Saturday, May 30, 2015

And Now, There Are Three





Martin O'Malley has now made the announcement, accompanied by a video (below) suggesting he intends to run as a Democrat. That's not really news, unless one compares it to the analogous Clinton video, a sort of  Democratic version of "Morning in America."









Cheap shot at Hillary Clinton aside,  we turn to the horse race.  Charlie Peters makes an interesting observation about Senator Sanders, which seems to be in sharp contrast to O'Malley, when he writes

Here's what I think. I don't think he's running to push Hillary Rodham Clinton to the left, or to affect the debate. I think Bernie Sanders is running for president because he wants to be president. He has issues that need addressing, and a constituency for them, and if there's any other qualification for a candidate, I don't know what it is. And, anyway, in that context, he is no more (or less) plausible than just about the entire Republican field....

If someone like Bernie Sanders thinks he can be president, and he's willing to bring his politics into the soul-numbing marathon that is a presidential campaign, there is something there that is quite good for the country.

Former governor O'Malley is willing to bring his politics, clearly bolder than Clinton's and less so than Sander's, into the marathon that is a presidential campaign,  though he probably is less willing to enter something soul-numbing.   As Maggie Haberman reported the day before O'Malley's formal announcement

When Martin O’Malley began actively exploring a presidential run in 2013, he reached out to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, to let her know. She told him he should do what he needed to do.

So as Mr. O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, prepared for his Saturday campaign kickoff, he reached out to Mrs. Clinton again.

The call between the two was brief and cordial, according to two people briefed on it, neither of whom was authorized to describe the private conversation. Aides to both Mr. O’Malley and Mrs. Clinton declined comment.

As he prepared to challenge Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Mr. O’Malley has been reluctant to criticize Mrs. Clinton or to draw a pointed contrast with her.

Haberman concludes "Mr. O’Malley is expected to highlight his positions on issues important to the party’s liberal base and try to appeal to Democrats who may be looking for an viable alternative to Mrs. Clinton." If all goes right for Martin O'Malley, a reasonably young male, he'll receive consideration next summer as the running mate for Clinton, whom he expects to be the candidate, and who is not reasonably young or male.  There is nothing illegal about this strategy, but it is a reminder that there already is a viable candidate, one approximately 480 miles north of O'Malley's Baltimore.





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Friday, May 29, 2015

Not A Doomed Campaign, But A Steep Hill To Climb





Salon's Elias Isquith observes

Since conventional wisdom holds that her centrist position on the Iraq War cost Clinton the nomination in 2008, it’s unsurprising to hear that the new campaign’s goal is to avoid making the same mistake twice. And as a lefty who expects Clinton to ultimately win the nomination, I’d be thrilled if this were her only takeaway from ’08. The most likely consequence would be that she stops worrying so much about the center and focuses more on inspiring her base. This isn’t mere speculation; as her new positions on marriage equality, criminal justice and immigration reform attest, she’s done it already.

Isquith recognizes "Exciting as this scenario is, though, it’s not guaranteed. And the reason it’s not guaranteed is because that aforementioned explanation for Clinton’s defeat in ’08 — that it was all about Iraq — isn’t correct."  He goes on to point out that Obama received far greater support than did Mrs. Clinton from black voters, though it would be more interesting if the first black candidate with a serious chance of nomination had not pulled that off.  In fact, the New York Senator, rather than the Illinois Senator, was the favorite among black voters until Obama had almost overtaken Clinton.

The irony is that HRC was way ahead in 2007, evidently sailing to victory, when she was asked in debate whether she supported New York Governor Spitzer's plan to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. After hemming and hawing, she was caught making contradictory statements, and her image of inevitability was shattered. Seven years later, Nebraska has become the last state to extend eligibility to some illegal immigrants, commonly referred to as "Dreamers," to obtain drivers' licenses and Clinton is ahead of the curve on comprehensive immigration reform.

Isquith links to a post on Vox, "Why Bernie Sanders Doesn't Talk About Race," notes that almost no one in Vermont is black, and explains

To be clear, Sanders hasn’t avoided talking about race throughout his career because he’s a bigot. His motivations have been unsentimental and practical (again: Vermont is about as diverse as a Simon & Garfunkel concert). But they’ve been ideological, too. “Sanders believes in racial equality, sure,” writes Lind, “but he believes it will only come as the result of economic equality.” A politics of racial justice that neglects the question of economic power — or treats it as a secondary, separate issue — is, in Sanders’ mind, equivalent to “treating the symptom, not the disease.”

Remarking "hopefully, that's not how things play out," Isquith nonetheless understands

Clinton could note that the first two speeches of her campaign were about examples of racial injustice (mass incarceration and the plight of undocumented immigrants) and she could contrast that with Sanders’ relative silence in order to portray him as an out-of-touch white guy who cares more about the “professional left” than “everyday Americans.” Throw in a little of the media’s predictable talk of a“wine track” and “beer track” within the Democratic electorate and — boom! — Sanders becomes this election’s version of a way-less-weird Dennis Kucinich.

That isn't, however, only because of the concentration of black and Hispanic voters (as well as whites with concerns about racial inequities) in Democratic primaries and caucuses. Clinton did not choose the troika of issues- immigration reform, criminal justice reform, and "marriage equality"- on which to establish a  progressive identity only because of the nature of the Democratic electorate.  In contrast to Sanders' agenda (video below), there is not a conservative consensus in the financial community- or practically anywhere in the corporate community- on those issues.

There is nothing in same-sex marriage which interferes with the accumulation of profits, and it is virtually certain that big money donors support same-sex marriage at least to the degree as does the American public, and probably more overwhelmingly.  A more accepting attitude toward immigrants,which expands the supply of workers, fits in nicely with  the interests of business in maintaining wage stagnation and creating a more "flexible" labor pool.  (HRC, though, ought to be commended for emphasizing the importance of citizenship over legalization.)

Most of the suggestions, if implemented,would not curtail the continued record-setting accumulation of  profits by the corporate sector as workers are left behind.( Legalization of marijuana- notably not endorsed by HRC- is an exception.) The uncontroversial neo-liberal notion of training ex-cons for jobs which don't provide a livable wage is no exception and would if successful expand the labor pool. Ending mass incarceration, whatever its humane characteristics, also would expand the labor pool. Clinton's tilt to the left threatens no donors who will make her the best-funded candidate in American history.

