Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why Young People Are Protesting in Gaza-- Guest Post By Reese Erlich


On my most recent reporting trip to Gaza, I stayed with a family living just a short walk from the Israeli border. At dusk we watched a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean and could forget the ongoing conflict for just a few minutes.

Living conditions for the family have gotten much worse since my visit. They have electricity four hours a day, medicine is in short supply, and they have to get all their water delivered by truck. Overall unemployment in Gaza is 27 percent, with youth unemployment at a staggering 60 percent, according to the World Bank.

That high unemployment presents the biggest problem, said one of my hosts, family member Jihad Mosalami, an English professor. “People can’t survive,” he told me in a phone interview.

Many of Mosalami’s students were among the tens of thousands who have gathered to demonstrate at the fence separating Gaza and Israel of the past several weeks. “A few went to the fence to throw stones,” he said. “Others went to the fence to pray.”

It didn't matter to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, who shot tear gas and live ammunition at the gathering Palestinians.

“It was like hell,” said Mosalami.

From March 30 to May 15, Israeli security forces killed over 100 Palestinians and wounded more than 10,000, according to the Palestinian health officials. No Israeli soldiers were killed or even seriously injured during this same period.

Palestinians organized the “Great March of Return,” to protest the Israeli military blockade of Gaza. Israeli soldiers control all food, medicine, building supplies, and other goods that enter or exit Gaza. The Israeli military frequently holds up essential goods to pressure Hamas, the ruling party of the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli authorities claimed they were protecting their border from hordes of Palestinians, some armed, intent on crashing through the fence. In reality, no one got though the double fence or the large “no man’s land” buffer zone created by Israel. The soldiers shot civilians to intimidate them-- not out of self-defense.

But these tactics backfired. Palestinians won the political battle by gaining renewed sympathy for their struggle around the world.

The young generation of Palestinians discovered they “can make a difference, not least of which is bringing global attention to their cause,” Brian Barber told me. He’s professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C. The protests gave young Palestinians “their first taste of vibrant collective action... as their parents had with the first intifada.”

Why would young people risk their lives to protest the occupation? Let's take a look at some of the underlying political issues.

What’s the Right of Return?

Sixty-eight percent of people living in Gaza are registered with the U.N. as refugees, either expelled from Israel in 1948 or their descendants. I’ve interviewed Palestinians who still have the keys to their 1948 houses. Under international law, these refugees have the right to return to their towns and villages, according to James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

There are 5 million Palestinians worldwide. As a practical matter, many would not want to return to Israel. Their homes and villages may no longer exist. And many Palestinians “don’t want to live as a minority in Israel,” Zogby told me.

If Israel recognizes a fully independent, viable, and contiguous Palestinian state, many refugees would return there. Years ago the Palestine Liberation Organization proposed that a limited number of Palestinians should be allowed to return to their villages in Israel while the vast majority would have the right to return to a newly independent Palestinian state.

But Palestinians won’t make any compromises on such a critical issue except in the context of an overall peace settlement. (As of press time, neither the United States nor Israel have shown any interest in peace talks.)

One state or two?

For many years the left and progressives supported the concept of one state in which all Palestinians would be free to return to Israel as equal citizens. The democratic state would champion one person, one vote with no discrimination based on ethnicity or religion.

Eighty-one percent of Israeli Jews reject the idea of a one-state solution, according to a 2017 poll, because the return of millions of Palestinians would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The one-state plan has little support even among progressive Israelis opposed to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

By the 1980s, the Palestine Liberation Organization began to propose a two-state solution in which the Palestinians and Israelis would have their own states living in peace. Negotiations would determine borders based on Israel’s pre-1967 territory. Different parts of Jerusalem could serve as capitals for both countries. The two-state solution served as the basis for the 1993 Oslo peace accord.

Successive Israeli governments never implemented the Oslo agreement, however. They continued to build Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and unilaterally built a wall dividing Israel and the West Bank that doesn't follow the 1967 border line.

In March a Palestinian poll showed 48 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza supported two states and 50 percent opposed. But only 28 percent supported one state.

"I'm not an activist or politician," said my friend Mosalami, "but I do believe the majority of Palestinians will accept two states. It's the practical solution."

But doesn’t Hamas reject two states?

Actually, Hamas is willing to accept the two-state solution. Soon after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, its leaders faced reality. Having one state was not possible and most Palestinians favored two states.

“We accepted that our state should be on the 1967 borders, but Israel rejected that,” then top Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told me. He confirmed that position with former President Jimmy Carter. I re-confirmed that view with two different Hamas ministers during a 2011 trip to Gaza.

Hamas doesn't emphasize that position because there are no peace talks on the horizon. Hamas leaders want Israel or the United States to put forward a viable two-state option, and then it will respond.

But isn’t Hamas a terrorist organization? How could Israel trust them in negotiations?

Hamas is a political party with an armed militia that functions as Gaza’s security force. It considers itself a national liberation movement fighting occupation forces through armed struggle. Hamas has intentionally killed civilians, including bombing buses and restaurants.

Using terrorist tactics, however, does not make one a terrorist organization. Jewish militias fighting the British and Arabs in 1948 and 1949 used terrorist tactics. They murdered and tortured Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin, forcing residents to flee. They blew up the King David Hotel, killing over ninety Jews, Arabs, and British soldiers.

