Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Further Dissection Of Rep. McCarthy And Washington’s Favorite New Game: Speaker Of The House Roulette


-By Noah

Damn, Kevin McCarthy, we hardly knew thee! It would have been so… interesting!

Now the Republicans will have to find someone truly in need of an exorcism to take your place.

The whole process is reminding me of those horrible Russian roulette scenes in The Deer Hunter where the protagonists keep putting bullets in the gun, holding it to their heads, then take very deep breaths and hope for luck; all in order to escape their horrible existence. Is there a workable way out?

Making sense is not a Republican attribute but McCarthy’s personal lexicon and communication abilities are so bad that he and his Abbey Normal brain probably need to spend some quality time under the knife of neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

Yet, unbeknownst to most Americans, Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) rose as high as the position of House Majority leader. His peers elected him and he was the preferred successor of outgoing Speaker John Boehner. What category of sub-humans is more pathetic? Is it those fellow republican congresscretins who voted to make him Majority Leader, or is it the republican voters in his home district who voted to send him to Washington; feeling that he was a fine choice to represent them, mixed up word salad, chopped syntax, grammar atrocities and all? Hey, the man looks good in a suit! What else do we need?

Remember when LBJ said that Gerald Ford had spent too much time playing college football at the University of Michigan without a helmet? Do we need to institute concussion protocols in Washington? I think so! Perhaps for voters, too!

Here are some selected quotations from Rep. McCarthy. No, they are not typos. This is McCarthy vérité. Sadly, it wasn’t his inability to form coherent sentences that cost him a chance to be Speaker. It was his admission, proudly declared on Sean Hannity’s Nightly Buffoon-O-Rama TeeVee show, that the Benghazi hearings only existed to drag Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers and favorability ratings down.
"We have isolated Israel, while bolding places like Iran."

"It defies belief that the president would allow the ban on Iranian oil exports to be lifted. And also stand by while Russia blackmails an entire continent, all the while keeping the place the band on America."

"We don’t have the same as difficult decision that this White House is managing the decline and putting us in tough decisions for the future." [This one is my favorite.]

"We must engage this war of radical Islam if our life depended on it. Because it does."

"This 'safe zone' would create a stem a flow of refugees… Unlike during the surge in Iraq when Petraeus and Crocker had an effective politically strategy to match the military strategy."

"In the past few years alone, I have visited Poland, Hungria, Estonia, Russia, and Georgia…"
Remember that South Carolina (‘nuff said) beauty contestant who couldn’t speak? [See video up top for a refresher.] How could McCarthy have been seriously considered Speaker of the House if he can’t speak? How can he rail against immigrants if the majority of them speak better English than he does?

Keep in mind that he would have been right behind the Vice President in the chain of succession if the President and Vice President both met an untimely demise. Might we be better off if a chimpanzee sat in the Speaker’s chair clapping a couple of cymbals together? Of course, that might have been better than Boehner, too, but, this just goes to show that if the public accepts a mediocre choice, it lowers the bar and opens the door to something even worse. The same principle applies to political extremism.

Is Kevin McCarthy a robot designed to convince us that, compared to him, Dubya could actually put a sentence together? After all Dubya’s brother is doing quite a job of convincing us that Dubya is the smarter brother.

I have a feeling that "something even worse" is what we will get for the next Speaker of the House. So, here are some of the possibilities, some of which are quite gruesome. Let’s start with Paul Ryan since he is being heavily lobbied by his fellow Repugs to take the job. By the time you read this, he may even have agreed to take the job.

Is Rep. Ryan qualified? Well, he is the ultimate pathological liar, as evidenced by his acceptance speech at the 2012 Republican convention.

His policy ideas are certainly in keeping with his party’s war on Americans. What can you say further about a twitchy little rodent man who thinks that rape is just another form of insemination? A bigger problem with Ryan is easily noted: Just look at his eyes. The man is clinically insane.

Next up: Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida is much talked about. Now, he may represent the utter kooks of his state very well, but, he is so extreme that he may even be too extreme for the majority of his party. Religious extremism is his special forte. Like so many of his party, he’s for it, believing in stoning for just about everybody. It’s often very difficult to tell Republicans from Muslim extremists and Webster is as good of an example of that as anybody in his whole nutjob party.

Could current House Majority Whip, Louisiana’s Steve Scalise be “the guy”? He’s on record as speaking to white supremacist groups and boastfully calling himself "David Duke without the baggage" so he fits the Republican ideal. Before McCarthy removed himself, Scalise was running to replace him.

Would current Speaker John Boehner be forced to un-retire? "Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in." If that starts to look like a real possibility, I suggest that those who care about his well-being, remove all handguns, prescription sedatives, and sharp objects from his reach.

As we are all aware, there is a myriad of kooks and crazies in the Republican Party. How about Rep. Louie "the bestiality guy" Gohmert or any of the other Texas crazies, like former-Rep. Steve Stockman? Is there anyone in the Republican Party who is sane enough for the job? Keep in mind that the job of herding the cats of the repug party will drive a sane man or woman to insanity if they are not there already. The job is a ticket to hell, but, it is a hell designed by the Republican Party. They embraced the teabaggers and now they are forced to deal with the results because any candidate for the job has to get the official teabag (Koch Brothers) approval. What price for a House majority?

Who else, you might ask? Rafael "Ted" Cruz has had his name floated. Keep in mind that, constitutionally, the Speaker of the House does not actually have to be a member of the current House or even a member of the party. The name of Newt Gingrich has been floated by Sean Hannity and Newtie himself. Hopefully that idea is floating face down. It worked so well the last time. Newtie probably parades around his house naked, fantasizing about leading an impeachment of another Clinton. Sorry to put that image in your mind but if you’ve read this far…

How about Michele Bachmann? Or, her hubby? Should I mention Cliven Bundy FOX’s infamous free-stuff-wanting welfare rancher and "let me tell you about the negro" guy?

How about Pat Robertson or another very popular Republican who doesn’t have much to do these days, or say, Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty wacko? That would be special!

Might Rudy Giuliani be home, sitting in front of his mirror, dreaming and waiting for the phone to ring? Megalomania is a terrible disease.

In thinking about Rudy, I am reminded that he, like most Republicans, thinks that Vlad Putin would be a much better president than President Obama. Judging by Rudy’s statements on FOX, he worships the guy, so would it surprise any shrink that Rudy might long to play bottom to Vlad’s top?

Kim Davis? Now there’s a Republican icon if there ever was one, and, she just registered with the party and even held hands with The Pope, regretful as he may now be.

Perhaps, a world class Washington dominatrix could whip the House Republicans into shape. Who’s been a very naught boy?

Somewhere, under some rock, is the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Lou Dobbs? Mullah Omar (who's reportedly under 6 feet of earth)? David Duke himself? Chuck Norris? Should we expect the second coming of Eric Cantor?

Damn. I wish Sam Kinison was still alive. He’d be perfect.

Maybe, they should all just bite the bullet and vote for Nancy Pelosi as a compromise candidate. She certainly has quite a bit of Republican in her, even if the current Republican party doesn’t recognize it. Oh wait. She doesn’t have a penis. Damn. Scratch that idea.

