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The Obama-Republican Party Deficit Deal: Hope and Cave?

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From all accounts forthcoming from Washington, D.C.  late this afternoon, the media is reporting, with very little differentiation that a political resolution to the Republicans’ manufactured deficit ceiling crisis has been successfully negotiated between President Barack Obama and Senator Mitch O’Connell, the Senate Minority Leader, and with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s apparent consent. According to politicos in the know, this deal, if supported, will resolve the nation’s unprecedented budgetary crisis through 2013, after the elections, and should put the country on a fiscal footing that could avoid a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating.

But Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader in the House is not rushing to embrace the plan sight unseen. As reported by Talking Points Memo this evening: “We all may not be able to support it,” she said. “And maybe none of us will be able to support it.”

Not all Americans are checked out and a very harsh verdict by Obama supporters, principally Democrats, is ricocheting around the Internet on Twitter: “#hopeandcave” has emerged from Obama’s base that is sizzling hot in its indictment of Obama’s apparent propensity to go more than half-way to meet Republican recalcitrant demands.

Adding more heat to an Internet that is burning up is the Califorina Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus is calling for a primary challenge to Obama, which is sesmic–an earthquake sound shouted from the West Coast, reported by our colleagues at LGBT POV.

This is nothing to sneeze at.  A front page story on the New York Times today titled “Rightward Tilt Leaves Obama With Party Rift” reports:

Entering a campaign that is shaping up as an epic clash over the parties’ divergent views on the size and role of the federal government, Republicans have changed the terms of the national debate. Mr. Obama, seeking to appeal to the broad swath of independent voters, has adopted the Republicans’ language and in some cases their policies, while signaling a willingness to break with liberals on some issues.

That has some progressive members of Congress and liberal groups arguing that by not fighting for more stimulus spending, Mr. Obama could be left with an economy still producing so few jobs by Election Day that his re-election could be threatened. Besides turning off independents, Mr. Obama risks alienating Democratic voters already disappointed by his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his failure to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, end the Bush-era tax cuts and enact a government-run health insurance system.

 The New York Times’ conclusions are backed up by Salon.com’s Glen Greenwald in “Democratic Politics in a Nutshell,” who quotes Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), a member of the “Out of Poverty” caucus, who said this past week:

“We’ve got to educate the American people at the same time we educate the President of the United States.  The Republicans, Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Cantor did not call for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The President of the United States called for that,” Conyers, who has served in the House since 1965, said. “My response to him is to mass thousands of people in front of the White House to protest this,” Conyers said strongly.

The Senate voted this afternoon to stop debate and move to final passage. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s compromise intended to resolve the deficit ceiling budget crisis, but it failed to reach the magical 60 votes necessary. Reid has announced he will call a vote this evening after McConnell and the Republicans extracted more Democratic flesh in further cuts to entitlements, including Social Security and Medicare.

Greg Sargent from the Washington Post is reporting that the Republicans have gotten about 98 percent of what they have so obdurately pursued in lock-step–bottom line, no new taxes seems to have carried the day and about $2.4 trillion in undetermined cuts. Sargent explains:

By all accounts, it looks like a deal is about to be announced in which the debt ceiling is hiked in exchange for the promise of major spending cuts, including to entitlements, totalling at least $2.4 trillion.

Anything can happen, but it appears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return.

Not only that, but Republicans — in perhaps the most remarkable example of political up-is-downism in recent memory — cast their willingness to dangle the threat of national crisis as a brave and heroic effort they’d undertaken on behalf of the national interest. Only the threat of national crisis could force the immediate spending cuts supposedly necessary to prevent a far more epic crisis later.

This is where the #hopeandcave sentiments begin with Democratic Progressives. Another sentiment also emerging is that more and more calls to #primaryObama from the left in the past few weeks, initially recommended by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which have been echoed on the pages of the Wall Street Journal by Peter du Pont, who has called for Hillary Clinton to challenge Obama, not surprisingly. Many Clinton supporters are waiting in the wings and have drafted a petition drive to draft her, praying that Hillary will tip her hand, resign her office and take a leap of audacity by challenging Obama, a sitting president, to a redux of a bitter fight in 2008.

Nonetheless, Democratic pundits have dismissed disgruntled liberals, essentially saying they have no other place to go, but as the details emerge on where the cuts will fall, don’t be so sure, that people who are really hurting in this abysmal economy  just might stay home in 2012. And if all else fails in the next two days, don’t count on Obama invoking the 14th Amendment to protect the country’s fiscal sovereignty. He and many members of his Administration have dismissed that course of action as not feasible.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

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A Pennsylvania principal drew criticism last week after telling a Bucks County school librarian to take down posters with a famous quote by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights activist, professor, and Holocaust survivor, just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Central Bucks School District reportedly has ties to an organization that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

Despite being under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after an ACLU complaint, the Central Bucks School District earlier this month voted 6-3 to pass “a contentious policy that bans teachers from engaging in ‘advocacy activities’ and displaying inclusive symbols like Pride flags in their classrooms,” WHYY reported earlier this month.

Citing that new rule, known as Policy 321, the school principal told Central Bucks High School South librarian Matt Pecic to take down four posters that displayed Wiesel’s famous quote from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, WHYY reports.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

The principal reportedly told Pecic if he did not comply human resources would have to get involved. Pecic, who has worked for the school district for three decades, met with the principal accompanied by his union representative.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” Pecic said. “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with.”

Making the issue even more difficult, “Pecic’s ninth-grade daughter, a Central Bucks student at Holicong Middle School, originally emailed him the quote,” WHYY reports.

