In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaAl Gore: Snowden 'revealed evidence' of crimes against US constitution
Speaking at McGill University in Montreal, Gore said the NSA's efforts to monitor communications had gone to 'absurd' lengths
Adam Gabbatt in New York
theguardian.com, Wednesday 6 November 2013 23.12 GMT
Former US vice-president Al Gore has described the activities of the National Security Agency as "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable" and said whistleblower Edward Snowden has "revealed evidence" of crimes against the US constitution.
Gore, speaking Tuesday night at McGill University in Montreal, said he was in favour of using surveillance to ensure national security, but Snowden's revelations showed that those measures had gone too far.
"I say that as someone who was a member of the National Security Council working in the White House and getting daily briefings from the CIA," Gore said, in comments reported by the Canadian Press.
Gore had previously said he believed the practice of the NSA collecting US citizens phone records was unlawful and "not really the American way", but his comments on Tuesday represent his strongest criticism yet.
Asked about Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose revelations have been reported extensively by the Guardian, Gore said the leaks had revealed uncovered unconstitutional practices.
"He has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States," Gore said.
Snowden faces criminal charges for leaking classified information to The Guardian and other media outlets. He remains in exile in Russia.
Gore, the former vice-president, 2000 Democratic presidential nominee and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the NSA's efforts to monitor communications had gone to "absurd" lengths, the Canadian Press reported.
"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it's not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack," he said.
Gore said he doubted the far-reaching scope of the NSA's surveillance would be allowed to continue.
"I think they will have to pull this back," he said. "I think you will see a reining in."
November 7, 2013C.I.A. Is Said to Pay AT&T for Call Data
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million a year to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations by exploiting the company’s vast database of phone records, which includes Americans’ international calls, according to government officials.
The cooperation is conducted under a voluntary contract, not under subpoenas or court orders compelling the company to participate, according to the officials. The C.I.A. supplies phone numbers of overseas terrorism suspects, and AT&T searches its database and provides records of calls that may help identify foreign associates, the officials said. The company has a huge archive of data on phone calls, both foreign and domestic, that were handled by its network equipment, not just those of its own customers.
The program adds a new dimension to the debate over government spying and the privacy of communications records, which has been focused on National Security Agency programs in recent months. The disclosure sheds further light on the ties between intelligence officials and communications service providers. And it shows how agencies beyond the N.S.A. use metadata — logs of the date, duration and phone numbers involved in a call, but not the content — to analyze links between people through programs regulated by an inconsistent patchwork of legal standards, procedures and oversight.
Because the C.I.A. is prohibited from spying on the domestic activities of Americans, the agency imposes privacy safeguards on the program, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because it is classified. Most of the call logs provided by AT&T involve foreign-to-foreign calls, but when the company produces records of international calls with one end in the United States, it does not disclose the identity of the Americans and “masks” several digits of their phone numbers, the officials said.
Still, the agency can refer such masked numbers to the F.B.I., which can issue an administrative subpoena requiring AT&T to provide the uncensored data. The bureau handles any domestic investigation, but sometimes shares with the C.I.A. the information about the American participant in those calls, the officials said.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the C.I.A., declined to confirm the program. But he said the agency’s intelligence collection activities were lawful and “subject to extensive oversight.”
“The C.I.A. protects the nation and upholds privacy rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and counterintelligence in accordance with U.S. laws,” he said. “The C.I.A. is expressly forbidden from undertaking intelligence collection activities inside the United States ‘for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of U.S. persons,’ and the C.I.A. does not do so.”
Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, said: “We value our customers’ privacy and work hard to protect it by ensuring compliance with the law in all respects. We do not comment on questions concerning national security.”
The C.I.A. program appears to duplicate work performed by the N.S.A. But a senior American intelligence official, while declining to address whether the AT&T alliance exists, suggested that it would be rational for the C.I.A. to have its own program to check calling patterns linked to overseas terrorism suspects.
With on-the-ground operatives abroad seeking to disrupt terrorist activities in “time-sensitive threat situations,” the official said, the C.I.A. requires “a certain speed, agility and tactical responsiveness that differs” from that of other agencies. “That need to act without delay is often best met when C.I.A. has developed its own capabilities to lawfully acquire necessary foreign intelligence information,” the official said.
Since June, when documents leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden began to surface, an international debate has erupted over the scope of N.S.A. surveillance and the agency’s relationships with American companies that operate networks or provide Internet communications services. Many of the companies have protested that they are legally compelled to cooperate. The AT&T-C.I.A. arrangement illustrates that such activities are not limited to the N.S.A., and that cooperation sometimes is voluntary.
While officials in Washington are discussing whether to rein in the N.S.A. on American soil, governments in Europe are demanding more transparency from the companies and threatening greater restraints. AT&T is exploring a purchase of Vodafone, a European cellphone service provider, and European regulators and politicians have vowed to intensely scrutinize such a deal.
