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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Night At the Movies

Dennis is taking the night off because .... it's labor day week-end and he deserves it! But if you're looking for a movie this week-end that is in keeping with the holiday, I'm re-running this piece from a few years ago to help you out. --- digby

Lord I am so tired: Top 10 Labor Day films

By Dennis Hartley

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
who need leaders but get gamblers instead
-from “Salt of the Earth”, by Mick Jagger & Keith Richard

Full disclosure (I am so ashamed). It had been so long since I actually stopped to contemplate the true meaning of Labor Day, I had to refresh myself with a web search. Like many of my fellow wage slaves, I usually anticipate it as just another one of the 7 annual paid holidays offered by my employer (table scraps, really…relative to the other 254 weekdays I’m required to spend chained to a desk, slipping ever closer to the Abyss).

I’m not getting you down, am I?

Anyway, back to the true meaning of Labor Day. According to the U.S.D.O.L. website:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Fair enough. OK, the nation as a whole has sort of fallen behind in the “strength, prosperity and well-being” part of that equation; but we’re working on that. Oh, and Labor Day isn’t the only “creation of the labor movement”. There’s also all that F.L.S.A. stuff about workplace rights and minimum wage and such on those posters in the break room that most of us don’t bother to read (even if we do all benefit from it). So I guess I shouldn’t be so flippant about my “table scraps”, eh? At any rate, I thought I would cobble together my Top 10 list of films that inspire, enlighten, or give food for thought in honor of this holiest of days for those who make an honest living (I know-we’re a dying breed). So put your feet up, pop in a DVD, and raise a glass to yourself. You’ve earned it.

Blue Collar-This is one of Paul Schrader’s better directorial efforts, which he also co-wrote (along with his brother Leonard). Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto play a trio of Motor City auto worker buddies who are tired of getting the short end of the stick from both their employer and their union. In a fit of drunken pique, they decide to pull an ill-advised ‘inside’ heist that gets them in very deep doo-doo with both parties, which ultimately puts friendship and loyalty to the test. Similar to Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront (see below), Schrader is not afraid to paint over the standard black-and-white “union good guy, company bad guy” trope with shades of gray, reminding us that the road to Hell is frequently paved with good intentions (absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc.). I love the music score (by Jack Nitzsche and Ry Cooder), especially with the late great Captain Beefheart growling, “I’m jest a hard-woikin’, FUCKED-over man” over that compelling “ShhhOOMP ba-bom ba-bom” industrial blues riff in the opening credits.

El Norte-Gregory Nava’s highly effective portrait of two Guatemalan siblings who make their way to the U.S. after their father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you long after credits roll. The two leads give naturalistic, completely believable performances as the brother and sister whose optimism never falters, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Claustrophobic viewers should be warned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a rat colony during an underground border crossing will give you nightmares. And don’t expect a Hollywood ending; this is an uncompromising look at the plight of undocumented workers and how they are exploited.

The Grapes of Wrath- I’m stymied for any hitherto unspoken superlatives to ladle onto John Ford’s masterful 1940 film (taken from John Steinbeck’s classic novel), so I won’t pretend to have any. Suffice it to say, this probably comes closest to nabbing the title as THE quintessential film about the struggle of America’s “salt of the earth” during the Great Depression. Perhaps we can take comfort in the possibility that no matter how bad things get over the next few months (years?), Henry Fonda’s unforgettable embodiment of Tom Joad will “be there…all around, in the dark.” Ford was on a roll; the very next year, he followed up with How Green Was My Valley, another classic about a working class family (this time set in a Welsh mining town) which snagged a ‘Best Picture’ Oscar.

Harlan County, USA-Barbara Kopple’s award-winning film is not only an extraordinary document about an acrimonious (and murderously violent) coal miner’s strike in Harlan County, Kentucky back in 1973, but easily rates as one of the best American documentaries of all time (I’d put it in the top 5…uh-oh, I smell a theme brewing for a future post). This has everything that you look for in, well, any great movie, documentary or otherwise: drama, conflict, suspense, even mystery. Kopple and her film crew are so thoroughly embedded in the milieu that you may find yourself ducking during the infamous and harrowing scene where a company-hired thug fires off a round directly toward the camera operator (it’s a wonder the filmmakers lived to tell the tale). Amazing.

Made in Dagenham-Even though it was on my “to do” list, I missed this one in theatres earlier this year (I can’t see ‘em all, folks) but managed to catch up with it on Starz just a few days ago (and got the inspiration for this post!). Based on a true story, it stars the delightful Sally Hawkins (who sparkled in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky, which I reviewed here) as Rita O’Grady, a working mum who was employed at the Dagenham, England Ford plant in 1968. She worked in a run-down, segregated section of the plant where 187 female machinists toiled away for a fraction of the pay scale enjoyed by the thousands of male employees (the company smoke-screened the inequity by classifying any female worker as “unskilled labor”). Encouraged by her kindly and empathetic shop steward (Bob Hoskins), the initially reticent Rita finds her “voice” and surprises family, co-workers and herself with a formidable ability to rally the troops and effect a change. An engaging ensemble piece (directed by Nigel Cole and written by William Ivory) with a standout supporting performance by Miranda Richardson as a government minister (she’s at her best when she’s playing ‘slyly subversive’). You know, we need to see more inspirational, progressive positive rabble-rousers like this opening at the local multiplex. So if it makes you feel like cheering, by all means, give in… because it is great therapy.

Matewan-It’s easy to forget that a lot of blood was spilled back in the day in order to lay the foundation for many of those labor laws we tend to take for granted in the modern workplace. John Sayles sets out to remind us about that in this well-acted and handsomely mounted drama. Based on a true story, it is set during the 1920s, in West Virginia coal country. Chris Cooper is excellent (as always) portraying an outsider labor organizer who becomes embroiled in a violent local conflict between coal company thugs and fed-up miners who are desperately trying to unionize. Like all of the historical dramas he has tackled, Sayles delivers a compellingly complex narrative, rich in characterizations and steeped in impeccable period detail (beautifully shot by one of the truly great cinematographers, Haskell Wexler). In addition to Cooper, you’ll recognize many Sayles “regulars” in this fine ensemble cast (like David Strathairn and Mary McDonnell). The film features a great “rootsy” folk-blues-traditional bluegrass soundtrack (by John Hammond, Hazel Dickens, Mason Daring and others) that rivals that of the wildly popular O Brother Where Art Thou (which this film pre-dates by 13 years).

Modern Times-Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 masterpiece about man vs. automation (among other things) has aged quite well. This probably has everything to do with his uncannily timeless embodiment of the Everyman (the technology around us may be constantly evolving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are). Although frequently referred to as his “last silent film”, it’s not 100% “silent”. There’s no dialogue, per se, but Chaplin does find ingenious ways to work a few lines in (via technological devices). His expert use of sound effects in this film is unparalleled, particularly in a classic sequence where Chaplin (a hapless assembly line worker) literally ends up “part of the machine”. Paulette Goddard (then Mrs. Chaplin) is on board for the pathos. Brilliant, prescient and hilarious.