Some of the Jewish militia tactics parallel recent events in Gaza. Yuri Avnery, today one of the Israel’s major peace movement leaders, described how he participated in a 1948 Tel Aviv march organized by the Irgun, a militia later incorporated into the IDF.

Civilian Irgun youth marched down a street “where the offices of the British administration were located,” Avnery wrote. “There we sang the national anthem, ‘Hatikvah’, while some adult members set fire to the offices.”

I oppose the use of terrorism whatever the justification. But Hamas is fundamentally different from Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, who use terror to ethnically cleanse groups they oppose—Christians, Jews, Shia Muslims, and others. Those organizations refuse to participate in elections and use religion as the excuse to give themselves absolute power.

Hamas promotes a conservative religious agenda but it is not the Islamic State. I would not vote for Hamas if I lived in Palestine. But Hamas is a legitimate party whose views are part of the Middle East political reality.

Labeling Hamas a terrorist organization gives Israel, and the United States, an excuse to never hold peace talks. The Israeli government labelled the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists until Israel agreed to the Oslo peace talks. Then they became peace partners.

Earlier this month Hamas offered Israel a “hudna” or ceasefire. Hamas sources told the website Al Monitor if Israel lifted the siege of Gaza, Hamas would enter into negotiations with Israel for a long-term ceasefire.

Should Israeli leaders trust Hamas? No. And Palestinian leaders shouldn’t trust the Israeli government. But there is a common need to begin serious discussions to establish a viable Palestinian state. Each side can advance partial measures and verify their implementation before moving ahead.

My Gaza friend Jihad Mosalami said, “They have to negotiate and reach a deal. People in Gaza want a decent life.”

He acknowledged that the current leadership in Washington and Tel Aviv won’t start talks anytime soon.

“We won’t have war forever,” he said with just a hint of optimism. “The war will end and there can be peace.”

Labels: , , ,

Will Rohrabacher's Crazy Homophobia Cost Him His Orange County Seat In Congress?


Should congressmen who get high and play dress-up be barred from buying homes in Orange Co?

I can remember when I was a kid growing up on Long Island, there were fights in the suburbs-- Nassau County-- about selling houses to black families. Half the people who lived in some of these towns were there because of "white flight" and they brought their ugly bigotry and racism with them. Trump is ginning that up again-- and on Long Island! But here in California, Trump's top lackey-- and Putin's-- is Orange County lunatic Dana Rohrabacher and he's got gays in his sites. Thursday, Jeff Collins, writing for the Orange County Register, reported that last week Rohrabacher told a group of realtors that homeowners should be able to refuse to sell their property to gays and lesbians.
“Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone (if) they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher told an Orange County Association of Realtors delegation at a May 16 meeting in Washington, D.C., according to Wayne Woodyard, a former Orange County Realtor president who was at the event.

On Thursday, Rohrabacher confirmed the accuracy of the sentiment, and added that homeowners should have the right to “choose who they do business with.”

“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” Rohrabacher said.

“A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

The statement ignited a protest by a Realtor gay-rights group, prompting the National Association of Realtors to withdraw its recommendation that members send campaign contributions to Rohrabacher.

“It was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President’s Circle,” an association statement said, referring to its list of recommended candidates. Rohrabacher’s stance, the 1.3-million-member trade group said, is contrary to NAR’s code of ethics, which bans discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“We certainly hope that Congress will... support the elimination of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The about-face occurred as the 15-term coastal Orange County Republican is locked in his toughest re-election campaign.

He’s facing 15 challengers, including eight Democrats as well as onetime political ally Scott Baugh, former Orange County GOP chairman.

“It certainly can’t do me any good to have people take me off their endorsement list,” said Rohrabacher, who represents California’s 48th District in coastal Orange County. “It’s sad to see (the association’s) priority is standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody’s private lifestyle.”

Harley Rouda, a Democrat who is challenging Rohrabacher and a son of a former Realtor association president, called Rohrabacher’s statements “outlandish and unacceptable,” saying everyone should have the same rights to buy and sell a home.

“What Dana Rohrabacher fails to understand is discrimination is discrimination,” Rouda said. “It shows how backward his thinking is.”

Previously Rohrabacher had been designated as a “Realtor Champion,” eligible for support from top Realtor donors.

The Realtors Political Action Committee, the trade group’s campaign finance arm, also donated $5,000 to Rohrabacher’s re-election campaign in December and January, campaign finance reports show. Rohrabacher also received donations from numerous agents, real estate developers and Realtor groups.

The backlash occurred after Orange County Realtors met last week with Rohrabacher during NAR’s mid-year lobbying conference in Washington and asked him to support H.R. 1447, among other issues.

The measure expands the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968 to add anti-discrimination protections based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The existing law already forbids home sellers, landlords and lenders from discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Rohrabacher’s remarks sparked outrage among gay and lesbian Realtors after Woodyard posted them on Facebook. The founder of a real estate gay-rights group then wrote to NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall requesting the association revoke its support of Rohrabacher.

“When a supposed champion of the Realtor Party outright states that housing discrimination should be lawful, I hope you agree there should be cause for concern,” wrote Jeff Berger, a Florida agent and founder of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “Ignoring the congressman’s comments belies the decades of serious work and progress NAR has made in the area of fair housing.”

Rohrabacher denied he’s trying to shore up his conservative flank in the face of opposition from Baugh. Indeed, he said, his stance likely will “alienate a certain number of gays who think I’m anti-gay, which isn’t the case.”

