Tuesday, June 30, 2015

President Obama Does Something Right

It was back in November on his Facebook page that Clinton 42 Labor Secretary Robert Reich credited business owner Nick Hannauer with the idea that

By executive order the President could raise the salary level at which employers are required to pay employees time-and-a-half for every hour worked beyond 40 hours a week. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried workers qualified for such overtime pay, and the threshold for receiving it was $69,000 in today’s dollars. But since then the value of the threshold has eroded to $23,660, so just 11 percent of salaried workers now qualify. If Obama raised the threshold back to the same standard we had in 1975, and everyone earning up to $69,000 got overtime pay, 

President Obama might as well have been listening because on Tuesday good news came when we learned

a long-awaited overtime rule from the US labor department would more than double the threshold at which employers can avoid paying overtime, from $455 a week to $970 a week by 2016. That would mean salaried employees earning less than $50,440 a year would be assured overtime if they worked more than 40 hours per week, up from the current $23,660 a year....

To keep up with future inflation and wage growth the proposal would peg the salary threshold at the 40th percentile of income, individuals familiar with the plan said. They requested anonymity in return for discussing the proposal ahead of the official announcement. The president has been scheduled to promote the proposal during a visit on Thursday to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Obama’s proposal aims to narrow a loophole that the president has long said some employers exploit to avoid paying overtime.

Employees who make above the salary threshold can be denied overtime if they are deemed managers. Some work grueling schedules at fast food chains and retail stores, but with no overtime eligibility their pay may be lower per hour than many workers they supervise.

The existing salary cap, established in 2004 under George Bush, has been eroded by inflation and now relegates a family of four making just above the cap into poverty territory. Obama has long charged that the level is too low and undercuts the intent of the overtime law.  

"In this country, a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That's at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America," wrote the President Monday for the Huffington Post. Thanks to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (and especially to fast-track, which will assure the TPP and future trade deals will be bad for American workers), fewer Americans will experience that middle class feeling. But for today at least, the President, with the new overtime rule he prompted, has given the middle class a major break or as Reich (his video from May, below) put it Tuesday, "a bit of good news for hard-working Americans."

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

When a week ago Nikki Haley called a news conference and called for removing the battle flag of the Confederate States of America from the grounds of the Statehouse in Colombia, she was flanked by a bipartisan group of legislators.  Though present also was Republican National Committee chairperson Reince Priebus, Democratic National Committee chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was not invited, which tells us much of what we need to know about the Governor's sudden change of heart.

As a candidate for governor in 2010, Mrs. Haley claimed the flag is “not something that is racist” but part of “a tradition that people feel proud of." During her re-election bid in 2014, the Republican maintained (video below)

What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag...We really kinda fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African American US senator. That sent a huge message.

Those Chief Economic Officers, including apparently he at Wal-Mart, have had a change of heart. Nine individuals gunned down in a single incident tends to focus the mind, though firearm restrictions still are not to be mentioned.

But the presence of the titular head of the GOP was not the only telling element to Haley's dramatic event.   So, too, was her rationalization that

Some divisions are bigger than a flag. The evil we saw last Wednesday comes from a place much deeper, much darker.

But we are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is a something we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds....

To the governor, the flag does not represent hate. It is merely being used by people- evil people- as a sign of hate.  They, like Dylann Roof, simply do not understand.

With perfect vision, Haley does recognize "that it causes pain to so many," a recognition which escaped her way back, well, a year ago.  However, she still misses the point, as does popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who days later remarked "I  think it's offensive to an entire race. It does nothing for anybody to be there flying, so I don't see any reason. It belongs in the history books and that's about it."

Three cheers for Haley's political savvy, for Republicans must believe if they've lost NASCAR (of its popular base) and Wal-Mart (of its donor base), it has lost America.  But the Confederate flag does not merely represent bad manners and should not be taken down because it offends people, any more than it should remain because its removal would offend many white southerners.  Sensitivities are fragile and shifting and we make public policy upon them at our peril.

This flag of treason is not misunderstood as a sign of hate. It is understood as a sign of hate, and of resistance to the that notion of nationhood the Confederacy fought against a long time ago."The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause," Ta-Nehisi Coates recalls, "and the Confederate cause was white supremacy."

In the manner of Haley and Earnhardt, South Carolina state senator Tom Davis argues "Regardless of who’s right from a historical standpoint, it is indisputable that the Confederate battle flag now flying on the State House grounds has been misappropriated by hate groups as a symbol of their hatred." The National Review's Ian Tuttle advocates a compromise "if reducing the visibility of these symbols would offer relief to those genuinely hurt,"  Coates counters: "The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans."

In remarkable irony, the southerner who most clearly articulated this view is the son of former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. On the floor of the state senate, Senator Paul Thurmond explained (video below) in part

I am aware of my heritage. But my appreciation for the things that my forebearers accomplished to make my life better doesn’t mean that I must believe that they always made the right decisions and, for the life of me, I will never understand how anyone could fight a civil war based, in part, on the desire to continue the practice of slavery. Think about it for just a second. Our ancestors were literally fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves and continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage. These practices were inhumane and were wrong, wrong, wrong.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Campaigning With God

As "a lifelong Christian who teaches Sunday school most weekends at my United Methodist congregation in Baton Rouge," Robert Mann has reasons beyond the ideological to point out that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

isn’t a stupid man. He knows well that there’s no plot on the left to deny Christians access to the public square. He knows Christianity isn’t under assault from liberals....

Jindal isn’t attacked for being a Christian. He’s been attacked for being the opposite of a Christian — a cynical charlatan who appeals to the grievance, fear and hatred among the Christian right.

