Friday, July 31, 2015

Donald Trump Is Not Unique.

Matt Bai (hat tip to Steve M.) notes

Trump isn’t a front-runner for anything. That’s like saying the utility infielder who hits .460 in the first two weeks of April is a likely MVP candidate. It’s like saying Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were front-runners in 2011. (Oh wait: We did that, too.)

It’s July. Trump’s plurality in these polls basically comes down to a tiny subset of professed Republicans who will actually talk to a telemarketer, who can’t keep any of these other droning candidates straight, and who find politics in general to be a soul-sucking enterprise.

The GOP field of plausible nominees is three, two of them from Florida. The actual front-runner, disturbingly, at this time is Scott Walker because he is the leader (by a substantial margin) in Iowa. Once Iowa's caucus is held, the odds get shuffled heading into New Hampshire. The current preference of Repub voters nationwide, now for Donald Trump, is close to irrelevant.

Although the enthusiasm for the real estate mogul is, as Bai and almost every observer understands, as much cultural/psychological as it is ideological, the ideological should not get short shrift. Whatever Repub voters believe about legalization, deportation, or a wall, plenty of them long for a candidate who says he'll "get tough" with illegal  immigrants. That Trump clearly does, though he obviously never would convince the Mexican government to pay for a wall to stop the illegal immigrants he says "they" are sending here. Details, details. Facts are for liberals and other snobs.

Bai, however, asks an intriguing question when he writes

Somewhere out there right now is some business magnate or TV celebrity, someone whose resources and audacity may vastly exceed his intellect or compassion, whose ambition may be more of the Napoleonic variety than the P.T. Barnum kind, who’s better skilled than Trump at making demagoguery look like a half-palatable governing vision.

And that person is probably sitting by a pool ringed with limestone goddesses, watching all this unfold and asking the question any of us might reasonably ask in that situation.

“Hey, why not me?”

Although not a business magnate or TV celebrity, somebody already has asked "hey, why not me?" He's not a business magnate, but has strong ties to Wall Street.  He's not a TV celebrity but in the age of social media, has been somewhat of  a YouTube sensation and is quite a narcissist, additionally.   He has resources and is probably  the most audacious politician of them all, running a uniquely corrupt Administration skilled at pay-to-play. He has no more compassion than Trump but is far more skilled at making demagoguery look like a half-palatable governing vision.

His name is Chris Christie  (video below, obviously) and though he won't be nominated, he has a better chance than, oh, fourteen other aspirants.  He is, further, a reminder that Donald Trump does not stand alone in the Repub presidential field as a dangerous megalomaniac.


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Not An Isolated Remark

In May, the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor identified seven things which have been inaccurately equated by one or more individuals or groups with the Holocaust.  They are: avoidance by European governments of the migrant refugee crisis in the Mediterranean; Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent program; the annual Canadian commercial sea hunt; the "progessive war on the American one percent, namely the rich"; slaughtering animals; Hamas, ISIL, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

And of course, abortion.  Aside from President Obama, abortion/Holocaust is the GOP's favorite false equivalence, one which will not go away once Barack Obama does and there is a new Democratic president.

Huckabee is not exception.When in 2007 he was running for president, he maintained  "It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."  (And of course we could use more people looking for jobs because there really arent enough of them now.)  

After sitting out one presidential election cycle, Huckabee in February, 2013- probably contemplating yet another run for the Oval Office- remarked "And now we are called into this incredible Holocaust of our own in America. Fifty-five million babies. Fifty-five million babies since 1973 have died in what ought to be the safest place in the world, their mother’s womb. It has become one of the most dangerous places for a baby to be."

But wait! He wasn't done.  In an interview with Breitbart on Saturday, Huckabee contended

This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.

And for good measure, the next day- Sunday- Reverend Huckabee tweeted "the Iran nuclear deal is marching the Israelis to the door of the oven."   Every letter appeared in caps, presumably to make sure Repub primary and caucus voters didn't miss the implication. Evidently, Sunday isn't just for worship anymore.

On Monday's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski  was "horrified" at the "crass"statement and accurately noted it was "way worse" than Trump's immigrant remarks.  She was moved to respond “Oh God. I had not read it until this moment and I am horrified" and later in the program commented (video below)

Here’s the response that I have to Huckabee’s comments. If you’ve been to Auschwitz, if you’ve been to Birkenau, if you’ve been to any of these places where people were killed and you see the piles of glasses, the piles of hair, the piles of shoes and the piles of clothes. And every bit of their humanity that had to be stripped away, handed over as they went and burned to their deaths among other things, it’s really not a good comment to say.

It’s a deal breaker! It should be over for him. You don’t say that. And by the way, if you said it by mistake, that’s a sign of who you really are.

Brzezinski believes Huckabee now has gone over the line.  But on at least two occasions the former governor has strongly implied that abortion is no better than the Holocaust.  That's obviously inaccurate and demagogic, and is justifiably offensive to Jews, who wonder why Huckabee believes someone requesting a procedure he thinks is murder is morally equivalent to a European Jew of the 1940s.

Why not, however, continue the analogies?  Aside from Brzezinski's righteous outrage, there has been relatively little reaction to the nuclear deal/Holocaust analogy, and the candidate's motive in trying to draw attention to himself is no excuse for lack of condemnation.   Neither should the excitement of mainstream media figures over a USA women's soccer team or a female NBA or NFL coach obscure silence toward an invalid, offensive, and obscene analogy.   We know what Mike Huckabee thinks about women enduring hardship, and it isn't pretty. But in the corporate offices which control mainstream journalism, the regard may be no greater.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Villainy Of Them

By itself, the tiff between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj over alleged bias in MTV's Video Music Awards is sound and fury signifying nothing; two young, immature individuals for whom youth should be no excuse.  However, the article by Ann Friedman of New York Magazine diving into the issue of whether this segment of the entertainment industry disproportionately favors one group of wealthy artists over another group of wealthy artists is emblematic of a larger dispute in society.

Friedman applauds the documentary "White People," which "did make some of its subjects uncomfortable," which she finds very gratifying.  Plumbing the depths of her self-satisfaction, she argued they "struggled to understand that white privilege is something that is both bigger than they are and also something they are actively involved in."  Born white, they are not only responsible for oppression and racial injustice; they also are simultaneously small people, insignificant to the point that their privilege is "bigger than they are." Keep quiet, racist children.

