10/17/2012 archive

What Voters DON’T Care About

Not One Debate Question Last Night Touched on the Deficit

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday October 17, 2012 11:34 am

The deficit was arguably the primary point of discussion in the Jim Lehrer debate, and Martha Raddatz featured it prominently as well. Voters don’t seem to care. They’re far more interested in things directly affecting their lives, like jobs, women’s rights, immigration, gun violence, gas prices, all topics that didn’t come up previously. Heck, even foreign policy, or at least the foreign policy situation of the moment in Libya, rated more pressing a concern than actuarial projections of the federal budget 20 or 30 years down the road.

I’m not always partial to the idea of the wisdom of crowds, but in this case, the political class would do well to follow the public. Polling consistently shows that voters don’t care about the deficit, and last night’s breadth of topics showed the same.

The group that consistently cares more about the deficit are, simply put, rich people. They don’t want their hard-earned massive tax cuts to get clawed back because the deficit gets so high that they can no longer use the “job creator” charade to shield themselves. So they obsess about the deficit, as a means to cut anything but their tax cuts. That’s the game. And the rich spend tens of millions to make that a reality, shaping opinions in Washington. The Democrats have sought to become the party of austerity in many ways to curry favor to a political class that demands so-called “fiscal responsibility.” But in reality, without our large deficit, we would not even have the recovery we have, a recovery that has outpaced the rest of the world, particularly in Europe, where they are mired in far more damaging austerity.

The more politicians realize that the public does not share the concern of the Beltway establishment on the deficit, the better off they – and the rest of us – will be.

2012 NL Championship Series- Giants at Cardinals, Game 3

Thank goodness I won’t have to retire the Rally Squirrel quite yet.  I’m not sure what I’ll do if the Giants get in and they haven’t made another video yet.

Maybe I’ll force you to suffer through Lumberjack Rabbit.

There are those who are already shoveling dirt on the Cardinals but they’re not dead yet.  They’re not even in a particularly bad position.  They split on the road which is what you expect.  Yes they took a 7 – 1 pasting and gave back 4 of a 6 run lead, but a W is a W and that’s all it is even if you lose (or win) by Lady Husky basketball digits.

What the Giants showed us is that they have some offense and really the Senior League sides haven’t lacked for it (Reds Game 2 (9 – 0), Giants Game 4 (8 – 3), Cardinals Games 2 (12 – 4), 3 (8 – 0), and 5 (9 – 7).  Those ‘Powerhouse’ Junior Leaguers… not so much.

So what can we expect at Busch Stadium this afternoon?

Well there is rain in the forecast so the game may be delayed or suspended at pretty much any point.  If the game is suspended after it starts it will resume at the point of interruption, even in the first inning.  It can cause problems with your pitching rotation as we saw last year because once your starter warms up you pretty much lose him for 4 days whether he pitches 1 inning or 9.

This is why it’s a big deal that the Giants didn’t pitch Lincecum Monday, now they have him available as a Zito replacement (and Barry was distinctly uninspiring) or in case a rain suspension spoils Cain’s (16 – 5, 2.79 ERA) outing.  Frankly if they’re pitching Cain I’d pray for rain because he didn’t look at all good in the opener against the Reds and barely better in Game 5 even though they won.

It would hurt the Cardinals if they were to lose a start by Lohse (16 – 3, 2.86 ERA) though.  It’s doubtful he could pitch again before Game 6 (if necessary) and he is an Ace, fully worthy of mentioning with Sabbathia and Verlander the unstoppable winning machine.

Dan: Eh, all right, I’ll buy that, but it still feels like it’s missing something.

(They think for a moment, then…)

Dan and Swampy: The song!

Dan: Okay, how about something like… ♪ Zubada, yia! Zubada, yia! ♪

Swampy: Do it again.

No, that wasn’t it.  Oh wait, Scutaro (2nd Base, hard slide) says he’s ok and will start today.

Junior League Games will be carried on TBS, Senior on Faux.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina venden Heuvel: How Romney’s extreme policies insult us all

At first glance, it might seem as if Mitt Romney’s path – from voting in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary to being the 2012 Republican presidential nominee – was linear. But over the past, winding, 20 years, Romney has held every possible view on every possible issue – often at the same time. When it comes to policy, he’s been downright promiscuous.