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Friday, October 09, 2015

Will The Payday Lender Bribery Scandal End Scott Garrett's And Farmer Fincher's Miserable Political Careers?


Wall Street shill Scott Garrett represents Lodi, home of the Bada Bing strip club from The Sopranos

Last week we talked about a new payday lender scandal breaking in Washington because of bribes that were taken by something like a dozen slimy Members of Congress. Campaign contributions were delivered and legislative favors were given return. "A dozen lawmakers received campaign contributions from payday lenders at around the same time they were introducing bills and writing letters benefiting the high-cost cash-advance industry."

Happily, local newspapers in the districts of the criminal-congressmen have begun picking up on the story. One of the most corrupt men ever to stalk the halls of Congress looking to sell his ass, Wall Street whore Scott Garrett (R-NJ), was one of the first to feel the wrath of the local media in Bergen County:
Garrett is one of 11 House members cited in an ethics complaint filed Monday by a watchdog group that accuses lawmakers of taking actions to protect the payday loan industry around the time they received campaign contributions.

The complaint by the Campaign for Accountability asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Garrett and 10 others, including two Democrats. Most are members of the House Financial Services Committee, on which Garrett is a subcommittee chairman.

The group’s complaint requests an investigation into whether the House members “violated House rules and criminal law,” but there is no guarantee any investigation will be conducted or that any official decision about the complaint’s merits will become public.

The complaint against Garrett focuses on $3,500 in contributions he received between March 2011 and August 2013, a time when his campaign account raised nearly $2.6 million, according to an analysis by The Record of records filed with the Federal Election Commission. In both years, the contributions were made within weeks of an official act Garrett took that would have protected payday lenders from government scrutiny, the watchdog group charges.

“Those contributions seem to be directly tied to actions that he took and that, from our perspective, is really the key here,” said Ann Weismann, executive director of the Center for Accountability. “I understand members accept contributions from industry all the time and there’s nothing per se illegal about that. It is illegal if you accept contributions and it is in exchange for exercising your official authority or taking an official act.”

...The complaint notes that the indictment in April of Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from Paramus, accused him of bribery for allegedly performing official acts around the time his codefendant, Salomon Melgen, made contributions to a political committee supporting Menendez’s 2012 re-election.

The ethics complaint against Garrett says he signed on as a cosponsor of a bill that the Campaign for Accountability says would have limited the CFPB’s oversight of the payday loan industry on March 16, 2011. On March 31, 2011, he received a $1,000 contribution from payday lending executive Ian MacKechnie of Amscot Financial.

The bill, which was not enacted, would have replaced the management of the bureau, currently by a presidentially appointed director, with a five-member commission made up of a vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and four appointees requiring Senate confirmation.

Payday lenders offer small loans that borrowers agree to repay within a short period of time, such as from their next paycheck. The lenders have been criticized for trapping people who are least able to pay into a cycle of ever-rising debt because people who cannot repay are offered bigger loans with higher fees.

Garrett also signed an Aug. 22, 2013 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FDIC Chair Martin J. Gruenberg opposing a program called “Operation Choke Point,” which was designed to prevent “payday lenders and other unscrupulous Internet-based companies from gaining access to the banking system through intermediaries,” the complaint said. On Oct. 4, 2013 Garrett received a $2,500 contribution from the political action committee of payday lender QC Holdings Inc.

Garrett got the smallest total amount of contributions of anyone in the ethics complaint. Amounts received by others ranged from $5,000 to $68,200... Possible violations listed in the ethics complaint include bribery, honest services fraud, acceptance of an illegal gratuity, and conduct not reflecting creditably on the House. Any member of the public can request an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the watchdog group’s allegation has no legal authority.
You remember Tennessee hypocrite Stephen "Farmer Fincher" Fincher from a different type of scandal a couple of years ago which saw him taking millions of dollars in taxpayer money, while leading an effort to cut food stamps for families living in poverty. (It didn't make any impression on the voters in grotesquely gerrymandered TN-08-- Memphis' white suburbs north to Jackson, Dyersburg and Union City-- who reelected Fincher last year with 70.8% of the votes cast.) This week both the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville News focused on Farmer Fincher's newest bribery scandal. His constituents in the Memphis 'burbs were reading that "payday loans taken out by their constituents helped fund big paydays for members of Congress who used their positions to advocate on behalf of this unscrupulous industry... The allegations against Fincher, a Frog Jump Republican who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, involve $13,500 in contributions from the payday lending industry or its executives."
The execrable bribe-taking Farmer Fincher (R-TN)

According to the complaint:

On July 19, 2012, Fincher signed on as co-sponsor of a bill that would have negated actions to safeguard consumers from the risks of products offered by the payday lending industry. Ten days earlier, he received $5,000 in campaign contributions from payday lending executives Dennis and Kimberly Gardner of the Equity Management Group. Five days after co-sponsoring the bill, Fincher received a $2,500 campaign contribution from payday executive William Allan Jones of Jones Management.

On June 3, 2013, less than a month after Fincher co-sponsored a similar bill, he received a $1,000 campaign contribution from a payday lending industry political-action committee, the American Financial Services Association PAC.

On Aug. 22, 2013, Fincher signed a congressional letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder and Martin J. Gruenberg, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., complaining about the Justice Department's "Operation Choke Point," which was designed to "prevent payday lenders and other unscrupulous Internet-based companies from gaining access to the banking system through intermediaries." About three weeks earlier, Fincher had received a $5,000 campaign contribution from the Cash America International Inc. PAC, a payday lending industry PAC.

Fincher's office declined to comment.
And there's a Florida Democrat with a shady record as a bribe-taking judge, Alcee Hastings, who must be uncomfortable with the local coverage he's been getting.
Congressional ethics investigators will review allegations that South Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings and 10 other House members took bribes by accepting campaign contributions from the payday lending industry shortly before or after taking official actions in support of the industry.

...Here’s what Hastings, a 23-year House member whose district includes much of Broward and parts of Palm Beach and Hendry counties, is accused of in the letter:
May 21, 2013. Hastings co-sponsored HR 1566, legislation that Allied Progress said would “undermine oversight of payday lenders by allowing them to bypass the regulatory authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and stronger state laws.” On March 27, 2013, he received a $2,500 campaign contribution from payday lending executive Ian MacKechnie of Amscot Financial. MacKechnie contributed another $500 to Hasting’s campaign on June 28, following Hasting’s support for HR 1566. In all, Hastings and five other congressmen who supported the measure, or similar legislation, received a total of more than $72,000 in contributions from industry executives or PACs, the letter says.

July 10, 2014. Hastings co-sponsored HR 4986, a bill aimed at ending Operation Choke Point, a Department of Justice initiative investigating banks and their connections to payday lenders, payment processors and others at higher risk for fraud and money laundering. Three weeks earlier, Hastings accepted a $2,500 contribution from Cash America International Inc. PAC, a payday lending industry PAC. Industry PACs sent another $26,000 to the campaigns of four other congressmen.
The other crooked congressmen involved in the scandal include Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Gregory Meeks (New Dem-NY), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) Pete Sessions (R-TX), Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Kevin Yoder R-KS).