After Minaj tweeted her dissatisfaction with the VMA awards, Swift responded in kind, which led Minaj to place on her Instagram account “We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs. This isn't anger. This is #information.”  A pleased Friedman wrote

This, as the reaction to both her tweet and the White People documentary shows, is a tough lesson for white people to learn. It’s not about how hard you’ve worked for what you have, how you personally feel about people of other races, or how good your intentions are. It is about the fact that you benefit from white privilege...

If you want the children "to learn a lesson," you might begin with not telling a couple it is "privileged" when underwater with their mortgage, with the husband laid off and unable to find a new job because he has reached the ripe old age of 40 and the wife working three jobs almost to make ends meet. That might not go over so well, whether racial justice, racial comity, or mere persuasion is your objective. You also might want to avoid telling those folks that how hard they've worked doesn't matter, and shouldn't.

Minaj entered on her Instagram later “We are huge trendsetters, not second class citizens that get thrown crumbs. This isn't anger. This is #information.”   Aroused, Friedman writes

This, as the reaction to both her tweet and the White People documentary shows, is a tough lesson for white people to learn. It’s not about how hard you’ve worked for what you have, how you personally feel about people of other races, or how good your intentions are. It is about the fact that you benefit from white privilege (and, in this case, from a culture that privileges skinny white women’s bodies). So it is about you — just not in the way you thought it was....

Much can be made of a culture which prefers "skinny white women's bodies," which is that it prefers skinny women's bodies generally, and tall, skinny women's bodies more specifically. But never mind. If Friedman had stuck to this cultural analysis, she might have a point. Instead, she wants to make sure people realize (as she would have it) that hard work and good intentions are far less important than the race of a person's parents, which the person has no control over: a triumph of nature over nurture, to be welcomed.

The primary myth undergirding Friedman's twisted view is the idea of "them," that all members of an ethnic group are, at base, one.  In the white community of the 1960s, dismissal of blacks as "them" was disturbingly common. They were not individuals, only indistinguishable members of a group. And so it is that Salon's leading trafficker in racial hatred (also a professor at Rutgers University), Brittney Cooper, can charge

There is a way that white people in particular treat Black people, as though we should be grateful to them — grateful for jobs in their institutions, grateful to live in their neighborhoods, grateful that they aren’t as racist as their parents and grandparents, grateful that they pay us any attention, grateful that they acknowledge our humanity (on the rare occasions when they do), grateful that they don’t use their formidable power to take our lives.

This would not be some white people, or white politicians, or white chief economic officers, or specific white people she might mention.  It is "white people in particular."   It would be useless to inform Cooper that whites usually acknowledge the humanity of black people- or at least as much as they do white people.  Nor do they act as though blacks should be "grateful" to them

Cooper appears to be hanging around the wrong white people, and should get out more. If she did, she would recognize that most do not deceive themselves into thinking they have "formidable power." Whether seeing their adversary as government, corporations, some other faceless institution, or the inevitable passage of time, they realize they are largely powerless to effect change, and often to hold onto what they have. Some of them are even poor (chart below from The American Prospect). The (realistic) sense of powerlessness over their lives or the country is one reason so few people bother to vote, which should not be necessary to point out.

In a manner similar to that of Friedman, Cooper flogs the theme of "white supremacy, in a culture of White Supremacy."  But if she believes the rules of the nation unfairly target blacks, she ought to name institutions, and even names, instead of taking pot shots at average people who may be similar to one another only in racial makeup.  Otherwise, she is merely serving the interests of a ruling class she ignorantly believes is bound together by race, and only by race.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

A New Kind Of Feel-Good Candidate

If we didn't know any better, we would have thought, having read this in The Washington Post three weeks ago, that Donald Trump is a hypocrite because

Despite his recent statements about the types of undocumented Mexicans who come over the border, and his stubborn refusal to walk those statements back as he’s seen business deals crumble, a Washington Post article on Tuesday revealed that Donald Trump may be reliant upon undocumented-immigrant labor to construct his latest real-estate development.

The Post interviewed several construction workers and day laborers working on Trump’s new $200 million Washington, D.C., hotel, and discovered that some were undocumented immigrants, afraid for their jobs in light of Trump’s announcement. Others, who agreed to be interviewed on the record, said they were once undocumented immigrants who obtained legal status, and expressed “disgust” at Trump’s disparaging comments.

“The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” Ivan Arellano, a mason who originally came from Mexico and eventually gained his legal status through marriage, told the Post. “And we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.”

Inadvertently, one interviewee explained why the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests are so accepting of illegal immigration.  A naive "Daniel Gonzalez, an El Salvadorian who was granted asylum, worried that Trump’s anti-Hispanic sentiment would jeopardize their jobs: 'He might come one day and pretty much tell us to get the heck out of here.'"

Not a chance, Trump, his contractor and that company's subcontractor has Daniel right where they want him: working cheaply and scared of losing his job.

Another fellow, Ramon Alvarez, reportedly asked rhetorically “Do you think that when we’re hanging out there from the eighth floor that we’re raping or selling drugs?”  Of course not, but neither does Trump or either of the others, who wouldn't care if he were raping or selling drugs, as long as he keeps quiet and adds to the bottom line.

The likes of Gonzalez and Alvarez are not working for Mr. Trump, but for a subcontractor.  The contractor is Lend Lease, which agreed in 2012 to pay $56 million to settle a huge fraud scheme in a case handled by then-Brooklyn District Attorney Loretta Lynch, who might otherwise actually have prosecuted the company for having carried on the practice for decades. That was fortunate for both Lend Lease and Ms. Lynch, the latter of whom went on to be rewarded by President Obama by a nomination for Attorney General.

Revelations in the article didn't hurt Trump at all, and neither will he be hurt now that

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday, host Joe Scarborough asked Trump what he would do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country once America secured its southern border. After arguing the real number of illegal immigrants is much higher and saying the first thing America needs to do is “take the bad” illegal immigrants and “get them the hell out,” Trump sounded like he was open to providing some type of pathway to legalization for the remainder.

“And then the other ones — and I’m a very big believer in merit system, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “Because some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job, you know, in some cases sadly they’ve been living under the shadows.”

“We have to do something,” he continued. “So whether it’s merit or whether it’s whatever, but I’m a believer in the merit system. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”

Because it appears he was talking about legalization rather than citizenship, a President Trump wouldn't have to worry about those pesky employees from South America or Latin America voting or raising a stink about their working conditions.

However, even if the candidate actually had broached the possibility of citizenship, he probably wouldn't have been hurt much.  Steve M. asks

Can it be that Trump's fans don't really care whether he's an actual immigration hard-liner, just so long as he says racist things about Mexicans and threatens to make the Mexican government pay for a border fence? Do the Trumpites care less about implementing hard-line immigration policies than they do about hating brown people?

