Tag Archives: issues

Norman Lear explores social inequality in Epix docuseries

Norman Lear, age 94 and a native New Yorker, thought he knew a few things about the obstacles of housing in the Big Apple.
But when he began exploring the subject for America Divided, Lear said he was “horrified at how little I knew. Someone making a reasonable living with two children can no longer afford to live in New York City.”
Not only is rising costs from real-estate gentrification displacing working-class and even middle-class residents, but racial discrimination is a problem despite a fair-housing law that makes it illegal.
On his episode, Lear goes undercover to expose real-estate agents who give preferential treatment to him, as a white man, over a black man seeking the same apartment.
Those were the insights Lear helps bring to viewers in his chapter of American Divided, an eight-story, five-part series that premieres on the Epix channel on Sept. 30.
Lear — along with one of the series’ creators, Solly Granatstein — appeared before TV reporters to represent the seven fellow major figures who explore their own issues of inequality that, in each case, was close to their heart.
These correspondents also include Amy Poehler, Zach Galifianakis, Common, Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Williams and America Ferrera.
Additional issues they tackle include inequality in education, health care, labor, criminal justice and the political system.
Granatstein, whose credits include 60 Minutes and the docuseries Years of Living Dangerously, said he and his co-producers began with ideas for stories. “Then we targeted individuals who we knew were somehow connected with those issues.”
He said more social problems and “substantive A-listers” were in the wings if the series scores a second season.
Lear, a legendary comedy titan, said this was his first experience in the role of a reporter.
What did he learn?
“I learned I’m a great reporter,” he replied.
“It’s true,” Granatstein said.


On the web


Progress on platform: Clinton, Sanders get say on key committee

The Democrats put some progressive all-stars in the lineup. With the primary contests completed, the Democratic Party is shifting its focus to the convention in late July and getting to work on a platform.

The drafting committee was announced in late May, with party leaders emphasizing presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both had says in the makeup.

“These individuals represent some of the best progressive thinking from across the nation,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She allocated 75 percent of the committee seats to the presidential campaigns, awarding the slots proportional to the popular vote tallied by late May.

The committee includes:

• Environmental activist Bill McKibben.

• Tribal rights leader Deborah Parker.

• Attorney and former U.S. Rep. Howard Berman.

• Environmentalist and former White House staffer Carol Browner.

• Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece.

• Philanthropist and CEO Bonnie Schaefer.

• Ambassador Wendy Sherman.

• Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden.

• Activist and Democratic Socialist Cornel West.

• American Arab Institute founder and president James Zogby.

• Labor leader Paul Booth.

• U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Luis Gutierrez and Barbara Lee.

The policy director for Sanders’ campaign, Warren Gunnels, is a non-voting member of the committee, as is Clinton campaign senior policy adviser Maya Harris.

And U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland is the committee’s chair.

Clinton’s six appointments are Sherman, Browner, Reece, Gutierrez, Tanden and Booth.

Sanders’ five appointments are McKibben, Zogby, Ellison, Parker and West, who has called Barack Obama’s presidency a “Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency.”

A spokesperson for Clinton said the committee’s makeup ensures Sanders’ supporters will be well represented.

Sanders, in a statement issued while he was campaigning for the California primary, said, “We believe that we will have the representation … to create a Democratic platform that reflects the views of millions of our supporters who want the party to address the needs of working families in this country and not just Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry and other powerful special interests.”

However, Sanders unsuccessfully sought to remove Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy from the standing platform committee and former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts from the standing rules committee because, he said, they have been outspoken critics of his campaign and are Clinton loyalists.

Also, Sanders had proposed that each campaign appoint seven members to the draft committee.

Democrats held hearings on the platform in Washington, D.C. They’ll hold additional hearings June 17–18 in Phoenix, June 24–25 in St. Louis and July 8–9 in Orlando, Florida.

Additional testimony is being submitted by party members online at go.demconvention.com.