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Ian Welsh: "We are ruled by people who are what they have been conditioned to be" -- and look at the results


Insiders know stuff they don't want us outsiders ever to.

"These policies are insane, if one assumes a minimum of public spiritedness. They have not worked. They will not work.

"But they do work in the social sense: They create successful lives for the people who devise and implement them. They are rewarded with money and social approval, they receive feedback which screams, 'Continue!' "

-- Ian Welsh, in his post yesterday,
"The Political Consequences of Mental Models"

by Ken

In the above quote pulled out of Ian Welsh's post yesterday, I realize I've left out which policies "these policies" refers to. Really, it almost doesn't matter. It should be clear that the reference is to policies promulgated by people in a position to set policy, and the model Ian proposes works for pretty much any policies such people are likely to promote.

Still, for the record, here are some of the instances Ian had just cited:

"the repeated use of force in situations where force has failed to work over and over again."

"the inability to tolerate democratic governments of opposing ideologies despite the fact that destroying them, after a period of autocracy, generally leads to worse outcomes than simply working with them. (See Iran for a textbook case.)"

"the belief that the US needs to run the world in tedious detail, that regular coups, invasions, garrisons, and so on are necessary -- along with the endless, sovereignty-reducing treaties described in 'free trade deals.' "

These are policy choices dictated by conditioning, beliefs that people believe because they've been conditioned to, usually according to mental models developed in their minds through processes that have little -- if anything -- to do with actual thought. Ian had begun by pondering the question of whether Western leaders have deliberately destabilized the Middle East. Which landed him in an age-old conundrum:
Q. "Stupid or evil?"
A. "Both."


By way of illustration in this post, called "The Political Consequences of Mental Models," Ian offered this case:
I know someone who worked with Cheney and believes that Cheney honestly thought that removing Saddam would make the world a better place. Also (and the person I know is a smart, capable person) that Cheney was very smart.

But smart in IQ terms (which Cheney probably was) isn’t the same as having a sane mental map of the world. Being brilliant means being able to be brilliantly wrong and holding to it no matter what. Genius can rationalize anything.
Which prompted some thoughts on the human "thought" process (and here I would stress that "thought" is being used in its broadest possible sense, referring to not necessarily much more than "activity in the brain").
Human thought is mostly an unconscious and uncontrolled process. What comes up is what went in, filtered through conditioning. We are so conditioned and the inputs are so out of our control during most of our lives (and certainly during our childhood) that our actual, operational margin of free will is far smaller than most believe.

We interpret what we know through the mental (and emotional) models we already have. Thoughts are weighted with emotion, recognized and unrecognized, connotations far more than denotations.

Machiavelli made the observation that people don’t change, they instead react to situations with the same character and tone of action even when a different action would work better.
This doesn’t mean one cannot undergo ideological changes, it means character changes only very slowly, and that we have virtually no conscious ability to change our thinking, actions, or characters on the fly.

This is true for both the brilliant and the stupid, though the tenor of challenges for both is different.
"The science of conditioning," Ian wrote, "was strong from the late 19th century through to the 60s," but "has faded out of the intellectual limelight." However, "viewed through the lens of conditioning, much that makes no sense makes perfect sense."

Ian offered a classic example: the "insider" perspective vs. the "outsider" one:
Over fifteen years ago Stirling Newberry told me, “Insiders understand possibility, outsiders understand consequences”.

Insiders are rewarded for acting in accordance with elite consensus, and very little else.

Outsiders, not being part of that personal risk/reward cycle are able to say, “Yeah, that’s not going to work”.

They are both right and wrong.
"Conditioning," Ian wrote, "extends well beyond observable behavior and into thought, and the structure of knowledge."
Intellectual structures are felt, and each node and connection has emotional freight. This is true even in the purer sciences, and it is frighteningly true in anything related to how we interact with other humans and what our self-image is.

It is in this sense that the disinterested, the outsider, those who receive few rewards for acquiescence, are virtually always superior in understanding to those within the system. Outsiders may not understand what it “feels” like, but the outsider understands what the consequences are.


Those of us who lived through the Vietnam war became accustomed to being told that opposition to it was based on inadequate knowledge, that the people who were making our policy, who were prosecuting the war, had all kinds of knowledge about the situation that we didn't, and they therefore had to be deferred to. Naturally they couldn't share this inside knowledge with us, because it was, you know, inside knowledge. It was secret, and therefore knowable only to insiders wise enough and security-cleared enough to possess such knowledge.

Eventually, of course, and still totally unbeknownst to us benighted outsiders, as inside an insider as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who had been as responsible as anyone for enmeshing us in the conflict, began to have doubts about the quality of that inside knowledge, which led to the Pentagon Papers, which still had to remain secret -- until they weren't, thanks to Daniel Ellsberg, with assists from the highest decision-making levels of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and others as well, not least the U.S. Supreme Court.

For his efforts Ellsberg was charged with assorted acts of espionage, theft, and conspiracy, which Wikipedia reminds us "carr[ied] a total maximum sentence of 115 years."

Not many people nowadays think of Ellsberg as a traitor, which is why the insiders who rose in righteous wrath against Edward Snowden had to go to such pains to distinguish Snowden's leaks from Ellsberg's. Unfortunately for them, Snowden's revelations turned out to be a gift that kept on revealing, and the more that was revealed, the more foolish the people who were denouncing him as a traitor came to look. This was all "inside knowledge" being revealed, and to the people who had previously had exclusive access to it, it was awfully important that it remain secret.

And it's very likely that some of them, at least, believed as sincerely as Ian's acquaintance insists Dick Cheney did that they were doing a wise and patriotic thing, helping make the world a better place, by both acting on and suppressing all that information. It's very likely too that many of them were confirmed in their beliefs by just the sort of conditioned "mental models" Ian was writing about yesterday.

Again, as Ian put it, "the disinterested, the outsider, those who receive few rewards for acquiescence, are virtually always superior in understanding to those within the system. Outsiders may not understand what it 'feels' like, but the outsider understands what the consequences are." And he concluded:
This is true far beyond politics, but it is in politics where the unexamined life, the unexamined belief structure, and the unexamined conditioning, are amplified by long levers to brutalize the world.

The last thing I. F. Stone wanted to be was an insider.

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The Promise Of A Bernie Sanders Presidency-- And The Threat To Hillary Clinton And To The Republican Party


No, Bernie is not rehearsing for the CNN debate with Hillary. Very much unlike her transactional political career, he's spent decades working on the policy agenda that is setting the part of the country that's paying attention on fire. He's an actual leader; she's a p.r.-driven weathervane.