Jindal is a GOP presidential candidate who holds a biology degree from an Ivy League school and is a former Rhodes scholar. Still, he has evolved from 2008 into an avid cultural warrior and responding to the Supreme Court decision on marriage, maintained on Friday "This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty."

Jindal (on Meet The Press Sunday, below) talks often about his faith and especially about alleged encroachment upon religious liberty, but

it is rarely to share with his listeners how Jesus Christ has transformed his life (although when speaking at churches, he does sometimes give a personal testimony about his conversion to Christianity). Jindal rarely quotes the Bible, or even Pope Francis, in his speeches.

For kicks, I Googled, ”Jindal my faith teaches me.” What I got were not statements about grace, humility or the poor. Instead, I found a great deal about Jindal’s views on same-sex marriage.

Taking the bait, I for kicks Googled "Obama my faith teaches me" and the best I could come up with was this report of Obama's speech in 2007 at the 50th anniversary celebration of the United Church of Christ, in which

“My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I go out and do the Lord’s work,” he said, speaking before more than 9,000 people at the Hartford Civic Center in front of a red and black backdrop with the church’s marketing slogan: “God is still speaking.”

(That "marketing slogan" was not in vogue in 2007, when CBS and NBC refused to air one of the denomination's ads, shown below. Despite the Court's ruling Friday, don't expect either network- or Anthony Kennedy- to apologize.)

President Obama, though, has cited his religious faith on another occasion, when in 2008 he told Rick Warren (and a national audience) "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix."

God, it turns out, was the Vice-President, who on Meet The Press during the 2012 presidential race endorsed same-sex marriage, forcing Obama out of the closet despite that "sacred union" stuff. Notwithstanding Obama's on-again, off-again opposition opposition to gay marriage, prior to the ruling he bragged- without hint of irony or introspection- "When I became President, same-sex marriage was legal in only 2 states. Today, it’s legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia."

There are a few believers, a Mike Huckabee here and there. However, when a politician, Democratic or Republican, starts talking "my faith," hold on to your wallet. He or she smells a  mark. Don't let it be you.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

There Is More To This Legacy

With excessive glee over Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's embittered response to the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the usually sane and sober Mary Elizabeth Williams contends

The far right’s Friday freakout has been a thing of beauty, even for those of us who generally avoid hate watching. Bryan Fischer’s 9/11 metaphor packed Twitter feedalone is worth microwaving a bag of Pop Secret for. But it’s Scalia who has now truly made his mark in the annals of history with a career defining meltdown. This, Antonin Scalia, is your legacy. A tantrum. A petulant declaration of sore loserhood. It’s what you’ll be forever remembered for. How fitting. How perfect. And for all their sting, how useless and hollow, how hilariously pointless, this beautiful day, your angry words prove to be.

"This, Antonin Scalia, is your legacy."  Surely, she jests.

One day after a famous decision, it is impossible to determine if it will be a Justice's legacy. However, last September, reviewing a book analyzing Justice Scalia, Justin Driver wrote

During the last decade alone, Scalia has issued major opinions redefining the Second Amendment’s protection for firearms possession in District of Columbia v. Heller and the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause in Crawford v. Washington. Even accounting for Scalia’s many memorable opinions written in dissent would inadequately trace his legal imprint.

Instead of his influence being confined to a discrete set of writings or narrow doctrinal categories, Scalia has shaped modern American law in ways more overarching and even elemental.

And that doesn't even count Bush v. Gore,  in which Scalia joined  in the per curiam decision, which plead "our consideration is limited to the present circumstances for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." "For a time," Patrick Caldwell observed in 2013, "the justices got their wish. But the supposed one-time logic of the controversial decision has begun to gain acceptance in the legal community- particularly among campaign lawyers in contentious elections."

Whatever the enduring legal impact of the Court's decision aborting the recount of the 2000 presidential election and handing the presidency to George W. Bush (and the vice-presidency to Dick Cheney), the policy implications were- and continue to be- enormous.

And that hasn't been limited to Bush's war in Iraq, his ineffectual war on terrorism, or stability in the Middle East.   The year Bush left office, Ron Brownstein explained

the dubious distinction of becoming the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms, notes Lawrence Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The median household income increased during the two terms of Clinton (by 14 per cent, as we'll see in more detail below), Ronald Reagan (8.1 per cent), and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (3.9 per cent). As Mishel notes, although the global recession decidedly deepened the hole-the percentage decline in the median income from 2007 to 2008 is the largest single year fall on record-average families were already worse off in 2007 than they were in 2000, a remarkable result through an entire business expansion. "What is phenomenal about the years under Bush is that through the entire business cycle from 2000 through 2007, even before this recession...working families were worse off at the end of the recovery, in the best of times during that period, than they were in 2000 before he took office," Mishel says.

Bush's record on poverty is equally bleak. When Clinton left office in 2000, the Census counted almost 31.6 million Americans living in poverty. When Bush left office in 2008, the number of poor Americans had jumped to 39.8 million (the largest number in absolute terms since 1960.) Under Bush, the number of people in poverty increased by over 8.2 million, or 26.1 per cent. Over two-thirds of that increase occurred before the economic collapse of 2008.

These trends were not by accident, and the disaster that was Bush 43 should be laid at the feet of each Justice who decided that the U.S. Supreme Court should select the President who, if all votes had been counted, would have been Al Gore (with no Dick Cheney).

Those Justices included one Antonin G. Scalia, whom Williams believes will live in infamy because of his same-sex marriage dissent.