I think Trump could possibly be damaged if someone in the first debate goes after him from the right on immigration, throwing these statements back in his face. But it might not matter. Trump might just start trash-talking Mexico again, and the Trump believers will respond more to the nastiness than to the actual policy.

Most conservatives usually react less to actual policy than to how something feels, thus being freed from the responsibility of acquiring, and analyzing, facts.   It feels great when he boasts "I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me."  When he adds "I'll build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall," nobody asks why Mexico would pay for  a wall to keep the people they now are (allegedly) pushing out to the USA.

It wouldn't matter, however. Trump will  have Mexico pay for that wall- and not only will he kick them in the rear, he'll make them love it. And ask for more.   When Donald Trump concludes "mark my words," it feels like a 2015 version of  "read my lips- no new taxes," which helped get GHWB elected president. In the video below, Trump cab be seen vowing "I will find... the guy who will take that military and really make it work. Nobody will be pushing us around." Even knocking the military- an institution sacred to many conservative Republicans- is acceptable as long as "nobody will be pushing us around."

"Thanks to his machismo and his wealth," Elias Isquith finds, "Trump becomes, at least in the eyes of many of his backers, a symbol of the kind of individualism they see as integral to their identity as conservatives."  He comes across as a tough guy and in the short term, that works just fine.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

No Johnnie, Or Donald, Come Lately

Perhaps Rick Perry deserves a little grudging respect, given that he is the Repub presidential candidate who has most vehemently attacked Donald Trump. On Wednesday the former Texas governor stated

He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.  Let no one be mistaken: Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.

But then on Sunday's Face the Nation, Perry claimed "We’ve had a divider in the White House for the last six and a half years in Barack Obama. We don’t need that out of the Republican nominee.”

Call President Obama what you wish. I often have, and presumably Republicans would if they ever would figure him out. Obama, however, is as much a "divider" as Perry is an expert on the federal bureaucracy (a reminder, below).

In his CBS appearance, Perry remarked also "I want to be very clear that I'm not going to go quietly as any individual, whether it's Donald Trump or anyone else, that lays out concepts that frankly are out of line with the old historical conservatism."  Trump's accurate representation of conservatism, however, was on display when he criticized John McCain as "not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

Averse to false humility, Trump brags (below) "I'm really rich," as we all were aware; The message, though, is clear: " I'm a winner, unlike the guy who was captured, who is a loser," a succinct expression of the timeless Republican credo.

It's not surprising, then, that noting efforts in the past by such GOP notables as Perry, Lindsay Graham, and Mitt Romney to sidle up to Trump, that E.J. Dionne recognizes

.... the real Donald Trump has been in full view for a long time, and Perry's new glasses can't explain his newfound clarity. I don't credit Trump with much. But he deserves an award for exposing the double-standards of Republican politicians. They put their outrage in a blind trust as long as Trump was, in Perry's words, "throwing invectives in this hyperbolic rhetoric out there" against Obama and the GOP's other enemies.

Almost to a man, the Repub candidates act as if Donald Trump is a newbie, just recently burst onto the scene, or an altruistic guy who suddenly has lost his mind. But Alex Mierjeski of ATTN: explains

Trump brings to his candidacy an extensive backlog of business ventures, some of which are troubling. In August, 2013, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the he was filing a lawsuit against Trump for the dubious promises of his higher education endeavor, Trump University. Schneiderman’s lawsuit alleged that the school’s real estate program, which was unlicensed as an actual university, was complicit in “persistent fraudulent, illegal and deceptive conduct” towards its students, who were often saddled with debt from expensive seminars in lieu of brimming with the promised insider secrets from “Donald Trump’s handpicked instructor[s],” most of whom turned out to have emerged from real estate-derived bankruptcy, or have little background in real estate at all.

Schneiderman claimed that more than 5,000 people paid around $40 million to Trump U, a quarter of which was funneled directly into Trump’s pockets, going against claims that Trump U was founded “solely for philanthropic purposes“––Trump netted around $5 million in profit, according to the suit. Many of the allegations read like a pyramid scheme pamphlet, such as the multiple claims that Trump himself would make an appearance (“‘he is going to be in town’ or ‘often drops by’ and ‘might show up’ or had just left,” the suit reads), and student evaluations required for getting a certificate that “‘pleaded for a favorable rating so that ‘Mr. Trump would invite [them] back to do other retreats.” On top of Schneiderman’s case, a class-action lawsuit in California was filed against the university, which now lists itself as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.

Whatever Donald Trump is- right-wing crank (not likely), huckster, windbag, rapacious capitalist- he is what the Republican Party has wrought.  Enjoy, fellas.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Disregarding Firearms. Again.

Whoa! This is not good timing. On Tuesday, Guns & Ammo gushed "In 2014, Alabama residents voted overwhelmingly to adopt ballot initiatives to strengthen the right to keep and bear arms in the state as well as affirm the right to hunt.... Obtaining a CCW permit is quick and easy and does not require training."

The gun John Russel Houser used Thursday evening to shoot eleven innocents in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana was a Hi-Point .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol which he bought legally in February 2014 from a pawn shop in Phenix City, Alabama.   Houser proceeded to take his own life, odd given as NRA Director Wayne LaPierre has put it, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  Perhaps, in the NRA's eyes, Houser was one of the good guys (photo from Ethan Miller/Getty Images, from shooting death in Las Vegas in June, 2014).

It wasn't so odd, though, that the killer purchased his weapon in Alabama, given that according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Alabama was in 2009 fifth in rate of gun exports, guns purchased in that state recovered after being used in a crime in another state.

Louisiana itself, however, is no slouch.   A state with arguably the most lax gun laws in the nation, Louisiana in 2010 ranked second in per capita gun deaths and in 2013 was the fifth most violent state in the union.

Still, blaming any one, or two, states for a murderous attack or rampage is a little like blaming a particular blizzard or hurricane on climate change. There probably is an association, but can't be proven at the current rate of scientific knowledge.

We do know, however, that proliferation of firearms in a state increases total murders in that state, just as we know America's gun culture predisposes it to a higher rate of violence than virtually any other industrialized nation.  That helped prompt President Obama Friday to acknowledge

You mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.

Even in the face of repeated mass killings.    It's not as if  we're completely incapable of responding to mass killings.  After Dylann Roof murdered nine individuals in an African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina, South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, Mississippi is seriously considering removing the Confederate battle cross from its state flag, Tennessee may move from its State House a bust of a confederate general and early KKK leader, and five other states are examining their own flag.

