The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.
The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who'd be honored to tell Oliver Twist there's no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race.
Like John McCain four years before, Romney desperately needed a vice-presidential pick that would change the game. But where McCain bet on a combustive mix of clueless novelty and suburban sexual tension named Sarah Palin, Romney bet on an idea. He said as much when he unveiled his choice of Ryan, the author of a hair-raising budget-cutting plan best known for its willingness to slash the sacred cows of Medicare and Medicaid. "Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party," Romney told frenzied Republican supporters in Norfolk, Virginia, standing before the reliably jingoistic backdrop of a floating warship. "He understands the fiscal challenges facing America: our exploding deficits and crushing debt."
Debt, debt, debt. If the Republican Party had a James Carville, this is what he would have said to win Mitt over, in whatever late-night war room session led to the Ryan pick: "It's the debt, stupid." This is the way to defeat Barack Obama: to recast the race as a jeremiad against debt, something just about everybody who's ever gotten a bill in the mail hates on a primal level.
Last May, in a much-touted speech in Iowa, Romney used language that was literally inflammatory to describe America's federal borrowing. "A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation," he declared. "Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love." Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Mitt, it's going to burn our children alive.
And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.
The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.
Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution. He's not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He's not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He's been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let's-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let's-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of "creative destruction," and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America's rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.
Mitt Romney – a man whose own father built cars and nurtured communities, and was one of the old-school industrial anachronisms pushed aside by the new generation's wealth grab – has emerged now to sell this make-nothing, take-everything, screw-everyone ethos to the world. He's Gordon Gekko, but a new and improved version, with better PR – and a bigger goal. A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition.
Willard "Mitt" Romney's background in many ways suggests a man who was born to be president – disgustingly rich from birth, raised in prep schools, no early exposure to minorities outside of maids, a powerful daddy to clean up his missteps, and timely exemptions from military service. In Romney's bio there are some eerie early-life similarities to other recent presidential figures. (Is America really ready for another Republican president who was a prep-school cheerleader?) And like other great presidential double-talkers such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Romney has shown particular aptitude in the area of telling multiple factual versions of his own life story.
"I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there," he claimed years after the war. To a different audience, he said, "I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam."
Like John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, men whose way into power was smoothed by celebrity fathers but who rebelled against their parental legacy as mature politicians, Mitt Romney's career has been both a tribute to and a repudiation of his famous father. George Romney in the 1950s became CEO of American Motors Corp., made a modest fortune betting on energy efficiency in an age of gas guzzlers and ended up serving as governor of the state of Michigan only two generations removed from the Romney clan's tradition of polygamy. For Mitt, who grew up worshipping his tall, craggily handsome, politically moderate father, life was less rocky: Cranbrook prep school in suburban Detroit, followed by Stanford in the Sixties, a missionary term in which he spent two and a half years trying (as he said) to persuade the French to "give up your wine," and Harvard Business School in the Seventies. Then, faced with making a career choice, Mitt chose an odd one: Already married and a father of two, he left Harvard and eschewed both politics and the law to enter the at-the-time unsexy world of financial consulting.
"When you get out of a place like Harvard, you can do anything – at least in the old days you could," says a prominent corporate lawyer on Wall Street who is familiar with Romney's career. "But he comes out, he not only has a Harvard Business School degree, he's got a national pedigree with his name. He could have done anything – but what does he do? He says, 'I'm going to spend my life loading up distressed companies with debt.'?"
Romney started off at the Boston Consulting Group, where he showed an aptitude for crunching numbers and glad-handing clients. Then, in 1977, he joined a young entrepreneur named Bill Bain at a firm called Bain & Company, where he worked for six years before being handed the reins of a new firm-within-a-firm called Bain Capital.
In Romney's version of the tale, Bain Capital – which evolved into what is today known as a private equity firm – specialized in turning around moribund companies (Romney even wrote a book called Turnaround that complements his other nauseatingly self-complimentary book, No Apology) and helped create the Staples office-supply chain. On the campaign trail, Romney relentlessly trades on his own self-perpetuated reputation as a kind of altruistic rescuer of failing enterprises, never missing an opportunity to use the word "help" or "helped" in his description of what he and Bain did for companies. He might, for instance, describe himself as having been "deeply involved in helping other businesses" or say he "helped create tens of thousands of jobs."
The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force. He decided, as he later put it, that "there's a lot greater risk in a startup than there is in acquiring an existing company." In the Eighties, when Romney made this move, this form of financial piracy became known as a leveraged buyout, and it achieved iconic status thanks to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko's business strategy was essentially identical to the Romney–Bain model, only Gekko called himself a "liberator" of companies instead of a "helper."
Here's how Romney would go about "liberating" a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows. It then puts down a relatively small amount of its own money and runs to a big bank like Goldman Sachs or Citigroup for the rest of the financing. (Most leveraged buyouts are financed with 60 to 90 percent borrowed cash.) The takeover firm then uses that borrowed money to buy a controlling stake in the target company, either with or without its consent. When an LBO is done without the consent of the target, it's called a hostile takeover; such thrilling acts of corporate piracy were made legend in the Eighties, most notably the 1988 attack by notorious corporate raiders Kohlberg Kravis Roberts against RJR Nabisco, a deal memorialized in the book Barbarians at the Gate.
Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company's management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.
But here's the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it's the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.
Now your troubled firm – let's say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment. So in addition to whatever problems you had before, Tricycle Inc. now owes Goldman or Citigroup $350 million. With all that new debt service to pay, the company's bottom line is suddenly untenable: You almost have to start firing people immediately just to get your costs down to a manageable level.
"That interest," says Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, "just sucks the profit out of the company."
Fortunately, the geniuses at Bain who now run the place are there to help tell you whom to fire. And for the service it performs cutting your company's costs to help you pay off the massive debt that it, Bain, saddled your company with in the first place, Bain naturally charges a management fee, typically millions of dollars a year. So Tricycle Inc. now has two gigantic new burdens it never had before Bain Capital stepped into the picture: tens of millions in annual debt service, and millions more in "management fees." Since the initial acquisition of Tricycle Inc. was probably greased by promising the company's upper management lucrative bonuses, all that pain inevitably comes out of just one place: the benefits and payroll of the hourly workforce.
Once all that debt is added, one of two things can happen. The company can fire workers and slash benefits to pay off all its new obligations to Goldman Sachs and Bain, leaving it ripe to be resold by Bain at a huge profit. Or it can go bankrupt – this happens after about seven percent of all private equity buyouts – leaving behind one or more shuttered factory towns. Either way, Bain wins. By power-sucking cash value from even the most rapidly dying firms, private equity raiders like Bain almost always get their cash out before a target goes belly up.
This business model wasn't really "helping," of course – and it wasn't new. Fans of mob movies will recognize what's known as the "bust-out," in which a gangster takes over a restaurant or sporting goods store and then monetizes his investment by running up giant debts on the company's credit line. (Think Paulie buying all those cases of Cutty Sark in Goodfellas.) When the note comes due, the mobster simply torches the restaurant and collects the insurance money. Reduced to their most basic level, the leveraged buyouts engineered by Romney followed exactly the same business model. "It's the bust-out," one Wall Street trader says with a laugh. "That's all it is."
Private equity firms aren't necessarily evil by definition. There are many stories of successful turnarounds fueled by private equity, often involving multiple floundering businesses that are rolled into a single entity, eliminating duplicative overhead. Experian, the giant credit-rating tyrant, was acquired by Bain in the Nineties and went on to become an industry leader.
But there's a key difference between private equity firms and the businesses that were America's original industrial cornerstones, like the elder Romney's AMC. Everyone had a stake in the success of those old businesses, which spread prosperity by putting people to work. But even private equity's most enthusiastic adherents have difficulty explaining its benefit to society. Marc Wolpow, a former Bain colleague of Romney's, told reporters during Mitt's first Senate run that Romney erred in trying to sell his business as good for everyone. "I believed he was making a mistake by framing himself as a job creator," said Wolpow. "That was not his or Bain's or the industry's primary objective. The objective of the LBO business is maximizing returns for investors." When it comes to private equity, American workers – not to mention their families and communities – simply don't enter into the equation.
