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Thursday, April 30, 2015

We are all Democratic Socialists now

by digby

Jonathan Cohn explains what Bernie Sanders means when he calls himself a Democratic socialist. Of course he wants to send all the conservatives to FEMA camps first and foremost.  That goes without saying. But after that, this is pretty much what it means:
"Sanders doesn’t shrink from the label socialist, Andrew Prokop pointed out in a profile for Vox last year, but he generally identifies himself as a democratic socialist. The distinction matters. Democratic socialism, as generally conceived in the U.S., is a milder, more aspirational form of the ideology. Democratic socialists might not recoil at the thought of government running large industries, but they don’t actively pursue that goal. Instead, they focus on decidedly less radical objectives -- like making the welfare state more generous, giving workers more power, limiting the influence of money on politics and policing the practices of business more closely.
That sounds like a majority of the Democratic party!  Runferyerlives!!!

Oh, and guess what?
A study by VoteView, determined that Sanders is actually less liberal than many Republican senators are conservative.
They don't embrace the word that best describes them. We'll just call them "ultra-conservative" and leave it at that.

If this doesn't disqualify Rand Paul as a potential president, nothing will

by digby

Good Lord:

Des Moines, Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson asked the Republican presidential candidate in an April 21 interview whether he was up to speed on the training exercise dubbed "Jade Helm" that's scheduled to take place in several southwestern states.

"You know I've gotten a few questions about it on the road and I really don't—" Paul responded. "I'm not sure about exactly what is going on with that."

"It's making some people nervous, but it doesn't take much to make people nervous nowadays," Mickelson said. "If you get a chance to, I'd like to know what the rest of the story is on that."

"We'll look at that also," Paul assured him.

A spokesman for Paul did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPM on Thursday.

He's going to look into whether or not the US Military is planning to put Texas under martial law and drop death squads into small towns to assassinate conservatives. Good news. I sure hope it isn't true ...

In case you were wondering, this daffy conspiracy theory originated with Rand Paul's good buddy Alex Jones. Paul's been appearing on his show for a couple of decades babbling about black helicopters and the like. These are his people.

By the way, the loons get really, really upset when ask them why they hate the troops so much. It's like their heads explode.


Why riots?

by digby

Here's that noted right winger Martin Luther King talking about riots:

What did MLK really think about urban riots? "They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood," King said in a speech at the American Psychology Associations' annual convention in Washington, DC, in September 1967. Here's what else he had to say:

Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena. They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking. But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, he is shocking it by abusing property rights. There are thus elements of emotional catharsis in the violent act. This may explain why most cities in which riots have occurred have not had a repetition, even though the causative conditions remain. It is also noteworthy that the amount of physical harm done to white people other than police is infinitesimal and in Detroit whites and Negroes looted in unity.

A profound judgment of today's riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, 'If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.'

More at the link...
QOTD: Bernie Sanders

by digby

People should not underestimate me. I've run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country."

In case you wondered what that message will be, here's a good rundown:

Move to a single-payer health care system

The major issue on which Sanders embraces "full socialism" is health care, where he maintains his longtime support of a single-payer health-care system. At an Iowa event last year, Sanders called Obamacare a "modest step forward." But he said much more work needed to be done on expanding coverage and reducing the costs of care: "We are the only major nation on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people." The problem, he said, is that in the current system, "the goal is for the insurance companies and the drug companies to make as much money as possible."

Sanders was a key supporter of Vermont's plan to implement the United States' first single-payer health care system. "If we do it and do it well, other states will get in line and follow us," he said. "And we will have a national system." But the plan has since foundered over cost concerns, and implementation has been indefinitely postponed. "It's not that it hasn't worked out, it hasn't been implemented," Sanders told The Hill this February.

Overturn Citizens United, publicly fund elections

Sanders has harshly criticized Supreme Court rulings allowing for increased spending on elections by individuals and outside groups. "We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous 5-4 Citizens United Supreme Court decision," he's said. "Billionaires like the Koch brothers should not be able to spend hundreds of millions to buy elections in the US." He's also called for moving toward public funding of elections, saying, "We are losing our democracy in this country."

Free trade's expansion has been a "disaster"

"Unfettered free trade has been a disaster for the American people," Sanders told me. "It was pushed by corporate America with many Democrats including Bill Clinton and the Republicans working to support him." He said that during his two and a half decades in Congress, "I voted against all the trade agreements." He has been harshly critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and will make his opposition to it a key feature of his campaign.

Combat climate change with a carbon tax

"Global warming is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet," Sanders has said, "and averting a planetary disaster will require a major reduction in the burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels." To that end, he supports a carbon tax, which he calls "the most straightforward and efficient strategy for quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Don't cut Social Security — expand it (by taxing the wealthy more)

Sanders scoffs at the idea that the US faces a deficit problem that necessitates cuts in benefits or domestic spending. He mocks "entitlement reform" as a "code word" meaning "cutting Social Security and Medicare," and fought against President George W. Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security in 2005.

For Social Security in particular, Sanders says improved benefits could be funded by simply increasing payroll taxes on the rich. He's suggested applying the tax to all income over $250,000 a year. "You do that, you bring in enough money to extend Social Security for decades — and you also give us the resources to expand benefits, not cut them," he said at an event in Waterloo, Iowa, last year.

More spending on infrastructure, less on defense

Sanders has proposed spending $1 trillion on modernizing infrastructure, saying it would both put people to work and generate more economic activity. As for deficits, he wants big cuts in military spending, saying, "It is absurd that the United States continues to spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined." He's frequently suggested that any increases in defending should be fully funded by tax increases on the wealthy.

Don't tax the middle class more — they're already getting squeezed

As seen above, Sanders has frequently called for greater taxation of the wealthy. However, despite proposing a great deal of increased spending, he has not called for tax increases to the middle class or low-income people to fund these efforts.

Instead, he generally argues that the middle class is already getting squeezed — his speeches tend to include a blizzard of statistics about growing inequality. "The most significant issue facing this country is the 40-year decline of the American middle class," he's said.

Raise the minimum wage quite a lot

"If we are going to be serious about cutting poverty," Sanders said in a speech last year, the minimum wage should be raised "to a living wage." He supports raising it from the current level of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but says "that is not enough," and wants more of an increase "in the coming years."

Supports immigration reform — but not guest worker programs for unskilled labor

Sanders supports a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants here now, and voted for the Senate's 2013 immigration reform bill. However, he criticized the bill's expansion of guest worker programs, particularly those involving unskilled workers. "I'm very dubious about the need to bring foreign unskilled labor into this country," he said in 2013. "What I do not support is, under the guise of immigrant reform, a process pushed by large corporations which results in more unemployment and lower wages for American workers."

Does not support drug legalization

"I have real concerns about implications of the war on drugs," Sanders told Time in 2014. He said it's lasted decades, to "a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities." But he added that especially considering Vermont's heroin epidemic, "I am concerned about the overuse of dangerous drugs." Asked about marijuana legalization, Sanders said he'd "look at it," but that "to me it is not one of the major issues facing this country."

Label foods with GMO ingredients

Sanders strongly supported Vermont's law requiring labels on foods with genetically engineered ingredients — the first such law in the nation. Vermont's law is facing a court challenge, but Sanders has proposed federal legislation to ensure states can pass labeling laws. He has said that "a movement to allow the people of our country to know what is in the food they eat" is standing up to "Monsanto and other multinational food conglomerates."