But still we do nothing about guns and, unlike in years past, there is even little effort expended to debate firearm proliferation. With the lack of talk about guns, it almost seemed as if eleven people were bludgeoned to death in Charleston by a flag, for all the talk about guns. When the flag came down, liberals cheered, media gushed, and conservatives were accepting. State officials had done as they must, politically and ethically, so as not to continue giving offense, without ever conceding the flag was an emblem of treason.  The NRA celebrated- or would have, if it still believed death by gun, over and over, threatened its agenda.

It goes on an on and on.  So Guns and Ammo is guilty of terrible timing.... except that it doesn't matter anymore.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The Duplicitous John Ellis Bush

If you're going to say this about Medicare, at least you want to say it at an event sponsored by the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity (video below), whose attendees will always be able to pay for whatever health care they want. So on Wednesday, John Ellis Bush argued

The left needs to join the conversation, but they haven’t. I mean, when [Rep. Paul Ryan] came up with, one of his proposals as it relates to Medicare, the first thing I saw was a TV ad of a guy that looked just like Paul Ryan … that was pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That’s their response.

And I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this. They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.

Though the venue was favorable, the timing wasn't. Claiming "they're not going to have anything" would have worked better ten years ago when (as the graphs below from Mother Jones indicate) "spending projected to increase indefinitely, rising to 13 percent of gross domestic product." This year's projection has medicare spending- primarily because of cost containment in the Affordable Care Act- projected to slow down by 2040 and constitute only 6% of GDP by 2090.

Hey, anyone can be deceptive once in awhile. But in New Hampshire the next day (video below), Bush did it again, contending "we have a Medicare program that’s not going to be around 30 years from now in form that is.” (And of course, he employed the "entitlements" dodge.) He did not say that it appears it will be in better form.

People don't understand the elderly must be cut off at the knees. This is par for the course for John Ellis Bush, even more out of touch than his father was, and as deceitful, if that's possible. Joan Walsh explains

Jeb Bush was quick to denounce Donald Trump after the reality show host-turned-presidential candidate made his ugly claim that Sen. John McCain was “not a war hero” last weekend. “Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration,” he tweeted Saturday.

But journalists quickly saw a problem for Bush: he had signed on to a similar attack on a decorated war hero: 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, when he was running against Jeb’s brother George. Unbelievably, Bush reiterated his support for those ugly attacks on Kerry Tuesday afternoon in South Carolina.

To recap: Bush backed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s shameful attacks on Kerry, writing a letter to the group’s founder, Col. Bud Day, thanking him and the “other Swifties” for their “support of my brother in his re-election.” It went on: “I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry.” That “willingness,” of course, involved claiming Kerry lied about the military service that won him the Purple Heart.

You might think Bush would feel a twinge of self- consciousness, in the wake of the loud, strong, nationwide bipartisan condemnation of Trump. But you’d be wrong. Bush repeated his support of the Swift Vote Vets when asked about it in Spartanburg Tuesday afternoon.

“[Day] won every award possible,” Bush said.  “He served in three wars, and if he says that there was a problem [with Kerry’s service], I believe him. He’s a great Floridian and a great American and so I wrote him a note thanking him for his service. Not gonna change my beliefs about that at all."

Not gonna. John Ellis is such a son of privilege he repeats the pet phrase of George Herbert Walker.  Next up: "it wouldn't be prudent?"

Steve Benen remarks "Remember, Jeb Bush is the ostensible moderate candidate in the massive GOP presidential field. It says something important about Republican politics in 2015 when the most mainstream candidate is also the candidate who wants to scrap Medicare altogether."

John Ellis Bush may be "the most mainstream candidate," for he is the guy the Establishment media is determined to convince us would be only a somewhat more telegenic, bilingual version of Bush 41. However, he is not the most moderate candidate. He has no sense of introspection and as at least war hero John Kerry is learning, John Ellis has no sense of shame or decency.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Black Lives Matter. Some Of Those Lives Are Poor And Middle Class.

In the wake of the violent death of Sandra Bland while jailed in Waller County, Texas and of the appearance of Martin O'Malley (video, here) and Bernie Sanders (video, here) at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix, Chris Hayes on Tuesday spoke to Ashley Yates, whom he identified as "an organizer with Ferguson Action and Black Lives Matter."  Hayes himself encapsulated what is right and what is wrong with the Black Lives Matter movement when he summarized

I was thinking about some of the stuff that immigration activists have done, DREAMers particularly have used actions like this, disruptions at speeches, extremely effectively. And in those cases, there was a very sort of specific concrete policy ask on the table, right. And in those cases it was, you know, like this, disruptions at speeches, extremely effectively. There was a specific concrete policy ask on the table, right. In those cases it was, you know, signed -- executive action, deferred action or passing comprehensive immigration reform.

"Actions like this, disruptions at speeches" have been used effectively by the DREAMers, who apparently have established the template. If the antics of Black Lives Matter at Netroots Nation are any indication, that movement has well absorbed the lesson: intimidate, intimidate, intimidate.

Nevertheless, in the case of the DREAMers, Hayes pointed out, "there was a specfic concrete policy ask on the table, right."  At least in the case of Yates, that hasn't been worked out yet.

Yates argued "when you ask them" (i.e., "a candidate") "about the crisis at the state of black America, when you ask them about the fact that 4 million people are in mass incarceration right now and also deprived of their access to democracy, they have no response for that. They have no action steps."

Continuing, Yates outlined.... no concrete steps. She did refer to "structural racism, one of the ways it's perpetuated is through our police department" before immediately pivoting to "it's not just about police violence."

Democratic candidates shouldn't have to be bopped on the head with a baseball bat to know what's going on. If they emphasize police violence, they will be tagged with being myopic, not acknowledging the larger issues. If the larger issues are addressed, they will be accused of ignoring police violence. Given it's a fine line few candidates will be able to walk, they are being set up.

The larger issue, of course, is her emphases.  Speaking as a representative of Black Lives Matter, Yates claims

we took the opportunity to show the rest of America what we already know that they are not focused on black life, and that we know that they should be, there can be no platform addressing jobs, addressing housing, addressing land, addressing economic injustice, which are all the things Americans hope to hear from a candidates without addressing the black lives that are at the center of a lot of that oppression.

Most of "being focused on black life" takes place, in this federal system of ours, on the state and local levels of government- and in the myriad workings of the private sector. "We need land," Yates adds, "gentrification is a huge problem in the black community." If she has any concrete suggestion of how to address that, she didn't let on.