Take a typical Bain transaction involving an Indiana-based company called American Pad and Paper. Bain bought Ampad in 1992 for just $5 million, financing the rest of the deal with borrowed cash. Within three years, Ampad was paying $60 million in annual debt payments, plus an additional $7 million in management fees. A year later, Bain led Ampad to go public, cashed out about $50 million in stock for itself and its investors, charged the firm $2 million for arranging the IPO and pocketed another $5 million in "management" fees. Ampad wound up going bankrupt, and hundreds of workers lost their jobs, but Bain and Romney weren't crying: They'd made more than $100 million on a $5 million investment.
To recap: Romney, who has compared the devilish federal debt to a "nightmare" home mortgage that is "adjustable, no-money down and assigned to our children," took over Ampad with essentially no money down, saddled the firm with a nightmare debt and assigned the crushing interest payments not to Bain but to the children of Ampad's workers, who would be left holding the note long after Romney fled the scene. The mortgage analogy is so obvious, in fact, that even Romney himself has made it. He once described Bain's debt-fueled strategy as "using the equivalent of a mortgage to leverage up our investment."
Romney has always kept his distance from the real-life consequences of his profiteering. At one point during Bain's looting of Ampad, a worker named Randy Johnson sent a handwritten letter to Romney, asking him to intervene to save an Ampad factory in Marion, Indiana. In a sterling demonstration of manliness and willingness to face a difficult conversation, Romney, who had just lost his race for the Senate in Massachusetts, wrote Johnson that he was "sorry," but his lawyers had advised him not to get involved. (So much for the candidate who insists that his way is always to "fight to save every job.")
This is typical Romney, who consistently adopts a public posture of having been above the fray, with no blood on his hands from any of the deals he personally engineered. "I never actually ran one of our investments," he says in Turnaround. "That was left to management."
In reality, though, Romney was unquestionably the decider at Bain. "I insisted on having almost dictatorial powers," he bragged years after the Ampad deal. Over the years, colleagues would anonymously whisper stories about Mitt the Boss to the press, describing him as cunning, manipulative and a little bit nuts, with "an ability to identify people's insecurities and exploit them for his own benefit." One former Bain employee said that Romney would screw around with bonuses in small amounts, just to mess with people: He would give $3 million to one, $3.1 million to another and $2.9 million to a third, just to keep those below him on edge.
The private equity business in the early Nineties was dominated by a handful of takeover firms, from the spooky and politically connected Carlyle Group (a favorite subject of conspiracy-theory lit, with its connections to right-wingers like Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush) to the equally spooky Democrat-leaning assholes at the Blackstone Group. But even among such a colorful cast of characters, Bain had a reputation on Wall Street for secrecy and extreme weirdness – "the KGB of consulting." Its employees, known for their Mormonish uniform of white shirts and red power ties, were dubbed "Bainies" by other Wall Streeters, a rip on the fanatical "Moonies." The firm earned the name thanks to its idiotically adolescent Spy Kids culture, in which these glorified slumlords used code names, didn't carry business cards and even sang "company songs" to boost morale.
The seemingly religious flavor of Bain's culture smacks of the generally cultish ethos on Wall Street, in which all sorts of ethically questionable behaviors are justified as being necessary in service of the church of making money. Romney belongs to a true-believer subset within that cult, with a revolutionary's faith in the wisdom of the pure free market, in which destroying companies and sucking the value out of them for personal gain is part of the greater good, and governments should "stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in the free economy."
That cultlike zeal helps explains why Romney takes such a curiously unapologetic approach to his own flip-flopping. His infamous changes of stance are not little wispy ideological alterations of a few degrees here or there – they are perfect and absolute mathematical reversals, as in "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country" and "I am firmly pro-life." Yet unlike other politicians, who at least recognize that saying completely contradictory things presents a political problem, Romney seems genuinely puzzled by the public's insistence that he be consistent. "I'm not going to apologize for having changed my mind," he likes to say. It's an attitude that recalls the standard defense offered by Wall Street in the wake of some of its most recent and notorious crimes: Goldman Sachs excused its lying to clients, for example, by insisting that its customers are "sophisticated investors" who should expect to be lied to. "Last time I checked," former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack sneered after the same scandal, "we were in business to be profitable."
Within the cult of Wall Street that forged Mitt Romney, making money justifies any behavior, no matter how venal. The look on Romney's face when he refuses to apologize says it all: Hey, I'm trying to win an election. We're all grown-ups here. After the Ampad deal, Romney expressed contempt for critics who lived in "fantasy land." "This is the real world," he said, "and in the real world there is nothing wrong with companies trying to compete, trying to stay alive, trying to make money."
In the old days, making money required sharing the wealth: with assembly-line workers, with middle management, with schools and communities, with investors. Even the Gilded Age robber barons, despite their unapologetic efforts to keep workers from getting any rights at all, built America in spite of themselves, erecting railroads and oil wells and telegraph wires. And from the time the monopolists were reined in with antitrust laws through the days when men like Mitt Romney's dad exited center stage in our economy, the American social contract was pretty consistent: The rich got to stay rich, often filthy rich, but they paid taxes and a living wage and everyone else rose at least a little bit along with them.
But under Romney's business model, leveraging other people's debt means you can carve out big profits for yourself and leave everyone else holding the bag. Despite what Romney claims, the rate of return he provided for Bain's investors over the years wasn't all that great. Romney biographer and Wall Street Journal reporter Brett Arends, who analyzed Bain's performance between 1984 and 1998, concludes that the firm's returns were likely less than 30 percent per year, which happened to track more or less with the stock market's average during that time. "That's how much money you could have made by issuing company bonds and then spending the money picking stocks out of the paper at random," Arends observes. So for all the destruction Romney wreaked on Middle America in the name of "trying to make money," investors could have just plunked their money into traditional stocks and gotten pretty much the same returns.
The only ones who profited in a big way from all the job-killing debt that Romney leveraged were Mitt and his buddies at Bain, along with Wall Street firms like Goldman and Citigroup. Barry Ritholtz, author of Bailout Nation, says the criticisms of Bain about layoffs and meanness miss a more important point, which is that the firm's profit-producing record is absurdly mediocre, especially when set against all the trouble and pain its business model causes. "Bain's fundamental flaw, at least according to the math," Ritholtz writes, "is that they took lots of risk, use immense leverage and charged enormous fees, for performance that was more or less the same as [stock] indexing."
'I'm not a Romney guy, because I'm not a Bain guy," says Lenny Patnode, in an Irish pub in the factory town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. "But I'm not an Obama guy, either. Just so you know."
I feel bad even asking Patnode about Romney. Big and burly, with white hair and the thick forearms of a man who's stocked a shelf or two in his lifetime, he seems to belong to an era before things like leveraged debt even existed. For 38 years, Patnode worked for a company called KB Toys in Pittsfield. He was the longest-serving employee in the company's history, opening some of the firm's first mall stores, making some of its canniest product buys ("Tamagotchi pets," he says, beaming, "and Tech-Decks, too"), traveling all over the world to help build an empire that at its peak included 1,300 stores. "There were times when I worked seven days a week, 16 hours a day," he says. "I opened three stores in two months once."
Then in 2000, right before Romney gave up his ownership stake in Bain Capital, the firm targeted KB Toys. The debacle that followed serves as a prime example of the conflict between the old model of American business, built from the ground up with sweat and industry know-how, and the new globalist model, the Romney model, which uses leverage as a weapon of high-speed conquest.
In a typical private-equity fragging, Bain put up a mere $18 million to acquire KB Toys and got big banks to finance the remaining $302 million it needed. Less than a year and a half after the purchase, Bain decided to give itself a gift known as a "dividend recapitalization." The firm induced KB Toys to redeem $121 million in stock and take out more than $66 million in bank loans – $83 million of which went directly into the pockets of Bain's owners and investors, including Romney. "The dividend recap is like borrowing someone else's credit card to take out a cash advance, and then leaving them to pay it off," says Heather Slavkin Corzo, who monitors private equity takeovers as the senior legal policy adviser for the AFL-CIO.
Bain ended up earning a return of at least 370 percent on the deal, while KB Toys fell into bankruptcy, saddled with millions in debt. KB's former parent company, Big Lots, alleged in bankruptcy court that Bain's "unjustified" return on the dividend recap was actually "900 percent in a mere 16 months." Patnode, by contrast, was fired in December 2008, after almost four decades on the job. Like other employees, he didn't get a single day's severance.
I ask Slavkin Corzo what Bain's justification was for the giant dividend recapitalization in the KB Toys acquisition. The question throws her, as though she's surprised anyone would ask for a reason a company like Bain would loot a firm like KB Toys. "It wasn't like, 'Yay, we did a good job, we get a dividend,'" she says with a laugh. "It was like, 'We can do this, so we will.'?"
