Sunday, August 12, 2012



August 12, 2012

The Ryan Factor

Audio Link to The Ryan Factor

So now it is official: Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan is going to be Mitt Romney's running mate. R&R: the tonsorial twosome -- the best-coifed ticket since Washington and Adams; perhaps the most economically obtuse since Harding and Coolidge. In introducing Ryan, best known for the eponymous budget plan which would turn Medicare into a voucher system and partially privatize Social Security, Romney made a slip of Freudian Romney and Ryanproportions, when he asked those assembled before him to " . . . join me in welcome [sic] the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan!" Made aware of his verbal gaffe, Romney got huge laughs when he added, "Every now and then I'm known to make a mistake." Realizing that this statement could also be somewhat problematic, he quickly added, "I did not make a mistake with this guy. (In all fairness, four years ago, when he introduced his running mate, Barack Obama said "So let me introduce to you the next president -- the next vice president of the US of America, Joe Biden." Not to be outdone, Biden, who has a long and well-documented track record of verbal miscues, referred to his future boss as "Barack America.")

In naming Ryan even before he becomes the GOP's official nominee (which will likely come later this month), Romney is seeking to deflect attention away from his blunder-filled trek abroad, questions about his personal finances and the need to reconcile his new-found "seriously conservative" verbiage with his fairly recent past. Of course, in bringing Ryan, the 42-year old Ayn Rand-loving House Budget Chair on board, Romney is also trying to shore up credibility with the Tea Party faction that is currently calling most of the political shots in what was once called the "Party of Lincoln." This last point is crucial, for Tea Partiers have believed all along that Romney is a non-too closeted liberal. Up until 24-hours ago, about the only thing the former Massachusetts governor had going for him in the eyes of the Republican right is that his name is not Obama. To anoint Ryan, who, rightfully or not, Tea Partiers consider to be on the side of the family-values-smaller-government-is-better-deficit-destroying angels, it gives Romney a bit of political cover.

Historically, vice presidential candidates have been chosen because of any of a number of reasons:

They provide credibility and coverage in areas which the person at the top of the ticket may be lacking. (Think Biden in foreign policy or Mondale in Washington politics);

They have regional popularity and might help bring in votes from crucial states. (Think Wilson's VP Thomas Marshall in the Midwest or LBJ in the South);
They represent a balance of image. (Think Garret Hobart's jocosity to Wm. McKinley's seriousness or John Nance Garner's plainspoken everyman to FDR's eastern blueblood);
For reasons best left to speculation. (Think Agnew, Palin and Quayle)

Of these four categories (and of course, there are more), Ryan best fits into the first: Providing "credibility and coverage . . ." Goodness knows, his selection has nothing to do with regional popularity, for truth to tell, he has never run a state-wide race, and barely known outside of Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District. And when it comes to image or personality, he is virtually as boring and verbally flat-footed as Romney. His selection then, is mostly due to his conservative, pro-Tea Party, ultimate deficit hawk bone fides. But even these credentials are going to be called into question once the media and the Obama campaign finish putting in their two cents.

What is the public going to learn about Paul Ryan?

First -- though not necessarily foremost -- that Ryan, the man whose economic "roadmap" would:

Give across-the-board tax cuts by reducing income tax rates;

Eliminate income taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest;
Abolish the corporate income tax, estate tax and alternative minimum tax;
Privatize a portion of Social Security;
Eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance and
Privatize Medicare

That he himself received Social Security benefits upon the death of his father, which he used to help pay for his college education. Many will no doubt see this as a glaring inconsistency. An insightful friend, Alan Wald, wrote somewhat tongue in cheek that "[Ryan] wants to gut Social Security . . . . Let him pay back all that survivor's . . . commie pinko money . . . he should have refused the money out of principle . . . . Until he returns the money, he has no right to proclaim that he has a solution."