Rohrabacher added he vehemently opposes housing discrimination based on race, religion or a person’s sex.

But, he said, “there are some fundamentalist Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle. I support their rights.” He also said he believes the Realtor association’s stance is “way out of sync” with its own industry.

Rohrabacher distinguished race-based discrimination from choosing not to do business with someone because of their lifestyle or political beliefs.

Homeowners, for example, shouldn’t be allowed to deny a sale to an interracial couple, he said.

But Democrats or Republicans should be able to refuse a home sale to people with opposing political views.

Would Rohrabacher, who uses a medical marijuana cream to ease his arthritis and supports relaxed penalties for cannabis use, be OK if a home seller refused to do business with him based on that lifestyle choice?

“Yes,” Rohrabacher said. “Absolutely.”
Ted Lieu is the DCCC regional vice chair for the West Coast, including, obviously, California. Since Rohrabacher refuses to do town hall meetings in his own district, Ted went down to Orange County and did one for the folks who live down there. "Dana Rohrabacher," he told me today, "thinks it is fine for gays and lesbians to be denied a house-- let's work to make sure Dana is denied a seat in the House."

Eric Bauman is the chairman of the California Democratic Party. He's watching all the Orange County congressional races very carefully. This morning he told me "It's pathetic that Putin’s favorite member of Congress thinks his best path to re-election is to attack LGBTQ people where it hurts most-- in their homes and jobs. This sorry excuse for a congressman is happy to help cover up Trump’s exploitation of women, bashing of immigrants and cavorting with foreign regimes, especially because he has no record to run on after decades in the House. So he has no choice but to turn to the classic fascist agenda and scapegoat LGBTQ and other at-risk people. Well I have a suggestion for you Dana, you'd better get out your surfboard and prepare for a long trip, we are going to send you to hang 10, and it won't be in DC, perhaps Moscow or... Stalingrad."

Goal ThermometerDuWayne Gregory is the progressive Democrat running for the congressional seat in Nassau and Suffolk counties in southern and central Long Island (NY-02), a seat currently held by old time reactionary Peter King. DuWayne recognizes  just what Rohrabacher is up to, "Congressman Rohrabacher is an illustration of how the Trump era has empowered people to speak and promote hatred," he told me this morning. "As a father of a son who is gay, I want my son to be able to live a life free of fear and hatred. A society where he won’t be the victim of a hate crime. A society where he can work for an employer that won’t discriminate against him, because of his sexual orientation. A society where he can purchase a home and raise his own family. A society where he can pursue his dreams just like every other American citizen. That’s why I am running for Congress, because my congressman, Peter King, has just as bad a record on LGBTQ issues as his colleague in discrimination Rohrabacher. We can do better and we must do better by electing people to Congress that understand the true values of our country."

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

The Democratic Party-- Which Way?


Last month, Justice Democrats commissioned an important report, The Future of the Party-- A Progressive Vision For A Populist Democrat Party by Sean McElwee. You should read the whole thing at that link. The short version: "The Democratic Party is at a crossroads as the 2018 election approaches."
Generic ballot polling, historical trends, and recent special elections suggest that Democrats will perform well in November, likely enough to take back the House of Representatives.

But which Democratic Party will take the House?

Will it be a Democratic Party ready to combat plutocracy, white supremacy, and militarism, or a Democratic Party ready to be complicit in continuing the policies that have harmed so many Americans? While pundits debate the future of the party, the Democratic Party’s base is united around policies that would create a fair economy for all, racial justice, and gender equality. Still, many in the party leadership and wealthy donor class express concerns that such policies will endanger the party.
The report shows that a pivot toward the "center" is poison with the Democratic primary electorate, that marginal voters and nonvoters support key progressive policies and could form a durable base for the Democratic Party and that many Democratic incumbents are failing their constituents by opposing progressive policies with broad-based support.

These are the key findings:
The Democratic base is ready for multi-racial populism.

• Democratic primary voters want aggressive government action: More than 90 percent of Democratic primary voters support a tax on millionaires and increased regulation on banks. Eighty-six percent of Democratic primary voters support a government guarantee of health care. Eighty percent support the government taking actions to reduce inequality.

• Democratic primary voters increasingly reject racism:

Eighty-five percent of Democratic primary voters support a path to citizenship, and nearly 1 in 5 believe that it should not involve any penalties. For the first time since it’s been polled, a majority of white Democrats are more likely to blame discrimination than “willpower” for racial inequality.

It's time for a new nonvoter revolution.

• Nonvoters preferred Clinton to Trump 53/44.Full turnout would have lead to a Democratic Presidential victory in 2016.
• Nonvoters and marginal voters are more supportive of progressive policies. For example, 68 percent of nonvoters support increased regulation of big banks, compared to 52 percent of consistent voters.

Democrats can win elections without rejecting their base.

• The general public supports key, over-the-horizon Democratic priorities, from marijuana legalization and ending mandatory minimums to a $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care.
• Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage are popular in purple states across the country.

Democrats are not representing the progressivism of their constituents.

• Many Democrats reject policies supported by the general public in their states and districts.

• Ninety-two percent of Democrats in the House represent districts where modeled support for repealing the Hyde Amendment is greater than 55 percent, but only 70 percent of House Democrats support repealing the Hyde Amendment. 
• Sixty-seven percent of Democrats in the Senate represent states where modeled support for Medicare for All is greater than 55 percent, but only 33 percent of Senate Democrats support Medicare for All.