As Isquith argues, "it would be tragic if Sanders' campaign, which has started out with so much promise, was undone by the same forces that have forestalled progress in America time and time again. The question said to trump all others for the Vermont Senator is "What is the economic fairness of the situation?" That it is not for most of the movers and shakers in the Democratic Party (let alone the Republican) or elsewhere in society is not only his problem, but ours also.,










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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Those Extreme Democrats





Peter Wehner claims

AMONG liberals, it’s almost universally assumed that of the two major parties, it’s the Republicans who have become more extreme over the years. That’s a self-flattering but false narrative.

This is not to say the Republican Party hasn’t become a more conservative party. It has. But in the last two decades the Democratic Party has moved substantially further to the left than the Republican Party has shifted to the right. On most major issues the Republican Party hasn’t moved very much from where it was during the Gingrich era in the mid-1990s.

Responding to the first paragraph, Tristero observes

Not a single elected Democrat has called for secession, as Rick Perry did. Not a single elected Democrat defied the Supreme Court to the extent of sending in the National Guard and provoking an insane confrontation with the local police, as Jeb Bush did during Schiavo. Not a single elected Democrat is so anti-reality and anti-science that they believe that if women are "legitimately raped," they will be protected from pregnancy as Todd Akin did.

Oh, sure there are leftwing extremists. Somewhere. But in the Democratic Party? Holding office or positions of power? Puhleeeze.

Additionally, as Bob Cesca points out in a slightly different context, though abortion still is legal

Republican legislatures across red-state America have passed laws that make it almost impossible to actually undergo the (again, totally legal) procedure. Fetal personhood laws, fetal heartbeat laws, waiting-period laws, trans-vaginal ultrasound laws — not to mention one law that made it illegal to operate a women’s health clinic outside of a 60-mile radius of a hospital — have all functioned as de facto abortion bans.

Then there is outspoken different-sex marriage advocate Mike Huckabee, anticipating a Supreme Court decision favorable to same-sex marriage, recently arguing

Judicial review is exactly what we have lived under; we have not lived under judicial supremacy. The Supreme Court can’t make a law; the legislature has to make it, the executive has to sign it and enforce it. The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with a ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is to equal branches of government.

So much for Marbury v. Madison, checks and balances, and judicial review for Huckabee and GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who as a statesman is an excellent surgeon. We await other Repub politicians, some of whom have decried President Obama as a tyrant, calling out Huckabee and Carlson for suggesting Congress can ignore the Court.

We don't, however, have to wait to determine the GOP position on income taxes, wherein cutting taxes for the wealthy is akin to godliness, or at least to sex  within traditional marriage for the purpose of procreation.  The GOP always has been rhetorically opposed to "tax and spend," unless it's Repub Presidents doing the spending- as they do more prolifically than Democratic Presidents (chart of public employment from Calculated Risk via Steven Greenhouse).





About the progressive income tax, they are clear, as we learned during the August, 2011 Repub presidential debate (video below) when co-moderator Brett Baier

phrased it this way: “I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”

All eight candidates raised their hand. Literally all of them, if offered a debt-reduction deal that’s 10-to-1 in their favor, would simply refuse.

Now, that's bipartisanship.











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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

So Much For Inclusion And Respect





In January, the father of filmmaker Aaron Bierman sent to the owner of the NBA's New York Knicks the following e-mail:

Subject: I have been a knicks fan since 1952

At one stage I thought that you did a wonderful thing when you acquired EVERYTHING from your dad. However, since then it has been ALL DOWN HILL. Your working with Isaiah Thomas & everything else regarding the Knicks. Bringing on Phil Jackson was a positive beginning, but lowballing Steve Kerr was a DISGRACE to the knicks. The bottom line is that you merely continued to interfere with the franchise.

As a knicks fan for in excess of 60 years, I am utterly embarrassed by your dealings with the Knicks. Sell them so their fans can at least look forward to growing them in a positive direction Obviously, money IS NOT THE ONLY THING. You have done a lot of utterly STUPID business things with the franchise. Please NO MORE.

Respectfully,



In response, Dolan sent an e-mail reading

Mr Bierman

You are a sad person. Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting.for the Nets because the Knicks dont want you.

Respectfully

James Dolan


Four months later, Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley would explain that when (overrated) Hall of Fame guard Isaiah Thomas was the Knicks' head coach and team president in 2007 he was found by a jury to have

sexually harassed a Knicks executive (and accomplished former basketball player) named Anucha Browne Sanders. Browne Sanders had been terminated after complaining internally about Thomas, and the jury awarded her $11.6 million in punitive damages for the harassment and her firing. Dolan and the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Knicks and is controlled by Dolan, were found culpable in Browne Sanders’ mistreatment for firing her. MSG did not appeal the jury’s decision and subsequently settled its legal dispute with Browne Sanders for $11.5 million ahead of a scheduled hearing regarding compensatory damages. Thomas was relieved of his duties in 2008.

On Tuesday, Dolan and Madison Square Garden announced that Isiah Thomas had been rehired—as president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, which MSG also owns. Yes: James Dolan rehired Isiah Thomas, a jury-certified sexual harasser, to run awomen’s basketball team. 

To make matters worse, MSG responded in a statement "when given the opportunity, the jury did not find Isiah liable for punitive damages, confirming he did not act maliciously or in bad faith." However, when asked "Do you find by a preponderance of evidence that defendant Thomas intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff by aiding and abetting a hostile work, environment based on sex, under the standards defined by the judge," the jury had checked the "yes" box (photo of Thomas and Dolan, below).

Mathis-Lilley, citing the case of one Donald Sterling, argues "The NBA’s “'principles of inclusion and respect,' meanwhile, surely include respect for women, respect for the importance of a humane workplace, and respect for the ruling of a United States jury. (The WNBA is operated by the NBA.)""

You remember Sterling, whose then-girlfriend, in apparent violation of California law, taped the Los Angeles Clippers' owner making a racially prejudiced remarks and released the recording to TMZ, whereupon it became very public. League commissioner Adam Silver, responding to pressure from the Golden State Warriors (who were facing the Clippers in a playoff series) and NBA superstars (including the omnipotent LeBron James), fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned him from the league for life, and forced through a change to eliminate his ownership rights to the franchise.