At the time of the KB Toys deal, Romney was a Bain investor and owner, making him a mere beneficiary of the raping and pillaging, rather than its direct organizer. Moreover, KB's demise was hastened by a host of genuine market forces, including competition from video games and cellphones. But there's absolutely no way to look at what Bain did at KB and see anything but a cash grab – one that followed the business model laid out by Romney. Rather than cutting costs and tightening belts, Bain added $300 million in debt to the firm's bottom line while taking out more than $120 million in cash – an outright looting that creditors later described in a lawsuit as "breaking open the piggy bank." What's more, Bain smoothed the deal in typical fashion by giving huge bonuses to the company's top managers as the firm headed toward bankruptcy. CEO Michael Glazer got an incredible $18.4 million, while CFO Robert Feldman received $4.8 million and senior VP Thomas Alfonsi took home $3.3 million.
And what did Bain bring to the table in return for its massive, outsize payout? KB Toys had built a small empire by targeting middle-class buyers with value-priced products. It succeeded mainly because the firm's leaders had a great instinct for what they were making and selling. These were people who had been in the specialty toy business since 1922; collectively, they had millions of man-hours of knowledge about how the industry works and how toy customers behave. KB's president in the Eighties, the late Saul Rubenstein, used to carry around a giant computer printout of the company's inventory, and would fall asleep reading it on the weekends, the pages clasped to his chest. "He knew the name and number of all those toys," his widow, Shirley, says proudly. "He loved toys."
Bain's experience in the toy industry, by contrast, was precisely bupkus. They didn't know a damn thing about the business they had taken over – and they never cared to learn. The firm's entire contribution was $18 million in cash and a huge mound of borrowed money that gave it the power to pull the levers. "The people who came in after – they were never toy people," says Shirley Rubenstein. To make matters worse, former employees say, Bain deluged them with requests for paperwork and reports, forcing them to worry more about the whims of their new bosses than the demands of their customers. "We took our eye off the ball," Patnode says. "And if you take your eye off the ball, you strike out."
In the end, Bain never bothered to come up with a plan for how KB Toys could meet the 21st-century challenges of video games and cellphone gadgets that were the company's ostensible downfall. And that's where Romney's self-touted reputation as a turnaround specialist is a myth. In the Bain model, the actual turnaround isn't necessary. It's just a cover story. It's nice for the private equity firm if it happens, because it makes the acquired company more attractive for resale or an IPO. But it's mostly irrelevant to the success of the takeover model, where huge cash returns are extracted whether the captured firm thrives or not.
"The thing about it is, nobody gets hurt," says Patnode. "Except the people who worked here."
Romney was a prime mover in the radical social and political transformation that was cooked up by Wall Street beginning in the 1980s. In fact, you can trace the whole history of the modern age of financialization just by following the highly specific corner of the economic universe inhabited by the leveraged buyout business, where Mitt Romney thrived. If you look at the number of leveraged buyouts dating back two or three decades, you see a clear pattern: Takeovers rose sharply with each of Wall Street's great easy-money schemes, then plummeted just as sharply after each of those scams crashed and burned, leaving the rest of us with the bill.
In the Eighties, when Romney and Bain were cutting their teeth in the LBO business, the primary magic trick involved the junk bonds pioneered by convicted felon Mike Milken, which allowed firms like Bain to find easy financing for takeovers by using wildly overpriced distressed corporate bonds as collateral. Junk bonds gave the Gordon Gekkos of the world sudden primacy over old-school industrial titans like the Fords and the Rockefellers: For the first time, the ability to make deals became more valuable than the ability to make stuff, and the ability to instantly engineer billions in illusory financing trumped the comparatively slow process of making and selling products for gradual returns.
Romney was right in the middle of this radical change. In fact, according to The Boston Globe – whose in-depth reporting on Romney and Bain has spanned three decades – one of Romney's first LBO deals, and one of his most profitable, involved Mike Milken himself. Bain put down $10 million in cash, got $300 million in financing from Milken and bought a pair of department-store chains, Bealls Brothers and Palais Royal. In what should by now be a familiar outcome, the two chains – which Bain merged into a single outfit called Stage Stores – filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000 under the weight of more than $444 million in debt. As always, Bain took no responsibility for the company's demise. (If you search the public record, you will not find a single instance of Mitt Romney taking responsibility for a company's failure.) Instead, Bain blamed Stage's collapse on "operating problems" that took place three years after Bain cashed out, finishing with a $175 million return on its initial investment of $10 million.
But here's the interesting twist: Romney made the Bealls-Palais deal just as the federal government was launching charges of massive manipulation and insider trading against Milken and his firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert. After what must have been a lengthy and agonizing period of moral soul-searching, however, Romney decided not to kill the deal, despite its shady financing. "We did not say, 'Oh, my goodness, Drexel has been accused of something, not been found guilty,'?" Romney told reporters years after the deal. "Should we basically stop the transaction and blow the whole thing up?"
In an even more incredible disregard for basic morality, Romney forged ahead with the deal even though Milken's case was being heard by a federal district judge named Milton Pollack, whose wife, Moselle, happened to be the chairwoman of none other than Palais Royal. In short, one of Romney's first takeover deals was financed by dirty money – and one of the corporate chiefs about to receive a big payout from Bain was married to the judge hearing the case. Although the SEC took no formal action, it issued a sharp criticism, complaining that Romney was allowing Milken's money to have a possible influence over "the administration of justice."
After Milken and his junk bond scheme crashed in the late Eighties, Romney and other takeover artists moved on to Wall Street's next get-rich-quick scheme: the tech-Internet stock bubble. By 1997 and 1998, there were nearly $400 billion in leveraged buyouts a year, as easy money once again gave these financial piracy firms the ammunition they needed to raid companies like KB Toys. Firms like Bain even have a colorful pirate name for the pools of takeover money they raise in advance from pension funds, university endowments and other institutional investors. "They call it dry powder," says Slavkin Corzo, the union adviser.
After the Internet bubble burst and private equity started cashing in on Wall Street's mortgage scam, LBO deals ballooned to almost $900 billion in 2006. Once again, storied companies with long histories and deep regional ties were descended upon by Bain and other pirates, saddled with hundreds of millions in debt, forced to pay huge management fees and "dividend recapitalizations," and ridden into bankruptcy amid waves of layoffs. Established firms like Del Monte, Hertz and Dollar General were all taken over in a "prairie fire of debt" – one even more destructive than the government borrowing that Romney is flogging on the campaign trial. When Hertz was conquered in 2005 by a trio of private equity firms, including the Carlyle Group, the interest payments on its debt soared by a monstrous 80 percent, forcing the company to eliminate a third of its 32,000 jobs.
In 2010, a year after the last round of Hertz layoffs, Carlyle teamed up with Bain to take $500 million out of another takeover target: the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. Dunkin' had to take out a $1.25 billion loan to pay a dividend to its new private equity owners. So think of this the next time you go to Dunkin' Donuts for a cup of coffee: A small cup of joe costs about $1.69 in most outlets, which means that for years to come, Dunkin' Donuts will have to sell about 2,011,834 small coffees every month – about $3.4 million – just to meet the interest payments on the loan it took out to pay Bain and Carlyle their little one-time dividend. And that doesn't include the principal on the loan, or the additional millions in debt that Dunkin' has to pay every year to get out from under the $2.4 billion in debt it's now saddled with after having the privilege of being taken over – with borrowed money – by the firm that Romney built.
If you haven't heard much about how takeover deals like Dunkin' and KB Toys work, that's because Mitt Romney and his private equity brethren don't want you to. The new owners of American industry are the polar opposites of the Milton Hersheys and Andrew Carnegies who built this country, commercial titans who longed to leave visible legacies of their accomplishments, erecting hospitals and schools and libraries, sometimes leaving behind thriving towns that bore their names.
The men of the private equity generation want no such thing. "We try to hide religiously," explained Steven Feinberg, the CEO of a takeover firm called Cerberus Capital Management that recently drove one of its targets into bankruptcy after saddling it with $2.3 billion in debt. "If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person," Feinberg told shareholders in 2007. "We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it."
