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.
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.
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.
Another court has overturned the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, ruling in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management that “no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision.” Judge Vanessa L. Bryant, a district judge in the Second Circuit appointed by President George W. Bush, therefore ruled that DOMA “violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The suit was brought by same-sex couples living in Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire who argued they were unfairly denied access to various programs available to other married couples. House Republicans, under the guise of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) and Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) leadership, intervened at taxpayer expense to defend the anti-gay statute. In her decision, Bryant took BLAG to task for attempting to rewrite the past by claiming that gays and lesbians have not been subject to discrimination throughout history:
The fact that the concept of homosexuality as a distinct category or class wasn’t fully recognized until the late nineteenth century is not indicative of an absence of a long history of discrimination in light of the long standing proscriptions on homosexual conduct – conduct that is central if not tantamount in some sense to identity. Moreover, the pervasiveness of the “closet” in which homosexuals purposefully hid their sexualities could very well explain why it was only in the late nineteenth century that conceptions of homosexual identity emerged as gay Americans moved into cities and began tentatively stepping out of the closet. [...]
In sum, the evidence in the record detailing the long history of anti-gay discrimination which evolved from conduct-based proscriptions to status or identity-based proscriptions perpetrated by federal, state and local governments as well as private parties amply demonstrates that homosexuals have suffered a long history of invidious discrimination. Moreover this conclusion is consistent with the majority of cases which have meaningfully considered the question and likewise held that homosexuals as a class have experienced a long history of discrimination.
Multiple other rulings against the Defense of Marriage Act have already been appealed to the Supreme Court for review in the coming year. This latest rebuke of the law adds to the compelling case already before the Court that DOMA is nothing more than unnecessary, unconstitutional discrimination against same-sex couples.
When an Obamacare regulations goes into effect tomorrow, 47 million women will benefit from the guaranteed coverage of preventive services — including contraception coverage — without co-pays. The new rules will require most insurance plans to begin including the services at no additional cost at the next renewal date that falls on or after August 1, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Center for American Progress graphic breaks down what will be covered and how women will benefit:
But even as millions of women will benefit from even more provisions of the Affordable Care Act, nine states are attacking the contraception coverage requirement because of the claim that the provision violates religious liberty. Even though President Obama announced an “accommodation” for religious institutions so that the employer does not have to pay for the birth control coverage, states have considered legislation or ballot measures to either reject the federal regulation or undermine contraceptive coverage in state law. And ongoing challenges against the contraception regulation continue in federal courts.
In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama traveled to Europe and was greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters and excited foreign leaders at almost every stop along his tour. Pundits across the board labeled the trip a success for the campaign, so it’s understandable why, four years later, candidate Mitt Romney thought it would be a good idea to do an overseas trip of his own.
Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, though. During his first stop in London, Romney enraged an entire country by questioning Great Britain’s readiness to host the olympics, which began the day he arrived. The notoriously merciless UK media flambéed Romney with big headlines and scathing editorials.
Romney then moved on to Israel, where he explained to a room full of wealthy donors why Palestinians were generally poorer than Israelis due to their inferior “culture.” Israeli and Arab press alike were incensed, calling the remark racist (a charge the Romney campaign vigorously denies.)
And then today in Poland, as reporters who had traveled a cumulative 10,000 miles with the campaign faced their sixth day without having an opportunity to ask a single question to the candidate, a Romney campaign spokesman told a restless gaggle to “kiss my ass” when they tried to shout their questions at Romney as he left Pilsudski Square in Warsaw.
In all, not Mitt Romney’s best week:
Massive Blackout Leaves 600 Million Indians Without Power, Demonstrating Danger Of Relying On Outdated Coal System
More than 600 million people in the northern and eastern parts of India lost power on Tuesday, putting roughly half of India’s population in the dark.