That was big, big news in 2014. James Dolan this year has callously insulted a fan and, much more seriously, hired a known sexual harasser to control a womens' basketball team.. There has been little publicity and Donald Sterling's (really, LeBron James') National Basketball Association has said nothing, let alone done anything.  What this says about the league is extremely ugly. And what it says about women's groups, which appear not to have reacted to the league's disinterest, is not very attractive, either.










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Monday, May 25, 2015

Establishment Clause




Eight days ago, John Ellis Bush evidently tried to thread the needle (video below), a needle he cannot thread, nor should be able to. The Huffington Post reported

Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that Christian business owners should not have to provide services for gay weddings if it goes against their religious beliefs.

“Yes, absolutely, if it’s based on a religious belief,” he said when asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview Saturday if businesses should be able to decline services to same-sex weddings.

The former Florida governor justified his position by claiming that not providing a service does not count as discrimination if business owners feel that it violates their religious rights.

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”







Gosh, a tolerant county ought to be able to say your rights should not be curtailed by an act of God- such as forming some human beings as heterosexual and some as homosexual.; stated another way, characteristics conferred upon individuals by nature, not nurture.

It is passing strange that a person who says it "should not be that complicated" would be the same person who makes a distinction between discrimination because of sexual orientation and "not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs."  Gosh, why does he believe a business owner citing religion refuses to provide service if not because of the customers' sexual orientation?

He or she claims a religious conflict and then refuses service to a gay person or persons. It really is that simple, notwithstanding the ex-governor's effort to make it more as complicated as he claims it is.  If John Ellis Bush believed service may be refused for any reason, it really would be simple. But he instead believes everything is o.k. if the eight words "I do it because of my religious faith" can be uttered, which would offer government's support for religion over non-religion.

John Ellis Bush (in regard to same-sex marriage) stated at the same time "I'm not a lawyer." Apparently not, but he can be informed that his reasoning boils down to three words: "establishment of religion."





And in recognition of this holiday, the late Waylon Jennings:








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Sunday, May 24, 2015

And If Your Hot Dog Is Made With Insecticide, Don't Buy It





Steve M. draws our attention to a recent conversation, which many conservatives found gratifying, on the Today Show:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, New York, as we know, is famous for some outrageous prices sometimes, but let’s just put this out there right now – if you come to visit New York City, just know that $30 is too much to pay for a hot dog on the street. Our station here in New York, WNBC, actually caught a street vendor trying to sell a hot dog for 30 bucks...

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: $30 Hot Dog?; Uproar Over Street Vendor’s Inflated Price]
            
NATALIE MORALES: Crazy.

AL ROKER: Wow, unbelievable.

GUTHRIE: ...they actually charge anywhere from three to 30 bucks – for one single hot dog. People obviously were outraged. When confronted, the vendor claimed not to speak English. New York officials say prices should clearly be posted and if you encounter something like this, file a complaint.

MORALES: What makes it worse was the vendor was apparently down by the Freedom Tower...

GUTHRIE: Where a lot of tourists go.

MORALES: ...so he was trying to profit right there in the face – yeah. Just horrible.

TAMRON HALL: But we make the point that it was a vendor. A, at a restaurant I still wouldn’t pay 30 bucks for a hot dog. But why can’t he set his own prices? I mean, if a restaurant sells their hot dog, steak, or whatever for the price they want, why is his price regulated? I wouldn’t pay it.

GUTHRIE: Is it regulated? It sounds like it wasn’t.

HALL: Well, they’re saying-

MORALES: Right around the corner is a guy selling them for a dollar. So, you know, walk the corner.

HALL: Yeah, so just – isn’t that, if you pay it, then, “Hey, shame on you” kind of thing?

GUTHRIE: I guess.

ROKER: Unsuspecting tourists, though.

HALL: I mean, I think it’s taking advantage, but-

MORALES: That’s price gouging. I mean, I think it, you know, what’s fair is fair, and that’s just not fair.

WILLIE GEIST: So, Tamron, you’re pro $30 hot dog? To be clear.

HALL: No, I’m just saying...

GEIST: I’m just kidding.        

HALL: ...if you’ve ever been to like Disney, the water – the bottle of water is like a million dollars. It just seems that he should be able to charge what he wants and it’s our choice.

GUTHRIE: What did you just – Jared just – they have to have the price posted, that’s what the rule says.

HALL: Oh, price posted. Okay, then that’s fair.

Ahmed Mohamed (photo below by Gabriella Bass) was fired by the guy who owns the food cart and vending license, who was not amused that Mohamed was pocketing the extra profits, nor that he himself will  have to pay the fine for violation of the city ordinance.

Tamron Hall  asks  "why can't he set his own prices? I mean, if a restaurant sells their hot dog, steak, or whatever for the price they wnat, why is his price regulated?" The conservative media outlet NewsBusters, which provided the transcript above, giddily notes that she has "stumbled upon conservative economic philosophy."  Kyle Smith at Murdoch's New York Post calls Mohamed the "Hot Dog Hero," who "was simply exercising his right to sell stuff in the marketplace for whatever he can get for it. Why begrudge him a large markup if he took advantage of the fact that some people are stupid?"

Let the buyer beware, no matter what she is being offered, and at whatever price or quality and if she is stupid, all the better. It's not only conservative economic philosophy, but bears a striking resemblance to conservative electoral philosophy.

Tamron Hall, who reluctantly accepts that the price should be posted if legally required, has trouble understanding why someone shouldn't be allowed to vary the charge for an item 1,000 percent. But if the price can vary wildly at someone's whim, the business can discriminate at will. Someone might decide that blacks (or short**, overweight, heavily-accented, or white people) are more keen on hot dogs, less inclined to control their impulses, or more likely to have screaming children in tow, than other individuals, and thus can be easily overcharged.

It makes discrimination much easier. Hall, though black, is no more required than anyone else to understand this, though it's remarkable that it wouldn't occur to an NBC (and sometime MSNBC) host. Perhaps being an attractive woman has allowed Hall to lead a charmed and privileged life in broadcast media. NBC should be credited, though, for refusing to muzzle one of its hosts for mouthing conservative gibberish.













**







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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Save Your Pity





TLC now has pulled remaining episodes of "19 Kids and Counting" but stories and commentary about the molestation by then-juvenile Josh Duggar of several girls are likely to keep coming.

There is so much to write about that Josh has even been defended by a man of the left who otherwise refers to the Duggars as a "cultlike family that rejects Enlightenment values and closes off much of the outside world."