Supports more gun control — but hasn't always

Sanders has been a consistent supporter of laws to toughen gun control in recent years. But earlier in his career, he was hesitant to engage on it — likely reflecting his rural constituents' views. He voted against a bill requiring a waiting period for a handgun purchase in 1991, calling it "symbolism" and saying gun control shouldn't be a federal issue. However, in 2013, Sanders voted for the Democrats' post-Newtown gun control bill, which expanded background checks and restored the assault weapons ban. He said there was "a growing consensus" that "we have got to do as much as we can to end the cold-blooded mass murders of innocent people."

Much more government funding for higher education

Frequently, Sanders argues for the importance of making college affordable. "Because of the high cost of higher education, many bright young people can no longer afford to go to college, and millions of others are leaving school saddled with debt. This is absurd," he's said. At an event last year, he said it's "time we thought about" making college free for everyone. As a first step, he's suggested that there should be no tuition for the first two years for any public college or university, saying, "We need a revolution in the way higher education is funded."

Less foreign policy interventionism

Sanders is a critic of most large-scale military interventions abroad, saying they are frequently expensive and counterproductive. He opposed the Iraq War, says Republicans are now "itching" for a war with Iran, and said he had "reservations" about Obama's intervention in Libya.

"ISIS is a brutal, awful, dangerous army and they have got to be defeated," he said last year. But, he added, "this is not just an American problem," and called on Arab nations to take the lead in the fight. "This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must be deeply involved."

Stop the NSA's "out-of-control" surveillance

"The National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies are out of control," Sanders has said. " We cannot talk about America as a 'free country' when the government is collecting information on virtually every phone call we make, when it is intercepting our emails and monitoring the websites we visit. That is not what a free society is about." He was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the first version of the Patriot Act, back in 2001.

Supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage

Sanders is pro-choice, and he has long been a supporter of LGBT rights. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. He backed Vermont's civil unions law in 2000 and its full marriage equality law in 2009.

Network neutrality is essential for free speech

Sanders strongly supports efforts to preserve network neutrality. "Our free and open internet has made invaluable contributions to democracy both here in the United States and around the world," he has said. "We must not let private corporations turn bigger and bigger profits by putting a price tag on the free flow of ideas."

Reform the Export-Import Bank

Sanders has long been a critic of the Export-Import Bank, as David Dayen documents at Salon. In a 2002 speech, Sanders asked why US taxpayers should give "huge subsidies and loans to the largest multinational corporations in the world, who pay their CEOs huge salaries … and companies take this money from the taxpayers and say, thank you very much, and oh by the way, we are laying you off because we are going to China and hiring somebody at 20 cents an hour." He voted against reauthorizing the bank in 2014.

There's a lot to like in that list. A whole lot.

But, as with Clinton and the Republican field, he's going to have to answer some tough questions too. It's part of the deal. And I can't wait to see what he says about all of it. The Democratic nomination is already more interesting and useful for having him in the race.

Grayson Launches New Trade Offensive

by Gaius Publius

Just as the Fast Track and TPP battles are heating up in Congress — expect floor votes in both houses next month — Alan Grayson has launched a new trade offensive. The video below lays out clearly the best arguments against TPP and TAFTA, NAFTA-like deals that Grayson calls "trade treachery" against the American people.

He's right, of course. It is treachery against our people, all to serve just one group, the same group that owns most of our politicians (more on that below).

First, watch Grayson's video; it's well produced, and like all of Grayson's explanations, extremely clear. Note the pivot, at 7:01, to his counter-proposal. It's a fascinating, workable idea.

Next, please share it — Facebook is the most effective place for shares, but consider Twitter and other social media as well. And don't forget email, especially to that cranky aunt and uncle who keep sending you the flag-draped anti-Kenyan screeds. This video is flag-draped as well, for all the right reasons for a change, and should therefore be right up their ... wheelhouse, for want of a better word.

I'm serious. "Free" trade deals are hated on the right as well, for all the right reasons. This is bipartisanship you can believe in, the anti-Beltway, anti-predator kind. Help that aunt and uncle do some good with all that pro-America energy. Send them this video.

Finally, support the project. We need to defeat Fast Track (which will kill TPP and TAFTA, the Trans-Atlantic version). Then we need to fix the trade deficit, which is why Grayson is offering the Buffett plan.

To contact your senator or congressperson, call 202-224-3121 and you'll be put through. You can also contact them directly. House phone numbers here:

Senate phone numbers here:

And thanks!

From the Transcript

For those who prefer to read (and to copy-and-paste), here are some bits from the transcript (self-made, errors mine; emphasis mine as well):
For the past 14 years, our average annual trade deficit has been over half a trillion dollars. That's a deficit of over $1500 each and every year for every man, woman and child in this country. ...

Look back across history, all the way back to the Stone Age. ... Look all across planet Earth, that beautiful blue marble, all 193 nations, all 7 continents. You will find that the 14 largest trade deficits in the history of mankind — all of them — are the U.S. trade deficits for the last 14 years.

Today we're creating millions, no, tens of millions of jobs in other countries with our purchasing power, while we're losing millions of jobs here in America because people in other countries are buying their own goods and services, rather than ours.

They're not creating jobs in America, but they're buying our assets — our stocks, our bonds, our mortgages, our homes ... our farms, our coastlands, our big businesses, our small businesses.

Our debt to foreigners right now already totals more than $35, 000 dollars for every man, woman and child in America. ... Ultimately, if we keep going the way we're going, [all of our assets] will be [owned abroad]. ... And the endgame is the end of America. We're in a deep deep hole.
I grabbed a picture of that endgame. It's a little frightening, and far more true already than most Americans realize:

The battle for naming rights in a once-sovereign nation (click to enlarge)

I found the following an effective way to tell the story of what we're giving away:
[TPP and TAFTA] would put our $30/hour workers directly in head-to-head competition with workers in Vietnam and Brunei, who are lucky to make 30 cents an hour.

"Free trade" countries like that are free of health and safety rules and environmental protection, free of social security, pensions and health care, free of child labor laws, free of the right to organize, and even free of the rules against slave labor.
That's "freedom" as the predatory wealthy prefer it; their freedom to feed off everyone else's pain. But there are actually several ways out, including this, from Grayson (jump to 7:01):
Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of our lifetime, has offered a plan for liberating us from the trade deficit. He would require importers to obtain certificates for the goods and services they sell us. The charges for those certificates could be used to increase Social Security and Medicare benefits, rebuild our roads and schools, and cut our taxes.

I support that plan, and I will be offering legislation to implement it. It is the light at the end of the tunnel for our economy.
I'm looking forward to seeing that legislation. 

Job One: Kill Fast Track

If you walk away from this read-and-watch with just one thought, make it this — Kill Fast Track.

