Rep. John Dingell: Member of Congress for more than a quarter of its history.

September 9, 2014

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

It is Congressional primary day for five states in the US, and the final dash for votes in the mid-terms is hotting up against a backdrop of government shutdowns, threats to sue the President, refusals to work together, and a battle for the heart of the Republican Party. It is indeed an intriguing period of US Congressional history. There is however one story that threatens to go unnoticed this election season; the retirement of 58 year veteran of the House, Rep.John Dingell (D-Dearborn, MI).

Dingell is the longest uninterrupted serving member of the US Congress in its 225 year history, with a tenure spanning more than a quarter of its entire history. It is an incredible achievement and one in which the Congressman from Michigan has witnessed the shaping of the United States in ways in which no other Congressman can claim.

As a teenager in 1941, and a member of the United States House of Representatives Page programme, Dingell was on the floor of the House as President Roosevelt delivered his day of infamy speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later elected to Congress in 1956 – the year the World first heard the name ‘Elvis Presley’, and the Federal Highway Act had not yet been signed into being – and has consistently attained over 60% of the vote – with the exception of just two occasions. He was a member of Congress on that day in November when two bullets struck down the promise of President Kennedy. He was sworn into Congress 12 days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, challenging the poisonous white supremacist attitudes of the 20th Century United States, and announced his retirement from Congress during the second term of the nation’s first African American President. He supported, witnessed and presided over the House that saw LBJ signing Medicare into law. His tenure saw the rise and fall of the Cold War era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, the Reagan years, and both Iraq wars. In recent years, Dingell sat next to President Obama as the ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’ was signed into law in 2010, an achievement Dingell was proud to have been a part of, despite not meeting his desire to see universal healthcare in the United States; a cause he had championed by introducing a universal healthcare bill in each of his terms in Congress.

Son of a ‘New Deal’ Democratic Congressman, Dingell is known to be forceful and intimidating in the corridors of Congress. But he gets the job done. Perhaps Dingell’s greatest legislative achievements have been in promoting environmental protections and regulations, cleaning the air and the water and protecting species in the United States, whilst paradoxically commanding the scorn of environmentalists for his staunch support of the Detroit auto industry (including steerage of the 2009 bailouts). In 1972, Dingell authored the ‘Clean Water Act’ expanding greatly the regulatory framework of the 1948 ‘Federal Water Pollution Control Act’, keeping the waters of the United States clean for decades to come. He played important roles in the ‘National Energy Conservation Policy Act’ in 1978, the ‘Marine Mammal Protection Act’ and the ‘Pollution Prevention Act’ of 1990. He penned the ‘Endangered Species Act’, and he advocated and lobbied for the creation of the ‘Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’; North America’s only international wildlife refuge. He also spent 14 years as Chair of the immensely powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, between 1981-1994, and again in 2007-2008. Without Dingell, the foundation of environmental protections in the United States might not exist. Indeed, for his work on environmental issues in the 109th Congress, The League of Conservation Voters gave Dingell a rating of 100%.

However, there remains a paradox. Dingell’s place as top-ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee took an odd turn in recent years, when Henry Waxman (D-Calif) challenged and beat Dingell for the chairmanship of the committee, through concerns that Dingell’s financial support from big auto industry – along with previous attempts to defend big auto industry in Detroit from certain sections of environmental legislation – may prove detrimental to Waxman’s desire to cap CO2 emissions. In 2007, Dingell managed to win several – albeit small – concessions for the auto-industry as Democrats worked to raise the fuel economy standard.

Alongside his defence and protection of the auto-industry, Dingell receives criticism from fellow progressive Democrats for his A+ rating from the NRA. It was Dingell who managed to gain an exemption for firearms from the 1972 ‘Consumer Product Safety Act’. A hugely damaging legacy for gun safety in the United States. Following the Columbine massacre the Senate voted to close a loophole that exempted unlicensed gun dealers from conducting any background checks at gun shows before selling a firearm. Dingell disapproved and offered an alternative that included changing the language for what is to be considered a ‘gun show’ to a very limited scope, and reducing the time taken to perform a background check from 72 hours, to 24 hours.

To some, he was a protector of big auto-industry whose ideas ran out long ago, a roadblock to meaningful emissions standards, a staunch advocate of gun ownership, and an advertisement for term limits, but to others he was the Congressional architect of landmark environmental protections that would last decades, a legacy that no other member of Congress comes close to matching. Whatever one may think of Rep. John Dingell, it is hard not to admire a man who has worked at the heart of, and contributed to the shaping of the United States, swimming the murky waters of Congress, and witnessing the transformation of America on so many levels, for close to seven decades. His is a story to be remembered during this election season.

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For the love of the Kennedys.