AT&T has a history of working with the government. It helped facilitate the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program by allowing the N.S.A. to install secret equipment in its phone and Internet switching facilities, according to an account by a former AT&T technician made public in a lawsuit.
It was also one of three phone companies that embedded employees from 2003 to around 2007 in an F.B.I. facility, where they used company databases to provide quick analysis of call records. The embedding was shut down amid criticism by the Justice Department’s inspector general that officers were obtaining Americans’ call data without issuing subpoenas.
And, for at least the past six years, AT&T has embedded its employees in federally funded drug investigation offices to analyze call records, in response to subpoenas, to track drug dealers who switch phones. A briefing document for that program said AT&T had records of calls handled by its switches — including “a tremendous amount of international numbers that place calls through or roam on the AT&T network” — dating back to 1987, and described efforts to keep its existence “under the radar.”
The history of the C.I.A. program remains murky. It began sometime before 2010, and was stopped at some point but then was resumed, according to the officials. They said the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed about it.
While the N.S.A. is separately vacuuming up call metadata abroad, most scrutiny in the United States has focused on its once-secret program that uses court orders to domestic phone companies under the Patriot Act to assemble a comprehensive database of Americans’ calls.
Some lawmakers have proposed modifying it to have the phone companies, not the N.S.A., control the data, similar to how the C.I.A. has been operating.
Still, there may be limits to comparisons. The N.S.A. is subject to court-imposed rules about the standard that must be met before its analysts may gain access to its database, which contains records from multiple providers. The C.I.A. appears to have a freer hand, and officials said it had submitted significantly more queries to AT&T for data.
In addition, while both programs analyze cross-border calls of Americans, the N.S.A.’s Patriot Act database does not include purely foreign calls, while AT&T does not use purely domestic calls in analyzing links for the C.I.A., officials said.
Absent an emergency, phone companies are usually legally forbidden to provide customers’ calling records to the government except in response to a subpoena or a court order, and the C.I.A. has a mandate to focus overseas. Lawyers who reviewed the program, officials said, concluded that AT&T’s partial masking of American phone numbers satisfied those restrictions, citing a statutory exception to data privacy laws covering “the acquisition by the United States government of foreign intelligence information from international or foreign communications.”
That same exception has come to public attention before. It was apparently invoked by a still-secret Jan. 8, 2010, memo written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. A 2010 inspector general’s report described the memo as allowing the F.B.I. to obtain call records “on a voluntary basis from providers, without any legal process or a qualifying emergency.”
While the bureau said it would not use that memo, the report warned that the existence of the government’s still-classified legal theory created a “significant gap” in “accountability and oversight” and urged Congress to modify the statute. Lawmakers have not acted on that recommendation.
******************Senate conservatives object as McCain pushes for ratification of UN disability-rights treaty
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 7, 2013 8:09 EST
The United States has lagged behind other nations in ratifying a global disability-rights treaty, but the Senate may yet approve the international measure this year, defying conservative opponents.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006 by the United Nations, was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009. To date it has been ratified by 137 countries, including China, Pakistan, and most of Europe.
The convention sets fundamental rights for the disabled, including education and health care rights equal to those enjoyed by able-bodied people.
It also invokes freedom from employment discrimination and access to transport and public buildings, committing signatory nations to uphold such principles.
The CRPD fell six votes short in the 100-member Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required for passage of international treaties.
Some Republicans said it was a case of bad timing; the treaty’s introduction violated a principle of not debating major measures just before inauguration of a new Congress in January.
Even though it was modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — the landmark legislation which enshrined disability rights in the country and helped improve conditions around the world — critics said the treaty would infringe on US sovereignty.
Senator Orrin Hatch went so far as to warn on the Senate floor in July that ratifying CRPD “would endorse an official ongoing role for the United Nations in evaluating virtually every aspect of American life.”
But supporters said they sense renewed momentum, and one of the treaty’s main Republican proponents, Senator John McCain, said some in his party who opposed it last year “are giving it consideration.”
“We’re talking to a lot of people about it,” McCain told AFP Wednesday. “We are working the issue.”
The committee on Tuesday held the first of two hearings on the measure, with its Democratic chairman Senator Robert Menendez saying he hopes for a vote by year’s end.
“It won’t be easy, but if we can get the Senate to listen to the facts instead of the fear-mongering, I’m confident we can get there,” Menendez told the hearing.
“We’re making an all-out effort to try to achieve success this time.”
He said ratification was a matter of maintaining US leadership on the issue.
But social conservatives warn it would merely invite interference in domestic affairs, even though proponents say the basic treaty includes no enforcement mechanism or penalties.
If the treaty has no impact on US law, and the ADA already has the most sweeping protections in the world, “Then why do it?” Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, told AFP before addressing Tuesday’s hearing.
“It’s creating a universal standard that all nations including the US have to comply with.”
Christian conservative activists launched a campaign last year against the convention’s Article 7 which states that in action concerning children with disabilities, “the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
Farris interprets that as yielding power to Washington to compel a disabled child to attend school, even if his parents want him taught at home.