Norma Rae-Martin Ritt’s 1979 film about a minimum-wage textile worker (Sally Field) turned union activist launched what I have dubbed the “Whistle-blowin’ Workin’ Mom” subgenre (Silkwood, Erin Brockovich, etc). Field gives an outstanding performance (and deservedly picked up a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar) as the title character, who gets fired up (in more ways than one) by a passionate labor organizer from NYC (Ron Leibman, in his best role). An inspiring film, bolstered by a fine screenplay (Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.) and supporting cast (including Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle and Barbara Baxley).

On the Waterfront-“It wuz you, Chahlee.” Oh, the betrayal! And the pain. It’s all right there on Marlon Brando’s face as he delivers one of the most oft-quoted monologues in cinema history. Brando leads an exemplary cast that includes Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint in this absorbing portrait of a New York dock worker who takes a virtual one-man stand against a powerful and corrupt union official. The trifecta of Brando’s iconic performance, Elia Kazan’s direction, and Budd Schulberg’s well-constructed screenplay adds up to one of the best American dramas of the 1950s.

Roger and Me-While our favorite lib’rul agitprop documentarian has made several films addressing the travails of everyday wage slaves and the ever-appalling indifference of the corporate masters who grow fat off their labors (see Sicko and The Big One), Michael Moore’s low-budget 1989 classic remains his best (and falls within the top 25 in the list of highest-grossing docs of all time). First-time filmmaker Moore may have not been the the only resident of Flint, Michigan scratching his head over GM’s local plant shutdown right at the spike of record profits for the company, but he was the one with the chutzpah (and a camera crew) to make a beeline straight to the top to demand an explanation. His target? GM’s chairman, Roger Smith. Does he bag him? If you’ve seen it, you know the answer. If you haven’t, I hope I’ve intrigued you to see this insightful and fascinating cultural snapshot of Middle America that is at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

No brainer

by digby

“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) said in an op-ed in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”
Nah. They wouldn't do that:
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
When asked about whether he has any regrets, the ISIS Commander shrugged and said it was a "no brainer" for him.

There's no upside to border vigilantism

by digby

Ask yourself what will happen if a border patrol agent kills an armed militia member? We almost got to find out:
A border patrol agent fired several shots at an armed militia member while chasing a group of immigrants Friday near Brownsville, Texas.

Border Patrol Spokesman Omar Zamora told the Associated Press that agents were pursuing a group of immigrants when one agent spotted a man holding a gun near the Rio Grande.

The agent fired four shots but did not hit the man, Zamora said. The man then dropped his weapon and identified himself as a militia member.

The unidentified man was not arrested and appeared to have permission to be on private property where the incident occurred, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the AP. Lucio, whose agency is involved in investigating the incident, said the man was wearing camouflage and was carrying either a rifle or shotgun.

The sheriff said militias really aren't needed at the Texas-Mexico border given the number of law enforcement agencies already working to secure the area.

"It just creates a problem from my point of view, because we don't know who they are," Lucio told the AP.
So you can't actually tell the "bad guys" from the "good guys" in these situations? Didn't they tell the undocumented migrants to wear black hats and the militia to wear white hats? No?

Lot's of things can happen when armed vigilantes decide to "help" the police. They can kill innocent people. They can kill a cop. And they can get themselves killed as well. An yes, down at the border, they might just kill some poor Latino who's crossing the border to work in a kitchen somewhere for next to nothing.

Is any of this worth someone dying over?

A little king undone

by digby

Offered without comment. (But you know what i'm thinking ...)

According to Dallas’ D Magazine, John Goodman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) was ousted by the group’s board of directors in June for “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty.”

Goodman, 68, founded the center more than 31 years ago and has long served as its president and CEO. He has advised Republican politicians like former President George W. Bush as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Goodman is known to many as “the father of health savings accounts,” an anti-Obamacare proposal that the GOP floated as a possible alternative to the current health care system.
“According to documents, emails, and interviews with multiple sources familiar with the situation,” wrote D‘s Glenn Hunter, “Goodman’s firing stemmed from an extraordinary arrangement that was made with an NCPA employee named Sherri Collins, after Collins accused Goodman of assaulting her in a Southern California hotel room in 2012.”

Goodman reportedly promoted Collins from an assistant’s position to director of the firm’s human relations division. She was awarded a salary of $85,000 per year, a guaranteed bonus check each year for at least three years and other benefits, all in an effort by Goodman to stave off legal punishment.

When an employee complained about treatment they’d gotten from Collins, the arrangement was brought to the attention of NCPA’s directors, who felt that the assault in California and Goodman’s handling of it seriously called into question his professionalism.

Then, in early June, Collins was arrested for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend with a fake plant. The boyfriend — not Goodman — pressed charges and Collins was booked for assault and criminal mischief. It was not her first arrest. Collins had multiple brushes with the law for theft, assault and criminal mischief.

Shortly thereafter, Goodman was fired by the board of directors. In a series of increasingly hostile press-releases, Goodman and the NCPA accused each other incompetence, dishonesty and “serious misconduct.”

The NCPA hired Collins in 2011 as a temporary clerical worker through an agency called RecruitTexas, which did not perform a background check. Goodman immediately took a shine to her.

“John liked her,” a former NCPA employee told Hunter. “He would rub her leg. She would smile. It seemed like two people in a relationship.”

Goodman divorced his wife in 2012.

By 2013, however, things had gone sour enough between the pair that an apparent physical confrontation erupted between them in the California hotel room. Goodman reportedly choked Collins in the course of a violent argument that left the hotel room “torn up.”

Not long after, Collins received her extraordinary promotion.

In the new servant economy we can anticipate that our betters will not be in danger of such unfortunate turns of events. Surely we will see a return to legal droit du seigneur. CEOs are under a lot of pressure being the job creators they are. They need to blow off steam. It's not right that a comely vixen can entrap an important man like this an send him into ruin.

Winking and nodding at the constitution

by digby

Ian Millhiser analyzes yesterday's Texas abortion ruling:
Texas’s justification for an anti-abortion law enacted last year is “disingenuous,” according to Judge Lee Yeakel’s opinion striking parts of that law on Friday. Indeed, Judge Yeakel’s opinion dismantles the state’s avowed justification for the law, pointing out that it does little to protect women’s health and a great deal to restrict access to abortion. Whatever the strength of Yeakel’s argument, however, his decision is unlikely to stand for long, as it will be appealed to one of the most conservative courts in the country — and the Supreme Court has done little to constrain that court from restricting the right to choose.
One of the most significant innovations developed by lawyers and lawmakers who oppose abortion are sham health laws that, on their surface, appear intended to make abortions safer, but which have the practical effect of making abortions difficult or impossible to obtain. Texas’s House Bill 2 (HB2) is one of these laws. Last October, a provision of HB2 took effect that prohibited doctors from performing abortions unless they have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Judge Yeakel halted that provision shortly before it took effect, noting that “there is no rational relationship between improved patient outcomes and hospital admitting privileges.” The Fifth Circuit reinstated the law only a few days later.
It seems that this "more ways than one way to skin the cat" concept is oddly common in our system of justice. And it's even endorsed (sort of) by Supreme Court justices. For instance, in the recent buffer zone ruling, the court rested its decision on free speech grounds, which makes sense. But then it gave some broad hints to the pro-choice side by saying they could use existing traffic or zoning laws to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish without offending the constitution. I know it's not a perfect analogy, but the underlying concept is that it's ok to use existing laws in novel ways to accomplish what a straightforward ban on a certain right cannot. That seems to me like an invitation to the sort of backdoor ban on abortion we see in states all over the country.

