Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Rohrschach Candidacy of Hillary Clinton

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Thom Hartmann on Donald Trump's other strong appeal to Republican voters (hint: Think Ross Perot). People who like Trump for this reason are potential Sanders voters. Mainstream Democratic trade policy, another party problem, is discussed below.

by Gaius Publius

Schedule note: This will be the last piece for a few weeks from me. Writing will resume the third week of August. Happy summer, all!

It's been clear for a while that from the left, the biggest criticism of Hillary Clinton is her close relationship with holders of big money. One could argue that she may or may not have agreed with Bill Clinton's strategy of incorporating the interests of "big money" into the Democratic Party. But it's nevertheless clear that her current relationships, and those of the people around her, show a strong and current interest in maintaining the interests of wealth. More on that below.

This suspicion (on the part of some) and certainty (on the part of others) that Clinton will "take care of" her well-heeled friends while also (and sincerely) trying to mitigate the damage done to ordinary Americans — these form much of the reason the Sanders campaign is surging among Democratic voters. (Our own brief looks at Clinton's relationship with "money" are here and here and here, among other places. Or just click here and scan the list of titles.)

Now come a series of news stories that add to that larger story.

Hillary Clinton Will Not Repeal Glass-Steagall

From Robert Reich, former Clinton labor secretary, on Clinton's unwillingness to reign in Wall Street banks (my emphasis everywhere):
Hillary Clinton’s Glass-Steagall

Hillary Clinton won’t propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act – at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton’s campaign. “You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall,” Blinder said after her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it. Blinder said he had spoken to Clinton directly about Glass-Steagall.

This is a big mistake.

It’s a mistake politically because people who believe Hillary Clinton is still too close to Wall Street will not be reassured by her position on Glass-Steagall. Many will recall that her husband led the way to repealing Glass Steagall in 1999 at the request of the big Wall Street banks.

It’s a big mistake economically because the repeal of Glass-Steagall led directly to the 2008 Wall Street crash, and without it we’re in danger of another one.
Why does reinstating Glass-Steagall matter? Reich again:
Under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, banks couldn’t both gamble in the market and also take in deposits and make loans. They’d have to choose between the two.

“The idea is pretty simple behind this one,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said a few days ago, explaining her bill to resurrect Glass-Steagall. “If banks want to engage in high-risk trading — they can go for it, but they can’t get access to ensured deposits and put the taxpayers on the hook for that reason.”

For more than six decades after 1933, Glass-Steagall worked exactly as it was intended to. During that long interval few banks failed and no financial panic endangered the banking system.

But the big Wall Street banks weren’t content. They wanted bigger profits. They thought they could make far more money by gambling with commercial deposits. So they set out to whittle down Glass-Steagall.

Finally, in 1999, President Bill Clinton struck a deal with Republican Senator Phil Gramm to do exactly what Wall Street wanted, and repeal Glass-Steagall altogether.

What happened next? An almost exact replay of the Roaring Twenties. Once again, banks originated fraudulent loans and sold them to their customers in the form of securities. Once again, there was a huge conflict of interest that finally resulted in a banking crisis.

This time the banks were bailed out, but millions of Americans lost their savings, their jobs, even their homes.
Two ideas — first that big banks are too big to be allowed to fail, so they must be bailed out, and second, that banks can gamble with government-insured customer deposits — add to this state of affairs:
  • All banks will be allowed to continue to gamble on the riskiest of investments.
  • All gambling ("investment") profit goes to the banks.
  • Large gambling ("investment") losses go to taxpayers for reimbursement via FDIC deposit insurance or Fed and congressionally managed bailouts, like TARP.
If you're a Wall Street bank, it's impossible to lose money in this scheme (a scam or racket, actually). And if you "own" everyone who matters in government, the scheme will never end.

Clearly the not-so-secret formula for ending the hostage relationship between the public's money and Wall Street banking is to (a) reinstate Glass-Steagall and (b) break up "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks so they can ... well, fail — when their business plan brings them to grief (because, capitalism, right?).

Hillary Clinton, according to Reich and others, will not reinstate Glass-Steagall, the first part of our solution, even though, according to Reich, "Hillary Clinton, of all people, should remember." There's a lot more in Reich's piece; it's a good informative read.

"Bernie Sanders backs big bank breakups, in contrast with Hillary Clinton"

Now let's look at the second piece of our "too big to fail" solution — break up the big banks so the public is never forced by their size to bail them out again. We have a pretty clear indication from the Clinton campaign that she would not pursue that policy either, and a clear indication from Sanders that he would.

Politico:
Bernie Sanders backs big bank breakups, in contrast with Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders is backing a bill to break up big banks after advisers to presidential rival Hillary Clinton made clear earlier this week she will not support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.