Right-to-life conservatives have also warned that the convention would open the door toward expanded abortion rights, something experts said was unlikely.
Richard Thornburgh, a Republican former attorney general, dismissed as “alarmist” the claims that the convention could trump US law on American soil.
“This is not a country that’s going to submit to any worldwide body,” he said.
Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International USA, said ratification would give Washington a crucial “place at the table” for establishing rights worldwide.
“It adds heft to the kind of work we’re doing with our partners in Nepal, to say that we too have ratified this instrument, we too work on making services accessible, we too are part of this international dialogue,” MacNairn said.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, said she had “egg on my face” because she could not tell disability-rights advocates in Asia that the United States is leading on the issue.
“We have what should be the gold standard in disability access, yet our legitimacy to lead other nations is weakened, because we have not yet ratified the CRPD,” she testified.
“We should be at the head of the table, and we’re not.”
The Poverty LineA Gathering Movement Tries to Expand Social Security Instead of Cutting It
By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company
Thursday, November 7, 2013 6:55 EST
In our nation’s capitol, calls for cutting Social Security benefits and shifting the ever-rising costs of health care from Medicare onto the backs of American seniors are ubiquitous. But context matters, and these ideas are nothing short of perverse given the depths of the massively painful retirement crisis that working America faces today.
Social Security was never designed to provide real retirement security. It was conceived as one leg of a three-legged stool, supplementing pensions and personal savings. But traditional pensions are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by 401(K) plans — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of private sector workers responsible for their own retirement savings increased nearly four-fold between 1980 and 2008. And while Americans socked away almost ten percent of their incomes back in 1970, decades of stagnant middle-class wages has made saving up for retirement much harder – by 2010, we were only saving around four percent of what we made.
Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research, says that, as a result of these trends, “75 percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.” Two-thirds of Americans over age 65 rely on Social Security for over half their income, and for over a third of all seniors, those checks make up more than 90 percent of their income. “The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers,” says Ghilarducci, and “almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.”
This sorry state of affairs isn’t only hurting America’s seniors. It’s forcing many of them to remain in the workforce longer than they would otherwise, which is, in turn, hurting the job prospects of younger workers, who face a sky-high unemployment rate.
This is the backdrop for calls to cut benefits, which averaged just $14,760 last year. But a coalition of progressive groups are now coalescing around a proposal by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase Social Security payments by an average of $70 per month.
And while the Obama administration has floated the idea of adopting a new way of calculating cost-of-living increases that would gradually decrease benefits over time, Harkin’s plan would create a new formula which would capture increases in the real-world costs that seniors pay, including higher health care costs.
Finally, Harkin’s plan would make an already solvent program more so, by scrapping the cap on earnings subject to payroll taxes. A study conducted in January by the National Academy of Social Insurance found that this was the most popular of 12 options for shoring up America’s last remaining defined-benefit pension system.
A growing coalition of progressive groups and seniors’ organizations are gathering behind Harkin’s bill. On a conference call announcing his co-sponsorship of the bill, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was asked by a supporter whether such a measure would stand a chance in a Congress that can’t seem to come together to pass any constructive legislation. “It depends on the pressure that you all put on them,” he said. GOP lawmakers, he added, are “always concerned about a right-wing tea party challenge, but the public is clearly with us on this, and I think the more they hear about this the better our chances of winning some of our Republican colleagues over.”
Money & PoliticsInside the Dark Money-Fueled, 50-State Campaign Against American Workers
November 5, 2013
by Joshua Holland
In 2010, a wave election propelled tea party-endorsed candidates into statehouses across the country. Last week, the Economic Policy Institute issued the first comprehensive report surveying the impact that conservative legislation has had on workers’ rights in the past two years.
“The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012” reveals the existence of a multifaceted, nationwide campaign to not only deprive working people of the right to join a union, but also keep wages low and make it harder for people to take their employers to court when they’ve been wronged. Moyers & Company caught up with the report’s author Gordon Lafer – a political economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center – to discuss his findings. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Joshua Holland: Your report looks at a wide array of state laws — passed or proposed — that undermined workers’ rights in 2011 and 2012. You say that this is an unprecedented assault on working people.
Reading your report, it struck me that this is exactly what people mean when they say that political inequality follows economic inequality: You have these growing fortunes on the one hand and then declining political clout on the other hand. It just seems like this is a cycle that keeps continuing.
To what degree is this a result of the 2010 wave election, when Republicans took a number of statehouses?
Gordon Lafer: What you’re saying is very important, and what’s even more important than just thinking about the wave election is that 2010 was the year that the Supreme Court said that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on politics [in its Citizens United decision].
The laws that I’m reporting on — and this is the first comprehensive report that looks at all 50 state legislatures over those two years — were passed by the first set of state legislators elected under the new laws where corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money. There were 11 states where Republicans took control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature in 2011. But we didn’t see this campaign only there, and it’s not strictly a partisan issue. We’ve seen a tremendous influence of a flood of outside money, particularly because the federal government has been more or less stuck on a lot of issues, deadlocked. A lot of the corporate money flooded into the states.