Since we have the Court telling pro-choice advocates that it's fine to find a different way to keep anti-choice zealots away from the clinic doors, I'm not sure I see why the Court won't tell the anti-choice advocates that it's perfectly permissible to find novel ways to keep doctors from performing abortions as long as it doesn't directly obstruct a woman's right to choose. (And yes, I get that there's this subjective "undue burden" test but that looks like yet another example of an end-run around the underlying principle.) If free speech is being infringed upon by a "buffer zone" it seems to me that it's being infringed upon by a traffic ordinance that's being used as a phony excuse to create a buffer zone. Likewise, if the Court has said that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion then using safety regulations as an excuse to infringe that right should be a violation of the constitution.

I'm sure I'm sounding like a 12 year old to the constitutional scholars who undoubtedly have a well-thought out rationale as to why this is a necessary aspect of constitutional jurisprudence. Even I can see how these piecemeal rulings are designed to add up to a more solid legal framework over time. But to this layperson it just looks rather odd to see judges winking and nodding to various players about how they can circumvent what they have just proclaimed to be a constitutional principle.

The war at home

by digby

Via Moyers, a statistic:

28,000 – the number of children and teens shot and killed in the US between 2002 and 2012. According to ABC News, that means that 13 kids died at home for every soldier killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan during that period.

Maybe we need to think of those kids as child soldiers paying the price for our freedom.

Doesn't that make you feel better?


Thom's way or no highway

by Tom Sullivan

Besides his woman problem, North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis has a toll problem. And a base problem.

Interstate 77 in Tillis' district badly needs widening. But Thom and his ALEC buddies insist on installing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes over objections from his party, local Republican lawmakers, and a conservative think tank in Raleigh. His local tea party calls the I-77 project Thom's Tholl Road.

The GOP is expert at exploiting wedge issues to divide and conquer opponents. But here the wedge is intraparty. There is a split among the GOP's right-wing populists, its libertarian ideologues, and it's ALEC-friendly, crony corporatists. It seems HOT lanes have become a flash point. Free-marketeer libertarians consider that when government (We the People) provides any product or service on a not-for-profit basis, it's another big-government crime against capitalism; they favor anything that gets government out of the way of private profit. Grassroots fiscal conservatives see schemes such as HOT lanes -- contracted to foreign conglomerates, funded with federal loans, and with private profit margins backstopped with state tax dollars -- as yet another example of crony capitalism screwing taxpayers. It is. And it's just what the Koch brothers' privateers want more of.

So how big a wedge is this? Behold the Weekly Standard from April, critiquing at length a 75-year, single-bidder HOT lanes concession in Virginia:

The arrangement is every capitalist’s dream: free land, developed with taxpayer money, for privatized profits and socialized losses.

Of course, in the Weekly Standard's fever dream it's not rent-seeking corporatists ramrodding privatization of America's highways, but progressive ideologues (and libertarians) bent on discouraging a middle-class lifestyle they find "distasteful."

Thom Tillis himself did not address the HOT lane issue at an appearance before a group of business leaders in Asheville Friday morning (timestamp 1:00:00). But as party activists and business-minded constituents have before, several times on Friday questioners asked state candidates about highway funding and the possibility of seeing of "dynamic tolling" on I-77 and I-26. These aren't progressives and libertarians. They are Thom Tillis' base voters. And they are uneasy.

Hard to tell, but when even conservative are worried about the impact ALEC's designs might have for their small businesses, tolls just might be a sleeper issue for Republicans that so far the press has missed.


Friday, August 29, 2014

They all look alike

by digby

That's right, all Americans look like Americans. Since Americans look like everyone.

This story from Gawker is about an interection between the conservative Governor of Georgia and a latina who asked him a question:
Deal addressed a variety of topics, including immigration, during a question and answer session sponsored by the UGA College Republicans Tuesday night.
"There's a fundamental problem that can only be resolved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here," said Deal who was looking toward Lizbeth Miranda, a Hispanic student who was standing up with others asking questions.

"I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not," said Miranda. "I don't know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?"

The governor replied: "I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to."
Miranda and her colleagues in the school's Undocumented Students Alliance found Deal's assumption offensive, though judging from the boos she received, College Republicans in attendance were more offended by her reaction.

Those college Republicans undoubtedly assumed she was an "illegal" too. As they undoubtedly assume all Hispanics are "illegals" or, in any case, not Real Americans regardless of their citizenship.

This illustrates the problem for Republicans on this issue. To most Latinos, whether they hold American citizenship or not, demonizing the DREAM kids and all the other immigrants who are merely trying to eke out a living so they can feed their families (particularly when these haters claim that people from south of the border "destroy our way of life) is a sure sign that they too are seen in similar fashion.

But what are these Republicans going to do? They have a base full of people who are fearful xenophobes and are being egged on by the conservative industrial complex for profit. They're stuck.


"A Fierce Minimalist"

by digby

I think Peter Beinert has this right. Obama isn't a hawk or a dove and he does have a strategy and a worldview:
On the one hand, Obama has shown a deep reluctance to use military force to try to solve Middle Eastern problems that don’t directly threaten American lives. He’s proved more open to a diplomatic compromise over Iran’s nuclear program than many on Capitol Hill because he’s more reticent about going to war with Tehran. He’s been reluctant to arm Syria’s rebels or bomb Basher al-Assad because he doesn’t want to get sucked into that country’s civil war. After initially giving David Petraeus and company the yellow light to pursue an expanded counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, he’s wound down America’s ground war against the Taliban. Even on Libya, he proved more reluctant to intervene than the leaders of Britain and France.

On the other hand, he’s proven ferocious about using military force to kill suspected terrorists. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, he’s basically adopted the policy Joe Biden proposed at the start of his administration: Don’t focus on fighting the Taliban on the ground, since they don’t really threaten the United States. Just bomb the hell out al-Qaeda from the air. Compared with George W. Bush, he’s dramatically expanded drone strikes, even though they’re unilateral, legally dubious, and morally disturbing. And, as promised, he sent special forces to kill Osama bin Laden without Pakistan’s permission, even though his vice president and secretary of defense feared the risks were too high.