This is one point that we often grapple with at DWT: "Democratic Politicians Falsely Believe Voters Are Less Progressive."
Politicians from both parties dramatically overestimate the conservatism of the voters they represent.

Academic research suggests that Democratic politicians may vote more conservatively because they fundamentally misunderstand the electorate. Political scientists David Broockman and Christopher Skovron surveyed 3,765 politicians and compared their views to modeled support for policies in their districts. They find that politicians from both parties dramatically overestimate the conservatism of the voters they represent. Another study examined party leaders, who often determine which candidates will end up running and who will gain the party’s backing. They find that Democratic Party leaders were far more likely than Republicans to favor centrist candidates and that leaders in both parties overestimated the conservatism of the electorate. In another study, political scientists Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Matto Mildenberger, and Leah Stokes surveyed senior congressional aides as well as public opinion polling and find that these staffers “had a more conservative picture of their constituents’ opinions than the constituents actually expressed in polls.”

However, there is hope; research from political scientists Daniel Butler and David Nickerson suggests that when politicians are given accurate polling about their constituents, they move to align their policies with constituents.

Examining policies such as the minimum wage and racial justice, as well as tax policy, we find that Democrats are wrong to target the mushy middle. In fact, there is durable and consistent support for even over-the-horizon progressive policies across the country. Voters reject mandatory minimums, which have inflamed mass incarceration. Voters also reject the Hyde Amendment, an unnecessary limitation on a woman’s right to choose. Voters are more than ready for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action on climate change and new investment in infrastructure.

Data from the 2016 American National Election Studies further confirm that Democrats can run unabashedly pro-choice and pro-climate campaigns. ANES asks respondents to place themselves on a scale from 1-7, with 1 being “Some people think the federal government needs to regulate business to protect the environment. They think that efforts to protect the environment will also create jobs” and 7 being “Others think that the federal government should not regulate business to protect the environment. They think this regulation will not do much to help the environment and will cost us jobs.” Fifty-eight percent placed themselves on the 1-3 side, 20 percent at 4, and only 22 percent on 5-7. According to the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies 2016 survey, 58 percent of adults agree with the statement, “Always allow a woman to obtain an abortion as a matter of choice.”

"Since Democrats in DC decided that the way to win is to pretend to be Republicans, we have lost over a thousand legislative seats nationally" said Levi Tillemann (CO-06). "Voters want someone with real principles who they know will fight for them, not for corporations, millionaires, and DC insiders. Our campaign for medicare for all, requiring millionaires and billionaires to invest in America (not just their stock portfolios), and moving to 100% renewable energy by 2035 is resonating because people know it's what I actually believe and people know it's what's best for the country."

Yesterday, John Herrick, writing for the Colorado Independent noted that Diana DeGette is facing progressive primary challenger Saira Rao who wants to shape the future of the Democratic Party. Saira told him that "Blue isn’t working. We’ve got to go true blue." A former Hillary voter, she's broken with the corporate establishment side of the party and "says corporations are buying votes from Democrats through campaign contributions. As part of her campaign, Rao has pledged to not take any money from corporations. And so far, she has narrowly outraised DeGette this year pulling in $255,000 to Degette’s $240,000."
DeGette says one of her proudest accomplishments while serving as a representative is the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which increased funding for disease research. Congress passed the bill and it was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2016. This legislation helped DeGette earn the Jacob K. Javits Prize for Bipartisan Leadership.

But liberals seem uninspired by consensus making. Rao points out that Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sanders of Vermont claim the law eased regulations and was essentially a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. One of DeGette’s top donors this year is AbbVie, a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company. ...Rao’s supporters also criticized DeGette for having voted for Hillary Clinton as a superdelegate at the Democratic National Convention when Sanders won the Colorado caucus.
These comments from some the Blue America-endorsed candidates about the Democratic Party came from a post asserting that the Democratic Party would be doing better if they had some discernible economic policies that voters identified with them. Alan Grayson was the first up to bat: "Polls show that voters-- not just Democrats, voters-- overwhelmingly favor a minimum wage increase, paid sick leave, universal healthcare, Social Security and Medicare increases, lower taxes on working people, etc. You have to wonder how long Democratic 'leaders' are going to continue to wear the hair shirt." Last night he added "Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do the voters. A vacuous Democratic Party is a loser Democratic Party. The voters are shouting, 'please-- stand for something!'"

"I feel like I’m being completely unoriginal" Paul Clements (MI-06) told me, "but still it should be said: people don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for. I’ve heard it time and again at house parties and Democratic events around the district. I’ve given my stump speech so many times: (besides Trump) economic inequality is the issue, money in politics the cause, yes fix taxes and raise the minimum wage but we need to fix the basics: health care for all, education, and criminal justice. Then I fudge a fourth one, calling it a forward looking economic policy, and include renewable energy, energy efficient technologies, agricultural research, and major infrastructure investments. Then, oh, of course, we have to deal with climate change or all of this is off the table. The details matter, but you can probably pretty much fill them in. I know that these planks and more are in the last Democratic Party platform, but, seriously, so what? The Democratic Party does not have a clear agenda and people don’t know what it stands for. I think the agenda should address the basics. It should speak to economic inequality. But at least there should be a vision, there should be a program, so in house parties and such we don’t have to do all the work."