Noting that he’s long supported reimposing a firewall between investment and commercial banks, the Vermont senator said he’s officially rejoining an effort led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to break up the big banks, saying, “If we are truly serious about ending too big to fail [TBTF], we have got to break up the largest financial institutions in this country.”

“Allowing commercial banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies in 1999 was a huge mistake. It precipitated the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. It caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college,” said Sanders, who said that change in the financial world “substantially increased wealth and income inequality.”

Earlier this week, a Clinton campaign adviser told Reuters that “you’re not going to see Glass-Steagall.” Clinton was also interrupted by a heckler on Monday who challenged her to revive the depression-era policy, though she did not answer the question.

By moving quickly to reassert his support for a proposal from liberal superstar Warren, Sanders is highlighting the differences between his platform and Clinton’s more centrist [in DC and NY] positions on financial regulations, a major issue among progressives. Sanders actually cosponsored a version of the bill in 2013, well before he began challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and in a press release reminded reporters of a speech he gave in 1999 as a House member.
I realize that the statement "you’re not going to see Glass-Steagall" is the same one that Reich uses, and is about Glass-Steagall only. Is Politico being unfair to Clinton in saying she would not back a Sanders-Warren–style breakup policy? I don't think so, since of the two "not-so-secret solutions" I listed above, reinstating Glass-Steagall is by far the milder of the two from a Wall Street standpoint.

And now the third news story in this story.

Hedge Fund Titans Choosing Hillary Clinton Over Top Republicans

It's hugely rewarding to Hillary Clinton professionally to maintain money-friendly policies like these. Independent of whether you think she's personally aligned with the interests of "big money" and "the one percent," or whether you think she's disgusted by their behavior but feels somehow forced to go along. Either way, it looks like she's taking their money and planning to advance their interests.

It looks like they think so too. About that "taking their money" part, here's Bloomberg:
Hedge Fund Titans Choosing Hillary Clinton Over Top Republicans

Hillary Clinton received donations from some of the biggest names in the hedge fund industry, including Paul Tudor Jones, even as the presidential candidate wants to boost their tax rate.

Jones, the billionaire founder of Tudor Investment Corp., Jamie Dinan, who started York Capital, and Neil Chriss, who runs Hutchin Hill Capital, each contributed the maximum $2,700 to Clinton’s bid for the White House, according to Federal Election Commission filings for the second quarter.

Clinton, who’s made closing the wealth gap the centerpiece of her campaign, lured more donations from boldface industry names than Republican candidates 16 months before the election. Hedge fund managers, their employees and family members donated at least $54,000 to Clinton, a Democrat, according to the FEC. Republicans Jeb Bush got at least $27,000, Marco Rubio took in at least $10,800 while Carly Fiorina received at least $4,200.

“Something is wrong when CEOs earn more than 300 times than what the typical American worker earns and when hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,” Clinton said in May.

The candidate’s populist rhetoric didn’t dissuade many managers from supporting her. They include Frank Brosens, co-founder of Taconic Capital Advisors, Mitchell Julis, co-founder Canyon Partners, David Shaw, the billionaire founder of D.E. Shaw & Co., BlueMountain Capital Management Managing Partner James Staley, Jake Gottlieb, who runs Visum Asset Management, and Richard Perry, who heads Perry Capital.

Bush, Rubio and Fiorina drew a smaller cohort of top hedge fund managers.
Note that this story merges two elements. The first, that even though Clinton speaks against income inequality (not the same as speaking against wealth inequality, by the way) ...
“Something is wrong when CEOs earn more than 300 times than what the typical American worker earns and when hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,”
... the big money people are financing her anyway:
The candidate’s populist rhetoric didn’t dissuade many managers from supporting her.
You can draw a number of conclusions about why this is happening. In that sense, the "Clinton and money" story is a kind of Rorschach test — you can see in this picture what you're looking for.

The Rorschach Candidacy

Put these stories together and ask yourself what this means to you. You could end up in a couple of places.

If you're Clinton-resigned — If you're a Clinton fan who was "ready for Warren," resigned rather than eager, you may see someone who cares about people but has to deal with "big money" to get elected. She doesn't like what many are calling "rule by the rich," but like many of her supporters, she's also resigned. The way of the world is regrettable, but the exclamation point at the end of "Jeb!" is a dagger to be avoided at all costs. No Republicans; vote Clinton anyway.

If you're Clinton-quite-hopeful — If you're an eager Clinton fan, you're much more positive. In a Clinton presidency, you may expect strong advocacy for "Black Lives Matter," maybe even with DoJ prosecutions of murdering police and corrupt departments. You may expect to see executive-mandated immigration reform with even more teeth. And you certainly would anticipate that all of the issues faced by women, from abortion rights to pay rights, will certainly find an eager and effective friend. All of this offsets whatever damage her "friends of money" bargaining may entail.