When it comes to the Middle East, in other words, Obama is neither a dove nor a hawk. He’s a fierce minimalist. George W. Bush defined the War on Terror so broadly that in anti-terrorism’s name he spent vast quantities of blood and treasure fighting people who had no capacity or desire to attack the United States. Hillary Clinton and John McCain may not use the “War on Terror” framework anymore, but they’re still more willing to sell arms, dispatch troops, and drop bombs to achieve goals that aren’t directly connected to preventing another 9/11. By contrast, Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is more clearly defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.
I'm a dove so I disagree with his drone war. It's hard to see that it's done much good and, as with most wars, it's done a lot of harm. But I'm with him on the minimalism when it comes to unleashing the military and firmly believe that our alleged humanitarianism is only rarely truly motivated by humanitarianism and almost always makes things worse. I think it's very smart for a global military empire to take a minimalist approach to war. Seriously, it should be the default position.

There are threats in the world to be sure. There's a true sense of global instability right now. But the world's most powerful military injecting its ultra-violence into the situation is hardly guaranteed to make a positive difference. And the costs are huge. Beinert lays out all the critiques, particularly by liberals who believe that a minimalist approach allows these situations to fester when earlier engagement might prevent them from hurtling out of control. But also explains why Obama might disagree with that. And again, I agree with Obama (if this is what he thinks.)
Obama would probably respond that when it comes to stopping jihadist terrorism from taking root by ensuring representative government, territorial integrity, and national unity in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, an ounce of prevention isn’t nearly enough. The effort costs billions of dollars and a whole lot of American troops. Even then, it might fail because given America’s track record, analogies that portray Washington as a doctor with a sophisticated and empathetic understanding of its Middle Eastern patients are way too benign. Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan could certainly have used preventative care in the Obama years. But America’s prophylactic efforts might have involved leeches, not aspirin. As Richard Holbrooke learned the hard way during his time as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s national-security bureaucracy isn’t geared toward diplomacy and economic development. It’s mostly designed to blow things up.
It would be a very good idea to change that. But that's a very tall order. The American national security establishment (aka our Imperial Bureaucracy) has been in place for over half a century, growing stronger and stronger by the decade to the point at which it is now unassailable. I'm all for changing that. Ideas on how to proceed are welcome.

Beinert's article goes on to explain how politics enters into this and thinks Obama is reflecting the country's mood with this approach. He points out that, so far, the GOP presidential hopefuls haven't gone all Cheney on us, which means that Obama still has his finger on the pulse. Maybe. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be emerging from that post-Iraq, recessionary malaise and could be looking for some action. I hope not. But when I see the Democratic Party accusing their rivals of being isolationists in the "Blame America First" crowd I get worried. War can be a marvelous distraction from other problems.

Memo from the Department of Duh

by digby

Surely this didn't just occur to them:
A House Republican-led investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, will extend well into next year, and possibly beyond, raising concerns among Democrats that Republicans are trying to damage Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential prospects.
Some of us have known this for years. Literally:
...they didn't drag out Toensing and DeGenova by accident. And that's because this is only marginally about Obama's second term.

I've got one word that explains it: Hillary.

These people are Clinton character assassination specialists. And the right sees Benghazi as a Clinton scandal. Just watch Fox news for any half hour slot in a 24 hour period and it will come up. It's already become a punchline --- and a mantra.
Trumped up Clinton scandals are of a particular variety that are likely to make a comeback when Hillary Clinton runs again. I've written a lot about that too over the years. I call them "smell-test" scandals which are these long, drawn-out investigations in which details are dribbled out over time to give the impression of wrong-doing simply by the length and number of inquiries. When you add up the details they inevitably amount to nothing but that's not the point. The point is to create an atmosphere of scandal, a "feeling" that all this smoke must add up to something. (And there's always the hope that Monica Lewinsky  -- or something like her -- will turn up to explode the whole thing into a real scandal.)

They've tried this with Obama and the IRS scandal and Solyndra and a few others and it doesn't seem to work with him. (They're settling now on the "tyrannical despot" approach.) But with the Clinton and her long history in politics, it's inevitable that they would dust off this scandal manual. It will be interesting to see if she handles it any differently than former president Clinton did. He fended them off one by one, but there was always a feeling that he was somehow energized by that challenge. I'm not sure that's true of Hillary.

QOTD: DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson

by digby

At present, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are unaware if any specific credible threat to the U.S homeland from ISIL.  Plainly, however, violent extremists who support ISIL have demonstrated the intent and capability to target American citizens overseas. And ISIL constitutes an active and serious threat within the region.
Somebody go throw a bucket of ice water on Huckleberry Graham's head ---- to stop him from running around in circles screaming "they're coming to kill us, ohmygod we're all going to die!!!" It would appear that ISIL and its friends are busy right now wreaking havoc on the people in its neighborhood and aren't planning to invade South Carolina to commit atrocities on God fearing Christians over the labor day week-end.

RIP public higher ed

by digby

This quote from Janet Napolitano, now head of the University of California system, is via Ed Kilgore:

[I]t is troubling to consider that at some point in the last six years, 41 state legislatures in the United States slashed funding for their public universities and colleges.

Sadly, funding remains constrained for public higher education, despite an economy that slowly grows more robust. Only 14 states have re-invested in higher education at levels equal to or above their pre-recession levels. Last year, 20 states actually cut more funding from their public universities and colleges.
Kilgore comments:

... the deep cuts in higher ed funding by state legislatures that occurred nearly everywhere during the Great Recession haven’t been fully restored much of anywhere, despite radically improved state fiscal climates.

The skyrocketing public college and university tuitions we’ve all become accustomed to seeing are the direct result of this reduced state support. And it’s worth remembering that no matter how much progress we make in controlling college costs (and student debt levels) through various reforms won’t much matter if state legislatures perpetually pocket the savings and disinvest in higher ed.
Libertarian paradise here we come. Higher education will only be for those who can afford to pay huge sums or are willing to indenture themselves for decades. (And I'm sure the for-profit fly-by-nights will continue to sucker low income students into going into crippling debt.)

It sounds like perfect preparation for the new servant economy.

"Concerned" that Obama does nuance

by digby

Congressman Mike Rogers is "concerned":
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers did not mince words Thursday, slamming President Barack Obama for an “odd” news conference during which the president said, “We do not have a strategy” to deter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“It was an odd press conference at the very best, but to have a press conference to say we don’t have a strategy was really shocking given the severity of the threat. That’s what’s so concerning to me,” Rogers (R-Mich.) told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Right. What you want is a president pounding on the podium insisting "I'm the decider! I'll decide because I've decided!" Or something like that.

It is a good thing for a president to be thoughtful and to show the world that he's being thoughtful. The US is a massive, military superpower and that can be threatening. Much better to have leadership that doesn't sound as if it's eager to drop bombs or invade at a moments notice and that it's taking all sides into account.

President Obama is a lot of things but he isn't stupid. I find it hard to believe that he didn't say they were working out a strategy as part of a diplomatic move as they're working with allies in the region. I know it's hard for hawks to understand this because they spend their entire lives trying to prove their manhood, but sometimes it's better not to rush in and take charge of every situation. Sometimes it makes more sense to give others the chance to step up. It tends to give them a different stake in the outcome and possibly allows them to not feel as if they are a vassal of the United States. (Which is undoubtedly why Mike Rogers doesn't like it.)