Little can be done about "land," jobs, housing, and economic justice, Yates suggests, without direct reference to oppression of blacks.    Her perspective is grievously misguided. Hopefully, she simply  isn't aware

Bernie Sanders rallied fellow members of Congress, supporters, fast-food workers and labor advocates outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday for a bill he introduced that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“The current federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It’s got to be raised to a living wage,” the independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate said at the event at the Upper Senate Park, which drew a very loud and boisterous crowd.

When in April, 2004 fast-food workers in Manhattan rallied in favor of increasing the minimum wage in New York City (though it would have to be raised in Albany), the chairperson of the State Assembly's Black and Latino Caucus distributed a statement in which (as MSNBC reported at the time) he

said that he would not “stand by as we resign African American and Latino families to a cycle of poverty.”

Nationally, people of color make up a disproportionate share of minimum wage and low-wage workers. Over half of all tipped workers living below the poverty line are people of color, according to a report from the labor group ROC United, and over 40% of those who would be affected by a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage are black or Latino. In the fast food industry specifically, analysis by the Center on Economic Policy Research has found that black and Latino workers are overrepresented among adult fast food workers.

Members of Congress, however, are not content to improve the lives of minority workers merely by getting the minimum wage increased. In May, 19 Senators (all Democrats) sent to President Obama a letter asking him

to issue a "model employer" executive order, which would give contracting preference to firms that pay a living wage, offer health care and sick leave, and guarantee union rights for workers.

"Mr. President, the stroke of your pen can have transformative impact for millions of workers," the letter states. "As low-wage fast food, retail and federal contract workers continue to strike in growing numbers to 'Fight for $15 and a Union,' we urge you to harness the power of the presidency to help these workers achieve the American Dream."

As they understand, the generic call for "more jobs" has not improved the income of workers, as well as the respect afforded them by society and their own sense of self-worth. Reforms in such economic areas as finance, taxation, student loan debt, corporate accountability, labor rights, trade, and preserving traditional public education are critical to improve the lives of all Americans and in some instances, black Americans especially.

Those nineteen Senators demonstrated they understand black lives matter. So, too, is recognition clear on the part of the Vermont Senator and ex-Maryland governor, especially when emphasizing the income inequality which plagues blacks most of all.  And the lead signatory on the letter to President Obama that strikes at the heart of the exploitation of so many workers in the land? That belonged to Bernard Sanders.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Look In The Mirror

It may seem, upon reading Politico's "House Dems seek answers on slaying," that California Representative Zoe Lofgren and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also of California, have gotten religion about sanctuary cities (AP photo below via Politico of 7/21/15 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing),  Seung Min Kim writes

Two influential House Democrats are pushing the Obama administration for a review of federal law enforcement policies that led to the release of an undocumented immigrant now accused in the fatal shooting of a woman at a San Francisco pier this month.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who represents San Francisco, and California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the top Democrat on the House panel on immigration, are asking for the review. They suggest in a letter being released Wednesday that Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, the suspect in Kathryn Steinle’s killing, should not have been released directly to San Francisco officials.

“Whenever an innocent person is lost to violence, as a society we should consider what steps we can take to make our communities safer,” Pelosi and Lofgren write the letter, provided to POLITICO in advance of its release Wednesday. “Moving forward, we believe San Francisco and the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice should improve communication to ensure all interests are weighed in future cases.”

No one can argue with the idea of improving communications- well, no one but sanctuary city advocates, anyway.  Min Kun continues

The letter is addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Lopez Sanchez, who was under the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, was released to San Francisco law enforcement officials because he had a bench warrant for a drug offense in the city that was two decades old. Federal immigration officials had also asked the Bureau of Prisons to release Lopez Sanchez to them, but the San Francisco request took precedence.

That’s according to federal policy that calls for all criminal matters to be resolved before immigration officials take over a case, the letter says. After he was released, authorities allege, Lopez Sanchez shot and killed the 32-year-old Steinle on the pier in broad daylight on July 1.

The San Francisco request took precedence possibly because immigration violations are considered administrative, not criminal.   Still, we learn that enforcement of the law may be labeled "rigid adherence to policy," given that

“In some circumstances, rigid adherence to this policy may not actually serve the interests of justice,” Pelosi and Lofgren wrote. “Rather, where the outstanding criminal warrant pertains to a particularly old charge not involving violence or serious damage to property – as was the case here – and the state or local prosecutor is unlikely to proceed with a prosecution, there is no purpose to be served in deferring deportation.”

Pelosi and Lofgren are criticizing federal- not state- policy. They are ignoring the central issue- existence of sanctuary cities, which in a rational world might be of interest to pols concerned about "communication." They have yet to question the propriety of a city not informing the federal government when an individual in the nation illegally has been arrested for a criminal offense.

Pelosi/Lofgren refer to "a particularly old charge not involving violence or serious damage to property," which, according to this report, "involved a small amount of marijuana." But as the Los Angeles Times has reported, Lopez Sanchez previously had been convicted of "at least four felonies for possessing heroin and manufacturing narcotics and a misdemeanor conviction for inhaling toxic vapors."  And since he was apparently arrested with the marijuana, he was caught and prosecuted on three occasions by the federal government after attempting to enter the country illegally and convicted at least three times.

As the local prosecutors were aware, this was not some poor black kid who shoplifts a quart of milk from the local grocery store. This was a person who was capable of murder.  Not a likely murderer, but someone whom it was difficult to prosecute largely because local authorities had been able to avoid the issue for some sixteen years.  If the marijuana charge were to be dismissed, authorities in California had the ethical responsibility to notify ICE.

The city did not do so because
Handed over to the San Francisco County Sheriff's Department in March on a bench warrant for a 20-year-old marijuana sales case, he was cut loose when prosecutors declined to charge him.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had lodged an "immigration detainer" with the Sheriff's Department asking to be "notified prior to his release," but "the detainer was not honored," ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement.

The detainer was not honored, though that appears to be consistent with passage in California in 2013 of the Trust (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act, which "sets clear, uniformed standards to limit burdensome detention of aspiring citizens by local law enforcement solely on the basis of federal immigration detainer requests." Under these terms, the federal immigration detainer request could not be honored.

That quoted passage was included in a letter written in August, 2013, (successfully) urging Governor Jerry Brown (who earlier had vetoed a bill which would have limited even further the ability to hand individuals over to immigration authorities) to sign the legislation. The third signature belonged to Zoe Lofgren. The first belonged to Nancy Pelosi.