“We will be going to unprecedented lengths to ensure that the drafting of our party’s platform is the most inclusive, open and representative process in the long history of our two major parties,” said Cummings, who has worked with both Sanders and Clinton. He endorsed Clinton in May.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus of Wisconsin announced conservative Sen. John Barrasso would chair the GOP convention platform committee. Co-chairs are Oklahoma Gov. Mary Falin and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

“Writing the platform is a critical task and, as we enter one of the most important elections of our lifetime, our party is eager to lead an American resurgence by standing on our commitment to life, individual liberty, a strong national defense, and an economy that works for all Americans,” Priebus said in a statement.

On the Web

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Sanders follows GOP debate, critiques in tweets

As Republican presidential candidates debated on Sept. 16, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders took to Twitter at #DebateWithBernie to take on the White House hopefuls for ignoring critical issues.

“Rich get richer. Median family income $5k less than in 1999. One of the highest rates of childhood poverty. Any discussion?” asked Sanders during the debate. Sanders is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. “Have you heard anyone use the word poverty yet? 47.7 million Americans living in poverty. No discussion.” Still later he tweeted: “Waiting, waiting, waiting. Will we hear anything about racial justice, income inequality or making college affordable?”

Nearly two hours into the debate, the conversation briefly turned to the issue of raising the $7.25 hourly minimum wage.

“The American people overwhelmingly want to raise the minimum wage. Too bad the Republicans don’t,” Sanders tweeted. He has introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

During a back-and-forth on foreign policy, Sanders asked, “Gee. How come these guys are not talking about the great ‘success’ of Bush’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq?”

A few minutes later he wondered, “Can these guys talk about anything other than their desire to go to war?”

During a discussion about a proposed deal to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Sanders wrote, “War, war, war. When do we get to their other major priority: tax breaks for billionaires?”

Later Sanders asked, “Will they talk about climate change as a foreign policy issue? Or talk about it at all?”

The candidates finally did. It turned out that not one of them believes that the U.S. government should lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels.

On domestic issues, Republicans wanted to take away health care for women and marriage rights from gays.

The candidates were asked about a Kentucky county clerk defying a court order and refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays. “Does anybody on the stage believe that our gay brothers and sisters have the same rights as the rest of us?” Sanders wondered. “Anybody?”

The Republicans also called for defunding Planned Parenthood. “Does anyone on that stage believe the women of this country have the right to control their own bodies? Anyone?” Sanders asked.

Some of Sanders’ most popular tweets were about Republican front-runner Donald Trump. “Trump: ‘I will take care of women.’ Really? What about respecting the right of women to control their own bodies?” Sanders said. As the front-runner smirked and ridiculed his challengers, Sanders said of Trump: “What a pleasant and humble person. Can’t stop saying kind and generous things about his fellow Republicans.”

Sanders gave up after more than two and a half hours.

“Thank you all. I’ve had it. I’m going home. Talk to you soon.”

He ended the night with a Facebook post: “The evening was really pretty sad. This country and our planet face enormous problems. And the Republican candidates barely touched upon them tonight. And when they did, they were dead wrong on virtually every position they took. The Republican Party cannot be allowed to lead this country. That’s why we need a political revolution.”

Majority favors pot legalization, 49 percent say they’ve tried the drug

About 53 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legalized, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center.

The analysis shows that 53 percent support legalization and 44 percent support keeping use of the drug illegal.

The shift in public opinion occurred between 2011, when 45 percent supported legalization, and 2013, when 52 percent said they supported legalization.

The survey also looked at public opinion on the issue by gender, race and political persuasion and found:

• 57 percent of men and 49 percent of women support legalization.

• 55 percent of whites, 58 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics support legalization.

• 68 percent of millennials, 52 percent of Gen Xers, 50 percent of Boomers and 29 percent of the Silent generation support legalization.

• 58 percent of college graduates and 47 percent of high school graduates support legalization.

• 39 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats support legalization.

Asked whether federal authorities should enforce U.S. marijuana laws in states that legalized use, 59 percent said no. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents agreed on that issue.