Margaret Talbot's mammoth Bernie profile for the New Yorker this week, is the most extensive political biography of him I've ever seen. "There’s something admirable," she wrote, "about Sanders’s reluctance to attribute his political beliefs to autobiography: he doesn’t want voters thinking that his commitment to redistributive economics stems from anything other than a deep-seated sense of fairness. He has neither the conventional politician’s instinct for sharing relatable details nor the contemporary left’s reverence for personal testimony. Still, he’s running for President, and so he has reluctantly cracked open the door to his private life, even if his supporters are drawn to him, in part, because of that reluctance." I doubt she set out to make a compelling case for Bernie. But that's still how it reads, at least to this long-time Bernie fan.
In Portland, Sanders took the stage, a little hunched in a gray suit jacket. His flyaway white hair was largely subdued, but his face turned pink with exertion as he delivered an hour-long speech, during which he did not use a teleprompter and barely consulted a sheaf of loose yellow papers on the lectern. “America today is the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” he declared. “But most people don’t know that, most people don’t feel that, most people don’t see that-- because almost all of the wealth rests in the hands of a tiny few.” Sanders signals his moral ferocity by choosing words like “horrific” and “abysmal” and sonically italicizing them, as in “This grotesque level of income and wealth inequality is immoral.” He was born in Brooklyn, and his unreconstructed borough growl reminds voters that he stands apart from the “oligarchy.” His hand gestures are as emphatic as a traffic cop’s. When he delivers speeches, he’ll often jab his finger at the lectern, as though he were enumerating the plagues at Passover.

Most of his policy proposals have to do with helping working people and reducing the influence of the wealthy. He would like to break up the big banks, create jobs by rebuilding infrastructure, and move toward public funding of elections-- and provide free tuition at public universities. (This program would be subsidized, in part, by a tax on Wall Street speculation.) He wants to end the “international embarrassment of being the only major country on Earth which does not guarantee workers paid medical and family leave.” In the speeches I heard, Sanders rarely discussed foreign policy, though he spoke with conviction about climate change and the need for the U.S. to set an example for Russia, India, and China by using fewer fossil fuels. He tends to sound both doleful and optimistic, like a doctor who has a grave diagnosis to deliver-- and no time for small talk-- but is convinced that he can help his patient heal.

...Sanders’s message is particularly potent for young people who are struggling financially. Several weeks after the rally, I wrote to Dawn York, and she said that she had been thinking about “how refreshing it was to have someone point out to us that, as hardworking Americans, some things aren’t a privilege, they are a right. . . . I’m self-employed, I started my own business three and a half years ago, and my husband works full-time for Whole Foods--and we barely get by. We own a home, we both graduated from college, and we work more than forty hours a week, and we can barely put oil in our heating tanks in the winter. We have no savings and no way to financially handle any hiccups that may come our way. And I had to be reminded that it shouldn’t be that way.”

Garrison Nelson describes Sanders as being “more from the nineteen-thirties left than the sixties one.” In June, when NPR’s David Greene pressed Sanders on whether he embraced the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” the Senator got irritated. “It’s too easy for quote-unquote liberals to be saying, ‘Well, let’s use this phrase,’” he said. “We need a massive jobs program to put black kids to work and white kids to work and Hispanic kids to work. So my point is, is that it’s sometimes easy to worry about which phrase you’re going to use. It’s a lot harder to stand up to the billionaire class.”

Sanders does not argue that greater economic equality would end racism, but for most of his career he has subsumed discussions of race under class. Van Jones, a criminal-justice reformer and a former Obama adviser, derides that approach as “trickle-down justice”-- and told Salon in August that he had been “warning the white populists in the Party, behind the scenes, for several months, that their continued insistence on advancing a color-blind, race-neutral populism was going to blow up in their faces.”

On July 18th in Phoenix, Sanders appeared at Netroots Nation, an annual conference of progressive activists. Before he began his remarks, demonstrators flooded the room and began chanting “Black lives matter!”

After taking the stage, Sanders told the moderator, “Whoa, let me talk about what I want to talk about for a moment!” A few minutes later, when protesters again interrupted the proceedings, he addressed them directly: “Black lives, of course, matter. I spent fifty years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity! But if you don’t want me to be here that’s O.K. I don’t want to outscream people.”

A week later, in his Senate office, Sanders sounded chastened. “The issues these young people raised are enormously important,” he said. The video showing the arrest of Sandra Bland, the African-American woman who died in a Texas jail, had just been released, and Sanders seemed shaken. “It impacted my night’s sleep,” he said. “I don’t sleep that great, and it made it even worse.” He went on, “It’s hard to imagine if Sandra Bland was white she would have been thrown to the ground and assaulted and insulted.” Sanders, speaking more broadly about police violence directed at black people, said, “I plead guilty-- I should have been more sensitive at the beginning of this campaign to talk about this issue.”

On July 25th, Sanders addressed the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in Baton Rouge. “I’m aware that many of you don’t know me very well,” he said. His tone was friendlier than usual, and he even made a joke: “I was the best and worst congressman Vermont had.” (Vermont has only one.) One of the convention’s listed sponsors was Koch Industries, and it was the first time I saw Sanders give a speech in which he did not inveigh against the company’s billionaire owners, who lavishly support conservative causes. He had folded in a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., though, which worked well for him: “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”

In August, Sanders’s campaign issued a racial-justice platform that recommended police reform, federal funding for police body cameras, a ban on for-profit prisons, and the elimination of mandatory-minimum jail sentences. The platform also included a broad defense of voting rights. (Among other things, Sanders proposes making Election Day a federal holiday.) The document is divided into sections called “Physical Violence,” “Political Violence,” “Legal Violence,” and “Economic Violence,” strongly echoing the language and priorities of Black Lives Matter. At the same time, the platform reasserted Sanders’s core philosophy: “We must simultaneously address the structural and institutional racism which exists in this country, while at the same time we vigorously attack the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which is making the very rich much richer while everyone else-- especially those in our minority communities-- are becoming poorer.”

Van Jones said of Sanders, “He’s shown tremendous character in his willingness to engage and grow and change.” But Vermont is ninety-five per cent white, and Sanders needed to establish stronger bonds with black voters. No African-American leader, Jones observed, would be surprised to get a call from the Clintons. Sanders was “a reliable civil-rights vote, but not somebody who has been connected to these communities, to these kids and their neighborhoods. He’s not showing up to the funerals.”

...[When Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington] “Monied interests were shaking in their boots at first. Yet Sanders turned out to be a popular and effective mayor, and more pragmatic than some might have predicted. True, he travelled to Nicaragua, where he met with Daniel Ortega and found a sister city for Burlington. (Vermont reporters dubbed the mayor and his coalition the Sandernistas.) But he also presided over economic development that transformed the city into a hipper, more forward-looking place-- one of those small cities that appear on lists of the most livable. And he did so without the kind of wrenching gentrification that he abhorred. His administration devised creative solutions for preserving affordable housing, including a community land trust that enabled low-income residents to buy homes. It became a model for other cities. Sanders also resisted a developer’s plan to turn the derelict Lake Champlain waterfront into a cluster of high-rises, promising instead public access and open space. Today, the waterfront has a park, a bike trail, a science center, a community boathouse, and limited commercial development. He created a youth office, an arts council, and a women’s commission, and during his tenure minor-league baseball came to Burlington. Business leaders learned, Nelson said, “not to fear him.” Jim Condon, a Vermont state legislator and a former reporter who used to cover Mayor Sanders, wrote of him recently, “He got a lot done, but not through the art of gentle persuasion. Bernie’s style was top-down and confrontational.” Still, he was reëlected three times.