While the specific causes behind the mass blackouts remain unclear, the underlying cause is clear – India is reliant on an aging, inefficient government coal power monopoly that can’t meet the country’s energy needs:
Some analysts said public outrage over the widespread outages may force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to tackle reforms in the crisis-riddled power sector. Fuel shortages are crippling coal and gas-fired plants, forcing them to run below capacity or shut down for long stretches; state utilities have billions of dollars of accumulated losses; and, as has been on stark display, the nation’s creaky grid needs upgrading.
“Unless this government wants to commit political suicide, there’s no way they can ignore this,” said Abhey Yograj, managing director of Tecnova, a consulting firm that advises foreign companies on India.
While some are suggesting that increasing domestic coal production is the necessary next step in addressing India’s power problems, it’s not so clear that’s the case. One of the principal barriers to cheap coal production is environmental protection, and for good reason: The IMF estimates that coal pollution kills about 70,000 Indians per year and development of coal in India (and China) is undermining efforts to decrease global carbon emissions. Further, Indian coal development can create underground fires that cause houses to fall into the earth and fuels the corruption in the Indian energy sector that’s holding back meaningful reform. Solar power is actually less expensive than diesel in India and renewables more broadly are becoming increasingly plausible alternatives to expanded coal development.
In fact, the Indian government is pushing a National Solar Mission aimed at generating 12.5 % of India’s total electricity from renewable resources by 2020. By the end of 2012, the Solar Mission called for 810 megawatts of installed panels, but, according to a recently released report, India passed the 1 gigawatt mark in June of this year, a full 6 months ahead of the plan for 22 gigawatts by 2022. The report also found that India had only about 506 megawatts of installed capacity as recently as March, meaning that the country doubled its efforts in only two moths.
India has vast rural populations that often have limited access to electricity. The Solar Mission aims to provide more reliable sources of power to those citizens while reducing energy cost, decreasing reliance on foreign coal, and ameliorating the consequences of India’s economic growth for the environment.
Max Frankel contributed to this post.
This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the post originally mistakenly used “coal” in place of “diesel.” Diesel fuel is more expensive than solar in India, while coal is cheaper than both.
While voter fraud is exceedingly rare — a person is more likely to be hit by lightning than to commit it — then-Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R-IN) was convicted of it earlier this year. Now, a candidate for Pinal County Supervisor in Arizona has dropped out amid questions about who cast ballots on behalf of his long-deceased girlfriend.
The Arizona Republic reports:
A Pinal County supervisor candidate has withdrawn from the race in the wake of voter-fraud allegations involving a former companion who, records show, has continued to vote by absentee ballot in the five years since her death. John Enright, 66, had been seeking the Republican nomination for county supervisor of District 5, an area that includes Apache Junction and Gold Canyon. …
His statement made no mention of the scandal unleashed in an anonymous, undated letter sent several weeks ago to the Pinal County Recorder’s Office. As recently as this year, the letter alleged, someone had been filling out and mailing in absentee ballots addressed to a woman who died on Feb. 3, 2007. The woman, Sheila Nassar, and Enright lived together at the time of her death.
Enright has not been charged with any crime and told the Arizona press “I look forward to learning more about these allegations. If they are indeed formal allegations, I will defend myself. I very much look forward to clearing my name.”
But if Enright was indeed casting ballots in his late girlfriend’s name, he would be guilty of what the Pinal County Recorder called “an absolute act of fraudulent voting” — and a Class 6 felony.
Voter identification laws would have done nothing to prevent the sort of absentee ballot fraud alleged here. And the fact that this is already a felony shows that laws already on the books are clearly sufficient to punish this exceedingly rare crime.
Our key finding is that, in a like-for-like comparison, companies with at least one woman on the board would have outperformed in terms of share price performance, those with no women on the board over the course of the past six years. [...]
In the middle of the decade when economic growth was relatively robust, there was little difference in share price performance between companies with or without women on the board. Almost all of the outperformance in our backtest was delivered post-2008, since the macro environment deteriorated and volatility increased. In other words, stocks with greater gender diversity on their boards generally look defensive: they tend to perform best when markets are falling, deliver higher average ROEs through the cycle, exhibit less volatility in earnings and typically have lower gearing ratios. We can therefore conclude that relative share price outperformance of companies with women on the board looks unlikely to be entirely consistent, but the evidence suggests that more balance on the board brings less volatility and more balance through the cycle.