Asked “If marijuana were legal, would it bother you if” and given several scenarios, people were more likely to be bothered by pot use in public than anywhere else:

• 62 percent said they’d be bothered if people used marijuana in public.

• 41 percent said they’d be bothered by a business selling marijuana in their neighborhood.

• 15 percent said they’d be bothered by use in their homes.

On the question of personal use, just 49 percent of people surveyed said they’d ever tried marijuana. Women are less likely to say they’ve tried marijuana than men.

Generationally, the members of the Silent generation — 70-87 years old — were far more likely to say they’ve never tried the drug. About 81 percent of older Americans and 48 percent of millennials say they’ve never tried marijuana.

Where Clinton stands on the issues

With Hillary Rodham Clinton announcing her candidacy Sunday for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, a look at where she stands on some issues.

ECONOMY: Clinton sees growing income inequality and wage stagnation as a major problem, and has made this topic a prominent theme in many of her public remarks this year. As a senator and then as a presidential candidate in the 2008 race, she called for equal pay for women, increasing the minimum wage, expanding tax credits for poorer families, overhauling corporate tax provisions, expanding paid family leave and universal prekindergarten. Clinton has been careful to avoid a divisive message, shying away from the more populist rhetoric that many in her party believe is necessary. The paid speeches she has given since leaving the State Department and her lament in an interview last summer about once being “dead broke” led to criticism that she does not understand the concerns of working Americans.

FINANCIAL REGULATION: Clinton is under pressure from liberals to back plans raising taxes on the wealthiest and increase regulation of Wall Street, in part by reinstating Depression-era law repealed by her husband’s administration that separated commercial from investment banking. Clinton has not taken a position on that law, though in 2007, she proposed raising taxes on income made by many investment managers. That income is taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rate. She has been supportive of policies increasing taxes on higher income families, saying in a 2010 speech that the “rich are not paying their fair share.” Liberals are also critical of her 2001 vote for a bankruptcy overhaul – backed by banks – that would have made it more difficult for consumers to get relief from debts. She later said she regretted her vote. She has accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions from U.S. companies, including Wall Street banks, for her political campaigns and philanthropic foundation, donations that make some in her party skeptical of her.

TRADE: As first lady, Clinton backed the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying in 1996 that the pact was “proving its worth.” But as a presidential candidate in 2007, she called the deal “a mistake,” calling for a “trade timeout” and the selection of a prosecutor to enforce current deals before entering into any new agreements. Labor unions and liberal activists are pushing Clinton to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now being negotiated by the Obama administration. While Clinton has not expressed a clear opinion on the deal, she cast the agreement in more favorable terms in her memoir, “Hard Choices,” writing that while it “won’t be perfect” the pact “should benefit American businesses and workers.”

FOREIGN POLICY: Foreign policy is one of Clinton’s few areas of disagreement with the Obama administration. She has criticized President Barack Obama for taking a cautious approach to global crises, dismissing his doctrine of “don’t do stupid stuff” as “not an organizing principle.” As secretary of state, Clinton advocated for arming Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad, a suggestion that was not followed by the White House. While acknowledging in an August interview that she could not definitively say that her recommendations would have changed the situation, she said “the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

ISRAEL & IRAN: In recent weeks Clinton has avoided commenting publicly on U.S.-Israeli relations, which became strained after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress and re-election. While supportive of Israel as a New York senator, she described her role as secretary of state as the “designated yeller,” who angered Netanyahu by demanding a total freeze on settlement expansion. She called her position misguided in her memoir. She’s expressed cautious support for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, though remarked the “devil was in the details.” Previously, she said she was skeptical that Iran would abide by any deal struck with the U.S.

SOCIAL ISSUES: Clinton now supports same-sex marriage, saying that she has “evolved” from her opposition as first lady, senator and secretary of state. She denounced an Indiana law that would give increased protections to businesses and religious groups that object to providing services to gay customers. She supports abortion rights and frequently cites the Democratic line that the procedure should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: Clinton has described climate change as the most “consequential, urgent, sweeping” problem facing the world, telling college students in March she hopes for a “mass movement” on the issue. She has promised to protect “at all costs” regulations put in place by the Obama administration that set federal limits on carbon pollution from existing and future power plants. But Clinton has remained silent on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast, saying she would not express an opinion on a pending international issue.