...Sanders’s congressional career did not get off to a promising start. As an Independent, he had a hard time landing committee assignments. Garrison Nelson recalls, “Bernie shows up in Washington in 1991, there’s still a chunk of Southerners in the Democratic caucus, and they do not want Bernie in the caucus.” Sanders didn’t help matters by giving more than one interview denouncing Congress. “This place is not working,” he told the Associated Press. “It is failing. Change is not going to take place until many hundreds of these people are thrown out of their offices.” He went on, “Congress does not have the courage to stand up to the powerful interests. I have the freedom to speak my mind.”

Some of his colleagues returned the favor. Joe Moakley, a Massachusetts Democrat who was the chairman of the influential House Rules Committee, told the A.P. reporter, “He screams and hollers, but he is all alone.” Another Democrat from the Massachusetts delegation, Barney Frank, was even more blunt. “Bernie alienates his natural allies,” he said. “His holier-than-thou attitude-- saying, in a very loud voice, he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else-- really undercuts his effectiveness.”

Nelson told me that, when he ran into Sanders in Burlington, he warned him not to keep “pissing in the soup,” adding, “You’re our only representative!” According to Nelson, Sanders said, “Gary, you have no idea how totally corrupt it is.” Nelson responded, “Bernie, I’m a historian of Congress. Give me a year, I’ll give you a scandal.”

In time, Sanders became slightly more discriminating in his criticism, and made some allies. He was one of the founding members and the first chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has grown steadily over the years, from six members in 1991 to seventy-one today. The C.P.C. produces an annual progressive budget as an alternative to the one that actually passes; it tends to operate mainly as a conscience of the left. He worked hard with Democrats to keep jobs in his state and campaigned to strengthen federal regulation of milk prices, because it helped Vermont dairy farmers. (He once wrote that he’d developed “an almost emotional attachment” to these farmers, despite not knowing “one end of a cow from the other” when he arrived in the state.) In national matters such as curbing the excesses of the Patriot Act, Sanders found that he could at least try to make incremental changes through the amendment process; in 2005, a Rolling Stone profile dubbed him “the amendment king.”

At home, Sanders became a symbol of Vermont’s cussed uniqueness, as affectionately regarded as a scoop of Chunky Monkey. He was reëlected to the House seven times. And his ascent to the Senate, in 2006, was stunning: he trounced the Republican candidate, Richard Tarrant, one of the wealthiest men in the state, by thirty-three percentage points. But when Sanders has run for the Vermont governorship he hasn’t done well. Jim Condon, the state legislator and former reporter, notes, “That’s telling. People here like him making a lot of noise in Washington for a little state-- they’re happy to send a human hand grenade down there.” But they don’t necessarily want Sanders running the state.

Since joining the Senate, Sanders has received the most attention for his gestures of defiance-- such as his marathon oration against tax cuts for the wealthiest, which was published in book form as The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. Still, he has been a very active legislator. An analysis by the nonpartisan Web site GovTrack shows him tied for sixth place among senators who introduced the most bills in the 2013-14 session of Congress, and in tenth place for the number of bills that made it out of committee. The site also noted that he tends to gather co-sponsors for his bills only among Democrats.

Yet Sanders has proved himself capable of bipartisan dealmaking. In the 2013-14 session, he was the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and though he did not serve in the military-- and typically opposes military interventions-- he has been a strong advocate for veterans. Last year, he worked with an unlikely ally, the Arizona Republican John McCain, to hammer out a compromise to reform the ailing V.A. health system. The bill provided five billion dollars in additional funding to hire and train new medical staff, made it easier to dismiss V.A. officials for incompetence, and allowed veterans to go outside the system if the wait for a doctor was too long. Sanders explained to reporters that it was far from the bill he would have devised on his own: “It opens up a fear of privatization, which I strongly, strongly am opposed to.” But he sounded pleased with his ball-passing skills: “When you become chairman, you can’t just say, ‘This is the way I want it.’”

...In mid-September, Sanders spoke before the weekly convocation attended by the student body at Liberty University, the evangelical school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Unlike many liberal élites, Sanders does not seem to prefer talking to people who share his views; because he is not an especially convivial person, he does not require conviviality from others. Sanders relishes the opportunity to enter enemy territory, where he believes that he can find secret allies.

At Liberty, he began by acknowledging that his positions on women’s reproductive rights and gay marriage are strongly at odds with the views of many evangelical Christians. He did not make knowing jokes about these differences: as usual, Sanders was dead serious. The students were poker-faced but polite. He sought common ground by adding new valences to one or two of his standard arguments. When he called for federally mandated, paid family leave to bring America in line with the rest of the world, he dwelled a little on the preciousness of the bond between mother and baby. He was rewarded with applause. But the occasion also played to the prophetic side of Sanders-- the register in which he can sound like an Old Testament preacher. Unlike his slicker rivals, Sanders is most at ease talking about the moral and ethical dimensions of politics. “We are living in a nation and in a world-- the Bible speaks to this issue-- in a nation and in a world which worships not love of brothers and sisters, not love of the poor and the sick, but worships the acquisition of money and great wealth.” His voice broke-- all those stump speeches had been leaving deep scratches on the record. But his outrage was unmuffled. Staring at the crowd, he quoted the Hebrew Bible, his fist punctuating nearly every word: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
Yestreday at Salon, Conor Lynch write about how Bernie is "exposing free market parasites" and transforming politics. That's not exactly what any of the more careerist-oriented candidates are doing in the presidential race. Young people are already convinced that "socialist" or "democratic-socialist" is not a dirty word that disqualifies anyone from leading the country. And the Hillary Clinton team has had no choice but to pay attention-- and to react to Bernie's policy agenda. This week Tuscon Congressman Raúl Grijalva and a small handful of progressive candidates endorsed Bernie for president. Believe me, Clinton noticed. And if other progressive leaders like Keith Ellison, Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee were to join them... she'd even notice more. Yesterday Greg Sargent wrote that Clinton would be immediately rolling out "a raft of new proposals to curb Wall Street risk-taking and boost accountability for financial misconduct. Among them, the Wall Street Journal reports, are a tax on certain types of short term speculation and an extension of the statute of limitations on prosecuting financial crimes" and that "[t]his comes after Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal yesterday, which Sanders has been attacking since he entered the Democratic primary. Clinton also recently came out against the Keystone pipeline, another Sanders target... Clinton seems to be working to ensure that there is very little policy distance between the two of them."
This prompted Joe Scarborough to remark: “He’s really good.” Yes, he is. Sanders’ message is clear: Skyrocketing inequality is an urgent threat to the country. It’s the result of deep and intractable structural problems with the economy that require correction through major government intervention-- via unabashedly redistributive policies that include big tax hikes on the wealthy to fund massive social investments. Our economic problems are enormous and call for major structural change. Nibbling around the edges just won’t do.

What is now clear from Sanders’ candidacy is that there is a very real and durable constituency inside the Democratic Party behind this diagnosis and the need for extremely ambitious policies to address it.

