Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Culture Of Corruption-- Enough Yet?


It's futile trying to claim one state is the most corrupt instead of another state. No doubt, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Illinois are on anyone's short-list. Wisconsin always prided itself on being one of the least corrupt-- until the advent of Scott Walker, who has turned the state into an ethical cesspool. This week Reid Wilson ran a state of the states corruption column in the Washington Post and found Oregon to be the most corruption-free and Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas on the other end of the spectrum-- although his data is based on convictions, which doesn't give the full picture. Corrupt conservative governors Chris Christie (NJ), Andrew Cuomo (NY), Nathan Deal (GA), Rick Scott (FL), Scott Walker (wi), Rick Perry (TX), and Bob McDonnell (VA) are all intwined in the criminal justice system but none have been convicted and it's probably that only one or two even will be.

Our ruling elites get off easy-- very easy. And not just the political elites. The Big Business elites do as well. David DeGraw has been publishing a series of edifying excerpts from his new book, The Economics of Revolution, making the case that "the systematic exploitation of a majority of the population will continue without redress." Is that corruption? "An extensive analysis of economic conditions and government policy reveals," he wrote, "that the need for significant systemic change is now a mathematical fact. Corruption, greed and economic inequality have reached a peak tipping point. Due to the consolidation of wealth, the majority of the population cannot generate enough income to keep up with the cost of living. In the present economy, under current government policy, 70% of the population is now sentenced to an impoverished existence."
To see how corrupt the United States government has become, just follow the money. According to the most recent Federal Reserve Flow of Funds report, US households currently have an all-time high $82 trillion in overall wealth. If that wealth were spread out evenly, every US household would now have $712k. However, as of the end of 2013, the median household only had $56k in wealth. From 2007 – 2013, overall wealth increased 26%, while the median household lost a shocking 43% of their wealth. If median wealth continues to decline at this rate, over 50% of US households will be bankrupt within the next decade. The fact that the majority of households are losing so much wealth in a time of record-breaking overall wealth demonstrates how systemically corrupt the economy has become.

…If you are struggling to get by and running up debt to make ends meet, it is not your fault. It is the intentional outcome of government policy and economic central planning. In the present economy, it is impossible for 70% of the working age population to earn enough income to afford basic necessities, without taking on ever-increasing levels of debt, which they will never be able to pay back because there are not enough jobs that generate the necessary income to keep up with the cost of living.

For every 3.4 working age people, there is only one that can generate an income high enough to cover the cost of living without taking on debt. In total, only 20% of the overall population currently generates enough income to sustain the cost of living.  As a result, poverty and declining living standards are much more prevalent throughout US society than the government and corporate media report… The bottom line, in a nation of 318.6 million people, with a working age population of 213 million people, there are now only 118 million full-time jobs and 28 million part-time jobs, according to the BLS. However, also according to the BLS, there are currently only 106.6 million full-time workers. In other words, it is impossible for half of the working age population to get a full-time job. On top of that, of the current 118 million full-time jobs, 47% of them generate annual salaries below $35k per year.

…Beyond unemployment and underemployment, the percentage of full-time working poor has grown significantly.  US workers are presently producing twice as much wealth per work hour than they were in 1980.  Instead of median incomes doubling since then, they have stagnated. The gap between wealth production and median income is now at an all-time high.

Based on the latest available individual level income data, 40% of workers make less than full-time minimum wage workers made in 1968, roughly $20k per year according to the suppressed CPI inflation rate. More realistic adjustments for inflation will reveal a much higher total. For example, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If minimum wage had kept pace with overall income inflation since 1968, the minimum wage would now be $21.16, which means a full-time minimum wage worker would now be making $44k a year.  However, the median annual wage is only $27,519.  Based on income inflation, only 22% of the working age population and 15% of the overall population currently have an annual income higher than a full-time minimum wage worker had in 1968.

The average person needs to generate $35k in annual income to cover the cost of basic necessities. Looking at the actual spending habits of the average worker, you need to generate an income of $42k to cover annual expenses. If we use $35k as our threshold for a living wage, only 30% of the working age population and 20% of the overall population generate an annual income over $35k. For every 3.4 working age people, there is one that generates an income high enough to cover the cost of basic necessities without taking on debt.

…[T}o get a more complete understanding of how corrupt the global economic system is, we also need to factor in wealth that is hidden from public view. Disregarding trillions of dollars in hidden wealth just because the wealthy have the ability to illegally hide it is an absolute injustice. It is completely ignoring a critical aspect of what is now the greatest theft of wealth in human history.

Hidden wealth estimates vary widely. Many of them only take a partial look at the most basic methods of offshoring wealth. Given the unprecedented growth of wealth over the past generation, the secretive methods used to hide it have evolved far beyond well-known tax havens in Switzerland and small-island jurisdictions such as the Bahamas.  While estimates based on banking secrecy and tax havens help to give us a more accurate picture of overall wealth, they do not give a total view.

Research by Gabriel Zucman, which analyzed banking secrecy, estimated that “around 8% of the global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens.” If we correlate this 8% with the $82 trillion in accounted for wealth reported by the Federal Reserve, that would be an additional $6.6 trillion for the wealthy, bringing the richest 1% up to roughly $39 trillion in overall wealth.

However, to get a more complete understanding of the reality of the situation, the most wide-ranging look into hidden wealth was done in 2012 by economist John Henry in partnership with the Tax Justice Network (TJN).  They estimated that there was $21-$32 trillion hidden globally at the end of 2010. As shocking as that sounds, that estimate still did not give a complete view of hidden wealth. As they put it, “We consider these numbers to be conservative. This is only financial wealth and excludes a welter of real estate, yachts and other nonfinancial assets owned via offshore structures.”

…After we factor in estimated hidden wealth, the top 1%’s share of overall wealth increases from 39.8% to 46.9%. To glimpse the scale of theft, if hidden wealth were spread out evenly over every US household, that would be an extra $111k per household, increasing average household wealth to $823k. That is approximately 15 times greater than the 2013 median household with only $56k in wealth. Also consider that the estimated $12.4 trillion that the wealthy have stashed away is roughly equivalent to the $12 trillion in total household debt.

After revealing the 1%’s $32.6 trillion in accounted for wealth, estimating that they have another $11.9 trillion in hidden wealth may seem like an unnecessary risk that will invite attacks to undermine the credibility of this analysis. That is an understandable reaction. However, in the grand scheme of things, that reaction is based on a dangerously naïve understanding of the global economic system. In reality, if we ever get a full look at hidden wealth, the top 1% could more realistically own 50% of overall wealth. It would not be surprising if the top 1% actually has $50 trillion in wealth, with $18 trillion of that held by the .01%.

…[T]here is overwhelming evidence proving that the Federal Reserve, global central banking system and the US government are a front for the ultra-rich. In short, we know that the biggest players on Wall Street engaged in trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity and the Federal Reserve created trillions of dollars out of thin air, mostly in secrecy, to cover it up and continue the looting of wealth. Instead of holding people accountable, the US government bailed them out.