Which brings us to another aspect of Romney's business career that has largely been hidden from voters: His personal fortune would not have been possible without the direct assistance of the U.S. government. The taxpayer-funded subsidies that Romney has received go well beyond the humdrum, backdoor, welfare-sucking that all supposedly self-made free marketeers inevitably indulge in. Not that Romney hasn't done just fine at milking the government when it suits his purposes, the most obvious instance being the incredible $1.5 billion in aid he siphoned out of the U.S. Treasury as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake – a sum greater than all federal spending for the previous seven U.S. Olympic games combined. Romney, the supposed fiscal conservative, blew through an average of $625,000 in taxpayer money per athlete – an astounding increase of 5,582 percent over the $11,000 average at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. In 1993, right as he was preparing to run for the Senate, Romney also engineered a government deal worth at least $10 million for Bain's consulting firm, when it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. (See "The Federal Bailout That Saved Romney")
But the way Romney most directly owes his success to the government is through the structure of the tax code. The entire business of leveraged buyouts wouldn't be possible without a provision in the federal code that allows companies like Bain to deduct the interest on the debt they use to acquire and loot their targets. This is the same universally beloved tax deduction you can use to write off your mortgage interest payments, so tampering with it is considered political suicide – it's been called the "third rail of tax reform." So the Romney who routinely rails against the national debt as some kind of child-killing "mortgage" is the same man who spent decades exploiting a tax deduction specifically designed for mortgage holders in order to bilk every dollar he could out of U.S. businesses before burning them to the ground.
Because minus that tax break, Romney's debt-based takeovers would have been unsustainably expensive. Before Lynn Turner became chief accountant of the SEC, where he reviewed filings on takeover deals, he crunched the numbers on leveraged buyouts as an accountant at a Big Four auditing firm. "In the majority of these deals," Turner says, "the tax deduction has a big enough impact on the bottom line that the takeover wouldn't work without it."
Thanks to the tax deduction, in other words, the government actually incentivizes the kind of leverage-based takeovers that Romney built his fortune on. Romney the businessman built his career on two things that Romney the candidate decries: massive debt and dumb federal giveaways. "I don't know what Romney would be doing but for debt and its tax-advantaged position in the tax code," says a prominent Wall Street lawyer, "but he wouldn't be fabulously wealthy."
Adding to the hypocrisy, the money that Romney personally pocketed on Bain's takeover deals was usually taxed not as income, but either as capital gains or as "carried interest," both of which are capped at a maximum rate of 15 percent. In addition, reporters have uncovered plenty of evidence that Romney takes full advantage of offshore tax havens: He has an interest in at least 12 Bain funds, worth a total of $30 million, that are based in the Cayman Islands; he has reportedly used a squirrelly tax shelter known as a "blocker corporation" that cheats taxpayers out of some $100 million a year; and his wife, Ann, had a Swiss bank account worth $3 million. As a private equity pirate, Romney pays less than half the tax rate of most American executives – less, even, than teachers, firefighters, cops and nurses. Asked about the fact that he paid a tax rate of only 13.9 percent on income of $21.7 million in 2010, Romney responded testily that the massive windfall he enjoys from exploiting the tax code is "entirely legal and fair."
Essentially, Romney got rich in a business that couldn't exist without a perverse tax break, and he got to keep double his earnings because of another loophole – a pair of bureaucratic accidents that have not only teamed up to threaten us with a Mitt Romney presidency but that make future Romneys far more likely. "Those two tax rules distort the economics of private equity investments, making them much more lucrative than they should be," says Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at the Center for Tax Justice. "So we get more of that activity than the market would support on its own."
Listen to Mitt Romney speak, and see if you can notice what's missing. This is a man who grew up in Michigan, went to college in California, walked door to door through the streets of southern France as a missionary and was a governor of Massachusetts, the home of perhaps the most instantly recognizable, heavily accented English this side of Edinburgh. Yet not a trace of any of these places is detectable in Romney's diction. None of the people in any of those places bled in and left a mark on the man.
Romney is a man from nowhere. In his post-regional attitude, he shares something with his campaign opponent, Barack Obama, whose background is a similarly jumbled pastiche of regionally nonspecific non-identity. But in the way he bounced around the world as a half-orphaned child, Obama was more like an involuntary passenger in the demographic revolution reshaping the planet than one of its leaders.
Romney, on the other hand, is a perfect representative of one side of the ominous cultural divide that will define the next generation, not just here in America but all over the world. Forget about the Southern strategy, blue versus red, swing states and swing voters – all of those political clichés are quaint relics of a less threatening era that is now part of our past, or soon will be. The next conflict defining us all is much more unnerving.
That conflict will be between people who live somewhere, and people who live nowhere. It will be between people who consider themselves citizens of actual countries, to which they have patriotic allegiance, and people to whom nations are meaningless, who live in a stateless global archipelago of privilege – a collection of private schools, tax havens and gated residential communities with little or no connection to the outside world.
Mitt Romney isn't blue or red. He's an archipelago man. That's a big reason that voters have been slow to warm up to him. From LBJ to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin, Americans like their politicians to sound like they're from somewhere, to be human symbols of our love affair with small towns, the girl next door, the little pink houses of Mellencamp myth. Most of those mythical American towns grew up around factories – think chocolate bars from Hershey, baseball bats from Louisville, cereals from Battle Creek. Deep down, what scares voters in both parties the most is the thought that these unique and vital places are vanishing or eroding – overrun by immigrants or the forces of globalism or both, with giant Walmarts descending like spaceships to replace the corner grocer, the family barber and the local hardware store, and 1,000 cable channels replacing the school dance and the gossip at the local diner.
Obama ran on "change" in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It's a vision of society that's crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it's running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.
This story is from the September 13, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.
In a study to be published in the...
Emily Atkin | Nation of Change 21 Sep 2014 Hits:219 SGW Articles
The Justice Department has launched criminal fraud investigations of individuals at Wall Street firms, with the hopes of filing formal charges in the coming months, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday.
“We are making good progress in these cases, which involve conduct that has undermined the integrity of our markets,”...
Danielle Douglas | The Washington Post 21 Sep 2014 Hits:316 ECR Articles
For-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. misled students into taking out unaffordable loans by falsely advertising job prospects, then used illegal debt collection tactics to force distressed students to pay up, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Corinthian owns Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech...
Shahien Nasiripour | Huffington Post 21 Sep 2014 Hits:119 ESJ Articles
The Affordable Care Act has made a dent in the glaring lack of health care for many millions of poor people in this, the wealthiest country in the world. But allowing states to op-out of providing Medicaid coverage for the poor, most often people of color, youth and those living...
Sue Davis | Workers World 14 Sep 2014 Hits:328 HCA Articles
A study of hospital administrative costs in eight nations published in the September issue of Health Affairs finds that hospital bureaucracy consumed 25.3 percent of hospital budgets in the U.S. in 2011, far more than in other nations.
Administrative costs were lowest (about 12 percent) in Scotland and Canada, whose single-payer...
Stephanie Woolhandler | Single Payer Action 14 Sep 2014 Hits:653 HCA Articles
Don Berwick is making a vital point about the need for progressives to expand the discussion about healthcare reform.
Democratic and Republican strategists, and the candidates who let campaign consultants frame their range of opinion, are still engaging in picayune debates about the strengths and weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act.
John Nichols | The Nation 14 Sep 2014 Hits:611 HCA Articles
Fifty years after The Feminine Mystique and 40 years after Title IX, the question of why women lag in the workplace dogs researchers and lay people alike. While women are entering the professions at rates equal to men, they rise more slowly, and rarely advance to the top. They’re represented...
Jessica Nordell | New Republic 14 Sep 2014 Hits:232 Women's Issues
Thirteen years ago, a draft dodger from Texas stood on a pile of rubble in New York City and promised, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Of course, the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center could not hear anybody,...
Nicolas J.S. Davies | AlterNet 12 Sep 2014 Hits:269 EWO Articles
Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.
The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,...
12 Sep 2014 Hits:330 ESJ Articles
Scott Porter, a scuba diver, marine biologist and self-declared surf-bum from Malibu seems an unlikely candidate to challenge the consolidated bulk of information the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it’s amassed on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill and its ongoing impact four years later.
Charles Digges | Bellona 12 Sep 2014 Hits:244 SGW Articles
Late-summer 2014 has brought uncomfortable news for residents of the US Southwest—and I'm not talking about 109-degree heat in population centers like Phoenix.
A new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey researchers, looked at the deep-historical record (tree rings, etc.) and the latest climate...