Salon's Mark Joseph Stern slams "much of the left (for having) greeted the news of his molestation charges with a kind of derisive, jeering disgust." He recognizes the Duggars

adhere to a fringe Christian movement called the “Christian patriarchy,” which commands total female submission to men and limited education for women. The Duggars do everything they can to control their children’s minds, then brainwash them with misogynistic dogma.

Josh Duggar grew up in this sexist milieu. He was told that women exist to serve men—to show them “submission,” “obedience,” and “reverence.” He was barred from seeking out any differing views about men and women. His mind was warped from childhood.

Regrettably, Stern then jumps to a conclusion, rhetorically asking "Is it any surprise that, by the time he reached adolescence, he believed girls’ bodies were his to touch however he pleased? "

Allow me to answer: yes, it is.  Molestation is an offense of a criminal nature, committed by Josh not at age 9, 10, or 11, but at age 15. He should at that point have known better, though Stern argues "even as we reprove him, we should remember the odious lies that were forced down his throat as a child."    Even most boys who have odious lies forced down their throat have boundaries they understand and respect.

However, there is another legitimate answer to Stern's question. It doesn't  really matter, at this point, given the statute of limitations, that Josh Duggar believed himself privileged to touch girls' bodies as he pleased.  Evidently, Josh believed at the time he was privileged. Now that he is older, he still believes he is privileged, perhaps enough not to have paid state income tax from 2009 throught 2012. Stern himself notes Josh

has fought against marriage equality and LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances, suggesting that such laws could jeopardize children. His mother implied that trans people are child predators. His employer wrote that gay marriage and gay adoption should be outlawed because gay men are extremely likely to molest young boys. And at the same time he and his family were promoting these noxious views and using reality TV to build their fame, they were covering up Josh’s record of molesting multiple young girls as a teenager.

At age 27, Josh Duggar probably is a far different individual than he was 12 years ago.  Still, most people with a secret as serious as his would not have chosen to become head of the Family Research Council's lobby arm (from which he has resigned), exposed himself- for a price- to tens of millions of television viewers, and been seen photographed with Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, and John Ellis Bush (photos below, from whatever initial source, via Digby's Hullabaloo).   No one twisted his arm or put a gun to his head.

Nor did those young girls force him to molest them.   His defenders ought to point out that legally was a juvenile and now regrets his actions.  But he does not warrant pity, nor should others be held primarily accountable for his own behavior.



























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Thursday, May 21, 2015

But Then, He Never Has Been So Fond Of Medicare, Anyway





Michael Wessel worked on trade issues with then-House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, was an advisor to the 2008 Obama campaign, currently is a consultant to"various domestic producers" and the United Steelworkers, and was a consultant to the 2008 Obama campaign. He has "been deeply involved in trade policy for almost four decades" and as a "cleared adviser" has joined members of Congress and (mostly) business interests as someone sufficiently fortunate to be allowed to read the text of the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership. He is, as with the others, prohibited from revealing any details and cautions information is being kept by the Administration "secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice."

However, Wessel bluntly warns "I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal."

On Monday, Senator Warren's office released a report titled "Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements," about which, Politico reports

Warren argued that the United States has not enforced labor protections in previous free trade deals. The report also contends that countries who have entered into trade agreements with the United States, such as Guatemala and Colombia, have not curbed abuses against their workers.

“The history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. [free-trade agreements] lags far behind the promises,” says the report, which was prepared by Warren’s staff.

The following day, David Dayen added

The Senate will consider two companion trade bills this week. There’s the fast-track bill, which would allow any president over the next six years to negotiate trade agreements and get an expedited Congressional vote, without amendments or filibusters. And there’s also trade adjustment assistance (TAA), a bill that provides federal funds for workers displaced by free trade agreements. Workers receive job training and placement services, relocation expenses, income support, and help with health insurance premiums.

There’s substantial disagreement on whether TAA actually helps workers get new jobs, but Democrats strongly support the program. Even pro-trade Democrats made renewing TAA a condition of passing fast track, and the two bills will move together in the Senate this week. But even though supporters constantly talk up the economic benefits of trade, they nevertheless offset the $2.9 billion in TAA funding by cutting other spending. Supposedly, trade increases jobs and therefore federal revenue, leaving enough money available to pay for TAA. But in Congress’ eyes, some other priority has to pony up that cash nonetheless.

That priority happens to be Medicare. TAA is partially financed through $700 million in Medicare cuts. Sequestration expires in fiscal year 2024, but the TAA bill expands it by piling those cuts onto the back end. Most of the other $2.2 billion gets financed through customs user fees.

While observing Medicare has become "a Congressional slush fund" or as Max Richtman recognizes, "a piggy bank to pay for everything under the sun," Dayen explains

The other problem here is that it fundamentally breaks that promise — already, before any vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other fast-tracked agreement — that no laws will change in this new era of corporate-friendly “free trade.” This continues a troubling trend, identified by Paul Krugman, about not being able to trust the White House’s categorical denials about the consequences of their trade agenda. They said the investor-state dispute settlement process couldn’t weaken regulatory priorities; that’s not true. They said Dodd-Frank would be protected in any trade deals; that’s not true either. To quote Krugman, “The Administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.” The Medicare cuts represent another drop in that bucket.

Trust me, the President says, though he is much smarter and much less earnest than was David Rasche in the underrated 1980s-era sitcom Sledgehammer (video, below).   But the candidate who vowed to "walk on that picket line" in defense of workers is the same fellow who has been hard at work in trade deals bargaining away American jobs. We "won't get fooled again" wrote Pete Townshend, but Barack Obama is betting otherwise.















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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Speech Codes For All





We learned on Monday

A Duke University political science professor has drawn controversy and an official rebuke for racial generalizations he made comparing African-Americans and Asian-Americans in response to a recent New York Times editorial.

Prof. Jerry Hough, 80, whose staff profile says he has served as a professor since 1973 at the private institution in Durham, North Carolina, posted a six-paragraph comment on May 10 on the Times website underneath an opinion piece from the previous day about Baltimore’s history of housing discrimination.

“This editorial is what is wrong,” wrote Hough. “The blacks get awful editorials like this that tell them to feel sorry for themselves.”

The holder of three degrees from Harvard University and author of 14 books, largely on Soviet politics, then said that Asian-Americans “worked doubly hard” even though they “were discriminated against as [sic] least as badly as blacks.”