And if you're very hopeful, you're convinced that her presidency could be far to the left of the other Clinton presidency, even on money matters. After all, there's no proof yet that this hopeful analysis is wrong. 

If you're Clinton-appalled — But if you see "capture by wealth" as the root of almost every evil in this country except our deep-seated racism, and especially if you see that the climate crisis will reach multiple additional tipping points and are certain a carbon-captured Clinton would be a disaster ... well, what's a Democratic primary voter to do?

I'll put that differently. The Clinton-appalled (on the left) see a candidate who's threading the progressive needle while trying not to anger her moneyed friends, or at least not undo their expectations that this "rein in the rich" stuff is just campaign talk. They see one who does care about people, but who also sees her role as confirming the current order, with better mitigation for the suffering worst among us.

They also see someone who will take us into a fossil fuel–heavy future — again with mitigation for the suffering worst, but with no loss of profit for the wealth-heavy carbon industry. For example, this is former Secretary Clinton speaking in 2013 at Hamilton College in upstate New York's Oneida County:
Late into the lecture portion of Clinton’s Oneida County appearance, she referenced a report that the U.S. in on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil-and-gas production.

That’s good news, Clinton said.

“What that means for viable manufacturing and industrialization in this country is enormous,” she said to the crowd of 5,800 in Hamilton’s athletic field house.
For the Clinton-appalled and carbon-aware, it means "we're cooked," literally, and sooner than anyone expects — because this crisis is always moving faster than anyone expects, or publicly claims to expect. (You should know that in private, a great many climate scientists are, frankly, freaking out, and not metaphorically. They know that what no one is saying is nevertheless true.)

In other words, the full awareness of the damage we've handed ourselves — the wide-eyed Wile E. Coyote "nothing beneath me" moment — will likely come on a President Clinton's watch, and she and Obama will get the blame for not being more aggressive, for being too wealth-serving.

Wile E. Coyote considers his climate future.

And that's just the "Clinton, money and carbon" piece of the story. The "Clinton, money and banking" piece says the next financial meltdown will also come on Clinton's watch, that the next bailout may be a "bail-in" (a bailout using depositor funds) as is being done in Europe, and in either case, the economy is screwed — but only for people who aren't good friends of "friends of money."

So what will hit first under a money-friendly (but better-than-Republican) presidency — climate or the next banking bailout? How about an aggressively pursued endless war that truly "comes home," the way European and Middle East wars have always come home? How about environmental disaster after environmental disaster caused by exploding oil trains, frack-poisoned ground water, burst pipelines, and oil spill after oil spill?

Or how about even more exported American jobs under a bipartisan (but decidedly Democratic) "trade" regime? Want to go worse? How about imported foreign contract labor being fast-tracked into the country when the deadliest of the coming trade deals, TISA, is signed by the next wealth-serving Democrat? The just-passed Fast Track law — the discussion of which Clinton's campaign wanted to "go away" — hands, to this president and the next, six years' worth of job-destroying, global investor–enabling power.

If you're this appalled, what's a primary voter to do? Avoid damaging Clinton so no Republican can win? Cheer all the wonderful things that a progressive Clinton might do? Or vote for Sanders and if he loses, walk away?

I'm hearing all three cases being made, and the voices are getting louder.

Leaving It to the Voters to Decide

You can look at the Clinton candidacy and see what you want by adjusting the foreground and background of your mental image. Is Clinton a woman who deserves much better than being trashed by the constant misogyny of the troglodyte Right? You can see that person.

Is Clinton a bright Sixties rebel who now wants a chance to do the best she can to fix a wealth-dominated world? You can see that person.

Is Clinton a person who's long bought into "rule by the rich" — rule by the class she hangs with, the class that knows better than us how to run things that matter — but thinks their regime can use some tweakage so the "most vulnerable" are protected? You can see that person too.

I guess this is why we are leaving it to voters to decide, and not to the few of us who pay early attention. Because if the voters choose wrong, they will pay the price, but at least they will have done it to themselves.

Unless there's friends-of-money mischief afoot, of course. Like this perhaps?
DNC Chair Says Candidates Must Meet 'Threshold' For Debates, Though Criteria And Dates Still Unclear

Democratic presidential candidates will have to meet a certain “threshold” to participate in the party’s six scheduled primary debates, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday, though she did not specify which criteria, such as state or national polling, will be used to determine who qualifies.

“It’ll be a threshold that’ll be expansive and allows for the maximum inclusion of our major party candidates," Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC’s Ari Melber. She said the DNC hasn’t “quite finished formulating the details” for the debates, including specific dates, locations and media sponsors.