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones 12 Sep 2014 Hits:209 SGW Articles
WASHINGTON — Today the Senate roundly defeated a Republican filibuster that had been preventing the Senate from moving to consideration of the Democracy For All Amendment. The Senate is expected to take up the Amendment following the expiration of post-cloture debate time. People For the American Way Executive Vice President...
Marge Baker | People for the American Way Vice President 08 Sep 2014 Hits:391 ECR Articles
Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to...
Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch 07 Sep 2014 Hits:335 EWO Articles
This Monday marks a momentous day: the U.S. Senate will vote on a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decisions in cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon.
"Billionaires buying elections is not what American democracy is about and it is not what our Constitution stands for," said Sen....
The Progressive, Inc. 05 Sep 2014 Hits:401 ECR Articles
MIAMI — For decades Florida has had a history of deadly, racially tinged police confrontations, many of them involving unarmed men, which have led to riots, protests and a steady undercurrent of rancor between minorities and the police. But in the past 20 years, not a single officer in Florida...
Lizetta Alvarez | The New York Times 04 Sep 2014 Hits:224 EMC Articles
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.
So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April....
04 Sep 2014 Hits:214 ECR Articles
On August 22, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered a video message to the annual meeting of the Iowa AFL/CIO that laid out his vision for addressing the critical issues facing our country, including the crisis of income and wealth inequality, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (while creating millions of jobs in...
Pearl Korn | Huffington Post 03 Sep 2014 Hits:196 SGW Articles
When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What...
Carol Anderson | The Washington Post 01 Sep 2014 Hits:445 ESJ Articles
We're all supposed to be impressed with the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder parachuted into Ferguson MO the other day to wrap his arms around the local top black cop and get briefed on the pending federal investigation into the police killing of Michael Brown. But we shouldn't be.
Bruce Dixon | Common Dreams 01 Sep 2014 Hits:302 EMC Articles
August 28, 2014 Republicans and Democrats don't entirely see eye-to-eye on threats posed by Islamic militants, Iran's nuclear program, and other dangers. But those differences pale compared with Americans' massive partisan divide over how they view the threat from climate change, new polling shows.
Sixty-eight percent of Democrats see climate change...
Ben Geman | National Journal 29 Aug 2014 Hits:251 SGW Articles
There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row. ? He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on...
Naomi Klein | The Nation 28 Aug 2014 Hits:395 SGW Articles
Last week, after days of violent police rampages in Ferguson, Missouri, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said the Senate will "review" the Defense Department program that gives military weapons and equipment to civilian police departments for free.
It took five apocalyptic nights in Ferguson for Levin to make...
Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams 28 Aug 2014 Hits:429 ESJ Articles
In Ferguson, Missouri, residents could find themselves in jail for failing to pay $19 a month to the town’s sole trash contractor. For these and other petty infractions, fees snowball over months into court dates and outstanding warrants. Pleading guilty is the norm since lawyers are too expensive for most,...
Michael Hendrix | Values & Capitalism 28 Aug 2014 Hits:645 EMC Articles
Over the last couple days, voter registration booths have been popping up in Ferguson. There was one by the ruined site of the recently burned-down QuikTrip convenience store, which has become a central gathering site of the protests, and another near the site where Michael Brown was shot.
Voter turnout was...
Tasneem Raja | Mother Jones 28 Aug 2014 Hits:537 CFTE Articles
Researchers have long contended that the epicenter of global warming is also farthest from the reach of humanity. It’s in the barren landscapes of the frozen North, where red-cheeked children wear fur, the sun barely rises in the winter and temperatures can plunge dozens of degrees below zero. Such a place is...
Terrence McCoy | The Washington Post 28 Aug 2014 Hits:1962 SGW Articles
If you’re driving through the South and you see a denuded field filled with stubby new plantings where lush forest once stood, the blame might lie with an unlikely culprit: the European Union and its well-intentioned clean energy rules.
In March 2007, the E.U. adopted climate and energy goals for 2010...
Ben Adler | Grist 28 Aug 2014 Hits:302 SGW Articles
It would be a shock to most Americans when eventually 300million people realize that they have been and are being fooled and manipulated. If anyone were to say “the US Government is run by Wall Street, mega corporations, their lobbyists and the super-rich” they are certainly not far from the...
Shenali D Waduge | SinhalaNet 24 Aug 2014 Hits:694 ECR Articles
In a breathtaking but largely overlooked ruling this week, a federal judge agreed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may disregard studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining in its permitting process, only two weeks after Goldman Prize Award-winning activist Maria Gunnoe wrote an impassioned plea to...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 22 Aug 2014 Hits:429 SGW Articles
A Pentagon contract announced this week sheds new light on the controversy over corporate inversions, and how tough the federal government really will be on all those companies skedaddling to Europe to avoid paying income taxes.
Pentagon purchasing agents awarded Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago a $19.5 million contract for technology...
Joe Cahill | Crain's Chicago Business 22 Aug 2014 Hits:264 ECR Articles
The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that provoked last weekend's tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio—where nearly half a million people were told not to use water for drinking, cooking, or bathing—is a preview of similar problems to come around the world, scientists say, thanks in part to climate...
Jane J. Lee | National Geographic 19 Aug 2014 Hits:182 SGW Articles
This week, U.S. experts from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective will testify before the United Nations' Committee to End Racial Discrimination in Geneva, sharing a report that describes the experiences of American women of color and immigrant women who pay with...
Andrea Flynn | The Hill 17 Aug 2014 Hits:283 HCA Articles
Year in which Congress initially authorized the Defense Department to give excess arms and ammunition to law enforcement agencies for counter-drug activities, leading to the creation of what's come to be known as the 1033 program: 1990
Number of law enforcement agencies the program has given equipment to: more than 17,000
The Institute Index 17 Aug 2014 Hits:216 EMC Articles
China and Brazil are looking for ways to redirect a global climate debate, which they say unfairly accuses developing nations of delaying limits on fossil-fuel pollution.
China wants to blitz attendees at United Nations-led climate talks with pamphlets touting the clean-energy gains made by the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide....
Natalie Obiko Pearson | Bloomberg 11 Aug 2014 Hits:222 SGW Articles
TRENTON — For the second time in two years, Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would have banned the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.
Environmentalists and lawmakers from both parties had championed the measure, which would have prohibited companies from treating, discharging, disposing, and storing waste from...
Brent Johnson | The Star-Ledger 11 Aug 2014 Hits:368 SGW Articles
WASHINGTON (NNPA) — Black men are no better off than they were more than 40 years ago, due to mass incarceration and job losses suffered during the Great Recession, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Chicago.
Derek Neal and Armin Rick, the co-authors of the study,...
Freddie Allen | The Louisiana Weekly 10 Aug 2014 Hits:250 EMC Articles
The planet is in trouble after scientists found huge plumes of deadly methane escaping from the seafloor. This is according to Dr Jason Box who claims that methane could be the main driver of climate change.
The scientist, based at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, tweeted the provocative statement...
Caribbean Broadcasting Company 10 Aug 2014 Hits:472 SGW Articles
“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference.
McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then...
Steve Clemons | The Atlantic 09 Aug 2014 Hits:572 EWO Articles
A humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide is taking place right now in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. It hasn’t made the front page, because the place and the people are obscure, and there’s a lot of other horrible news to compete with. I’ve learned about it mainly...
A Friend Flees the Horror of ISIS | The New Yorker 09 Aug 2014 Hits:271 EWO Articles
The Obama administration is considering US air strikes and humanitarian air drops to help besieged religious minorities chased up a mountain by militants in Iraq.
The move comes as Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, was all but abandoned as the jihadist group Islamic State (Isis) advanced through minority communities in the...
Spencer Ackerman, Martin Chulov and Julian Borger | The Guardian 07 Aug 2014 Hits:225 EWO Articles
The world awaits with bated breath to see if the interim truce negotiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry will lead to a long-term ceasefire. But if US mediation is to be sincere and effective, the American government needs to take Hamas off its terrorist list and allow Hamas...
Medea Benjamin | Mondoweiss 05 Aug 2014 Hits:253 EWO Articles
Gunmen who crossed into northeastern Lebanon from Syria attacked several army checkpoints in a border town on Saturday in what appeared to be an effort to win the release of a Syrian rebel who had been detained by Lebanese troops.
Initial reports from the town, Arsal, described a chaotic situation involving...
Hwaida Saad | The New York Times 03 Aug 2014 Hits:263 EWO Articles
Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Chris Coyne (whose excellent book, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails was reviewed on this blog) and Abigail R. Hall, a second year Mercatus PhD Fellow, have come up with original research that shows the dangers...