Second, that Ryan, the man who many Republicans consider to be the intellectual leader of their party's drive to shrink government has, over the course of his Congressional career, consistently voted for big bank bailouts, unfunded mandates and unnecessary wars. According to Democrat Ron Zerban, who has mounted a serious challenge to Ryan in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District (Ryan can run for reelection and V.P. at the same time), "Ryan is a root cause of many of the financial issues our country faces today," says Zerban."From supporting two unfunded wars, to dumping millions of senior citizens into the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole' while tying the hands of the government to negotiate prescription drug prices, and from fighting for subsidies for Big Oil that his family personally benefits from, to supporting the unfunded Bush tax cuts for his wealthiest campaign contributors, Paul Ryan's hypocrisy is astounding."

Third, that Ryan is just another career politician who has spent his entire post-college life working on Capitol Hill. Conservative chatterboxes who constantly deride President Obama for never having worked a single day in the world of business had better start treading lightly; neither has the gentleman from Janesville. Just how smart is it to select a veteran member of the House of Representatives . . . an institution even less popular than the I.R.S.?

Vice Presidential picks are supposed to help, not hinder national tickets. And while Paul Ryan may help Mitt Romney a bit with the Tea Party wing of the GOP, he could easily be a disaster with moderates and independents, not to mention women, gays and immigrants. In selecting Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and his advisors -- who I sometimes think must be working on the sly for Barack Obama -- have all but guaranteed that the future of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and not the economy, will be the campaign's central issue. Unlike Mitt Romney, who has a history of changing positions on most every issue, Paul Ryan has, for the most part, been a model of consistency. And in politics, this isn't always a good thing; it gives one almost no room in which to maneuver, to make those nuanced tweaks which can soothe ruffled feathers and increase electability.

One thing that all vice presidential candidates should bring to the table is the certainty that they can take over the top spot should, God forbid, the need arise. One wonders about Paul Ryan. Unlike Joe Biden, Ryan has even less foreign policy experience than his boss. Unlike George H.W. Bush, Ryan has no experience outside the confines of Capitol Hill. And unlike Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey or Walter Mondale, Paul Ryan doesn't know the meaning of the word compromise.

Romney and Ryan may well be the best-looking ticket in American history. Then too, they will likely prove to be the stiffest, most narrowly-focused, pro-business, anti-middle class pairing since Taft and Sherman more than a century ago. One thing you do have to grant Paul Ryan: he has excited both hard-core conservatives and progressives -- the former because he's one of them, and the latter because he is the personification of what Bill Clinton recently termed "Bush policies on steroids."

May Paul Ryan do for Mitt Romney what Sarah Palin did for John McCain!

©2012 Kurt F. Stone

For Whom Does the Bell Toll?

Recounting so many Republican policies whether domestic, economic or foreign policy issues the utter inhumanity, meanness and horrific nature of what the Republicans say is shown in the racist and violent signs they have carried. It makes the re-election of the President and Elizabeth Warren for US Senate not optional but mandatory. This, indeed, is, as Doris Kearns Goodwin said of the New Deal FDR era, no ordinary time. This is a time in Horatio Alger style this nation either sinks or swims. Romney and his side kick Ryan will return us to the George Bush era except this time on steroids with massive debt paid for on the backs of NOT the rich but the middle class and poor -- i.e. probably most of us.

These mendacious charlatans talk a good game for their gullible followers but they will most definitely not deliver for them. They will buy up as Bain Capital did all the trimmings, economically ravage them and pocket trillions.

America, they are coming for it all. Wall Street wants it all. Even though they say one will be allowed to choose the Social Security option, in the long term Wall Street mendacity will prevail. They will offer you junk and then take credit default swaps out to insure themselves when you lose. Make no mistake you WILL lose. They do not care about the poor or the middle class. They care about themselves -- the richest 1%.