Raising 2015 | Minimum wage hike, other new laws take effect

Minimum-wage workers in 20 states  — about 3.1 million people — saw a boost in their paychecks with the arrival of the new year.

Meanwhile, the “bah humbug” mood toward workers at Wisconsin’s Capitol carried over from 2014 to 2015, with Republicans focused on enacting an anti-labor “right to work” bill. If introduced, the measure seems likely to reach the governor’s desk, but it’s uncertain whether Scott Walker would sign the bill. 

As for the minimum-wage bill introduced in early January by state Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers: It seems likely to go nowhere, despite voters in nine Wisconsin counties and four cities passing advisory referenda in support of a hike in November 2014.

“Studies have shown those making minimum wage tend to spend nearly all of what they earn, so this increase will provide a boost not just to families directly affected but to our small businesses and communities, as well,” said Wirch.

In addition to Wisconsin voters supporting an increase in the minimum wage, voters approved hikes in Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, where the base wage on Jan. 1 went up by $1.25 per hour. Legislative action raised minimum wages in 2015 in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia and automatic increases in wages kicked in for workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

Estimates indicate the wage increases will pump more than $800 million into the GDP.

Later this year, minimum wages for workers will go up in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Delaware and Minnesota.

Additionally, the minimum wage for workers under federal contract went up to $10.10 on Jan. 1.

Just over a week into the new year, the AFL-CIO assembled labor leaders in Washington, D.C., for the National Summit on Raising Wages, part of a campaign to boost the wages of more Americans in more states, with a focus in early presidential primary states.

“For more than 30 years, too many politicians in Washington have made deliberate choices that favored those with money and power,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in the keynote address at the summit. “And the consequence is that instead of an economy that works well for everyone, America now has an economy that works well for about 10 percent of the people.”

The Democrat said to make new choices “we need to talk about what we believe: We believe that no one should work full time and still live in poverty — and that means raising the minimum wage. We believe workers have a right to come together, to bargain together and to rebuild America’s middle class. We believe in enforcing labor laws, so that workers get overtime pay and pensions that are fully funded. We believe in equal pay for equal work. We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare and pensions.”

In Wisconsin, Wirch’s proposal would take the minimum wage from $7.25 — where it has been since 2009 — to $10.10 per hour, and tie future increases to inflation.

“With so many families struggling just to get by and the cost of necessities and utilities continuing to rise, we need to take this small step to help them stay afloat,” Wirch said.

Hector Reubens, who earns a minimum wage at a gas station in Taunton, Massachusetts, said the state increase from $8 to $9 effective Jan. 1 already has made a difference. “Some people will say what’s a dollar? Big deal. But it is a big deal, when every week you feel like you are falling behind or just getting by,” he said.

Belinda Young, a discount store clerk in Lincoln, Nebraska, said she’s earning 75 cents more per hour. “That will add up in time,” she said. “It won’t be wasted.”

Notable new laws

Other laws now in effect deal with alcohol sales and consumption, animal welfare and hunting rights, crime and punishment, environmental protection and conservation, health and welfare, driving and transportation, taxes and gun sales and possession.

New to the statutes:

In Utah, cities and towns can no longer ban specific dog breeds within their limits, which should reduce the number of pit bulls abandoned to rescues.

In California, a measure now restricts the confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding cows and veal calves.

Another new law in California makes drivers’ licenses available to people without legal immigration papers.

In Tennessee, ex-felons can receive a certificate of employability, intended to protect businesses from negligent hiring lawsuits.

In Michigan, it’s now illegal to buy cough and cold medicine to make methamphetamine and the state police must add meth offenders to a national database.

Louisiana made it possible for those 16 and 17 to register to vote when they get a driver’s license, though the teens aren’t eligible to vote until they turn 18.

In Nevada, teens who habitually cut class could see their license suspended or have to wait to get one.