If you are a gay man or woman and believe your only path to happiness- or dignity, as Justice Kennedy emphasized- is through possession of a marriage license, rejoice.  If you are the White House and believe the home is  your personal property (above), rejoice.  If, however, you are dismayed at such trends in American society as the share of household income of the top .1%, (below, from Emanuel Saez), you'll notice that Antonin Scalia has done far worse to our nation.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Freedom To Choose Being Noble Or Dignified, Or Single

Score one for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in his opinion concurring with that of Chief Justice Roberts, two of the four Justices on the losing side of the decision (photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. Scalia notes

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

Anthony Kennedy, who penned the majority opinion (joined in by the four Democratic Justices), obviously has tenure but, if he stepped down at some point, will have a job assured promoting the Human Potential Movement. He'll never, however, will do any better than conflating legal reasoning with "express their identity."  Fellow Republican Caitlyn Jenner is bursting with pride.

But score two for Crooks and Liars' Juanita Jean. Without explanation or good reason, she labels Scalia's remark "crap."  Still, given the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore, she envisions Associate Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg  having a good laugh at Scalia's argument that

.... to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.  But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.

No one, however, ever suggested that avoidance of hypocrisy, even on such a grand scale, is a qualification for  sitting on the United States Supreme Court.  So score not one, not two, but three or more for Justice Kennedy, who got all four liberal, free-thinking Justices to agree with him that

.... the Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was burdened by a law prohibiting fathers who were behind on child support from marrying. The Court again applied this principle in Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95 (1987), which held the right to marry was abridged by regulations limiting the privilege of prison inmates to marry. Over time and in other contexts, the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause. See, e.g., M. L. B. v. S. L. J., 519 U. S. 102, 116 (1996); Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. LaFleur, 414 U. S. 632, 639–640 (1974); Griswold, supra, at 486; Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U. S. 535, 541 (1942); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399 (1923)

Neither Roberts (joined by Alito), Scalia or Thomas questions the fundamental right to marry, either as established by courts or by demonstrated importance to society through the ages.  (Scalia does, though, offer on page 8 of his dissent insights which have escaped his colleagues.)  Of course they don't. It's what conservatives long have believed and emphasized- the superiority of the married state to the unmarried state, even of married individuals to unmarried individuals.   Associate Justice Kennedy neatly summarized that concept in maintaining

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations....

It's great to learn from one of the conservative  judges that traditional marriage promises "nobility and dignity" that  being single does not.  It's even more impressive that the four progressive Justices on the Court signed on to  that reasoning.  Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, even Breyer may be having a good laugh, along with a deep sense of satisfaction, today. But the biggest guffaw belongs to Anthony Kennedy, who has gotten them, and lay supporters  of same-sex marriage, to accept an antiquated concept  of marriage and the individual.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

"It Is Mine," He Said, "And I Want You To Go Home."

Evidently for entertainment purposes only, the White House blog reads "Curious who's visited the White House? We're committed to government transparency and have been providing records of White House visitors since December 2009; have a look."

If we hadn't noticed more whistleblowers prosecuted in the Obama Administration than in all other administrations combined, the Administration has been observed ever-vigilant in blocking access to files requested under the Freedom of Information Act.  Currently, it is TPP, of which Bill Curry writes

We don’t know what’s in it because our president won’t let us read it, and not out of respect for precedent or protocol. George W. Bush showed us drafts of his trade agreements. We’re negotiating one right now with Europe, and Europeans get to read those drafts. If a comma gets cut from the TPP, hundreds of corporate lobbyists know in an instant. The only people who don’t know are the American people — and that’s only because our president thinks our knowing would ruin everything.

But while the claim of transparency has fallen way short, more entertaining is the website's reminder "The White House is known as 'The People’s House.'"

Someone should have informed the current occupant.  CNN reports

President Barack Obama is used to hecklers stopping him during speeches -- but he draws the line when the audience interrupts him in his own house.

As Obama was speaking at a White House event honoring LGBT Pride Month on Wednesday, an accented voice rang out from the crowd. Obama wasn't amused.

"Shame on you," he told his heckler, who was protesting deportations under the Obama administration.

Obama responded, "Listen you're in my house ... it's not respectful."

The interruption persisted, however, and Obama asked for the heckler to be removed from the East Room.

"As a general rule I am just fine with a few hecklers. But not when I'm up here in the house," he said, as Vice President Joe Biden clapped him on the back.

Obama said later if guests are "eating the hors d'oeuvres and drinking the booze," they're typically expected to listen respectfully.

Shortly after the incident, an immigration group claimed the protestor was an undocumented immigrant named Jennicet GutiƩrrez, who is transgender. According to a press release, GutiƩrrez was a founding member of FAMILIA TQLM, established to advocate for LGBTQ immigrants who the group says are often excluded in the immigration debate.

Let's get this out of the way: Gutierrez was rude, for she interrupted a speaker many people had gone to hear.

But Gutierrez wasn't elected; she is a private citizen. Citizens are that way sometimes. Presidents aren't supposed to be that way- at least, not in respect to "The People's House," paid for and owned by the American people.

"Listen, you're in my house," the current occupant says. He will be asked to leave in a year-and-a-half and will have no choice but to depart.  He has no mortgage and knew from the beginning that the term of occupancy was four years, with the people holding an option for an additional four years.  

Not only did neither he nor his wife prepare those hors d'oeuvres, it's a sure bet that neither paid for them, nor for the "booze" the President cited. Nor should they have- it's not their house..  Rather, they themselves are guests of the American people. And they have overstayed their welcome.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Guns Are Not Black America's Best Friend

Based on 2010 statistics reflected in the graph below, Katie Leach-Lemon in 2014 observed "rates of homicides from guns were  6.6 times larger in the US than in Portugal, the country with one of the highest rates in Western Europe."