And yet, according to the Journal report, the new Clinton proposals will not embrace some of the key goals sought by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, such as breaking up the big banks or reinstating a Glass Steagall wall between commercial and investment banking. Nor is Clinton likely to embrace a $15 minimum wage or $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending.
As for prepping for the debate, that's exactly what Clinton has to do, and do and do. Or she won't even know what she's promised and not promised. Even Chuck Todd seems to be noticing that her promises are not worth taking too seriously. He called her flip-flop on the TPP "unbelievable," and he meant it in a very literal way. "For starters," he wrote, "there was the time as secretary of state when she said TPP 'sets the gold standard in trade agreements.' In her book, Hard Choices (which she sent out to all the GOP candidates), she called TPP 'the signature economic pillar' of the Obama administration's strategy in Asia. And then there's the wiggle room she left for herself, as well as the fact that she hasn't even fully reviewed the trade accord because it's not public yet. 'I'm continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what's in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we're not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers. But based on what I know so far, I can't support this agreement,' she said in her statement yesterday. And because this opposition is so unbelievable, it feeds every negative stereotype about her-- despite the short-term political benefits." As Ann Coulter said, she's the candidate the Republicans want to run against. Bernie isn't. And if you'd like to help make sure they don't get what they want... here's where you can help Bernie and the progressives stepping out to back him.

Not Hillary's issues

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About that "War Crime" — Hospital Was Raided By Afghan Forces Three Months Before U.S. Bombing


by Gaius Publius

There's new reporting on the U.S. bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. As you may know, Doctors Without Borders wants the incident, in which 22 people were killed, including patients who burned to death in their beds, investigated as a war crime. (You'll see their reasons lower in this piece.)

Now, thanks to excellent reporting by Ryan Grim at Huffington Post, we have more information. The bombing was apparently done at the request of the Afghan military, who had also attacked the hospital with Special Forces less than three months before the U.S. bombing. 

The implications of the bombing are horrific. The implications of this new story are worse. Let's say it is a war crime. Did we do it because the Afghans said to? Who's taking orders from whom in that war? And do U.S. commanders even care whom they're bombing, if they're blindly bombing targets chosen by others?

If so, in the game of Genius and Bully, we're just the bully. From Ryan Grim's report:
Kunduz Hospital Was Raided By Afghan Special Forces Just Three Months Before U.S. Bombing

The raid hints at a motive for the strike.

Afghan special forces raided the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz less than three months before a U.S. bombing killed 22 staff members and patients.

The raid took place on the afternoon of July 1, according to a statement from the hospital at the time. U.S. authorities have since said that Afghan forces called in Saturday's bombing, which lasted for more than an hour, and that the U.S. was unaware it was striking a hospital.

The previous raid suggests that Afghan authorities were aware the facility was a hospital and had a hostile relationship with its staff prior to calling in the U.S. bombing.

According to a statement posted online in July, "heavily armed men from Afghan Special Forces entered the [Médecins Sans Frontières] hospital compound, cordoned off the facility and began shooting in the air."

"The armed men physically assaulted three MSF staff members and entered the hospital with weapons," the statement continued. "They then proceeded to arrest three patients. Hospital staff tried their best to ensure continued medical care for the three patients, and in the process, one MSF staff member was threatened at gunpoint by two armed men. After approximately one hour, the armed men released the three patients and left the hospital compound."

While the motive of the raid is unclear, Afghan forces have long protested the practice of providing medical treatment to insurgents. But international law says that as soon as a fighter is in need of treatment, he is no longer a combatant. [...]
Note this: "U.S. authorities have since said that Afghan forces called in Saturday's bombing..." Do Afghan forces direct American bombing? Again, the implications of just that sentence are pretty bad.

Is This a War Crime?

We've come a long way since World War II, when Nazi atrocities were prosecuted as war crimes, while incidents like the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, not to mention the destruction of Hiroshima, were not even brought up. Now we have ways to sometimes bring even the powerful to justice. The request of Doctors Without Borders? An independent international investigation.

Here's a DWB statement (one of several) on the incident that plainly says there's prima facie evidence of a war crime (my emphasis):
MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as 'collateral damage.'

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation."
And now from a CREDO petition also calling for an investigation (emphasis and footnotes in the original):
Sign the petition: Justice for Doctors Without Borders

In the middle of the night on Saturday, a U.S. military plane "repeatedly and very precisely" bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital filled with doctors, nurses and wounded patients in Kunduz, Afghanistan.1

The airstrike killed twelve Doctors Without Borders staff members and ten patients, including three children, and injured scores more. Some patients literally burned alive in their hospital beds.2

So far, the Pentagon has only released incomplete and contradictory accounts of what happened and why.

On Sunday, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated that: "Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient."3

The world needs to know how and why this grave violation of International Humanitarian Law was committed.4 Those responsible for what we presume to be an atrocious war crime must then face justice. Please join Doctors Without Borders in calling for an immediate and independent international investigation.

Tell President Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: We join Doctors Without Borders and demand an investigation by an independent international body into the U.S. airstrike on the Kunduz hospital.

The Pentagon initially claimed that the hospital was hit by accident after U.S. troops nearby came under fire and called in the airstrike, then later changed its story and said that no U.S. troops were in the area and that Afghan troops called in the strike.5

But the Pentagon's story simply doesn't add up. According to Doctors Without Borders: "Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the U.S. airstrike on Saturday morning... We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched."6

Further, "The bombing took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, September 29, [five days before the airstrike] to avoid that the hospital be hit."7

Shockingly, the bombing continued for more than half an hour after Doctors Without Borders staff began making frantic calls to U.S. and Afghan military officials.

The Pentagon's claim that the hospital was bombed by accident is also contradicted by statements by Afghan officials, who have tried to justify the attack by claiming that the hospital was used by the Taliban for military purposes. [...]
You can sign that petition here. If our military is innocent, what do they have to fear, right?

And if you consider that, after 15 years of war in Afghanistan, it's time to get out, you might give these folks a little of your time and attention as well.


The Specials (lyrics here)

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Endorsements For Bernie's Campaign Have Finally Started Rolling In From Progressive Political Leaders


This evening Bernie Sanders will be speaking at the DeMeester Performance Center, an outdoor amphitheater that holds 7,000 people, in Tucson's Reid Park. He'll be introduced by the local congressman, Raúl Grijalva, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group that Bernie founded in 1991. Wednesday, Grijalva became the first member of Congress to endorse Bernie's campaign. Friday he plans to make the case for how, in his words, "Bernie is the right leader to fight income inequality, protect our safety net and ensure every American has a stake in the future of our country."

Yesterday Grijalva told us that "This endorsement is a matter of conscience for me. I cannot sit on the sidelines when our country faces so many challenges, and there is one candidate who I believe will fight for the bold changes we need. Bernie Sanders is fighting for a populist economic agenda to reign in economic inequality, ensure the richest among us contribute their fair share, and ensure the government works for every single American. One of the hardest things to do in politics is to stay consistent. Bernie Sanders has been consistently fighting for these issues-- not just for years, but for decades. Priorities like a $15 minimum wage and expanding opportunities are clear examples of the bold changes a President Sanders would bring, and they are examples of exactly what the American people need."