You don't want Barack Obama to give away the store (for his own benefit, don't forget) to the CEO class and the corporations they control. Nor do you want the next president, whoever she may be, to have that power either. Declare "open rebellion" yourself, and take the power back from the money-owned Beltway elite. As Howie Klein wrote on this issue (again, my emphasis):
So-called "free trade" is one of the points of contention between the Establishment and normal Democrats. Corporate shills-- from Obama and Rahm all the way down into the depths of Wall Street ass-kissers like Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Isadore Hall (D-CA), etc. With even the overwhelming majority of Republicans opposing Fast Track authority, the White House is on a jihad against Democrats in Congress who are standing up against corporate hegemony in regard to the TPP. It's an ugly mess.
It's not our fault we were taken to war by the predatory rich, but unless they stand down — how likely is that? — we have only two choices. We can fight back or go to our beds an increasingly impoverished people. The bully doesn't stop punching you because you won't rise up against him.

Fighting back seems a decent choice to me, and here's a way to do it — Kill Fast Track. This could actually be a turning point, a tipping moment in the war we've been fighting since Reagan. Be strong and be optimistic. Also, act. (And thanks.)


Update: Oh, and Draft Alan Grayson for Senate!

Conspiracy theories deep in the heart of the Texas governor's office

by digby

.... the patriots are convinced the US MIlitary is about to infilitrate their towns and assassinate them. I wish I weren't kidding. I wrote about it for Salon:
You have probably heard these lyrics at least a thousand times at televised Republican rallies:

And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me

Those of course are the words to “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood, a song that could almost be described as the conservative national anthem. It perfectly expresses the patriotism of the Real American, the man and woman who love their country without reservation, the ones who boldly invite dissenters to “love it or leave it” and attack anyone who would dare besmirch the red, white and blue. These colors don’t run, hippie…

But something has changed. In fact, it appears that the right wing in this country has become downright hostile to the one government institution they heretofore had defended with every fiber of their being: the military. This week, members of the conservative fringe, having apparently become convinced that the army is holding a large training exercise in the American southwest in order to prepare the ground for a federal government takeover of Texas, are themselves metaphorically spitting right in the faces of U.S. soldiers:

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” Bastrop resident Bob Wells told the Statesman after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now, I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

Yes, we all hope that Bob is a conspiracy theorist. It would be disturbing indeed if the U.S. military were preparing to invade Texas and turn it into Nazi Germany.

Read on to see how Governor Abbot calmed the waters. (Hint: he told the national guard to monitor the military exercise to protect Texans.)


First comes the disinformation...

by Tom Sullivan

First comes the disinformation. Next come the wingnut emails.

The city of Baltimore is preparing for a Friday release of details of Freddie Gray's injury and death in police custody. "Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she's working with Freddie Gray's family and faith leaders to clear up 'misinformation' that could lead to further unrest."

Such as?

The Washington Post on Wednesday evening published an article that states that a unidentified prisoner who was also in the back of a police van with Gray claimed he could hear Gray "banging against the walls" and "was intentionally trying to injure himself."

The prisoner's tale comes via a police document obtained by the Post, in which the statement is included on an application for a search warrant, which is currently sealed. The prisoner could not actually see Gray, according to the report.

How it plays on Fox: Freddie Gray broke his own back. Coming Up Next: Martin Luther King shot himself.

Then there's this:

A rumor that Gray had a pre-existing spinal injury from a car accident appears to have originated Tuesday with a blog post on the conservative website thefourthestate.co and then spread to other conservative sites like the Free Republic.

But the Baltimore Sun investigated that rumor:

Online reports are swirling that Freddie Gray had spinal surgery shortly before he died in police custody, and had collected a payout in a settlement from a car accident. Those reports — which raise questions about the injury that led to his death in April 19 — point to Howard County court records as proof.

But court records examined Wednesday by The Baltimore Sun show the case had nothing to do with a car accident or a spine injury. Instead, they are connected to a lawsuit alleging that Gray and his sister were injured by exposure to lead paint.

Paperwork was filed in December allowing Gray and his sister, Fredericka to each collect an $18,000 payment from Peachtree Settlement Funding, records show. In exchange, Peachtree would have received a $108,439 annuity that was scheduled to be paid in $602 monthly installments between 2024 and 2039.

How it plays on Fox: Freddie Gray broke his own back, killing himself as part of an elaborate, failed scheme to get arrested, injure himself while in police custody, then sue the Baltimore Police Department for millions.

And it's all Obama's fault, according to Sean Hannity. His channel spews inflammatory disinformation daily that plays to its audience's worst instincts because it's profitable and because it sells penis pills and incontinence products.

Maybe Fox News has an opening for a copy writer? It's the American way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

They just beat them up and lock them up for no reason

by digby

Freddie Gray's neighborhood:
If you out there, you’re gonna be locked up with a misdemeanor.”

Donnail Lee gives his young neighbor a dubious look. “They can’t lock everybody up,” he tells her.

“It’s what they said…” she replies, as police helicopters fly overhead.

It’s 20 minutes to curfew in Gilmor Homes—the housing project where Freddie Gray grew up—on Tuesday, the night after the rioters had looted businesses and burned down buildings in West Baltimore. Lee, 34, had known Freddie for nearly a decade and heard Gray’s screams when he was detained by police around the corner from Lee’s home. A bystander’s video shows officers pulling Freddie into their car, his leg appearing to be bent under him. Freddie died days after being in police custody from a spinal cord injury, whose cause is still being investigated.

“They’ve been doing this for years—just people couldn’t prove it,” says Lee, sitting on the front stoop of his home while his three young kids sleep inside. At Gilmor Homes, the stories are around every corner of these identical red-brick buildings, which lie just blocks from the charred remains of the CVS.

Sherry Johnson, 40, remembers being thrown on the ground and kicked in the stomach by police who detained her and her cousin. She told them she was pregnant just to get them to stop—so they switched to using their elbows instead. “They said we ‘fit the description,’” recalls Johnson, who had no idea why she was being arrested. The charges were later dropped.
This is why people are pissed. Yes, they want jobs. Of course they want opportunity. And yes their lives are shit in a million different ways. These complicated problems in America's inner city are our nation's shame and they must be fixed.

But we don't have to fix the problem of poverty in order to make the police stop brutalizing citizens for no reason. That's really not complicated at all. They work for us.

By the way, they won't be telling anyone what happened in that van until next week at the earliest.  No hurry, I guess.

Some Baltimore thug on the good use of guns during civil unrest

by digby

A thug who used to be Governor. This is just disgusting:

Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich this morning used a strikingly mild characterization of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, calling it “a case where maybe somebody screwed up.” Ehrlich, speaking on WMAL radio, added that “you have to let the process play itself out.” By contrast, Ehrlich emotionally condemned city residents who engaged in looting or arson, saying, “The way you don’t react is to trash somebody’s business and place police lives in danger. It loses all sense of credibility, all sense, none, zero, no rationalizations here, no excuses, no defense.”

Ehrlich’s response was elicited by a question from one of the hosts of Mornings on the Mall about riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968: “It was different then, wasn’t it? Because there were some people who stood on corners with shotguns, and entire neighborhoods were protected, were they not?”

Yes, that solved the problem. Here's what actually happened:

Six people died, 700 were injured, and 5,800 were arrested. 1000 small businesses were damaged or robbed. Property damages, assessed financially, were more severe in DC ($15 million) and Baltimore ($12 million) than in any other cities. Most damage was done within the rioters' own neighborhoods.

In addition, an active Army soldier died in a traffic accident while redeploying from the city. Rioters set more than 1,200 fires during the disturbance. Damage was estimated at over $12 million (equivalent to $77.5 million today).

