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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The low point

by digby

That's from a great Mother Jones "year-end" article about the worst moments of cable news in 2015.

Here's another one:

When protests erupted in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died from a spinal cord injury while in police custody, CNN chose to ignore the demonstrations in favor of covering every second of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

If you were seeking coverage of the rallies, contributor Errol Louis suggested viewers could "find a live feed" somewhere else.

I would add that the overwrought coverage of the Pope's visit was a bit much too. The first 37 hours of footage of the tarmac waiting for the plane to land or take off was very exciting, I'll admit. But after that it got a little bit dull. And for those who aren't Catholic, which is the majority of Americans, it might have been slight overkill on the religion coverage.

Happy New Year everyone!

A broken bottle of snake oil

by digby

This is kind of sad
because all those millions in donations probably came from conservative evangelicals and probably some African Americans who had grown up with him as a hero:

Two top aides to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson resigned from the campaign and predicted a wave of departures to come Thursday, casting the troubled campaign into uncertainty with just a month until the Iowa caucuses.

Campaign manager Barry Bennett and communications director Doug Watts resigned over conflict with Armstrong Williams, a Carson adviser the campaign has said has no official role, according to the Des Moines Register. In a statement provided to NBC News, Watts said the resignations are effective immediately.
Days before Christmas, Armstrong and Williams invited The Washington Post and Associated Press for a sit-down at the candidate's Maryland home about upcoming staffing changes to the campaign – without Bennett's knowledge, the Post reported.

"I spent the holidays hearing every day that I had lost my job,” Bennett told the Post in an interview Thursday. “My relationship with Carson was always good and friendly but being campaign manager in that kind of situation, where outside advisers are in essence driving the campaign and setting up interviews and raising questions about everything, it’s not the right atmosphere.”
Although dogged by a dip in recent polls, Carson's campaign had just announced it raised $23 million in donations during the fourth quarter of 2015, outpacing Sen Ted Cruz's (R-TX) reported $20 million haul. In a statement, Carson said of the departures: "it is necessary to invigorate my with a strategy that more aggressively shares my vision."

It's all small donations from average Americans. You have to wonder how many of them will ever want to donate again. This kind of thing is disastrous for the small-donor funding base.

Happy New Year everyone!


They caught a sad delusional existential threat

by digby

This guy is a perfect example of the "existential threat" that has the media and Republicans wetting their pants:

Federal officials in Rochester, New York, have arrested and charged a local man who was allegedly plotting a New Year's Eve machete attack on diners at a local restaurant in the name of ISIS.

Emanuel Lutchman, 25, an ex-con Muslim convert with mental issues, was charged with attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group, federal prosecutors said.

The FBI says he had pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wanted to leave to U.S. to live in the caliphate, and was in contact with a reputed ISIS member in Syria — who urged him to kill non-Muslims on the holiday.

"New years [sic] is here soon. Do operations and kill some kuffar," the overseas contact told him, the court papers allege.

Lutchman was nabbed with the help of confidential informants who received payment from the FBI. One of them paid for masks, zip-ties, knives, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves that were allegedly supposed to be used in the attack, the court documents show.

I feel much safer now. And yes, it's good news that they were able to stop him before he actually did something although it's unclear if he actually had any capability.

I do still have a few concerns about the millions of other mentally ill people and right wing yahoos who are armed to the teeth and might decide to take out a crowd of people for reasons entirely unrelated to some Muslim terrorist delusion, but there's clearly nothing we can do about that because freedom, so never mind ...

Happy New Year everyone!

The Washington Post just dissed the single largest faction in the Democratic Party

by digby

I try not to write the "imagine if the other side did this" stuff too often but there are exceptions and this is one. Dave Weigel reported:

The Washington Post's longtime progressive columnist Harold Meyerson published his final weekly piece for the paper yesterday. Among the mourners: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"It's extremely unfortunate," said Sanders in a statement to the Post, which he later adapted into a tweet. "There are very few progressive voices out there in the corporate media. Harold is one of the best. Harold's insights into the decline of the middle class and wealth and income inequality will be sorely missed by readers of The Washington Post."

On the campaign trail, Sanders has wound critiques of the media into many of his speeches and Q&As. His supporters have echoed that, asking editors and programmers why the surprisingly robust support for a self-avowed democratic socialist has received a fraction of the coverage granted to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

Meyerson, whose column appeared in the Post for 13 years, took a pro-labor approach to politics that often mirrored that of Sanders. "I've still encountered just two avowed democratic socialists in my daily rounds through the nation's capital: Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders... and the guy I see in the mirror when I shave," wrote Meyerson in a 2009 piece.
So, here we are in a primary campaign just a month ahead of the first votes. Polls show that at least 30% of the Democratic Party are receptive to Bernie Sanders' democratic socialist message. Progressives are the single largest faction of the Democratic Party, roughly mirroring the Republican party's evangelical support.  And yet, the Washington Post is firing the one columnist on their staff who writes about the issues that are energizing these millions of mainstream Americans.

I eagerly await their explanation as to why the incoherent Richard Cohen maintains his completely useless column. Or Robert Samuelson or Charles Lane all of whom can be assumed to only be talking to each other recycling the same ideas over and over again inside the beltway bubble. Would they have the nerve to fire Michael Gerson, who writes about politics from a social conservative perspective, in the middle of an election campaign?  And what about Sally Quinn's sinecure as a fatuous religion columnist?  I'm doubtful.

