That's what the banner flying over Mitt Romney's Orange County fundraiser said today. Why?
First it was Wisconsin. Then it was Ohio. Now the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove and the Tea Party have their eyes on an even bigger prize: the eighth largest economy in the world. Home to 35 million people, 10 percent of the nation's population.Yep. The ultra-right Koch Brothers with the help of Karl Rove and the Tea Party have just made a major investment in deep blue California.
The Koch Brothers and Karl Rove recently joined the Lincoln Club, Charlie Munger, Jr. and a few other billionaires to buy passage of Prop. 32 in California this November. If Prop. 32 passes, 3 million members of labor unions will no longer have the ability to participate in politics. Why? Because Prop. 32 tells the lie that it would get money out of politics in California when what it really does is get worker money out of politics and double down on the ability for corporations and the wealthy to buy their own private legislation.
The Kochs, Mr. Rove and Mr. Munger understand that in this Citizens United world, the only bulwark against a complete takeover by big companies and the uber rich is organized labor (you know the folks that brought you the 40 hour work week and a little thing called the weekend). And the only way members of unions can participate in politics is by signing up for payroll deduction so that their union has the money to fight for or against candidates and ballot measures who seek progress, not an exaggeration of the wealth gap. Individual union members simply cannot express their voice if they cannot pool their money. Can you imagine a $12 an hour janitor hiring a lobbyist in Sacramento to fight the Kochs? Of course not. But 100,000 janitors can pool their money and keep the Kochs and Bain and Mitt Romney from firing them if they get sick or have a baby.
The Kochs and Rove understand that if they can keep union money out of politics, they win hands down. If Prop32 passes in California, one-third of SEIUs political budget is gone, with sizeable chunks taken from the AFL-CIO and just about any other big national union you can think of.
You may or may not "like unions." Like any other institution, they are not monolithic, are run by fallible human beings and don't always move a perfect progressive agenda. But if you care even one whit about the successes we've had on maternity and paternity leaves, freedom of speech at the work place, increasing the minimum wage, basic decency between the boss and the worker, then you'd better care a lot about Prop. 32.
If you cared about Howard Dean having a voice and reshaping politics when he ran for president, you'd better care about this because unions backed him at a crucial time. If you care about Democrats winning the White House or key congressional elections, you'd better care about this. If you care about building progressive power on the ground, you'd better care about this.
And if you care about taking back our democracy from the super rich and corporations, you better fight against this.
The Kochs, Mr. Rove, the Lincoln Club (which brought us Citizens United in the first place) and their merry band of billionaires have one goal: make as much money for as few people for as long as possible. Nothing else matters to them. They don't really care if their rapacity brings down the nation; they'll have enough money to live happily ever after behind armed walls, in private jets and on any islands they choose to buy.
We saw what happened in Wisconsin. We see what they are trying to do in state legislatures across this country. The Tea Party, Karl Rove, the Koch's, ALEC are all trying to beat back democracy, tear down the middle class and destroy unions all in favor of advancing a far right agenda meant to put profits over people.
We in California can put a stop to this. We can say no to the Koch brothers/Karl Rove/RomneyBain and show them that people power can still beat corporate money. We can also tell them that the eighth largest economy in the world is not up to bid to the highest bidder.
For more on the campaign to defeat Prop 32, and for information about how you can join the fight, please click here.
With the firstpresidential debateless than three weeks away,Mitt Romneyis spending lots of time getting ready behind closed doors. In his first comments on that debate prep, he told me that Sen.Rob Portmanis a tough stand-in for a president who basically lies in debates.
"I think the challenge that I'll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren't true," Romney said. "I've looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it's difficult to say, 'Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren't quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?"
The former governor told me he's tempted to use Ronald Reagan's famous line against President Carter in a 1980 debate, "There you go again" - the same line that Bill Clinton turned on Romney and the Republicans at the Democratic convention in Charlotte.
When I asked if Portman was crushing him in early debate preps, Romney was coy.
"I'm not revealing those kind of secrets. But I will never debate Rob Portman again," Romney said with a laugh.