The killing of Kate Steinle was a tragedy, a crime, an abomination. it also was partly the result of one level of law enforcement defying the request of another level of law enforcement. This has happened many times before, but most notably in the events leading to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There was a lack of communication, as Pelosi and Lofgren suggest- and they helped make it so.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nothing Original About Trump

Writing in Salon, Sean Illing argues "the GOP sold its soul to Fox News and the broader conservative mediascape years ago."  Citing Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and even Sarah Palin, he identifies Donald Trump as only the latest manifestation of this tendency. He maintains

Trump, quite literally, is an actor; he’s delivering the lines his audience (the Republican base) wants to hear. But he’s not the first of his kind. He’s doing what many Republicans have done in recent years: pretend to run for president in order to promote his personal brand.

But Trump is not only the most recent in a long line of blowhards and poseurs. His attack is consistent with mainstream GOP politicians who have demeaned American soldiers. Joe Conason recalls

One of the most poisonous occurred in 2002, when a Georgia Republican named Saxby Chambliss ran ads suggesting that Senator Max Cleland, a Vietnam War hero who had lost both legs and one arm in an accidental grenade explosion, lacked the guts to face down Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Cleland, a Democrat who had served in the Veterans Administration under President Carter, had cast a vote protecting the rights of civil service workers in the new Department of Homeland Security, thus earning him a smear at the hands of Chambliss — one of those smooth favorite sons who had nimbly avoided the Vietnam draft.

The official citation, according to Conason, reads

When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Continuing to expose himself, Capt. Cleland organized his men into a work party to repair the battalion communications equipment which had been damaged by enemy fire. His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

That didn't stop Chambliss (ad, above), who won the election, despite Cleland's vote in favor of the Iran war resolution.  Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, a conservative who went on to support George W. Bush for re-election, condemned Chambliss because "It's disgraceful for anybody to question Max Cleland's commitment to our national security."

But it evidently wasn't disgraceful to question John Kerry's commitment to country.  When Trump recently questioned John McCain's status as a hero, John Ellis Bush responded by tweeting “Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.”  But Judd Legum of Think Progress notes

In 2004, a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spent millions of dollars attacking the military service of John Kerry, who was then the Democratic nominee for president. The group claimed that Kerry lied about his service and was awarded military honors he didn’t deserve. The basis for these claims were definitively proven false, but the group carried on with their campaign anyway. (The claims were first published in a book by Jerome Corsi, who would later gain fame for insisting that Obama had a fake birth certificate and was not born in the United States.)

After the campaign Jeb Bush, then Governor of Florida, sent a letter to George Day — a member of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth who appeared in television advertisements trashing Kerry. Day said Kerry, a recipient of the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts, would “go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971.” In his letter, Bush thanks Day and the “other Swifties” for their “support of my brother in his re-election.” “I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry,” 

"Whatever one sows, that he also will reap," Paul wrote to the Galatians.  The modern Repub Party, including John Ellis Bush, has sewn the seeds of demagoguery, and out has popped Donald Trump.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

An Isolated Incident- Or Not

In 1968, many Democratic activists and politicians urged New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president. Believing challenging an incumbent would be an uphill battle, Kennedy demurred while the less well-known anti-war Senator, Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, took the plunge.

Following the New Hampshire primary, in which McCarthy did stunningly well (though losing), Johnson announced he would not seek re-nomination.  Soon thereafter, Kennedy reconsidered, declared his candidacy, and engaged in a hot-fought battle with Vice-President Humphrey before Kennedy was shot and killed after his victory in the critical California primary.

Humphrey was to be nominated at the Democratic convention in Chicago, which turned into a fiasco as anti-war and to a lesser extent, anti-Humphrey, protesters hit the street and in turn were hit by Mayor Richard Daley's police. The slogan of the left protesting, in part, the nomination of arguably the most progressive politician of his generation, was "the whole world is watching." The whole world may not have been watching, but the American voter was, and did not like what she was viewing. Humphrey's campaign got off to an understandably slow start and he was barely defeated by Richard Nixon in an election which at the time was the closest presidential race in history.

History probably is not repeating itself, though that would not be a safe assumption. Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee of the Party but is being effectively challenged from the left by Senator Bernard Sanders, whom no one believes has a shot at the nomination- unlike Senator Elizabeth Warren, who rejected entreaties for herself to run.  (By the way: Warren is from Massachusetts. Kennedy was originally from Massachusetts.)

That is not the only echo of 1968. Time's Sam Frizell reports

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was midsentence when the chanting began. “What side are you on black people, what side are you on!” rang the chorus of around four dozen mostly black protesters streaming into a convention hall in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday.

A woman named Tia Oso grabbed the microphone as the protesters stormed the room.

“We are going to hold this space and acknowledge the names of black women who have died in police custody, and then Governor O’Malley we do have questions for you!” Oso said as the former two-term governor and his interviewer, Jose Antonio Vargas, watched helplessly. “As leader of this country will you advance an agenda that will dismantle structural racism in this country?” Oso asked.

“Yes,” O’Malley managed to answered, before he was drowned out again.

O’Malley was speaking at Netroots Nation, the country’s largest gathering of progressive activists when the proceedings broke down in a cacophony of boos, cheers and heckles on Saturday. Shortly afterward, Bernie Sanders, another Democratic candidate for president, was also silenced on the same stage by the group of Black Lives Matter protesters. Chanting, the activists shouted out the names of black women who have died in police custody and peppered the candidates with questions about their civil rights records.

A sea of mostly white progressives, including unions, laborers, bloggers, activists and musicians sat watching the drama unfold.

It was a moment that spoke to the tumult on the Democratic left and surprised even the organizers of the nine-year-old annual event. As the Democratic party increasingly coalesces around a progressive wish list like expanding Social Security and reining in Wall Street, the growing Black Lives Matter movement is calling loudly for the left to focus on racial injustice as well.

The two presidential candidates found themselves at the center of the chaos, both caught off guard and unable to answer the protesters.

Understandably, the Democratic contenders (with O'Malley, above) were caught off guard. Frizell continues

“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” O’Malley said to boos and jeers.

After O’Malley exited, Sanders took the stage and flashed with annoyance. “If you don’t want me to be here that’s okay,” he said. “I don’t want to out-scream you.”

(All lives matter.... a racist, warmongering thought, if there ever were one.)

There are three major Democratic candidates. (Sorry, Lincoln and Jim.)  "Sanders," Time's Frizell notes, "has proposed a massive jobs programs and raising the minimum wage, and O'Malley has discussed reforming policing and enhancing civilian review boards, among other measures."  Even Wall Street's favorite candidate, Hillary Clinton, "who was absent from the Phoenix conference- has called for automatic voter registration and fundamentally reforming the criminal justice system."