September 4, 2014


If you have a job and you want to get it done, and you don’t care how it’s done, send Paul Corbin out to do it.
– Helen Keyes, A Kennedy campaigner.

It was Presidential debate night, on October 28th, 1980. Only six years had passed since a United States President had stood down from office in disgrace, for the first and only time in its history. Many of Nixon’s top staffers would end up behind bars. The waters of US politics were now murkier than ever. The smell of scandal was the last thing either candidate going into the 1980 debate could afford to become associated with.

As debate night approached, Reagan was leading in most polls by an average of three percentage points. A healthy lead, but not substantial enough to ensure a victory, as Carter regained popularity following a disastrous year. After the debate, Reagan extended his lead to take a 9 percentage point victory at the election, carrying 44 states. But all was not squeaky clean in the Reagan camp. Somehow, the Reagan team of David Stockman, Frank Hodsoll and James Baker had gotten their hands on President Carter’s briefing papers and notes of preparation for the debate, stolen from the White House. Scandal ensued.

The Reagan administration did not divulge the fact that they had access to Carter’s papers, until the story leaked in 1983. The scandal remained in the public eye, leading to an investigation by U.S. House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service’s Subcommittee on Human Resources. The investigation interviewed David Stockman, who insisted that the briefing papers only mentioned issues to discuss, rather than question and answer tactics and so weren’t of any value. Frank Hodsoll however insisted the papers did contain question and answer tactics. The investigation uncovered much evidence of vast wrongdoing, yet concluded that contradictions in the statements of key Reagan staff were the result of:

“…the professed lack of memory or knowledge on the part of those in possession of the documents”

– The case was never brought to a resolution, and no one knows who handed those documents to the Reagan team – though Baker told the investigation that William Casey (Reagan’s campaign manager) had first handed him the documents – But one name sticks out as the original source: Paul Corbin.

In his book, ‘Rendezvous with Destiny‘, Craig Shirley asserts that Corbin – a Democratic Aide to Ted Kennedy’s primary challenge against Carter – handed the documents to the Reagan camp as revenge for perceived ill-treatment of Kennedy by Carter during the Primaries. If true, it wouldn’t be the first time Corbin had a decisive hand in shaping an election from behind the curtain, in defence of a Kennedy.

Twenty years before the Carter-Reagan debates, Robert Kennedy asked all to live according to the Ancient Greek wish to ‘tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world‘, but throughout the late ’50s and into ’60’s RFK had no time to make gentle the life of US politics. In 1960, ex-Communist Party member and ex-con man Paul Corbin had been brought in by Robert Kennedy to aide the Kennedy campaign primarily in West Virginia, a state split between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for the necessary delegates.

The Kennedy camp – especially Bobby and Kenny O’Donnell – were growing tired of Humphrey refusing to condemn anti-Catholic sentiment in the state (a tactic Humphrey thought may win over undecided voters), using it to his advantage over the Catholic Kennedys. The goal now was to paint Humphrey as a bigot, to push liberal democrats into voting Kennedy. Suddenly, within days of Corbin being brought in, viciously anti-Catholic literature was being handed out in West Virginia, urging Catholic households never to elect an ‘agent of the Pope in Rome‘ and attributed – falsely – to the Humphrey campaign. A tactic that made Humphrey look out-dated, bigoted, and unprepared for the future of a changing Democrat Party. In his biography of Robert Kennedy, Evan Thomas calls Corbin ‘the immediate suspect‘ in the affair. The tactic – along with many others – worked. Jack Kennedy took West Virginia in the primary. Corbin had a big hand in shaping the narrative in West Virginia, through some incredibly dirty tactics, in his new found personal mission of protecting and advancing the Kennedys.

Evan Thomas notes that when Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara a few years later told RFK that he wanted Corbin to take a lie detector test over another matter, Kennedy laughed, telling the Secretary:

“Lie detector? He’d break the machine.”

– The Kennedy campaign was filled with dirty tricks leading up to the convention, not just from Corbin. At the Convention, Lyndon Johnson’s team were enraged to find their phone lines had been cut, a crime they blamed on the Kennedys. Later, when Johnson was President, Corbin was working in New Hampshire producing Kennedy-for-VP literature for the ’64 election, without running it by the President, or anyone else. Johnson was furious and demanded Corbin be fired from the DNC (a position Robert Kennedy gave him upon becoming Attorney General). RFK refused, insisting that Corbin was harmless, though Johnson had him fired anyway.

