Democrats Win Popular Vote in Races for President, Senate and, yes, House

After repeating lies and misinformation throughout the 2012 election, Republicans didn’t miss a beat following their substantial loss on Tuesday. Again and again we are hearing Republican politicians chattering about how Democrats, especially President Obama, have no mandate.

Before we deconstruct this most recent Republican mangling of reality, let’s first take a look at the meaning of the word mandate. Mandate, according to dictionary definitions, means ‘to give someone authority to act in a certain manner.’ In general, winning an election is, by definition, a mandate. The elected person is the one given authority or mandate.

But, in a broader sense, political mandate is a definition of what a majority of Americans want. And in every case, Democrats won more popular vote totals than Republicans. Obama won the popular Presidential vote by nearly 3 million. The Democrats in the Senate won the popular vote too, expanding their majority by 2 seats. And, though they were unable to re-gain control of the House, Democrats in that branch of government received 500,000 more votes than Republicans, also winning the popular vote.

In short, Democrats, in all branches of government have the American people’s mandate to pursue the policies they’ve run on. And no Republican mangling of language is going to change that fact. Sadly, the Republicans have simply reverted to attempts to diminish their political opposition in every way and at every time. They have, instead of reverting to the role of governing after waging a punishing, untruthful, and vicious campaign, and losing, decided to just continue campaigning. This decision is a decision to put their own political goals, ones rejected repeatedly by the American people, ahead of the good of country.

Should it be any surprise that the republican party of obstructionism, hostage taking, and voter suppression would make this choice?

Republicans had a chance to lose graciously and retain their role as legitimate members of US government. But, as the viciousness continues, the clock is ticking. In another day or so, it will become obvious that Republicans have continued to wage their selfish little war on US interests. The interests of a majority of Americans. And, if this happens, the campaign to unseat every obstructionist in 2014 will have already begun. And it will begin from the same group the drubbing Republicans’ received on Tuesday originated. It will begin with the real American people. The ones Republicans continue to ignore.

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Two in Five Voters Give Obama Mandate to Confront Climate Change, ‘Destructive Power of a Warming Planet’

According to CBS exit polls, 2 in 5 Americans considered Superstorm Sandy and President Obama’s handling of the disaster a crucial factor in deciding who to vote for on election day. According to the survey, the storm was the most important factor for 15% of those polled. Twenty six percent of those polled considered the storm an important factor.

If this is true, millions of votes, perhaps as much as 20 million, can be directly attributed to the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Obama seemed to sense this mandate Tuesday night. In his victory speech Obama proclaimed:

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

Republicans, flailing for someone or something to blame for their loss, have also targeted Sandy. Numerous pundits blamed the storm for Romney’s slide in the polls. And it is appropriate that a party which continues to brazenly deny the effects of and needed responses to human caused global warming should suffer a loss due to a problem they are ignoring and, through policies supporting increased fossil fuel use, make worse.

This result has given rise to calls for Obama to become a climate change hawk. Joe Romm stated on election day:

Obama’s legacy — and indeed the legacy of all 21st century presidents, starting with George W. Bush — will be determined primarily by whether we avert catastrophic climate change.

And it is, indeed critical that Obama take point on this key issue during his last four years as President. New reports show that, for the world to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst insults of climate change, carbon intensity must fall by 5% per year for each year from now to 2050. Unfortunately, current carbon intensity is falling by just .8% each year, less than 1/6th the level needed.

In fact, scientists are arguing against more research into clean energy in favor of a deploy now and deploy big strategy. The new sources — wind and solar — are established enough to provide reliable energy for humanity. And critical transportation technologies like electric vehicles are already well established as viable. The time is now to rapidly increase the scale and penetration of these key alternative energy technologies. Such increases will require new government policy measures to encourage rapid adoption and deployment. One such policy called Tax and Transfer has been submitted as a possible solution by NASA scientist James Hansen. Other countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Scotland have provided impressive models for rapid transfers away from fossil fuel based energy sources.

The President would be well served to enlist the help of luminaries like James Hansen, Joe Romm, Michael Mann, and Bill McKibben to form an emergency task force on climate change to recommend solutions to our growing problem. Such a response, combined with clear, effective policy measures for reducing carbon pollution as well as partnering with foreign countries to speed such a transition are absolutely necessary to prevent an increasingly dangerous climate.