Pennsylvania takes up Medicare expansion, drives another nail in the anti-ACA coffin

by David Atkins

It looks like 500,000 more Americans are about to get healthcare thanks to the ACA. Greg Sargent has the details:

In another sign that the politics of Obamacare continue to shift, the Medicaid expansion is now all but certain to come to another big state whose Republican governor had previously resisted it: Pennsylvania.

The federal government has approved Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s application for the state’s own version of the Medicaid expansion, without a handful of the conditions Corbett had hoped to impose, Dem sources tell me.

Corbett just announced that he will accept the expansion that has been offered, perhaps with some last-minute changes — expanding coverage and subsidies to as many as half a million people.

This comes after months of jockeying between Corbett and the federal government. Corbett had pushed for a version of the expansion that would have imposed various conditions designed to make it more palatable to conservatives and to achieve political distance from Obamacare — while simultaneously taking all that federal money. Among them: Using the cash to pay for private coverage for the poor.
This is a big deal not only for the future of the ACA but also for Pennsylvania politics. The GOP has been wanting to make gains in the Keystone State for a long time now. Another half a million voters who get healthcare through the ACA puts another big crimp in that plan.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Perlstein and Parton chewing the fat about Reagan and the 70s

by digby

You can hear it at Virtually Speaking, here.

It was fun!

Also too: Buy the book!

From the schmaht as a whip file: GOP adopts the "women are stupid sluts" strategy.

by digby

North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis is, like all Republicans, having some problems attracting women voters. So he's decided to talk to them as if they are 6 years old and patronize that silly lady Senator he's running against as a feather-head who can't add numbers. I'm sure it's going to be very effective for him:

Personally, I think he missed a great opportunity to call her a slut and tell her to close her legs. That strategy works like a charm.

BTW: it's his math that's questionable ...
"But then, they always blame America first"

by digby

Hey, do any of you oldies remember this speech from 1984?
They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do - they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians - they blamed the United States instead.

But then, somehow, they always blame America first.

When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the "blame America first crowd" didn't blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.

But then, they always blame America first.

The American people know better.

They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn't cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.

The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.

They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.

He wrote: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

With the election of Ronald Reagan, the American people declared to the world that we have the necessary energy and conviction to defend ourselves, and that we have as well a deep commitment to peace.

And now, the American people, proud of our country, proud of our freedom, proud of ourselves, will reject the San Francisco Democrats and send Ronald Reagan back to the White House.
That was OG Neocon Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the 1984 Republican Convention.

Here's the Democratic National Committee today on Rand Paul:
"This week he's blaming the Obama Administration for another nation's civil war. That type of 'blame America' rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing in the world," DNC spokesman Michael Czin said in a statement. "In fact, Paul's proposals would make America less safe and less secure.

Simply put, if Rand Paul had a foreign policy slogan, it would be — The Rand Paul Doctrine: Blame America. Retreat from the World."
They couldn't call him a "San Francisco" liberal since he's from Kentucky. But they could have added something about the Aqua Buddha to make it clear that he's really a long haired hippie freak at heart.

I get that they have to counter Paul's rhetoric. And I happen to think he's a hypocritical liar on these issues and spitting into the wind if he believe that Republicans are going to go back to the days of Robert Taft any time soon. They are hawks through and through. But the Democratic Party using the infamous words of Jeanne Kirkpatrick (in exactly the same way she used them)to attack Rand Paul from the right is likely to backfire if it implies that the Democratic Party believes that pacifists and a so-called "convention of isolationists" are unpatriotic. It's not as if there are many of them in the GOP. But there are a lot of anti-war voters in the Democratic Party. Why alienate your own base by implying that their apprehension about America's intervention abroad over the past few years is un-American?

It's not as though "blaming America" is an unreasonable thing to do. Indeed, it's a necessary thing to do --- when America is to blame. How about this news report from 2007, in which the US Senate complied a study that showed American leadership knew that intervention in Iraq could have disastrous consequences for the region:
In a move sure to raise even more questions about the decision to go to war with Iraq, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will on Friday release selected portions of pre-war intelligence in which the CIA warned the administration of the risk and consequences of a conflict in the Middle East.

Among other things, the 40-page Senate report reveals that two intelligence assessments before the war accurately predicted that toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists. But those warnings were seemingly ignored.

In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community's think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists.”

It also warned that “many angry young recruits” would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and "Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials."

None of those warnings were reflected in the administration's predictions about the war.

In fact, Vice President Cheney stated the day before the war, “Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

A second assessment weeks before the invasion warned that the war also could be “exploited by terrorists and extremists outside Iraq.”
And then this:
Fighting a civil war is the way that some societies build a state, and it is hard to imagine how there could have been a smooth transition from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Still, the United States has clearly helped to create the conditions for Iraq’s descent into civil war.

Two failures are worth noting. First, a large literature on contentious politics has shown that violent opposition groups gain legitimacy and public support when the state uses indiscriminate violence or abuses civilians. This is precisely what has happened in Iraq, with recent reports of civilian abuses by the coalition.

Second, civil war studies have shown that insurgencies grow into large wars when insurgents receive external assistance. The American-led coalition simply has not had the manpower to quarantine those Iraqis who have reportedly received assistance from neighboring countries and international terrorist entities.

So yeah, Rand Paul may be a jerk but he's right about one thing; the US is perfectly capable of creating another nation's civil war. We did it in Iraq. And the resultant spillover of violence and radicalism is the cause of many of the problems we're facing today.

The good news for the DNC is that some really fine people agree with them. Like yet another OG Neocon, Eliot Abrams, who's been pushing for war in the Middle East for decades:
"Senator Paul simply has the facts wrong. He published his article in The Wall Street Journal but apparently doesn’t read it himself, or he’d have seen last Saturday’s article there detailing how the Assad regime abetted the rise of ISIS. Those who argued for intervening to strengthen nationalist Syrian rebels have been proved quite right, for as they have weakened ISIS has grown stronger. In fact we’ve done in Syria exactly what Rand Paul always wants to do–nothing–and we see the result. It’s the steady growth of a murderous, barbarous terrorist group that now threatens even the homeland.”
(Apparently it's ok to "blame America first" when its government decides not to go to war. It's only once it starts beating the war drums that good patriots have to zip their lips and wave the flag.)

This is going to be a tough path for the Democratic Party as it seeks to balance the various strains running through its coalition on this subject. They've got the peace oriented left which is a big faction in the Party, the interventionists like Hillary Clinton and the liberal pragmatists (for lack of a better term) like Obama. It's never easy for the party as an institution to juggle all that in a coherent fashion. But for heaven's sake, taking the position of the hard core right is a very odd way to go about it.

