If Wall Street was really smart, they'd start getting the less crazy Republicans, like Mark Kirk and Susan Collins, to switch parties, reinforcing the ranks of Wall Street Dems in Congress and giving the corporatists a functional governing majority. And if that happened, it would be our turn for a good ol' civil war, just like the one the GOP is currently waging.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Posted by Contrapositive at 10:23 AM
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
There's no other way to read this:
Q: Some are concerned that Social Security will be targeted in the next round of budget talks. There are concerns that a change to the so-called chained CPI will erode benefits.
A: Well, I think we have to be very careful as we take a look at the Social Security and Medicare programs. If we change the consumer price index, we could not do so without increasing the minimum benefit for Social Security.
Collins doesn't reject switching Social Security to a chained CPI model, which would slash benefits. She's just saying that the switch should be coupled with an increase to the minimum amount given out by the program.
That might help make up some of the difference for some of the three Maine seniors out of every five who count on Social Security for more than half their income.
But in a state where one in five residents receives Social Security and where the median elderly househould relies on Social Security for 74% (!) of its income, Collins's minor caveat shouldn't provide much solace.
Posted by Contrapositive at 2:29 PM
Monday, December 2, 2013
Republican Sen. Susan Collins won't be unopposed on the primary ballot.
The head of a group that opposed same-sex marriage in Maine says he'll offer a conservative voice in the GOP primary. Erick Bennett, director of the Maine Equal Rights Center, said he’s filing his paperwork Monday.
Predictably, there's already been more focus on Bennett's quirks--particularly from Maine journalists--than there's been on his policy positions, his standing with Maine Republican voters or his high profile activism.
Which is not to say reporters are wrong to paint Bennett as something other than a mainstream figure.
But of course the GOP isn't a mainstream party. And its primary electorate is even further to the right than its leadership.
So no one really knows for sure how this will turn out.
Granted: Collins may beat Bennett in a rout. She certainly ought to given the size of her war chest, the disparity in campaign experience and the amount of time she's had to prepare for exactly this challenge.
But if she wipes the floor with him, it will likely be because she ran a smart campaign--painting herself as inevitable, discrediting Bennett via whispers, playing the Maine media like a fiddle--rather than because she's closer to Republican primary voters on the issues than he is.
Posted by Contrapositive at 8:21 PM
Friday, November 22, 2013
The worst (well, a bad bit anyway) part of American politics is the fetishization of bipartisanship. Outside of naming post offices or declaring that puppies are cute, bipartisanship is bad. Politics is a competition. Politicians and political parties offer competing ideas and visions to the public, and this allows voters to make a semi-informed choice about who to vote for. Bipartisanship is just another way of saying "let elites sort this stuff behind closed doors, don't you worry your pretty little heads about these things." Also, too, the Chamber of Commerce rocks!
Posted by Contrapositive at 9:35 AM
Thursday, November 21, 2013
"I think that there are too many filibusters in the Senate," [Sen. Susan] Collins said. "We need to move forward on bills and on nominations and let the Senate work its will." (Emphasis added.)
Sen. King "comfortable" with "reasonable" change to filibuster while Sen. Collins calls it "a terrible mistake."
Posted by Contrapositive at 1:51 PM
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
It's a shame and a disaster that the Maine press seems constitutionally incapable of fulfilling its fourth estate obligations when it comes to Sen. Susan Collins--and is instead bent on assuming a stenographic, deferential posture toward her at almost every turn.
But it isn't just embarrassing and corrosive. It also represents a squandered journalistic opportunity of the first order. Because Maine's senior senator has been up to some pretty interesting--and frankly rather skeevy--things in recent years. And she hasn't been terribly worried about hiding her tracks.
One area where she's seemed emboldened lately--and not in a good way--is fundraising:
Lobbyists for Verizon Communications, which is refusing comment on a now-confirmed report that the telecommunications giant turned millions of its customers' records over to the National Security Agency, have thrown fundraisers for members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, records compiled by the Sunlight Foundation show.