All three individuals have spoken in favor of reforming the criminal justice system, the need which inspired the "Black Lives Matter movement." Automatic voter registration would go a long way to blunting the GOP's voter suppression movement aimed at, more than anything else, keeping blacks and Hispanics from voting.

Still, they shouted and prevented their political allies from fully presenting their case. Primary fault lies with organizers of the event, who should have anticipated this at least as a possibility and provided security accordingly.  Alternatively, Sanders and O'Malley could have spoken up, thereby ending their campaigns, given that the news media would in showing Democratic discord while from other quarters charges of racism were leveled. (Honestly- you know that's true, don't you?)

Republican audiences know how to end this sort of rudeness. Chants of "USA! USA!" are hokey, obnoxious, superficial, and disingenuous.  (This is the Party which tried to force the USA into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt limit.)  But they are effective- and because they are effective, the mainstream media has no trouble with them. They also imply a unity within the GOP, which is another way to impress the Fourth Estate. (Do you remember the incident recorded below? Neither do I. That's the point.)

So of course these folks didn't approach any gathering of the Repub Party, the organization inimical to their interests and which would do almost anything to keep them from even voting. They sensed weakness and went after the Democratic Party. It would be in their (selfish and/or misguided) to continue this behavior until it is effectively confronted. The Democratic Party had better figure out to do it, or the American people, who are not partial to weakness, will put the Democratic Party out of its misery. Otherwise, notwithstanding the declining concentration of whites in the electorate, expect defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory.

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Kristol Certainly Knows A 'Crazy' When He Sees One

The reviews have come in on Donald Trump's statement that John McCain is "a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured.

The responses have not been positive. John Ellis Bush termed Trump's remarks "slanderous attacks." Scott Walker called McCain "undoubtedly an American hero" and argued Trump "needs to apologize to Senator McCain" for this "disgrace." Marco Rubio asserted "America's POW's deserve much better to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump."

Rick Perry claimed Trump has shown himself "unfit" to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces," as if there ever were reason to believe he was fit.  However, the most clever (though probably not prescient) remark came from Mitt Romney, who declared "the difference" between McCain and his critic is "Trump shot himself down."

In a sense, though, the most interesting remark was made by Bill Kristol, who stated on ABC's "This Week"

So I'm finished with Donald Trump. And I don’t think it's going to -- he'll -- and I don't think -- I don't think he'll stay up in the polls, incidentally. Republican primary voters are pro-respect the military. And he showed disrespect for the military.

He showed a lack of respect for war heroes (not for "the military") but, as John Kerry discovered and Jake Tapper pointed out (video below), the GOP's respect for the men and women in uniform is selective.  We will find, also (though it will not be acknowledged) that support for Trump does not plunge because he slammed a guy for having failed to succeed. McCain's service was heroic; but he was captured, and that's a far cry from Republican idolization of the "winners" in society. "I don't like losers" Trump said, but that really captures the ethos of his entire Party.

Evidently, Kristol's recognition that showing a lack of respect for war heroes is offensive does not extend to showing a lack of recognition for other people.    It's not only labeling the individuals cheering Trump on for his anti-immigration remarks as "crazies," even if many are, well, fanatics.

Kristol played a prominent role in the 2008 presidential campaign, for he and two other National Review heavyweights (with some family members) took a cruise to the governor's mansion in Juneau. After a pleasant visit to the state's chief executive

The most ardent promoter, however, was Kristol, and his enthusiasm became the talk of Alaska’s political circles. According to Simpson, Senator Stevens told her that “Kristol was really pushing Palin” in Washington before McCain picked her. Indeed, as early as June 29th, two months before McCain chose her, Kristol predicted on “Fox News Sunday” that “McCain’s going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket.” He described her as “fantastic,” saying that she could go one-on-one against Obama in basketball, and possibly siphon off Hillary Clinton’s supporters. He pointed out that she was a “mother of five” and a reformer. “Go for the gold here with Sarah Palin,” he said. The moderator, Chris Wallace, finally had to ask Kristol, “Can we please get off Sarah Palin?"

The next day, however, Kristol was still talking about Palin on Fox. “She could be both an effective Vice-Presidential candidate and an effective President,” he said. “She’s young, energetic.” On a subsequent “Fox News Sunday,” Kristol again pushed Palin when asked whom McCain should pick: “Sarah Palin, whom I’ve only met once but I was awfully impressed by—a genuine reformer, defeated the establishment up there. It would be pretty wild to pick a young female Alaska governor, and I think, you know, McCain might as well go for it.” On July 22nd, again on Fox, Kristol referred to Palin as “my heartthrob.” He declared, “I don’t know if I can make it through the next three months without her on the ticket.” Reached last week, Kristol pointed out that just before McCain picked Palin he had ratcheted back his campaign a little; though he continued to tout her, he also wrote a Times column promoting Senator Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut.

On Sunday, Kristol contended Trump "jumped the shark yesterday."   But when a great war hero and veteran United States Senator- in part due to Kristol's prodding- selects Sarah Palin (!) to be a heartbeat from the presidency (cartoon below by M. Wuerker of Politico), that could not possibly be jumping any fish..

Donald Trump was very rude. But so was Barack Obama. He did not, after the election of 2008, bother to send a thank-you note to William Kristol.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lay Up

Time reports

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew a red line on Friday for 2016 presidential candidates, calling for them to commit to end the so-called “revolving door” between Wall Street and the Cabinet.

The firebrand populist said specifically that all the presidential candidates should support Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s bill introduced this week that would prohibit bonuses for Wall Street executives who take government jobs.

“Anyone who wants to be President should appoint only people who have already demonstrated they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they can hold giant banks accountable,” said Warren, speaking in Phoenix at Netroots Nation, a convention of liberal activists.

While the call to action was aimed at everyone running in 2016, its clearest target was Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who is courting the very types of progressive activists in the audience in both the primary and general election.

Baldwin, who in January 2013 became the first openly gay individual to serve in the U.S. Senate, herself may be carving out a significant role addressing the vast inequities of wealth in the nation.

Last year she sponsored a bill which according to a press release "would force the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulates oil markets, to use all of its authority, including its emergency powers, to eliminate excessive oil speculation." It is co-sponsored by Senators Levin of Michigan, Nelson of Florida, Cardin of Maryland, Franken of Minnesota, Bluemnthal of Connecticut, Brown of Ohio, Shaheen of New Hampshire, Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Merkley of Oregon, Markey of Massachusetts, Hirono of Hawaii, and in an upset, Klobuchar of Minnesota and McCaskill of Missouri.