He added, “I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.

“The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existemt [SIC] because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white.”

Students, fellow professors and administrators immediately responded to Hough’s sentiments after local media outlets reported them on Friday. The professor has been on administrative leave for this entire year in the first year of a four-year retirement plan that will see him teach his last classes next fall and step down permanently in June 2018, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

Duke officials declined to comment on personnel matters at the school and noted that Hough was on planned leave well before the fracas over the comments. But they said they strongly disapproved of Hough's views.

“The comments were noxious, offensive and have no place in civil discourse,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement. “Duke University has a deeply-held commitment to inclusiveness grounded in respect for all, and we encourage our community to speak out when they feel that those ideals are challenged or undermined, as they were in this case.”

David Palumbo-Lui, who identifies himself as "faculty sponsor of Students for Justice in Palestine (and past faculty sponsor of SJP on other campuses)," points out

It’s essential to look at how all this plays out within the classroom as well. This is where we can vividly see how attempts to silence and censor teachers, based on rumor and innuendo rather than facts, can manipulate administrators more interested in protecting their institution from bad publicity and frivolous lawsuits than in protecting the academic freedom of their faculty and students.

That's a good defense of academic freedom.... except Palumbo-Lui wasn't speaking about Duke. He is, instead, exorcised that the University of California system has been urged by a group of 57 rabbis from California and 104 UC faculty members to adopt the U.S. State Department definition for, as the LA Times explains it (in the article to which P-C links), "dealing with protests and potential discipline for anti-Semitic statements." Palumbo-Liu argues

Is being a critic of Israeli state policies actually the same as being an anti-Semite?  If every time one voices a criticism of Israel one is acting as an anti-Semite, and if making an anti-Semitic statement is prohibited by the State Department, then ardent supporters of Israeli state policies have won a huge victory — they have essentially made Israel immune from criticism, and made anyone even thinking about raising a serious concern about Israel think twice about just how (or even if) to voice that point of view. 

This critique would be reasonable, almost justified, were the State Department suggesting that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. But it is not. Rather, State does not actually define anti-Semitism, instead offering "contemporary examples of anti-Semitism" and (emphasis in the original) "EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel," which are

DEMONIZE ISRAEL:
Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Palumbo-Liu appears not to believe these are legitimate examples of anti-Semitism, though he does not explicitly state so. If, however: using traditional anti-Jewish symbols; comparing Israeli foreign policy to Nazism; applying certain standards uniquely to Israel; and fretting over a tiny piece of land turned over to Jews to prevent their annihilation is not anti-Semitism, I'd be pleased to know what is.

Additionally, the postscript "criticism of Israel similar...." is not insignificant, but is a loophole bigger than... well, bigger than Israel, for example. It presupposes a distinction between anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment and suggests that only extraordinary criticism of the Jewish state would be considered unacceptable.

That is not to suggest that that adoption of the State Department standards would be a good idea. It is a pity that too few colleges recognize speech codes are per se odious. They focus on what is said, with a consideration of what is actually done a common casualty.   At Duke (their basketball fans, at their least repugnant, below, from the UK's Daily Mail), a professor is ostracized for speech, rather than behavior, a disturbing if fairly common instinct for institutions once havens for free expression.





Professor Hough could well have been condemned for what he said. He might have been criticized for: maintaining that Asian-Americans work "doubly hard, that they faced as much discrimination as have blacks, that Asian students have simpler names than have blacks and are more desirous of "integration" (perhaps "assimilation"?), and that more Asians than blacks date whites because blacks are ostracized when they do so.  He could have been, but those opinions were not challenged as far as we can tell, probably because it was simpler and more comforting to condemn them as "obnoxious and offensive."

Meanwhile, whomever believed those generalizations will go on believing them because they were not rebutted. Still, those students, educators, and administrators at the private North Carolina institution have preserved their exquisite sensitivity and upheld their sense of moral righteousness. And they can be so proud that they have encouraged the group at the University of California and others to impose sanctions when people express sentiments they deem offensive or obnoxious. And so it goes when people are reviled more than ideas and words punished more than action.






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A President Who Goes Both Ways






Observing President Obama's effort to sell trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Salon's Matthew Pulver promises "we’ll look the most interesting internal battle of all: Barack Obama versus himself."   Pulyer wrote that addressing unrest in Baltimore, Obama

was intent on explaining how worsening economic conditions in recent decades produce the desperation seen in the streets of Baltimore, lamenting “impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty…communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away.”

Psssst. You’re supposed to be selling a trade deal, Mr. President! You probably shouldn’t talk about how all the jobs went away, and made every American inner-city a post-industrial tinderbox, when you’re trying to ink a deal with countries with minimum wages of around 75 to 90 cents an hour.

None dare call it hypocrisy but it is cognitive dissonance, something President Obama seems quite comfortable with. In Camden, NJ to highlight a considerable drop in the crime rate in that beleagured city

The White House on Monday announced that bayonets, weaponized vehicles and grenade launchers will no longer be available to local police and that other equipment such as riot gear and other types of armored vehicles would be subject to a more onerous approval process.

Police departments still would be able to procure such equipment, but they would have to buy it privately from sources.  Additionally, other items still would be available through the largesse of the federal government.

No amount of complaining by the Federation of Police can obscure the impact of such military hardware in hardening barriers between police and community. As Obama stated in Camden, "It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message. So we're going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments."

Back as far as September, in the wake of the shooting death of an unarmed young black man in Ferguson, Mo.- but before black men were killed by law enforcement in controversial situations in Cleveland, North Charleston, S.C., and Tulsa- the President recognized the "gulf of mistrust" between residents and police in many poor black neighborhoods.

Presumably, then, he knows, just as he knew in December, 2013 "A more competitive world lets companies ship jobs anywhere.  And as good manufacturing jobs automated or headed offshore, workers lost their leverage, jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits." But just as he virtually disregards lost American jobs while he pimps for fast track authority and devastating trade deals, on Monday he

called Camden "a symbol of promise for the nation" Monday as he lauded police there for building relationships with residents, and announced federal initiatives to improve trust between police and communities nationwide.

"Camden and its people still face some very big challenges," Obama told an invitation-only audience of at least 150 people at the Salvation Army's Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. "But this city is onto something."