He was for a woman’s right to choose before he was against it. He was for tax cuts for the rich before he was against them. He was for – no, he wrote – health reform before he was against it … before he was for the parts that everybody liked.

This isn’t a platform – it’s a punchline.

Bryce Covert: Why Romney and Ryan’s ‘Reforms’ of Medicaid Would Likely Destroy It

Not only did we get sparks at the vice-presidential debate last week, we got a good deal of substance. The social safety net inevitably came up, and Biden and Ryan sparred over Social Security (the one drawing a hard line on making changes to benefits, the other refloating the idea of privatization) and how to reform Medicare, with the word “voucher” tossed back and forth.

One major program that didn’t get much airtime, though, was Medicaid. Perhaps it gets less play because it’s targeted at those living in poverty, not necessarily the middle class politicians so love to love. The program provides healthcare for low-income people through both federal and state financing. Currently, the federal government gives states money with requirements attached for maintaining a certain level of benefits and eligibility. While Social Security and Medicare get the spotlight, this program is in serious danger, as past experience with Romney and Ryan’s preferred “reforms” shows.

Carolina Rossini: Canada-EU Trade Agreement Replicates ACTA’s Notorious Copyright Provisions

The shadow of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is back in Europe. It is disguised as CETA, the Canada-European Union and Trade Agreement. As reported by EDRI, a rather strange and surprising e-mail was sent this summer from the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union to the Member States and the European Commission. The e-mail explained that the criminal sanctions provisions of the draft CETA are modeled on those in ACTA.

A comparison of the leaked draft Canada-EU agreement shows the treaty includes a number of the same controversial provisions, specifically concerning criminal enforcement, private enforcement by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and harsh damages. These provisions are particularly problematic, and were the key reasons why the European Parliament rejected ACTA. However, given the lack of transparency associated with the CETA discussions (both Canada and EU insist that the draft text remain secret), the concerns that CETA may replicate ACTA appear to be very real despite denials from some members of the European Commission.

Sarah Anderson:European Victory on Taxing Speculation

The goofy stunts weren’t the only game-changers.

European campaigners for a financial transaction tax have done some awfully goofy things over the past three years.

At one French demonstration, they stripped down to their skivvies to emphasize the small size of the tax (0.1% on trade of stocks and bonds and 0.02% on derivatives under the European Commission’s proposal). In Germany, they rented a limo and crashed the Berlinale film festival, dressed as Robin Hood characters. In many countries, they’ve gotten elected officials to pose with silly hats and fake bows and arrows.

But after this week, the opponents of the financial transaction tax (aka Robin Hood Tax) will no longer snicker at such antics. At a meeting of European finance ministers on October 9, 11 governments committed to implementing the tax. This is two more than the minimum number needed for an official EU agreement. And it is a huge victory for those of us — not just in Europe but also in the United States and around the world — who’ve been pushing for such taxes as a way to curb short-term speculation and generate massive revenue for job creation, global health, climate, and other pressing needs.

Kristin Moe: Much at Stake as Possibility of Tar Sands Pipeline Looms

Pumping diluted bitumen to Portland presents the risk of a major spill tainting Sebago Lake or Casco Bay

Conservation groups recently held a news conference to sound the alarm over an oil pipeline project that isn’t even officially on the table. What’s the big deal?

It seems simple: Take an existing oil pipeline that connects tankers in Casco Bay to refineries in Montreal and pump a different kind of oil through it in the opposite direction. The difference seems minor.

The difference is that this is no ordinary oil. It’s called “diluted bitumen,” and it’s highly toxic, corrosive and hot — and, according to a recent report by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute, three times more likely to spill than conventional crude.

A spill would threaten Sebago Lake, where Greater Portland gets its drinking water, or even Casco Bay and its fisheries. One spill here could be devastating.