Of the arrests, 3,488 were for curfew violations, 955 for burglary, 665 for looting, 391 for assault, and 5 for arson.

Guns don't improve things in these situations unless you think it's a good idea to start spraying crowds with gunfire. Most people don't think that. Only thugs do.

Meanwhile, let's hope that little Freddie Gray "screw-up" doesn't result in any cops being unfairly charged with brutality. After all, if you get the attention of a police officer you should expect to have your spine severed on the way to jail. I'm pretty sure that's right there in the Bill of Rights.


Chris Hayes exposed the fundamental pathology of urban riots back in 2013

by digby

ICYMI, All In tackled the social pathology of white culture years ago:

Oh, and in case you didn't know it, that was satire. If you need it explained, this may help.

Kindergarteners don't know about bigotry until some bigot shows them

by digby

This is the kind of inappropriate political statement that can turn people against you:
An Iowa kindergarten concert was rudely interrupted after an audience member suddenly stood up and started chanting: "USA, English only."

The Perry Elementary School children were being introduced to the crowd at the Perry Performing Arts Center on Thursday, and the remarks were translated into Spanish, reported KCCI. That bilingual interpretation set off the verbal attack.

Dramatic cellphone footage showed the man chanting the phrase as he was escorted out of the venue in Perry, which has a large Latino population.

Children and proud relatives who'd been looking forward to watching the recital were left stunned by the shocking incident.

"Nothing — I've never heard anything like that and it just hurt me really bad," Sara Benedict, whose son was in the concert, told KCCI.
The video of the incident shows the appalled audience turning around and booing. I would guess that a few of them might even be people who share some political beliefs with this man. But bringing his xenophobic ideology to a kindergarten concert where little tiny kids are on stage singing together is ugly.   Any decent person can see it's wrong to degrade the pure and innocent fellowship of little children.


by digby

Sanders is in:

VPR News has learned from several sources that Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks.

Sanders' entry into the Democratic race ensures that Hillary Clinton will face a challenge to win the support of the liberal wing of the party.

Sanders' basic message will be that the middle class in America has been decimated in the past two decades while wealthy people and corporations have flourished.

This is excellent news. Sanders being in the race will give voice to many of the left wing concerns that might otherwise never come up or would be dismissed without airing by the media. And who knows, Berniemania could sweep the nation!

(Don't tell anyone but Sanders is a real live socialist. This is going to be fun if only to watch wingnut heads explode when he admits to it in public. It's beyond their comprehension --- they think socialism is some kind of totalitarian left wing ideology that will send them all to FEMA camps.)

Schumer & Reid Support Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate

by Gaius Publius

Ex-Republican (now "Democrat") Patrick Murphy is, like Alan Grayson, a member of the House from Florida. Murphy has indicated he wants to run for Marco Rubio's Senate seat, and Grayson is looking at it seriously as well. (You can support the Draft Grayson campaign here.)

So, who in this "Warren wing" moment is the DSCC's preferred candidate? Murphy. Even Harry Reid, who I was assured is "more progressive than anyone realizes," is on board with Murphy over Grayson. So much for Harry Reid; he's opposed to TPP (or so I hear), but he clearly has his limits — the other thing I've been told about Harry Reid.

Howie Klein:
Chuck Schumer ... is using every bit of pressure he can bring to bear to force Alan Grayson out of the race for the open Senate seat in Florida. Schumer and Reid-- and therefore the embarrassing Tester-- are firmly behind the candidate Wall Street is demanding, Patrick Murphy (who has played ball with them from his position on the House Financial Services Committee and who they say can help balance Elizabeth Warren's and Sherrod Brown's anti-bankster sentiments).
Does Harry Reid think Elizabeth Warren's anti-banking sentiments need balancing? Apparently so.

More about Schumer and Murphy from the same piece:
But just as Schumer was wrong when he recruited Morrison in 2006, he's even more wrong for having recruited Murphy today. Murphy is an entirely unaccomplished lightweight who was a Republican for his entire life and gave maximum contributions to Charlie Crist (when he was still a Republican) and to Mitt Romney. Worse, Murphy has publicly talked about compromising away the benefits of seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare. Schumer doesn't want to be Minority Leader; he wants to be Majority Leader. Recruiting someone who goes on CNN and talks about cutting Social Security-- in Florida-- isn't likely to advance that goal. 
What does Schumer have against Alan Grayson? Much, apparently:
Schumer has been running around like a chicken without a head trying to get prominent Democrats to get Grayson to back off. He's even claimed he can get Elizabeth Warren to call Grayson and urge him to not run, despite the fact that Murphy has opposed every one of her initiatives to rein in Wall Street. We'll let you know if that happens... meanwhile, you can signal Grayson you're not in the Schumer camp-- right here.
Schumer must be very eager to give away the rest of the store to Wall Street, something Grayson would join Warren and Brown in opposing. There's more in Klein's piece, including a stunning bit of irony (or hypocrisy) regarding new DSCC Chair Jon Tester's role in this. For more on the despicable Patrick Murphy, start here.

It's clearly important to put people like Alan Grayson into the Senate. I also think it's necessary to remove people like Chuck Schumer (and once-"progressive" Jon Tester) from ever holding office again as a Democrat.

But one mission at a time. Want to tell Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Jon Tester to pound privatizing neo-liberal sand? Support Alan Grayson for the U.S. Senate. That will send a message.


"The law has always been used against them"

by digby

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.Ta-Nehisi Coates-2015

I wrote about Baltimore this morning for Salon. I discussed President Obama's words yesterday, and then take a deeper look:

For a historical contrast, look to Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s 1978 biography of Robert F. Kennedy, in which Schlesinger recalls a dispute between Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower, first reported in the New York Post in 1965, over riots that had broken out in Los Angeles.

Schlesinger writes:

In August 1965 violence broke out in Watts, the black ghetto in Los Angeles. Beating, looting, burning, sniping, bombing, went on for six days, leaving 34 people dead, more than 1,000 injured. The Watts riot, said Dwight D. Eisenhower sternly, “did not occur in a vacuum. I believe the U.S. as a whole has been becoming atmosphered, you might say, in a policy of lawlessness.” The former President’s solution was “greater respect for the law.” Kennedy lashed back. “There is no point in telling Negroes to obey the law,” he said. “To many Negroes the law is the enemy. In Harlem, In Bedford-Stuyvesant it has almost always been used against them.”

Rick Perlstein mentioned that RFK quote in this fine piece in In These Times last September, in which he did a historical survey of the urban upheaval “from Watts to Ferguson.” Leaving aside for a moment the antiquated and cringeworthy language, it’s nonetheless hard to imagine a Democratic leader, much less a senator and former attorney general, making such a pointed statement about injustice to black Americans today. Such clear observations are left for writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, while liberal politicians twist themselves into pretzels trying to be supportive of police while still finding a way to explain such eruptions of anger from African-Americans.

Lest anyone think that such comments by RFK 50 years ago were the commonly held views of the liberal mainstream, note this editorial about the Watts riots from Life magazine, which could sadly almost pass for something written yesterday:

To many, the Los Angeles violence seems strangely timed, so soon after the great Negro achievement of the voting bill. But it is the nature of revolutions (and Negro equality is a revolution) to discover new demands after the the first ones are achieved. The remaining grievances of the Negro are social and personal and will be satisfied only by personal conquest, in black and white individuals and neighborhoods, of suspicion, fear and hate. White people do not bridge this gap by treating Negroes as an undifferentiated and underprivileged mass, nor yet by indulging them like children out of a misplaced sense of inherited guilt.