Happy New Year everyone ...

Well look who's voting for Donald Trump

by digby

This New York Times article about Donald Trump's supporters has buried the lede so badly I have to wonder if they did it on purpose. And worse, the headline seems to indicate that Trump is really appealing to Democrats even though his support all comes from people who vote for Republicans. It's very confusing. But the article itself is absolutely fascinating.

First things first --- there's a map that shows that his support is concentrated in the Northeast, the Southeast and parts of the South. It runs across all age and economic demographics although his strongest support comes from older, white working class people.  Obviously, there are pockets of support elsewhere, but it's quite startling just how much of his support comes from these regions and how little of it comes from elsewhere:

So what does this mean, exactly? Well, here's that buried lede:

His geographic pattern of support is not just about demographics — educational attainment, for example. It is not necessarily the typical pattern for a populist, either. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of Ross Perot’s support in 1992, which was strongest in the West and New England, and weakest in the South and industrial North.

But it is still a familiar pattern. It is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests.

“This type of animus towards African-Americans is far more common than just about anyone would have guessed,” said Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the economist who first used Google search data to measure racial animus and argued that Barack Obama lost four percentage points in 2008 because of racial animus (a number I have argued is too high). He is now a contributing op-ed writer at The New York Times.

Racially charged searches take place everywhere — they are about as common as searches for “The Daily Show” or the Los Angeles Lakers. But they are more common in some parts of the country than others.

That Mr. Trump’s support is strong in similar areas does not prove that most or even many of his supporters are motivated by racial animus. But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are. The same areas where racial animus is highest in the Google data also tend to have older and less educated people, and Mr. Trump tends to fare better among those groups — though the effect of Google data remains just as strong after controlling for these other factors.

Why does anyone find this surprising?

I wrote about the fallacy that drives too many liberals to assume that Trump's appeal is a matter of Marxist false consciousness: they may think they hate Mexicans and Muslims and  Blacks but really they're just frustrated that they aren't doing better economically. (I have to assume these people have never met a rich bigot...) This is the Sanders pitch to Trump voters and  I don't think it will work any better than it ever has because it just isn't true. Unless Sanders says that he's ready to deport immigrants and support  abusive cops and surveil Muslims and worse, they're just not going to respond. Their world is not organized around economics, it's organized around bigotry toward other races and ethnicities (also, feminists and liberals...) Trump gets this and he's articulating this perfectly --- American will be "great again" once we put all these people in their places.

Happy New Year everyone!


It wasn't just Exxon — they all knew

by Gaius Publius

American Petroleum Institute spokesmodel Brooke Alexander (aka Lying Pantsuit Lady) saying the one true thing she knows — "America is number one in bringing planet-destroying carbon to the world." She thinks that's a good thing, which is false.

More excellent reporting by Neela Banerjee at the award-winning site InsideClimate News on the "Exxon Knew" story. Turns out, they all knew, all the big oil companies. Their industry group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), had been running a task force for years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at which scientists from all of the big oil companies shared their information.

(Side note: Of course that had to be true. Just like any industry, Big Oil is a very small club at the top. What matters to one of the companies, especially one as big as Exxon, matters to all of them. Their execs all know each other, go to each other's parties, ride each other's jets to St. Andrews and Val-d’Isère, share names of the best Confirmation and Bar Mitzvah caterers — so of course when one gets a bug in the behind about maybe CO2 is dangerous, they talk about that bug until they've decided what to do. This story was just waiting to be dug out. Kudos to Ms. Banerjee for doing the digging.)

InsideClimate News with the details (my emphasis):
Exxon's Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too

Members of an American Petroleum Institute task force on CO2 included scientists from nearly every major oil company, including Exxon, Texaco and Shell.

Beginning in 1979 the American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s most powerful lobbyist, together with the country's largest oil companies ran a task force to monitor and share climate research.

The American Petroleum Institute [API] together with the nation's largest oil companies ran a task force to monitor and share climate research between 1979 and 1983, indicating that the oil industry, not just Exxon alone, was aware of its possible impact on the world's climate far earlier than previously known.

The group's members included senior scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company, including Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio and Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil, the predecessors to Chevron, according to internal documents obtained by InsideClimate News and interviews with the task force's former director.

An InsideClimate News investigative series has shown that Exxon launched its own cutting-edge CO2 sampling program in 1978 in order to understand a phenomenon it suspected could harm its business. About a decade later, Exxon spearheaded campaigns to cast doubt on climate science and stall regulation of greenhouse gases. The previously unpublished papers about the climate task force indicate that API, the industry's most powerful lobbying group, followed a similar arc to Exxon's in confronting the threat of climate change.

Just as Exxon began tracking climate science in the late 1970s, when only small groups of scientists in academia and the government were engaged in the research, other oil companies did the same, the documents show. Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon's and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.

"It was a fact-finding task force," Nelson said in an interview. "We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions."

The group was initially called the CO2 and Climate Task Force, but changed its name to the Climate and Energy Task Force in 1980, Nelson said.

A background paper on CO2 informed API members in 1979 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily, and it predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt, according to a memo by an Exxon task force representative.