Laurie Penny: The Golden Dawn: Neo-Fascists Rise in a Greece Mired in Austerity Pain

The economic ethos of European neo-fascism, from the Golden Dawn to the British National Party, has historically been anti-neoliberal and anti-globalisation

The Golden Dawn does not behave like a party that has much respect for the parliamentary process. It first came to international attention before the May elections when one of its figureheads physically assaulted a left-wing female politician on live television. As an organisation which is fundamentally anti-democratic, there is a ponderous question-mark over whether the Golden Dawn should have been allowed to stand in representative elections in the first place.

The mockery the 18 Golden Dawn MPs currently sitting in the Hellenic parliament continue to make of the democratic process is painfully felt by many Greeks who pride themselves on their nation’s role as the ‘cradle of democracy.’

However, there’s one area where the parliamentary strategy of the Greek far-right seems remarkably consistent: its selective support for neoliberal economic policymaking. Golden Dawn MPs in parliament have voted consistently against the proposals of the larger parties – the left-leaning Pasok and the centre-right New Democracy – except when it comes to the privatisation of public banks like ATEbank, with its assets of over €33bn.

Don’t let the door hit you.

(h/t dday)

Citigroup’s Chief Resigns in Surprise Step


October 16, 2012

In an interview, Mr. Pandit said that the decision to resign was entirely his own, adding that it was “something that I had been thinking about for a while” and that Monday “it occurred to me to go see Mike.”

For weeks, though, Mr. O’Neill and other board members had been mapping out the transfer of power during meetings that occurred, in part, while Mr. Pandit was in Japan last week attending a gathering of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, said the people briefed on the matter, who declined to be named because the meetings were private.

“This is a ludicrous management transition, the worst I’ve seen in my 25-year career,” said Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Agricole Securities.

Mr. Pandit presided over a turbulent chapter in Citi’s history, steering the bank back from the brink of collapse during the financial crisis when Citi received a $45 billion lifeline from the federal government, along with other federal support.

Mr. Pandit’s total direct compensation, which includes salary, bonus payouts and some stock awards, totals $56.4 million in his years as chief, according to the research firm Equilar. But his biggest payout from Citi was the $165 million that he received when the bank bought Old Lane Partners, the hedge fund he co-founded after leaving Morgan Stanley.

With Mr. Pandit’s exit, just two men who ran Wall Street banks during the financial crisis remain in their posts: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.

Some board members saw the Federal Reserve’s rejection in March of Citi’s proposal to buy back shares and increase its dividend payments as a reflection, in part, of Mr. Pandit’s poor relationship with the bank’s regulators, according to several people close to the bank.

Then some board members were angered when the final valuation of the wealth management unit, which is jointly owned with Morgan Stanley, was considered a coup for Morgan. The banks agreed to value the brokerage operation at $13.5 billion, and as a result, Citi took a $2.9 billion write-down during the third quarter.

Mr. Pandit’s resignation was a surprise on Tuesday because its third-quarter earnings, released the day before, were seen as relatively strong, excluding the write-down and one-time items.

Still, shareholders were apprehensive. Despite recent gains in the stock, the shares had fallen 89 percent since he took over. In April, they rejected a board-approved pay package that increased Mr. Pandit’s pay to $14.9 million in 2011, up from $1 a year in 2010. That rebuke surprised some board members, adding fodder for those who wanted to replace Mr. Pandit.

Citigroup’s $900 Million Man Departs Abruptly

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The media seems to have accepted the board’s effort to save face, which is that they were in the process of pushing Pandit out. But “in the process” is not the same as pulling the trigger. This was, in the words of analyst Mike Mayo, the worst transition he’s seen in 25 years. While Pandit presumably got some personal satisfaction by (probably barely) beating the board to the punch, it was a self-indulgent, immature move.

Pandit’s much bigger win is that he is laughing all the way to the countinghouse. The behemoth bank paid $800 million to secure the services of Pandit, who had been a promising executive at Morgan Stanley before forming the hedge fund, Old Lane Partners, that Citi acquired. That price produced at least a $165 million payday for Pandit personally. The effective price of getting him on board may have been even higher, since the bank shuttered the fund a mere 11 months later, and may have taken losses on credit extended to it. Even though he took only $1 in 2010, he still wound up with $56.5 million over his tenure at Citigroup (Felix Salmon claims it was $96 million).