If you think that would be disconcerting to a supporter of the #black lives matter movement, you are thinking logically, but would be wrong.  Political science assistant professor Alex Gourevitch believes it "easy to see how" enactment of "feasible gun control laws"

will become part of the system of social control of mostly black, mostly poor people. There are already too many crimes, there is too much criminal law, and there is far too much incarceration — especially of black people. To the degree that all that is part of the “dark chapter in our history,” given the deep injustice of our society, and especially its policing practices, the actual practice of gun control will continue that dark chapter, not resolve it.

In 2013, after a review conducted by Vice President Biden following the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama, the Huffington Post reported

recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

Of those seven proposals, five would come under the rubric of gun control, one other to law enforcement, though not a gun control measure.

Those five, which would marginally at most impinge upon the privileges and prerogatives of hunters and/or weapons collectors, presumably are the sort of thing Gurevitch would consider "feasible," rather than more radical, gun control.    (Gurevitch doesn't specify what laws he's talking about. If I were he, I wouldn't, either.)  So it is hard to understand why "gun control responses to mass killings"

are a deep mistake. The standard form of gun control means writing more criminal laws, creating new crimes, and therefore creating more criminals or more reasons for police to suspect people of crimes. More than that, it means creating yet more pretexts for a militarized police, full of racial and class prejudice, to overpolice.

The standard form of gun control means creating new crimes.  Well, yes, obviously.  If the proposals had been enacted, selling or purchasing an assault weapon or a weapon with a magazine greater than 10 rounds, or armor-piercing bullets would be a crime, as would being involved in a federal gun trafficking scheme.   That hardly seems racist, and cracking down on gun trafficking is hardly likely to affect minorities disproportionately.

Police may suspect more people of crimes if those individuals are illegally possessing firearms or ammunition.   Often (though Gurevitch seems to doubt it) such per persons are contemplating additional crimes- or at least have given themselves a greater capability of committing them, and for going undetected.

Unfortunately (though probably not for his argument), Gurevitch fails to tell us what he means by a "militarized police." To most individuals, "militarized police" refers to law enforcement with military weapons, such as bayonets, M-16 rifles, and armored personnel carriers (Ferguson from Google images, below). Nonetheless, Gurevitch conflates them which irregularly make an appearance with a situation "full of racial and class prejudice."

Neither are weapons in the hands of criminals, though they are there, leading to situations in which law enforcement reacts- sometimes overreacts- in a manner drawing comparisons to the military.   The prevalence of weapons in urban areas, so unconcerning to Gurevitch, is more- not less- likely to prompt the racist overreaction by police which understandably unnerves the professor.

Gurevitch argues

As multiple police killings of unarmed black men have reminded us, the police already operate with barely constrained force in poor, minority neighborhoods. From SWAT to stop-and-frisk to mass incarceration to parole monitoring, the police manage a panoply of programs that subject these populations to multiple layers of coercion and control. As a consequence, more than 7 million Americans are subject to some form of correctional control, an extremely disproportionate number of whom are poor and minority.

The police operate with barely constrained force in poor, minority neighborhoods.  It's a hedge, given that "barely constrained" is literally "constrained," though on the cusp of reacting with maniacal fierceness. Still, it's only fair to ask in which jurisdictions police are possessed of such dark motivations. The police... where? In what poor, minority neighborhoods do the police "operate with barely constrained force?"   No clue is forthcoming.

Police possess deadly weapons and are involved in law enforcement daily. The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, hardly a hotbed of Klannish sentiment, has found there have been 76 "people of color" (colored people?) killed by police from 2/5/99 through 2014.  Awful, particularly for those families; also, 76 in 15+ years in a nation of 319 million people and 13,200,000 blacks.

Gurevitch's obsession with racial justice to the exclusion of all other democratic values is reflected in his remark

Poor Blacks and Latinos are easily intimidated by charge-happy prosecutors into accepting plea deals, meaning they never see their day in court. Some even end up admitting to crimes they did not commit just to avoid the possibility of more severe punishments. More criminal gun laws would only feed this deeply unjust system.

This fellow really needs to get out more. He needs to observe the manner in which poor people of any race are treated in the criminal justice system.  Once he recognizes that poor whites also are abused, he may notice that even middle class folks admit responsibility for crimes they did not commit, in order to avoid serious punishment and going deeply into debt. Usually, only the rich can afford private legal counsel, without which one has little recourse but to plead guilty "just to avoid the possibility of more severe punishments."   Criminal gun laws often merit severe punishment if they're violated. The life of an innocent person may depend on it.

"Racial justice." Alex Gurevitch summarizes, "is a precondition for any reasonable gun control regime." No, it is not. Currently, we have neither, with one an important goal and the other an important means to an end, reduction in crime.  We also are nowhere near either. Most of those individuals abusing the Second Amendment are young men and, except in mass shootings, often black.  With their motives hardly benign and lifestyles short of exemplary, encouraging them to possess lethal weapons without legitimate cause is unlikely to spur white Americans to embrace that cause of racial justice Gourevitch emphasizes

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Not A Bastard

Mitt Romney, perhaps because he isn't a candidate for his party's presidential nomination this time around, became the first prominent Repub to recommend the Confederate flag on the Statehouse grounds come down in South Carolina when on Saturday he tweeted

Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.

Of course, it isn't a symbol of racial hatred "to many"- it is a symbol fo racial  hatred.  Still, we'll take it.

Coming very close was Ohio governor John Kasich, expected to announce a run for the White House soon, whose written statement included "This is up to the people of South Carolina to decide, but if I were a citizen of South Carolina I'd be for taking it down."

Not as close was John Ellis Bush, who entered Saturday afternoon on his Facebook page

My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged. This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state. Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I'm confident they will do the right thing.

His position on the Confederate flag in Florida is clear;  his position about it in South Carolina less so. He does take a pro-pandering position, however, because he's sure political leaders there "will d the right thing." His non-position is not for naught, though, for he appears to have impressed some media matters.