In addition, API task force members appeared open to the idea that the oil industry might have to shoulder some responsibility for reducing CO2 emissions by changing refining processes and developing fuels that emitted less carbon dioxide....
Those prediction weren't far off. The whole ICN report is worth reading, but this, however, is especially damning:
At [the urging of task force member Henry Shaw, Exxon's lead climate researcher in the late 1970s], the task force invited Professor John A. Laurmann of Stanford University to brief members about climate science at the February 1980 meeting in New York. Shaw and Laurmann had participated in the same panel at the AAAS climate conference in April 1979.

Like many scientists at the time, Laurmann openly discussed the uncertainties in the evolving climate research, such as the limited long-term sampling data and the difficulty of determining regional effects of climate change, according to a copy of his presentation attached to the meeting minutes [pdf].

Still, Laurmann told his audience several times that the evidence showed that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely "caused by anthropogenic release of CO2, mainly from fossil fuel burning."

In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with "major economic consequences." He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with "globally catastrophic effects."
Here are those conclusions in full, from the next-to-last page of the report linked in the quote:


Even if this estimate is grossly wrong it is still probable that



Page 10 of the pdf is damning as well. This behavior borders on the criminal, wouldn't you say? Or maybe crosses it, given the consequences we now face, by the distance of a hemisphere or so. About those consequences:

Climate translation:
"I know what you're thinking, Mr. & Ms. American. You're thinking, 'Do we have until 2020 to stop making Big Oil richer, or can we wait till 2040 to take them on?' Now, to tell you the truth, no one really knows. But being this is civilization-ending CO2 emissions we're talking about, which will blow your grandchildren right back to the stone age while you watch, you've got to ask yourselves a question — Do you feel lucky?"
Nope, still not feeling lucky. Perhaps it's time to act decisively and treat this like the emergency it is. After this gets going, life won't be fun for anyone, even the wealthy who caused it. After all, if Val-d’Isère is all melted by then, where will they ski?

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



Can you say, WTF?

by Tom Sullivan

Yesterday it just hit overload. After this week's non-indictment on the Tamir Rice killing (the "perfect storm of human error"), things went to Category 5 when several other tales of human error by police came across Twitter.


And this. The mother of a suicidal 18 year-old called North Port, FL police in July 2012 after his sister found a noose in the garage:

[Jared] Lemay, who was hiding inside a trash can at the time, has said he was depressed and contemplating killing himself. He was also wanted by police for violating his probation after being found guilty of unarmed burglary and “resisting an officer without violence.”

Before reaching the house, though, records show [North Port K-9 handler Keith] Bush sent a text message to another K-9 handler, Michael Dietz, saying, “COME GET UR [sic] BITE.” He sent a follow-up message a few minutes later saying, “IM GONNA TAKE UR BITE IF U DONT HURRY UP.”

After Dietz's dog dragged Lemay out of the trash can by his face, another officer texted, “CONGRATS” on the first "bite" by the Belgian Malinois named Cammo. Lemay wound up in the hospital with wounds to his face and back.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports this week:

Charles Mesloh, one of the nation’s leading researchers on police K-9 uses of force, called Bush’s messages to Dietz “horrifying” and said they should invite a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the North Port Police Department.

Andrea Flynn Mogensen, chair of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s legal panel, said the messages show what appears to be a premeditated attack on Lemay by police and an excessive use of force.

North Port Police Chief Kevin Vespia declined an interview with the Herald-Tribune about the paper’s findings, through city spokesman Josh Taylor. Taylor cited pending litigation involving the case.

“This is people deciding in advance deciding how they’re going to hurt someone,” Mesloh said:

In July, the Herald-Tribune reported that North Port’s K-9 handlers commanded their police dogs to attack more people from 2010 through 2014 than did the police K-9 handlers of neighboring municipalities Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Venice and Punta Gorda combined during the same period.

In total, 34 people were bitten by North Port’s police dogs over five years. Close to 37 percent of apprehensions made by the K-9 unit ended with a dog attack, which was higher than a 30 percent threshold that many American law enforcement agencies use to monitor their K-9 units’ performance for potential misconduct.

“My baby.”

But wait. There's more. Another dog attack from last January. Henderson, NV police responding to a report of a robbery stopped the wrong man. A witness said the suspect had gotten into a red SUV. But the car belonged to Arturo Arenas-Alvarez who worked at the Baja Fresh in the shopping center. He had parked just seconds earlier, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week:

The officers who were already there used the public address system to order anyone in the car to roll down the windows and stick his arms out.

Arenas-Alvarez didn't appear to understand, but stepped out of the car and — guided by one officer's rudimentary Spanish — walked toward the officers.

Immediately, police could see he was not their slim 6-foot-1-inch suspect, reported to be wearing a black and tan T-shirt.

"That's not him, dude. That's not a black man in a black shirt," one officer said to another. (Most of the officers are not identified in the videos.)

The officers politely reassured Arenas-Alvarez things were fine, with one telling him: "They thought that you were involved in a robbery. You don't look like the person, so it's OK now, OK?"

Except it wasn't. From across the parking lot, Sgt. James Mitchel released his police dog to search the car within 90 seconds of arriving. Arenas-Alvarez's infant daughter was still strapped into her car seat.

Although the dashcam video does not show what happened next, the audio is horrifying:

“My baby,” Arturo Arenas-Alvarez can be heard pleading with officers in broken English. “I’ve got my baby.”

An officer then yelled out, “There’s an infant in that car! There’s an infant in that car!”