Grijalva is the first incumbent to have endorsed Bernie but several progressive candidates for Congress have already decided to bite the bullet and do the right thing. (Many want to but are too fearful of the well-known bullying tactics of the Clinton Machine. I spoke to one this week who told me the Clinton people call and badger her constantly.) Anyway, as we wrote in the past, the first candidate to endorse Bernie was South Jersey reformer Alex Law, who's running against the corrupt, conservative Machine candidate, Donald Norcross. Back in August he told us that he was the only congressional candidate in New Jersey who had endorsed Bernie, explaining that "Bernie's thoughts on student loan reform, campaign finance reform, income inequality, raising the minimum wage, diplomacy over war, tax reform, and drug reform resonate deeply with me. His influence is apparent in my policy ideas." He reiterated last night, telling us that:
I am the only Democrat in New Jersey running for office that has endorsed Bernie because I share his progressive values. I share his conviction to address income inequality and to fight corruption in politics. Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat truly committed to addressing campaign finance reform not only in words but in action as he has not accepted Super-PAC support. Whether it's LGBTQ rights, student loan reform, Wall Street reform, drug/prison reform or other issues, Bernie has a vision I agree with. Bernie Sanders is the people's candidate, and I am proud to say I endorse him for President of the United States of America.
The second of Hillary's 3 home state-- Arkansas-- was the scene of the next Bernie endorsement and it came from Robbie Wilson, the congressional candidate in the Fayetteville area. "I take great satisfaction in the fact that I align with Senator Sanders on every issue," he told us. "Most importantly, I agree with the Senator on the subject of overturning Citizens United. There is no greater threat to the survival of the middle class, and no darker bruise on our political structure. Furthermore, this issue goes hand-in-hand with the likelihood that we will need to appoint Supreme Court Justices over the next two presidential terms, and the idea that a Republican President and Congress would steer those appointments is almost too much to bear. Senator Sanders and I also share the same stance on the issues of women’s rights, foreign policy and economics, among others. But in a broader sense, we both believe that our government was intended to benefit all Americans, not to hold down the many in order to appease a few. This is a fundamental theme that is woven throughout the fabric of my platform, and I’m proud to say Senator Sanders reflects these same values."

And the 4th candidate to endorse Bernie-- and this was also Wednesday-- was Tom Guild, running for the Oklahoma City seat. "Bernie Sanders and I are in agreement on the vast majority of the major issues facing America," he said. "He has raised millions of dollars from grassroots activists in small amounts. He is drawing huge and sometimes unprecedented crowds wherever he goes. There are other good and able presidential candidates running in 2016. Bernie is the best of the best. He is the best hope to turn around our country and to fix the broken campaign finance system, address income inequality, reduce mounting college student debt, increase Social Security benefits, protect Medicare, repair our nation’s tattered infrastructure, support public education, raise the wages for American workers, and effectively deal with other pressing matters. America feels the Bern! I support and endorse Bernie Sanders for President of the United States."

Goal Thermometer

Blue America is thrilled that the support from progressives has started coming in and we started a special Act Blue page just for Members of Congress and candidates for Congress endorsing Bernie. Most Democrats love Bernie's platform and his ideas for making America a more equitable place to love. Even if he's elected, he's going to need supporters in Congress on the same page. We know Grijalva and the whole Progressive Caucus will be there for him but Bernie is going to have Republicans, Blue Dogs and the Wall Street-owned New Dems to contend with, which is why it is so crucial to elect progressives like Alex Law, Robbie Wilson and Tom Guild. Please contribute what you can to these candidates. And this week, Blue America is going to give away an extremely rare RIAA-certified platinum award for the Friends soundtrack. This was the first-even TV series to win a platinum record (for a million sales) and it included songs by The Rembrandts, REM, Joni Mitchell, the Barenaked Ladies, Lou Reed, kd lang, Paul Westerberg, the Pretenders and the other musicians that contributed songs to the show. As a way of thanking contributors, we'll randomly select on lucky "winner." There is no minimum-- anyone can win this by contributing on this page. In fact if you want the platinum award but find yourself strapped for cash, just send us a post card (pronto)-- Blue America, PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027-- and let us know you want to win too and that you'll contribute some other time if you can. Meanwhile, kick back and listen to a very Friends-friendly version of "I'll Be There For You," the show's theme song.

UPDATE: Raúl's Statement Today

"I’m endorsing Bernie Sanders for president today. This is a matter of conscience for me. I cannot sit on the sidelines when our country faces so many challenges, and there is one candidate who I believe will fight for the bold changes we need. Bernie Sanders is fighting for a populist economic agenda to reign in economic inequality, ensure the richest among us contribute their fair share, and ensure the government works for every single American.


One of the hardest things to do in politics is to stay consistent. Bernie Sanders has been consistently fighting for these issues-- not just for years, but for decades. Priorities like a $15 minimum wage and expanding opportunities are clear examples of the bold changes a President Sanders would bring, and they are examples of exactly what the American people need."

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Drafting The Flim-Flam Man To Be Speaker


Boehner has been begging Paul Ryan to run for the Speakership-- and so are Mitt Romney and Kevin McCarthy, as well as almost every conservative even vaguely "mainstream" in the Republican House caucus. Ryan wants it but he's playing coy and making believe he has to confer with his wife. The unreconstructed Confederate nihilists and die-hards, who are dying to capture what was once the Party of Lincoln, are flipping out. By early evening Politico's Anna Palmer was tweeting that Ryan had cancelled all his fundraisers for the next 48 hours. Lynn Westmoreland-- alas Comedy Central has removed all the easy-to-access videos of him on the Colbert show-- is offering his incompetent self up as the South Will Rise Again candidate. (Let's face it, even for some Confederates, "Taliban Dan" Webster is a bridge too far, although not for Louie Gohmert.) Ryan, though, is wondering how detrimental being Speaker would be for his outsized presidential ambitions.

Long time Ryan-watcher Paul Krugman rushed out a succinct Flim-Flap redux for the Republicans to consider before they rushed into another suicide pact.
Apparently desperate Republicans are pleading with Paul Ryan to become Speaker of the House, because he’s “super, super smart.” More than anyone else in his caucus, he has the reputation of being a brilliant policy wonk.

And that tells you even more about the dire state of the GOP. After all, Ryan is to policy wonkery what Carly Fiorina is to corporate management: brilliant at selling himself, hopeless at actually doing the job. Lest we forget, his much-vaunted budget plan proved, on even superficial examination, to be a ludicrous mess of magic asterisks. His big contribution to discussion of economic policy was his stern warning to Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing would “debase the dollar”, that rising commodity prices in early 2011 presaged a surge in inflation. This guy’s delusions of expertise should be considered funny.

Yet he may indeed be the best they have.