Pandit managed the impressive task of underperforming his closest cousin in the garbage barge category, Bank of America. Citi’s stock price fell 89% over Pandit’s tenure, while the Charlotte bank’s declined a mere 79%. Sheila Bair wanted his scalp, both out of the belief that managers of bailout-out banks, even relatively new ones, needed to suffer consequences, as well as her assessment that Pandit was not up to his job, in particular, that he was not on top of operational workings. But Pandit, a pick of Robert Rubin, got to keep his job thanks to the support of fellow Rubin protege Timothy Geithner. And the “strategy” he appears to have been given credit for, that of shrinking and focusing the bank, was demanded of him by regulators. Similarly, the offensive “the government made money on its investment in Citi” is patently false. It not only had to restructure the deal (a second bailout after the initial TARP infusion) but the Treasury provided a second huge gimmie, that of allowing Citi to preserve the value of $50 billion in deferred tax assets, which in 2010 counted for a full third of the bank’s tangible common equity.

The media is now dutifully recounting Pandit’s sins: Citi’s failure to get permission from the Fed to pay dividends this year; an exit from its JV of Smith Barney on terms that were way too favorable to its partner, Morgan Stanley (ahem, but where was the board on that one?); asking for $15 million in pay for 2011, a level that investors rejected. And I’m a bit of a loss at the idea that quitting after the third quarter earnings announcement allowed Pandit to exit with his head high. Nearly half of the quarter’s $3.3 billion in earnings (before the $2.9 billion after tax loss on the Smith Barney sale) came from the reversal of loss reserves.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

On This Day In History October 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 17 is the 290th day of the year (291st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 75 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signs into law an act of Congress approving $100 million of military and “humanitarian” aid for the Contras. Unfortunately for the President and his advisors, the Iran-Contra scandal is just about to break wide open, seriously compromising their goal of overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Congress, and a majority of the American public, had not been supportive of the Reagan administration’s efforts to topple the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Reagan began a “secret war” to bring down the Nicaraguan government soon after taking office in 1981. Millions of dollars, training, and arms were funneled to the Contras (an armed force of Nicaraguan exiles intent on removing the leftist Nicaraguan regime) through the CIA. American involvement in the Contra movement soon became public, however, as did disturbing reports about the behavior of the Contra force. Charges were leveled in newspapers and in Congress that the Contras were little more than murderers and drug runners; rumors of corruption and payoffs were common. Congress steadily reduced U.S. assistance to the Contras, and in 1984 passed the second Boland Amendment prohibiting U.S. agencies from giving any aid to the group.

The affair was composed of arms sales to Iran in violation of the official US policy of an arms embargo against Iran, and of using funds thus generated to arm and train the Contra militants based in Honduras as they waged a guerilla war to topple the government of Nicaragua. The Contras’ form of warfare was “one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping.” The “Contras systematically engage in violent abuses… so prevalent that these may be said to be their principal means of waging war.” A Human Rights Watch report found that the Contras were guilty of targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians; torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns.

Direct funding of the Contras insurgency had been made illegal through the Boland Amendment the name given to three U.S. legislative amendments between 1982 and 1984, all aimed at limiting US government assistance to the Contras militants. Senior officials of the Reagan administration decided to continue arming and training the Contras secretly and in violation of the law as enacted in the Boland Amendment. Senior Reagan administration officials started what they came to call “the Enterprise,” a project to raise money for their illegal funding of the Contras insurgency.

Libertarian Candidate: Gary Johnson

The Libertarian Party is the third largest and fastest growing political party in the United States. The party platform is favors minimizing regulation, less government, strong civil liberties (including support for same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights), the legalization of cannabis, separation of church and state, open immigration, non-interventionism and neutrality in diplomatic relations, freedom of trade and travel to all foreign countries, and a more responsive and direct democracy. They support the repeal of NAFTA, CAFTA and other trade agreements, as well as, withdrawal from the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and NATO. The party was founded in 1971 and has qualified for the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Former two time Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson is the 2012 party nominee for president:

He entered politics for the first time by running for Governor of New Mexico in 1994 on a fiscally conservative, low-tax, anti-crime platform. Johnson won the Republican Party of New Mexico’s gubernatorial nomination, and defeated incumbent Democratic governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. He cut the 10% annual growth in the budget: in part, due to his use of the gubernatorial veto 200 times during his first six months in office, which gained him the nickname “Governor Veto”. [..]