But it was too late. By the time the cops realized that their immediate escalation to violence was unnecessary – the damage had been done.

Ayleen’s blood curdling and heart-wrenching screams of agony can be heard on the dashcam. The 4-year-old dog, Doerak, was ripping into the baby’s flesh. By the time the dog let go of the infant, her right arm had been mauled. She was left with nine puncture wounds and abrasions.

Oops, you know? It could have been worse, Mitchell tells another officer, "The last forearm, the guy didn't have anything left but bone." Yeah, that's appropriate. What was that suspect wanted for?

Brought to you by the Number 5

Excessive use of and rapid escalation to violence by police seems to be a theme lately. People we hire, train, and pay to maintain order are out of order. And not just out on the street either. In their own homes. David Waldman (@KagroX) tweeted yesterday (and provided links, thanks):

North Carolina: Wife of Winston-Salem Police Department employee in hospital after accidental shooting

Florida: Police: Fla. mom shot, killed daughter she mistook for intruder

Alaska: Boy, 4, accidentally kills self with handgun found in Bethel State Trooper Housing


Nevada: Off-duty Metro officer, husband accidentally shoot relative

"Boom, Boom, Boom"

A coda to the Tamir Rice shooting. You all know the story. You have seen the video. The black pre-teen was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann less than 2 seconds after exiting the police car. He had been deemed “an emotionally unstable recruit with a ‘lack of maturity’ and ‘inability to perform basic functions as instructed‘ during a weapons training exercise” at the last police department where he worked. Loehmann thought Rice "looked older" and that the pellet gun he was holding was real. Rice's was another black life that didn't matter.

It is not clear whether that was the point 66-year-old Elaine Rothenberg (white) was trying to make last week in Torrington, CT where she bought a BB gun specifically because it looked real. She pointed it at officers at the police station and dared them to shoot her:

Rothenberg then took a position in front of a doorway where police enter and exit (employee only doorway) which is used for officers to get to their police cruisers and stood with the handgun raised and in a shooting stance.

Officers were immediately alerted of the heightened threat and police made contact with Rothenberg. Rothenberg yelled about hating the cops and stated “what are you doing, shoot me!” and “what are you scared?”

She raised the gun and pointed it at officers yelling “boom boom boom.”

After a brief standoff, Rothenburg was arrested without incident and charged with reckless endangerment, threatening, interfering with police, and breach of peace.

And a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

QOTD: Yeah .... him again

by digby

At today's rally in South Carolina.

"By the way, low energy can be applied to Hillary. I just don't like to use the same thing twice on one of my enemies, because I consider them enemies. We view this as war. Don't we view this as war? It's war, it's war!... Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump. I did have to mention her husband’s situation and that is now the biggest story on television by a factor of 10. We have to do it.You can't let people push you around. You can't let people tell lies! Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump...She’s hitting me really hard with the women card. She’s not going to win. Women don’t like Hillary. I see it all the time.

This too:

Always so dramatic [pantomimes Hillary Clinton]. I just have to turn off the television. She just gives me a headache.

She had a tough night looking at the beauty pageant.

He also said that after he threatened her with "the husband's" infidelities she didn't mention him in her latest speech. This means he's successfully intimidated her from playing the "woman card" and that she's a weak sister who can't stand up to big hunk of a man like him. Vic-to-ry!

Happy New Year everyone!

A bad choice

by digby

Somehow, I don't think putting electroshock weapons in the hands of the Chicago police department is the best way to deal with their penchant for abuse. The picture below is from today:

This story is from last April:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that the city has reached an agreement to provide a sweeping package of reparations to victims of a notorious Chicago police commander who for decades ran a torture ring against suspects.

Police officers under former Chicago police commander Jon Burge used electrical shock, burning and mock executions to elicit confessions from suspects, mostly African-American, from the early 1970s through the early 1990s.

The statute of limitations ran out on his alleged crimes, but Burge was convicted in 2010 of perjury in civil proceedings for lying about torture he oversaw.

Burge was released from prison to a halfway house in October after serving less than four years in prison. He was released from the halfway house earlier this year.

Burge still receives a pension for his years on the force.

"Jon Burge's actions are a disgrace – to Chicago, to the hard-working men and women of the police department, and most importantly to those he was sworn to protect," Emanuel said. "Today, we stand together as a city to try and right those wrongs, and to bring this dark chapter of Chicago's history to a close."

The deal, which will include creation of a $5.5 million fund for individuals who can prove they were victims of Burge, was announced just as a city council committee was set to convene a hearing to discuss creating a $20 million fund to benefit Burge victims who were unable to sue because the statute of limitations had run out.

The proposal is now before Chicago's full city council, which is expected to approve it.

Between 1972 and 1991, more than 100 people — almost all African-American men — said they were subjected to horrific abuse by police officers under Burge's command. A Chicago Police Department review board ruled in 1993 that Burge had used torture, and he was fired.

As a result of the torture, the men confessed to crimes that resulted in some spending years in prison or on Illinois' death row. In 2003, then Gov. George Ryan pardoned four of 10 death row victims who say they were tortured by Burge's police officers.


"We are gratified, that after so many years of denial and cover-up by the prior administration, the city has acknowledged the harm inflicted by the torture and recognized the needs of the Burge torture survivors and their families by negotiating this historic reparations agreement," said Joey Mogul, of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and the People's Law Office, which had been pressing the city for reparations. "This legislation is the first of its kind in this country, and its passage and implementation will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the city."