You can buy a state legislative race for $50,000 in a lot of places. Most people don’t know who their state legislator is. And so we’ve seen a lot of laws passed that are unpopular with the public, but are being passed by legislators who are backed by corporate lobbies. People have heard more about attacks on unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but what this report shows is that the attacks on public employee unions are really just a smaller part of an agenda that is an attack on all American workers. That includes trying to lower minimum wage, substituting child labor or teenage labor for adult workers, doing away with the right to sick pay, decreasing wages for waiters and waitresses, decreasing the right to sue over sex and race discrimination. It’s really a very broad agenda that is being pushed in almost every state, and it’s being pushed in a coordinated way by the most powerful political organizations in the country.
Holland: This isn’t just about unions and organized labor. It’s really about the 93.5 percent of private sector workers who are not protected by a union contract. They’re the ones who are really exposed to these laws, aren’t they?
Lafer: Well, that’s right. Look at minimum wage or sick leave. Those things have nothing to do with unions, because if you have a union, you have that in your contract. The people who are dependent on the laws to protect them — and who are affected by the laws being changed — are just who you said, the 93 percent of Americans in the private sector who don’t have a union.
One of the things I think is striking is that, for instance, in Wisconsin, when there was a very prominent attack on public employees, a bunch of the politicians presented themselves as if they’re attacking public employees because they’re on the side of hard-working non-union taxpayers in the private sector. In the research is, we ask, ‘What are those same people actually doing for non-union hard-working taxpayers in the private sector?’ They are trying to cut minimum wage, cut the right to overtime, classify people as independent contractors so they lose their rights under labor law, replace adult labor with teenager workers, and all kinds of things that are not about unions but that are going to make it much, much harder for normal working Americans who don’t have college degrees, who are not professionals, who are trying not to get rich but just to make a decent living and support their families.
Holland: Now, I want to go back a moment, because you made another important point, which is that a lot of people in these states think that these laws are being pushed by their local lawmakers. And in fact, when you dug into this issue, you saw the same legislation popping up in state after state after state. Who is behind this?
Lafer: Right. The American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, writes model laws. They’ll have five or six different model laws about the same thing that are kind of calibrated to see what can pass in a given state at a given time. So on minimum wage, their end goal is to have there be no minimum wage at all, and they have a bill that says abolish the minimum wage, but, well, if you can’t pass that, at least don’t increase it in a way that’s linked to the rate of inflation and goes up every year. So we see, in every state, people experience these as if they come from their local legislator or as if they’re a response to the particular problems in their state, and in fact, the laws are being written largely by ALEC.
And if you look behind ALEC — and all of this stuff is available to the public because there is a member of ALEC who was a whistle-blower and dumped a lot of the information that was supposed to be kept secret from the public out in the public domain — there’s a website called ALECexposed.org where you can see all the model bills. But if you look at the member companies behind them, it’s a bunch of the biggest and most powerful corporations in the country. They work through ALEC, but they also work through the Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Association and a bunch of other business lobbies. And what we see is the same corporations are helping write the law, are funding the campaigns of the candidates, are funding state-level corporate-backed think tanks that put out white papers and talking points and offer talking heads to go on TV, and then they spend the unlimited money on ads on radio and TV. It’s a very well-coordinated campaign.
Now, one of the things that I think is important to point out is that much of this is very unpopular when people have a chance to vote on the actual laws. So in places where people have a chance to vote, not for candidates, but on the actual laws — on minimum wage, on sick leave — there’s very broad support for those measures — among Republicans and Democrats, among conservatives and liberals. So recently, one of the big agendas of the Chamber of Commerce and ALEC and the rest of them has been trying to deny us the right to vote. They’ve passed legislation in 10 states that says that cities are not allowed to vote on establishing a right to paid sick leave or on establishing a higher minimum wage. Because there are now six cities where people voted to say everybody has a right to at least five days of paid sick leave a year, and the business lobby’s response has been to take away the right to vote wherever they can.
Holland: Right. Democracy is not in their interest. Let’s dig into a couple of these areas of the law. You spoke earlier about substituting child and teen labor. I remember during the 2011 GOP primaries, Newt Gingrich said that it was a tragedy that poor kids are trapped in these child labor laws,and that schools ought to get rid of unionized janitors and pay the students to take care of the schools. He said this would be like a bootstrap thing. They would have some cash in their pockets, they would have pride. That’s not the kind of thing you’re finding out there, is it?
Lafer: Yes it is, in fact. Idaho is the first state to basically adopt Gingrich’s vision. In Idaho, as of last year, it is now legal for kids as young as 12 to work up to 10 hours a week as custodians in their schools. And the school district says, ‘Oh, this is great, because we can pay them less than we have to pay adults and they learn the skills of following behavior, following orders.’