Daniel Politi, whose readers in Slate are not dominated by CPAC attendees, wrote of Bush and Romney "Those calling for the removal of the Confederate flag that is flying above the grounds of South Carolina's state Capitol received support from two Republicans on Saturday."  A New York Times blogger even seemed to credit John Ellis Bush with Romney's forthright statement, accurately but deceptively writing "Prior to Mr. Bush’s statement, none of the party’s 2016 presidential candidates had gone as far as Mr. Romney in demanding that the flag come down."

Pretty slick, that John Ellis Bush.  In late April, an e-mail he sent to supporters, according to The Washington Post, read

This week Hillary Clinton said that people's deep-seated religious beliefs need to be changed in order to advance her own personal political agenda. Wow. America was founded on religious freedom, and that freedom is woven into the Bill of Rights as the first guarantee. And strengthening families is an important element to helping people rise up. This shouldn't be a partisan political issue, but unfortunately for Hillary Clinton it sounds like it is.

It would be reprehensible to demand that Americans' religious beliefs be changed. Except that Clinton said nothing of the sort (video below) three days earlier at the Women in the World Conference in New York when

In her speech, Hillary talked about the challenges facing women across the globe, as women everywhere still face sexual and domestic violence, too few legal protections and too little access to health care — particularly when it comes to reproductive health and safe childbirth. “All the laws we passed don’t count for much if they are not enforced,” Clinton said. “Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Memo to John Ellis Bush- in most of the Third World, women don't have the rights they have (however inadequate) in the USA. At the risk of sounding like Bill Maher: the "cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases" are not as progressive as they are in advanced, western republics.

It's a tough concept but John Ellis Bush should be able to figure it out.  When he made his remark in April, Evil Right Wing Bastards  criticized Bush, as well as Catholic League President Bill Donohue and Glenn Beck's website The Blaze.  In the run-up to the presidential election, this fellow argues, "every word" Clinton "utters will be lied about and misrepresented- because that's the way Evil Rightwing Bastards operate."

That's an unfair and inaccurate characterization of the former governor.  We know for a fact that his parents were married when he was conceived.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wielding The "Faith" Weapon

Think Progress' Tara Culp-Ressler observes

Instead, many right-wing commentators are seizing on the location of the massacre — a Wednesday night Bible study in a church whose history dates back more than 200 years — as evidence that Christians are under attack in the United States.

Fox News was quick to declare that the Charleston shooting was an “attack on faith.” On Thursday’s Fox and Friends, panel members discussed the “rising hostility against Christians in this country because of our biblical views.” GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum followed suit, calling the shooting part of a broader assault on “religious liberty” in this country.

“We have no idea what’s in his mind. Maybe he hates Christian churches,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in reference to the white shooter.

Focusing on the religion of the nine victims, however, obscures the larger reality of race-based hate crimes at houses of worship. The tragedy at Emanuel A.M.E. represents just the latest in along line of violent attacks on black churches — targeted not for their “biblical views,” but because of the color of their parishioners’ skin.

White Americans have long been wary of the black church establishment for reasons that are far removed from religious beliefs. In the 1800s, when freed blacks started organizing an autonomous denomination where they wouldn’t be subjected to segregation in the pews — the African Methodist Episcopal Church — their white neighbors were nervous that an all-black space would give slaves the opportunity to organize and rebel. Indeed, the early leaders of black churches preached a theology of liberation. One of the founders of Emanuel A.M.E. attempted toorganize a slave revolt in 1822, and the church was burned to the ground in punishment. White slaveowners were so wary of future attempts that laws prohibiting all-black congregations were enacted throughout much of the South and remained in place until after the Civil War.

During the modern Civil Rights movement, black liberation theology was forged in the context of the oppressive laws propping up institutional racism. Black churches taught their parishioners that, in a white-dominated society, the Gospel was relevant to them because it proved that God is invested in the struggle for justice and freedom. It’s not hard to see why houses of worship became hubs of activism in the black community in the 1960s — but, just as in the 19th century, they were punished for it.

In what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity,” the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama killed four young girls and injured 22 others. A year later, KKK members beat churchgoers leaving Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in Mississippi, and eventually burned the building to the ground. White supremacists continued targeting black churches well in the 1990s, as racially motivated arson attacks swept the South.

These crimes weren’t about the fact that parishioners were reading the Bible or praying to Jesus (and, in fact, they were largely perpetrated by a racist group that identifies as a Christian organization). They were about the fact that African Americans were drawing power from all-black spaces, organizing in their own communities, and standing up to racial oppression. In other words, black Christian churches aren’t attacked for being Christian; they’re attacked for being black.

Politicians including Giuliani, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham,and Rand Paul have been shocked! shocked! that firearm violence has taken place inside a church. But Emanuel A.M.E.  was not targeted because it was an ordinary church, but an extraordinary one, one with a long and storied involvement in the civil rights movement. Many houses of worship leave their door(s) unlocked during Bible study, worship services, and during other activities. They are not immune from the gun violence which characterizes  American society, as we learned six years ago (Maddow report of the time, below) when The New York Times reported

George Tiller, one of only a few doctors in the nation who performed abortions late in pregnancy, was shot to death here Sunday in the foyer of his longtime church as he handed out the church bulletin.

The authorities said they took a man into custody later in the day after pulling him over about 170 miles away on Interstate 35 near Kansas City. They said they expected to charge him with murder on Monday.,,,

A provider of abortions for more than three decades, Dr. Tiller, 67, had become a focal point for those around the country who opposed it. In addition to protests outside his clinic, his house and his church, Dr. Tiller had once seen his clinic bombed; in 1993, an abortion opponent shot him in both arms. He was also the defendant in a series of legal challenges intended to shut down his operations, including two grand juries that were convened after citizen-led petition drives.