Goal ThermometerJames Thompson is the progressive Democrat running in the Wichita-centered 4th Kansas district. His primary is August 7. And then he'll be facing right-wing Republican Ron Estes. He's all about the issues that Democrats need to speak to the voters about. Here's what he told me today:
When I was homeless and struggling to make ends meet I didn’t give a damn about the stock market, I was worried about putting food on the table and keeping a roof over the heads of myself and my baby brothers. The stock market and trade agreements are important parts of our economy, but until Democrats get back to protecting the kitchen table economy it will be hard to pull people back into the Democratic Party. Before people can care about things outside their own circle, they must feel confident in their own financial situation, which means they must have a stable job with a livable wage. That means a guaranteed jobs program and affordable healthcare and education. It means expanding Medicare and Social Security not cutting it. It means taking care of the farmers who feed us. It is the basic hierarchy of needs. Democrats as a party need to return to being FDR Democrats looking out for working people rather than corporate shills for Wall Street. We must remember that this is a government not of corporation interests, but a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We can get there, we just need to keep moving forward with electing progressives.
Sam Jammal, running in Orange County against a pack of carpetbagger multimillionaires who are trying to buy the seat, is also a progressive trying to talk with the CA-39 voters about issues. "Democrats win," he said, "if we have a positive economic message focused on lifting up the middle class. This means focusing on the cost of prescription drugs, student debt, housing affordability and creating good-paying jobs so families can enter the middle class. We won't win by just being anti-Trump. We also won't win if our campaigns are not focused on people's pocketbooks. The reality on the ground is that families are still struggling. We need to be identitied as the party that actually has a plan for lifting people up."

Kara Eastman, the progressive Democrat who won her primary against a Blue Dog last Tuesday, was victorious, in large part, because she campaigned on issues that real people are excited about. "It is time for policy makers to put people first. Common sense policies that prevent illness, ensure families can make a living wage and provide jobs should be at the core of what elected officials want to accomplish. Raising the minimum wage (which is actually supported by 74% of Americans) is one federal policy that would have a huge ripple effect in the nation. Universal healthcare (also supported by more than 60% of Americans) would also boost the economy by freeing employers from the shackles of being in the healthcare business. In addition, investing in infrastructure such as replacing lead service lines and creating green and healthy housing would create jobs while making our children healthier and safer."

Over in Maine, Jared Golden, a proud working class progressive who understands what solidarity means, is running for Democratic nomination in a June 12th primary. "If America had its priorities straight we could fix our economy. We need to fight for a fair tax plan that doesn’t give away trillions to the wealthy-elite and multinational corporations that aren’t investing in America. Take that revenue back and put it to work rebuilding American roads, rails and bridges. We need to stand with unions for better pay, and healthcare and retirement benefits. And renegotiate and reject bad trade deals that undermine wages and safety for workers. We need to stop allowing corporations and billionaires to waste so much capital on buying elections, so they can instead put that money to work on Main Street, creating jobs and paying people their real worth."

Tom Guild is running in the Oklahoma City Metro and he's warning the party establishment that progressives are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, not just corporatists. "Channeling what President Lyndon Johnson said decades ago, 'I’d rather have people inside the tent pissing out, instead of outside the tent pissing in.' If we don’t support progressive ideals and policies, too many progressives who are registered as members of the Democratic Party, will be outside the tent when the November election arrives. This lack of enthusiasm among our foot soldiers will be fatal to many of the party’s candidates. Independents who identify with the progressive movement will lose interest and opt out of the process. This seems to happen in Oklahoma and nationally in election after election. To maximize our turnout, we must chart a progressive course, support progressive proposals, and maximize the support of our progressive base. Paraphrasing President Harry Truman, if voters are forced to choose between a Republican and a Democrat pretending to be a Republican, they’ll pick the Republican every time!"

Ricardo Franco is the progressive Democrat up against Devin Nunes in California's Central Valley (CA-22). But, of course, there's also a conservative-- a very, very conservative-- establishment Democrat in the race as well. Ricardo read the Justice Democrats report and told me what he thought about it and how what it uncovers impacts his own race:
This report and recent election results throughout the country have confirmed what we hypothesized last summer: Progressive policies are what it takes to mobilize the Democratic base and swing over independents and Republicans. In my opinion this is because progressives speak directly to the issues affecting working-class Americans rather than traditional party politics.

When I started this campaign I was told I was too progressive to win. Now another Democratic candidate has adopted my platform and moved more towards the left. The centrist Democratic candidate in our race refused to even appear on television last night with another Democratic challenger and myself because they are presumably too afraid of going on the record on any issues.