It's not as if the DNC criticizing Rand Paul as an isolationist is going to cost him any Republican votes. They hate his guts. And they are much more clever about aligning him with people and ideas that will further marginalize him in their party. Here's Jennifer Rubin on Paul's op-ed:
At times, Paul sounds like the thought bubble over Obama’s head. Indeed, they share a common determination to avoid reality. In their world, the Iraq war was never won. The withdrawal of forces with no stay-behind troops was the right thing to do. And the real danger is the United States doing something effective.

Sometimes it is hard to tell Obama and Paul apart. Consider this: “History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.” Obama or Rand Paul?
In case you were wondering, it was Obama. Is he part of the "Blame America" crowd now too?

The only people's minds this "he's a Blame America first isolationist" charge might change are ... young Democrats. And it will change them in favor of Rand Paul. Why in the world would the DNC want to do a thing like that?

And in another piece of good news ...

by digby

That worked out well:
Weeks of fighting escalated in Libya this weekend as anti-government fighters secured control of the country’s main airport in the capital, Tripoli.

A group of pro-government fighters from the western city of Zintan had controlled the airport since the 2011 fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But on Saturday, a coalition of Islamist fighters from the city of Misrata called "Operation Dawn" pushed that group out.

It’s been just a little over three years since the Zintanis and Islamist fighters battled side by side against Gaddafi forces. Yet today, the two groups -- along with smaller supporting militias -- are locked in a vicious fight for economic and political control, pushing the country closer to the brink of collapse. Libya is falling apart, and this is why it matters:

Libya now has 2 parliaments and 2 prime ministers.
The government and the army are too weak to impose order.
Regional powers are adding fuel to the fire.
Life for many Libyan civilians is worsening.
Read the article to see the details behind those 4 points. It's a huge mess.

It's not America's fault. But there's a lesson this about the idea that our "intervention" was going to be, on balance, a good thing for the country. It's gone from despotism to chaos, as often happens in these cases. And contrary to what one might think, chaos isn't freedom.

You can't help but feel some despair at this point. It looks as though we're in for a long period of unstable unrest in the region and that's dangerous. And there's not a whole lot the US can do about it.

SCOTUS has your back

by Tom Sullivan

No, not your back, innocent victim of law enforcement gone wrong. They've got law enforcement's back. You're on your own. The dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, Erwin Chemerinsky, explains. There's not only immunity for cities for the misconduct of their employees -- for, say, wrongful death or prosecutorial misconduct -- but immunity for officials themselves against personal lawsuits, and “qualified immunity” for officials unless “every reasonable official” would have known the conduct in question was unlawful. Such as shooting Michael Brown in the head, assuming that was excessive or not self defense.
The Supreme Court has used this doctrine in recent years to deny damages to an eighth-grade girl who was strip-searched by school officials on suspicion that she had prescription-strength ibuprofen. It has also used it to deny damages to a man who, under a material-witness warrant, was held in a maximum-security prison for 16 days and on supervised release for 14 months, even though the government had no intention of using him as a material witness or even probable cause to arrest him. In each instance, the court stressed that the government officer could not be held liable, even though the Constitution had clearly been violated.
Perhaps like me, you've noticed a spate of videos surfacing in which a prone suspect is beaten or repeatedly tased as police mechanically scream "Stop resisting!" Or repeatedly yell "Stop going for my gun!" at a suspect with his hands up (as in this video). Make of that what you will. The Supreme Court, it seems, will not.

But in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and an Ohio Walmart patron shopping for a pellet rifle (both men black), one has to wonder whether we as a country haven't created the conditions for these types of tragedies. In the wake of 9/11, Vice-President Cheney advised America that our response might take us to "the dark side." He would know.

And with the post-9/11 deployment of military gear and chemical weapons against civilian protesters across the country, are we as a culture encouraging -- recommending -- their use? The famous Stanford Prison and the Milgram experiments showed how, when ordinary people are placed in a position of authority in an environment that encourages wielding imperious power, authoritarian tendencies surface where they might have remained latent. Not to deny the personal culpability of those deserving the accountability Cheney, et. al. have avoided, but given the commonalities in these police shootings and other violent encounters, we might consider whether, America having gazed "long into an abyss" is seeing the abyss gaze back.

Not to mention how, as I hear, black men are calling into radio talk shows complaining they cannot even enjoy driving the cars they worked hard to earn because of being regularly stopped by police in which the first words police utter are "Where are the drugs?" Or producer Charles Belk on his way to the Emmys this week being detained in Beverly Hills for six hours as a suspect in a bank holdup because, “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”
Charlie Pierce at Esquire:
And there still will be people who will claim not to "understand" why black people dread the approach of the police.
... because it's not about race because it's never about race.
America needs to stop staring into the abyss and spend some time staring into the mirror.

Tell Harry Reid to move the Death in Custody Reporting Act

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon yesterday about the odd fact that we don't have a national database of police involve shootings and deaths at the hands of authorities.  It seems like a useful bit of information:
The shooting of teenager Michael Brown has focused the nation (again) on the dangers faced by young, unarmed black men walking the streets of America. The sight of paramilitary police with guns pointed at peaceful protesters in a suburban town in the Midwest also got our attention. And as we wait for the legal system to determine if officer Darren Wilson will be held liable for the shooting, new questions are rising to the surface about the issue of officer-involved shootings in general. How often does this happen? How are these issues normally handled by prosecutors and the courts? And surprisingly, there is almost no way of knowing how often American citizens are killed at the hands of the authorities.
And check this out:
In 2000 Congress passed a bill called the Death in Custody Reporting Act with bipartisan support. According to its primary sponsor, Rep. Bobby Scott, it was designed to provide oversight over law enforcement during detention, arrest and imprisonment. Unfortunately, it expired in 2006 and despite Scott’s best efforts it hasn’t been renewed. It passed the House in 2009 and 2011 with overwhelming bipartisan support but went nowhere in the Senate each time. In 2011 it was actually sent to the full Senate but ran out of time before it was considered. It passed the House again in December of 2013, once more with bipartisan support. (How often does that happen in this Congress?) Since then it’s been sitting in the Senate where it seems to be waiting to die once again. If it doesn’t pass by the time Congress adjourns this fall it will have to start all over again.

The House (the House!)passed this bill. The Democratic Senate needs to pass it too and the president needs to sign it. And they need to do it now.

The NAACP sent out this action alert to its members on this last week. Click here to see the language if you'd care to join in.

Give 'em an inch

by digby

Emily Bazelon in Slate points out that the new rules allowing corporations and institutions that are not strictly religious to opt out of providing birth control on religious grounds by simply writing a little note to the federal government isn't going to stop the assault on the contraception mandate.

Here’s why this new rule isn’t going to end the lawsuits anytime soon: Little Sisters and the others don’t want a new mechanism for alerting the government so a TPA can provide birth control. “The government has never offered a reason why it needed to coerce the Little Sisters and others to be a part of its contraceptive delivery system, nor any reason why it chose to treat the Little Sisters as less deserving of religious liberty than houses of worship,” Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer for the Becket Fund, which represents Little Sisters, emailed me. “It is disappointing that the government continues to treat religious ministries as not religious enough to deserve the same exemption it gives houses of worship.”
This brings us to the real crux of the issue, which Hobby Lobby and all the other litigation has so far obscured: The government wants the employees at the heart of these cases to get the contraception coverage everyone else’s employees get, through their employment. The religious employers do not.