It seemed the RFK and Corbin relationship was strong, despite protests across the Democrat Party. Indeed, Joe Dolan – a Kennedy aide – referred to Corbin as ‘Robert Kennedy’s dark side‘. Back in early ’60s, the FBI released a report into Corbin’s suspected Communist ties (and conversely, his business dealings with staunch anti-Communist Joseph McCarthy) noting:

“The Attorney General seems to have completely overboard in trying to defend Corbin. He has suppressed any and all references to our report detailing Corbin’s Communist activity.”

– This is a big claim. One suspects RFK – by the time he was Attorney General – believed he owed a great deal to Corbin, which implies Corbin had a greater hand in securing the Presidency for JFK than we might ever know.

RFK’s fierce loyalty to Corbin was matched only by Corbin’s loyalty to the Kennedys, going so far as to convert to Catholicism in order that Robert and Ethel Kennedy could become his Godparents. Though even this may have had a political calculation, because at the time of Corbin’s conversion to Catholicism, he was being investigated by the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, chaired by Congressman Francis Walter – a devout Catholic.

By 1980, both Jack Kennedy and Robert Kennedy had been cruelly slain by the bullets of single assassins, the dream of a Robert Kennedy Presidency – a dream Corbin had desired and fought for, for so many years – never had the chance to be realised, and Corbin had been out of politics for some years. Now was Ted Kennedy’s opportunity. Corbin was no Carter fan, but even if he had have been, his loyalty remained to the Kennedys, and so he worked behind the scenes to replace Carter with Kennedy. When that attempt failed, and angry at the Carter campaign’s negative treatment of Kennedy (ironically), Corbin began passing intelligence – according to a 1990 article in The Milwaukee Sentinel – on the Democrats to Reagan’s campaign manager William Casey; the man that Jim Baker had claimed passed him the Carter debate preparation papers.

He’d been a conman in the 1940s running an advertising scam, he’d helped to win West Virginia for JFK in the 1960 Primary, he’d been handed a high office at the DNC, the FBI had investigated him for ‘unAmerican activities’ for his days in the Community Party which Robert Kennedy worked to suppress, he’d done business with McCarthy, LBJ had personally ensured he was fired from the DNC, and he’d perhaps been responsible for the political scandal of 1980, aiding the election of a Republican. When he died in 1990, he was on the payroll of Merchandise Mart in Chicago; a business purchased by Joseph Kennedy in the 1940s.

The underhanded and devious brilliance of Paul Corbin’s political activities were driven by one obsession: The Kennedys. And they certainly benefited from his tactics. It’s unclear when this became such an obsession for him, when the Kennedys became Corbin’s first love, a love that he would dedicate his life to progressing, but it’s clear that by 1980 Corbin was woven so deeply into the Kennedy fabric, he was willing to create the scandal of the 1980s, to embarrass Carter, to propel Reagan to a landslide, and to leave his own unmistakable imprint on US history.


Ten Tory MPs with less than 50% of the vote.

July 10, 2014

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It is true that if you were to include the number of potential voters in each constituency, no current Cabinet Minister would have received over 50% of the vote. But with the freedom to vote, comes the freedom to not vote, and with that in mind we should look more closely at the the percentage that current Tory MPs – seeking to impose voter threshold on strike action – managed to win at the 2010 general election, among actual voter turnout.

So here’s a quick list of ten:

  • Sajid Javid – MP for Bromsgrove and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities – 43.7%.
    – A man who is in control of the state’s involvement in culture, media, sport, and has the key responsibility for equality in the UK, was elected with less than 50% of the vote in Bromsgrove.

  • David Jones – MP for Clyde West and Secretary of State for Wales – 41.5%.
    – A Secretary of State for an entire country, elected with a little over 40% of the vote.

  • Oliver Letwin – Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Policy Review – 47.6%
    – Letwin – after winning less than 50% of the vote – insisted that public sector workers require “discipline and fear”. On a completely unrelated note, Letwin used £2,145 in Parliamentary expenses to fix a leaking pipe on his tennis court.

  • Mark Garnier – MP for Wyre Forest -36.9%
    On his website, speaking of strikes in November 2011, Garnier writes:

    “These strikes, which will cost the economy up to half a billion pounds, were not voted for by a majority and will hit ordinary working people hardest.”

    – Replace the words “strikes” with “Tories” in this massively ironic statement, and you have a far more honest sentence.

  • Jessica Lee – MP for Erewash & Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve – 39.5%.
  • Stephen Mosley – MP for the City of Chester – 40.6%
    – On his website, Mosley says:

    “The strike action undertaken by PCS union members in June highlighted the unconsidered approach that appears to be the default setting for many unions.
    Less than 20% of their members voted for the industrial action and less than half walked out on their responsibilities that day.”

    – Interesting admiration for majority votes, when almost 60% of Mosley’s own constituency doesn’t want him representing them.