Links:

http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/nov/06/cbs-news-early-exit-poll-information-has-economy-at-60-percent-as-voters-most-important-issue/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/06/1147341/obama-wins-reelection-now-must-become-a-climate-hawk-to-avoid-dust-bin-of-history-dust-bowl-for-america/

http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/low-carbon-economy-index/assets/pwc-low-carbon-economy-index-2012.pdf

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/tomtoles/2010/07/almost_a_perfect_record.html

Obama Re-Elected With Overwhelming Mandate; Some Republicans Send Signals of Cooperation, Others Just Continue the Viciousness

Last night, Obama made history. He was the first President since FDR to be re-elected under such tough economic conditions. He was the first President since the early 20th Century to be re-elected against such broad-based opposition by powerful special interests. And he was the first President to achieve such a victory by building a base of support almost entirely composed of grass-roots America.

This re-election wave also served up substantial gains for Democrats in both the House and Senate. Democratic majorities in the US Senate expanded, while Republican majorities in the US House narrowed. These strong wins, after Republicans worked tirelessly to obstruct, sabotage, and ensure Obama’s first term was branded a ‘failure.’

But Obama’s successes would not be overshadowed. His saving of the US auto industry ensured his strength among rust-belt states. His hard fight to establish economic recovery resulted in jobs gains throughout the election that continued to erode and disprove the Republicans’ endless negative narrative. Obama’s smart handling of the Sandy disaster showed not only strong leadership, it illustrated the increasing danger of human-caused climate change. A climate change crisis Republicans have continuously denied. Perhaps, most telling of all, were Romney’s numerous attempts to take credit for Obama’s successes. All such brazen attempts fell short, accumulating in a snow-drift of Republican lies and misinformation.

Obama ran on a tax increase for the rich. Obama ran on economic fairness. Obama ran on building new energy sources of the future — wind, solar, electric vehicles. Obama ran on a vital government empowered to help people. And Obama won. He won handily. He won with the overwhelming endorsement of the electoral college. He won with more than 2.3 percent of the popular vote. And these Americans gave Obama the mandate to pursue tax increases in order to balance the budget, to pursue new energy solutions to climate change, and to continue to make the US economic and political system more fair.

American history is filled with examples of losing parties compromising and working with victorious Presidents. However, many among the Republican party continue to indicate they will not work with Obama. In fact, many attempted to deny the fact that Obama had any mandate whatsoever. Across the conservative media airwaves and via conservative pundits everywhere, the word most oft repeated about Obama’s re-election was ‘no mandate.’

This sick nonsense is just one more attempt to emasculate and render impotent the Obama Presidency. Not only is it callous, cynical, and calculating. It lacks any traditional American spirit of democratic cooperation. Already, Republicans have reverted back to campaign mode. Already Republicans are doing everything they can to deny their own role as governors responsible for their portion of American leadership. Instead, they’ve just put together another wave of Republican spit-ball and smear rhetoric.

But the attempt by Republican media, politicians and pundits to deny the reality of Obama’s clear mandate is among the more mild responses to the President’s re-election. Today, on Twitter, Donald Trump called for a revolution to overthrow Obama’s democratic election. Trump tweeted:

This election is a sham and a travesty! We are not a democracy!

More votes equals a loss… revolution!

We can’t let this happen! We should march on Washington and stop this travesty!

It should be noted, again, that Obama won the popular vote by nearly two million or 2.3 percent. A fact that seems to have been lost on Trump in his insane and violence-mongering rants.

Moving on to Mitch McConnell, we find nothing more than a continuation of brazen obstructionism. McConnell, in a statement yesterday evening asserted:

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.

McConnell still wrongly characterizes the Obama first term as a ‘failure.’ A failure McConnell worked as hard as he could to create. And, again, as seen endlessly repeated in the Republican media, the term no mandate is asserted. McConnell is simply trying to verbally diminish Obama while puffing up his own position. But the facts weight against McConnell and his lawyer-speak.

All that said, the two adults in the Republican room appear to be Mitt Romney and John Boehner. Romney gave a gracious concession speech last night. And Boehner, both yesterday and today, has made more conciliatory communications than those previously issued from his position. Though it is unlikely that Boehner will support any policy which will actually result in a comprehensive solution to the fiscal crisis — continuing to call for spending cuts to key programs while only issuing token support for increased revenues — he has issued some statements that appear to create a little daylight on this issue.