But also, in places like Michigan and Wisconsin, they raised the limits of how many hours a week teenagers can work during the school week. You can see the hypocrisy: Part of ALEC’s argument against raising the minimum wage is, they say ‘Well, if you raise the minimum wage, it encourages more high school kids to work more, and we all know that leads to more dropouts and is bad for education, so keep the minimum wage low.’ But in Michigan, the Restaurant Association, which is a major player in ALEC, went into the legislature when there was 10.6 percent unemployment, and said, ‘We cannot find enough adult labor to work in restaurants. We need you to increase the number of hours that high school kids can work during the school week. And it’ll be good for them because they’ll learn teamwork skills and customer service.’ But at 10.6 percent unemployment, it’s just not economically credible to think you can’t find adults to work in restaurants. But this is them saying, ‘We want to cut everything down,’ and one of the ways of cutting things down is to substitute teenagers for adult workers because they’re cheaper, and if it makes it harder for them to do well in school, well that’s too bad.
Holland: Gordon, how pervasive is wage theft?
Lafer: We have in America an epidemic of wage theft, which is when people are not paid wages that they’ve earned, where there’s no debate that they’ve earned it. And it has nothing to do with unions. It’s when you’re not paid minimum wage, you’re not paid overtime, or somebody comes and says, ‘Hey, can you work on this construction project for me?’ and then they don’t pay you.
This came to a head in Florida. Florida has a conservative legislature, and in 2002 they abolished their department of labor. So there’s not a single labor department inspector to police this in Florida, the attorney general’s office hasn’t filed a case about wage theft in recent memory, and the only recourse you have is to go to legal aid, which is all volunteer, so they’re overwhelmed.
But in 2010, Miami/Dade County established a model wage theft procedure. It works kind of like small claims court: It’s very streamlined. The employer pays the cost, so there’s no cost to the taxpayer. And in the first year, they found 600 people who had had money stolen out of their paychecks and they recovered almost $2 million in stolen wages. The response of the Chamber of Commerce and the restaurant industry — and Disney and Office Depot and Home Depot and a bunch of other companies — was to try to pass a law, and it’s come close to passing, that would make it illegal for any county or city to have a wage theft recovery procedure. And they say this explicitly — this is their goal: No city or county within the state should be allowed to have a wage theft procedure. It passed the House, and then it died in the Senate, but a similar bill passed in Tennessee. So if you are a normal worker, if you don’t have the money to go hire a big lawyer, and the amount of money that has been stolen from you is $250 or $1,000, which is a lot of money in the life of low-wage workers but is not enough money to go to a lawyer and say, ‘Hey, take a third of this as a contingency so it’ll be worth your while to take the case,’ they’re working hard to make sure you have absolutely no recourse in the system of justice to recover wages that everybody agrees were stolen out of your paycheck.
When we measure it, the total amount of money stolen out of American workers’ paychecks every year is far bigger than the total amount stolen in all the bank robberies, gas station robberies and convenience store robberies combined. It’s shocking how big it is and how much it impacts the low-wage labor market, and the corporate lobbies are working to see that it stays that way and that there’s no recourse for people who suffer from this.
November 6, 2013Iowa Town’s Vote Delivers Rebuke to Kochs’ Group
By JOHN ELIGON
The mayoral and City Council candidates in an Iowa town who were most closely aligned with the message promoted by Americans for Prosperity, the deep-pocketed conservative political group, were roundly defeated on Tuesday in a sharp rebuke of outside influence in local politics.
The group, founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, did not back specific candidates, but it targeted incumbents in the town, Coralville, for their role in running up a $280 million debt. Yet the involvement of an outside group provoked so much anger that the race became as much a referendum on the group’s involvement as on the issues themselves, and it captured national attention, including from the White House. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called the newly elected mayor, John A. Lundell, who was a City Council incumbent, on election night to congratulate him for overcoming the outside influence.
If anything, people in Coralville said, Americans for Prosperity’s efforts backfired and helped the candidates whose positions it was criticizing.
“The intrusion of the Americans for Prosperity pretty much poisoned the water of what we were trying to do for the last couple of years,” said Douglas Paul, a member of Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation, a group made up mostly of area business owners that also spoke out against the debt and the town’s economic development strategy.
Although his group agreed with Americans for Prosperity on many of the issues, Mr. Paul said, their positions came off as frightening.
“They were pretty much like bringing a loose cannon into the room,” Mr. Paul said. “They pretty much were a benefit to the incumbents.”
All three incumbents who ran won. Bill Hoeft and Thomas J. Gill kept their seats on the five-member Council. (Only three seats were up for election.) The one nonincumbent who won a seat on the Council, Laurie Goodrich, was seen as having an outside shot — she was a supporter of the current Council and garnered much attention for a meeting she had with members of the citizens’ group in which she said she was offered $20,000 to run as its candidate, an allegation the group denies.