On Sunday morning, moments after services had begun at Reformation Lutheran Church, Dr. Tiller, who was acting as an usher, was shot once with a handgun, the authorities said. The gunman pointed the weapon at two people who tried to stop him, the police said, then drove off in a powder-blue Taurus. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, a member of the church choir, was inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting.

Anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder was soon arrested and at trial maintained "I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children. I shot him."   Nonetheless, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, where in May, 2013 he was placed into solitary confinement for 45 days for making threats against abortion providers.

On the most visible issues of culture, the right doesn't have much left, with support growing for both same-sex marriage and abortion rights, a relatively un-traditional Pope speaking out against the foundation of conservative belief, and the nation gradually (but perceptibly) becoming more libertine. The obsession of many conservatives with portraying themselves as victims most opportunistically takes the form of smearing the left- and American society- as bias against religion or, in the new (secular) parlance, "faith."   It is the new front in the culture wars and one which Democrats running for national office must be ready to confront.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Focus Like A Laser

Stick to your guns, Hillary- or rather, stick to the guns.

Thirteen-year National Rifle Association board member Charles Cotton said State Senator Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of  the terrorist act in Charleston, S.C. "voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,... Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

Tasteless, and probably inaccurate, though an excellent answer to the question "Give an example of blaming the victim."

Nonetheless, Charles Cotton is not alone in absolving of blame the actual assailant. Interviewed Thursday (segment below) by a fixture of Nevada politics, Jon Ralston, Hillary Clinton remarked

Well, I think, look, there are a number of factors feeding into this and I thought President Obama’s statement earlier today was very moving.  We have to have a candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred.  The people who do this kind of dastardly horrible act are very small percentage, but unfortunately the public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who are less than stable to do something like what we’ve seen.

In addition to arguing that hot public discourse may "trigger people who are less than stable to" commit mass murder, Clinton stated

Well, I think we have to speak out against it, like for example a recent entry into the republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans.  Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable.  You know, you don’t talk like that on talk radio.

Well, no, we should not say that's not "acceptable" (and people do talk like that on talk radio, though perhaps she meant "should not talk like that"). We should disagree with the content of the argument- but not the right of the individual to argue. The statement may not be valid but save use of the "n" word or something similar, it is legitimate.

That's what free expression is all about. It costs us nothing to permit the voicing of ideas we agree with, or which sound lovely and pleasant. Bad ideas- not their pronouncement- ought to be confronted with a stronger argument in opposition.

Clinton's remarks do not bode well for "a national conversation about race." The fear of conservatives that their comments would be not only opposed but suppressed is enhanced by individuals who advocate a candid conversation, then suggest that opposing viewpoints provoke felonies.  Comments like those of Donald Trump did not trigger the murderer in Charleston.  Ultimately, the assailant
(presumably Roof) in this incident is responsible for the act of violence he alone committed.     If a politico or talk radio host were to advocate ending the drug war, and a spike in deaths from illegal drugs were to ensue, she would not be to blame for the tragedy which unfolded.

The former Senator's remarks were no way to initiate that "candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred."  They were no way to dismantle and demolish the noxious viewpoint.  Instead, they distracted from the more constructive and valid point Clinton made when she stated

Let’s just cut to the chase.  It’s guns and we have to have a better balance and I know you’re going to have a universal background check kind of provision on the ballot here in Nevada. Apparently, the public, I can’t speak…I haven’t seen any recent polls of this state, but the national polls I’ve seen overall, gun owners support that, people who are strong proponents of the second amendment support that, but the Congress stops in the face of tremendous lobbying pressure from the gun lobby, so maybe on a local and state level we have to keep building towards some kind of more sensible balance to policy.

She should have cut immediately to the chase. Admittedly, the National Rifle Association won't be persuaded, nor will the right, except by the NRA and its political power. Nevertheless, the focus should be on reducing crime. Shutting up Donald Trump and his ilk won't do that.  Gun control- and other sensible policies- will.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

But Good Show, Hillary!

Salon's Sophia Tesfaye noted Thursday

In the aftermath of a vicious attack on African-American worshippers by a white gunman in a South Carolina church yesterday, Hillary Clinton said it was time for America to be “honest” and “face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division.”

“How many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she asked, speaking before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Las Vegas today, according to the National Journal.

The Democratic presidential candidate prayed for the victims before reminding the gathered elected officials of the role public policy plays in American gun violence.  “In the days ahead, we will again ask what led to this terrible tragedy and where we as a nation need to go. In order to make sense of it, we have to be honest. We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division,” she said.

Clinton told the crowd that she was shocked by what she called the “crime of hate,” calling a church “the last place we should ever see violence.”

“So as we mourn and as our hearts break a little more, and as we send this message of solidarity that we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence, this time we have to find answers together,” she said.

So far, Clinton is the only 2016 candidate to explicitly call for the reevaluation of guns in America following this mass shooting, although candidates on both sides have explicitly called out the role of racism.

The last phrase or two, "although candidates on both sides have explicitly called out the role of racism," is unnecessary. As of now, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate to have exhibited both the insight and courage to recognize (a portion of that speech, below) the role of both racial hostility and firearm lust.

And she has- thus far- done much more by what she has not said.  Without reference to Clinton, Salon's Arthur Chu writes

I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”

We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.

Unfortunately, he's going to get more tired.  Presidential candidate and Professor of Psychiatry Lindsey Graham commented "I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don't think it's anything broader than that." Thoughtful reflection is not something we can expect from Graham, who in September was so terrified by ISIL that he declared "this President needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home."