The stock market is now a blatantly rigged wealth extraction operation. To name just a few of the more well known rigging operations; high frequency trading, dark pools, Quantitative Easing (QE) and the Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP), which gives interest free money to a select handful of “primary dealers” on Wall Street. All of these highly corrupt schemes enrich the .01% at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the population.

…A public understanding of how much wealth the ultra-rich truly have will create a critical mass of people who are aware that the global economy and US government have zero legitimacy. The essential elements that keep this scam going are the extensive propaganda system that paid off and uninformed mainstream media pundits uphold, and a military, intelligence and police complex that protects the perpetrators of the greatest theft of wealth in human history. As far as the corrupt government is concerned, the theft of trillions is too big to reveal. If the people have to suffer as a consequence, so be it.

…From the “monied aristocracy” to the “Gilded Age” and the “Roaring 20s,” extreme wealth inequality has always threatened freedom and democracy. Many of the most respected US presidents have highlighted the fight against concentrated wealth as the first priority of a free society.  Even in times of war, presidents have referred to bankers as being a bigger threat to the country than enemies on the battlefield.

…The .01% “economic royalists” hand down their dictates through centrally planned economic policy and government legislation designed to keep the population economically insecure, subservient and enslaved in debt. Through their ownership of mainstream media companies they keep the masses in ignorance, wholly unaware of the paradigm shift in technology and wealth creation that should have provided economic security and made life much more enjoyable for everyone well over a generation ago.

We now live in a neo-feudal society. The evidence is undeniable. The indentured servant is now the indebted wage slave. A recent scientific study revealed that the United States government is subservient to the whim of the .01%. Political office is now merely a stepping-stone and initiation process that politicians go through to be accepted into the aristocracy.

The .01% aristocracy is exactly what the first American Revolution was against. It was Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of the aristocracy’s ability to consolidate wealth and subvert government that led him to believe that every generation required its own revolution. Here are two prophetic quotes from Jefferson:
“Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.”

“I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
In discussing “the spirit of the people” and the need to “nourish and perpetuate that spirit,” Jefferson also said, “I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.”

Peer passed propaganda and you will see that the aristocratic “spirit of fascism” has conquered the “spirit of the people.”  As wealth and power have been consolidation in unprecedented fashion, the overwhelming majority toils in “servitude” and “perpetual debt.” Economic tyranny is the new normal.
Quiescent too long? Chosing between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz isn't going to move the ball down the field-- not in the direction it needs to go, that's for sure.

Not the pedophile priest Bob McDonnell is living with

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Jen Sorensen: "If cops treated bankers the way Ferguson cops treat black people" (Plus: What does Ferguson have to do with racism in Israel?)


Daily Kos Comics [click to enlarge]

by Ken

I love this cartoon. The premise is so simple, even obvious, that it almost doesn't matter how it's actually executed -- the basic point is made, and the fact that it is so simple and obvious doesn't make the point any less important to make: If there's one thing we learned from -- or were reminded by -- the events at Feguson, it's that inequality of all sorts, economic as well as social (I totally love the way Jen Sorensen has neatly tied them together here), is now so firmly entrenched in our society that the "nuts" and "troublemakers" and, yes, "outside agitators" are the people who dare to say, "Now wait a minute there. When did this become not merely okay but the basic way our society is now structured?"

I suppose it was smart of Jen Sorensen to include "A pre-emptive alert for the satire-challenged":
This strip is obviously not endorsing violence against bankers. It is saying that many in the financial world are real thugs who are never treated the way police often treat black citizens in Ferguson and many other places. The devastation caused by white-collar criminals — the loss of so many people’s homes and life savings, leading to broken families, poor health, depression, and suicide, has caused suffering on an immense scale. Yet bankers have to try very, very hard to get themselves arrested, and even then they usually aren’t successful.

With this cartoon, I am also trying to show just how annoying and unreasonable Ferguson cops must seem to people who live there.
I haven't had anything to say till now about the events in Ferguson, because the things that seemed to me to need saying were being said. It's a situation that was crying out for something like this to happen, and it happened, and the underlying situation remains unchanged, and is probably awfully similar to that of places all over the country.

And beyond that, what's really scary is the reaction of such a large, or at least vocal, segment of the country: that none of that matters, and what really matters is that finally the authorities have done something about it, namely shoot one of the [expletive deleted] bastards. I can't tell you how much this sickens and frightens me.

I want to come back to the "economic inequality" side of the issue tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you haven't read Harold Meyerson's Washington Post column "In corporations, it’s owner-take-all," you should do that now.


The point to stress is what an easy and relatively efficient solution it is for powers-that-be and other status-quo-ers -- almost embarrassingly easy and efficient, if these people were capable of embarrassment. It harnesses vast qualities of free-floating resentment and disappointment and turns it against your enemies while relieving you of any obligation or even fleeting inclination to deal with actual grievances and problems.

And by way of example, I come back to a recent piece from Haaretz forwarded by a friend, "Israeli teenagers: Racist and proud of it," which portrays a situation way worse than I had imagined -- and I was imagining a situation that's pretty darned bad.

It's a report by Or Kashti based on the forthcoming book (in Hebrew) Scenes from a School Life by Idan Yaron and Yoram Harpaz, "based on anthropological observations made by Dr. Yaron, a sociologist, over the course of three years in a six-year, secular high school in the Israeli heartland -- 'the most average school we could find,' says Harpaz, a professor of education." Kashti highlights this paragraph:
“For me, personally, Arabs are something I can’t look at and can’t stand,” a 10th-grade girl from a high school in the central part of the country says in abominable Hebrew. “I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get the chance in the army to shoot one of them, I won’t think twice. I’m ready to kill someone with my hands, and it’s an Arab. In my education I learned that . . . their education is to be terrorists, and there is no belief in them. I live in an area of Arabs, and every day I see these Ishmaelites, who pass by the [bus] station and whistle. I wish them death.”
As if this wasn't terrifying enough, the book's message apparently is that this isn't an aberration, it's now typical of young Israelis, and it hasn't happened by accident. Kashti writes:
Yaron’s descriptions of what he saw at the school show that such hatred is a basic everyday element among youth, and a key component of their identity. Yaron portrays the hatred without rose-colored glasses or any attempt to present it as a sign of social “unity.” What he observed is unfiltered hatred. One conclusion that arises from the text is how little the education system is able – or wants – to deal with the racism problem.
This is such an importantly eye-opening piece that for the benefit of those who may fall afoul of Haaretz's paywall, I'm appending the whole of it, if only to make clear that the reporting here isn't cherry-picking "nasty bits" for sensationalization. But this much of the piece should already have a nastily familiar ring. It's the sense and tone of the right-wing response to the events in Ferguson.