During his celebration at a Mexican restaurant in Coralville on Tuesday night, Mr. Lundell said his cellphone buzzed with a number bearing the 202 area code. The voice on the other end was Mr. Biden’s, and he said he could tell it was not a prank. (A spokeswoman for the vice president confirmed that he had called Mr. Lundell.)
“He says that the Coralville race has become a race they began following very carefully,” Mr. Lundell said. The vice president went on to congratulate him and the town, Mr. Lundell said, “for stepping up against this well-funded group, outside influence.”
Mark J. Lucas, the president of Americans for Prosperity’s Iowa chapter, said he was pleased with his organization’s efforts in Coralville; it ran newspaper ads, knocked on doors and mailed out fliers. He credited that work for drawing a record turnout — 2,820 people, or nearly a quarter of registered voters — in a town of fewer than 20,000 people, and setting the conversation.
“I think all these people who got elected, they know that the deficit is now an issue, and people are talking about it,” he said.
****************Tea Party Steals our Money, Wants to Sell National Parks to Subsidize their Greed
By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Thursday, November, 7th, 2013, 8:13 am
So remember how upset the tea partiers were when the shutdown closed the national parks? It smacked even then of false outrage. After all, these are the people who support the Keystone XL Pipeline which , according to the Department of the Interior, “has the potential to affect resources and values at seven units of the National Park System,” but did you know at the time that they want to sell our national parks?
Small government anarchists like Alaska’s Joe Miller want their states to control (and be free to develop) federal lands within their states. “The ultimate goal has to be state control over the (resource) base,” Miller said in 2010. Michele Bachmann wanted to drill for oil in the Everglades in 2011. Anti-Semite Ron Paul (R-TX) echoed these calls in 2012, saying he wanted to disband the Department of the Interior.
This is a broad enough attack on our national parks. But in the Environment News Service reported in 2005 that Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) wanted to allow “foreign and U.S. mining corporations to buy millions of acres of public lands in the West, including land in national parks, wilderness and other protected areas.”
Since 2005 we’ve been afflicted with the anarchists of the tea party, and we’ve seen these calls renewed. In 2011, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) wanted to sell 3.3 million acres of our land (and not share the profits with us, of course). ClimateProgress reported,
His “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011” would force the Interior Department to sell 3.3 million acres of lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming to the highest bidder.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said in February of this year, “we don’t need more national parks in this country, we need to actually sell off some of our national parks…”
Grover Norquist followed suit:
It may be time to discuss how many federal gov parks should be handed over to states that are more competent to run them. Or privatized.
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) October 6, 2013
Our National Parks are lucrative. Some 278 million people visit national parks yearly (the population of the United States is 317 million), and local communities benefit economically by proximity to the parks.
I have visited Yellowstone National Park numerous times, and other parks as well. The town of Cody, Wyoming, would always get my money as a result of my visits. Jackson Hole got more of my money than I would have liked when I visited Grand Teton National Park and Wall Drug always benefits from my visits to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. ThinkProgress reported in March, “In 2010, Florida’s Everglades National Park generated 2,364 jobs and over $140 million in visitor spending, and Florida’s 11 national parks in total provided $582 million in economic benefits.”
And we get all these benefits for a miniscule National Park Service budget of $2.98 billion (2012 enacted). Remember, the Republicans squandered $24 billion on their shutdown.
Cliff Stearns claimed they are too expensive and we should just “try and do what a normal family would do” and live within our means. Chaffetz said selling our parks would reduce the deficit, that “It is neither logical nor responsible for the federal government to own or manage surplus lands.”
But for what Ted Cruz spent on his antics, we could have funded the entire National Park Service for almost a decade, albeit at current, underfunded rates.
As Deener Shanker wrote at Salon earlier this month, “since 2010, Congress has cut the parks budget by 13%, leading to the seasonal closure of national parks including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.” It is not unfair to say that the Republican Party is waging not only a war on women, on the Postal Service, on education, on the environment, and so forth, but on the national park system.
But the national park system is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It is part of America’s heritage and it is held in trust for future generations. It belongs to all of us, not merely to a few plutocrats in Washington who stand to make millions by stealing and then selling that heritage.
We should be selling Ted Cruz, not the National Parks. He’s far more expensive and accomplishes a great deal less, or as British Prime Minister Lloyd George said of Britain’s ruling class, who like America’s plutocrats also wanted things they didn’t want to pay for, “A fully-equipped duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnaughts – and they are just as great a terror.”
Shanker pointed to the problem: It’s not how much the park system costs but how much the park system could make if it were privatized and put into the hands of the same sort of people who are enriching themselves by privatizing our education system.
For Congress, though, it’s not enough just to defund our parks so they slowly fall into total, unusable ruin. In this country, it’s also important that we “Drill, baby, drill,” not to mention, “Log, baby, log” and “Mine, baby, mine.” All of these efforts create serious threats to our parks.