It was an irresponsible Negro who said to a rally that led to 22 arrests in Hartford last week, “Every cop is your enemy whether he’s black or white.” But it is a former US Attorney General who allowed his sympathy with slum-dwellers problems to lead him to say something almost as mischievous.”There is no point in telling Negroes to obey the law. To many Negroes, the law is the enemy,” said Senator Robert F. Kennedy…

Then, as now, everyone seemed to miss the point RFK was making. Of course poverty and alienation and all the rest are problems that must be addressed. But the Watts riots started with an altercation at a traffic stop in a community that had been brutalized for decades by the police. As Perlstein pointed out in his In These Times piece:

Los Angeles cops were led by William H. Parker, who coined the phrase “thin blue line”—as in, the cops were a thin blue line between chaos and civilization. Parker liked to recruit white officers from the Mississippi Delta. Parker explained the origin of the Watts riots to an investigating commission: “One person threw a rock and then, like monkeys in a zoo, others started throwing rocks.” His patrolmen, meanwhile, would begin tours of the ghetto with a ritual cry taken from a cigarette commercial, “LSMFT”—“Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.” Only, for them, the letters stood for “Let’s Shoot a Motherfucker Tonight.”

Perlstein gives a number of examples showing that this blatant racist violence was characteristic of many big-city police departments across the nation. This was not about African-American poverty or lack of education. It was about the police.

More at the link.


Dignity matters

Dignity played a prominent part in the Obergefell v. Hodges oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The funny thing about dignity is who deserves it depends on who is making the argument.

To borrow climate change deniers' popular formulation, I'm not a scientist lawyer, but I'd be embarrassed to be making the arguments Michigan's former solicitor general presented against marriage equality before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. John J. Bursch, representing Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, argued right out of the gate that recognizing same-sex marriage will harm the state's interest in regulating procreation.

Regulation and Big Gummint are blasphemies in red states such as Kentucky and Tennessee. Arguing on their behalf for preserving states' interest in regulating procreation might have been enough to call the rest of Bursch's presentation on account of Godwin's Law or him being a communist. But no one blinked. Bursch persisted:

The first sign of trouble for the states came in a dog that did not bark: Kennedy, whose respect for federalism is oceanic, seemed uninterested in the question of a state’s sovereign prerogative to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of marriage. But the tide of argument truly seemed to turn when Bursch tried to give shape to the phantom menace posed by same-sex marriage; the only real danger he could point to was that fewer straight couples would marry or stay married, which would lead to more children not being raised by their biological parents. “The out-of-wedlock birth rate in this country has gone from 10 percent to 40 percent from 1970 to today,” he said.

And here the trouble began. “Under your view, it would be difficult for same-sex couples to adopt some of these children,” Kennedy said. “I think the argument cuts quite against you.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy was not done. As Dahlia Lithwick notes with a grin, Kennedy is "the dignity-whisperer":

So there is a rather extraordinary moment Tuesday morning, as the Supreme Court hears historic arguments in the marriage equality cases grouped under Obergefell v. Hodges, when Kennedy finds himself in an argument with John Bursch, Michigan’s special assistant attorney general, about whether marriage is a dignity-conferring enterprise, or not. Bursh, defending his state’s ban on same-sex marriage, is explaining that the purpose of marriage is not to confer dignity but to keep parents bonded to their biological children.

Justice Kennedy—who opened argument Tuesday morning with the observation that this whole case is about an institution whose definition has gone unchanged for millennia—looks rather shocked. The author of the majority decision outlawing sodomy bans in Lawrence v. Texas (“Adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons”) and the decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor (“It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage”) did not want to hear this. Indeed, it seems like Kennedy wanted it to be perfectly clear that he is the guy who gets to say that if marriage is nothing else, it is a dignity-stamper.

"You know, dignity may have grown up around marriage as a cultural thing," Bursch argued, "but the State has no interest in bestowing or taking away dignity from anyone ..." Which brings me back to why "dignity" jumped out at me.

Bursch's view of dignity — Kentucky's, Michigan's, Ohio's, and Tennessee's view — contrasts sharply with marriage equality opponent Rep. Paul Ryan's view. The Wisconsin Republican believes, "Promoting the natural rights and the inherent dignity of the individual must be the central focus of all government policy." That would seem to align Ryan with Kennedy. Except for Ryan it depends on which natural rights and whose inherent dignity we're talking about. As Ryan explained in a Reagan-esque, four-Pinocchios anecdote delivered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in March, feeding poor schoolchildren lunch is counterproductive:

"What the left is offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul...People don't just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity..."

Yet that's just what the conservative hero Ryan and too many states refuse to LGBT couples. We'll have to wait until June to see how many other Supreme Court justices share Kennedy's interest in dignity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's not the neighborhood dysfunction it's the police dysfunction

by digby

Juan Williams says we're asking police to do thing they're not trained to do:

WILLIAMS: What you have here is a situation where, I think, you have poor people, who feel that they have a grievance -- a difficult situation across our country in terms of how police deal with the dysfunction that is in this neighborhood, but deal with it in every community in America. We are asking our police to go in and to deal with people who are extremely violent, disorganized, families in chaos, and say to the police, you're our front lines. And when the police fail in handling the situation, then we say, it's a matter of police brutality. I think it's a matter of society, often times, asking police to do things they're not trained to do.

They're not trained to take prisoners to jail? Because that's what the Freddie Gray case is about.

Freddie Gray was taken into custody after a chase but without a fight. And while in custody his spine was evidently somehow severed in the back of a police van. What in the world does any of that have to do with violence and chaos in the neighborhood? Were the police traumatized by their daily grind and couldn't handle the stress so they took him on a wild ride to blow off steam and severed his spine? If so, is that supposed to be ok? Because violence and chaos?

Police are professionals who are given tremendous power over individuals. I know they have a hard job. That's why they get very generous pensions, benefits and medical care. (And also why they are so often given the benefit of the doubt before a jury.) But police brutality cannot be a "perk" or a compensation for the stress of their tough job, it just can't. Neither can it be a reasonable explanation for beating, tasering and killing unarmed suspects. That's turning the law and the constitution on its head.


Speaking for the id

by digby

I know, I know. Shooting fish in a barrel. But I couldn't bear to post any of the other truly hideous tweets I've read today...

Let's just say I haven't seen the right this excited and frankly, elated, in a long time.

On the other hand, there's this, via Mother Jones:

Two days ago, when Orioles fans were briefly locked in Camden Yards during protests outside the stadium, sports broadcaster Brett Hollander decried the demonstrations as counterproductive and an inconvenience for fans. Team executive John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, responded with a flurry of tweets, defending the people's actions as a reaction to long-term economic hardship and dwindling protections of civil liberties.

Deadspin transcribed Angelos' tweetstorm (emphasis added):

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.


QOTD: The Shrill One

by digby

Krugman say:

[I]n a polarized political environment, policy debates always involve more than just the specific issue on the table. They are also clashes of world views. Predictions of debt disaster, a debased dollar, and Obama death spirals reflect the same ideology, and the utter failure of these predictions should inspire major doubts about that ideology.