According to the Political Party Time database, which tracks candidate fundraising events, lobbyists for Verizon Communications have hosted at least five fundraising events for Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Louis Dupart, of the lobbying firm The Normandy Group, hosted at least three events, two for Mikulski and one for Collins, while Wayne Berman hosted two more for Collins, including a birthday reception in 2010. Both senators voted in 2008 in favor of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which shielded telecom companies, including Verizon, from lawsuits related to an earlier wiretapping controversy.
In the past decade, 18 lobbying firms, corporations and labor unions have purchased town houses or leased office space near the Capitol, joining more than a dozen others that had operated there for years, according to real estate records.
Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers--the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.
Under federal election rules, groups can provide lawmakers free food, drink and a fundraising venue if they disclose that spending as contributions, usually through their political action committees. Those count against the limits of $10,000 per two-year election cycle for PACs and $4,600 for individuals.
Or they can charge the lawmaker, in which case the expense should show up in election records if it exceeds $200.
In theory, this should mean nearly all events are disclosed, allowing the public to learn which special interests have hosted fundraisers for which legislators. In practice, a list of exemptions prevents that.
The FEC allows lobbyists to give their space to federal candidates, or charge a nominal fee, if they also make it available at little or no cost to charities and civic groups.
FedEx provides its town house free to members of Congress and charities, spokesman Maury Lane said, so there is no public record of the fundraisers. Lane said he didn't know how many events were held.
Offering pay-to-play access to DC lobbyists? Check. Corporate-funded parties that stretch campaign finance rules beyond recognition? Check.
Taking big dollars from folks trying to influence legislation? Check check check.
And in truth, there's plenty more where that came from. But to see it you have to be willing to quit looking the other way.
Posted by Contrapositive at 11:48 AM
Monday, November 18, 2013
Andrew Sullivan on marriage equality:
At some point, even the most cynical of politicians has to understand that this issue is not abstract. It affects your own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters...
What you're seeing here is the Republican elite's hypocrisy finally being called out--in the most public way possible...The ability to pretend that you can do one thing in public and another in private is becoming more attenuated by the day.
Posted by Contrapositive at 7:51 PM
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Sen. Susan Collins has been on the record as an enthusiastic supporter of the NSA's bulk data collection program for some time. But Intelligence Committee records indicate that she's now backed up her rhetoric with votes:
While the committee billed the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Improvements Act of 2013 as a means to increase "privacy protections and public transparency of the National Security Agency call-records program," the 15-member panel narrowly defeated a series of amendments senators offered proposing stricter reforms.
One of the reforms--a three-year cap on the retention of telephone records in the main database--went down, 7-8, even though it had the support of Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) The amendment failed in a party line vote where Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, joined the GOP to kill the amendment. (Emphasis added.)
Posted by Contrapositive at 3:54 PM
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Susan Collins has a 14 point lead over Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows...with Democrats. Overall Collins leads 59-20, including a 38 point advantage with independents. Collins continues to be among the 5 most popular Senators in the country with a 61% approval rating to only 27% of voters who disapprove of her.No doubt about it, Shenna Bellows has a task of Wellstonian proportions ahead of her.
Posted by Contrapositive at 8:29 PM
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency to oversee mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at a critical time for the industry.Senate roll call vote here.
Democrats fell three votes shy of the 60 required to advance his nomination.
President Obama nominated the North Carolina Democrat in May to replace acting FHFA director Edward DeMarco. Thursday's filibuster marked the first time since the Civil War that a sitting member of Congress was denied a presidential nomination by the Senate.
Posted by Contrapositive at 1:31 PM
It's not true that the conduct of foreign policy should be guided by the principle of "reward your friends and punish your enemies." The priority should always be to secure the country's just interests first, and that may sometimes require reaching agreements with antagonistic states and being at odds with allies and clients on certain issues. It is tempting but misguided to think of international relationships in terms of friendship. States can have productive and cooperative relations, and they can even be allies for many decades, but they aren’t ever really "friends."