John Boehner:

The American people re-elected the president, and re-elected our majority in the House. If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt. I offer sincere congratulations to President and Mrs. Obama and to Vice President and Dr. Biden. I wish Mitt, Ann, Paul, Janna and their families well, and thank them for having carried the banner of our party and our principles with strength, grace, and courage.

Like McConnell, Boehner attempts to diminish Obama’s strong mandate. However, his statement is less pointed than the one issued by the Minority Leader. Boehner instead leans on cooperation rather than blithering on about imaginary Obama failures.

Today Boehner continued what appeared to be an honest opening for negotiation by saying that he would be open to increased revenues through euphemistic ‘changes in the tax code’ — closing loop-holes and the like. Policies, that, for the most part, sound a lot like those which Romney advocated during the election without that terrible and gigantic tax cut for the rich which he pushed so hard.

All that said, Boehner sets an honest table for bargaining and if his position is merely a flexible starting point and not an ultimatum then, perhaps, there may be a glimmer of hope for things starting to change in Washington.

In the end, it appears that the moderates of the Republican Party are again at war with its extremists. We had a similar battle in 2008 and the result was the Tea Party. The latest step in the long march by the Republican party toward the abyss of extremism. This time, hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Indeed they should. Because that extremist agenda has been dealt a terrible blow before it even had an opportunity to do anything other than obstruct legitimate government.

A more rational policy would be for republicans to begin to show the ‘center-right’ side of republicanism. A real Reagan type republicanism that would actually accept the necessity of a tax increase. And yes, a republicanism that would accept expansions of government efforts in needed areas. That would give center-left democrats something to work with. And the result would be a taste of effective government. I believe the American people would find such a change refreshing.

Standing in Line for Hours to Vote on Election Day? Republican Voter Suppression Most Likely to Blame.

(North Miami, FL on Election Day. Photo credit: Eric Jotkoff.)

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott cut early voting days from 12 to 8. He also produced a ridiculously long and complex ballot that, by many accounts, takes as long as 12 minutes to fill out. The result of this restricting access to polling places and complex ballot combined has been enormously long lines in Florida, requiring voters to wait as many as 8 hours to exercise their democratic and human rights. The fact that the longest lines are forming in heavily Hispanic and minority areas illustrates exactly which groups Scott has targeted for suppression.

In Pennsylvania, a restrictive new voter ID law was passed by a Republican legislature. Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader, famously said of the new restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” These voter ID laws target students, minorities, and the elderly, since these groups tend to lack the credentials required to acquire the new identifications needed to cast a ballot. The result is suppressed turnout among these groups. However, courts have also suspended the Pennsylvania law after strong blow-back.

In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted fought to restrict early voting and to force through his own restrictive voter ID laws. But his efforts were blunted by courts who rolled back many of the new restrictions. Now Husted is ginning up new ways to manipulate Ohio’s vote by creating rules and technicalities that allow him to toss out provisional ballots or deny people registration. New rules put in place by Husted, just this weekend, make it possible that tens of thousands of Ohio voters may be disenfranchised.

And in Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Ed Gillespie, has tossed out thousands of voter registrations by misinforming voters of registration requirements and times, through computer ‘glitches’ that have resulted in thousands dumped from voter rolls, and through direct challenges to voters in an effort to remove their right to vote.

In total, Republicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in 30 states.

Combined, these restrictive actions reveal a nation-wide effort on the part of Republicans to suppress the vote. They utilize bureaucratic red tape, cheap tricks, and authoritarian use of government to restrict access to polls and dump voters who oppose their political views. This active usurping of democracy couldn’t be more cynical and heinous. More moderate and honorable republicans have been horrified by the efforts of their, less scrupulous, peers. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called the voter suppression led by Rick Scott ‘inexcusable’ and compared it to similar efforts in ‘third world countries.’ (See more on Whitman’s outrage at Rick Scott here.)

Given this massive effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, it is absolutely imperative that people do not become cynical. It makes it even more important for people to endure the long lines, the hardship, and to challenge efforts to suppress their vote at every opportunity. These actions could include standing in long lines to vote, directly challenging election officials who are attempting to remove your registration or invalidate your ballot, reporting these attempts to media, and filing civil liberties violations with the ACLU and other legal bodies to seek restitution for abuses against you. In addition, here is a number to directly contact the US Department of Justice should you witness any voting irregularities or illegal activity: 1-800-253-3931.