Darrell Cannon was picked up as a murder suspect by police officers under Burge's command in 1983. He said that the officers performed mock executions and repeatedly shocked his genitals with an electric cattle prod before he finally confessed. He was eventually exonerated but not before spending 24 years in prison.

Encouraging this police department to torture rather than shoot citizens is hardly the answer to Chicago's ongoing problem with police abuse.

Having said that, in a police department with a culture of respect for the rights of citizens, tasers could be used in a responsible way. Unfortunately, many police officers believe that tasers are not useful in place of lethal force because there's no guarantee it will stop the suspect. Therefore it's only good for torture to gain instant compliance or administer street justice. In a police department notorious for its abuses, including using electro-shock, this is a very bad idea.

Happy New Year everyone...


Neanderthal leadership

by digby

If you want to see just how primitively ignorant these Republican candidates are, take a look at what they say about climate change:
The day the Paris agreement was announced, Democratic primary rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders quickly weighed in, with former Secretary of State Clinton calling it "historic" and Sen. Sanders of Vermont saying it was insufficient but at least "a step forward." Both promised to take bold action if elected.

Meanwhile, most Republicans were silent, following a pattern of either avoiding the subject, dismissing it or rejecting solutions as regulatory overreach that will cost jobs and hurt the economy.

"The scientific evidence doesn't support global warming," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told NPR a few days before the agreement was signed.

"Climate change," he added, "is the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big-government politician who wants more power."

Outsider candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump also question climate science. Trump has said climate change was invented by the Chinese to hurt the United States economy.

"Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there's weather," the real estate mogul has said. "I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have acknowledged that the climate is changing but say government cannot fix the problem. Both have said the Obama administration is futilely trying to address the issue in isolation from the rest of the world.

"America is a lot of things — the greatest country in the world, absolutely," Rubio said at a Republican debate in September on CNN. "But America is not a planet."

In the same exchange, Christie said, "We shouldn't be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild, left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have both acknowledged that humans contribute to climate change but said it is not a top priority. Bush said he was not sure he would have attended the Paris conference as Obama did. Kasich said leaders should have been discussing Islamic State instead.

The Republicans say they will repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan, which reduces emissions from power plants. Trump has suggested shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency, which created the plan. ("What they do is a disgrace," he said in October. "Every week they come out with new regulations.")

The Paris agreement set out goals that are not binding under international law. As such, they do not require approval by the Republican-controlled Senate, which has soundly opposed the Obama administration's climate goals.

Before Paris, Republicans said the plan puts the United States at an economic disadvantage because other countries are under no obligation to take similar actions. Yet the plan, which helped give credibility to the Obama administration at the negotiating table in Paris, is widely viewed as helping convince other countries to commit to their own reductions.

I don't know if Sanders or Clinton will do (or be able to do) what's necessary to turn back this tide. But I don't think they'll purposefully and maliciously try to make things worse.


by digby

Trump says on the trail every day that he wants more people to be informing on their neighbors, friends and families to the police. He even says that if you don't you should be liable for anything they might do. Chris Christie wants people to inform the police of those they believe might be mentally ill so they can be surveilled by the government. Edward Snowden is an international fugitive for revealing that the US spies on its own citizens. State and local police surveillance programs are expanding hugely.

With all this spying and informing going on, it might be a good idea to study up a little on how this stuff tends to work out in real life. It's not as if we don't have some evidence:

The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (IPA: [ˈʃtɑːziː]) (abbreviation German: Staatssicherheit, literally State Security), was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic or GDR, colloquially known as East Germany. It has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to ever have existed. The Stasi was headquartered in East Berlin, with an extensive complex in Berlin-Lichtenberg and several smaller facilities throughout the city. The Stasi motto was "Schild und Schwert der Partei" (Shield and Sword of the Party), that is the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).

One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung, literally meaning decomposition). It also worked as an intelligence agency abroad, the respective division Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung was responsible for both espionage and for conducting covert operations in foreign countries. Under its long-time head Markus Wolf it gained a reputation as one of the most effective intelligence agencies of the Cold War. Numerous Stasi officials were prosecuted for their crimes after 1990. After German reunification, the surveillance files that the Stasi had maintained for millions of East Germans were laid open, so that any citizen could inspect their personal file on request; these files are now maintained by the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records.

The Stasi perfected the technique of psychological harassment of perceived enemies known as Zersetzung (pronounced [ʦɛɐ̯ˈzɛʦʊŋ]) -- a term borrowed from chemistry which literally means "decomposition".

By the 1970s, the Stasi had decided that methods of overt persecution which had been employed up to that time, such as arrest and torture, were too crude and obvious. It was realised that psychological harassment was far less likely to be recognised for what it was, so its victims, and their supporters, were less likely to be provoked into active resistance, given that they would often not be aware of the source of their problems, or even its exact nature. Zersetzung was designed to side-track and "switch off" perceived enemies so that they would lose the will to continue any "inappropriate" activities.

