’s filthiness and her impact. Maybe it’s all a matter of wishful thinking, hoping for the thing that’s easiest to replicate, or the possibility of replicating something at all.