All that said, Jon Husted, Ed Gillespie, and Governor Rick Scott should all be tried for their illegal and immoral efforts to violate the civil liberties of American citizens, to undermine democracy, and to erode the public authority defined by the Voting Rights Act. Such wanton voter suppression should not be coddled and we risk moral hazard if we do not pursue all legal means to hold accountable those who have willfully and maliciously attempted to use government as an implement for limiting the democratic voice of the American people.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19320

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/11/05/roundup-voter-irregularities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/christine-todd-whitman_n_2076800.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/06/voter-suppression-targeting-t.html

Auto Workers File Ethics Complaint Against Romney; Did Mitt Romney Break the Law While Preying on US Industry?

The United Auto Workers and Service Employees International Union filed an ethics complaint against Mitt Romney for illegally hiding profits he made during the US auto bailout yesterday.

According to news reports and the investigative reporting of Greg Palast, Mitt and Ann Romney invested $1 million dollars in GOP guru and mega-donor Paul Singer’s hedge fund — Elliott Management. Elliott then bought out major US auto parts manufacturer Delphi nearing bankruptcy at pennies on the dollar — 67 cents per share. As the US government began to bail out auto manufacturers GM and Chrysler, Singer demanded that Delphi also be bailed out saying “because if you don’t, we’ll shut you down.” This hostage taking of a key US industry by Singer resulted in shock from the government committee tasked with saving the US auto industry which described Singer’s actions as treating the US as a dictator would a third world country.

The government, seeing no other way to save the US auto industry without a parts supplier, acquiesced to Singer’s demands and Singer, who now was essentially in control of Delphi, used the funds to make Delphi profitable again. But only for investors. He cut workers pensions and went public with the corporation pushing share values to over 22 dollars. Delphi also profited by utilizing a number of other unsavory practices. The first was taking a page from Romney’s Bain Capital and shipping US jobs to China. Of the 25,000 well-paying union jobs that Delphi once employed, zero remain. Further, under the republican Singer, Delphi liquidated its US presence. Of the 29 factories Delphi once operated in the US, four remain. The rest all operate on foreign shores — in Mexico or China. Under Singer, Delphi continued its hostage-taking practices demanding exorbitant high prices for the parts it sold to GM. Singer’s combination of predatory market cornering, blackmailing the government for a bailout, shipping US jobs overseas, and destroying unions resulted in larger profits for his fund and his clients, the Romneys.

These profits were then taken and hidden in a tax haven on the Isle of Jersey.

Before we move on to the Romneys role in this action, it is important to note how critical the US automobile industry is to both the US economy and to US national security. The industry serves two major purposes in this respect. First, it results in the employment of millions of Americans through its direct manufacturing facilities and through its supply chain. And, second, it serves as an emergency industrial capacity in the event of a major war. During World War II, the US relied on this manufacturing might to become the ‘Armory of Democracy.’ Though somewhat diminished, this indigenous capacity remains a bastion of American strength in the world. Singer’s actions not only harmed workers and the larger US economy, they also directly harmed US national security — in favor of the Chinese.

Moving on, it is estimated that the Romneys made anywhere between 15 and 115 million dollars off of Singer’s predatory actions against a critical US Industry, the US government auto bailout, and against working Americans. And while this may be as unsavory as many of Romney’s other vulture capitalist ventures, Singer’s almost certainly criminal activities have, thus far escaped legal action.

That’s where the Ethics filing against Romney comes into play. The Romneys have not disclosed these profits. Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 politicians are legally obligated to make public all profits related to holdings that may be affected by a government action. In other words, it is illegal for politicians to keep secret investments that may benefit or may have benefited from government action, like the bailout Singer extorted for Delphi.

The Romneys predatory benefit from the auto bailout in the case of their Elliott/Delphi investment is just such an instance, while their failure to disclose this information is almost certainly breaking the law. So the US auto worker filing may just catch the Romneys by the tail of their heinous venture.

Romney’s own endless political and rhetorical attacks against the US auto industry, taken in this context seem ever more dark, underhanded, and vicious. Romney had called for Detroit to go bankrupt. Romney has cynically and viciously profited by preying on the bailout he opposed, further weakening the industry and hampering its recovery. And now Romney engages in a smear campaign waged against the US auto industry and the workers themselves. The only surprise is that workers and the US auto industry didn’t fire back at Romney sooner. Now, at least, it appears Romney’s vicious and self-serving acts have made him a determined enemy out of a great US industry. One wonders if the American people will be next to join in the fray?