Johnson sought re-election in 1998, winning by 55% to 45%. In his second term, he concentrated on the issue of school voucher reforms, as well as campaigning for marijuana decriminalization and opposition to the War on Drugs. [..]

Johnson announced his candidacy for President on April 21, 2011, as a Republican, on a libertarian platform emphasizing the United States public debt and a balanced budget through a 43% reduction of all federal government spending, protection of civil liberties, an immediate end to the War in Afghanistan and his advocacy of the FairTax.

On December 28, 2011, after being excluded from the majority of the Republican Party’s presidential debates and failing to gain traction while campaigning for the New Hampshire primary, he withdrew his candidacy for the Republican nomination and announced that he would continue his presidential campaign as a candidate for the nomination of the Libertarian Party. He won the Libertarian Party nomination on May 5, 2012. His vice-presidential running mate is Judge James P. Gray of California.

Johnson could become the spoiler in this election siphoning off votes from the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, much as many believe the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, cost Al Gore the Florida vote in 2000 and Ross Perot candidacy lost George H. W. Bush his second term in 1992. This has the GOP running scared in swing states like Pennsylvania:

The fear of Mr. Johnson’s tipping the outcome in an important state may explain why an aide to Mr. Romney ran what was effectively a surveillance operation into Mr. Johnson’s efforts over the summer to qualify for the ballot at the Iowa State Fair, providing witnesses to testify in a lawsuit to block him that ultimately fizzled.

Libertarians suspect it is why Republican state officials in Michigan blocked Mr. Johnson from the ballot after he filed proper paperwork three minutes after his filing deadline.

And it is why Republicans in Pennsylvania hired a private detective to investigate his ballot drive in Philadelphia, appearing at the homes of paid canvassers and, in some cases, flashing an F.B.I. badge – he was a retired agent – while asking to review the petitions they gathered at $1 a signature, according to testimony in the case and interviews.

The challenge in Pennsylvania, brought by state Republican Party officials who suspected that Democrats were secretly helping the effort to get Mr. Johnson on the ballot, was shot down in court last week, bringing to 48 the number of states where Mr. Johnson will compete on Nov. 6.

On MSNBC’s Daily Rundown, political analyst Chuck Todd discusses the impact of third party candidates and interviewed Gov. Johnson:

You can read more about Gov. Johnson and his running mate, Judge James P. Gray at his campaign’s web site.

“How do you guys make up the news?”

Today is the Colbert Report’s seventh anniversary.

This appears to be the full interview from which Stephen Colbert’s appearance on Meet the Press was drawn.  It still has waaay too much Dancing Dave for my taste.

Roundtable Responds to Colbert Exclusive

2012 Presidential Debate 2

Moderator Role Under Scrutiny – Before the Debate

By Mark Halperin, Time

October 14, 2012

In a rare example of political unity, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have expressed concern to the Commission on Presidential Debates about how the moderator of this Tuesday’s town hall has publicly described her role, TIME has learned.

In the view of the two campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the debate moderator.

According to the debate-format language in the agreement, after each audience question and two-minute responses from the candidates, Obama and Romney are expected to have an additional discussion facilitated by Crowley. Yet her participation is meant to be limited. As stated in the document, “In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.” The memo, which has been obtained by TIME, was signed by lawyers for the two campaigns on Oct. 3, the day of the first presidential debate in Denver.

Crowley seems unfazed by the behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Even after concerns were raised in the wake of the Malveaux interview, Crowley made additional comments that make clear she does not feel bound by any agreement between the commission and the Obama and Romney camps. On Oct. 11, the day of the vice-presidential debate, she told Wolf Blitzer, “I’m always interested in the questions because you don’t want to – in a debate, you don’t want to go over plowed ground. Now, this is the vice-presidential candidates as opposed to the presidential candidates. So is there room there to come back to a presidential candidate and say, Well, your vice-presidential candidate said this? I’m always kind of looking for the next question … So there’s opportunity for follow-up to kind of get them to drill down on the subjects that these folks want to learn about in the town hall.”