The lack of clarity has been frustrating to both campaigns and major TV networks, the latter of which produce the debates and need to book venues and handle logistical details well in advance.

In May, the DNC announced plans to hold six primary debates, four of which would be held in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The DNC said debates would begin in "the fall of 2015," though didn't specify when. 
Kind of a Rohrschach news announcement, right? Starting with how you see Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

GP

Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins of Ring Of Fire in a discussion of the Bloomberg article linked above. (Apologies for the lurid preview image; not my first choice.)

 

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Is Fox's GOP Debate Going To Be A Big Ratings Winner? Today's Day In Republican Craziness

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Ted Cruz, who doesn't get on the wrong side of Rush Limbaugh, seems to be throwing his lot behind all the craziest Trump and Huckabee remarks. If there's one thing Tailgunner Ted understands, it's how to exploit fear and anxiety-- and superficial faith. The other contenders are trying to figure out if appearing to be more cautious is a better tactic. But wouldn't that caution fly in the face of what their own base wants? After all, the new CNN poll shows that 63% of Republican voters favor mass deportation of millions of Mexican families (over 10 million people)-- generally speaking, the majority of elderly Republicans, uneducated Republicans, Evangelical Republicans and rural Republicans. And these are Trump supporters.

And speaking of polls of Republican voters, a new one came out yesterday from Monmouth University showing Trump with a 2-to-1 edge over his nearest rival, Jeb Bush. Trump takes votes from the whole field of contenders but seems to be hurting Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz the most. Trump has the support of 24% of GOP primary voters, followed by Jeb! at 12%, John Kasich and Scott Walker tied at 7%, Marco Rubio at 6%, Ben Carson and Rand Paul at 5% each and Chris Christie at 4%.
Trump does especially well with very conservative voters (36%), far outpacing Walker (10%) and Cruz (9%) among this group. Somewhat conservative voters prefer Trump (22%), followed by Carson (10%) and Walker (9%). Moderate to liberal voters choose Bush (22%) and Trump (18%) as their top tier.

Tea Party supporters back Trump (35%), with Walker (13%) a distant second. Non-Tea Party voters split their support between Trump (18%) and Bush (18%), followed by Kasich (8%).
Yesterday Paul Krugman mused in his column about the Trumpmania sweeping the GOP base. He wrote:
What I’m wondering: How, exactly, does the Trump implosion everyone is predicting happen at this point? The punditocracy wrote him off over the McCain comments, and was totally wrong. If base voters haven’t decided that he’s a buffoon yet, what new information will convince them? Also note that mainstream Republican candidates are responding to the Trump surge by amping up their own inflammatory rhetoric, which makes their difference from The Donald ever less apparent. I don’t know about other people, but I am starting to hedge my bets a bit. Maybe he really can get the nomination.
Maybe Trump's backers will get fed up with him if they ever find out he's been lying about his net worth, a net worth he leans on to claim the right to the presidency. A Kasich strategist, John Weaver, got a gut kick in against Trump on Twitter Monday: "Imagine a NASCAR driver mentally preparing for a race knowing one of the drivers will be drunk. That's what prepping for this debate is like." But many think it's Chris Christie-- who isn't even considered a top-tier candidate at this point-- is best suited to successfully take on Trump. His own nasty, even vicious and bullying, approach to campaigning is pretty similar to Trump's-- and so far, Trump has deprived him of that trademark among Iowa and New Hampshire GOP voters.
If Bush underperforms in the Granite State (and other early contests) and/or Christie over-performs, the New Jersey governor could well become a major contender for the nomination, they argue quite reasonably.

Of course, it’s far from guaranteed that Christie would be the ultimate beneficiary of a Bush flop, should one occur.

All of Christie’s supporters acknowledge that, ultimately, a large part of the governor’s appeal is personal. They insist he is impressing voters in the early states with his command of issues and specific proposals, drawing good reviews from attendees who started out skeptical but warmed to the candidate after seeing and hearing him.

But Donald Trump’s success, which relies on a style that is similar to Christie’s, undercuts the New Jersey governor’s uniqueness and may cause establishment voters to look for a candidate who is more diplomatic and polished in his approach.

Recent national polls generally show Christie drawing in the low single digits in the race for his party’s nomination, placing him often in ninth or 10th place. That could be a problem since only the top 10 candidates in polling conducted before the first sanctioned debate, on Aug. 6 in Cleveland, will appear onstage.
Christie dipped a toe in the anti-Trump water this week and seems to be testing whether or not it will work for him.
He was prodded to talk about Trump by Shirley Paulson, 83 of Keene, who asked Christie how he could do a better job at jumpstarting the country's economy since Trump already proved himself a successful businessman.