Across the country we have seen progressives win elections and beat out establishment Democrats. In addition to having a winning policy, progressives are also proud of who they are and not afraid to stand for what they believe in. It's this combination of policy smarts and strong moral character that is leading progressives to victory.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Announcing a new policy, the National Football League owners and their Commissioner, Roger Goodell, have come down heavily against kneeling players who protest racial inequality and police brutality against African-Americans; all to please a racist draft-dodging con artist that they support with their campaign contributions. I suppose that, considering Goodell's past light treatment of players who beat up women, we shouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, President Bone Spurs has suggested that those players who protest police brutality and racial inequality "shouldn't be in the country." No, you stark, raving-mad Hitler wannabe, it is you who shouldn't be in the country. In a sane world, you wouldn't even belong in this century.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 25, 2018

FL-26-- Steve Machat Withdraws From The Race To Topple Carlos Curbelo


The DCCC & EMILY's List has their candidate and there is also a progressive running

Steve Machat is a guy I knew from the music business who, in one way or another-- attorney, publisher, manager, etc-- worked with Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Leonard Cohen, Phil Spector, ELO, Snoop Dogg, New Edition, Bobby Brown, etc. He also wrote Gods, Gangsters and Honour, a book that is basically an insider's guide to the music industry. Until a couple of weeks ago he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination too run for the very blue seat occupied by Republican Carlos Curbelo. The DCCC endorsed conservative New Dem Debbie Mucarel-Powell. He wrote to his supporters to explain why he was withdrawing from the race.
Earlier this month I was a guest speaker in Israel, addressing equality, creation and how to perpetuate culture. From there, I went on to Jordan, meeting with King Abdullah’s Ministers.

Both these experiences allowed a lot of soul searching on my part.

I feel that the electoral system in the US is possibly irretrievably broken, with Blue Dog Democrats voting with Trump and Corporate Democrats voting with the special interests that fund them.

Our two party system is owned and controlled by a network of corporate interest, which funds and selects politicians on our behalf, places them in government, and then the government runs us. This is totally contrary to what our Founding Fathers intended. They intended a government of the people, by the people, for the people. They did not intend a government of corporations, by corporate-funded politicians, for the benefit of corporations.

It’s not enough just to elect Democrats, we have to elect truly progressive Democrats.

In the uneven minefield that is American politics today, there is no room for two independent-minded Democrats to oppose each other in District 26. The good news is that my platform and that of Commander Demetries Grimes are very similar. We both believe in campaign finance reform, universal healthcare, banning assault weapons, meaningful gun reform, tuition-free college, and the decriminalization of marijuana-- to name but a few policy areas. We both have the same objective-- to elect an independent public servant as our next Congressperson in District 26. It is for this reason that I have decided to withdraw from the race today to give Commander Grimes a clear run to beat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the Primary, and Carlos Curbelo in the General Election. My team and I will give Demetries and his team as much support as he wishes to win the battles ahead.

I thank those who have supported me. I also thank everyone who had the courage to engage in making dialogue with me against my views. Debate is heathy. It makes us great. The subjugation of critical thinking is one of the tools used by the corporations and the super-wealthy to take over our political system. We need to revitalize critical thinking and help give back to our youth the belief that they can fulfill their dreams.

In order to do that, I am going to concentrate on my entertainment career. I am now part of the team creating a new independent major network called Gran, dedicated to new creations of music, TV, films and webisodes. In addition, I continue to work with our friend in Cuba on a festival celebrating, arts, music and culture.

I realize that I can help shape our young people’s minds to believe in dreams again; to learn that for a dream to come true you must build; and to build successfully you need to work as a team.

I pledge to do whatever I can to continue to help America build the team for a 21st century life. A life where everyone is equal. A life where it is the duty of the government to provide healthcare for all, education for all, safety for our communities, a guaranteed income with jobs for all, a community that protects Mother Earth and an energy solution based on renewable resources. A life that works to ensure that our future is better than our present. A life that provides a future for our children and a security for our seniors.

Please make sure you are registered to vote here. Information on Commander Demetries Grimes can be found here. Please join us.

Labels: , , ,

Centrists-- The Real Bad Guys


American fascist, Matt Gaetz

There really are right-wing extremists in Congress-- Jim Jordan (R-OH), Brian Babin (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Pete Olson (R-TX), David Kustoff (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Austin Scott (R-GA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Diane Black (R-TN), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-NC), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jody Hice (R-GA), John Fleming (R-LA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)... I don't want to call anyone a Nazi. But someone could.

But there really aren't any left-wing extremists in Congress. Not a one. (I wish there were.) The dozen House Democrats with the highest ProgressivePunch lifetime scores are all, basically, left-of-center moderates:
Jamie Raskin (MD)
Mark Pocan (WI)
Pramila Jayapal (WA)
Katherine Clark (MA)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Jan Schakowsky (IL)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Judy Chu (CA)
Adriano Espaillat (NY)
Ro Khanna (CA)
Keith Ellison (MN)
Most of them represent districts with constituents to the left of where they are! David Adler, writing for Wednesday's NY Times, put together an OpEd asserting that Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists, equating extremists on the right with "extremists" on the left. "The warning signs," he begins, "are flashing red: Democracy is under threat. Across Europe and North America, candidates are more authoritarian, party systems are more volatile, and citizens are more hostile to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. These trends have prompted a major debate between those who view political discontent as economic, cultural or generational in origin. But all of these explanations share one basic assumption: The threat is coming from the political extremes." OK, Europe has some left wing extremists. But not the U.S.
On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

I examined the data from the most recent World Values Survey (2010 to 2014) and European Values Survey (2008), two of the most comprehensive studies of public opinion carried out in over 100 countries. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on a spectrum from far left to center to far right. I then plotted the proportion of each group’s support for key democratic institutions.

Respondents who put themselves at the center of the political spectrum are the least supportive of democracy, according to several survey measures. These include views of democracy as the “best political system,” and a more general rating of democratic politics. In both, those in the center have the most critical views of democracy.

Some of the most striking data reflect respondents’ views of elections. Support for “free and fair” elections drops at the center for every single country in the sample. The size of the centrist gap is striking. In the case of the United States, fewer than half of people in the political center view elections as essential.