As South Carolina's senior U.S. Senator, Graham has an interest in assuring Republican voters that the shooting wasn't about the proliferation of guns and not primarily about racial animus. But the mental health dodge, deftly exhibited by Bill O'Reilly while interviewing Montel Williams Thursday evening, will spread. If we can convince ourselves it is an isolated case, no self-examination is necessary, and self-examination is not a pastime most Republican primary voters routinely engage in.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

They're Hooked On A Feeling

Our border control agents should be pleased to learn that Donald Trump has as much regard for them as for anyone else not named Donald Trump. The real estate mogul yesterday stated immigrants are

coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America, and it's coming probably -- probably -- from the Middle East. But we don't know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don't know what's happening. And it's got to stop and it's got to stop fast.

Or at least we think Trump was talking about immigrants. (He uttered "immigrant" or any variant thereof only once, between nuclear weapons and the Second Amendment.) He claimed also

Thank you. It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

He's not saying they are- just assuming they are, as he now assumes Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A. Further, the notion that crime rates soar as an area increases a glut of immigrants is a myth, as noted by this Think Progress blogger who recalls also

Trump’s claim that undocumented immigrants are rapists stem from a nativist argument often peddled by anti-immigrant activists and politicians. For example, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who’s introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at restricting immigration, has dedicated an entire webpage to undocumented immigrants who have killed American citizens.

But at least Steve King was obsessed about illegal immigrants. Trump made no distinction between legal and illegal immigration, ignoring the understanding among Repub politicians that they must at all times pretend they are targeting only illegal immigration.

In so doing, Trump represents  the Republican id, as he did when making a remark largely unnoticed and seemingly at odds with the nativism.  Part of his solution is to undo President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  But also: "I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. "

Amazing. "It's coming from all over South and Latin America, and it's coming probably -- probably -- from the Middle East," Trump warns as he irresponsibly raises the specter of terrorists overrunning Texas.  Yet, he found it necessary to assure his audience he would "build them (walls) very inexpensively"- then to add "And I will have Mexico pay for that wall."   (He must be the kind of builder Tom Paxton was singing about, below.)

An audience member, not noticing that Trump evidently cares so much about stopping immigration he won't commit a cent to doing it, yelled out "yeah!"  Fitting that was, because with a lot of conservatives, it's less about immigration than about sticking it to Mexico and Mexicans. America- yeah! USA! USA!

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Ask Trump, And Everybody

Donald Trump wouldn't like Robert Reich's suggestion.  Among the reforms former President Clinton's labor secretary advocates for reducing income and wealth inequality is lowering the threshold for estate taxation (video below).  He explains

Today the estate tax reaches only the richest two-tenths of one percent, and applies only to dollars in excess of $10.86 million for married couples or $5.43 million for individuals. 

That means if a couple leaves to their heirs $10,860,001, they now pay the estate tax on $1. The current estate tax rate is 40%, so that would be 40 cents.

Yet according to these members of Congress, that’s still too much. 

Abolishing the estate tax would give each of the wealthiest two-tenths of 1 percent of American households an average tax cut of $3 million, and the 318 largest estates would get an average tax cut of $20 million.

It would also reduce tax revenues by $269 billion over ten years. The result would be either larger federal deficits or higher taxes on the rest of us to fill the gap.

This is nuts. The richest 1 percent of Americans now have 42 percent of the nation’s entire wealth, while the bottom 90 percent has just 23 percent. ...

Adjusted for inflation, the estate tax restored to its level in 1998 would begin to touch estates valued at $1,748,000 per couple.

That would yield approximately $448 billion over the next ten years – way more than enough to finance ten years of universal preschool and two free years of community college for all eligible students.

Yesterday, Donald Trump essentially invited questions about his position on the estate tax, given that he emphasized

And I have assets -- big accounting firm, one of the most highly respected -- 9 billion 240 million dollars....

And I have liabilities of about $500 million (ph). That's long-term debt, very low interest rates.

In fact, one of the big banks came to me and said, "Donald, you don't have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion"? I said, "I don't need it. I don't want it. And I've been there. I don't want it."

But in two seconds, they give me whatever I wanted. So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it'll be well-over $10 billion. But here, a total net worth of -- net worth, not assets, not -- a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets -- Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York -- many other places all over the world.

So the total is $8,737,540,00.

He wasn't bragging, please understand, because he added "Now I'm not doing that... I'm not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don't have to brag. I don't have to, believe it or not."

Each candidate, Democratic or Republican, should be asked about the estate tax and (in one form or another) the other nine ideas Reich has.  No Repub genuinely interested in being nominated would support raising the estate tax, which would be instructive, as it would be if any Democrat were to oppose increasing the levy.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Foreign Policy Savant

Humbly declaring "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, Donald Trump (cartoon below by Danziger) has jumped with both feet into the clown car.

And not a moment too soon. Last month, Trump told GOP TV's Greta van Susteren

All I can tell you it is a foolproof way of winning, and I’m not talking about what some people would say, but it is a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS.   And it will be absolutely, 100 percent –they’ll at minimum come to the table but actually they’ll be defeated very quickly.

So here is a modest suggestion (if I can be so humble as to refer to myself as modest): President Obama should welcome Mr. Trump to the White House to explain how this most brutal of terrorist groups can be vanquished.

This is a no-lose option.  There is a modicum of chance that Trump has a plan which a) exists; b) would eliminate the Islamic State; and c) would more likely improve the situation in the Middle East than worsen it.  There also is possibility, about as likely, that Elizabeth Warren will be the next GOP presidential nominee.