Peter Van Buren | Fire Dog Lake 03 Aug 2014 Hits:217 EWO Articles
We met Carolina while visiting a “welcome center” for recently-processed immigrants at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. She emerged from a sweltering relief tent that sheltered a handful of other fatigued travelers, most of whom, like her, had been released by Border Patrol just hours prior. She stood...
Jack Jenkins and Esther Yu-Hsi Lee | Think Progress 03 Aug 2014 Hits:498 ESJ Articles
In May, Vietnam became the 35th and decisive signatory of the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. As a result, 90 days later, on August 17, the convention will enter into force.
The fact that it took almost 50 years to draft and finally achieve the...
Mikhail Gorbachev | Nation of Change 03 Aug 2014 Hits:284 SGW Articles
On June 3, Jodey Waldrop, a 36-year-old inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in rural Springville, Alabama, was lying in his bed when somebody entered his cell and stabbed him in the neck with a shank. Prison officials say they got Waldrop, who was bleeding profusely, to a hospital...
Ray Downs | Vice 03 Aug 2014 Hits:348 EMC Articles
When a coup removed the democratically-elected leftist president of Honduras in June 2009, receiving tacit support from the U.S. State Department, the American people barely took notice. Then when the United States increased military funding in its little protectorate to reinforce the new right-wing regime installed there, the American public still...
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr | Latino Rebels 03 Aug 2014 Hits:1652 ESJ Articles
A Colorado lawmaker wants to end a long-running practice that fuels mistrust of the federal government.
After retiring from office or losing re-election, many congressional lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — launch lucrative careers as lobbyists at law firms, lobbying shops, business and trade organizations, and other well-heeled interest groups,...
Raju Chebium | Coloradoan 03 Aug 2014 Hits:612 ECR Articles
But will Greg Page’s call to arms influence business leaders? Or the Republicans his firm donates to?
The US economy could suffer damages running into the hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century due to climate change, according to a study released yesterday. The report, titled “Risky...
Robert S. Eshelman | The Nation 29 Jul 2014 Hits:240 SGW Articles
A Boulder district court judge has ruled that Longmont can’t ban hydraulic fracturing within its borders, but also issued a stay in the case.
District Judge D.D. Mallard on Thursday granted a motion for a summary judgment in the case, and enjoined Longmont from enforcing its voter-approved ban on fracking within the borders...
Cathy Proctor | Denver Business Journal 25 Jul 2014 Hits:434 SGW Articles
The world just experienced its hottest June on record. The heat was driven in large by part by the hottest ocean temperatures since recordkeeping began more than 130 years ago. That makes this the third-warmest start to the year.
The global temperature was 1.3°F above the 20th century average in June...
Brian Kahn | Climate Central 22 Jul 2014 Hits:179 SGW Articles
It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that....
Naomi Klein | The Guardian 20 Jul 2014 Hits:435 EWO Articles
The just-released results of a six-month initiative by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) suggest that the dark cloud cast over public sector unionism by a recent Supreme Court decision may not be so threatening after all.
Many analysts saw the court’s ruling last month in Harris v....
David Moberg | In These Times 20 Jul 2014 Hits:298 ESJ Articles
With the recent rulings of this right-wing dominated Supreme Court, it was hard to celebrate our nation's 238th birthday this past July 4th. Indeed, the Hobby Lobby decision delivered a hard blow not just to women in the workplace, but to the basic rights of all Americans. Essentially, the five...
Pearl Korn | Huffington Post 15 Jul 2014 Hits:403 ECR Articles
Now that the initial shouting and—at times—vitriol from both sides has subsided after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, it’s time to take a sober look at what the ruling says about the future of health care reform in the United States. The majority’s ruling was an...
Fred Rotondaro and Christopher J. Hale | TIME 13 Jul 2014 Hits:1056 HCA Articles
The United States currently spends more per person on health care than any other developed country. Health outcomes in the U.S., however, are among the worst.
Despite weak health spending growth worldwide, a number of countries still had substantial health care budgets as of 2012. Based on data released by the...
Ashley C. Allen | USA Today 13 Jul 2014 Hits:445 HCA Articles
Constitutional amendments are often proposed but rarely advanced to the stage of serious debate. What moves any meaningful amendment from mere paperwork to serious consideration is the popular will of the great mass of Americans. And the popular will of the great mass of Americans have been abundantly clear since...
John Nichols | The Nation 11 Jul 2014 Hits:273 ECR Articles
SO...WHAT'S going on in Iraq?
A lot, and it has been going on for a long time, but the English language media has chosen to ignore most of the important stuff as it occurs. Now, with the Sunni insurgency "capturing" Mosul, the country's second-largest city, we are going to get a...
Michael Schwartz | Socialist Worker 07 Jul 2014 Hits:431 EWO Articles
This week Iraq emerged from the recesses of American memory and became a hot topic of conversation. Alarming headlines about ISIS’s “takeover” of Mosul and their march towards Baghdad have elicited a number of reactions: The most conservative call for direct US military action against ISIS to ensure that the...
Ross Caputi | Common Dreams 07 Jul 2014 Hits:387 EWO Articles
The New York Times reported that one national employer relied on the labor of more than 60,000 immigrant workers last year to cook, clean, and do laundry while living behind locked doors and barbed wire. The employer paid them only $1 per day – or in some cases, compensated them...
Carl Takei | ACLU Blog of Rights 29 Jun 2014 Hits:315 ESJ Articles
On April 15, 2014 Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State quietly signed into lawthe National Popular Vote, making New York the 10th state -- along with the District of Columbia -- to support this effort, while also boosting the total numbers to 165 of the 270 electoral votes needed to make...
Pearl Korn | Huffington Post 17 Jun 2014 Hits:682 CFTE Articles
President Obama, appearing emboldened after his recent move to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, on Saturday ridiculed members of Congress who deny climate change or plead scientific ignorance as an alibi for avoiding an uncomfortable truth.
Speaking in gleefully sarcastic terms to a commencement ceremony at the University of...
Mark Landler | The New York Times 15 Jun 2014 Hits:384 SGW Articles
The venomous politics dogging the Affordable Care Act and the flawed rollouts of its new health insurance marketplaces have too often overshadowed health reform’s noble goal: ensuring that more Americans have access to vital, potentially lifesaving medical coverage.
But on Wednesday, a groundbreaking analysis released by University of Minnesota researchers offered...
Editorial Board | Star Tribune 15 Jun 2014 Hits:560 HCA Articles
For over three years, the United States has sought to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by supporting an Al Qaeda-infused opposition that Washington either knew or should have known would fail. Yet, in his commencement address at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama promised the American people and the rest...
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | The National Interest 03 Jun 2014 Hits:359 EWO Articles
More than 130 of 143 countries have genderequality laws, 142 grant equal rights for men and women on property ownership and 129 have laws preventing women from being sacked while pregnant. Some form of parental leave is offered in almost all countries when women give birth, and in 116 countries...
Liz Ford | The Guardian 03 Jun 2014 Hits:441 Women's Issues
For decades, Congress has implemented policies that distort America's criminal justice system and tip the scales of justice in favor of punishment over rehabilitation. As a matter of civil rights and basic justice, our criminal justice system must change. Fortunately, the Obama Administration recognizes the unacceptable status quo, and recently...
Rep. John Conyers | Huffington Post 03 Jun 2014 Hits:384 EMC Articles
Forget Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow union-bashing governors. Forget the partisan Republican attacks on organized labor. The gravest threat today to public-employee unions—which represent cops, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, nurses, and other city and state workers—is a Supreme Court case named Harris v. Quinn, which could be decided...
Andy Kroll | Mother Jones 03 Jun 2014 Hits:619 ESJ Articles
During his speech at West Point Military Academy earlier this week, President Barack Obama described climate change as a "creeping national security crisis" that will require the armed forces to "respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food."
The speech emphasised that US foreign policy in the...
Nafeez Ahmed | The Guardian 03 Jun 2014 Hits:537 EWO Articles
SSA Bargaining Unit Employees:
SSA is now seeking your ideas for a Vision 2025 plan. What SSA is not telling you is that they already have a draft plan that is a product of the Academy with the framework of that plan given to the Academy by SSA leadership.
The draft plan...