Property owners in North Carolina must disclose if underground oil or gas rights have been sold when selling a home.

New Yorkers must recycle their electronics instead of trashing them.

In Mississippi, totally disabled veterans or their surviving spouses — if they do not remarry — need not pay taxes on their home.

Milwaukee Film ‘experiments’ with sixth annual festival

Presenting 275 movies over 15 days, the sixth annual Milwaukee Film Festival is certainly ambitious in its cinematic scope.

But festival artistic and executive director Jonathan Jackson says the event’s ambitions go beyond screening a lot of movies. “We really strive to use (the festival) as a catalyst for community, for engagement and for celebration,” he says.

Toward that end, this year’s festival is adding new ways to expand engagement. Organizers brought on board a new venue, Times Cinema in Wauwatosa, and added new series centered around food, the arts, and African-American subjects and filmmakers.

The new series help audience members navigate the scale of the festival. “If you create these niche programs that cater toward a specific audience or have an audience focus it helps people guide their selections,” Jackson says.

But also, as in the case of the Black Lens series, the new programs expand on what film festivals can accomplish socially. Unfortunately, festivals often fail to try.

“Regional festivals around the country just don’t do an incredible job of showcasing diversity — not just on the camera but in representing the filmmakers,” Jackson says. 

The Black Lens series, inspired by the powerful reaction to last year’s audience award-winner The Incredible Defeat of Mister and Pete, is an effort to change that. In addition to screening seven works by contemporary African-American filmmakers and one classic film, Jackson says community partners will help support and present these films, and a large number of post-film conversations have already been scheduled. 


Jackson says the Black Lens series is just one example of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s emphasis on creating distinct “moments” — unforgettable experiences that are more than simply getting to see a film. In previous years, many of his favorite moments have involved the festival’s opening, closing and centerpiece films, as well as the festival’s annual tributes to important representatives from the world of film.

This year is no different. Centerpiece film Jimi: All Is By My Side is a powerful biopic about the year before Jimi Hendrix made his breakthrough at Monterey. It stars Outkast’s Andre Benjamin and directed by Milwaukee-born John Ridley (who Jackson hopes will be able to attend the screening). And the closing night film, The Surface, is a Milwaukee film 18 years in the making, a drama about two men adrift on Lake Michigan filmed right here by a local production team, many of whom will be present.

But the opening night film, 1971, might be the most exciting moment of all. The thrilling documentary tells the story of the Citizens’ Commission, a group of Americans who exposed evidence of widespread government surveillance years before Watergate or WikiLeaks. 

It’s a powerful film in its own right, but Jackson says the guests attending the opening night screening are what take it from a regular screening to something special and unique. Among them are director Johanna Hamilton and representatives of her production crew — along with some members of the Citizens’ Commission, a coup even more exciting because they only revealed their identities earlier this year.

“I think it’s going to be an extraordinary experience,” Jackson says. “This is a film about a group of citizens that saw something they didn’t think was right about their world, and they impacted it, at their peril, in an incredibly profound way.”

Also exciting to Jackson are this year’s tributes, including new works from documentarian Marshall Curry and director Debra Granik, whom he calls “two of the finest cinematic storytellers of all time.” 

Curry will screen Point and Shoot, a documentary made with and about a fellow filmmaker who joined Libyan rebels in 2011 and was captured shortly thereafter. Granik will show the documentary Stray Dog, about a Harley-riding veteran she met while casting for her breakthrough feature Winter’s Bone

Both filmmakers have strong ties to the festival. Granik visited last year to host a daylong seminar with film students and Curry’s documentary Racing Dreams was the first film screened at a Milwaukee Film Festival, back in 2009.

“To have him back — Milwaukee Film Festival’s like what he’s wrought,” Jackson says. “I can’t wait to show him where we’ve come.”