When it comes to the upper echelons of U.S. business, many barriers to women still exist. In one specific example, women make up more than half of the financial industry’s workforce, but fewer than 3 percent of U.S. financial companies employ a female chief executive. Overall, 36 percent of U.S. companies have no women on their boards of directors. Moreover, a female CEO makes only 69 cents for every dollar that a male CEO makes.
Polish Solidarity Distances Itself From Romney: He ‘Supported Attacks On Trade Unions And Employees’ Rights’
Romney went to Gdańsk, Poland to meet with Wałęsa, who in 1980, led a workers’ strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard and helped create the Solidarity trade union. Solidarity became a thorn in the side of the Soviet-backed government, and Wałęsa eventually became a Nobel laureate and the first president of a free Poland. Wałęsa was reportedly miffed when Obama wouldn’t grant him a private greeting, and invited Romney for a visit.
But Solidarity isn’t extending the same welcome. The group distanced itself in a statement:
Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of (trade union federation) AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees … that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights.
Solidarity was not involved in organizing Romney’s meeting with Wałęsa and did not invite him to visit Poland.
Romney has staked out anti-union positions. He supported right-to-work legislation and railed against unions in Michigan earlier this year: “I’ve taken on union bosses before. I’m happy to take them on again.” (HT: Muhammed Idrees Ahmad)
Hanna singled out Michele Bachmann’s “suggestion that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin be investigated to see if she has ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood” as an example of a party that has gone off the rails.
The Syaracuse Post-Standard has the story:
“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” he told The Post-Standard editorial board.
…“We render ourselves incapable of governing when all we do is take severe sides…” he said. “If all people do is go down there and join a team, and the team is invested in winning and you have something that looks very similar to the shirts and the skins, there’s not a lot of value there.”
…“I would say that the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find … much more congenial — a little less anger,” he said.
BuzzFeed reports that Hanna is not alone and “moderate members of the House GOP conference feel that Boehner, who has struggled with an often raucous and openly defiant right wing, has forced them to go along with conservative demands but has provided them little in return.”
This isn’t the first time that Hanna, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, has been critical of the Republican party. At at women’s rights rally in March he advised the crowd to “contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side — my side — has a lot of it.”
During a speech today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace marking the release of a report about religious freedom around the world, Secretary of State HIllary Clinton took a moment to deal with religious freedom a little closer to home. Specifically, she touched obliquely on accusations made about a top staffer in her office by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
In a letter to the State Department demanding an investigation into alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, Bachmann suggested Clinton aide Huma Abedin is tied to Muslim Bortherhood and exercising influence on what Bachmann said were “actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”
In a thinly veiled reference, Clinton lauded those Republicans who stood up to Bachmann’s bogus and Islamophobic allegations:
Leaders have to be active in stepping in and sending messages about protecting the diversity within their countries. … We did see some of that in our own country. We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics.
Watch the clip:
Among those Republicans were Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. Scott Brown (MA), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), House Speaker John Boehner (OH) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI). The Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Mike Rogers (MI) went from supporting Bachmann, who sits on his committee, to disavowing her witch-hunt. Sensenbrenner, in particular, called out Bachmann’s Islamophobic allegations as “wrong ” and an affront on religious liberty:
Religion is a personal issue to every one of the people who lives in the United States, whether you practice a faith, how you practice a faith, whether you don’t practice a faith, whether you say you’re a member of a faith but don’t practice it, it’s none of the government’s business. And this is the whole issue of religious freedom.
However, some Republicans have come out and supported Bachmann’s allegations. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also defended Bachmann’s charges. An adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, John Bolton, voiced support for Bachmann’s allegations on a radio show hosted by the progenitor of her conspiracy theories, notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney. Former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who also acts a as a surrogate for Romney, defended Bachmann, too, even writing a long Politico opinion piece today.