Oh, yes- it's onto something, all right.  The day after the visit, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted

Critics such as the ACLU say the record has blemishes- officers using excessive force and making unjustified stops. Last year, police in Camden drew the most excessive-force complaints in New Jersey. Tickets issued for petty offenses, such as loitering and driving with broken taillights, have also risen to the highest level in years, jarring some residents, who question the need for such stops."

The county police force (photo below from Inquirer Staff Photographer Andrew Renneisen) in Camden, formed in 2013 at the insistence of the two most powerful politicians (in whichever order) in New Jersey- Governor Chris Christie (Obama's favorite Republican) and wealthy insurance executive and Democratic boss George Norcross- surely is on to something.  The day before Obama graced the city with his presence, the Inquirer reported

Nearly 120 officers - including large swaths of recruiting classes - have resigned or retired, making the department's turnover one of the highest in the state....

An analysis of the resignations shows that the average tenure of the officers who left was less than a year.

Of the 117 the county cited as departing, 27 retired and 90 resigned.

In Paterson, N.J., with a department of similar size to Camden, 15 officers resigned in the last two years. The Jersey City, N.J., department, double the size of Camden, says it had two. Atlantic City's department says it had none....

Police officials outside the city say that high turnover can make a department prone to mistakes, and that it limits the ability of officers to connect with residents.





Those turnover figures are, as the professionals would put it, "statistically significant." It is, admittedly, also statistically significant that the number of homicides in Camden dropped from 67 in 2012 to 33 in 2014.  However, the figures of 2014 are compared to those in the year (2014) in which the (municipal) police force was devastated in order to make way for the county force, to the greater glory of Mr. Christie and (especially) Mr.Norcross, the latter the most famous figure and, by leaps and bounds, the undisputed power broker in Camden County, in which the city lies.

Camden is onto something. However, the President who has referred to the "oppressive hand of the government," neatly glided over the increase in personnel. When the announcement was made that the department would be torched, the number of police officers stood at 270, and at 200 when the changeover was made on May 1, 2003. Two years later, the size of the force had dramatically risen to 395,

The primary reason for the decline in crime, as well as of drug users and sellers milling about the streets of Camden, is the increase in the number of police officers. The mere presence of cops, as well as the increase in foot patrols it makes possible, very likely has had a major impact.

But try telling that to a President who has never been bothered by the decline in non-defense federal government employees during his term in office and who laments the loss of manufacturing jobs nationally while he vigorously promotes job-killing trade deals. Try telling that to a President who really, really, seems sincere about police-community relations while vociferously praising a police force whose "broken windows" approach has taken a toll on the residents it serves and protects. You will be speaking to a President who generally believes approximately half of what he says.





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Monday, May 18, 2015

We Mustn't Offend Anyone





Salon's Jenny Kutner recognizes a double standard as she explains

Nine people have died after a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco on Sunday, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in the central Texas city.

I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that — despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence — they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.

A riot is not simply a demonstration against police brutality. It can also be what happens when scores of hostile white people open gunfire in a parking lot. And when that happens, it can be described as anything but a “riot.”

When news outlets use terms such as chaos, melee, fracas, and (my favorite) brouhaha, they're probably reporting on a riot.

This has happened previously. Confirming what I always have suspected, that Beach Boys music can lead to no good, in July of 2013

A violent crowd raged through Huntington Beach on Sunday night after a surfing competition, clashing with police, toppling portable toilets, brawling in the streets and vandalizing and looting at least one business, according to police and witnesses.

There was some mention of "riots" in this NBC Los Angeles story but all in most media reports, far less emphasis on the "commotion" as a riot than we encountered in Baltimore. Additionally, "white-on-white crime" is rarely heard.

But Kutner errs in implying that the differential treatment is due entirely to race.  During the Baltimore riots, there was little or no mention that it was a "race riot." And a race riot it was- black and (mostly) young people, aggrieved at the lack of jobs, mistreatment by police, poverty, and a whole range of problems exacerbated by racial hostility and/or discrimination erupted in a few nights of violence, tempered by heroic efforts by community leaders to restore order.

"Black lives matter," some protesters emphasized (photo below from The Independent of the U.K.), in what sometimes seems wishful thinking.  All across America, aggrieved black communities suffer in silence but when violence of the sort witnessed in Baltimore breaks out, it does no good to deny its (partially) racial basis of (sorry, Ben Carson).

The double standard is a problem. But so too is an emphasis on euphemism, whether to spare feelings, to avoid triggering a scathing response, or as merely an effort to "move on," to get beyond semantics.  But if as Camus noted, crushing truths perish from being acknowledged, causes are ignored, solutions missed, and the truth goes unspoken when we distort the English language or shun clear speaking for political ends








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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Here Is Another Nice Mess He Is Getting Us Into





The surge in Iraq worked. No, not in the conventional sense, but in a political sense. Strategically, it was a failure, as Stephen Walt explained in 2009:

The surge had two main goals. The first goal was to bring the level of violence down by increasing U.S. force levels in key areas, forging a tactical alliance with cooperative Sunni groups, and shifting to a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasized population protection. This aspect of the surge succeeded, though it is still hard to know how much of the progress was due to increased force levels and improved tactics and how much was due to other developments, such as the prior “ethnic cleansing” that had separated the contending groups.

The second and equally important goal was to promote political reconciliation among the competing factions in Iraq. This goal was not achieved, and the consequences of that failure are increasingly apparent. What lies ahead is a long-delayed test of strength between the various contending groups, until a new formula for allocating political power emerges. That formula has been missing since before the United States invaded — that is, Washington never had a plausible plan for reconstructing a workable Iraqi state once it dismantled Saddam’s regime — and it will be up to the Iraqi people to work it out amongst themselves. It won’t be pretty.

In the last six years, it has become even less pretty, rather downright ugly. But, the surge has been a tremendous success politically.  So effective has promulgation of the surge myth been that even Barack Obama, opponent of the Iraq War when he was a state senator and had no responsibility for foreign affairs, told Bill O'Reilly in 2008 "I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated.... I've already said it succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Politico reports that John Ellis Bush (working on his 36th revised remarks about Iraq) "maintained that ISIS has spread because of Obama’s decision not to maintain more of a military presence in Iraq and criticized his decision not to keep between 8-10,000 troops there, instead of the 3,000 now on the ground." John Ellis, with George Walker as a foreign policy adviser, is significantly exposed on the war. However, a less vulnerable Scott Walker, the leader in Iowa poll(s), similarly now claims (on his Facebook page)

Any president would have likely taken the same action President Bush did with the information he had, even Hillary Clinton voted for it, but knowing what we know now, we should not have gone into Iraq. President Bush deserves enormous credit for ordering the surge, a courageous move that worked. 

Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Clinton hastily withdrew our troops, threw away the gains of the surge, and embarked on a broader policy of pivoting away from the Middle East and leading from behind that has created chaos in the region.

The GOP learned, quickly, following John E. Bush's fumbling of the issue last week.   Few if any Democratic politicians have bothered to speak the truth about the surge and it may come back to haunt them.  Instead of biting the bullet by recognizing defeat and withdrawing the American soldiers from Iraq, President Bush delayed the day of reckoning . The genius of the surge was that, in Walt's words, it was "a well-intentioned attempt to staunch the violence temporarily and let President Bush hand the problem off to his successor. "

Whereupon Barack Obama took the easy way out and praised the surge, perhaps to establish foreign policy gravitas, or to appear bipartisan, or to avoid an argument with O'Reilly.  But Democrats, beware: circa 1952, the myth was that another Democratic President, Harry S. Truman, "lost China." Walker has given fair warning that the GOP foreign policy theme in 2016 will be "Obama lost China" or the "Obama-Clinton Administration" lost Iraq. It is historically inaccurate, but that probably won't matter; the groundwork has been laid. Thanks, Barack.










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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Exceptional It Is





NJ.com reports

A national debate over the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam has landed in New Jersey.

State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) on Thursday introduced a non-binding resolution (SR128) that urges the College Board — which writes the exam that allows high school students to get college credit — to revise its framework for guiding teachers.

"It strikes me that there is an inordinate emphasis on political correctness and so-called balance that is designing potential curricula and guidelines," Kyrillos told The Auditor. "And the AP test doesn't properly portray our history, the beginnings of our country, its values and its unique role in the world, past and present."

According to the resolution, the framework the College Board adopted in 2012 "reflects a seemingly biased view of American history, overemphasizing the negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting and minimizing many of the positive aspects."

The resolution goes on to say that the new test's framework "does not adequately discuss America's Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of independents the religious influences on our nation's history." 

Fair enough. Perhaps the new test can quiz students on which of the Founding Fathers thought Roman Catholics shouldn't be second-class citizens or how many enjoyed buying and owning other human beings.  Then there could be an essay question asking the students to explain why with the guiding hand of the Almighty, the feminine half of the nation remained subservient to the other half for so long.

Elsewhere in the country, we read conservatives "on several states' school boards have taken issue with the framework for not emphasizing "American exceptionalism"and focusing what they say are liberal and "identity politics" themes."

Recognition of racism and sexism is common but American exceptionalism can be viewed also through the lens of class. Jason DeParle of The New York Times found three years ago

While Europe differs from the United States in culture and demographics, a more telling comparison may be with Canada, a neighbor with significant ethnic diversity. Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians.

“Family background plays more of a role in the U.S. than in most comparable countries,” Professor Corak said in an interview....

In 2006 Professor Corak reviewed more than 50 studies of nine countries. He ranked Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark as the most mobile, with the United States and Britain roughly tied at the other extreme. Sweden, Germany, and France were scattered across the middle.

The lack of mobility (video below on perception of mobility) could be tempered but, DeParle notes, "the United States maintains a thinner safety net than other rich countries, leaving more children vulnerable to debilitating hardships.

Even if trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are not enacted, it is likely to get worse. "Most of the studies," DeParle found, "end with people born before 1970,while wage gaps, single motherhood and incarceration increased later. Until more recent data arrives," the National Review's Reihan Salaam argues, "we don't know the half of it."















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Thursday, May 14, 2015

And He's Not Even The Polish Pope





They say even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Obversely, even a well-functioning automobile or appliance sometimes malfunctions. And so it is that

The Vatican announced Wednesday that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the “state of Palestine,” lending significant symbolic weight to an intensifying Palestinianpush for international support for sovereignty that bypasses the paralyzed negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian leaders celebrated the Holy See’s endorsement as particularly important, given the international stature of Pope Francis. For Israelis, it was an emotional blow, since Francis has deep relationships with Jews dating back decades, and Christians are critical backers of their enterprise.

“The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,” said Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official.

Correction, Mr. Zomlot: The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics worldwide, including Palestinians, but in Palestine only those of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Rite categories, which would exclude the more numerous Eastern Orthodox and "Oriental" Orthodox Catholics, as well as a few Protestants.

Fortunately, there is a US House of Representatives, a chamber whose representation reflects population size because each district is home to an almost identical number of people (which also gives rise to gerrymandering, which admittedly is a problem).  Some of those are districts whose population is fairly homogenous, economically, ethnically, or religiously.

Presumably that holds true for Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who stated "I'm surprised that the pope would recognize Palestine when they're still haters who want to eliminate Israel off the map and don't recognize Israel. The Pope is the head of his religion and he makes those calls for himself, but I represent 700,000 people from East Texas and a vast majority agree with me."

Fortunately they do, and Gohmert is a splendid example of the stopped clock being right occasionally.  Competition comes from Stephen Duncan, representing a district (presumably heavily Protestant) in South Carolina, who remarked “I’m disappointed.  Now the Pope is legitimizing a Palestinian state without requiring those who get recognition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

That is the crux of the problem, and a fairly obvious one at that, and these guys deserve some credit for criticizing the most prominent Christian leader of the world and most prominent leader of the most popular religion, Christianity, in the USA. This does not come without its peril.

Even in areas in which Catholics are very much outnumbered, that takes a little courage. It becomes clear when hearing Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a Roman Catholic who also disagrees with Pope Francis on Israel, who hopes when the latter comes to Washington he

focuses on issues [where] he can make a difference — the "non-negotiables"— like abortion, same sex marriage and the like...  

How do you deal with a poverty problem? There’s not a Catholic [fix], contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican.  But there’s a Catholic view on life, on marriage, on the rights of parents and education. So I hope he sticks to this.

I feel your pain, Tim. I wish the Pope would stick to issues to which moral authority is applicable- greed, economic inequality, poverty, and the like- rather than international affairs. Alas, that would be a sort of "cafeteria politics," not unlike the "cafeteria Catholicism" many conservatives criticize.