  • Nicky Morgan – MP for Loughborough – 41.6%
    – Elected with a minority of the vote, and yet voted in an attempt to ensure same-sex couples couldn’t get married. She believes with less than 50%, she gets to regulate the love lives of others.

  • Edward Garnier – MP for Harborough, Knight Bachelor and former Solicitor General – 49%.
  • James Morris – MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis – 41.2%
  • Paul Uppal – MP for Wolverhampton South West – 40.7%
    – Uppal voted in favour of a change to striking laws that would prohibit strikes in the transport sector unless a majority of the workforce voted in favour and not merely a majority of those voting. This same principle, if applied to Parliament, would mean every Cabinet Minister would not have been elected. The closest would have been Theresa May, though she’d still have fell short by 7%.

    – If a Conservative Party wishes to impose a 50% voter threshold on strike action, then I see no reason why there should not also be a 50% voter threshold on the ability to propose legislation and vote in Parliament. Indeed, if MPs with less than 50% of the vote in their own constituency can vote to restrict pay and pensions for public sector workers, I see no reason why those same public sector workers can’t then strike with less than 50% of the vote.


  • European Elections – East Midlands – UKIP’s Roger Helmer.

    May 4, 2014

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer. Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer.

    Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.

    It seems the case that with the European elections on the horizon, those voting will be voting for the party rather than the candidate. Indeed, no European politician in this country – with the exception of Farage – seems to be a household name. We tend not to know whom our representative in Brussels is, instead choosing to vote for the party we most identify with at that moment in time. For that reason, I thought I’d offer a brief overview of the MEP for my area – the East Midlands – UKIPs Roger Helmer. And what an overview it is; vicious homophobia, rape victim blaming, admired by Koch funded corporate pressure group, climate denier.

    It is fair to say, I am not a UKIP fan. Having spoken recently to a young Polish girl who had been disgustingly mistreated by nurses at a hospital that she had given birth at, purely for her nationality, and how she’d cried herself to sleep that night – a night that should have been a happy time, now forever ruined in her memory – I fully blame the divisive and grotesque rhetoric of UKIP among others for that. Human beings are a pawn in their game and I find them very much the heirs to Thatcher, with a hint of fear-driven nationalism thrown in for good measure. In short, the Tea Party of the UK.

    We all remember the UKIP Councillor who blamed the floods on gay marriage, and we laughed. But rabid homophobia and anti-secularism seems unnervingly to be a key component to the thinking of a lot of UKIP politicians. Helmer, on kids struggling to come to terms with their sexuality (a struggle perpetuated by the idea that one particular sexuality is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’; a religiously motivated absurdity), said:

    “If we give adolescent youngsters the wrong signal at a key period of their lives, if we glamorise homosexuals in the media, if we fail to discriminate, we risk the likelihood they will fixate on the wrong gender. We risk denying them the chance of a normal life.”

    – He also wrote that the real victims are not the LGBT community still fighting for equal rights, and to be free from religiously motivated discrimination, bullying, and stigma; but the homophobes themselves:

    “Many people find the idea of homosexual behavious distasteful if not viscerally repugnant. It is this perfectly biologically-determined repugnance that the homosexual lobby seeks to stigmatise with the word ‘homophobia’.”

    – It’s like claiming George Wallace was the victim of the civil rights lobby.

    Helmer also tweeted:

    “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?”

    – The implication – along with his early statement, that children might become gay if the media “glamorises” homosexuality – being that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be cured, further dehumanising the LGBT community. As if dehumanising immigrants wasn’t enough. It is about as rational as claiming a psychiatrist can try to ‘turn’ a blue eyed person into a brown eyed person. It is anti-scientific, anti-human, and a very religious position to take. Incidentally, The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists agree:

    “…homsexuality is not a psychiatric disorder. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

    On gay marriage, Helmer – like most absurd right wingers – argues a slippery slope fallacy, whilst defending Church opposition to same-sex marriage, as justification for restricting the rights of others, and upholding Christian supremacist ‘values’:

    “…once you start to tamper with the institution of marriage, you get into some very murky water indeed. If two men can be married, why not three men? Or a two men and a woman?”

    – Firstly, this implies that Christianity has some sort of inherent right to the institution of marriage in the first place, and secondly, if Helmer is correct and homosexual marriage leads inevitably to “murky waters” such as polygamy (ironically, Biblically acceptable) then we must accept that heterosexual marriage lead to homosexual marriage, and so in fact the very institution of marriage itself, starts the ball rolling down the slippery slope. The only way out of that slippery slope, is to claim “traditional” marriage should continue to be defined along religious lines. And that’s fine if you’re a Christian; simply don’t have a same sex marriage. You however have no right to enshrine your self-claimed ownership of marriage into law, restricting the rights of anyone else. Helmer’s argument by its very nature, is one that seeks to impose religious “values” on everyone. Roger Helmer is anti-secular.