The Milwaukee Film Festival runs Sept. 25-Oct. 9, at the Oriental Theatre (2230 N. Farwell Ave.), Downer Theatre (2589 N. Downer Ave.), Fox-Bay Cinema Grill (334 E. Silver Spring Dr.) and Times Cinema (5906 W. Vliet St.). Tickets for opening night, centerpiece and closing night films are $20, $17 for Milwaukee Film members. The festival will host an opening night party at Kenilworth Square East at 9 p.m. Sept. 25. The party is free with an opening night ticket stub or festival pass, or $10 ($8 for Milwaukee Film members). Visit mkefilm.org for a full list of films and events.

Selected film schedules:

1971 Thursday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m., Oriental; Saturday, Sept. 27, at 1:45 p.m., Oriental.

Stray Dog Saturday, Sept. 27, at 7:15 p.m., Oriental; Monday, Sept. 29, at 4:15 p.m., Times.

Jimi: All Is By My Side Saturday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m., Oriental.

Point and Shoot Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m., Oriental; Thursday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m., Times.

The Surface Thursday, Oct. 9, at 8 p.m., Oriental.

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Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues

One more look at where President Barack Obama and Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues, in brief:


Obama: Supports access to abortion. Health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

Romney: Opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the woman’s life. Previously supported abortion access. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling.



Obama: Promises to cut projected deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, a goal that will require Congress to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year, impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million, and more. Failed in first-term pledge to cut deficit he inherited by half; recently completed budget year marked fourth consecutive year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink.

Romney: Promises to cut $500 billion per year from the federal budget by 2016 to bring spending below 20 percent of the U.S. economy and to balance it by 2020, but vital specifics are lacking. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment.



Obama: Term marked by a deep recession that began in previous administration and officially ended within six months, and gradual recovery with persistently high jobless rates of above 8 percent until the last two months of the campaign. Mixed jobs report for October showed unemployment rising to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, but strong hiring as more people started looking for work. Obama responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan, expanded auto industry bailout begun under George W. Bush, inherited and carried forward Wall Street bailout.

Romney: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes replacing certain provisions of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes changing the law tightening accounting corporate regulations to ease requirements for mid-sized companies.


Obama: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003 and all forms of energy production have increased under Obama. Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions. Set goal of cutting oil imports by half by 2020.

Romney: Pledges U.S. will become independent of energy sources outside of North America by 2020, through more aggressive exploitation of domestic oil, gas, coal and other resources and quick approval of Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Supports opening Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. Says green power has yet to become viable and causes of climate change are unproved.



Obama: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition, instead seeks international pressure against Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on land borders established after 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Signed law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

Romney: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step and while saying U.S. military action against Iran would be last resort. Would identify those in Syrian opposition who share U.S. values, then work with U.S. allies to “ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat” Syrian government. But has not proposed direct U.S. arms supplies to rebels and would rule out U.S. military action for now. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.



Obama: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Opposed that recognition in 2008 presidential campaign and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

Romney: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” Also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits – largely unspecified – as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.



Obama: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. Voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. Previously backed stronger gun controls.

Romney: Opposes stricter gun control laws. Suggested after a deadly Colorado movie theater shooting that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.



Obama: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.  Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid, the government program that primarily benefits the poor, will expand.

Romney: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured. Says he would protect people with pre-existing conditions, though his plan only does so for those who maintain continuous coverage, not a major change from federal protections in effect before Obama’s health care overhaul. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.



Obama: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. Took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

Romney: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Would establish a national immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire noncitizens who do not prove their authorized status. Would end visa caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants. Would honor work permits for immigrants who benefit from Obama’s new policy but not accept new applicants under the program, and promises to put in place a comprehensive immigration plan before those permits expire.



Obama: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

Romney: Keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest. End Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.



Obama: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended late in George W. Bush’s presidency. Largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The deadly attack by militants on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September raised questions that persist about the quality of U.S. intelligence and about why requests for added security there were denied before the assault.

Romney: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, refused to rule out use of waterboarding to interrogate terrorist suspects. In 2011, his campaign said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.



Obama: Ended the Iraq war,  increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. Major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut military spending over a decade.