Links:

http://www.thenation.com/article/170644/mitt-romneys-bailout-bonanza#

http://www.gregpalast.com/uaw-files-charges-against-romney-on-his-auto-bail-out-profiteering/

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/19/how_mitt_romney_made_a_fortune_off_the_auto_bailout/

http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2012/10/romney-accused-of-personally-profiting-as-1000s-of-delphi-retirees-lost-pensions/

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19289

Think Your Vote Doesn’t Count? Remember, Just 537 People Decided the 2000 Election. GOTV!

Just 537 people decided the 2000 Presidential election. 537. Imagine what a huge difference those votes made. Image how different the world would now be if 537 more people had voted.

Climate change may have been addressed. The Great Recession may have never happened. Laissez faire, Enron may have all been avoided.

Your vote counts. Don’t let anyone or anything — not a TV station or a newspaper or a person you may know — let you believe otherwise.

Democracy is important. Precious. Perhaps, it is the thing that is most vital about America — the fact that we all have a voice. The greatest and least among us are all equal come election day.

So if you are one of the meek, the oppressed, the down-trodden. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the hopeful, those who believe that a better future can be achieved when we work together. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the concerned, one of those who can see what is happening to our climate, who is dismayed at one political party’s complete and utter denial of the problem. Lift your voices and be heard! And if you are one of those under threat of losing your rights — immigrant, woman, worker. Lift your voices and be heard!

This is your chance to shine. This is your chance to make history and decide the course of our still great nation.

VOTE!

Mitt Romney’s Enormous Lie On Green Energy Reveals Assault On Key US Industry

(Imagine Mitt Romney holding a match under this image)

It’s really no news that republicans hate US alternative energy. Across the country over the past few years they’ve done everything a political party can do to fight renewables. They’ve blocked legislation, they’ve waged verbal and political campaigns against the new technologies, and they’ve jiggered laws and legislation in an attempt to dissuade people from adopting alternative energy sources at every turn. The Volt, as just one example, has turned into a political whipping boy of the right blamed and smeared with each new success. Solyndra, in another example, is a strawman that has ridden shotgun with Mitt Romney all over the campaign trail.

Republicans, clearly divested of their fake jobs interest, have targeted an industry that directly supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs, 3 times the average number of jobs per dollar spent when compared to fossil fuels, and indirectly supports over 8.5 million jobs. But, it’s pretty clear, given republicans’ actual policies, removed from rhetoric, that they don’t care one whit about these jobs or any other so long as they’ve got a political axe to grind.

Enter yesterday’s presidential debates when Mitt Romney, telling a lie a minute, suddenly opened all guns on alternative energy in this off-color and patently false statement:

“And these [clean energy] businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, have gone out of business.”

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only has renewable energy production doubled since Obama began his term in 2009, of the 34 alternative energy companies having received government loans through the stimulus program, only 3 are now in bankruptcy. Nine percent does not make half. But since when did arithmetic ever bother Mitt once he’d gotten onto the whopper roll?

Romney’s false claim goes further than even its blatant and gross exaggeration would indicate. It creates an impression that alternative energy in the US is an abject failure. An implication which couldn’t be further from the truth. And with new US wind installations outpacing every other form of new energy except the, soon to go bust, natural gas, Romney has decided to level a vicious political assault against a sector that is critical to current US energy security as well as economic growth.

We all know that republicans like Romney believe that more drilling can power the entire US and achieve energy independence all in one go. It can’t. The costs for the new fuels are too high, the rate of consumption is too great, and the rate of overall depletion is too high. The republican push for reliance on these depleting fuels would only set the US for another bubble and bust. Even now, many natural gas companies are financially struggling due to the climbing costs of fractured shale production. On the side of oil, fracked extraction of that resource requires prices higher than $90 per barrel to remain profitable. A high price Romney smugly blames on Obama even though it is a simple reality of the market force of depletion acting on the fossil energy sources Romney wants us to be reliant on.

Yet these internal dynamics don’t even take into account the dramatic and growing impact of fossil fuel emissions on climate change. Nor do they consider that the cost of renewable energy, year over year, just keeps going down.

Just this year, another 20% of sea ice was lost in the Arctic. At the current rate of decline, ice-free summers will be seen in the Arctic within this decade. The impacts of this event are twofold — ever more extreme and prolonged extreme weather conditions in the northern hemisphere and enhanced melt in Greenland as it loses its insulating barrier of sea ice. But Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in climate change, remember?