    Whilst seeking to restrict the rights of the gay community, and subtly hinting that they’re all mentally ill, Helmer said that the word ‘homophobia’:

    “…it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby.”

    – Yes! Those ‘militants’ fighting for the same rights that Helmer himself enjoys, whilst referring to those who simply wish the same rights as “…distasteful if not viscerally repugnant“.

    Echoing a number of US Tea Party members, Helmer also isn’t a big fan of women. In 2011, on his blog, Roger Helmer said that in the case of rape’:

    “…the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind.”

    – Yes. He said that. In fact, here’s the blog in question.

    He goes on to say:

    “It is naive for a woman to undress and get into a man’s bed and not expect him to draw the obvious conclusion.”

    – A creative way to say “you brought this on yourself“. Roger Helmer believes that the victim shares blame for being raped. Those poor rapists. I’d suggest that if Roger Helmer believes this, he poses a danger to women, not just for how he votes, but for the fact that he’s clearly unable to control his sexual urges, and considers “establishing reasonable expectation” as a justifiable excuse for violating the autonomy of the body of another human being.

    As UKIP seem to be positioning themselves as a party of the ordinary working people, it’s probably worth noting that Farage himself is an ex-city trader, and that Helmer was appointed ‘Adam Smith Scholar’ by American corporate funded right winged pressure group ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’. ALEC is funded by corporate donors, including in 2009, over $200,000 from the Tea Party funding Koch brothers. The same family that funded right winged extremists during Kennedy’s Presidency, and orchestrated the 2013 government shutdown, seeking to denying the ordinary working people affordable healthcare. Helmer – being a climate skeptic – was also a key speaker at The Heartland Institute’s Seventh International Conference. The Heartland Institute also received funding from the Koch brothers, as well as – predictably, given the subject – big oil companies and big tobacco companies. UKIP are the Tea Party of the UK, in every way possible.

    So for all his climate denying, and speaking on the topic to institutes funded by big corporate interests, imagine my surprise when at the previous European election, we had a leaflet through our door for Helmer’s campaign – he was a Tory at the time – that read:

    “Conservatives played a key role in making new laws to cut carbon emissions and promote renewable energy“.

    – This part of the leaflet, was a major factor for the Helmer campaign, given that it had an entire section dedicated to:

    “…tackling climate change”

    – And yet, the leaflet didn’t explain to voters that Helmer is a key member of ‘The Freedom Association’ of which he became the chairman of in 2007. In 2012 – after Helmer had became Chairman – at a time his campaign was running on its green credentials – ‘The Freedom Association’ said:

    “Evidence is quite clearly emerging that man is not having the impact on the climate that the EU climate alarmists claim.”

    – The leaflet was a blatant lie, given that according to ‘Friends of the Earth’, Roger Helmer has one of the worst voting records when it comes to the environment, in Europe. The campaign literature gave the impression that Helmer had ‘played a key role’ in cutting carbon emissions, when in fact the opposite is true. And he’s proud of it.

    I often write on the absurd and often offensive and hideous remarks and actions by US Tea Party members toward every minority that possibly exists. They seem entirely divorced from reality, a threat to human liberty and dignity, funded by corporate interests, and yet, my own area in leafy middle England appears to have elected one of them – a homophobic, religious supremacist, corporate, rape apologist, victim blaming, misogynistic, climate denier – and looks set to re-elect him. And so, if you’re in the East Midlands, get out and vote on May 22nd. I am embarrassed to know that in Europe, the area that I live is represented by Roger Helmer. We are not like him. The East Midlands deserves far better.


    Madam President: Hillary leading for 2016.

    March 5, 2014

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

    Prior to 2008, Virginia’s electoral college votes were solidly red. Republicans could count on votes from the state of Jefferson and Washington, as much as they could count on the votes of the deep south. Democrats had not taken the state in a Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That changed in 2008. A year in which both parties campaigned heavily, saw the once solidly red Virginia hand its votes to the Democrats by a margin of 6.3%, for the first time in 44 years.

    By 2012, President Obama became the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt, to carry Virginia in two consecutive elections. In fact, the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2012, was greater than the margin of victory for the President in the country overall. A year later, Virginia voted to elect Democrat McAuliffe to the Governorship ahead of Tea Party favourite, Ken Cuccinelli. Thanks to the far more progressive areas of Fairfax and Loudoun, and the toxic brand of the Tea Party movement; Virginia is becoming blue.