Nonetheless, it would be a huge mistake for him personally to take the job. Where he is, he can cultivate his wonk image, with nobody in the press willing to disturb the illusion. In a direct leadership role, he’d have no place to hide.
The only logical alternative to Ryan for Speaker is Pelosi... and that doesn't seem very likely, despite Charlie Dent (R-PA) thing it would be fine if the Democrats played a role in selecting the next Speaker. Many of them, though, would probably prefer going outside the House and getting Ted Cruz to do it, don't you think? He's obviously given up on a Senate career. Does he still expect to win the GOP nomination, even with Trump making noises that he's "in it to win it?" And if know that Trump is getting out eventually and can hand him the nomination, does he think he could actually beat Bernie or even weak establishment candidates Hillary or Biden? He probably does. He gets delusional and, after all, among these crackpot politicians hope always really does spring eternal. Or maybe Boehner could just forget the whole thing, postpone the golf and lobbyist life and stay around for another year and a few months. That would serve those Liberty Caucus imbeciles right! Besides, this trial balloon got punctured pretty fast:

Before bedtime, in DC, rumors started being laughed at that even former car thief and arsonist-for-pay Darrell Issa (R-CA), always looking for another job, might run too. And then there was his colleague, Mark Takano (D-CA), and his brilliant and helpful Craig's List advertisement. It might not help the Republicans though:

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Has the NRA finally admitted it's been lying all this time about its reason for existing?


by Ken

Yesterday ThinkProgress's Judd Legum put together a smashing post called "5 Indefensible Tweets From The NRA Since The Oregon Gun Massacre." Basically here I'm passing on Judd's post with just a few notes of my own added. But afterward, I'll have something to say about one of these tweets from NRA TinyPenisWorld which I find kind of staggering.

First, let's let Judd set his piece up:
After a mass shooting, the NRA traditionally goes silent for a period of time. In the case of the gun massacre in Oregon, the NRA stopped tweeting on Thursday, October 1 at 1:44 p.m., shortly after the news broke. The account resumed tweeting at 12:07 p.m. on Friday, October 2 with an innocuous tweet about gun safety.

By Monday, the NRA twitter account was aggressively tweeting out information intended to head off any efforts to increase gun control in the wake of the massacre at Umpqua Community College. Much of this information, however, was wildly misleading or just plain inaccurate.
With that, we're good to go. "Here," says Judd, "are five of the NRA’s most egregious recent tweets."

"1. There is no gun show loophole."

This is an easy one: Yes, of course there is. And everyone -- except perhaps this tweeter from TinyPenisWorld -- knows it. Judd:

There is a gun show loophole. At gun shows, unlicensed sellers can sell guns without any background check, waiting period, or paperwork. These are referred to as “private sales.” There are thousands of gun shows in the United States each year.

These unregulated “private sales” of guns also take place on the internet or other physical locations. The NRA disingenuously claims that these additional loopholes mean that there isn’t a specific gun show loophole.

"2. The Australian gun buyback didn’t work."

Another easy one: It sure as shootin' did work. Judd:

After a gun massacre in Australia in 1996, the government “instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation.” At the same time, the government banned semi-automatic rifles and tightened licensing requirements.

A 2011 Harvard University study concluded that the buyback program was “incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” There have been no gun massacres — defined as the killing of four or more people at once — in the 17 years since the buyback took place. There were 13 gun massacres in the 18 years prior to the program.

Additionally, the number of firearm suicides and homicides was reduced dramatically. This reduction was directly tied to the buyback program. The Harvard study found that “the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback” and “firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates.”

The article cited by the NRA does not dispute the reduction in firearm deaths after the buyback program but simply asserts, without much analysis, that the drop was a coincidence. It relies almost exclusively on a deeply flawed study produced by the Australian gun lobby.

"3. Gun-free zones are magnets for murderers."

This sounds to me like something the gun-massacre fans in TinyPenisWorld simply made up in their heads, and assume must be true. The facts say otherwise. Judd:

86 percent of mass shootings occur outside of gun-free zones. Studies have found no evidence that people purposely choose gun-free zones for mass shootings. Rather, there is usually another clear motive for the choice of location. In most school shootings, for example, “the killers had personal ties to the school they struck.”

"4. Over the last 5 years, twice as many people were killed with someone’s bare hands than with a rifle."

What??? Even beyond the bizarreness of the comparison, the tweeter has in fact misread his sources for both of the statistics being "compared." In a larger perspective, though, this is also the claim I want to come back to when we're done with Judd's piece. Meanwhile, here's his response:

This is misleading to the point of parody. The statistic comes from this chart from the FBI that looks at murder victims from 2010 to 2014. The data found no more than 769 homicides each year with a “personal weapon” — a category that includes hands, feet and any other part of the body. Meanwhile, there were over 8000 homicides by firearms each year.

The NRA isolates the category “rifles” to make guns seem relatively safe — there are around 250-350 homicides with rifles each year — but this just reflects the popularity of handguns over rifles. Additionally, there are between 1600-1900 firearm homicides each year where the type of firearm could not be identified by the FBI. So the NRA’s claim, in addition to being highly misleading, also might not be true.

"5. Fewer than 1 percent of criminals get guns at gun shows."

M oh my, the gun-massacre fans do seem concerned about keeping the free flow of guns flowing at loophole-blessed gun shows! Judd:

This statistic vastly understates the nexis between gun shows and criminal activity by focusing only on the proximate source of the gun. The same study found that “sixty-nine percent of criminals surveyed reported acquiring guns from a friend, family member, or street seller.” And where did those people acquire their guns? In many cases, at a gun show. Overall, “3 out of 10 guns that criminals use in crimes changed hands at a gun show somewhere in their chain of custody.”


As I mentioned, the TinyPenisWorld tweet that blew my mind is (4), "Over the last 5 years, twice as many people were killed with someone’s bare hands than with a rifle."

Does someone connected to the NRA really think this advances their cause? Even setting aside the numerical mumbo-jumbo performed with both numbers being compared, can you believe they're arguing in terms of the (claimed) relative safeness of rifles? While this might seem a point worth making for an organization that calls itself the National Rifle Association, an organization that purports to defend the rights of rifle-bearing hunters, if that was ever the mission of the real-world NRA, it certainly hasn't been in the time since the NRA took over the American gun franchise and took all of our political institutions hostage.

No, the real-world NRA is an organization whose reason for existence is to secure the right of virtually every man, woman, and child to carry a handgun or automatic weapon, whether concealed or openly carried, into church, into fast-food outlets, or into any other damned place in the country he/she wants.

This is the mission that has driven the power grab that culminated in the abduction of the Constitution by a hoodlum of five ideologically crazed Supreme Court justices so brain-impaired or ideologically determined that they (a) showed themselves incapable of performing the simple act of reading the Second Amendment, and (b) lacked even the most minimal knowledge of the actual circumstances the amendment was written to address and adopted to cover.

Do we all get the significance of this tweet? It tells us that every propaganda utterance of the NRA and its supporters having anything to do with any weapon except rifles has been a conscious, calculated lie. What the NRA propagandists have always been out to secure is not the rights of hunters, who at least have some understandable reason for wanting to protect their access to rifles, but the right of TinyPenisWorld thrill-seekers to seek out the thrill -- as spectators if not perpetrators -- of gun violence.


Check out Jen Hayden's Daily Kos account yesterday of gun fun in Auburn Hils, MI, "Home Depot customer with a concealed handgun opened fire on shoplifting suspect," which began:
Apparently a Michigan woman with a conceal-carry permit and a loaded handgun thought it was her duty to step in and help a Home Depot employee stop a suspected shoplifter. Did she follow their car? Nope. She opened fired on the suspected shoplifter's SUV as they drove out of the parking lot.
Jen's got this one covered, so do check out her post. But I hope everyone understands without further commentary what's crazy wrong with this picture.

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