Also this year, solar energy prices fell by over 65%. Now that’s change we can believe in. And as Mitt so snippetly noted, oil prices are high on average overall. Yet Mitt wants to bet the farm and the country, for that matter, on an increasingly expensive and difficult to extract resource.

Romney’s assault on the legitimacy of renewable energy is not only an assault on increasingly less expensive energy and on dealing responsibly with climate change, it is an assault on the American dream. Imagine if Romney’s false vision of half US alternative energy industries going bankrupt came true. Imagine all the lost jobs and livelihoods. Imagine all the failed innovations. Imagine how far back both the US and the world will be pushed if that dark vision becomes reality.

Perhaps Mitt Romney wasn’t lying entirely when he made this statement after all. Perhaps he was instead telegraphing his own plan to drive half of US alternative energy industries into bankruptcy even as he pushes for greater dependence on the dirty dangerous and depleting oil, gas, and coal. It’s really funny how neurotic people with bad intentions tend to project in this way. So we have to wonder, was Mitt foreshadowing the result of a Romney presidency?

Perhaps Mitt Romney’s wish for alternatives is as it was with GM:

“Let them go bankrupt.”

Considering Mitt profited so much from American bankruptcies over the course of his career, I suppose he’d like that. Who knows, maybe his equity firms could still get a part of that action. US middle class alternative energy jobs going to China for more Romney bucks, anyone?

Mitt Romney to Bring Back Torture? A Republican Establishment of Oppressive Government.

It may have been said before. I don’t know. But, regardless, I am saying it now:

Torture is the language of tyrants written in terrible signs, visible and invisible, upon the hearts and bodies of the oppressed.

That we should harbor that possibility in this country. That a political party that represents half of government should even entertain its use is nothing short of travesty. It is the very implement of an unfair and oppressive government that republicans claim to defend against. So why would they even leave open the possibility of bringing it back?

Among the darkest chapters in this nation’s history were the deaths and human rights abuses that resulted from torture at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and sporadically around the globe during the War on Terror. That the Bush Administration laid a legal groundwork for torture and vigorously defended it in courts was a devastating assault on human rights and dignity. It was also a dreadful abuse of the American state’s immense power.

In short, it was the willful execution and legal defense of the conduct of war crimes.

When Obama became President, he signed an executive order banning the use of torture by the US Armed Forces, espionage, and counter-terrorism forces. He removed all legal justifications for torture. Furthermore, he waged a far more honorable war against terrorism. A war that was many times more effective than the one fought by the Bush Administration.

A nation’s character can be defined by the way it treats the helpless and the less powerful. The poor, women, minorities, those serving time in prison, and, yes, prisoners of war. The fact that a person fights against the United States does not rob them of basic rights as a human being. And these rights include an abolishment of torture. It is the very premise of justice and honor that the power of a state to do violence is not applied as an act of vengeance or wrath. That it does not revel in causing harm needlessly. Even the ending of a person’s life in battle, a terrible consequence of the awful but sometimes necessary act of defending a nation through violence, does not fall to the level of abuse and torture of prisoners.

So it should deeply concern you that Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate for the Republican party, has again opened the door to torture. That the shadow of torture once again falls over the face of America.

According to news reports from Politico and the New York Times, Romney campaign spokewoman Andrea Saul has said that Romney would not rule out ‘enhanced interrogation.’ As you may well recall, ‘enhanced interrogation’ was the euphemism Bush Administration officials used to justify torture techniques like waterboarding or locking prisoners for extended periods in 3×3 foot boxes. In addition, and equally worrying, Romney has belligerently rattled his sabre, making unnecessary and possibly damaging statements about countries like Russia, Iran and China.

But what is more worrying is that Romney is bringing back a key Bush lawyer who helped pave the way for legalized torture. Steven Bradbury is well known for his signing memos to the CIA and DOJ claiming that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding were legal. In a 2008 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Bradbury claimed that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding had a basic justification in law.

Leaving the door open for torture and inviting back legal counsel well known for its defense of wretched acts does not bode well for American democracy or for her standing as a leader of justice in an increasingly dark and difficult world. Given Romney’s stand on this and many other key issues, it is obvious that the dark spirits of the Bush Administration are far from banished. In fact, in light of economic positions and including this terrible stance on torture, it would seem that Romney is bringing all Bush’s old wraiths back with a vengeance.