“This is where I get choked up,” Pecic said. “She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you.’”

Pecic describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”

On Thursday, after uproar from the community, the district stepped in and allowed the posters with Wiesel’s quote to be put back up.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the district said in a statement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported,  “and in a manner that promotes not only the importance of the novel, but continued awareness and education surrounding the Holocaust and its National Day of Remembrance this coming Friday. The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”

The Central Bucks School District hired a public relations firm, Devine + Partners, at the cost of $15,000 a month, “in an attempt to repair strained public relations and improve the school district’s image,” The Buck’s County Herald reported last summer.

Devine + Partners was hired to help after “a series of executive decisions made by the Central Bucks School District, most of which appear targeted towards the LGBTQ+ student body.”

“This includes the removal of Pride Flags in the classroom, under the justification that they were political symbols, and as such, not fit for the classroom. It also includes only allowing students to attend Human Growth and Development classes that matched with their assigned genders at birth, and pausing said classes shortly after they began, effectively outing these students to their teachers and peers.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

WHYY is a separate report notes on Monday that the Central Bucks School District has ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Family Research Council.

The district is currently reviewing five books after rolling out a new, harsh policy “which aims to keep books that a yet-to-be-determined group might deem ‘inappropriate’ for unspecified ‘sexualized content’ out of school libraries,” WHYY reported in July.

“Recent updates to the policy were reviewed by a conservative Christian law firm, Independence Law Center, as first reported by the Bucks County Courier Times,” WHYY adds. “The Independence Law Center is the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which is a statewide branch of the national organization Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist group designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Earlier this month NBC 10 Philadelphia reported on the passage of Policy 321 by the school board. Watch below or at this link.

 

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Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a special grand jury and prosecutors are now presenting evidence against Donald Trump in their revived investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and one other woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Calling it “a dramatic escalation of an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,” The New York Times reports the Manhattan DA is “laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months,” and says it “a clear signal” that Bragg “is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”

Among the witnesses testifying is David Pecker, “the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal” with Daniels.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

Prosecutors have also contacted members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and have subpoenaed phone records and other documents that could provide evidence.

But The Times notes that a “conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.”

Cohen broke with Trump and in 2016, “made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump,” The Times reported in 2018.

The payments were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Cohen testified.

He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office,” CNN reported on Friday, citing a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But they “decided to not seek an indictment of Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.'”

Award-winning journalist and author Brian Karem tweeted: “As someone who worked extensively with [Michael Cohen] on the book ‘Revenge’ I can say this: Facts show that the MOST dangerous criminal case against Donald Trump could be made by the Manhattan D.A.”

Read The Times’ full report here.

This article has been updated to include Brian Karem’s tweet.

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$1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

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From electric vehicles to cosmetics, and even the word “mummy,” there is a lot of rebranding going on.

Bowing to anger from right-wingers and conservative commentators, M&M’s decided to rebrand the decades-old multi-colored candies after outrage over its latest addition, purple, and its new “spokescandy,” also named “Purple.”

“Roughly a year ago, Mars Wrigley updated the look of its M&M’s characters, announcing an initiative to make the mascots fit a ‘more dynamic, progressive world.’ As part of these changes, the company introduced new designs of some of M&M’s characters and wrote weirdly elaborate backstories for others. Most notably, the company made the green M&M less ‘sexy’ by shortening her legs and replacing her high-heeled boots with sneakers,” Vox Media’s Polygon reported last week.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson infamously has waged war on the “woke” spokescandies, declaring at one point, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Fast forward to now: Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph is their new spokesperson, although the “spokescandies,” perhaps after some additional rebranding, will be returning in a new ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Which brings us to the rebranding of another icon: Jesus Christ.

He too will be part of the Super Bowl Sunday ads.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

Over the next three years a $1 billion mostly-dark-money campaign – which reportedly will include funds from billionaire right wing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ funder David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby – will promote Jesus in ads, including during the Super Bowl on February 12. Those two Super Bowl ads to “to redeem Jesus’ brand” will cost $20 million, Religion News Service reports.

The campaign to promote Jesus includes $100 million in ads declaring “He Gets Us,” from “the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry,” RNS adds.

The “donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”

But the full list of donors remains unknown.

“Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, that is working on the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign, confirmed that the Greens are one of the major funders, among a variety of donors and families who have gotten behind it.”

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

In a Washington Post interview last year, Vanderground “said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.”

But rather than try to convince self-identified followers of Christ to act as Jesus would want, right-wing interests are spending $1 billion to convince others of what Christianity is supposed to be about.

“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Vanderground told The Washington Post. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

Some are not impressed, and are more-or-less asking, “What would Jesus do?”

“They are latching on to this touchy-feely, conveniently vague, designer Jesus,” podcaster, author, and secular activist Seth Andrews told RNS. Andrews “poses the question of what Jesus would think of the amount of money spent on the ads. Would he prefer that the money be spent on ministering to people’s physical needs or making the world a better place?”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

“Or would he say, no, go ahead and spend $100 million to tell everybody how great I am?”

On-air, CNN said, “at first blush, it can all read like a stand against radical right-wing politics and related divisiveness,” but adds that “some are calling this a ‘right-wing stunt for politics.'”

“‘He Gets Us’ is funded by anonymous donors acting through a Kansas non-profit linked to staunchly conservative causes,” CNN’s report (video below) notes, saying it “raises alarms for some skeptics.”

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.

Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

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