You can be sure that the redistributive wealth messiah, Ted Cruz, will see to these economic disparities when he seizes power and turns the United States into a huge banana republic. After all, the rich are getting screwed; we are depriving them of all sorts of potential revenue by insisting like a bunch of commies that the national park system belongs to all of us.
How dare we?
“We the People” doesn’t mean much to the tea party, though they like to use the phrase a lot. just like they like to invoke Jesus without having a clue what Jesus actually said. Not only does the government belong to the people (we established it, after all) but so do the federal lands held in trust by the government and managed by it on our behalf. They do not belong to any tea party anarchist to sell and to profit by.
The tea party wants to sell what doesn’t belong to them, stealing our heritage to enrich themselves and the corporations that own them. We can’t let that happen and we can’t let their excuses to unanswered.
If they are genuinely concerned about reducing the deficit, they will keep their greedy paws off our public lands and dig down dip to restore that $24 billion they stole from We the People during their shutdown. That would be a good start.
******************Winners and Losers From Last Night’s Off-Off Year Elections
By: Michael A Maynard
Wednesday, November, 6th, 2013, 3:43 pm
Most off-off year elections are of little interest nationally. Last night’s elections were different.
There were many winners and losers (and one who won and lost) in last night’s elections, but the biggest winner was liberalism. In the major governor (except 1) and mayor races and ballot questions throughout the country, the liberal side won. Here are the results:
Winner – 2014 and 2016 Democratic Party. The Democrats now have mayors in New York City (for the first time in 20 years), Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis and Detroit. Mayors are valuable foot soldiers in national and state elections and their political machines will remain mostly intact for next year’s and 2016′s elections.
Winner – Bill De Blasio, elected Mayor of New York City. The public advocate, Bill De Blasio, won in a landslide – 73% to 24% – over Joe Lhota, long -time political advisor to former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani. De Blasio, with his mixed race family very much in public purview, ran on a progressive/liberal platform of reducing the wealth gap, providing affordable housing to the lower middle class and the poor, expanding funding for pre-Kindergarden through raising taxes, and stopping the controversial “stop and firisk” policing policy of current major, Michael Bloomberg.
Winner – Martin Walsh, elected Mayor of Boston. Walsh beat fellow Democrat City-Councilor at Large John Connolly by 52% to 48% Walsh will take over City Hall from beloved 20 year mayor, Thomas Menino. But Mayor Menino’s relationship with the Boston school labor unions was not so beloved. Walsh’s campaign focused on school reform and job growth, two positions that earned the school labor unions support. Expanding education and increasing funding for schools was a big winning issue throughout most of last night’s races.
Winner (sort 0f) – Terry McAuliffe, elected Governor of Virginia. Former national Democratic Party chairman and BFF of Bill and Hillary Clinton won by a closer margin than expected, 47.1% – 46%, to state Attorney General and Tea Party favorite, Ken Cuccinelli. Polls leading up to election showed McAuliffe winning from 5% to 15%. The “Cooch” shifted tactics in the last week focusing on hammering away at the problems of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. Throughout the campaign, Cuccinelli’s radical conservative social views against woman’s reproductive rights, restrictions on divorce and same-sex marriage turned off women voters, who were the difference in the race voting 50% to 42% for McAuliffe. Since many of northern Virginia voters work in Washington D.C. and are employees of the federal government, Cuccinelli’s support of the federal government shutdown also hurt his campaign.
Despite the financial and advertising backing of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity political organization, McAuliffe handily outspent his opponent. McAuliffe’s new Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Ralph Nordstrom, easily defeated Tea Party crazy extraordinaire, E.W. Jackson, 55% to 45%. That Nordstrom’s margin of victory was greater than McAuliffe’s may not bode well with the new governor’s efforts to work with the Republican dominated legislature.
Winner – Liberal Social Issues - Most of the candidates that supported gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, increased spending on education and other social issues won. Colorado voters were in favor of taxing marijuana sales at 25% and using the increased revenues for regulating marijuana sales and building schools. In New Jersey, an initiative to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 passed. In Colorado, initiatives to suspend or stop fracking were passed or just narrowly defeated despite the Colorado Oil and Gas Association spending $870,000 to defeat them in the four town’s voting.
For a list of all the state ballot initiatives, visit http://votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measures/2013#.UnpZIfmsim4
Loser: The Tea Party - In addition to Cuccinelli and Jackson losing in Virginia, the Tea Party candidate in a special House of Representative Republican primary run-off election lost. Former Alabama state senator, Republican moderate Bradley Byrne, beat Dean Young 53% to 47%. In December, Byrne is favored to win election against Democrat Burton LeFlore and Independents James Hall and Curtis Railey.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie celebrates his election night victory with supporters in Asbury Park, New Jersey
AND THE BIGGEST LOSER AND WINNER IS……..
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie - Yes, Christie won re-election easily beating Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono, 60% to 38%. Christie was expected to win re-election easily, in part because of the national media focus on this race. Buono could never gain traction in the race because of the constant spotlight on the huge, often abrasive Christie and the questions about his national political interests. She also got little help from the Democratic Governor’s Association, getting only $5,000 where McAuliffe received $6 million.