In fact, it's worse than that. It's not about religious employers. It's about any employers being mandated to offer this coverage --- to offer any coverage. It's just one incremental step in a long term strategy to create a legal structure for corporations and other organizations to "opt out" of participating in government mandated programs on the basis of "conscience."

Bazelon outlines how wily this plan really is --- so wily they punk'd the female justices of the Supreme Court:

In its Hobby Lobby ruling in June, the Supreme Court seemed to suggest that the government’s goal was a perfectly acceptable one—easily reached, with a little rewriting of the rules. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito appeared to see Form 700 as a good compromise. TPAs could arrange for contraceptive coverage, Alito said, “without imposing any cost-sharing requirements on the eligible organization.” This was all very soothing. Alito went so far as to make the government’s stance, in insisting that Hobby Lobby cover birth control for its employees directly, seem a little silly. If the officials at HHS who came up with Form 700 had figured out an accommodation for the religious nonprofit groups, why not offer to extend it to private companies like Hobby Lobby?

But there was a catch. “We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA”—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1990s law that’s the basis for all of these religion-based challenges to paying for birth control—“for purposes of all religious claims,” Alito wrote. A week later, the court walked through this conveniently open door. Wheaton College, which is Christian, didn’t want to sign Form 700, and in another interim but telling order, the court said it didn’t have to. No wonder all the other religious groups and “privately held” companies want the same deal.

In the Wheaton College case, Sotomayor (plus Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) raised hell. In an unusual act of all-female solidarity, the three justices said the court’s order siding with Wheaton “undermines confidence in this institution” because it contradicts the promise the majority made in Hobby Lobby. To me, it looks like some justices thought they’d reached a nice compromise for the religious objectors in Hobby Lobby, only to find that others weren’t along for the ride.
Ooops. Sorry ladies. We were just kidding.

An that means that this new order from the administration is unlikely to stand.

I'm going to guess that this will end up like the Hyde Amendment. It also made no sense when it was enacted, and Democrats tried for years to stop its yearly re-authorization --- until they finally gave up and we had President Obama proclaiming that it was a "tradition" to make sure poor women did not have insurance coverage for abortion and negotiated the possibility away permanently in the ACA.

The social conservatives never give up until they get their way on these women's issues. It's fundamental to their cause. The fight has now expanded from abortion to birth control which is now a subject of controversy despite the fact that nearly 100% of women in the nation have used it (which makes nearly 100% of women "sluts" according to right wing haters.) And if there's one thing the history of the past few decades of legislative battles has taught us it's that when push comes to shove, the Democrats will use "controversial" women's rights as a bargaining chip and tell the ladies they'll have to take one for the team.

It's pretty to think that these latest polling numbers which show Republicans suffering electorally because of their inability to appeal to women will make the Democrats stiffen their spines and recognize that they have to dig in their heels on this. And I suspect they will --- as long as it doesn't mean they have to compromise on something else they care about. Women's issues are always on the table.

h/t to DC
Rand Paul and libertarians won't save the Millennial vote for Republicans

by David Atkins

In the last couple of years there's been a concerted pushback on the notion that Millennial voters will be reliably Democratic in the future. The argument generally centers on the idea that 1) Millennials tend to be disturbingly libertarian/conservative on some economic issues, and 2) since white Millennials are almost as likely to be conservative on those and a few social issues as their elders, it's more about race than about age.

There are problems with both of those arguments: yes, Millennials lean libertarian/conservative when asked vague questions about government spending, regulation and deficits--but that's not surprising given the awful, empty rhetoric on these fronts spouted across all spectra of American politics. But when you actually delve into the weeds of each and every given policy position, from single-payer healthcare to immigration reform to the minimum wage, Millennials really are more liberal even on economics than than their forebears.

Moreover, social issues don't just wave themselves away. The Republican Party knows it needs to moderate itself on social issues in order to have a future with women, younger and minority voters. But its base simply won't allow it to do that.

Finally, the fact that Millennials are less white than previous generations isn't a "yeah, but" thing. It's part of the point of the emerging Democratic majority. First off, we know that white Millennials are significantly more liberal than their older counterparts by anywhere from 5 to 10 percentage points. 54% of white Millennials still disapprove of Barack Obama, but those numbers are at over 60% in every other generational category. 59% of white voters cast ballots for Mitt Romney, and he still lost. The oldest of the Millennial generation, depending on how you define it, are now in their late twenties or early thirties. Even if a bare majority of Millennial whites do lean conservative on a few issues, that's still awful news for Republicans, who either need to make up huge ground with minority groups or increase their share of the white vote by large numbers in a browning population.

Another hypothesis out there is that hip new libertarians in the Republican coalition will save the younger vote. That's wrong, too.

Alan Abramowitz at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball looks at the numbers and concludes:

An analysis of data from the 2012 American National Election Study raises serious doubts about the claim that a candidate with libertarian views would have strong appeal to younger voters. In fact, the data indicate that younger voters tend to hold relatively liberal views on social welfare as well as cultural issues. Only a small minority of voters under the age of 30 can be classified as libertarians. Moreover, both younger and older Americans who hold libertarian views already vote overwhelmingly for Republican candidates, so nominating a candidate with a libertarian philosophy would be unlikely to gain many votes for the GOP.


Our results thus far indicate that younger voters would not be especially attracted to a candidate holding libertarian views. Moreover, the results displayed in Table 3 show that the vast majority of young libertarians in 2012 were already voting for Republican candidates: 76% of younger libertarians, along with 82% of older libertarians, reported voting for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. In addition, young libertarians overwhelmingly identified with the Republican Party and favored Republican House and Senate candidates by wide margins. Among libertarians under the age of 30, those who identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party outnumbered those who identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party by 74% to 17%. Of these young libertarians, 75% reported voting for a Republican House candidate in 2012 and 81% reported voting for a Republican Senate candidate.


Based on these results, nominating libertarian candidates would be unlikely to improve the Republican Party’s performance among younger voters because these voters are much more likely to be liberals than libertarians and because the vast majority of those who do hold libertarian views already identify with the Republican Party and vote for Republican candidates. In order to increase their party’s appeal to younger Americans, Republicans would need to nominate candidates who are considerably more liberal on both economic and cultural issues than the party’s recent presidential nominees or the vast majority of its current congressional candidates.

One of the most important reasons why the libertarian philosophy holds little appeal for most younger voters is that a disproportionate share of voters under the age of 30 are nonwhite. According to the 2012 ANES, nonwhites made up 40% of voters under the age of 30 compared with 25% of voters age 30 and older. Moreover, the nonwhite share of younger voters is almost certain to increase over the next several election cycles based on the racial composition of the age cohorts that will be entering the electorate in the future.