Read more »

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Florida's Crooked Governor Rick Scott Discovers Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned


Unless you're from Florida, you probably don't remember Jennifer Carroll, Rick Scott's former Lt. Governor, a crook-- like him-- but one he held to a much higher standard than he holds himself. Just over a year ago, we covered her problems with ethics and common decency, problems that caused Scott to force her to resign. Kartik Krishnaiyer used to occasion to point out that the resignation was just the latest example of the ongoing culture of cronyism and corruption in the Sunshine State.
Florida Republicans have created a class of entitled politicians who lack intellectual curiosity or any governing wisdom. They are not conservatives as much as they are political whores for power and certain big business. They have lived for years on easy street being opposed by an impotent Florida Democratic Party that lacked organization or the courage in its own convictions to take the fight to the Republicans. The Democrats have benefited from these same tendencies in liberal southeast Florida, where it seems half the elected Democrats on the county level have been at one time or another linked to scandal.

...Lt Gov. Carroll’s resignation is an indication that consequences are now being suffered by those in power for excessive and potentially illegal behavior. The progressive movement throughout American history has focused on issues of graft, greed, cronyism and corruption. Florida Progressives should do the same. Regardless of party, corrupt government cannot be progressive government.
She works as a political commentator for WJXT Channel 4, a Jacksonville TV station. Her side of the story-- an autobiography called When You Get There-- hits the bookstores today, her birthday. I suppose Gov. Scott could be happy that the book isn't being released closer to November, since he's the villain of the story.
Carroll, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Florida and held the largely ceremonial job for more than two years. Scott's two top aides forced her to resign on March 12, 2013, after state law enforcement agents interrogated her about past public relations work for Allied Veterans of the World, a group linked to Internet cafes that were shut down after investigators uncovered widespread fraud.

Carroll initially did not disclose all of her income in 2009 and 2010 from Allied Veterans on state financial disclosure forms, but later reported the money on amended forms.

She was not charged with any wrongdoing and writes that she felt humiliated by how Scott's aides "ambushed" her with a one-sentence resignation letter they forced her to sign.

Carroll describes Scott as overly controlled by his own staff and lacking in a personal touch, saying he showed no concern after she fainted and struck her head on the floor at a hot Greek church.

"Clearly, something was missing there, some ability to make personal connections that he just didn't have," Carroll said.

Working with black political consultant Clarence McKee in the 2010 campaign, Carroll said she built a plan to reach out to black voters with local newspapers, radio and phone calls and that despite the campaign's objections, she attended a forum in Miami hosted by Bishop Victor Curry, a radio host and prominent voice in Miami's black community.

"The campaign didn't want it, but I did it anyway," she writes.

As a result, Carroll writes, Scott got 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to 2010 exit polls, and if she had not directed a "minority stealth" campaign, "Scott would have lost the election."

…Carroll's book contains no new bombshells, and many of the incidents she describes were reported by the Florida media at the time. But few in Scott's orbit escape Carroll's wrath.

She claims that Scott's former chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, blocked access to the governor and would "undermine or get rid of people who didn't go along with him," and that his replacement, Adam Hollingsworth, was "even more ruthless" and lower-level staffers cowered in his presence.

Carroll, a stylish dresser, wrote that when she wore designer pants and boots for an event at the Governor's Mansion, Hollingsworth ordered her to change clothes, and told her to scrap a scheduled birthday party in 2012 because a hurricane was approaching the state and Scott had canceled public events.

"It was just so silly," Carroll writes.

Carroll writes that she spent months asking superiors for a travel budget before she got one, but after security costs in her first year approached $300,000, Scott's staff limited her travel and assigned her a lower-ranking state trooper than previous lieutenant governors had.

During Scott's inaugural celebration, she writes, "I was treated like an unwanted stepchild," and when she wanted to talk to the governor, she said, she was told to ask for an appointment with his scheduler.

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A Confused DCCC Doesn't Know If It Wants To Turn Out Voters Or Turn Off Voters


Yesterday Digby covered how Florida Democrats-- except Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- hope to use a medical marijuana initiative to turn out voters. In Colorado young people (the 18-29 cohort) made up 14% of Colorado voters, already high because of Obama-enthusiasm. But it increased to 20% in 2012 when there was a marijuana initiative on the ballot. Same results in Oregon-- where it went from 12% to 17% and in Washington, where the jump was from 10% to a startling 22%. And that was not what happened in states that did not have marijuana initiatives on the ballot. In fact, there was a fall off among young voters in Virginia, Wisconsin and Iowa and in Florida, the increase was an anemic 1%. Florida Democrats decided to change that this year.
A highly influential Democratic donor named John Morgan has spearheaded the campaign creating a group called United for Care.  They genuinely believe in the cause but there’s little doubt that it is also hoped that this ballot initiative will boost the rest of the Democratic ticket. Morgan sent out an email just today  telling the story of his late father’s illness and how much marijuana had helped make him feel better in his final days. He says:
Medical marijuana is legal in nearly half of the states in the country. And where it’s legal-- none of the scary, apocalyptic consequences promised by the opposition have come true. Violent crime has gone down, youth consumption has remained flat, and society has not collapsed.

Here’s what did happen: patients got access to another form of medicine, safer and less addicting than what doctors were legally allowed to recommend before.
So what can one make of the fact that the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee is voting against medical marijuana in the House and has come out against the ballot initiative in Florida? That’s right, the purportedly liberal Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is stridently anti-marijuana, even for medical purposes. This is, of course, her right as a representative of her district, but considering the political stakes for her state and the country at large, a leading Democratic Party official should probably have to answer for a position that’s completely at odds with members of her party, especially the voters of Florida. This is a Quinnipiac Poll from last May that suggests that Wasserman-Schultz is very much out of the mainstream (emphasis added):
Florida voters support 88 – 10 percent allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, if a doctor prescribes it. Support is over 80 percent among all listed groups, including 84 – 13 percent among voters over 65 years old.
She has claimed the initiative is too broad and her office has said she has concerns “as a mom.” John Morgan of United for Care rebutted her claims: Ms. Wasserman Schultz says she feels Amendment 2 is too broad, but in fact it’s quite specific. It establishes the right of a physician to recommend medical marijuana to a patient with a debilitating condition if its use would offer that patient relief. It then asks the Florida Department of Health to build a regulatory framework that makes it possible for that person to have access to the medicine he or she needs. It’s difficult to say whether Ms. Wasserman Schultz believes sick people should be kept from their medicine, or whether she thinks the public servants at the Department of Health are incompetent and would implement the amendment irresponsibly, but both positions are puzzling, unfortunate and wrong.