Romney: Proposes increase in military spending. Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016. In addition, criticized congressional Republicans for negotiating a deficit-cutting deal with the White House that will mean automatic and massive cuts in Pentagon spending next year if federal budget deal is not reached in time.

Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.



Wis. Republicans going off message, hitting social issues

Leaders of the new Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature are quietly twisting arms to try to get their members to focus solely on measures to create jobs and boost the economy when they assume power in two months.

But some Republicans, whose attempts to act on social issues failed under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle the past eight years, say they intend to press ahead to legalize concealed weapons, pass tough new immigration restrictions and eliminate domestic partner benefits.

The different perspectives and priorities are starting to emerge as the party transitions from its triumphant midterm election campaign, in which it won the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature, to the much different challenge of turning ideas into laws.

Already, the Republicans are facing competing pressures over whether to try to have a wide-ranging impact or to pursue a more cautious and limited agenda.

Soon-to-be Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, has been pressing members in private calls to focus on the economic legislation and put off everything else.

“I’m a little nervous” about the talk about abortion legislation and other issues, said Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, a 20-year veteran of the Assembly. “I’m going to do what I can to try to keep us focused.”

Newly elected state Rep. Kathy Bernier, a Republican from Lake Hallie who received a call from Suder, said she was also a “little bit” worried about the other issues that were prominent in the campaign.

Republican leaders believe they have strong base of support for action on the economy. A survey by St. Norbert College in mid-October showed that 73 percent of respondents said jobs, economy, budget and debt were the most important issues facing the state. Only 2 percent named immigration and just 1 percent said abortion.

Incoming Republican Gov. Scott Walker has called for quick passage of proposals to spur job creation including cutting taxes on small businesses, cutting taxes on Health Savings Accounts and reforming the state Department of Commerce.

But the GOP includes fervent and loyal social conservatives who helped deliver the party’s dramatic victory in November and now expect action on issues that have already passed in other Republican-controlled states.

Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore said he plans on introducing a bill similar to the controversial new law in Arizona that would crack down on illegal immigration. Pridemore’s bill would require that people suspected of crimes would have to prove they’re in the country legally or be turned over to federal immigration authorities.

The idea has been denounced by immigrant-rights groups and would prompt a legislative battle. But Pridemore said the bill could be debated without becoming a distraction.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, who will be majority leader in January, declared on election night that the first bill he intends to see passed would require voters to show photo identification at the polls as a way to stop voter fraud. Democrats have long blocked it, arguing it suppresses turnout. Other Republican lawmakers have said they intend to impose more restrictions on abortions, legalize concealed weapons and repeal a recently enacted law that extends benefits to gay state employees and their domestic partners.

It will only be a few months before the Legislature turns its attention to non-economic issues, said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.

“We’re not going to spend the next 18 months doing nothing but economic issues,” Grothman said. “That would be a slap in the face to a large share of the electorate.”

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican who served 14 years, said navigating the agenda will be precarious unless the Legislature successfully enacts a substantial new economic program.

“If they can’t deliver there will be hell to pay in 2012,” he said before the election.

Kaufert said he also feared voters would have little patience if his colleagues get bogged down.

“The danger is the citizens of the state will just say we’ll clean house again and we’re going to keep doing it until we get it right,” he said.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said the economy won’t prevent the Legislature from acting on other priorities. “It doesn’t mean we have to exclude tackling every other issue facing the voters of Wisconsin,” he said. “You can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Democrats are encouraged by the prospect of Republicans getting entangled in social issues that are highly contentious and have less public support.

The Republican focus on jobs and the economy will last “about 20 seconds,” said Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic state lawmaker and currently a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor.

“They ran on jobs and the economy,” said Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison. “Now if we get a bait and switch to a social issues agenda, that would not be a very popular move.”

Walker, who ran with tea party support, promised on the campaign trail to sign an Arizona-style immigration law and to ban embryonic stem cell research, groundbreaking work that was pioneered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Since the election, Walker’s rhetoric has focused on his pledge that with Republicans back in control, “Wisconsin is open for business.” His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said Walker will review bills not related to the economy on a case by case basis, but his focus remains on his jobs agenda.