Witold Skwierczynski | National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations 31 May 2014 Hits:387 ESJ Articles
The unseen hand of antigovernment ideology can be found everywhere nowadays – even in your mailbox. The proof is in what you won’t find there, like your annual statement of earned Social Security benefits.
The government stopped mailing those out in 2011.
It’s also getting a lot harder to find Social Security...
Richard Eskow | Campaign for America's Future 31 May 2014 Hits:784 ESJ Articles
On behalf of the thousands of Minnesotans who will hopefully benefit from the compromise medical marijuana bill recently signed by Governor Dayton, I offer my humble thanks.
Though I am grateful these days for any small step in the right direction, I am saddened that the public has once again been...
Gerald Ganann 29 May 2014 Hits:477 War on Drugs - Criminal Injustice
Hundreds of billions of dollars will once again be spent on the U.S. defense budget.
It’s Pentagon budget time. And once again, Congress and the White House are haggling over the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But what has stayed constant over the years is the massive...
Alex Kane | Alternet 29 May 2014 Hits:659 EWO Articles
In December 1972, the Tribune urged the General Assembly to ratify the proposed federal Equal Rights Amendment with an editorial headlined, “Give the ladies what they want.”
The wording was a play on the unofficial founding motto of Marshall Field & Co. department stores, “Give the lady what she wants,” and...
Eric Zorn | Chicago Tribune 21 May 2014 Hits:480 ERA Action Articles
An emergency appeal filed late Tuesday argues that reinstating the requirement to show a government-issued photo ID to vote in the Nov. 4 election “imposes a radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.”
On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Board announced that voters who had already...
Dee J. Hall | Wisconsin State Journal 21 Sep 2014 Hits:280 Wisconsin
The standard Republican meme, that everything is better done by the private sector, has been debunked in almost every way imaginable (more on that in a bit), but there’s perhaps no more graphic an example of the private sector being much, much worse than the unionized public sector than the...
Justin Rosario | Proud to Be Filthy Liberal Scum 17 Sep 2014 Hits:510 Illinois
“Family run businesses are a great investment. They are part-and-parcel of a community. Corporate raiders like Bruce Rauner will never understand that,” said Dr. Dupuis, co-owner of Wheatland Animal Hospital. Dupuis employs more than two dozen residents of DuPage and Will counties.
The billionaire GOP candidate who pledged to run Illinois...
Staff | Illinois Freedom 14 Sep 2014 Hits:234 Illinois
Manure is a potent fertilizer that does wonders for the crops that feed the cows that give the milk that makes Wisconsin America's Dairyland.
It's also making a mess of its waters.
While Green Bay holds a mere 1.4% of Lake Michigan's water, it receives one-third of the lake's nutrient load —...
Dan Egan | Journal Sentinel 14 Sep 2014 Hits:177 Wisconsin
As large swathes of the western United States continue to wither under the effects of record-breaking drought, longstanding local concerns over water use are becoming increasingly contentious, adding to the national debate over corporate right and common good.
In recent weeks, a desert area of Southern California has seen focus suddenly...
Carey L. Biron | Mint Press News 12 Sep 2014 Hits:258 California
Natural gas is widely touted as a 'green fuel'. But as Paul Thacker found in Colorado, fracking's national 'ground zero', it's anything but. Lives and health are being ruined by pollution from taxpayer-subsidized gas wells, flaring and refining plants, while property values collapse. Now a mass of environmental refugees are...
Paul Thacker | Ecologist 12 Sep 2014 Hits:257 Colorado
The U.S. Department of Justice is launching a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Missouri police department after officer Darren Wilson shot to death unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown last month.
The investigation was first reported by the Washington Post — which cited anonymous federal law enforcement officials — and...
Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams 04 Sep 2014 Hits:250 Missouri
After initially stating he would rule on an emergency appeal to stop water shutoffs at the end of Tuesday’s court session, US federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes announced Wednesday he would issue no decision until at least September 17. This means the city, which has shut off water service to...
Lawrence Porter | World Socialist Web Site 04 Sep 2014 Hits:212 Michigan
RICHMOND — A federal jury Thursday found former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption — sending a message that they believed the couple sold the office once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to a free spending Richmond businessman for golf outings,...
Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman | The Washington Post 04 Sep 2014 Hits:332 Virginia
Sometimes you wake up from a bad dream. You pray it’s not real but when you open your eyes, the reality of the situation is staring you right in the face.
Harold Mitchell faced a similar situation and learned about environmental injustice when family, friends, and neighbors in his Spartanburg, South...
Timothy Fields | Greenversations 02 Sep 2014 Hits:156 South Carolina
The Final Day of the Moral Week of Action Commits Advocates and Activists to Take Anger over Regressive Policies and Turn It into Action at the Polls
Fifty one years after people gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to declare that a new America was possible, North Carolinians of...
NC NAACP 01 Sep 2014 Hits:205 North Carolina
RALEIGH, NC - Activists from across North Carolina protested with their feet and their voices yesterday at the state capitol as they challenged the flood of regressive policies passed by this state legislature over the past two years and committed themselves to turn their anger and discontent into action at...
Sarah Bufkin | NAACP 29 Aug 2014 Hits:277 North Carolina
Over one hundred Chicago public school students, parents, and community members marched to the city's Board of Education on Monday to demand an end to the school closures, mass lay-offs, and undemocratic political deal-making they say are devastating one of the largest public education districts in the country.
Organized by the...
Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams 28 Aug 2014 Hits:273 Illinois
While they carry signs “Thirsty For Justice” nearly 45% of Detroit’s 173,000 water accounts are considered past due, with 420 customers due to be denied service Tuesday.
The bankrupt Detroit lifted the month-long suspension of shutting off water to people who have not paid bills. Some 25,000 customers have reached payment...
Kaye Wonderhouse | The Global Dispatch 28 Aug 2014 Hits:187 Michigan
Trying to make sense of all the different court rulings in Wisconsin on their partisan Photo ID voting laws? We'll try to unpack that for you.
The short version: Two different state trial courts found the GOP's Photo ID restriction on voting to be a violation of the state constitution's right...
Ernest A. Canning | The Brad Blog 28 Aug 2014 Hits:229 Wisconsin
RALEIGH, NC - Day 5 of the Moral Week of Action mobilized women of all ages, races, creeds, and classes to march together around the NC state Capitol this afternoon to demand an end to the state legislature's regressive attacks on women, their rights, their health, their families and their...
Sarah Bufkin | NAACP 28 Aug 2014 Hits:249 North Carolina
RALEIGH, NC - Health advocates and environmental activists stood side by side to demand that the North Carolina General Assembly stop its attacks on the health of its most vulnerable communities, whether by refusing the Medicaid expansion, cutting back on health care services or giving corporations the green light to...
Sarah Bufkin | NAACP 28 Aug 2014 Hits:196 North Carolina
(Reuters) - The California State Senate passed legislation on Tuesday imposing strict regulations on how law enforcement and other government agencies can use drones, a move supporters said will protect privacy and prevent warrantless surveillance.
The bill attracted bipartisan support in the Senate, passing 25-8 during the evening vote in Sacramento.
Aaron Mendelson | Reuters 28 Aug 2014 Hits:335 California
FERGUSON, Missouri — The last moments of Michael Brown’s life were filled with shock, fear and terror, says a witness who stood just feet away as a police officer shot and killed the unarmed teen.
“I saw the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” said Dorian Johnson, 22. “Then...
Trymaine Lee | MSNBC 20 Aug 2014 Hits:599 Missouri
Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls.
On a 3-0 vote, the panel said it wanted City...
David Zahniser | Governing 17 Aug 2014 Hits:262 California
Wisconsin taxpayers would have saved $206 million over two years — 73% more than previously estimated — if officials had fully expanded its main health care program for the poor under the federal Affordable Care Act, a new nonpartisan report shows.
If officials decide to change course and expand the program...
Patrick Marley | Journal Sentinel 17 Aug 2014 Hits:308 Wisconsin
AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was indicted on two felony counts on Friday by a state grand jury examining his handling of a local district attorney’s drunken driving arrest and the state financing for a public corruption unit under the lawyer’s control.
The indictment was returned late Friday in...
Manny Fernandez | The New York Times 15 Aug 2014 Hits:221 Texas
Police violence broke out again in Ferguson, Missouri, Wednesday night, as the streets filled with tear gas, rubber bullets, heavily-armed SWAT teams and mine-resistant vehicles on the fourth night of unrest since Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, was shot to death by police on Aug. 9.
Mostly peaceful protesters...