And there’s also a moral issue involved. Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.

He's referring here to the conservatives never ever being accountable for what they say. And there's little doubt he'd make the same complaint about the centrist VSPs as well.

Making voting opt-out instead of opt-in

by digb

California certainly has not been immune to the kind of racial disparities and frustration we see today in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. I'm sure it could happen here in LA again very easily. So, I'm not touting my state as being superior simply because it's in Democratic hands. So is Maryland, after all.

But nonetheless, California is trying a few new things to increase participation in the system which seems like a step in the right direction:
A proposal to automatically register Californians to vote when they get a driver’s license was approved Monday by a state Assembly panel after Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted there are about 6.7 million state residents who are eligible but not registered.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) modeled her bill on a new law in Oregon and said it is needed after the 42% record-low turnout in the November statewide election.

“These concerning new lows are unacceptable,” Gonzalez told the Assembly Transportation Committee. “We cannot allow this trends to continue."

Padilla said that 40,000 people went to his agency’s website for information on registering to vote after the deadline for signing up in the last election. Under the new law, people who get a driver’s license will be notified they have 21 days to object or they will be registered to vote if eligible.

Obviously, this doesn't help people who don't drive. But most people drive in California so hopefully it will sweep up busy some new voters who always "mean to register" but never quite get to it.

The Republicans are against it, of course.


Marriage equality and "uncharted waters"

by digby

I wrote about the marriage equality case being argued before the Supreme Court today for Salon:
Today’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court marriage equality case may or may not be exciting, but the importance of the outcome cannot be overstated. We are witnessing before us one of the greatest expansions of civil rights in decades, and if the high court decides to be part of the future instead of the past, this advance will codify into law the basic human right of marriage for gays and lesbians throughout America. This country has come a long way very quickly and it’s inspiring to see it happen.

There is no guarantee, of course. There is still a cultural divide on the issue, as we saw in the recent “religious liberty” controversy in Indiana. Like the nation at large, the Court is divided too. It’s assumed that the four more liberal judges will vote in favor. If any of the the uber-conservative triumvirate of Scalia, Alito and Thomas were to vote with them, it would be a judicial curveball of historic proportions. (Translation: Don’t count on it.) This leaves Chief Justice John Roberts who has shown some propensity for consensus building, and could vote with the liberals; as well as, of course, Anthony Kennedy, the justice known mostly for majority-straddling (and right-leaning) position on the bench.

As Ian Millhiser wrote at Think Progress, Kennedy’s record on gay rights cases is something else:
Nearly every gay rights victory handed down by the Supreme Court has Justice Anthony Kennedy’s name on it. Kennedy authored the very first Supreme Court decision recognizing that anti-gay laws can violate the Constitution’s promise of equality, and he followed that up with decisions targeting sex bans and ending marriage discrimination by the federal government. In the likely event that the Court declares marriage discrimination unconstitutional throughout the nation this June, expect to find Justice Kennedy’s name on that decision as well.

The fact that the same justice repeatedly writes in the same issue area can be a sign that they find that area particularly interesting, but it is also true that closely divided cases are frequently assigned to the most on-the-fence member of the Court — on the theory that no one can tailor an opinion to their own idiosyncratic views better than themselves. Kennedy’s record supports the latter interpretation, as he’s fretted in the past about the “uncharted waters” facing the Court if it hands down a decision bringing marriage equality to the entire nation. Since then, however, the Court has allowed lower court decisions supporting marriage equality to take effect — a strong sign that Kennedy has made up his mind in favor of equality.

Nevertheless, Kennedy remains the justice to watch for the best sign of how the Court will shape its opinion.
And Kennedy may or may not take the necessary steps to insure that LGBT citizens are protected with this decision. There's still work to be done even if the court affirms marriage equality as a constitutional right.
It is to be fervently hoped that the Supreme Court affirms the right of gay people to marry. It will be a happy day indeed. But it’s a mistake to be complacent about such things. As Millhiser said in his piece, there are many issues of discrimination against LGBT people still at stake. And even when the Supreme Court hands down a momentous decision acknowledging a basic human right, there’s no guarantee that it won’t continue to be litigated by the social conservatives for a long time to come. Just ask reproductive rights activists.

Warren to Obama: Put Up or Shut Up on TPP

by Gaius Publius

The latest TPP news — your Open Rebellion Caucus is on the job, featuring Dem-on-Dem violence on trade. The press is enjoying this, of course, and those opposed to TPP appreciate that spotlight. Thanks are due also to President Obama for being so obvious about what he wants, and for not downplaying Sen. Warren's fierce objections to this next-NAFTA job-killing "trade" deal.

The setup — President Obama has been unusually aggressive with members of his own party on trade and his eagerly sought TPP deal. My ongoing coverage of TPP is here; click if you'd like some background.

Now the latest, per Zach Carter at Huffington Post (my emphasis):
Elizabeth Warren Tells Obama To Put Up Or Shut Up On Trade

Progressive Democrats have been hoping to see a showdown between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton for years. Instead, they're getting a public feud between the senator from Massachusetts and President Barack Obama.

Obama accused Warren and congressional Democrats on Friday of being "dishonest" and spreading "misinformation" about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade pact the administration is negotiating among 12 nations. The overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress oppose TPP, while Republican leaders support it.

It was an unusually aggressive attack for the president -- accusing members of his own party not of having misplaced priorities, but of actively working to deceive the public. Obama is rarely so severe even with his Republican opponents. Obama said that the Democratic criticism that "gets on [his] nerves the most" is the notion that his TPP pact is "secret," and went on to insist that the terms of TPP will help American workers.
As many have recently discovered, perhaps to their surprise, when Obama really wants something, he really tries to get it. (Does this give the lie to progressive excuses, that the president wants more progressive policies than he settles for, but is too timid to negotiate for them? I'll let you decide.)

The current battle is between President Obama and two Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, the once-again leaders of "open rebellion" in the Senate — in-your-face rejection of pro-wealth policies pushed by Democratic Party leaders. Warren and Brown's position? Mr. Obama, you say the TPP deal isn't a "secret." Put up or shut up — show the public the treaty before we vote on Fast Track. Or, as Huffington Post put it:
On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a "fast track" bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it.

"Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules," Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post. ...

"Your Administration has deemed the draft text of the agreement classified and kept it hidden from public view, thereby making it a secret deal," the letter reads. "It is currently illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to review the text of this agreement. And while you noted that Members of Congress may 'walk over ... and read the text of the agreement' -- as we have done -- you neglected to mention that we are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that text in public."
Obama has been aggressive in defending this billionaires' dream, perhaps because of this:

Obama’s Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 1). Like Star Fleet Academy, but with corporate funding. (Discussed here.)

Regardless, the next move is his. If past is prologue, it will be coming soon. His robotic OFA forces (that's not an unfair characterization on this issue, unfortunately) are out in number, throwing up Obama's disingenuous defense of this treaty in many progressive forums. (For a prime instance, see comment threads like this at Daily Kos. There are many such examples of OFA pushback in progressive discussion spaces.)