Of course, the concept of “support for democracy” is somewhat abstract, and respondents may interpret the question in different ways. What about support for civil rights, so central to the maintenance of the liberal democratic order? In almost every case, support for civil rights wanes in the center. In the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy.

One of the strongest warning signs for democracy has been the rise of populist leaders with authoritarian tendencies. But while these leaders have become more popular, it is unclear whether citizens explicitly support more authoritarian styles of government. I find, however, evidence of substantial support for a “strong leader” who ignores his country’s legislature, particularly among centrists. In the United States, centrists’ support for a strongman-type leader far surpasses that of the right and the left.

What Does It Mean?

Across Europe and North America, support for democracy is in decline. To explain this trend, conventional wisdom points to the political extremes. Both the far left and the far right are, according to this view, willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions to achieve radical change. Moderates, by contrast, are assumed to defend liberal democracy, its principles and institutions.

The numbers indicate that this isn’t the case. As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism-- least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
Or maybe we should re-examine this whole concept, at least for the U.S. after the November midterm elections and-- more to the point-- after the 2020 presidential election.

Labels: , ,

You Haven't Heard The Last Of The Pork Bill They Call A Farm Bill


You probably read that the GOP failed to pass their Farm Bill last week. Even though every Democrat voted against it, the GOP should have been able to pass it with just their own members. But Ryan and his team have lost control and the extremists from the Freedom Caucus decided to hold the bill ransom to get a floor vote of their anti-immigrant vote. Ryan, now a lame dog with no leverage, had no choice but to make a deal to allow a vote of the far right immigration bill a couple days before the newly rescheduled Farm Bill (June 22).

Writing for TruthDig, Teodrose Fikre, reports that the country has gone from being a nation of laws to "a franchise of the global aristocracy." And he points right to the Farm Bill as a perfect example of how "America has been indentured by multinational corporations. As both parties lavish fortunes upon Wall Street, they turn around and gift the rest of us austerity."
Like all other legislation that gets enacted by our ever-cagey Congress and signed into law by our duplicitous presidents, the 2018 farm bill is a colossal measure that will impact almost every American-- even though the public has almost zero say in the matter. The omnibus package, which is another way of saying wish list for lobbyists, encompasses everything from food production to food distribution, land conservation, social safety net programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and goes as far as redefining who is considered a family member. The revolutionaries of 1776 thought they had it rough with Big Brother telling them how to lead their lives, but the British monarchs had nothing on the American oligarchy.

In all, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 is estimated to cost $421.5 billion over a five-year window. That’s before the Senate gets its dibs and adds to the final tab. While the ever-pliant corporate media was busy going haywire over Donald Trump’s latest buffoonery and gaga over the royal nonsense in Windsor, nepotists in our nation’s capital have been busy greasing the wheels for their benefactors while pinching pennies on the poor and the middle class. Republicans love to echo Jesus on social media and morph into a cabal of pharisees during congressional sessions. This is not to praise Democrats. They spent eight years making it rain helicopter money on Wall Street. Both parties’ primary purpose is to transfer wealth from the many to the gentry.

Even the mildest attempts to rein in the excesses that are shoveled to the corporate oligarchy are swiftly derailed. On Thursday, a sensible measure that would have put restrictions on farm subsidies was voted down [137-278]. While social welfare programs are being decimated, corporate welfare is alive and well. Socialism is only bad when it applies to the people. Communism is adored when it benefits Wall Street. The U.S. government runs a Ponzi scheme. Within the sugar industry alone, subsidies transfer anywhere from $2.4 billion to $4 billion from consumers into the coffers of behemoth conglomerations like American Sugar Refining Group and agricultural giants like Monsanto.

Instead of investing in public infrastructure and tending to the least among us, politicians on both sides of the aisle would rather throw good money after bad by artificially inflating the price of sugar to appease their donor-patrons. These types of corrupt dealings have innumerable repercussions. The cost of goods keep going up and sugar products are aggressively marketed to keep demand for sugar high, while making it nearly impossible for small and family-owned farms to compete with market leaders.

Ultimately, healthier alternatives are driven out of the marketplace. Companies that offer more nutritious products struggle to remain going concerns and keep up with the competitive advantages enjoyed by junk food peddlers and their suppliers. The net result is a society that is getting emaciated financially to sustain corporations-- and being rewarded with an obesity crisis for our unwitting complicity. Our political leaders are incentivizing greed and being paid handsomely by sugar and farm lobbyists for their obsequiousness.

This farm bill contains so many deleterious provisions that a book would be needed to offer context for the endless ways Congress keeps choosing moneyed interests over the public good. Where Democrats are coy about the ways they bolster corporations, Republicans dispense with the chicanery and have no problem advertising their servility to Wall Street. Do you think increased pesticide use, more incidents like Flint’s poisoned pipes and less protection for endangered species is a good thing? If so, you will love this farm bill, which does everything possible to loosen the destructive nature of crony capitalism while restricting the options of the working class and poor to obtain public assistance.