And it's a little late for Repub politicians to question a religious leader's involvement in politics. A few months ago CNN reported

The wooing of white evangelical and born again Christian voters by potential presidential candidates has been an ongoing process that began soon after President Barack Obama won a second term in 2012. In the past six months alone, Marco Rubio spoke at South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan's "Faith and Freedom" fundraiser; Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Huckabee addressed the Iowa Family Leader Summit; and Ben Carson was the keynote speaker at the Family Leader's annual fundraising dinner.

And that was before Scott Walker announced his plans to meet with Christian conservatives in Washington, D.C., before Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy at the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and before John Ellis Bush on Saturday makes his pitch at Liberty to entangle the right's brand of Christianity more thoroughly with State. (That's the guy the media affectionately calls "JEB," who supposedly stood out as a Republican standing against theocracy.)

Wherever Pope Francis goes, he reminds us, as Charles Pierce does, that "the Gospels are not the 2012 Republican Party platform." It may be a bumpy ride because on the way there, he will get some things wrong, as he has with the Middle East. However, as George Peppard as Banacek once said in a whole different context, "a twisting road will take you to Warsaw- but you won't be bored."














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Freedom, Sometimes





In early March we could read in the (Milwaukee) Journal-Sentinel

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday embraced a move to ban abortion after 20 weeks after repeatedly declining to spell out where he stood on the issue in last year's re-election campaign.

Wisconsin Right to Life has touted as its top priority legislation that has yet to be introduced that would prevent women from seeking abortions in most cases after 20 weeks.

Walker said in last year's campaign he opposed abortion, but refused to say whether he supported banning the procedure after 20 weeks. At one stage, he ran an ad saying earlier restrictions he approved were aimed at patient safety and that he understood the decision to terminate a pregnancy was an "agonizing one."

"I'm pro-life, so that part shouldn't shock anybody," he told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editors and reporters in October. "It doesn't shock anybody, the legislation I've signed in the past."

In a Tuesday letter, he addressed specific legislation head on.

"As the Wisconsin legislature moves forward in the coming session, further protections for mother and child are likely to come to my desk in the form of a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks," his letter said. "I will sign that bill when it gets to my desk and support similar legislation on the federal level.

"I was raised to believe in the sanctity of life and I will always fight to protect it."

The letter was on Walker's campaign letterhead and released by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group.

Governor Walker evidently has undergone a conversion on this matter of freedom.  This now is featured on Scott Walker's Twitter page:








It is accompanied by the comment (emphasis his) "We're not about to give up the fight for freedom. RT if you want the next generation to have it BETTER than us. -TW

Or perhaps he still is undecided on this freedom thing.  Mr. Walker is scheduled to meet religious conservatives in Washington, D.C. next week to convince them he is really, truly dedicated to smashing abortion rights and same-sex marriage. So much for the concept of freedom.






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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Don't Take It Personally, Senator. He Just Doesn't Like People.





The surprise should be that it took so long to happen- and is so limited.

Last month, criticizing Massachusetts Senator Warren on MSNBC's Hardball, President Obama stated "I love Elizabeth. We're allies on a whole host of issues. But she's wrong on this. Last weekend, Obama charged "The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else.”

After the Senate (at least temporarily) yesterday blocked the Trade Promotion Authority (fast track authorization) the President had been aggressively seeking, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), an ally of Senator Warren on the matters of trade, financial regulation, and giving a helping hand to the middle class, remarked “I think the president was disrespectful to her by the way he did that... I think that the president has made this more personal than he needed to.”

Had Senator Brown been less respectful himself, he might have noted that, following Obama's initial criticism of Warren, the President misleadingly claimed

Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they're working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement. When I just keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it's secret -- I gotta say, it's dishonest. And it's a little concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to those sort of tactics.

Were Brown less reserved, he might have mentioned that the person making that statement has decided that this non-secret deal is a national security matter. On the floor of the Senate, an exasperated Senator Barbara Boxer explained (video below)








The guard says, "you can’t take notes." I said, "I can’t take notes?’” "Well, you can take notes, but have to give them back to me, and I’ll put them in a file." So I said: "Wait a minute. I’m going to take notes and then you’re going to take my notes away from me and then you’re going to have them in a file, and you can read my notes? Not on your life."

I gotta say, it's dishonest, swears the guy who maintains it is not a secret deal, although a Senator is subject to prosecution if she reveals anything about it. As Joseph Stiglitz told Chris Hayes

Well, to put it quite bluntly, I think from what we`ve been able to see of the TPP, you have to remember, USDR keeps these trade agreements secret and the only reason we know about it is from WikiLeaks (ph) and in my case, talking to negotiators from other countries where there`s a little bit more transparency than the United States.

From what we`ve been able to see, this is a very bad agreement. It`s not just about trade. The trade part is bad enough. But it`s about intellectual property, regulation.

While Brown called Obama "disrespectful," he could have knocked him for being dishonest. Patronizing might have come into play, also.  It wouldn't be the first time for Obama, who infamously on the campaign trail in 2008 lifted his nose in the air and maintained "It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

During his re-election campaign, the President, defending his wife, patronizingly argued "there's no tougher job than being a mom," a perspective torn to shreds (in another context) a year ago by writer and mother Mary Elizabeth Williams.

The President not only looks down on mere mortals, the habit is spreading.  Presidential press secretary Josh Earnest, appearing on Morning Joe, actually stated

Well Joe, as somebody who gets paid to talk in public for a living, I try to be mindful of at least trying to be slow to criticize people who say things in public that are so inconsistent with their reputation and with their character. And Senator Brown is somebody that has a good relationship with the president. They've worked effectively on a range of issues including nominating and confirming the first woman to be the chair of the Federal Reserve. So, Senator Brown is a stand-up guy. And I'm confident after he's had a chance to take a look at the comments he made yesterday, that he'll find a way to apologize.

Gosh, Barack Obama's feelings were hurt and Sherrod Brown will apologize, Earnest speculated, "after he's had a chance to look at the comments he made yesterday" As a child, Brown just blurts things out, infers the President's spokesperson.

So keep at it, Senator.   It may be a dream, but perhaps a couple of other members of Congress will follow your lead and Barack Obama will realize your criticism is quite mild, that others have not escaped the realization of how demeaning he is.






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The President Of The One-Track Mind

You've all seen this tweet, sent by President Trump twelve hours before polls closed in an election I had totally wrong: Donald...