Wasserman-Schultz will likely retain her seat in November with no problems. But that hasn’t stopped her friends from sending out emails begging for donations for help her beat back the bad guys. James Carville sent this on out just this week-end:
An outside group with money is like an alligator with a chainsaw — you’re pretty sure he doesn’t know how to use it, but you don’t want to be nearby when he tries. My friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz knows what I mean. She’s seen outside groups attack her earlier this cycle than ever before. And while they didn’t do much damage, that doesn’t mean they won’t the next time they try.
He goes on to imply that the “outside groups” who are running ads against her are the Koch brothers. But in reality, the group that’s been running ads against her is a medical marijuana group called Americans for Safe Access  concerning her record in the House.  The “attack” against her is this one:

You can see why she would not be happy with this damning indictment. It takes some real chutzpah to ask your donors to contribute to help fight the Kochs when this is the “outside group” that’s criticizing you.

Perhaps this is just a personal decision on the part of the Congresswoman which, again, is her right. Maybe she just doesn’t like pot. But as the highest official in the DNC, it’s political malpractice to fight against this.
Or maybe it's because Wasserman Schultz has been building power for herself with the financial aid of the private prison industry that is frantic the flow of marijuana convicts will dry up and put them out of business.

Yesterday Gallup published results showing another model for voter turn-out: anger at dishonest and incompetent political hacks like Wasserman Schultz. Conventional wisdom holds that voters don't go to the polls when they get turned off by politicians. But Gallup's data indicates that when they get angry enough, they do go to the polls-- for revenge.
Americans' disenchantment with Congress may lead to higher voter turnout on Election Day this year. In the last five midterm elections, voter turnout has exceeded 40% when Congress' approval rating was low, but turnout was below 40% when Americans were more approving.

Congressional job approval, currently 13%, is on pace to be the lowest it has been in a midterm election year. Moreover, a near-record-low 19% of registered voters say most members of Congress deserve re-election. This latter measure shows a similarly strong relationship to voter turnout as does job approval.

…It is unclear how the current frustration with Congress will manifest itself in terms of party control of the two houses of Congress. Because the president's party usually loses seats in the House in midterm elections, few give the Democrats much chance of reclaiming the majority there. The Senate appears to be the more important battleground, as Democrats, expected to lose seats, are trying to avoid losing the six seats that would give the Republicans the majority.
The problem with all this is that many voters who are not primarily motivated by blind partisanship for one Beltway party or the other, are loathe to pick between the lesser of two evils. The DCCC under Steve Israel has been particularly pernicious in recruiting overwhelmingly atrocious candidates that do not office a viable choice against equally atrocious Republican incumbents. This week, for example, the DCCC launched one of their idiotic politics-for-morons initiatives: a scorecard about how the GOP fails women. The 10 hapless Republicans weren't chosen because they are the worst on women's issues. They were chosen because the DCCC thinks they are vulnerable to defeat in November. There are far worse Republicans who could be on that lost-- who meet the DCCC criteria (some as flimsy and specious as candidates Tom MacArthur in New Jersey and Jeff Gorell in California saying they want to repeal Obamacare)-- but who are in districts Steve Israel has decided against contesting.

Worse still is that the always hypocritical DCCC is spending millions of dollars on Democrats with far worse records that several of the Republican targets. Jennifer Garrison, an Israel recruit from Ohio, is an anti-Choice fanatic with a long and sordid record who would fit perfectly into the DCCC chart-- except Israel is preoccupied with lying to other Democrats about her record so that they contribute to her campaign. Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV), and Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL) have excruciatingly anti-women voting records, worse than plenty of Republicans. And if the DCCC wants to talk about repealing Obamacare as an anti-women vote… say hello the virtually the whole Blue Dog caucus that Israel and Hoyer treasure above all other Democrats.

Look who voted for the Stupak amendment, widely viewed as one of the most anti-Choice votes to pass Congress in decades. It could never have passed with only194 GOP votes but 64 anti-Choice Democrats crossed the aisle and helped the GOP pass it 240-194. Almost all of those fake Democrats have been defeated but not every single one of them-- all Israel is trying to keep the rest in Congress. These are all so-called "Democrats" running in November who voted for the Stupak Amendment and who could not win reelection without massive financial aid from the DCCC. The dollar amount represents the money the DCCC alone (not allied groups) has already committed in TV time reservations:
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- $1,160,000
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $1,500,000
Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV)- 1,225,000
On top of that, Israel green lighted another $940,000 in TV ad reservations for northern Michigan long-shot conservative, Jerry Cannon, who calls himself "pro-life," a Republican Party-manufactured insult to women. These are the endorsements so far this cycle by the anti-Choice wing of the Democratic Party-- Democratic For Life America:

You wonder why voters are confused and wondering why they should bother turning out on election day? This guy, with progressive politics and in a  winnable district in Washington state is being 100% ignored by the DCCC:

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New York Times Endorses Tim Wu Over Cuomo's Handpicked Conservative Nightmare, Kathy Hochul


Two days ago, the NY Times editorial board wrote that they could not bring themselves to endorse Andrew Cuomo for another term, citing his grotesque record of corruption. I guess Cuomo doesn't have the kind of dirt on them that he has on the pathetic creeps who control the Working Families Party, which endorsed not just Cuomo, but confessed conservative Kathy Hochul (watch the astounding video up top), 3 of the very worst corporate whores in the entire U.S. Congress-- Steve Israel, Joe Crowley and Sean Patrick Maloney-- and handpicked Wall Street shills running for Congress like Kathleen Rice and Domenic Recchia. Unlike the Liberal Party which took 45 years to turn into a useless sack of garbage, it took the WFP just 15 years to devolve from an idealistic progressive hope for working families into a corrupt, backroom bunch of transactional hacks. They were too scared to back Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu. They endorsed Cuomo and Hochul-- yes Hochul!-- instead.

I don't know for sure if the Times editors watched the Hochul videos, but reading their editorial last night, one sure gets the idea that they did, which went into their astounding decision to back Tim Wu instead. Please give it a read and consider giving Teachout and Wu a hand at the Blue America governors page.
The office of lieutenant governor in New York is a feeble one. The current occupant-- Robert Duffy, a former mayor of Rochester-- was handpicked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010 and spent the last four years promoting the governor’s agenda around the state. In May, Mr. Duffy decided he had had enough of traveling in the governor’s shadow, and is not seeking re-election.

On Sept. 9, Democratic primary voters can choose between Governor Cuomo’s new choice for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman, and Timothy Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who is running as an independent-minded Democrat.

Mr. Wu, a political newcomer, offers a fresh perspective and a new voice to counter Albany’s entrenched players. Ms. Hochul does not, and she has a deeply troubling record on health reform, gun control and environmental deregulation. For these reasons, we recommend Mr. Wu in the Democratic primary.

 In an editorial on Wednesday, we did not endorse Zephyr Teachout for governor in the Democratic primary, citing her lack of experience. Mr. Wu, who is her running mate, also lacks political experience, but he is seeking a very different job, with far less responsibility for running a big and diverse state.

Mr. Wu recognizes this difference, and he says he wants to use the lieutenant governor’s job as a pulpit, to become the state’s de facto public advocate, particularly in support of consumer issues, Internet access and economic development zones.