A question for OFA defenders of TPP: You've shown your loyalty — it's to Obama and his future earnings, not your own as progressives in the "Warren wing" of the Democratic Party. What will you do when Obama is off living his future, and you're left behind to seek your own among the progressives you're now disingenuously attacking? Do you think they'll remember you the way Ro Khanna is remembered, for example?

Did "progressive" ex-OFA media shop 270 Strategies help
Ro Khanna craft this message? (
Click to enlarge; source)

Dem-on-Dem Violence: What Will Happen in the Senate?

Fast Track is coming to the Senate floor. Regardless of what Obama does, Democratic senators are going to have to show, once again, who they stand for — the richest of the rich, or American workers, small business, and, yes, national sovereignty. We've seen a lot of these opportunities for the Democratic Party to define itself. Fast Track is yet another.

Here are your corporate Democrats so far, based on their pro–Fast Track votes in the Senate Finance Committee:
  • Ron Wyden — Ranking Member and lead perp
  • Michael Bennet — Former head of DSCC
  • Maria Cantwell
  • Ben Cardin
  • Tom Carper
  • Bill Nelson
  • Mark Warner
The current Senate holds 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 2 Independents (Sanders and King, the latter of whom often votes "corporate"). One Republican, Richard Burr (N.C.), voted No on Fast Track in committee. Let's assume all remaining Republicans vote Yes, and Burr holds firm as a No. That makes 53 Republicans plus seven Democrats voting Yes — so, 60 votes for Fast Track on the floor. Enough to break a filibuster, with zero margin for error or defection.

Your questions of the remaining Democrats:
  1. Who will join the filibuster and vote No on cloture, when the TV lights are off?
  2. Who will vote No on the floor vote, when the TV lights are on?
  3. Who will vote both ways — Yes to help end the filibuster, but No in a public-but-losing attempt to prevent the inevitable passage?
The real vote will be on cloture, a vote to end the Warren- and Brown-led filibuster. Any Democratic senator who votes to end the filibuster (where the threshold is 60 votes), yet votes No on the bill (where the threshold is 51 votes) ... is not your progressive friend. A Yes to end the filibuster means a No on the floor vote is "for show." Watch the voting, then make a list.

Watch also for Democrats voting with Republicans even when their votes aren't needed to pass Fast Track. Those could be early applications for corporate funding in their own next election.

After this, the circus moves to the House, where the Paul Ryan–led Ways and Means Committee takes up the Fast Track bill. In the House, many Republicans are opposed. Will it pass? Stay tuned.

What About Wyden?

In my humble estimation, Wyden needs to be dealt with, whether TPP ultimately passes or not. Some votes are regrettable but forgivable, some are very regrettable but forgivable, and some, like this one, should never be forgiven. Similar to NAFTA, TPP will devastate American workers (and line CEO silk pockets) for the next 20 years, after your children have children.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democratic perp on TPP; a face worth remembering in 2016

Wyden's seat is up in 2016. Many progressives in Oregon will not vote for Wyden, even in the general election. Others are actively looking to replace him in the primary. Care to tell Ron Wyden which side of either of those fences you're on? Here where to send a message:

Senator Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717

Be polite, but be honest. And if you're from Oregon, tell him you vote.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)




"Like being in a bad marriage"

by Tom Sullivan

Something was bound to give. It's not as if Baltimore didn't have a reputation for brutal policing, as Digby noted last night. The Baltimore Sun investigation, "Undue Force," was from just last fall. As Tavis Smiley asked Bill O'Reilly two weeks ago in the wake of recent deaths of black men at the hands of police, "How many isolated incidents equal a pattern?" After Freddie Gray died from mysterious injuries sustained under police custody in Baltimore days later, his funeral yesterday finally set fire to fuel that was tinder-dry:

After almost two weeks of tension over the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore descended into chaos Monday.

Roaming gangs of mostly young men clashed with police in the streets, seriously injuring officers; tore open businesses; and looted their stocks. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard, and state police requested as many as 5,000 reinforcements from neighboring states.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Tuesday.

Rawlings-Blake called the rioting and destruction "idiotic."

"This isn't a white-black issue," Gray family attorney William Murphy told a crowd last night. "This is an issue of how do we treat each other as human beings." He set the rioting against the backdrop of community oppression from the days of slavery to Sundown towns to the Civil Rights era to a war on drugs that left America with more of its citizens imprisoned than any other country in the world. Murphy concluded:

"Well, we've spoken tonight. We've spoken with our feet, with our words, and most of all, with our hearts. We live here. We love it here. It's not perfect. It's like being in a bad marriage. But we're not interested in a divorce. We're willing to go into counseling with anybody that wants to make it right. But we love this city, and we're here to work as hard as we can and as long as we can until this problem is solved."

In predictable fashion, the usual media suspects will focus on the looters, on the rocks and bottles, and ignore what sent angry citizens into the streets across the country — in Ferguson, in New York, in North Charleston, and now in Baltimore.

Less predictably, as protests broke out over the weekend, Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos, son of team owner Peter Angelos, called for due process to be completed before judging the police involved. But he set the protests in a broader context:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

In some more-affluent, more-privileged communities, the attitude seems to be "let them eat Freedom." But for those paying closer attention, it's beginning to feel like 1968 again: Baltimore, Washington, Chicago. That's not a good feeling.

UPDATE:: Don't miss Ta-Nehisi Coates' commentary on the situation in Baltimore.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baltimore troubles we ignored

by digby

The local press did their job. Nobody cared apparently:

The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects. One hidden cost: The perception that officers are violent can poison the relationship between residents and police...

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say. They also divert money in the city budget — the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police.

And then Freddie Gray...


It ain't Vegas

by digby

I guess you can't call them a No-tell Motel:

City police have arrested four people staying at the Motel 6 on Jefferson Boulevard as a result of the hotel chain's agreement to provide police with a daily guest list, Mayor Scott Avedisian said Tuesday.

The names of Motel 6 guests, which police then check for outstanding warrants, is one of five steps Motel 6 corporate managers agreed to take in response to a string of high-profile incidents and concerns the establishment was becoming a haven for passing criminals.

The other measures listed in an agreement Motel 6 executives signed Tuesday include raising the minimum age to rent a room from 18 years old to 21, hiring a police detail every night, sharing their national "do not rent list" with police and conducting regular training, including on how to spot human trafficking.

"We know everyone who is staying in the hotel tonight," Avedisian said in a phone interview after a meeting with Motel 6 executives that also included Warwick police chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney and Seekonk, Mass., Town Administrator Shawn E. Cadime.

As of now, guests who check-in at Warwick’s Motel 6 will not be told their names are on a list that goes to the police station every night.

This sort of thing happens under the "third party doctrine" which basically says that if you give your information to a motel (or cell phone provider) they pretty much own it and can give it to authorities without your permission or a warrant. But hey, if you don't want to have your information handed over to the police authorities don't stay in hotels or use a cell phone. No biggie.


Accountability free politics

by digby

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have written an epic piece for the American Prospect in which they look at the question of why Republicans don't pay for for their extremism. One little piece of it:
Whatever the form of participation—voting, working for candidates, contributing to campaigns—the GOP base does more of it than any other group. At the same time, the ideological distance between the party’s most active voters and the rest of the party’s electorate is greater on the GOP side than the Democratic side. Democratic activists are moderate as well as liberal (and occasionally even conservative). Republican activists are much more consistently conservative, even compared with other elements of the GOP electoral coalition.