Trump probably would reject the request, perhaps by reminding all of America how much he hates the U.S. President, a Kenyan masquerading as a Hawaiian.  But the offer itself from the leader of the Free World would enhance the candidate's credibility. Moreover, it would give said candidate the opportunity, as he sees fit, to enhance his credibility further by denouncing the President most Repubs loathe or by accepting it, lending him foreign policy gravitas and a leg up on the other contenders.

That is an outcome devoutly to be wished for.  Recognizing Trump as "a circus sideshow attraction,"  Salon's Bob Cesca early this morning remarked

With Trump officially joining the race, he vindicates the increasingly obvious analysis that the Republican Party, at the presidential level at least, is little more than a shell corporation for opportunists and careerists who aren’t interested in governing or even winning. The addition of Trump is the would-be final brick in the effort to turn the GOP’s nominating process into a dysfunctional and menacingly ugly reality show competition in which the contestants each scramble to be the most flagrant panderer to the Tea Party base and, subsequently, augment their Q-scores within the lucrative conservative entertainment complex. 

So, President Obama: invite Donald Trump to the White House.  Call his bluff. And if he does go, show the man behind "The Art of the Deal" that he can be played by the man he considers a terrible negotiator presiding over an Administration of terrible negotiators.  Further, the GOP, as Cesca puts it, would be further down the road "telegraphing to the world that it’s interested in fielding candidates who are commensurate with the seriousness of the nation’s perils."

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

We'll Hear From Her Once It Doesn't Matter

Campaign manager Robby Mook of Hillary for America was interviewed Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation by John Dickerson, who asked him why his candidate "was on the sidelines" during the recent fight over Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Promotion Authority, precursors to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (coverage map of the pact, below, from the AFL-CIO).  (Has been on the sidelines would have been more accurate. Regrettably, it's not over till the fat lady sings.)   Unfortunately, he responded

Well, Hillary not been (sic) on the sidelines.

Let me say, first and foremost, speaking of a fighter, there will no tougher fighter at the negotiating table for everyday Americans when these trade agreements are being negotiated. So, families can trust her to fight hard for them in any of these agreements.

Well, Robby, Hillary has been on the sidelines.  Among the issues Mrs. Clinton addressed in her speech (news report below) at Roosevelt Island yesterday were health, including reproductive; immigration, "gay people," small business, college debt, legal services for poor people; equal pay for women; energy policy (even sustainability); rebuilding the nation's infrastructure; preschool education; cybersecurity; campaign financing; nuclear proliferation. In fact, she mentioned nearly everything except Deflategate. And trade (or copyright and patent protection, generously provided in the TPP).

Still, Mook maintained

But Hillary has been abundantly clear about where she stands on the issue of trade. She laid out three key principles and tests that any trade agreement needs to meet. First and foremost, it needs to protect American jobs. Second, it needs in to increase wages for workers here in the United States, and, third, it needs to be consistent with our national security interests.

Mook has learned well the first rule of manipulating an interview: talk, talk, and confuse. One might be able to surmise Clinton's perspective if she had a priority; instead she has three "key principles and tests," which may not point in the same direction.  The Administration's rationale for keeping the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership secret is national security. Among Clinton's "principles and tests." Trade documents- even our own- are "foreign government information," claims the office of the United States Trade Representative.  

Moreover, President Obama contends the TPP will increase jobs, even as he supports Trade Adjustment Assistance (which went down to defeat Thursday, thus temporarily derailing fast track) so that workers who lose their jobs may get retrained.  The notion that employment will increase with this agreement (when retraining is promoted) is fairly far-fetched, but that doesn't prevent supporters from floating it.  The three principles and tests criteria is useless except to sound thoughtful while avoiding taking a stand.

Mook adds "We're waiting on- there's obviously a trade bill that may be coming. We don't have the exact text, but when we do, she will take a clear position."

Evidently, the former Secretary of State has not taken a clear position, inasmuch as her advocate added "We're waiting on- there's obviously a trade bill that may be coming.  We don't have the exact text, but when we do, she will take a clear position."  She "has been abundantly clearly" on trade but eventually "she will take a clear position." Oh, that's clear. "Obviously a trade bill," Mook assures us, "may be coming."  And in other news, the earth is round.

But the more disturbing implication is that Mrs. Clinton won't take a position because "we don't have the exact text." News flash: the Executive branch is keeping the text secret- much of what is known has been gleaned from leaked drafts- precisely because it fears that knowledge would doom it to defeat.   Surely Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Mook know that the "trade" deal itself has not yet reached the floor of either chamber, but TPA/fast track has, and approval of that would assure approval of the international agreement.

The TPP can still be approved if TPA is rejected. But if TPA (fast track) is approved, TPP still has life. Therefore, if Clinton is uncertain, or wishes to maintain an open mind, about the pact, there is no reason not to oppose fast track. If that goes down to defeat, she can still advocate the concept of free trade as well as the pact itself, suggesting improvement for labor and/or the environment.

"We don't have the exact text yet" so HRC can't take a position.  But she still could take a position- against fast track and for allowing Congress to insert labor and environmental standards.  But she has not. The lack of transparency, Senator Sanders noted on FTN, "is one of many reasons to be voting against this piece of legislation." And it, is, as he argued, "a little bit silly for members of Congress to be voting yes on a bill that they haven't seen."

Lincoln Chafee has taken a position (the wrong one) on TPP.  Martin O'Malley has taken a position (the right ones) on TPP and on fast track.  Bernie Sanders has emphasized his opposition to both. Hillary Clinton won't say, until (it would seem) she can finesse the issue, avoiding offending either the base of her party or the Big Money Boyz and the Obamots, the latter never questioning anything Barack O. does.   Or as Robbie Mook puts it, "no tougher fighter."

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An American, Technically

The Daily Beast notes Justice Samuel Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, once again unwitting made herself the internet’s Main Character on Tuesda...