Romney told me the debates "may well be" the campaign's make or break moment.
"Sometimes there's something big that happens and they become deciding. Other times, it's like, well, nothing really changed. We're in the same spot we were before the debates. I can't predict what'll happen. But I think it'll be revealing one way or the other," he said.
Romney said he wasn't concerned about new polls showing him trailing in Virginia and Ohio - even though it's virtually impossible for him to get the 270 electoral votes he needs without victories in those two states.
"Well, I'm ahead in a lot of other states, too. I saw one this morning, ahead in Florida, ahead in North Carolina. Gosh, we're even tied in Wisconsin," Romney told me. "These polls are going to bounce around a lot. I don't pay a lot of attention day to day to which state's up and which one's down. But I believe that when the final decisions are being made by the American people, they're going to ask themselves, "Who do I have confidence in to keep America safe? And who do I believe can get our economy doing what it needs to do?"
Romney said the most important numbers in this election are 23, 47 and 16: "23 million Americans out of work or underemployed, 47 million people on food stamps, $16 trillion in debt. And now the Federal Reserve, it says, " Look, this economy is not going well," he said.
And it's because of those economic conditions some Republican allies are worried. George Will on "This Week" said "If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment, it has to get out of politics and find another business." Laura Ingraham said "If you can't beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party, shut it down."
"Well you know, beating an incumbent is never easy. The president exudes an air of likability and friendliness, which is endearing," Romney told me. "But at the same time, I think people recognize that he has not done the job they expected him to do and that he promised he would do."
The race will be decided by "the people in the middle" who "won't make their mind up until the very, very last moment," the former governor said.
And many of those people - 63% of registered voters - want more details about what a Romney presidency would look like, according to our latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll.
The former governor cited his 59 point - and more than 150 pages - economic plan that he released, but acknowledged that "people aren't going to sit down and read a book."
"So that means that in the speeches I give over the coming weeks I need to lay out some of the principles that were described in that book. And I will in more detail," he said.
Democrats say Romney's plan would cause a $2000 tax hike on the middle class - something Romney disputes and points to a number of studies that say his plan to cut taxes will not increase the deficit, including one by Harvard professor Martin Feldstein.
When I pressed Romney on that point, he conceded that he actually hadn't read the Feldstein report that he and Paul Ryan cite on the campaign trail.
"I haven't seen his precise study," he said.
"I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people. Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers," he said.
Romney defined middle income as $200,000 to $250,000 a year and less.
"Number two, don't reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest. The top 5% will still pay the same share of taxes they pay today. That's principle one, principle two. Principle three is create incentives for growth, make it easier for businesses to start and to add jobs. And finally, simplify the code, make it easier for people to pay their taxes than the way they have to now," he said.
When I asked if he and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, would specify which loopholes they would close in order to pay for the tax cuts, Romney said he's relying on his experience as Massachusetts governor.
"I've found that you have to work with the people across the aisle. My legislature was 87% Democrat. So if I'd have come out and said, "Here this is my bill. This is the way I want it," you'd never get it done," he said. "You lay out your principles. Those are my principles, don't raise taxes on middle-income people, make sure the high-income people pay the same share they're paying today, encourage growth by bringing down rates, and finally simplify the code. Those are my principles. I'll stick with them. And I believe that's going to help get the economy going and grow jobs."
So what's dinner like at the Romney house? "Chaotic," he said.
"You'd have grandkids climbing all over you. Probably some food would be thrown from one side of the table to the other by one of my grandkids. It'd be a lot of fun," he said.
"So I can't tell people who would have more fun at whose table. But I can tell you the president's a person that a lot of people like. I don't dislike him myself and wish him the very best. But I think the American people are looking for someone who has the capacity to help them get good jobs and more take-home pay. And I do," Romney told me.
Editor’s note: This blog has been updated to reflect that in responding to a question from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Mitt Romney defined middle income for Americans as $200,000-$250,000 and less.
Newt Gingrich says Mitt Romney's space plan doesn't go far enough.