"I just don't believe that the skills you're talking about that Donald has are transferable," Christie told her.
 "You cannot fire the speaker of the House or the Senate majority leader because you don't get what you want," Christie continued. "What I'm saying is that you have to have some experience in dealing with people in that way ... (and that) there are certain skills that you have to have to be able to operate in a system that's built on compromise."

Paulson didn't seem appeased, so Christie continued.

"In the end, and I've said this to Donald, I think if he became president he would be incredibly frustrated because what he does in the business world could not be replicated in the world of government or in the world of international relations," Christie said.

"For instance, when he says he's going to build a wall across the entire 2,000 mile border between the United States and Mexico, and he's going to make Mexico pay for it," he said, to some laughs from the crowd. "Now, that's a great line, right? Everybody loves that, great we're going to get the wall and we don't have to pay for it."

Paulson interrupted, "He got a lot of attention with it."

"Of course he did," Christie responded, "See, I thought we were talking about about actually governing a country and not getting attention. Listen, if the goal here is to find the person to be president of the United States who can get the most attention, he's going to win hands down. If it is the person who can most effectively govern our nation and deal with the world, I suggest to you that I'm in this race because I think that I'd be better at it than he would."

More NH voters have seen Christie than any other, but he's at just 3%.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Football Watch: The NFL stands firm on Tom Brady's punishment -- plus suddenly Prince Tom apologists have more to apologize for

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No, this isn't Prince Tom's actual smashed cellphone, it's just a smashed-cellphone stock photo. But the way these things go, it may be just a matter of time before we have cellphone video of the actual phonicide ordered by the prince.

by Ken

At 3:05 this afternoon washingtonpost.com posted this "Early Lead" item by Clinton Yates, "Tom Brady’s four-game DeflateGate suspension upheld by Roger Goodell":

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in the DeflateGate scandal, according to the NFL. In a statement released by the league office Tuesday afternoon, Goodell stuck with the initial punishment when he received information that Brady destroyed his cellphone.

“On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone,” said the email from the league. “‎During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.”

Ten thousand text messages in four months. The further implication here could be that the appeal process potentially made things worse between Goodell and Brady. The conventional thinking, as is often the case with NFL suspensions, was that it would be reduced. Greg Hardy had his suspension — for a domestic violence accusation, no less — reduced from 10 to four games earlier this offseason. And now that Brady allegedly decided to destroy his phone, he’ll be out the same amount of time.

“The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs,” the NFL’s email said.

According to the report, “at the hearing, Mr. Brady testified that it is his practice to destroy (or give to his assistant to destroy) his cellphone and SIM cards when he gets a new cellphone.” Even if you do believe that, there has to be some question about how Brady is looked at as a quarterback now. How will this new destroyed phone scandal hang over his increasingly bruised legacy?

Goodell dismissed the notion because this was a first time offense of its kind, that the penalty was not appropriate. He went on to reference Bountygate, Brett Favre’s harrassment of a New York Jets employee and two other incidents involving tampered balls. “In terms of the appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware is the collectively bargained discpline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance enhancing drugs; steroid use reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game,” he wrote.

At the end of the 20-page report, Goodell said he had no choice to uphold the suspension.

“I entered in the appeal process open to reevaluating my assessment of Mr. Brady’s conduct and the associated discipline. Especially in light of the new evidence introduced at the hearing – evidence demonstrating that he arranged for the destruction of potentially relevant evidence that had been specifically requested by the investigators – my finding and conclusions have not changed in a manner that would benefit Mr. Brady,” the commissioner wrote in conclusion. “Notwithstanding my enormous respect for this accomplishments on the field and for his contributions and role in the community, I find that, with respect to the game balls used in the AFC Championship Game and the subsequent investigation, Mr. Brady engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.”
Now hold on a second, partner. What's this about Tom Brady smashing his cellphone? Curious readers can follow a link included with this post to an earlier "Early Lead" post by Cindy Boren, "Stephen A. Smith says Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone during DeflateGate investigation," which originally went up at 11-something this morning but was updated at 4:50pm to reflect the new Goodell ruling ("Updated with Smith's information proving correct"). This is the original version:

As if the DeflateGate saga couldn’t get any odder, it took another turn for the weird Tuesday with a report that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone — the one on which he allegedly communicated with equipment men about deflating footballs — during the NFL’s investigation.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith served up that steamy take Tuesday, telling Skip Bayless, his partner in bloviation on “First Take,” exactly what he was “hearing” without naming sources or saying that he was actually reporting it.

“Skip, remember when we had conversations about the text messages [between Brady and the Patriots’ personnel] and refusing to show it? I’m hearing that Tom Brady actually destroyed his cellphone.”

Of course, that’s not exactly how it works with cellphone technology, but Smith was on a roll.