Tactics employed under Zersetzung generally involved the disruption of the victim's private or family life. This often included psychological attacks such as breaking into homes and messing with the contents -- moving furniture, altering the timing of an alarm, removing pictures from walls or replacing one variety of tea with another. Other practices included property damage, sabotage of cars, purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim's family, denunciation, provocation, psychological warfare, psychological subversion, wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls or unnecessary deliveries, even including sending a vibrator to a target's wife. Usually victims had no idea the Stasi were responsible. Many thought they were losing their minds, and mental breakdowns and suicide could result.

One great advantage of the harassment perpetrated under Zersetzung was that its subtle nature meant that it was able to be plausibly denied.

Happy New Year everyone...

Paul Ryan: Judas

by digby

The social conservatives are very, very restless. Like everyone except lobbyists and billionaires, they feel betrayed and taken for granted by the GOP. These are valuable Republican foot soldiers and the establishment ignores their demands at their peril. It is the single biggest faction of the party. But giving in to them could mean a big loss at the ballot box in 2016.
That’s not to say they are alone, however. It’s likely that most people don’t fully realize just how overwrought the entire Republican base is over this latest budget deal. Political observers knew that when Speaker John Boehner resigned the fix was in for a budget deal for this year. His swan song deal to set the top line numbers for two years paved the way for the new speaker to pass an agreement during his honeymoon. There was a little hiccup with the presumptive successor Kevin McCarthy turning out to be a dolt whose loose lips sank Trey Gowdy’s ship on national TV, but eventually they brought in the BMOC Paul Ryan to get the job done.
Unfortunately, the rabid GOP base does not observe such antiquated concepts as political honeymoons and they refuse to admit that shutting down the government is not a useful tactic. They expect their representatives to hold the line, no matter what. And when they don’t, there is hell to pay.
Every day since the budget deal was reached, the inboxes of conservatives have been filled with angry, vitriolic screeds denouncing Paul Ryan for his treachery and threatening members of the Freedom Caucus with primary challenges. (And since those Freedom Caucus members were elected by the Tea Party those threats have some serious bite.) Talk Radio is boiling over with angry denunciations of Washington. Rush Limbaugh’s show last week illustrates their anger with a rant his website called “GOP Sells America Down the River”:
[T]he Republicans have the largest number of seats in the House they’ve had in Congress since the Civil War. And it hasn’t made any difference at all. It is as though Nancy Pelosi is still running the House and Harry Reid is still running the Senate. “Betrayed” is not even the word here. What has happened here is worse than betrayal. Betrayal is pretty bad, but it’s worse than that. This was out-and-out, in-our-face lying, from the campaigns to individual statements made about the philosophical approach Republicans had to all this spending. There is no Republican Party! You know, we don’t even need a Republican Party if they’re gonna do this. You know, just elect Democrats, disband the Republican Party, and let the Democrats run it, because that’s what’s happening anyway…
He wasn’t the only one. The entire activist base of the GOP is having an extended tantrum over this. They are now even comparing Paul Ryan to the hated Obama by calling him a Muslim — for growing a beard. The only reason it isn’t a bigger story is that Congress isn’t in session and the Trump Show is sucking all the energy out of everything else. (Rush actually begged Trump to add a criticism of this Omnibus “sell-out” to his repertoire of immigrant and Muslim hate-mongering.)
The “betrayal” in this case refers to the annual failure to end Obamacare and the continuance of the program for Syrian refugees.  But the one item that has them apoplectic is continued funding for Planned Parenthood. And there’s good reason for the agitation: The social conservatives are in total revolt. And that is a big problem for the GOP, which depends upon the evangelical churches to get out the vote.
Antiabortion activists were given to understand by Republican leaders that the Planned Parenthood doctored videos had changed the game on abortion rights and they believed the party would succeed in ending all federal funding for the organization. They are livid that they were misled. As Sean Illing of Salon reported last week, Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and highly respected leader of the Christian right, announced that he was leaving the Republican Party. In a fiery Facebook post he wrote:
After all of the appalling facts revealed this year about Planned Parenthood, our representatives in Washington had a chance to put a stop to this, but they didn’t. There’s no question—taxpayers should not be paying for abortions! Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding… This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself Independent.
Last summer when the videos first surfaced, with  ample input from conservative members of Congress, the congressional leadership knew they had a problem on their hands. They did not want to shut down the government again before the election. Despite the erroneous belief among the rank and file that government shutdowns automatically lead to victory, these seasoned polls understand that presidential elections are different than midterms and that they could be taking a huge chance in not only losing the White House again but also their congressional majority if they engage in another dangerous game of chicken. But they need social conservatives to stay engaged so they turned the rhetoric up to 11 and tried to appease them with promises of hearings and witch hunts. Former Speaker John Boehner even convened a Select Committee called “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.”
But he gave the game away when he said, “The goal here is not to shut down the government, the goal is to stop these horrific practices of organizations selling baby parts!” and it cost him his job. The antiabortion zealots thought they had won.
At the bottom of Graham’s post resigning from the Republican Party, Graham posted a Huffington Post article by Robert Kuttner, which led off with this zinger:
Little noticed in the deal that Congress approved Friday is the fact that the anti-abortion lobby got wiped out.
After seeing that, no matter what the professionals tell them or what the polls say, the social conservatives are loaded for bear. Graham is embarking on a 50-state tour starting Jan. 5 in Iowa to spread the gospel and get the evangelicals to vote for people who share their values. And let’s just say that any plans the Republicans may have had about calling a truce in the War on Women have pretty much been exploded.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List, ominously warned the Republicans, “Abortion will bubble over into the general election. If you don’t know how to handle this issue, you will be eviscerated.” And by “handling it” she means being even more doctrinaire and extreme on the issue than ever before. Today two of the more viable presidential candidates, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, now disapprove of abortion even in cases of rape and incest, a position that was until recently considered cruel and unreasonable even within the antiabortion movement.
And the presidential race will be unfolding as a number of other assaults on a woman’s right to choose will be happening in other political realms. The AP reported this week that antiabortion forces are readying a multifront offensive:
The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments, probably in March, regarding a Texas law enacted in 2013 that would force numerous abortion clinics to close. One contested provision requires abortion facilities to be constructed like surgical centers; another says doctors performing abortions at clinics must have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
The Texas dispute will have echoes in other states as social conservatives lobby for more laws restricting abortion. Americans United for Life plans a multistate push for a package of bills called the Infants’ Protection Project; one measure would ban abortions performed because of fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome while another would ban abortions after five months of pregnancy.
Also unfolding during the campaign will be a new investigation launched by House Republicans to examine the practices of Planned Parenthood and other major abortion providers. The panel’s chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, says its work will likely continue past Election Day.
New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio all have Senate races in which antiabortion candidates are having their feet held to the fire by the activist base.
Unfortunately for Republicans, this is unlikely to be a winning issue for them. The latest AP Poll released on Dec. 22 shows that the antiabortion base’s extreme positions are out of step with a majority of Americans: 58 percent of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases while 39 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. And 54 percent believe Planned Parenthood should keep its federal funding.
This will not deter the social conservative base even a little bit. They are still steaming over the recognition of marriage equality and, like the rest of the right wing, they feel the Republicans have let them down so they are taking things into their own hands.
But despite the solid support for legal abortion and Planned Parenthood, it would be very unwise of the pro-choice community to be too sanguine that they have this one in the bag. Emphasizing the issue at the ballot box may not help the Republicans, but that doesn’t mean they will not continue to make it more and more difficult for women to exercise their right to choose. For all their angry hand-wringing about being thwarted by the GOP, they know that on a state-by-state level they have been remarkably successful at restricting access to abortion. Indeed, if one didn’t know better one might think that their conspicuous caterwauling over Planned Parenthood is just part of their larger strategy to keep their own supporters charged up and ready to fight in all 50 states.