Posted by Contrapositive at 10:24 AM
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
After vigorously defending bulk snooping on the private communications of innocent Americans--and other controversial National Security Agency practices detailed in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden--Sen. Susan Collins has apparently drawn the line at spying on leaders of allied foreign governments:
"The reports are very disturbing. Friends don't spy on friends," Collins said before entering a closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill. "I think that is totally inappropriate. There's absolutely no justification for our country to be collecting intelligence information on the leaders of some of our closest allies."How does Collins reconcile her support for the indiscriminate tracking of her fellow citizens with outrage about snooping on powerful foreign officials?
Does Collins understand how tone deaf this seems?
Posted by Contrapositive at 9:29 PM
Monday, October 28, 2013
Augusta resident Carol Linker in a Portland Press Herald "Another View" column, October 24, 2013:
As a registered Democrat and usual supporter of Bill Nemitz's perspective, it seems to me that he was way off base in his column titled "LePage, Collins' behavior beyond baffling" (Oct. 11).
There is a reason Sen. Collins wins elections in such a convincing manner: She does what is right, despite unwarranted attacks from the fringe extremes of present-day politics!
Maine can be proud of our senator.
Carol William Linker is a financial professional currently employed by LPl Financial LLC in Augusta, Maine with over 26 years of experience. Carol is registered as a Broker-Dealer Agent and is able to buy/sell securities.
"Oil Spill May Be a Lucky Break For Stock Brokers", Forbes, June 17, 2010:
As the financial regulatory reform bill enters its home stretch in conference committee, I can't help but wonder if the top executives at firms like Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and even LPL Financial are secretly relieved that we have a horrific undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico?
Behind the scenes product peddling financial firms with large salesforces have been lobbying hard to make sure that the fiduciary rule, which would require your stock broker to act [in] your best interest and disclose conflicts, is either watered down or eliminated from the final legislation...Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins had mysteriously flip flopped on her commitment to keeping the fiduciary standard in the bill...
"Little Guy Still Ripe For Broker Abuse", Forbes, June 3, 2010:
It's no surprise then that [big brokerage and insurance firms] have hired lobbyists to fight the fiduciary standard provision...
Most surprising was the about face that Susan Collins, a Republican Senator from Maine, did recently when she amended her support for fiduciary standard...I have no idea what changed Collin's [sic] view on broker regulation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with lobbyists...
Here is what Barbara Roper, director of Investor Protection for the Consumer Federation of America, had to say about Senator Collin’s [sic] retreat on the fiduciary issue: "The Amendment paints a target on the backs of senior Americans who are most likely to be targeted with abusive variable annuity sales practices."
Posted by Contrapositive at 1:18 PM
Friday, October 25, 2013
A mature and responsible political party would do more than prevent a government default; it would offer serious solutions to the nation's most pressing problems instead of running from them.
And it is there that Republicans--whether adults or Tea Party members--continue to let the public down.
At a time when the economy is desperate for federal help and 11.3 million people are still unemployed, the party--and not just its far-right wing--is still pretending that cutting spending and lowering the deficit remain the country's most urgent priorities. Republicans won't acknowledge that tax increases, along with spending cuts they have forced on the country, have already driven the deficit down to 4 percent of the aggregate economy, from 10 percent in 2009.
Posted by Contrapositive at 12:47 PM
Thursday, October 24, 2013
"Chris Busby's recent rant, 'Susan Collins masquerades as moderate,' is so full of factual errors and hostility that it actually makes responding difficult."
Well, you could at least try.
Could you let us know which factual "errors" in this "rant" you find troublesome? The dismissive "tisk, tisk to anyone who does not see my boss as anything other than completely above the fray," tone of this message is typical for those who have been in power for too long. Sir, while Ms. Collins has been in Congress, it has morphed into the most partisan, dysfunctional iteration of itself we have seen in at least a century.
To claim that your boss is totally blameless in this transformation is either a sign of your disingenuousness, or her ineffectiveness.
Posted by Contrapositive at 12:57 PM