Nonetheless, the imbalance in prevalence and intensity between self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives hasn’t changed much in 35 years—even as the role of the Republican base in American politics has changed dramatically. Something has happened that has given that base a greater weight and a greater focus on “Washington” as the central threat to American society.

Here, we need to turn our attention from the GOP’s most committed voters to the organized forces that have jet-propelled the GOP’s rightward trip. Even the most informed and active voters take their cues from organizations and elite figures they trust. (Indeed, there’s strong evidence that such voters are most likely to process information through an ideological lens.) The far right has built precisely the kind of organizations needed to turn diffuse and generalized support into focused activity on behalf of increasingly extreme candidates.

Those organized forces have two key elements: polarizing right-wing media and efforts by business and the very wealthy to backstop and bankroll GOP politics. Pundits like to point to surface similarities between partisan journalists on the left and right, but the differences in scale and organization are profound. The conservative side is massive; describing its counterpart on the left as modest would be an act of true generosity.

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At the heart of the conservative outrage industry, of course, is Fox News. Fox’s role as an ideological platform is unparalleled in modern American history. Its leading hosts reach audiences that dwarf their competitors’. The network plays a dominant role for its audience that is unique. And Fox is also distinguished by extraordinarily tight connections to the Republican Party—linkages, again, that have no parallel among Democrats.

What’s most remarkable is that Fox is just the beginning. The other citadel of the conservative media empire is talk radio, and if cable news looks like a lopsided teeter-totter, talk radio is that teeter-totter with a 16-ton weight attached to the right-hand side. Conservative on-air minutes outnumber liberal ones by a ratio of at least 10 to 1, and all of the major nationally syndicated shows are conservative. Just the top three have a combined weekly audience of more than 30 million. Moreover, the number of talk radio stations has tripled in the last 15 years.

The impact of all this is difficult to calculate. After all, Republicans were moving right even before Fox came on the scene, and much of Fox’s audience consists of people who already have strong political views. Even so, a recent, innovative study by scholars at Emory and Stanford finds that Fox News exposure added 1.6 points to George W. Bush’s vote in the 2000 election—more than enough to cost Al Gore the presidency. And this excludes the impact of talk radio and Fox’s further expansion since 2000. Arguably, however, the bigger impact of conservative media is to increase and focus intensity within the Republican base, sending compelling messages that build audience trust while insulating that audience from contrary information.

Flanking conservative media is a vastly expanded political infrastructure advancing a right-wing economic agenda and rewarding politicians who maintain fealty to the cause. Some analysts have stressed divisions between Establishment and Tea Party wings. But while differing over tactics and a handful of issues, the two large networks dominating GOP finances—the Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove–led network, on the one hand, and the Koch brothers network, on the other—overlap and agree far more than they conflict. These networks have coordinated their efforts in recent general elections and now provide organizational and financial support on a scale that makes them virtual political parties in their own right. The Koch network alone has announced plans to raise nearly $1 billion for the 2016 elections.

In short, the Republican base generates an exceptionally strong gravitational pull, and that pull takes politicians much farther from the electoral center than do the comparatively weak forces on the left of the Democratic Party.

This is what drives me nuts about the mainstream media. They follow this right wing infrastructure as if its legitimate and in the process legitimize it. And this:

[T]he GOP has become, in the apt words of Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, “an insurgent outlier in American politics”—a party willing to tear down governance to gain larger majorities in government.

Appropriately for a party increasingly geared not to governing but to making governance impossible, the two leaders of this transformation were not in the White House but in Congress: Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell. Gingrich liked to describe himself as a “transformative figure”—and he was. His political genius was to sense that if voter anxieties and anger could be directed at government and the majority party that ostensibly ran it, power would come. Achieving this goal required simultaneously ratcheting up dysfunction and disgust while more sharply distinguishing the GOP as the anti-government party.

Gingrich and his allies adopted a posture of pure confrontation. The goal was to drag the Democrats into the mud, and if some mud got on the Republicans, well, they were the minority and, besides, they were not the party of Washington. In 1988, in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, Gingrich described a “civil war” with liberals that had to be fought “with a scale and a duration and a savagery that is only true of civil wars.” He meant it.

Fatefully, Gingrich also went to war with moderate Republicans. (His faction liked to joke that only two groups were against them: Democrats and Republicans.) He led a rebellion against the first Bush administration’s efforts to reach across the aisle, hobbling the president’s 1992 re-election campaign before it had even started. Once the elder Bush was out of the White House, it became even easier to pursue a strategy of uncompromising opposition and scandal-mongering. Obstruction and vituperation became a twofer. With a Democratic president, the Republican assault not only weakened an opponent but promoted the sentiment that politics and governance were distasteful. Association with “Washington” became increasingly toxic, and the Democrats were the party of Washington.

The second phase of Republicans’ anti-Washington strategy was engineered primarily by Mitch McConnell. Personally devoid of mass appeal, McConnell nonetheless has a rare understanding of the American voter. Early on in his leadership, he recognized that American political institutions create a unique challenge for voters. The complexity and opacity of the process—in which each policy initiative faces a grueling journey through multiple institutions that can easily turn into a death march—make it difficult to know how to attribute responsibility. Even reasonably attentive voters face a bewildering task of sorting out blame and credit.

McConnell fully embraced this opportunity after 2008. He organized the GOP caucus in a parliamentary fashion and worked to prevent individual party members from accepting compromise: “If [Obama] was for it,” “moderate” Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” Without Republican willingness to “play,” the imprimatur of bipartisanship was unavailable. Republicans could make the Democrats’ policy initiatives look partisan to voters and produce a pattern of gridlock and dysfunction that soured voters on government—and the party of government. American institutions, McConnell knew, gave Republicans a lot of capacity to impede governance without a lot of accountability.

On occasions, Republicans have overplayed their hand, as they did with the government shutdowns of 1995, the impeachment of Clinton in 1998, and the debt-ceiling debacle of 2011. But the GOP has escaped blame for the general decline of effective government. What voters get is a sense that the system is a mess and Washington can do little about pressing problems. If voters place blame anywhere, it is as likely as not to fall on the pro- rather than the anti-government party, and on the president, who is viewed as the country’s leader even if he has no capacity to pass laws or effectively promote bipartisanship when the GOP refuses to reciprocate.

Thus Judis is right to note that many moderately inclined Americans are now open to an anti-government message, fueled by their completely understandable distaste for contemporary Washington. This is not, however, because these voters have become more conservative. It reflects the GOP’s success in simultaneously activating and exploiting voter disgust. The deeper message of 2014 is that a radical GOP first drove government into the ditch, generating historically low approval ratings for Congress, and then reaped the benefits.

In short, Republicans have found a serious flaw in the code of American democracy. What they have learned is that our distinctive political system—abetted by often-feckless news media—gives an extreme anti-government party with a willingness to cripple governance an enormous edge. Republicans have increasingly united two potent forms of anti-statism: ideological and tactical. And they have found that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

And yes, too many Democrats play along or are too weak to confront this dynamic. The Big Money Boyz benefit and they pass on many of those benefits to political elites. But this is a strategy that comes from the right and it is enabled and advanced by the mainstream media which seems to be completely clueless.

There's a lot more at the link. I encourage you to read the whole thing. I'll be revisiting it for sure.