    This is bad news for the GOP for 2016. The potential field for Republican candidates in 2016 is not particularly inspiring, and no single candidate stands out. A poll out of New England College found that despite having no intention to run, Mitt Romney is favourite among GOP voters for the nomination in 2006. Ted Cruz only manages 10% support, the scandal prone Chris Christie only managing 13%, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio sharing 7% apiece.

    Even more concerning for Republican strategists, is a latest poll of voters in Virginia, conducted by Roanoke College this week, showing that any of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, would face a massive defeat, if the Democrat nomination was Hillary Clinton. If the 2016 Presidential race were between Clinton, and Christie, Clinton would come out victorious at 43% to Christie’s 41%. A race between Clinton and Paul Ryan, would give us Clinton on 53% to Ryan’s 37%. Others include; Clinton 51% to Jeb Bush 38%. Clinton 47% to Rand Paul’s 40%. Clinton on 47% with Ted Cruz on 37%.

    In Ohio – an incredibly important battleground state – Clinton commands a firm lead in polls over all Republican candidates. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that biggest challenge in Ohio to Clinton would be from Paul Ryan, who trails by a huge 9 points. Clinton leads by double figures over Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, and Kasich.

    The bad news for Republicans doesn’t end there. Even in the solidly red state of Texas, the Republicans are struggling. In 2012, Romney won 57% of the vote to the President’s 41%. Even with Texas’ changing population, it is still cloaked in red. Yet, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, of all potential Republican candidates, none manage to win over 50% of the vote if paired off against Hillary. Jeb Bush comes closest with 49% to Clinton’s 42%. Though it’s unlikely that Bush will run. Senator Cruz – the favoured Republican candidate in Texas by a clear margin – only manages 48% to Clinton’s 45%. So, if on the off chance Jeb Bush were to run and win the Republican nomination, he may take Texas, but he’d lose Ohio, and according to another poll, he’d lose Florida too.

    The close polling between Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton in Texas, are echoed in Red States like Louisiana. Louisiana last went blue in 1996, voting to help secure a second term for President Clinton. Twenty years later, and another Clinton has the potential to turn Louisiana blue once more. Another poll by Public Policy Polling found that whilst the Republican contenders hold leads over Hillary, the margin is small enough to push Louisiana into the Democrat camp, with the right campaigning from the Clinton team in 2016. Jeb Bush again leads Hillary by the largest margin of 7 points, whilst Christie’s lead is down to just 1 point.

    This is particularly problematic for Republicans for a number of reasons. Firstly, as noted above, there aren’t any stand out GOP candidates that one might consider as posing any sort of a threat to a Hillary campaign in 2016. Secondly, the majority of Republican voters are not on the Tea Party fringes, and moderate Republicans might well be tempted to vote Democrat or simply not vote at all; the former is certainly a possibility if the Clinton campaign presents a more moderately conservative message going into 2016. This is of particular worry for Republicans in swing states and states polling low margins between Hillary and Republican candidates. Of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, the Republicans will need to take two of the three to stand any chance at the White House. As it stands, they may not take any. Thirdly, the majority of US citizens placed blame for the government shutdown on Congressional Republicans, leading to this Congress sporting an all time low approval rating. Congress began 2014 on just 13% approval rating. Republicans in Congress are not popular, this is damaging to any future President campaign, particularly if the prevailing candidate comes direct from an appalling incompetent Congress. And lastly, the Republicans are going to have to spend a large amount of money defending their lead in states that would normally be solidly Republican. They need to do this, whilst also spending vast sums of money to win swing states like Ohio and states recently lost to Democrats, like Virginia. This is one huge uphill battle for Republicans.

    Indeed, the uphill battle is of their own making. The loss of Virginia represents the failing message of a Republican Party being dragged to the fringes of the right wing and failing to modernise. Inevitably, a shift to the fringes presents massive election issues for the GOP. In less than three years, they need to craft an entirely new, modern and inclusive message, an electable platform away from the fringes, improving their image especially with minority groups, and women voters. They also need one candidate to rally behind, and present that new message of inclusivity and modernity. A political party that only appears to represent white, middle aged, heterosexual, Christian, business men driven solely by imagined Benghazi conspiracies, is not an electable party.


    Meet Joshua Black.

    January 21, 2014

    Time ago, calling for the murder of the democratically elected head of state was entirely the realm of those on the watch list of intelligence services. The extreme fringes that plagued Kennedy on his trip to Dallas. Apparently that time has passed, and now includes those running for State legislatures.