By NBC's Alex Moe
BELOIT, Wis. – One-time presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who promised during the GOP primary to create a U.S. moon colony if elected, criticized Mitt Romney’s plan for space exploration as not being “robust” enough.
"We are near the Space Coast, I think it’s important that we have a space program that has a clear space mission, a space program that we know where we are heading in the future, and a space program that is the unequivocal leader on the planet in space travel and space research,” Ryan said at the University of Central Florida. “We don’t have that right now.”Saturday, Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, laid out the campaign’s plan during a townhall meeting in Orlando, Fla., and accused President Barack Obama of “dismantling” America’s space program.
The Wisconsin congressman continued: “Mitt Romney and I believe that America must lead in space. Mitt Romney and I believe we need a mission for NASA, a mission for a space program, and we also believe that this is an integral part of our national security.”
During the long Republican primary season, Gingrich regularly spoke about fixing the space program after the cancellation of American space shuttles.
Paul Ryan: 'We Must Lead in Space'
GOP candidate accuses President Obama of ruining the space program.
Speaking in Cocoa, Fla., at the end of January, Gingrich vowed the United States would “have the first permanent base on the moon” and by the end of 2020 the country would have "the first continuous propulsion system in space" capable of allowing people travel to Mars.
Romney, whom Gingrich later endorsed for president after suspending his campaign in May, mocked the former House speaker for proposing a lunar colony during one of the several GOP debates earlier in the year.
"I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I'd say, 'You're fired,'" Romney said at the debate in Jacksonville, Fla., co-hosted by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network. "The idea that corporate America wants to go off to the moon and build a colony there, it may be a big idea, but it's not a good idea."
Under a President Romney administration, there would be four space priorities: focusing NASA, partnering internationally, strengthening security, and revitalizing industry.
The steps put forward by the Romney-Ryan ticket do not go far enough in Gingrich’s eyes.
“I was with Richard Branson in Yalta last week and his commitment to a dynamic private secure entrepreneurial model that works with innovators and risk-takers to put people into space inexpensively (compared to government rates) is a big example of the future,” Gingrich said in an email Sunday.
Branson, the entrepreneur and CEO of Virgin Airlines, is launching Branson's Virgin Galactic which will offer commercial space flights as the government closes down it’s space shuttle operations.
State seeking 150 acres land north of shuttle launch pads, runway
By Irene Klotz
updated 9/23/2012 5:18:27 PM ET
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — With an eye toward developing a commercial spaceport, Florida has asked NASA to transfer 150 acres of land north of the shuttle launch pads and the shuttle runway to Space Florida, the state's aerospace development agency.
"Florida believes that the properties identified in this request are excess to the needs of the U.S. government," Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, who is also chairwoman of Space Florida, wrote in letter to NASA chief Charles Bolden and Ray LaHood, secretary of Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial space transportation in the United States.
The letter, dated Sept. 20, was posted on the state's Sunburst public records website.
"If we want to be satisfied with 10 to 12 government launches a year, I don't have to do anything," Space Florida president and chief executive Frank DiBello told Reuters.A week earlier, Space Florida agreed to spend $2.3 million for environmental studies, land surveys, title searches, appraisals and other activities to lay the groundwork for Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a proposed state-owned commercial complex that would be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and operated like an airport.
But he said those launches would likely end when commercial sites elsewhere are able to offer affordable rates.
"What has existed for decades has been good, but the marketplace has been largely governmental. What commercial market there was, we have essentially lost overseas. I'm not only anxious to bring some of that back, but I'm anxious for the next-generation of providers, both the launch companies and the satellite owner-operators, to have Florida be the place where they seek to do business," DiBello said.
Commercial space launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida and from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, both of which can accommodate bigger rockets and more diverse payloads than the other sites, are subject to military oversight.Similar commercial spaceports have been set up in New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, plans to fly a fleet of suborbital passenger spaceships, as well as Alaska, Virginia and California.
Florida's request comes as NASA is working to revamp the Kennedy Space Center following the end of the shuttle program last year. It also is timed to woo privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to build its third launch site in Florida.