“I just heard that Tom Brady’s suspension will likely be upheld. We all recognize that anything’s possible, um, obviously minds can change. But from what I’m hearing, in the next 24-48 hours the NFL will announce that they are upholding the four game suspension against Tom Brady,” he said. “He will serve his four-game suspension. They know and expect the [NFL Players Association] to appeal that decision.”

Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation was part of the reason he was suspended four games for being “at least generally aware” that Patriots footballs were being underinflated. Since then, he has appealed the suspension and the world is waiting with increasingly less baited breath to learn whether it might be reduced by Commissioner Roger Goodell. After Goodell hands down his opinion, Brady and the players’ union will decide whether to head to court.

Smith wasn’t done connecting dots, though. He brought it all back to that other scandal.

“In Spygate in 2007, when [Coach] Bill Belichick and the Patriots were fined – apparently there’s some language in that agreement – in that fine that ultimately handed down to him, that if something like this happened again, you’re talking about Bill Belichick being banned. Which, in some folks’ eyes may have facilitated [owner] Robert Kraft showing a willingness to accept the penance and the penalty Roger Goodell handed down to him.”

So…there you go.
Now this last bit, about language in the league's Spygate decision "that if something like this happened again, you're talking about Bill Belichick being banned," well, it's interesting if awfully vague (not just the "apparently there’s some language in that agreement," but the definition of "something like this"), not to mention undersourced. In any case, while it does suggest a reason why both Pats owner Bob Kraft and coach Belichick, however grumbly, might be relieved that Commissioner Goodell's original ruling in DeflateGat wasn't worse, I don't think it's pertinent to the immediate question of Tom Brady's crime and punishment.

But this business of the cellphone smashing? Certainly Commissioner Goodell believes it happened, and believes it was ordered by Tom Brady with the intention of destroying the contents. Interestingly, Cindy's original observation, "Of course, that’s not exactly how it works with cellphone technology," has been changed in the updated version to: "Of course, that may not completely delete the cellphone trail (especially since the texts could be seen on the recipients’ phones)." Either way, it certainly makes a person curious to see what may lie among those four months' worth of 10,000 texts. Even allowing for the likelihood that, say, 90 percent of them deal with how talented and beautiful Tom is, that would still leave 1,000 others to riffle through.

Probably nothing there would impress the Post's Adam Kilgore, who before the new ruling had written a derisive screed about the commissioner, "NFL’s post-DeflateGate rule changes undermine league’s punishment of Tom Brady," breathlessly touting the revelation this weekend (linking to an "Early Lead" post yesterday by Cindy Boren) by Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira, a former head of NFL officials, that the league has quietly overhauled its procedures for enforcing the rules regarding the handling of game footballs. Somehow Adam has concluded that, because the league has admitted that its old security procedures were inadequate and spottily enforced, Brady's flouting of those rules has somehow become retroactively okay.

It has apparently never occurred to Adam that the league's now-replaced system simply never anticipated the lengths to which people might go to break the rules. People like, say, the Crowned Prince of Belichickland. And so Adam raves on and on about the lamb-like innocence of his boy Tom and the horse's-assitude of Roger Goodell, and boy, are Tommy and the NFL Players' Association gonna whup Roger's ass in court if he doesn't have the sense to back down and kiss the prince's private parts.

Now I'm not here to defend Roger's stewardship of the NFL, though I think it's well to remember that he's not so much the commissioner of a professional sports league as the manager, hired by a bunch of billionaires, of a business enterprise that accounts for a key segment of the U.S. economy. But as between Roger and Tom, let's be clear here. Even before we heard about the smashed cellphone, it has to have been clear to anyone who read the texts of those equipment guys' texts which were made public that Tom:

(a) knew the balls he used were being doctored, in flagrant violation of league rules,

(b) believed he was nevertheless entitled to have balls supplied that suited his comfort,

and (c) demanded like the most imperious princeling (or spoiled brat) that the sniveling little people in the clubhouse take care of it without further inconvenience to a big person like himself.

Above and beyond that, it's well established that he not only stonewalled every aspect of the league's investigation but flat-out lied whenever he actually answered questions. Adam's ridicule of the NFL begins with the length of time the league has spent on DeflateGate, again without asking the really important question (somehow Adam never seems to have any idea what the important question is): Whose fault is it that the issue has dragged on this long?

I say it's the guy who cheated in the first place, then lied about it while stonewalling the league's attempt to find out what happened, and now -- it turns out -- did his best to destroy what sure looks like it would have been evidence? Why, it's Adam's golden boy, Tom!

Yes, Tom Brady is a superbly gifted athlete, and yes, he has worked relentlessly to master the game and his position. For which he has been rewarded as richly as any human being ever could be. And yet somewhere along the line he seems to have gotten the idea that he is entitled to bend and rewrite rules to suit his convenience -- that rules are for the game's little people, not for a handsome prince like himself. I'll stand by what I wrote in May: "Just 'cause you're as pretty (and, yes, talented) as Tom Brady doesn't mean you get to cheat -- and then lie about it."