Mr. Cuomo chose Ms. Hochul this spring to balance his ticket with a conservative woman from upstate. Ms. Hochul now supports his gun control bill, but when she ran unsuccessfully for re-election to Congress in 2012, her campaign featured the endorsement from the National Rifle Association. The N.R.A. said at the time that she had “a proven record of defending the Second Amendment.”

She also boasted repeatedly that she had voted many times against “Obamacare.” She strongly opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to have drivers’ licenses. And during her short time in Congress, environmentalists criticized many of her votes, including those to repeal emission standards for cement manufacturers and to allow fewer controls on open pit mines and other polluting industries.

She undoubtedly embraced those views to try to win re-election in a district that had become a stronghold for Republicans. But her willingness to shift politically does not suggest she would offer any kind of independent judgment. Nor does her record give any real clue about what would happen if she took over as governor. In the meantime, she has promised to “support the administration.”

Although he lacks time in politics, Mr. Wu has an impressive record in the legal field, particularly in Internet law and policy. Widely known for coining the phrase “net neutrality,” he has been an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission as part of his efforts on behalf of consumers to keep the Internet from “becoming too corporatized.”

As lieutenant governor, he wants to speak out on complicated issues that are too often ignored in Albany like immigrant rights and broadband access needed by more than a million New Yorkers. Those would be worthy pursuits, but he will also have to learn quickly how to navigate Albany’s difficult politics to make his views heard.

Ms. Hochul, who has been a banker in the Buffalo area, has worked to develop jobs upstate. A former county clerk before her stint in Congress, she has helped veterans in her area and supported Mr. Cuomo’s push for economic development in western New York.

Whoever wins in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor will run as part of the governor’s Democratic ticket in November against the Republican slate. Albany needs an independent voice, someone who can bring fresh ideas to a very stale and often corrupt political culture. Timothy Wu is the one who best fits that bill.
Meanwhile, yesterday was a good day for Teachout as well, as the editors of The Nation endorsed her and gave her a rousing vote of confidence. They wrote that "circumstances-- some of her own creation, many resulting from Cuomo’s missteps and misdeeds-- have conspired to create what the New York Times calls a 'Teachout Moment.' A savvy, trust-busting progressive, Teachout has injected some much-needed debate into the election, earning endorsements from the Public Employees Federation as well as the New York chapters of the National Organization for Women and the Sierra Club. She has also begun to impress New Yorkers. By framing her campaign as part of the fight for 'the democratic wing of the Democratic Party'… she has reminded voters that they need not settle for the austerity policies embraced by Cuomo." It is a powerful and persuasive endorsement.
We believe New Yorkers who want a more progressive government should vote for Teachout on September 9. The Nation makes this endorsement with the understanding that Teachout may not be able to overcome the political barriers that have been erected, in the state and nationally, to a grassroots, idea-driven campaign. But we believe her candidacy holds out the potential for forging the bold, people-led politics we seek in 2014 and beyond.

A vote for Teachout sends two critical signals. First, it objects to Cuomo’s approach to electioneering and governing, which is too heavy-handed, too top-down, and too prone to cutting ethical corners. While the governor has done some good on issues like marriage equality, his rightward tilt on education and economic issues has crippled New York’s fight against inequality. And Cuomo has stumbled badly when it comes to addressing corruption, as evidenced by the recent revelations that he meddled with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, which he created in 2013.

But there’s more to this challenge than legitimate criticism of Cuomo and corruption. Teachout offers an example of what it means to be a progressive Democrat in the twenty-first century. A distinguished academic and activist, she has been in the forefront of advancing progressive reform for nearly two decades. As a professor at Fordham Law School, the author of important books on political and economic policy, a key figure in Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, and a visionary organizer on behalf of banking and business reforms, she understands that the Democratic Party must move toward progressive populism in order to become more than a tepid alternative to Republican extremism.

Thus, the second signal that a vote for Teachout will send is a demand for change in the Democratic establishment, which cannot continue to dance around the issue of income inequality. It must reject austerity cuts and embrace investment in infrastructure, education and communities, as Teachout and others in the party’s populist wing have. It must recognize the political appeal of battling crony capitalism and corruption. And in the midst of a digital revolution every bit as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution before it, the party’s leadership must recognize the necessity of supporting Net neutrality, ending the digital divide and expanding broadband Internet access-- issues that Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, have highlighted.

A victory by Teachout and Wu would be a dramatic upset-- one with the potential to overturn political calculations nationwide. But even a respectable finish could illustrate the strength of the progressive base and keep the proposals that Teachout and Wu have been fighting for alive.
At this point Teachout and Wu have a significantly better chance of beating Cuomo and Hochul than Dave Brat did of beating Eric Cantor. It won't be easy-- but it can be done and the ramifications, as The Nation explains, would be transformative. Election day is September 9. Teachout and Wu need every dollar they can get for a get out the vote effort. If you can, please consider making a contribution.

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Last Night's Primaries


Last night saw primary results come in for Florida, Vermont and Arizona and for primary-runoffs in Oklahoma. The only thing that interests me in Republican results is if the right-wing punters pick an extremist or criminal type who will be easier for a Democrat to beat. Otherwise, their races don't interest me. Let's look at Florida first: no surprises. The two districts Democrats have the best chance to win-- FL-27 (where Obama beat Romney 53-47%) and FL-13 (where Obama beat Romney 50-49%)-- don't have Democrats running. How is that possible? Easy-- Debbie Wasserman Schultz protects her corrupt buddy Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and threatens anyone who even thinks about running against her and… well Nancy Pelosi appointed the most incompetent boob to run the DCCC since 1868. So… Ileana and Dave Jolly get free rides back to Congress, thanks to Wasserman Schultz and Israel. Also waltzing to a new term with no opposition in November are Mario Diaz-Balart ®, Ted Deutch (D), Kathy Castor (D), Gus Bilirakis ®, and Ander Crenshaw ®.

Every other Florida incumbent, both parties, won their primary tonight-- and none were close. Former incumbent, David Rivera, came in 4th of 5 Republican candidates vying to face off against weak, conflicted New Dem Joe Garcia. Rivera, who Garcia beat in 2012, only took 8% of the vote yesterday-- just 2,198 votes. Garcia will face Miami-Dade school board member, Carlos Curbelo, the GOP Establishment candidate.

Alan Grayson won his primary against Nick Ruiz, who financed his campaign by telling donors he was running against conservative Republican John Mica. Grayson took 74%. What ever chance Republicans had to take advantage of identity politics, they blew by giving the nomination to Carol Platt, a real estate agent, instead of teabagger Jorge Bonilla who had been endorsed by right-wing celebrities Dana Loesch and Michelle Malkin. Team Grayson must be happy this morning, with the weakest of the 3 Republicans (a farm subsidy welfare queen) as his opponent in November. You can contribute to Grayson's campaign here.

Republican Charlie Crist will run for governor as a Democrat against criminal Rick Scott, who will run as a Republican. Neither man is worthy of getting any votes from anyone with half a brain. They're the worst of what our corrupt, dysfunctional political system regularly pukes up.