Christie now becomes the Republican Party front runner for the 2016 President election, if he chooses to run. In listening to Christie’s victory speech last night, it was apparent to me that Christie is going to run. He’s a political animal and is limited to two-terms as governor. Given his personality, I doubt that he would run for the U.S. Senate, a race it is not certain he’d win against newly elected Cory Booker. At New Jersey’s expense, Christie moved his election race so that it would not be held at the same time as Booker’s.
Christie suffers from Willard Romney syndrome. He’s nationally perceived as a moderate Republican who would have to change his views in order to win the Republican Presidential nomination.
Christie’s bipartisan appeal does not sit well with GOP conservatives, who are the party’s most passionate voters and wield outsize influence in Republican presidential politics. But in a Tuesday interview with CNN, even before his victory was official, Christie appeared to be looking ahead.
Asked if he was a moderate, Christie used a word rarely uttered on the campaign trail in recent days: “I’m a conservative,” he said.”
But Christie is not a moderate. He supported Tea Party stooge, Steve Lonegan, for the Senate against Cory Booker. Christie’s ties to the Koch Brothers will be nationally exposed.
“With security extraordinary on the seminar’s opening night—audio speakers around the periphery of the outdoor dining pavilion blasted out static to thwart eavesdroppers—David Koch introduced Gov. Christie as “my kind of guy.” (The two had previously met in private at Koch’s New York City office, he revealed.) Before long, seminar attendees were roaring with laughter as Christie regaled them over dessert, telling them how, in his first weeks in office, he’d exercised extraordinary executive powers to impound billions of dollars in planned spending. (“The good news for all of you and for me,” he said, “is that the governorship in New Jersey is the most powerful constitutional governorship in America.”)”
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is at 8.5%, much higher than the national average of 7.3%. When Christie first took office, he commandeered capital gains and business tax cuts through his legislature, proven standard conservative ineffective economic measures, which has led to record budget deficits, a 2013 $848.8 million revenue shortfall, and the still high unemployment rate. So he is not credible as a capable fiscal steward, which will not play well in the early New Hampshire and Midwest primaries. His stated views on social issues will not play well nationally, especially on the East and West Coasts.
Reaching the magic 60% election number may make him the new darling of the Fox News Network, which has called him a RINO in the past (Republican In Name Only, not the other kind of rhino, which it may have called him, too.) But his record and “moderate image” also leaves Christie at a target for the other Republican Presidential wanna-be’s: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, et al. This election has done either Christie or the country any favors. He won, but he lost, and meanwhile the rest of the country loses, too..
*****************Bad News for Republicans :The Youth Vote Grew in 2013 and They Voted Democrat
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 6th, 2013, 2:03 pm
Republicans should be very worried. The youth vote grew in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, and those young people voted Democrat.
In Virginia, the youth vote as a share of the overall electorate increased by 3 points. The Democratic share of the youth vote increased by one percent, while the Republican share of dropped by 14%. Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli 45%-40% among younger voters. In New Jersey, Chris Christie was piling up big overall numbers, but he lost with young voters 51%-49%.
Republicans should be very afraid. Young voters are becoming solidly Democratic. The only demographic that Chris Christie lost in New Jersey was voters age 18-29. It doesn’t appear to matter who is at the top of the ticket, the Republican Party is a major turnoff to young voters right now.
It appears that Christie’s margin of victory had less to do with him being a different kind of Republican than Hurricane Sandy. The goodwill that Gov. Christie generated with his Sandy leadership was one of the biggest factors in his impressive showing. The fact that the Democratic Party refused to challenge Christie very hard also helped him run up a big win.
The election of 2013 revealed that Republicans have done nothing to correct their problems. On the other side, the new Democratic coalition that has grown up around President Obama took another step towards becoming the driving force behind the Democratic Party in all election years.
Republicans still don’t have a clue when it comes to appealing to young voters, women, and minorities. There is some wishful thinking in Republican circles that young voters will stop voting when Barack Obama is not on the ballot anymore. Hillary Clinton has been accepted and embraced by the Obama coalition, and young voters aren’t going to turn their backs on Democrats because Obama is no longer at the top of the ticket.
Democrats understand that issues matter to their new coalition. These voters are demonstrating that they aren’t voting for the candidate. They’re voting for the ideas. Since the Republicans have no appealing ideas, these voters aren’t persuadable I think New Jersey was a special circumstance. I don’t think Chris Christie can win 21% African-American support and 51% Hispanic support in a presidential election. Christie is pulling a page from the Guiliani playbook by using a the moment that brought him to national prominence as a springboard for his White House ambitions.
Young voters showed that they will show up to vote in an off off year election. No one should be surprised if young voters across the country turn out in 2014 to take House back from the Republican Party.
Young voters are here. They’ve voting, and they are supporting the Democratic Party.