POSTSCRIPT: This may not be the best time to ask
me to feel sympathy toward a pampered NFL star



An "inside" look at Episode 1 of Ballers

I recently got around to looking at the episodes of HBO's Ballers I had stored up on my DVR, and I watched with increasing fascination, and also increasing revulsion. As I've written before, by the last couple of seasons I'd lost pretty much all of whatever lingering interest I had in professional football, and now the thought of watching even a quarter of a game fills me with boredom. But the Ballers portrayal of the game's behind-the-scenes rings true in a way that suggests that those people -- players, officials, tycoons, and, yes, fans (and groupies too) -- form a closed loop of suckers and suckees who all deserve one another. But maybe that's another story for another time.
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Some things to think about before you call the cops in on a missing-keys case

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Apparently no stranger to misadventure, the Owen Grundy Pier on the Jersey City waterfront, the site of Sunday's incident, was depicted that evening on the Jersey Journal website in this photo from November 2013, when the pier was reopened after being struck by a ferry owned by Goldman Sachs. (Goldman Sachs famously moved its "back office" operations to a skyscraper on the new skylined Jersey City waterfront.)

by Ken

Perhaps it just marks me as a "glass half empty" kind of person, but there seemed to me -- just from the basic facts of the incident -- to have been two fairly major conceptual flaws in Tereek DaSilva's scheme for retrieving his keys, which I'm sure you saw right away too, and then a third, more practical flaw that became evident with the addition of a bit of background information.
Charges downgraded for Elizabeth man who lied to cops about nephew jumping into Hudson River



By Michaelangelo Conte | The Jersey Journal
on July 28, 2015 at 8:15 AM, updated at 8:42 AM

JERSEY CITY -- Charges were downgraded yesterday for an Elizabeth man accused of causing false public alarm on Sunday by falsely telling police his 10-year-old nephew had jumped into the Hudson River and disappeared.

Tereek Q. DaSilva, 19, appeared in Central Judicial Processing court this afternoon via video link from Hudson County jail in Kearny. At the hearing, his bail was set at $5,000 with a 10 percent cash option and the charge was downgraded to a disorderly persons charge rather than a criminal charge.

Around 2:40 a.m. yesterday, DaSilva called 911 and reported that his 10-year-old nephew had jumped into the river to retrieve car keys DaSilva had accidentally dropped from Grundy Pier. He said the boy went under the pier and did not resurface, reports said.

All available police units converged on the area but after searching for the boy for 15 minutes and finding nothing, officers asked DaSilva if he was certain the 10-year-old was in the water. DaSilva said yes, reports said.

That's when three women who were with DaSilva spoke up. They told police DaSilva dropped his keys into the river and in an attempt to get cops to retrieve them, he made up the story about his nephew diving in, reports said.

Confronted again, DaSilva admitted the story was a rouse [at a guess, it was more likely a "ruse" he admitted to -- Ed.] and was arrested, reports said.

DaSilva has five prior arrests and a criminal conviction for receiving stolen property, court officials said. CJP Judge Margaret Marley also noted that there is a warrant for his arrest out of Elizabeth Municipal Court with a $100 bail.

He is to appear in Jersey City Municipal Court tomorrow in person if he posts bail or by video link if he does not.
The conceptual flaws first.

Conceptual flaw No. 1: Aren't the cops going to be looking for the kid, not the keys?

Say what you will about cops, when they're called in about a 10-year-old kid who has disappeared in the river, it's going to be awhile before they or the additional people they call in think about anything except the missing kid. The scenario Tereek seems to have had in mind was a team of frantic searchers coming up to him and saying, "Sorry, sir, there's no sign of your nephew, but you'll be glad to hear that we found your keys." I'm not seeing it.

Conceptual flaw No. 2: Doesn't there have to come a time when the cops are made aware that there isn't any missing kid?

Again the imagined scenario seems to have been that whatever team of searchers was assembled would be so overwhelmed by the good news that they would say, "Well, that's a relief, sir! Now you have a good day!" I don't think this one stands up to scrutiny either.

THEN THERE'S THAT PRACTICAL PROBLEM

You know, based on having a bit more background info. I'm thinking here of the five prior arrests, the criminal conviction for receiving stolen property, and the outstanding Elizabeth Municipal Court arrest warrant. These might have seemed to me good reason for not initiating contact with the police, especially contact with the above-noted conceptual problems unlikely to dispose said police to a favorable outlook.