Blue America suffered a loss in OK-05 when conservative state Senator Al McAffrey beat progressive professor Tom Guild, 10,411 (54%) to 8,789 (46%). Although Tom carried Pottawatomie (56.3%) and Seminole County (57.5%), he lost the big enchilada (Oklahoma County 44.1%). His volunteer-based, grassroots campaign just couldn't overcome the negative effect of the last minute smear campaign by McAffrey--robo-calls and postcards claiming Tom was the conservative and McAffrey the real Democrat. McAffrey has no chance whatsoever to beat the GOP candidate, Steve Russell, in November.

The race we were watching in Arizona was for AZ-07, the deep blue central Phioenix district (D+16), where Obama beat Romney 101,028 (72%)- 37,353 (27%). Ed Pastor-- first elected in 1991-- is retiring. The top two contenders were Ruben Gallego, the progressive and Mary Rose Wilcox from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, endorsed, predictably, by EMILY's List. He spent $486,502 and she spent $427,086. Several progressive PACs and good government reform groups spent another $246,001 bolstering Gallego. After their very costly twin disasters in Hawaii (conservatives Hanabusa and Kim) and their gigantic loss with Wendy Greuel in Los Angeles, EMILY's List didn't spend any of their own money on behalf of Wilcox. She conceded very early in the evening.
Ruben Gallego- 11,644 (48%)
Mary Rose Wilcox- 8,806 (37%)
Randy Camacho- 1,850 (8%)
Jarrett Maupin- 1,797 (7%)
Gallego is a firm ally of Raul Grijalva and can be expected to be a great addition to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. No doubt Wilcox would have joined the Wall Street-owned and operated New Dems. PCCC was one of the progressive groups helping Gallego fight off the threat from EMILY's List and other conservatives. Their co-founder, Adam Green, was jubilant:

"This is a huge victory for the populist Elizabeth Warren wing of American politics, and a big blow to the corporate wing. In addition to supporting economic populist ideas like expanding Social Security benefits and reducing student debt, Ruben Gallego is part of the growing movement to reform how campaigns are funded so that our government is accountable to everyday Americans instead of big-money donors. Ruben Gallego's victory is yet another reminder to national Democrats that the way to energize voters and win in 2014 is to campaign on a bold economic populist message-- fighting to increase the voice of regular people in our democracy."

And late last night we got word from DFA that they had committed $300,000 in Independent Expenditures on behalf of Shenna Bellows, the awesome candidate running for the Maine Senate seat occupied by Susan Collins. They'll be running two 60-second TV spots, that explain Collins real record in Washington. Today would be a good day to contribute to Shenna's campaign.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rickie Lee Jones Helped Alan Grayson Win His Primary Today


Rickie Lee Jones has been working on her next album in New Orleans. Over the weekend she took some time off to travel to Orlando to help Alan Grayson turn out the vote for today's primary-- which he won with 75% of the vote. At a musical event in downtown Orlando, Grayson introduced her to his supporters and staff by reading the lyrics to one of his favorite songs from The Evening of my Best Day, her 2003 album. The song (below), "Ugly Man" questions what George W. Bush was doing to America and it was not a sentiment most artists were brave enough to express… at least not for another few years.
He's an ugly man
He always was an ugly man
He grew up to be like his father
An ugly man
And he'll tell you lies
He'll look at you and tell you lies
He grew up to be like his father
Ugly inside
Rickie has described herself as "disillusioned with politics," even cynical but this week she explained why Alan Grayson has been turning that feeling around for her.
Congressman Grayson makes me feel hopeful. His enthusiasm and optimism and can-do attitude is exciting for me to be around. I am supporting him and excited that there's somebody like that in politics still.
Grayson, a big music fan, was delighted he could share her music with his supporters in Orlando. "Rickie Lee Jones," he said "has been an inspiration literally to millions of Americans, judging from her album sales alone. She has been influential for decades, not only with her voice, or her lyrics, but also with her insight into what it means to be a human being. She stood up and called out the Bush regime when very few had the courage to do so. I am honored by her support."

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Let's listen to madcap prankster Oliver Wendell Holmes sing the praises of "more complex and intense intellectual efforts"


You said a mouthful, Ollie! Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935) served for 29 years (December 1902-January 1932) on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"When Robert Moses received a copy of Death and Life from the publisher he replied, 'Dear Bennett [Cerf]: I am returning the book that you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate it is also libelous. . . .

Sell this junk to someone else.

Cordially, Robert Moses' "
-- the conclusion of Jason Epstein's Introduction
to the 50th Anniversary Edition of Jane Jacobs's
The Death and Life of Great American Cities

by Ken

It was bad enough to admit it once. Now I have to return to my embarrassing admission that, however inspired I have been by the vision of Jane Jacobs for a livable city, I have never actually read The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, when Jane was 40. But, as I explained, I figured the time has come in anticipation of Francis Morrone's upcoming Municipal Art Society tour "Then and Now: Jane Jacobs and the West Village." In his tour description, after writing that The Death and Life "so sharply and logically articulated many people's inchoate misgivings about the city rebuilding of the preceding decade and the orthodox notions of city planners," Francis adds parenthetically: "The book, not least a literary masterpiece, is highly recommended reading for this tour."

(You can read the full tour description here, but it's too late to register; the tour sold out quickly. However, as I keep insisting, it's utterly possible to register for any of Francis's tours as long as you watch for the posting of each new MAS schedule, usually in the middle of the preceding month, and act accordingly. Francis, by the way, says -- making clear that he's not talking about his own tours -- that the September-November MAS schedule is the richest he's ever seen, that as he looked through the array of offerings, his eyes popped out. The tour schedule is here -- or just go to the ridiculously-easy-to-remember and click on "Tours.")

My copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Death and Life arrived today, and in my excitement I jumped over Jason Epstein's 2011 introduction and even Jane's own 36-years-later "Foreword to the Modern Library Edition" of 1992 -- both of which I of course mean to return to in due course -- with the intention of diving right in. And in case you've forgotten, or like me have never read it, Jane's 1961 text begins with an Introduction that starts: "This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding." Whoa! No shilly-shallying here!

She quickly adds, though, that the book "is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles of city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and planning to the Sunday supplements and women's magazines."

And in case we're not hearing her right, she goes on: "My attack is not based on quibbles about rebuilding methods or hairsplitting about fashions in design. It is an attack, rather, on the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding." The alternative principles and aims she staked out have resonated so powerfully across those 50-plus years that the book has probably never been more widely read. Heck, even I'm finally reading it.