    We are all fully aware that Republicans have been getting progressively violent and irrational with their rhetoric since the President was first elected. From subtle hints at secession, to happily and effortlessly shutting down the government and protesting the shutdown alongside people waving Confederate flags. But yesterday – Martin Luther King Day in the States – Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th district of Florida’s State House, Joshua Black took the violent rhetoric to its natural conclusion when he tweeted this:

    joshuablack

    – When questioned on Twitter about the implications of what he was actually suggestion, Black responded with a plain as day clarification:

    joshuablack2

    – Joshua Black – when he isn’t spending his time at church, as his website tells us – is calling for the hanging of the President of the United States. Let that sink in for a second. A candidate for public office in the US, and a member of one of the two major political parties, has just called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

    Once the shock of that utterly crazy situation sinks in, examining the rest of his I’m not sure what the reference to Benedict Arnold was. Arnold wasn’t executed after the revolutionary war, and after his defection to the British. Gout ended his life in England years later. So not only is Black calling for the execution of the President, he’s justifying it with completely invented history.

    Of course, Black isn’t new to over-the-top statements:

    joshuablack4
    – This, he posted the same day as his desire to see the President of the United States hanged. In one day, a Republican candidate for office had compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, and called for the execution of President Obama. But that’s not all:

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    – That’s right. Joshua Black compared women who value the right to their own body, as Nazis. Joshua Black – a Republican candidate for public office – has just compared the systematic slaughter of 6,000,000 Jewish people, to a woman’s right to her own body. This is insulting on so many levels, it’s difficult to know where to start. And he’s not finished with the extreme statements yet:

    joshuablack5
    – Here, it seems that Joshua Black would also abolish the minimum wage, striking a major blow to the most vulnerable people in the country already struggling. But that’s not all!

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    – Joshua Black openly insists that those of us who do not believe in a ‘creator’ have no place in public office. He is vehemently anti-secular, a religious supremacist who believes that he has an inherent right to decide who does and doesn’t qualify as ‘fit’ for public office. He therefore does not accept that atheists share the exact same citizenship and legal rights as himself. He echoes numerous state constitutions that seek to prohibit public office for those who do not affirm a belief in some sort of divine dictator. This horrendous tendency toward Theocratic rule and thus, anti-constitutional religious supremacy is prevalent on the Republican and Christian-right. It seeks to completely override the founding enlightenment principle of secular governance. And the picture that he posts to highlight this, is predictably from Freedomworks.

    To summarise, Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th District in Florida’s State House, compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, those who believe in a woman’s right to regulate her own body as Nazis, insists non-believers should not be allowed to run for public office, and called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

    If ever one candidate embodied everything that has gone horribly wrong with the Republicans in the 21st century… it’s Joshua Black.

    Provocative and extreme anti-Obama statements, and comparisons to dictators of old, made by those like Joshua Black have been growing horrifically for the past several years. When given credit by candidates to public office, they add fuel to the fire of violent far-right sentiment that sweeps the US. It is viciously dangerous rhetoric. Joshua Black – considered and endorsed by the Republican Party – as a serious candidate for public office, is the natural product of the past five years of the Republican Party moving further to the right with increased vitriol and the fact that the Republican Party has not ended its association with Black speaks volumes about the sinister and dangerous direction that particular Party has taken.

    With Florida’s 68th incumbent Dwight Dudley (D) narrowly winning the seat in 2012, it must be said that for the safety of the President, and many many other people, I would hope residents of Florida’s 68th do not elect extremists like Joshua Black to any position of public power.

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    The Frackers of Downing Street.

    January 17, 2014

    There are very few more pressing issues on the planet right now than climate change, and sustainable energy. For that reason alone, throwing dangerous chemicals down a well and splitting rocks to extract gas, leading to complaints of contaminated water supplies in Texas, and earthquakes in Blackpool, was always going to be a controversial topic. Without getting into the pros and cons of the industry and the practice, I thought I’d focus on the names and faces attached to fracking in the UK, who seem to be extraordinarily close to a government that is now suddenly fully embracing fracking.

    Lord Browne is the Managing Director of Riverstone – a private equity firm that backs Cuadrilla Resources (of which Lord Browne in the Chairman). Cuadrilla is a Shale Gas operator that was found to be the likely cause of two minor earthquakes in 2011 through its drilling in Lancashire. Lord Browne is lead non-executive director – a Coalition advisor – at the Cabinet Office and a crossbench member of the House of Lords.

    Also at Riverstone was Ben Moxham. Moxham was a vice President at Riverstone – the equity firm that backs a company responsible for a small earthquake – until 2011. Moxham was then a lead advisor for the Coalition on climate change issues, and a senior policy advisor for energy issues, to the Prime Minister. Moxham, like Lord Browne, was also at BP for a time.

    The Senior Independent Director of of BG Group PLC is Baroness Hogg. BG Group is a British oil and gas company with interests across the planet, including shale gas in the US, where it claimed to be wishing to produce 80,000 barrels a day by 2015, growing up 190,000 barrels a day by 2020 through its shale production. Baroness Hogg was appointed Lead Non-Executive Board Member to the Treasury.