The company, founded and run by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, currently flies its Falcon rockets from a refurbished and leased pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It is preparing to activate a second launch site at Vandenberg before the end of the year and is looking to build a third launch pad in a commercial zone.
Out of a backlog of 42 Falcon 9 flights, worth about $4 billion, 65 percent are for commercial and non-U.S. government customers, Brian Bjelde, SpaceX director of product and mission management, said at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Pasadena, California, earlier this month.
An environmental study of a site in Brownsville, Texas, near the Mexican border, is under way. SpaceX also is looking at sites in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and other states, Bjelde said.
Shiloh revisited In 1989, Florida proposed building a commercial launch pad north of the space shuttle complex in an area known as Shiloh, an old citrus-growing community that straddles Brevard County to the south and Volusia County to the north.
That initiative was hastily shut down by environmentalists' concerns over scrub jay habitats and other issues.
"This site is not exactly the same. We were going after a lot more land then," DiBello said.
"What we are seeking is a collaborative effort and we want to do that early on so they're all involved and all part of the dialog. This includes the Department of Interior and wildlife and refuge community," DiBello said.
Some of the requested land is believed to be owned by Florida, which lays claim to about 56,000 acres of the 140,000 acres that comprise the Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The federal government was allowed use of the land for the national space program, with the caveat that it would revert back to the state if it was no longer needed for NASA's purposes.
Space Florida already has an agreement with NASA to operate one of the three space shuttle processing hangars.NASA never developed the Shiloh site.
DiBello said cost estimates to develop a new launch site at Shiloh were not yet available. Though Space Florida is, in part, a special municipal district, with powers to tax and sell bonds, the agency is not looking at levying taxes for spaceport development, DiBello said.
"Right now we hope that we could keep SpaceX here, but there are others that will be coming into the marketplace, I'm convinced," he said .
The announcement, made by a government deputy minister on Sunday, came as state television announced Google Inc's search engine and its email service would be blocked "within a few hours".DUBAI — Iran plans to switch its citizens onto a domestic Internet network in what officials say is a bid to improve cyber security but which many Iranians fear is the latest way to control their access to the web.
"Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice," an official identified only by his last name, Khoramabadi, said, without giving further details.
The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said Google ban was connected to the anti-Islamic film posted on the company's YouTube site which has caused outrage throughout the Muslim world. There was no official confirmation.
Iran has one of the biggest Internet filters of any country in the world, preventing normal Iranians from accessing countless sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal.
But many Iranians believe the block on sites such as Facebook and YouTube is due to their use in anti-government protests after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in 2009.
Sites expressing views considered anti-government are also routinely blocked.
Iranians commonly overcome the government filter by using virtual private network (VPN) software that makes the computer appear as if it is based in another country.
But officials have long spoken of creating an Iranian Internet system which would be largely isolated from the World Wide Web.
"In recent days, all governmental agencies and offices ... have been connected to the national information network," deputy communications and technology minister Ali Hakim-Javadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
The second phase of the plan would be to connect ordinary Iranians to the national network, he said.
According to Iranian media, the domestic system would be fully implemented by March 2013 but it was not clear whether access to the global Internet would be cut once the Iranian system is rolled out.
Even using VPNs, many Iranians suffered serious problems accessing email and social networking sites in February, ahead of parliamentary elections.
The Islamic Republic tightened cyber security after its nuclear program was attacked in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer worm, which caused centrifuges to fail at its main uranium enrichment facility.
Tehran, whose nuclear programme is suspected by the West of being aimed at developing a bomb, accused the United States and Israel of deploying the worm.
Authorities said in April a computer virus was detected inside the control systems of Kharg Island - which handles the vast majority of Iran's crude oil exports - but the terminal remained operational.
Communications and Technology Minister Reza Taqipour said last month Iran needed to develop its own network to ensure the safety of the country's information.
"Control over the Internet should not be in the hands of one or two countries," he said. "Especially on major issues and during crises, one cannot trust this network at all."
Iran threatened in May to take legal action against Google over its decision to drop the term "Persian Gulf" from its Google Maps and leaving the waterway between Iran and the Arabian peninsula nameless.