Happy New Year everyone...

Shocking news. GOP isn't doing well with minorities and young people.

by digby

The percentage of Republicans among those likely to vote in the Nov. 8, 2016, election lags Democrats by 9 percentage points, compared with a 6-point deficit in the year leading up to Obama’s 2012 victory, according to an analysis of Reuters/Ipsos polling data from 2012 and 2015.

While the American electorate has become more diverse the last three years, the party’s support among Hispanic likely voters and younger likely voters has shrunk significantly.
An analysis of the Reuters/Ipsos polling data found:

- In 2012, Democrats made up 44.7 percent of party-affiliated likely voters, compared to 39.1 percent Republicans, a difference of about 6 percentage points, according to the analysis of 87,778 likely presidential voters polled leading up to the 2012 presidential election. The results have a credibility interval of plus or minus 0.3 percentage points.

- Three years later, that lead had grown to nine points, 45.9 percent to 36.9 percent, according to the analysis of 93,181 likely presidential voters polled in 2015. The results in 2015 have the same credibility interval as 2012.

- Among Hispanics who are likely presidential voters, the percentage affiliated with the Republican Party has slipped nearly five points, from 30.6 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, Hispanic Democrats grew by six percentage points to 59.6 percent.

- Among whites under 40, the shift is even more dramatic. In 2012, they were more likely to identify with the Republican Party by about 5 percentage points. In 2015, the advantage flipped: Young whites are now more likely to identify with the Democratic Party by about 8 percentage points.

- Meanwhile, black likely voters remain overwhelmingly Democratic, at about 80 percent.

They have a problem. But so do the Democrats. They can't get these voters out to vote in mid-terms and it's making it very difficult to win the congress. Result: gridlock. Who knows where that eventually leads us?

Happy New Year everyone!



But for the grace of God

by Tom Sullivan

Lauren Scott, a single mother and homeless, goes for a job interview:

Sixty-nine stops on a bus; a nine-minute train ride; an additional 49 stops on a bus; a quarter-mile walk.

Scott carries a spiral notebook with her “Plan of Action for the Week.” The Washington Post chronicles her struggle to find work in Atlanta. It would have taken 27 minutes in a car. It is a four-hour round trip on the bus. Getting to the interview is just one of the obstacles to climbing out of poverty. Rising prices in the city are driving low-income residents further from where the jobs are.

But even as their ranks have grown, the deeply impoverished in the Deep South have also increasingly found that they are on their own: They are less likely to receive the help of a spouse — or the government. Five of the six states with the highest proportion of single parents are in the Deep South. Meanwhile, policymakers have dismantled the cash assistance programs that used to provide critical support for the jobless with children. Those like Scott not only have less access to jobs, but also less of a safety net when they are unemployed.

It's a good thing she doesn't have to take a drug test before getting a bus pass. Scott had been self-sufficient, even if only hanging on. Her life was a Jenga game with too many pieces gone. Having a child brought it crashing down. There was no cushion left.