...If we are to reclaim our country and demand a government that works for us, we must understand that all of us-- irrespective of our differences—are being fleeced by a bipartisan cabal of corporate courtiers in our nation’s capital. Do not let the refrains of “blue waves” or the chants of “make America great again” deceive you. Both parties are in on this ongoing corporate boondoggle. The farm bill collapsed because the Freedom Caucus demanded more stringent measures on border controls while others demanded yet more cuts from social programs. Republicans are negotiating among themselves to figure out who can be the biggest a-holes.
Tom McClintock (R-CA) isn't exactly mainstream. He's thought of a far right member of Congress but, in some ways, he sounded a lot like Fikre on this one. "Farm subsidies-- essentially taking money from taxpayers to inflate the price of their groceries-- was never a good idea," he wrote.  "They are the poster children of corporate welfare.  After all, the vast proportion of them go to large corporations-- not small family farms. Sixty percent of American farms get no subsidies at all-- contradicting the claim that somehow American agriculture couldn’t exist without them."  
We spend $20 billion a year subsidizing 40 percent of our farms. That’s about $160 a year out of the direct taxes of an average family in America.  That doesn’t include the cost to consumers from higher prices.  The sugar program alone cost consumers $3.7 billion in higher sugar prices-- adding nearly $30 more to their grocery bills.

Subsidies hurt taxpayers. They hurt consumers. And they even hurt farmers in the long run.

 Prices are signals sent by consumers over what they want to buy and the amount they’re willing to pay. If left alone, they tell producers what consumers want more of and what they want less of. If consumers want less soybeans and sugar and more wheat and cabbage, prices for soybeans and sugar decline and prices for wheat and cabbage increase. Producers respond by planting less soybeans and sugarcane and more wheat and cabbage.

Unless, of course, government distorts those price signals through subsidies. Producers end up planting more of what consumers don’t want and less of what they do. Thus, producers are artificially induced to perform below their potential productivity.

Many of the subsidies today are in the form of crop insurance. Farmers get heavily subsidized insurance to guarantee them profits for their products. Who pays the subsidies? Taxpayers.

 There are no good arguments for continuing these subsidies. Most farmers don’t get them right now. Those who do tend to be major corporations and not family farmers.

  ...It is long past time to debunk that myth in our own country, restore to consumers the power to command what producers grow and restore to producers the accurate price signals they need to maximize their productivity in a free and undistorted market.

Labels: ,

Is The Democratic Big Tent Big Enough For Homophobes? What About KKK Members?


Anti-LGBTQ Democrat, Blue Dog Colin Peterson (MN)

On July 7, 2011, notorious and deranged homophobe Virginia Foxx (R-NC) offered an amendment to a defense bill. There were only 19 homophobic Democrats who crossed the aisle to vote with the anti-LGBT Republicans. Most of them have been driven out of Congress but these are these 5 still serving
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Colin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Foxx's intent with the resolution was to prohibit funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used to violate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that barred the federal government from requiring states to legally recognize same-sex marriages.

Even earlier, in 2009, Louie "Crazy Louie" Gohmert, offered an amendment --which failed 185-225-- to exempt the armed forces from Hate Crimes legislation. There were 16 Republicans that voted against Gohmert's ugly bigoted bill, but 25 Democrats voted for it. Again, most of them have been driven out of Congress. But these are the 4 repulsive Democratic homophones still serving:
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)

Why bring these up now? A new Gallup poll finds that approval for same-sex marriages hit an all time high of 67%. Back when Gohmert's anti-Hate Crimes bill was being voted on only 40% of Americans supported same sex marriage. Gallup:
Sixty-seven percent of Americans support same-sex marriage -- the highest level in Gallup's trend. In each of the past three annual polls, Gallup has recorded three-percentage point increases among Americans who say same-sex marriages should be legally valid. The current figure is up 40 percentage points from the 27% who supported gay marriage when Gallup first polled on the question in 1996.

Some of the increases in support may be due to greater numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults getting married in the U.S. Using data for all of 2017, Gallup has found that more than 10.4% of LGBT adults are married to a same-sex spouse. This means that Americans are more likely to know someone who has married a same-sex partner, and the visibility of these marriages may be playing a role in overturning some folks' previously held opposition to their legal status.

Gay marriage became legal nationwide in 2015 upon the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision. This came more than a decade after the first state, Massachusetts, had legalized gay marriage. In the years leading up to the decision, a patchwork of state laws were created for and against same-sex marriage.

Democrats remain the most likely to support gay marriage among party groups. The 83% of Democrats in favor of legally recognized same-sex marriages is the highest level of support recorded for this group.

Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to support legal recognition of gay marriages-- less than half of the GOP favors legal gay marriage (44%). The latest figure for Republicans' views on gay marriage is similar to the 47% recorded in 2017. The GOP has seen growth in the percentage of Republicans who favor legally recognized gay marriage over the years, but has yet to reach majority support.

Meanwhile, independents' opinions on the issue are closer to those of Democrats. Currently, 71% of independents say gay marriages should be recognized by the law as valid, matching this group's previous high from last year.
Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) are still very much in Congress-- and as homophobic as ever-- if not more so! And the Republican conference is as crazy and out of step as ever. The party has gotten narrower and narrower and less and less mainstream. The further right it gets, the more homophobic and bigoted it becomes. As far as the anti-gay Democrats, there are very few left but no one should be voting for Blue Dogs like Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Dan Lipinski (IL), Sanford Bishop (GA) or Colin Peterson (MN), not in this day and age. In fact, no Democrats should be voting for any Blue Dogs. There day has passed and we should allow them to continue drag the Democratic Party down with them.

Labels: , , ,