Many Arab states refer to the sea as the "Arabian Gulf", a term Iran considers unacceptable.
Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Sophie Hares.
The hacking of websites and corporate networks at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup began in late 2011 and escalated this year, people familiar with the situation told Reuters.DUBAI — Iran denied its hackers attacked American banks, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday, following reports that American lenders were targeted.
"We officially announce that we haven't had any attacks," Head of Iran's civil defence agency Gholam Reza Jalali told Fars, when asked about the report.
National security officials told NBC News earlier this week that the continuing cyber attacks last week that slowed the websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were being carried out by the government of Iran. One of those sources said the claim by hackers that the attacks were prompted by the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad was just a cover story.
The attack was described by one source, a former U.S. official familiar with the attacks, to NBC News, as being "significant and ongoing" and looking to cause "functional and significant damage." Also, one source suggested the attacks were in response to U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks.
Reuters reported the hackers targeted JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and CItigroup in retaliation for their enforcement of Western economic sanctions against Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Iran says the program is aimed at generating electricity and not, as the United States, Israel and others allege, at making nuclear weapons. A senior Iranian lawmaker accused the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog on Sunday of passing confidential information about Iran's nuclear activities to Israel.
The Islamic state has beefed up its cyber capabilities after the nuclear program came under attack in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer worm which caused centrifuges to fail at its main enrichment facility.
Tehran accused the United States and Israel of deploying Stuxnet.
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said in June that Iran had detected a planned "massive cyber attack" against its nuclear facilities, blaming the United States, Israel and Britain.
Jalali said Stuxnet was used against Iran to delay the country's nuclear activities.
"But we see that our activities are successfully continuing ... Our nuclear systems are now immune to such things," Jalali said, according to Fars.
Security experts say Iran's cyber capabilities are not as sophisticated as those of China, Russia, the United States or many of its Western allies.
BOOKER: I want to attack this idea, the certainty for small businesses. This is a president who has cut taxes on small businesses 18 different times. He’s done enough to target incentives to small businesses, everything, to hire our men and women coming home in addition to the fact to giving them breaks for investment.
So I disagree with that on small business. But I think it’s more important, and I really want to call the question that Paul Ryan left wide open, is, how can you call for $5 trillion worth of tax cuts, give us no specifics?
This is Paul Ryan who used to be a man of substance, who put up plans, I may disagree with some of them, but with great levels of specificity. Now they’ve said they’re going to cut $5 trillion in taxes, increase spending in the military, and somehow not dig us into a deeper deficit budget… deficit.
ROBERTS: This is Bill Clinton and arithmetic. That was a good one.
KRUGMAN: I’m going to disagree, respectfully, he was never a man of substance. This is who he always was. That was always an illusion.
Photographer brings Civil War to life with centuries-old technology
A reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md., this past weekend.
The Civil War was the first war to have dead soldiers photographed before they were buried – most notably by Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner – two pioneers of photojournalism. Drawing on those photographers for inspiration, Richard Barnes goes to different Civil War reenactments and shoots the battles using the same laborious techniques Brady and Gardner used: wet plate photography.
A participant at the reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md., this past weekend.
“You might see a car in the background of my photographs because I am not interested in replicating the past,” Barnes said. “I'm not interested in nostalgia. I'm approaching this from an artistic point of view. I'm interested in what I refer to as the ‘slippage of time.’”
Richard Barnes uses wet plate photography from the era to record the battle reenactments.
A spectator at the Antietam reenactment. “What's important about this battlefield is that it is the first time that photography was used as a tool to convey what was happening to the public at battlefields across the South and Maryland,” Barnes said. Civil war photographers such as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner took photographs of dead soldiers before the were buried - pioneers of photojournalism. But newspapers of the time didn't have the ability to reprint the images.
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest battle in American history, the battle of Antietam. Amid a battlefield full of re-enactors, photographer Richard Barnes commemorated the anniversary with a camera very much like those used during the Civil War.
An Abraham Lincoln impersonator poses for his portrait this past weekend at the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md.
A camera crew from Rock Center films photographer Richard Barnes, working in the field during a reenactment of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md.