Other factors add to the difficulty of the poor finding work. Those who can’t afford to live in city centers often must depend on walking, hitching rides or laborious public transportation commutes. A 2011 Brookings Institution report ranking public transit in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas found that 15 of the weakest 20 systems — judged by coverage and job access — were in the South. They included systems in Birmingham, Ala.; Greenville, S.C.; Baton Rouge; and Atlanta — where, in earlier decades, majority-white suburbs voted against the expansion of a transit system they viewed as being primarily for black residents.

Let's see. So suburbanites insist poor people get jobs they can't get because they can't commute to where the jobs are because they don't have cars because they don't have jobs. And the poor can't use public transportation to commute to jobs they can't get because suburbanites don't want to pay taxes to expand public transportation they see as primarily benefiting poor people who can't afford to move closer to jobs and the suburbanites don't want them living in their neighborhoods anyway. This Catch 22 situation is a product of a moral failing on somebody's part. The comfortable are pretty sure it's the shiftless and slovenly Poors' failing. Good luck finding support for a "basic income" upon which to build better futures.

Ask Janis Adkins about that. She wound up homeless in Santa Barbara after losing her nursery business. No wonder Trump's faithful are so worried about immigrants and their own futures. Deep down, they know they could be next at the bottom of the ladder. Until then, no grace for those already there.

Maybe America needs a moratorium on saving souls until it finds its own.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A 2015 iconic pic

by digby

“The single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘we.’ We the People. We shall overcome. Yes we can. That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.” — President Obama

I cannot help it --- this moves me every time I see it. There are more 2015 pictures from the Obama presidency here.

Happy New Year everyone!

QOTD: a villager

by digby

Yes, I'm talking about Ruth Marcus and her inane column today in which she says that Bill Clinton's past is fair game --- a column that is being eagerly shared by every villager in Washington who wants to experience the thrilling freedom of talking about blow jobs in the office all day long without anyone getting mad.

Here's the specific quote that really says it all:
Sexism isn't the precise word for his predatory behavior toward women or his inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern. Yet in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton's conduct toward women is far worse than any of the multiple offensive things that Trump has said.
Marcus, like all Villagers of her generation makes the assertion about Clinton's alleged "predatory behavior" based upon disputed facts. The facts that are not in dispute are those in which it
he confessed to a tawdry but consensual workplace affair while president. That's not anything to be proud of,obviously, but it does not rise to the level of exterminationist, fascist demagoguery. Sorry.

And that's what makes that statement so astonishing. Trump has said that he plans to torture and kill wives, girlfriends and children of people he thinks might be terrorists or "know something". When asked if would bring back waterboarding he said "you bet your ass I will", and "I'd do more than that because it works." ""And even if it doesn't they deserve it for what they've done to us."

He has also said he plans to round up and deport 12 million or so people, including American children, and has spoken approvingly of what the government did in the 1950s which is drop them in the middle of the Mexican desert so they cannot come back --- at least until he builds a wall to keep everyone out.

Perhaps Marcus doesn't find these ideas worrying. It appears millions of Americans think they're great so she's not alone. But I'd guess the rest of us find that just a little bit "worse" than Bill Clinton's tawdry past.

Update: Not that it matters but Ruth Marcus should probably refrain from giving Trump, of all people, a pass to condemn Clinton:

“I got a chuckle out of all the moralists in Congress and in the media who expressed public outrage at the president’s immoral behavior,” wrote Trump in The America We Deserve . “I happen to know that one U.S. senator leading the pack of attackers spent more than a few nights with his twenty-something girlfriend at a hotel I own. There’s also a conservative columnist, married, who was particularly rough on Clinton in this regard. He also brought his girlfriend to my resorts for the weekend. Their hypocrisy is amazing.”

Trump also wrote that Clinton should have refused to talk about his personal life.

“When confronted with the Lewinsky matter, Clinton should have stoutly refused to discuss his private life,” wrote Trump. “He should also have declined to answer, rather than perjure himself. If the Clinton affair proves anything it is that the American people don’t care about the private lives and personal of our political leaders so long as they are doing the job.”
Trump at one point compared himself directly to Bill Clinton, telling CNBC in 1998, “Can you imagine how controversial I’d be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women? Can you imagine?”

In a 2000 interview with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Trump even suggested people would have been more forgiving if Clinton had cheated on Hillary with a beautiful woman of sophistication.

“He handled the Monica situation disgracefully. It’s sad because he would go down as a great president if he had not had this scandal,” said Trump. “People would have been more forgiving if he’d had an affair with a really beautiful woman of sophistication. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were on a different level. Now Clinton can’t get into golf clubs in Westchester. A former president begging to get in a golf club. It’s unthinkable.”

In another Times story in 1999, Trump said Clinton would have been considered a hero if he cheated with a supermodel:
For example, Trump disapproves of President Clinton’s behavior in the White House over the past four years, though he suggested that he was bothered less by what Clinton did, than by whom he did it with.

“It was his choice,” Trump said. “It was Monica! I mean, terrible choice.” Trump, who showed off fashion magazines displaying cover-art of the latest in a line of models he has dated, suggested that if Clinton had confessed an improper relationship ( Trump offered a more earthy phrase to get the idea across) with a supermodel, as a opposed to a White House intern, “he would have been everybody’s hero.”

“I’m not making any justification for cheating on your wife,” added Trump, whose own extracurricular marital activities have been a tabloid staple.

Happy New Year everyone!