The thing is, before you get to that 1956 Introduction, there is a full-page inscription, in the form of a quote that, containing no ellipses, I take to be an unamended quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
"Until lately the best thing that I was able to think of in favor of civilization, apart from blind acceptance of the order of the universe, was that it made possible the artist, the poet, the philosopher, and the man of science. But think that is not the greatest thing. Now I believe that the greatest thing is a matter that comes directly home to us all. When it is said that we are too much occupied with the means of living to live, I answer that the chief worth of civilization is just that it makes the means of living more complex; that it calls for great and combined intellectual efforts, instead of simple, uncoordinated ones, in order that the crowd may be fed and clothed and housed and moved from place to place. Because more complex and intense intellectual efforts mean a fuller and richer life. They mean more life. Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether you have enough of it.

"I will add but a word. We are all very near despair. The sheathing that floats us over its waves is compounded of hope, faith in the unexplainable worth and sure issue of effort, and the deep, sub-conscious content which comes from the exercise of our powers."

Whoa again! If you close your eyes, can't you just see Texas Sen. Rafael "Ted from Alberta" Cruz or Iowa Rep. Steve "Nuts I Am" King making -- or debating -- the case that "more complex and intense intellectual efforts mean a fuller and richer life"?

Holmes's Wikipedia bio notes that in the summer of 1864 (when he was 23), following a three-year military enlistment, "Holmes returned to the family home in Boston, wrote poetry and debated philosophy with his friend William James, pursuing his debate with philosophic idealism, and considered reenlisting." (Both William and his brother Henry are described as "lifelong friends.") In my mind I imagine eavesdropping on a spirited philosophical debate between Justice Holmes and, say, Justice Sammy "The Hammer" Alito.

I don't imagine that this was everyday discourse in 1915, when Holmes spoke it (see below), but in today's savagely anti-intellectual climate can you imagine the response to a public officeholder announcing that he has come around to appreciating civilization because it "calls for great and combined intellectual efforts, instead of simple, uncoordinated ones"?


So many people just quote this fizzy chunk of Holmesiana -- though nobody but Jane Jacobs seems to tack on the "but a word"  without troubling to source it that I was beginning to wonder whether like everything else it was actually written by Mark Twain. But no, on the Harper's blog in May 2009, Scott Horton provided a source: " 'Life as Joy, Duty, End,' speech delivered to the Bar Association of Boston, Mar. 7, 1900 in Speeches of Oliver Wendell Holmes pp. 85-86 (1915). Doesn't it sound like just the sort of speech Justice Nino Scalia or Chief Justice "Smirkin' John" Roberts or even "Slow Anthony" Kennedy would give at a bar association shindig?

By the way, of the numerous other rehashings of this quote I found -- all, no doubt coincidentally, post-Death and Life (after, all Internet citings are awfully likely to be post-1961) -- I didn't find any that included the "but a word" that Holmes added, about us all being "very near despair."

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Does That Hillary "Inevitability" Thing Stand Up When You Look At The Issues?


In 2008, "no one" (i.e., Beltway Establishment conventional wisdom) thought a half-term Illinois senator, Barack Obama, had a shot at beating out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential race. But he did. Although her voting record was slightly more progressive than his-- her ProgressivePunch crucial vote score was smack dang in the center of the Senate Democrats and his was at the bootom of the Democrats and in the center of the Senate as a whole-- she had voted for Bush's Iraq war. He was lucky enough to have not taken that vote. He claimed he would have voted NO (although an examination of his record doesn't necessarily predict that). In any case, the "inevitability" thing the well-greased Clinton Machine tried perpetrating did not work. And we're in the final stretch of two terms of a typically mediocre Obama presidency. And another shot of Hillary inevitability.

Although he always had a legion of dumb fan-boys, smart progressives, who had watched his performance in the Senate (a tiny cohort among Democrats) were never all that enthusiastic about Obama. They are, however, super-enthused-- and for good reason-- about Elizabeth Warren, a half-term Massachusetts senator. A poll released yesterday by the Boston Herald shows Elizabeth Warren with the highest favorability rating of any politician scored-- 80.75% vs 76.75% for Hillary, 79% for Obama and 65.5% for Ed Markey. (Her negatives are also less than any of theirs). But when asked to pick a first choice for the Democratic presidential nomination between Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Martin O’Malley, and Elizabeth Warren, she comes in second to Hillary, and not a close second:
Clinton- 55.0%
Warren- 17.25%
Biden- 7.75%
Cuomo- 4.75%
O'Malley- 1.5%
Warren beats everyone else as "second choice." Does that mean that the Hillary inevitability thing is working this time around? In 2008 Obama really wanted it and really went for it. Warren has endorsed Hillary-- and, except for Bernie Sanders, no one has raised their hands to make a case against her pro-Wall Street/pro-Industrial Military Complex Establishment world view. Monday Megan Wilson, writing for The Hill did a compare and contrast analysis between Clinton and Warren based on 5 major policy areas.
Expanding Social Security

During her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton was relatively non-committal about reforms to the Social Security program while Warren has not minced words.

“Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire-- and the numbers continue to get worse,” she said last November.

“That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits-- not cutting them. Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.”

Clinton has been more coy on the issue of entitlements. She said in 2007 that certain reforms such as cutting benefits, privatizing the program or raising the retirement age were “off the table.” There were some articles at the time that gave mixed signals on whether she would be willing to increase payroll taxes.

One account from the Associated Press featured a conversation between a campaigning Clinton and an Iowa voter in which the candidate said she might consider committing more of workers' income to Social Security.

“She told him she didn't want to put an additional tax burden on the middle class but would consider a ‘gap,’ with no Social Security taxes on income from $97,500 to around $200,000. Anything above that could be taxed,” according to the article. The idea was similar to then-Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who was seen as to the left of Clinton.

Back then, workers paid taxes toward Social Security on their first $97,500 in earnings-- any earnings above that remain untaxed. (Now that amount stands at $117,000.)

Ultimately, Clinton officially shied away from the increase in taxes, and stuck with official comments that revolved around improving the economy overall.

“We need to get back to the fiscal responsibility that we had in the 1990s, when we weren't draining the Social Security fund any more,” she said.

Surveillance programs

During the promotional tour for her book Hard Choices, Clinton stood behind the U.S. surveillance programs and criticized former government contractor Edward Snowden for leaking sensitive information.

Most of what Snowden disclosed, she said, “concerned the surveillance that the United States undertakes, totally legally, against other nations.”

While she has backed reforms to “make sure that it doesn’t go too far,” Clinton told NPR that “collecting information about what's going around the world is essential to our security.”

“There were other ways that Mr. Snowden could have expressed his concerns,” such as reaching out to Congress, Clinton continued.

“I think everyone would have applauded that because it would have added to the debate that was already started. Instead, he left the country-- first to China, then to Russia-- taking with him a huge amount of [sensitive] information,” she said, adding that during her trips to Russia, she would leave all electronics on the State Department plane with the batteries out to prevent hacking.

Warren would like to end the bulk-collection of phone records, which is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and set to expire June 1, 2015.

Even though Warren praised the Obama’s administration’s reforms of its surveillance apparatus earlier this year, she said they might not go far enough.