Links:

http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=5A20C1AA-E60B-401D-9F43-2F7EC6D2124E

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/opinion/the-torture-candidates.html

Obama Fights For Renewable Energy Future, Runs on Superb Energy Record

Today, in a campaign speech at Colorado State University, Obama stated:

“You believed we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. And in just four years, we have doubled the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. We developed new fuel standards for our cars so that cars are going to get 55 miles a gallon next decade. That will save you money at the pump.  It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of carbon emissions from all the cars in the world put together.”

“If your friends or neighbors are concerned about energy, you tell them, do we want an energy plan written by and for big oil companies?”

“Or do we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America — renewable sources of energy. Governor Romney calls them ‘imaginary.’ Congressman Ryan calls them a ‘fad.’ I think they’re the future. I think they’re worth fighting for.”

And Obama is correct. Correct in that he has achieved a stunning transformation in US energy policy. Correct in that he has increased US energy independence since taking office. And Correct in that Romney’s energy plan is one drafted entirely to cater to the interests of oil, gas, and coal companies.

Taking a look at the data, we can find evidence of this amazing progress. Since 2008, the US capacity for alternative energy generation has nearly doubled from 10,508 gigawatthours in 2008 to 18,777 gigawatthours by the end of the first half of this year. In total, renewable energy generation now accounts for 14.76% of all US power sources. This is more than nuclear but less than coal and natural gas.

New installations for wind and solar energy have soared over the period. Solar energy grew by 285% and wind energy grew by 171%. New installations for renewable energy are outpacing every energy source except natural gas. As a share of new energy installations, renewable energy accounts for 38% of the total while natural gas accounts for 42%.

This stunning surge in renewable energy capacity and its ability to compete, increasingly, with coal, gas, and nuclear, can be credited, in large part, to Obama’s energy policy. Obama pushed for measures to encourage new alternative energy installation. He pushed for stimulus funds for alternative energy programs. And he risked severe political backlash from powerful fossil fuel industries as he pushed for these new sources.

And the backlash came. It came from campaign contributions from oil special interests to republican rivals. It came in the form of an endless series of advertisements aimed at spreading oil, gas, and coal focused messaging. It came in the form of a republican party transformed to almost entirely represent fossil fuel interests even as it has denied climate change. Last of all, it came in the form of vicious attacks directed at the wind, solar, and electric vehicle industries.

But Obama’s push didn’t end with alternative energy. Obama provided a major push for increasing US fuel efficiency standards. Pushing competitiveness of US automakers in key areas while vastly reducing US dependence on foreign oil. These new efficiency standards have already taken a bite out of oil imports. Under Obama US oil imports have plummeted by 2 million barrels per day from 12.9 million barrels per day in 2008 to 10.9 million barrels per day this year. These reductions in oil imports are bound to continue as Obama’s policy results in fuel efficiency standards rising to 55 miles per gallon by the 2020s. It results in more electric and plug in hybrid electric vehicles on the road. It results in the US auto industry becoming leaders in this key new technology. All these results are signs of progress Americans can feel proud of. All these results are signs of a burgeoning independence that, if continued, will result in a far stronger America.

By contrast, Obama’s rival would cut renewable energy incentives and slash efficiency standards. This would not only increase dependence on fossil fuels at a time of amplifying global warming. It will also increase US dependence on foreign energy sources at a time when the world is increasingly competing for every available export. Romney’s policy will result in higher emissions, higher energy prices, and higher profits for oil, gas, and coal companies. It is a policy that aims to rig the game in favor of those interests and turns a blind eye to all the external harm such a policy would cause. It is a policy that will result in a weaker America that will likely attempt to dominate other countries in order to pursue energy security. It is a policy that will likely result in more costly foreign wars. It is a policy that will result in the expansion of both the trade deficit and the current public debt.

Obama, on the other hand, can proudly show that he fought for America’s energy future. A future with the potential for both energy independence and independence from the dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels. A future that may give us a glimmer of hope for being leaders against the powerful forces of climate change. A difficult future we may equip ourselves to navigate if we continue in the example set by Obama.

Links:

http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_ep00_im0_mbblpd_a.htm

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/08/renewable-energy-sees-explosive-growth-during-obama-administration

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/29/765131/renewable-electricity-nearly-doubles-under-obama-i-think-theyre-the-future-theyre-worth-fighting-for/

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