The libertarian philosophy of limited government holds very little appeal to nonwhite voters in general, and it holds even less appeal to younger nonwhite voters. Only 4% of nonwhite voters under the age of 30 were classified as libertarians compared with 23% of white voters under the age of 30. In contrast, 69% of younger nonwhite voters were classified as consistent or moderate liberals compared with 49% of younger white voters. These results suggest that the limited appeal of libertarian ideas to younger voters is likely to diminish further over time as the nonwhite share of this age group continues to grow.
Basically, the GOP is still in a very difficult position. Rand Paul won't help them, and younger whites won't save them, either.


Give A Kid An Uzi? Views Differ 

by tristero

Can we all agree that letting a 9-year old fire an Uzi is a really nutty idea?

Actually, no we can't:
A Nevada gun range today defended having children fire automatic weapons despite the fatal accident at a nearby shooting range that occurred when a 9-year-old girl was unable to control the powerful recoil of an Uzi she was shooting.
Firing an automatic weapon teaches children the difference between their video games and the real thing, Bill Regenhardt, spokesman for The Range 702, told ABC News.
"It's an eye opener for them to see the difference: this is not a toy, this is not a plastic Wii gun. It's heavy, you have to really be mindful of what it does... A lot of times it's an eye opener for the parents as well," Regenhardt said.
For the most part, Regenhardt says that after their first time with automatic weapons, children get hooked.
"The reaction is, 'I'd like to do this again, I'd really like to do this again,'" he said. From there, they encourage the children to take classes.
Granted, there are a lot of individuals in our species, and statistically it makes sense that a small fraction of them will be both bats hit bonkers and unspeakably amoral opportunists, like the person quoted above). What makes no sense at all is that this madness is reported as if it were just one more point of view without even a token quote from anyone in the reality-based community.

The problems's not that people are crazy; some people always are. It's that crazy people - Tea Partiers, creationists, and people who give  9 year olds weapons of mass destruction to play with -  are treated by the media as if their opinions are sane.

UDATE: Sigh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lol 'o the day

by digby

Third time's a charm?

by digby

After the 2012 election a friend of mine insisted that the likely GOP nominee in 2016 would be .... Mitt Romney.  He said it was simply because he knew how to do it. I thought he was nuts.

Maybe not so nuts after all :
The day after Mitt Romney opened the door to another possible presidential run, a new poll shows he has a huge lead among likely 2016 Iowa Republican caucus voters.

According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for the 2012 GOP nominee in 2016. When Romney’s name was added to the pool, no other candidate received double-digit votes.

The survey comes as rumors have begun to swirl about a potential Romney bid for president in 2016. After months of insisting that he will not run again, the former Massachusetts governor on Tuesday acknowledged that “circumstances can change.”

Why not? It's not as if they have anyone better ...
Dispatch from torture nation: Cattle prod edition

by digby

Another citizen killed with a taser.  For being too tired to walk:
A Georgia man died after police shocked him with a Taser as many as 13 times because he said he was too tired to walk due to a foot chase, his attorney said this week.

At a press conference on Tuesday, attorney Chris Stewart said that police records showed that East Point officers had discharged their Tasers 13 times to make Gregory Towns, who was handcuffed, get up and walk.

“This is a direct violation of their own rules,” Stewart explained, according to WSB-TV. “You cannot use a Taser to escort or prod a subject.”

“They used their Tasers as a cattle prod on Mr. Towns.”

Stewart said that he pieced together what led up to Towns’ April 11 death using official city records and eyewitness accounts.

“He wasn’t cursing. He wasn’t being abusive. He was saying, ‘I’m tired,’” the attorney pointed out.

Taser logs showed that Sgt. Marcus Eberhart fired his Taser 10 times, and officer Howard Weems pulled the trigger three times. However, the logs did not indicate how many times the Taser made contact with Towns.

In all, records indicated a total shock time of 47 seconds. Stewart called the situation “indefensible.”

Autopsy results obtained by WSB-TV showed that Towns’ death was ruled a homicide because the Taser shocks — combined with physical activity and heart disease — contributed to his death.
Not that this has elicited even the slightest reconsideration of the use of these torture devices:
But Police Benevolent Association lawyers representing Weems continued to insist that the officer’s actions did not cause Towns to die.

Attorney Dale Preiser issued a statement saying that the “use of drive stun to gain compliance is permitted under federal and Georgia law.”
I don't think that's been fully litigated actually. And sadly, I'm fairly sure that when it is, the result will not be good. (Read this op-ed by constitutional law professor Erwin Chemerinsky in today's NY Times to see why I say that.)

Do we, as a nation, believe it's a good idea to allow torture to gain compliance? Because that's what this is.

Should selling a cigarette be a capital offense?

by digby

Quinnipiac polled New Yorkers on the question of policing for low level crimes. Apparently, most people are in favor of cops rousting people for small offenses. For instance:

If someone is selling loose cigarettes illegally on a street corner in their neighborhood, 50 percent of voters want police to stop that activity, even if it means making an arrest, while 41 percent say police should ignore this activity. Hispanic voters say 53 - 43 percent that police should act. White voters are divided as 48 percent want police to act and 44 percent say ignore. Among black voters, 47 percent say police should act and 40 percent say police should ignore it.

"It's different where you live from what you see in the media. Overall, black New Yorkers are negative about cops citywide. White voters are positive. But looking at cops in their own neighborhood, the support turns positive among black voters and heavily positive among whites," said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.

"Does it improve the quality of life in your neighborhood when police arrest someone for a low-level offense, or does it increase neighborhood tensions? New Yorkers decide for quality of life," Carroll added.

If a person tells police he/she is not going to allow police to arrest him/her, 58 percent of New York City voters, including 45 percent of black voters, say police should use whatever force is necessary to arrest that person, while 16 percent of voters, including 23 percent of black voters, say police should walk away.

"Hardly anyone thinks the cops should back off if someone resists arrest. Use whatever force is necessary to make the arrest, voters say, echoing what Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton both have emphasized," Carroll said. Eric Garner Case

There is no excuse for how police acted in the death of Eric Garner, 68 percent of voters say, while 24 percent say police action was understandable. Seeing no excuse are 52 percent of white voters, 90 percent of black voters and 71 percent of Hispanic voters.

If they believe that the police should have arrested him for suspicion of selling loose cigarettes and he resisted that arrest, I wonder what they think the cops should have done differently? Obviously, they believe the police officer shouldn't have used an illegal choke-hold. But how would they have had the cops take this man into custody?

I would guess most people think he should have been tasered. I wonder how many of them know that tasers routinely kill people too?. (On the other hand, tasers are so much funnier than choke holds they're probably worth it...)

The question has to be asked: is it ever worth it to kill someone over misdemeanor crimes like the sale of loose cigarettes? Or jaywalking? That's what's happening with this "broken windows" policy. It sounds great in theory --- until you ask yourself how it's going to be enforced. At best, a whole lot of people are going to wind up being harassed by police and wind up in the criminal justice system over small bore offenses. (And I think you know which groups are more likely to be targeted.) At worst, you'll have police using torture devices and/or deadly force to do it.

There are other approaches that can work.

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