“Congress must go further to protect the right to privacy, to end the NSA's dragnet surveillance of ordinary Americans, to make the intelligence community more transparent and accountable,” Warren said.

Bankruptcy reform

In the Senate, Clinton voted for an overhaul to the bankruptcy system that would have made debt forgiveness more difficult for borrowers to obtain. She said in 2008 that she regretted the vote, but it still could become a sticking point, as it did when she faced off with then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The credit card lobby pushed hard for the legislation, which did not prevail when Clinton voted for it in 2001, but did become law after another attempt by Congress in 2005. (Clinton did not vote in that round, telling reporters she missed the vote to be with Bill Clinton after his heart surgery.)

"The right kind of reform is necessary,” Clinton said in a press release about the legislation in 2001. “We're on our way toward that goal, and I hope we can achieve final passage of a good bankruptcy reform bill this year.”

During her initial presidential campaign, she said she would have voted against the 2005 bill that eventually passed.

Warren specialized in bankruptcy law and personal-finance issues while teaching at Harvard Law School. She had been published and widely quoted in national media before becoming a big player on the Washington scene in 2008 as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, a watchdog panel that oversaw the economic stimulus.

In 2006, Warren blasted the new law as ineffective at curbing fraud, which was the impetus for its passage.

“The new laws will drive up the costs for debtors and shrink the protection available, but that doesn't necessarily mean that fewer people in trouble will turn to bankruptcy,” she told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Free-trade agreements

Within the populist Democratic movement, there is a rising tide against once-popular trade deals connecting the U.S. with foreign lands. Clinton has been involved with many of the pacts from her time as first lady, in the Senate and finally, as part of the Obama administration.

Clinton saw herself in the middle of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during her husband’s presidency. She supported deals with Oman, Chile and Singapore during her tenure in the Senate. As secretary of State, she was a chief advocate as talks commenced surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the largest worldwide deals in recent history.

Many proponents of the agreements argue that negotiations need to take place in secret in order to protect the fragile interests of participating countries. This has not sat well with public interest groups and more liberal members of the Democratic Party, including Warren.

Last year, she went to far as to vote against Obama’s then-nominee for the head of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, because of that lack of transparency as the 10 countries involved in the TPP discuss terms.

“I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant,” she said in a floor speech. “In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”

At the State Department, Clinton didn’t address specifics in the negotiating process, but told attendees at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum conference that she hoped it would “create a new high standard for multilateral free trade.”

Critics have said that the agreement would ease regulations protecting both laborers and the environment, despite claims from Clinton to the contrary.

“Our goal for TPP is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe the TPP needs to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation,” Clinton said at the event in 2011. “It should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains.”


Warren has long positioned herself as an adversary to large financial institutions, questioning why they hadn’t brought bankers who had been partially responsible for the financial downturn to trial. Last year, she introduced legislation that would reinstate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that created a firewall between commercial and investment banking and was repealed during the Clinton administration.

“We should not accept a financial system that allows the biggest banks to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while working Americans continue to struggle,” Warren said at an event in 2013.

The financial services industry fought against Warren’s idea of creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It also made clear it would oppose any move to have her run the bureau.

Clinton, meanwhile, has been painted by critics as beholden to Wall Street, giving paid speeches at events sponsored by banking executives and maintaining ties with former officials who had been more laissez-faire with financial regulatory policy. As a senator from New York, bankers had been Clinton’s constituents and largest donors. 
Bernie Sanders will be the featured speaker at an AFL-CIO breakfast in Manchester, New Hampshire, over Labor Day weekend. Dubuque, Waterloo and Des Moine, Iowa will all see him in mid-September and he'll be speaking in South Carolina this week. He doesn't talk about Hillary, just about his own vision for a better break for working families, a vision, not unlike Warren's. He won't say if he'll run in the Democratic primary or as an Independent-- something that could throw the race to a Republican. "I’ll be going to New Hampshire and I’ll be going to Iowa. That’s part of my trying to ascertain the kind of support that exists for a presidential run." Blue America has never endorsed anyone in a presidential race because none of the candidates have been good enough. This year we've suggested three candidates who would be good enough.

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There's A Winnable Seat In Ohio-- If The DCCC Does Its Job


Hard core right-wing GOP voters, particularly in the former Confederate states-- something between a quarter and a third of all voters-- are pretty gung-ho on shutting down the government. Normal voters, on the other hand, just hate it. Last week, when first McConnell and then Paul Ryan let it slip that the Republicans plan to stay quiet about triggering more government shut-downs until after the election-- and then move in for the kill. (And by "kill," of course, they mean you, your family, the American economy and democracy itself.)

Alison Lundergan Grimes responded to McConnell's "slip of the tongue" with the web ad above. But she isn't the only Democrat who recognizes an opportunity. Michael Wager, the only Democrat in Ohio who has a shot to replace a Republican in that state, can benefit from the resuscitation of an issue that had died down. When had polled OH-14 between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border, they found most people concerned. 59% of the people in the district said they opposed the government shut down. And on being informed that David Joyce had voted to shut it down, only 44% of respondents said they would vote to reelect him. 47% said they would vote for his Democratic opponent.

That's Michael Wager, the only Democratic challenger in Ohio who has raised over-- or even close to-- a million dollars. But Steve Israel has been urging Democrats and Democratic support groups to contribute to a recruit in an impossibly red district (OH-06-- R+8), where a drastically right-wing, anti-Choice/anti-gay/pro-NRA/pro-fracking recruit of his, Jennifer Garrison, is running a miserable, losing campaign. Israel won't win the OH-06 seat but he could well blow the chance to win the OH-14 seat. But that isn't how Wager is looking at it. He and his grassroots team don't think much about the DCCC. They think about the voters in Ashtabula, Mayfield Heights, Mentor, Chardon, Solon, Middlefield and Painesville instead.

"The dysfunction of the 113th Congress," Wager told us this morning, "is all too evident in their lack of action on so many of our nation’s critical needs, but the truly emblematic failure of this Congress will be the several votes in October 2013 to shutdown the government and put our nation in economic peril. Once again, Republican leaders, like Senator McConnell, talk about advancing extreme and ideologically-driven spending bills, potentially causing another shutdown of the federal government.

"Regrettably, my opponent, Republican Congressman David Joyce, has shown his willingness to vote again (as he did three separate times in October) for these extreme measures, as Republicans push our nation to the economic precipice to wantonly advance their agenda of obstructionism. In November, I will call upon voters in the 14th District to hold David Joyce  accountable for his betrayal of public trust and his lack of truthfulness about his extreme voting record."

You can give Wager a hand here and help Blue America try to plug some holes the DCCC is leaving in his campaign. This is the one Democrat who can win in Ohio. Steve Israel doesn't like backing progressives and he won't allow the DCCC to help Wager win the seat. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has tried to turn things around for Wager, but Israel is a pig-headed jackass and he absolutely refuses to change his approach. It's a winnable seat and we shouldn't let Joyce waltz back into office.

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