If you have to die because of these insane, ineffective, and moronic health care vouchers that Paul Ryan touts then so be it. Vouchers will buy you little anyway. Health care will be for the elites like Romney, Donald Trump, and Paul Ryan. Does anyone on planet earth think Ann Romney worries about the cost of her MS (a very costly malady?) Disease and death are equal opportunity employers but waging a war over sickness depends on whether or not you will be able to afford the massive cost of health care. Ann Romney will NEVER die from lack of healthcare but you and I will and the Republican peanut gallery will cheer as they did during the Republican debates when they said of the unlucky uninsured: "Let him die!"

For whom does the bell toll? What the ignorant in the Republican Party do not realize is that the bell tolls for them as well as it does for us.

The Life You Save May Be Your Very Own

Romney Hood and his Merry Band (Cartoon)

Posted: 11 Aug 2012 07:42 AM PDT

Heat Wave: The Best Reporting on our Rising Temperatures (Currier)

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 09:05 PM PDT

Heat Wave: The Best Reporting on Our Rising Temperatures

by Cora Currier and Suevon Lee ProPublica,

July was the hottest month ever in the continental U.S., and the past twelve months have been hotter than any such period on record. Half of all counties in the country have been declared disaster areas, mainly due to drought. We’ve rounded up some of the best journalism on the effects of rising temperatures. Got others you’re burning to share? Add them in the comments.

Profits on Carbon Credits Drive Output of a Harmful Gas, New York Times, August 2012 Under a U.N. carbon credit program, manufacturers can get credits for reducing emission of greenhouse gases. But air-conditioner and refrigerator manufacturers realized they could profit from a waste gas produced while making coolant, and they started making and destroying more of it to earn credits. The result: more production of the original coolant, which also contributes to global warming and damages the ozone layer.

In Drought-Stricken Midwest, It’s Fodder Vs. Fuel, NPR, July 2012 A U.S. law requires gas companies to buy a certain amount of ethanol, which is made from corn. That means ethanol factories are buying up the crop. Farmers who need corn for livestock, and who are already struggling with drought, say the system isn’t fair.

Wildfire: Red slurry’s toxic dark side, Denver Post, June 2012 Hundreds of thousands of gallons of “red slurry” were dropped on wildfires raging in Colorado. The chemical mixture is effective at firefighting, but it’s also full of toxins, including ammonia and nitrates, which threaten the water supply and wildlife. For more background on the Colorado fires, read I-News Network’s account on how more people are moving into the state’s high-risk “red zones”, even as the frequency of fires has increased over the past decade.

Oysters in deep trouble: Is Pacific Ocean’s chemistry killing sea life?, The Seattle Times, April 2012 Since 2005, millions of Pacific oysters in a Washington estuary have failed to reproduce and the oyster larvae have been dying. Though region-specific causes contributed to the decline, some scientists believe that greenhouse gases are leading to increased corrosive seawater sooner than expected.

The Great Oasis, The New Yorker, December 2011 About a third of the earth is covered in desert, a percentage that increases each year thanks in part to climate change and unsustainable farming. The New Yorker’s Burkhard Bilger examines the science and politics involved in various countries’ efforts to stop desertification, from China and Israel to Oman and Nigeria.

Our Dying Forests, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 2011 This multi-part series centers on the decline of the once-lush forestation in the Rocky Mountain West, where warmer winters and longer growing seasons have sparked an explosion of native beetle species that have destroyed 40 million acres of moisture-starved spruce, firs and aspen.

Extreme Heat Blanches Coral, and Threat is Seen, The New York Times, September 2010 In 2010 many of the world’s coral reefs turned white in reaction to too-warm waters. Coral bleaching and die-offs often occur in years when El NiƱo or other unusual weather patterns contribute to hot ocean temperatures, but scientists say that global warming is also playing a factor in what they call “global bleachings.”

Losing Louisiana, The Times-Picayune, December 2008 Rising sea levels pose a particular problem for Louisiana’s fragile coastline, where the land is sinking and protective wetlands have been ravaged by development and hurricanes. North Carolina’s shore is also seeing the impact of rising seas, as the Charlotte Observer covered in a recent series on coastal erosion.



Mirrored from ProPublica.