    Sam Laidlaw is the CEO of Centrica. He was also Lead non-executive director on the board of the Department for Transport, and a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group . Also at Centrica for a time, was Tara Singh. In May 2013, Number 10 announced that Ms Singh would be the Prime Minister’s personal advisor on energy and climate change. This is the same Tara Singh whose previous role was Public Affairs Manager at Centrica – owner of British Gas. A few weeks after Singh was appointed to a government advisory role, Centrica – her former employer – bought a stake in Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla for its shale gas production. Singh has also worked for PR firm Hill & Knowlton, a firm that represents the Norwegian energy giant Statoil, a company with investment in fracking in North America.

    Lord Green, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was also non-executive director of chemical giant BASF. BASF supply gas-based chemicals for the fracking industry.

    The Windsor Energy Group in March 2013 discussed, according to its own documents:

    “…the energy revolution from shale gas and tight oil and other game-changers so far looking east, west and south…”

    – This excitement was echoed by the Chairman of the Windsor Energy Group – Lord Howell – who told Parliament that the former colonies were ripe for picking:

    “…wake up and realise where our future and our destiny lie…the new range of Commonwealth countries coming into the prosperity league either side of Africa, as they find through the shale gas revolution that they have fantastic raw energy resources and prospects.”

    – Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G – also happens to be the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne. The Windsor Energy Group takes time on its website to thank Shell and BP for its support. It is unsurprising that two of the biggest players in the oil industry might choose to be close friends with an organisation whose chairman is the father-in-law of the Chancellor. Lord Howell was also former energy advisor to William Hague.

    Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G and father-in-law of the Chancellor – is also the President of the British Institute of Energy Economics. The BIEE is sponsored by Shell and BP. In 2013, Howell was appointed President of the Energy Industries Council.

    It comes as no surprise then, that in July 2013, Howell’s son-in-law Chancellor George Osborne announced a massive tax break for the fracking industry, setting the rate at 30% for onshore shale gas production, as opposed to 62% for new production of North Sea Oil. Echoing the wording by his father-in-law, and the Windsor Energy Group that his father-in-law Chairs, Osborne referred to fracking as a revolution:

    “This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution”

    – But it isn’t just Osborne. Vince Cable, whose Party spent the best part of the last decade insisting it was the party of green energy, took to TV news to defend the tax breaks. The fact that Cable here suggests that fracking would have to be heavily regulated and watched, must raise eyebrows as to its potential dangers. It is worth noting that Vince Cable was the former Chief Economist at Shell (supporters of the W.E.G, and financial backers of the BIEE, both run by George Osborne’s father-in-law) and that Malcolm Brinded – the former Chief Executive of Shell Upstream International – referred to Cable in a letter to the Secretary of State as the “Contact Minister for Shell”. Here:

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    – Shell is positioning itself to be a major player in the UK Fracking industry. It’s also worth noting that William Hague worked for Shell UK before entering Parliament.

    The tax breaks must have felt like a wonderful victory, not just for Shell and Osborne’s father-in-law, but for everyone’s favourite soulless lobbyist Lynton Crosby. The Prime Minister’s election advisor and strategist founded the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, which lobbies on behalf of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, and fracking is one of its main objectives. One of the members of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is Dart Energy, whose UK subsidiary holds a fracking licence in the UK.

    So to summarise, Lord Browne from Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Tara Singh from Centrica who own a stake in Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Sam Laidlaw – the CEO of Centrica – was a coalition advisor. Baroness Hogg – a lead non-exec. board member to the Treasure – is Senior Independent Director at a company with huge interests in fracking in the US Ben Moxham – an advisor to the Prime Minister on climate change and energy – was at an equity firm that backed Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla. Lynton Crosby whose firm lobbies on behalf of the fracking industry is a key strategist to the Conservative Party. George Osborne’s father-in-law is the President of a group financially backed by BP & Chairs another organisation supported by Shell among others that pushes for the fracking industry at the same time that his son-in-law announces incredibly generous tax rates for the fracking industry. And the Business Secretary is referred to as the “Contact Minister for Shell” by a former Shell CEO. It is an incredible state of affairs.

    Those who are in a position to be making a very large amount of money from fracking, also appear to be at the centre of a government that will make the key decisions on the future of the industry including its regulations and safety procedures. By contrast, there don’t appear to be any members of local communities close to proposed fracking sites, at the centre of government. For a Tory Party needing to shed its image as the Party of big business, this isn’t helping. The fracking industry hasn’t even taken off in the UK to any great extent, and yet it would appear its representatives are well placed right at the very heart of government.