A press release from June reveals that she recently has introduced a bill which "would end the carried interest loophole and ensure that other people's money is taxed at the same ordinary income tax rates as that of the vast majority of Americans."   It is co-sponsored by Senators Franken of Minnesota, Whitehouse and Reed of Rhode Island, Hirono of Hawaii, Manchin of West Virginia, Sanders of Vermont, Blumenthal,  and of course, Warren.

And as Senator Warren described (video below; segment beginning at approximately 25:20) at Netroots Nation, Senator Baldwin now has introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, which would "help ensure that conflicts of interest do not erode the effectiveness of financial regulators."  The details  are here but among other things it would "prohibit government employees from accepting bonuses from their former private sector employers for entering government service" and would "require senior financial service regulators to recuse themselves from any official actions that directly or substantially benefit the former employers or clients for whom they worked in the previous two years before joining federal service. " It is co-sponsored b Senators Schatz of Hawaii, Cummings of Maryland and of course, Warren.

While Senator Warren did not refer to any member of Congress other than Baldwin, she was (as Time suggested) clearly sending a message to the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton.  Clinton's endorsement of the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would not only help allay concerns among the activist left, but also be of some comfort to the Massachusetts senator, who otherwise could prove to be a major thorn in the side of the former Secretary of State.

Mrs. Clinton likes to speak of bipartisanship, as her 2008 rival also did, until he became persuaded of the futility of reaching compromise with an adversary that views such an effort only as weakness.  So Clinton's endorsement of this latest, valiant effort by Baldwin may carry particular significance. Warren says it "would throw some heavy sand into the gears of the revolving door. And it's a bill that a presidential candidate should be able to cheer for."T

There is a total of 17 Senators who have signed off on one or more of these progressive pieces of legislation.   It will not surprise you that none is a Republican, that all are Democrats. It should be an easy call for Hillary Clinton.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Quick Thinking

"In some recent remarks," Politico's Michael Crowley wrote Tuesday evening

Clinton has also hinted at a tougher view than the one that prevailed in Vienna, including her belief that Iran’s “breakout” period — the time it would take to enrich enough uranium for a bomb — should be longer than one year. Tuesday’s agreement imposes a breakout time of only one year.

Sixteen months ago, the Jerusalem Post had reported

While touting her role in wrestling Iran’s leaders to a point of weakness – the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 reflected this success, she asserted — Clinton nevertheless expressed caution that a comprehensive deal could be clinched in Vienna that would end the crisis.

“I personally am skeptical that the Iranians will follow through and deliver,” Clinton said. “The progress of Iran’s nuclear program may be halted, but it is not dismantled.”

“If they choose to walk through an open door to a different future, we must be prepared to respond in kind,” she continued, “just as we must be prepared with firm resolve to refuse. The next months will be telling.”

The former Secretary of State was addressing a gathering of the American Jewish Committee, a group passionately devoted to the interests of Israel, including its continued existence as a Jewish state.  That also is the nation whose Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the US Congress in March that the impending deal would be "a bad deal- a very bad deal" and who promptly after the agreement was announced termed it "a historic mistake."

Campaigning only ten days earlier, on Independence Day, Mrs. Clinton warned Iran remains "an existential threat" to Israel and asserted "even if we do get such a deal, we will still have major problems from Iran." Yet fewer than four hours after the President's statement, Mrs. Clinton- reputedly an ardent supporter of Israel- emerged from a meeting with congressional Democrats and publicly vowed support for the pact (video below).

In private, it appears, she was even more definitive.   "She was not equivocal in her support for the agreement as she understands it," Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia stated. The Hill noted "One House Democrat who spoke anonymously in order to discuss the private conversation, suggested Clinton's message to the Democrats carried stronger tones of support than her cautious public remarks."

That's not a flip-flop but awfully close to one for an individual who proclaimed her support for a 100+ page nuclear pact within four hours of hearing it had been negotiated.  A classic case of speed reading, it was eerily appropriate for an individual who believes there is no need for the American public to be informed of the details in, say, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Clinton's instant enthusiasm for an Iran deal she is unlikely to have studied closely in a matter of a couple of hours may derive from wise political calculation.  Certainly, the Democratic base will support the deal; it was negotiated by the Obama Administration.   However, her stance likely goes deeper than that.

A little over two weeks ago, Ed Kilgore considered the outside possibility that Bernie Sanders will emerge as the Democratic presidential nominee. He noted that the Vermont Senator could upset Clinton in Iowa and/or New Hamsphire but

the complexion of Democratic primary voters after NH gets a whole lot less lily-white, and Sanders has no demonstrated appeal to minority voters, while HRC has quite a bit (the belief that minority voters are more ideologically left-bent than other Democrats is one of the great illusions of progressive politics, dashed again and again).  For one thing, you can be certain the current occupant of the White House, who has a pretty strong minority following, isn't going to stand by idly as Bernie Sanders moves toward the nomination.

There is no contract signed by President Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, it's likely there is an understanding, if not something stronger, between the two of them.  If Clinton's support in the black community slips, an endorsement from Barack Obama probably would be enough to staunch the bleeding.

It's not as though President Obama hasn't undermined the progressive community in several instances during his presidency, even as pertains to elections.  In 2013, New Jersey Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono had the temerity to run against incumbent governor Chris Christie in a state which had voted overwhelmingly twice for Barack Obama. Obama remained mum and relatively uninvolved. Nonetheless, he was photographed on two occasions with the right-wing governor, all the better for Christie to establish the bipartisan bona fides needed to increase his victory margin and his credibility with GOP elites looking to elect a president in 2016.

That's how President Obama rolls.  His promotion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fast track should remind us that he frequently has taken the progressive wing of the party for granted, confident that the left never will abandon a president who has continually endured vicious attacks from the right. Some of the more extreme and intemperate complaints have had the scent of racial bias, which early in his presidency cemented Obama's support with the left.

The Iran deal may be a good one.  Nevertheless, it is unlikely Hillary Clinton knew that when she instantly endorsed the deal and even lobbied for it among Democratic legislators.  If, as probable, she has an arrangement with President Obama, it is a cynical move contemptuous of the Democratic base. But then, these are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton we're talking about.

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Why This Comment?

Who's he talking about? Joe Scarborough wisely and very courageously asserts .... Again, a good question to ask about what he said in a...