Sources say both campaigns are preparing their candidates for the debate under the assumption that Crowley might play a bigger role than either they or the commission want. At the same time, some officials familiar with the deliberations of the campaigns say they hope that by publicizing the expectations for the moderator’s role in the town hall and making public the language in the memo, Crowley will be less likely to overstep their interpretation of her role. One key source expressed confidence on Sunday afternoon that, despite Crowley’s remarks on CNN, the moderator would perform on Tuesday night according to the rules agreed to by the two campaigns.


The lame rules for presidential debates: a perfect microcosm of US democracy

Glenn Greenwald

Tuesday 16 October 2012 16.03 EDT

The way the two major parties control the presidential debates is a perfect microcosm of how political debates are restricted in general. Though typically shrouded in secrecy, several facts about this process have recently come to light and they are quite instructive.

Under this elaborate regime, the candidates “aren’t permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a ‘predesignated area.'” Worse, “the audience members posing questions aren’t allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.” The rules even “forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates”.

Here then, within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy. The two parties collude in secret. The have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.

All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.

Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media’s role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it’s all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.

To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm.

The 2012 Debates – Memorandum of Understanding Between the Obama and Romney Campaigns

Leaked 2012 Presidential Debates Contract: Few Critical Points Worth Raising

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday October 15, 2012 8:25 pm

It is what should be expected from candidates from the two most prominent political parties in America, which wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters back in the 1980s. The two parties launched the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has conducted itself like the corrupt organization it was destined to become by working to exclude third party candidates, debate moderators and key issues/topics for decades now.

The contract shows no one is to “issue any challenges for additional debates” or “appear at any other debate or adversarial forums except as agreed to by the parties.” They are also not to “accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format or otherwise involve the simultaneous appearance of more than one candidate.” What this means is that when news programs like “Democracy Now!” or HuffPost Live hold debates or CNN host Don Lemon hosts does a segment where third party candidates are invited, neither Obama nor Romney can participate because of this agreement. They also cannot accept invitations from the NAACP to participate in forums or groups like Free and Equal, which is committed to openness and fairness in elections. The two campaigns agree to close off debate and limit democracy in the election.

If candidates outside of Obama or Romney are “invited to participate,” they must sign the secret contract and agree to these terms. Should they refuse, they cannot be part of the debate. Someone like Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein might get a bump and have enough support in a poll to be in a debate but, if they refuse to cooperate with a organization with such a shady history, they will not get to go before an audience and share their platform.

For the town hall debate, the contract instructs the moderator to go through a cumbersome process of approving audience questions prior to the debate for the benefit of the candidates, who would not want to be caught off guard by a question the carefully selected media personality had not finessed and sanitized for public consumption.

There are also to be no cut-aways to candidates not answering a question or not giving a closing statement. This is why candidates are shown in a split-screen on television. That is not prohibited in the agreement and is also not a cut-away. In any case, the campaigns mean to limit viewers’ ability to react to body language.

There is nothing in the “leaked” secret contract on third party candidates, beyond the note that additional qualified candidates must sign the CPD agreement. The selection criteria, however, is posted on the CPD website. It makes clear a candidate must be “constitutionally eligible, “appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2012 general election” and  have a level of support of at least 15% “of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”

The selection criteria is why Johnson took the step of filing an antitrust lawsuit against the CPD. According to the Los Angeles Times, the suit argues the Republican and Democratic national committees engaged in a conspiracy by meeting and creating rules for the debates in secret, which exclude third-party candidates. It also alleges they participated in a “restraint of trade” that violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. (The challenge is different from a challenge brought by Ralph Nader that argued the CPD was violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by endorsing, supporting or opposing political candidates or political parties.)

Tomorrow, during the second presidential debate, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson will not be on stage. A functioning democratic society would not tolerate a political process where these individuals were not treated fairly. At minimum, each general election cycle would begin with a debate with all candidates that were on enough state ballots to assume the presidency and were registering a percentage of support in national polls. That would typically be four to six people and not unreasonable.