Ryan Grim, Braden Goyette | The Huffington Post 14 Aug 2014 Hits:229 Missouri
The federal judge who oversaw the political prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was arrested over the weekend after allegedly beating his wife in a posh hotel room in Atlanta...
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller was charged with misdemeanor battery and taken to the Fulton County jail around...
Brad Friedman | The Brad Blog 12 Aug 2014 Hits:569 Alabama
Federal and state governments do not do enough to safeguard drinking water around the nearly 200,000 wells where fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, according to a federal report.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation found that existing regulations do not adequately protect against contamination that could occur after earthquakes, which...
Laura Arenschield | The Columbus Dispatch 11 Aug 2014 Hits:286 Ohio
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's Republican Party on Wednesday refused to hear challenger Chris McDaniel's effort to overturn his June 24 GOP runoff loss to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. The party said McDaniel would do better taking his challenge to court.
In a letter to McDaniel's lawyer, state Republican Party Chairman...
Jeff Amy | Associated Press 10 Aug 2014 Hits:302 Mississippi
The federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell illustrates the power held by prosecutors to destroy a defendant -- or, conversely, to grant a wrist slap.
As the trial finished its second week, looming large is the difference between the 14 counts McDonnell and his wife Maureen currently face...
Andrew Kreig | Justice Integrity Project 10 Aug 2014 Hits:411 Virginia
Escalating a fight with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a company that stores enormous mounds of petroleum coke on Chicago's Southeast Side is threatening to sue unless city officials allow the gritty piles to remain uncovered for another four years.
KCBX Terminals, a firm controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, is pushing...
Michael Hawthorne | Chicago Tribune 03 Aug 2014 Hits:374 Illinois
A luxury condo building on New York City’s Upper West Side has gotten clearance from the city to have a separate entrance, or a “poor door,” for low-income tenants, according to the New York Post.
Extell, which is building the 33-story complex, will build a specific door for the 55 affordable...
Bryce Covert | Think Progress 03 Aug 2014 Hits:324 New York
As residents of California are urged to conserve water and the state considers placing a mandatory restriction on outdoor water usage, Nestlé is trucking away undisclosed amounts of the precious resource in the form of bottled water.
The Desert Sun has an in-depth report of controversy brewing around the company’s bottling plant,...
Lindsay Abrams | Salon 03 Aug 2014 Hits:740 California
Pennsylvania officials have refused to disclose information that freight railroads provide about shipments of volatile crude oil through the state.
In the wake of several fiery accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation in May issued an emergency order requiring railroads to report to state emergency management officials the number of trains...
Jon Schmitz | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03 Aug 2014 Hits:245 Pennsylvania
DETROIT, Mich. (WJLA/AP) -- Detroit's massive municipal water department, which has been widely criticized for widespread service shutoffs to thousands of customers, drew nationwide attention Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Due to public pressure, the department has temporarily suspended shutoffs for customers who were 60 days or more behind on bills for...
Scott Thurman | AP | ABC 7 News 01 Aug 2014 Hits:345 Michigan
Departing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he will quit Congress altogether in August, ending a once-promising political career in a bid to give his successor a chance for an early turn in office.
Cantor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug....
Catalina Camia | USA Today 01 Aug 2014 Hits:387 Virginia
Maude Barlow, Canadian author and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, with a delegation of water rights advocates brought 260 gallons of water to Detroiters July 24.
Of the 15,000 homes that have had water shut off by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, it is estimated that only 48 percent are...
The Michigan Citizen 30 Jul 2014 Hits:321 Michigan
Columbus, Georgia – The Columbus Police Department, continuing its history of antagonizing the movement to close the US military training camp known as the SOA/WHINSEC (School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), has this year placed unjust, unsafe and unconstitutional restrictions on the annual SOA Watch...
Hendrick Voss | SOA Watch 21 Jul 2014 Hits:647 Idaho
With fewer than a dozen words Monday, President Barack Obama made his most definitive statement to date in favor of District statehood, delighting both loyal supporters and longtime advocates who have questioned his commitment to D.C. voting rights.
During a town hall-style event at a public school in Northwest Washington, Obama...
Mike DeBonis | The Washington Post 21 Jul 2014 Hits:319 DC
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.
“In case we have missed someone who has legitimate affordability problems this will allow them to come to us to see...
Brent Snavely, Matt Helms | Detroit Free Press 21 Jul 2014 Hits:259 Michigan
Opponents of tar sands—the massive bituminous oil deposits in Alberta, Canada with a greenhouse gas impact four times greater than that of standard crude—have inched one step closer to a major victory.
On Wednesday night, the City Council of South Portland, Maine voted 6-1 to pass an early version of an ordinance...
Cole Stangler | In These Times 20 Jul 2014 Hits:219 Maine
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', this ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'
No, no, no, no
--Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues"
On July 18 thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge on downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets and...
Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier | The Progressive 09 Jul 2014 Hits:374 Michigan
Detroit made international news this month when its municipal water board resumed cutting off water to residents with unpaid bills. With thousands of community members struggling in homes with no running water, local groups reached out (PDF) to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking...
Anna Lappé | Al Jazeera English 02 Jul 2014 Hits:776 Michigan
Charter school operators aren’t the only one’s not being held accountable—a major complaint of the Chicago Teachers Union—it’s the machine politicians angling for electoral support and continued political power.
The War on Independents Wages On
Battle lines were once again drawn between Chicago’s machine democrats and independent democrats when Ald. Toni...
RA Monaco | Sheffield Gazette 29 Jun 2014 Hits:342 Illinois
Geraldine Zenteno knew exactly where she wanted to go after graduation.
Researching universities, the 17-year-old T.C. Williams senior had fallen in love with The College of William and Mary. Zenteno wants to pursue a teaching career and the Williamsburg school’s education program ranks among the best in the country, according to...
Derrick Perkins | Alexandria Times 17 Jun 2014 Hits:727 Virginia
Empowered by their new majority in the State Senate, Republicans have moved to checkmate Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a monthslong contest over Medicaid, passing a budget that does not include the Medicaid expansion the governor sought and forbidding him from unilaterally expanding the health care program for the poor.
Trip Gabriel | The New York Times 15 Jun 2014 Hits:384 Virginia
The Democratic Party is already signaling that they won’t be solidly backing Jack Trammell, the Democratic candidate for Eric Cantor’s old seat after Cantor announced that he won’t run as a write-in candidate.
Roll Call reported this morning that, “National Democrats are considering competing for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s House...
Jason Easley | Politicus 13 Jun 2014 Hits:1027 Virginia
In a stunning upset propelled by tea party activists, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was defeated in Tuesday’s congressional primary, with insurgent David Brat delivering an unpredicted and devastating loss to the second most powerful Republican in the House who has widely been touted as a future speaker.
Robert Costa | Washington Post 10 Jun 2014 Hits:390 Virginia
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) environmental record took a turn for the worse last week when he approved rolling back the state’s renewable energy standards. The Buckeye State became the nation’s first to go backwards in this area.
But it’s not the only trouble area for the Ohio governor as it relates to...
Steve Benen | The Maddow Blog 02 Jun 2014 Hits:344 Ohio
Primary season has begun to roll out across the country, including some hotly contested -- and some just plain bizarre -- races for governor, Congress and other local and state offices. One primary of note is in a State Senate race here in New York, and it has already attracted...
Pearl Korn | The Huffington Post 29 May 2014 Hits:591 New York
Jacque DelRio interviews Chris Silva (brother of David Silva) and the family attorney David Khon on PDA Radio on Saturday 6/21 at 3pm EST.
One year after the death of David Sal Silva, who was beaten by police outside a Bakersfield hospital, family, friends, and supporters gathered near Kern County Superior...
Alfred Camacho | New America Media 27 May 2014 Hits:346 California
A federal district court judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, handing gay rights advocates their second legal victory in as many days.
In the wake of last June’s Supreme Court decision striking down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III...
Niraj Chokshi and Reid Wilson | Washington Post 20 May 2014 Hits:345 Pennsylvania
Senate Democrats plan to make an end-of-session push this week to “rectify an historical wrong” -- and perhaps give women a strong reason to go to the polls this fall -- by putting Illinois on record in support of an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The bid to revive the...
Dave McKinney | Chicago Sun-Times 19 May 2014 Hits:517 Illinois
PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.
Andrea MillerJanuary 15th Round Table
Marena Groll Moral Monday March Fayetteville, NC