Regardless of whether the rigged system makes it possible for them to win or not, they should not be excluded. Secret contracts have no place in any society claiming to have fair elections. And, the CPD-which is a symptom of the bipartisan racket that is US elections-should be dissolved. It does not encourage open, free and fair politics but rather exists to protect the status quo or current order that benefits the richest one percent and the guardians of the national security state.

*Tune into “Democracy Now!” as they expand the debate Wednesday morning after the second presidential debate with Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson and Virgil Goode, who will answer questions they should have been asked personally the previous night.

Me?  I’m going to be watching Professional Wrestling because I know that’s not fixed.

This is an Open Thread.

Democracy at Work: Green Party Candidate Arrested

Green Party candidate for president, Jill Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested outside of Hofstra University, the site of tonight’s restricted debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney. It was reported that they was denied access to the university by Hofstra representatives because they didn’t have “credentials.” After about 20 minutes of trying to gain access, Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala sat down on the sidewalk draping an American flag across their laps. Police advised them if they did not move they would be arrested. They refused and were led away by Nassau County and campus police.

The Green Party will be on 85% of the ballots in November but because of the tight control of the debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a supposed “non-partisan” entity, the voices of other candidates are being silenced.

You can however stay informed. Dr. Stein will be participating in at least four other debates according to a statement at her web site:

   Thursday, October 18 — The Independent Voter Network debate between Jill Stein and Gary Johnson can be viewed live on October 18, 2012 beginning at 7:00 PM EST on http://ivn.us/, or on IVN.us’ Google+ and YouTube page. More information at: http://ivn.us/ca-election-cent…

  Monday, October 22 — Time TBA: Democracy Now continues its “Expanding the Debate” series with a live broadcast during the third presidential debate with real-time responses from Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson. For full details: http://www.democracynow.org/bl…

   Thursday, October 23 & Tuesday October 30 — Free and Equal Election’s Alternative Debate will be available live online, streaming from http://freeandequal.org/live on Oct. 23 and Oct 30 at 9:00 PM EST.  The first of thses two debates will include Jill Stein from the Green Party; Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party; Virgil Goode from the Constitution Party; and Rocky Anderson from the Justice Party.  More information at: http://action.freeandequal.org…

2012 AL Championship Series- Yankees at Tigers, Game 3

As all my readers know I’m just a warm fuzzy teddy bear of nurturant positivity, so as I promised last night I’m going to attempt to alleviate the anxieties of the Yankee fans in my audience.

First of all I can’t help but feel that Derek Jeter’s unexpected injury has opened Yankee management’s eyes to the vulnerability of their current line up.  Win or lose the team of destiny has all the resources they need to make dramatic changes (I understand the Cardinals are lousy with minor league pitching prospects) and as I think I’ve made clear I have no quarrel at all with their goals (173 victories) or strategy (whatever it costs), but merely with some tactical decisions ($27.5 Million a year until 2017?!  What were you thinking?).

Other positive signs include the fact that the Tigers are terrible at Comerica.  Didn’t they just lose 2 straight to the As there?  Also in playoff games without Alex Rodriguez the Yankees are an undefeated 1 – 0, you can’t beat that.

Tonight we’ll have Phil Hughes (16 – 13, 4.23 ERA) on the mound who is their 3rd best pitcher after Sabbathia and Kuroda.  Girardi has changed his mind and will pitch Sabbathia on full rest in Game 4 tomorrow.

On the other hand the Tigers will be starting Verlander (17 – 8, 2.64 ERA) and he’s an unstoppable winning machine.  Leyland probably won’t even have to call on the questionable Valverde though he says he’s willing to if necessary.

Still it’s not hyperbole to call this a ‘must win’ game.  In a playoff you have to do everything you can to avoid being placed in a elimination situation.  If the Yankees lose tonight they’ll have to win every single one of the remaining 4 games to advance or it will be a whole 3 years since their last World Championship in 2009 (their average is 4).


Junior League Games will be carried on TBS.