It might be taken as a touching show of faith that, with his history of extensive contact with the police, Tereek turned to them for help with his problem of the lost-in-the-river keys, but I'd be surprised if the cops looked at it this way. I guess, though, that under the pressure of having, you know, just dropped your keys in the Hudson River, you don't always think things through completely.

Although I haven't seen an account that mentions it speciically, as far as I can tell, the keys were not recovered.

Also left open is the question of those mysterious "three women who were with DaSilva," who psuddenly pop up out of nowhere to blew the missing-nephew cover story. I can't help thinking that for a complete picture of the incident we need to know a little more about them.
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Supporting The Iran Deal

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For a candidate to get a Blue America endorsement, we try to get to know them down to the core of their being. What we're not looking for is some phony politician willing to tell us what they think we want to hear on any set of issues. We learned our lesson long ago after helping reactionary Blue Dog Chris Carney win a Pennsylvania congressional seat. 

We don't send out questionnaires and we don't depend on any one issue before making an endorsement. Maybe that's why we endorse so few candidates each cycle. When we ask perspective endorsees about women's Choice, punishment for corrupt Wall Street banksters and LGBT equality, it has more to do with learning about their core beliefs and how they make decisions and about their courageousness than how they stand on any particular issue. This year we started asking candidates to explain their thinking on BlackLivesMatter so we can get a better understanding of their thought process on such a complicated-- if not morally ambiguous-- issue. Similarly we're asking candidates to tell us their thoughts on the Iran nuclear deal.

Although we think the deal is definitely worth supporting, we don't consider it a make it or break it issue. There's more than one way of looking at the deal, and again, what we're looking for is a thought process. Interestingly, even Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, says he is leaning towards supporting the deal. "I'm leaning very strongly towards that because of the options that I have," Manchin said on CBS' Face the Nation. "The only other option is go to war, and I'm not ready to send our people into harm's way again until people in that part of the world want to clean up their own mess." Manchin agrees with our position on Iran-- and, despite Huckabee's insane screed, that of most American Jews-- but his overall record isn't one that would ever move us to consider endorsing him. Grayson is against the deal, but overall, we find him to be as close to an ideal candidate as possible.

It's worth mentioning that, according to the latest polling, the American people also favor the deal with Iran.
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that there’s strong support nationally for the Iran deal, that voters want their members of Congress to let it move forward, and that there’s no potential political backlash for members who do support the deal.

Key findings from the survey include:

Only 38% of voters are opposed to the Iran deal, compared to 54% who are supportive of it. Democratic voters (75/17) are far more united in their favor for the agreement than Republicans (36/54) are in their opposition to it. Voters within every gender, race, and age group are in support of it, reflecting the broad based mandate for the deal.

Similarly 54% of voters want their members of Congress to vote to allow the agreement to move forward, compared to just 39% who would like to see it blocked. There is very little public sentiment to let the deal fail and then see how things play out from there- voters want to see their elected officials move this along.

There are basically no potential repercussions politically for members of Congress who do vote in support of the agreement. 60% of Americans say that if their members vote for it, they will be either more likely to vote for them in the future or it won’t make a difference either way in their future voting. Fully 79% of Democrats said they’d be more likely to support their members in the future or it wouldn’t make a difference. Just 36% of overall voters say they’ll be less likely down the line to vote for a member who supports the Iran agreement.

The message is clear: voters think the Iran deal is a good one for the country, they want Congress to move it along, and if anything they’ll reward elected officials in the future who throw their support behind the agreement. It’s a winner politically.

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Republicans Still Eager To Shred The Social Safety Net

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A few weeks ago Blue America endorsed Eric Kingson, co-founder of Social Security Works, for the Syracuse-based congressional seat (NY-24), just a few weeks after GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush started espousing raising the retirement age and a few weeks before he started calling for a phasing out of Medicare and an end to the American social safety net-- i.e., the Paul Ryan plan. Bush's agenda couldn't contrast more starkly with what Kingston has in mind. He told us that he wants "to continue the work of blocking cuts and laying the foundation for expanding Social Security as an instrument of social justice... Like a lot of us, I am fed up with political leaders whose allegiance is first and foremost to themselves and their campaign contributors. I share outrage that most Washington politicians are more interested in advancing the next tax-giveaway to special interests and the very rich than investing in infrastructure, jobs, alternative energy and environmental threats to our children’s, grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s futures."

This morning, Eric added another thought: "Jeb Bush just told those of us getting Medicare today that he will protect our benefits but that he favors slashing and privatizing the benefits for those who follow. How remarkably insulting? Does he really believe that those of us over age 65 do not care about our younger brothers, sisters, children, and grandchildren? Working persons are facing a retirement income crisis. Rather than talking about cutting their Medicare and Social Security benefits, Mr. Bush should be advocating expansions in both." If you'd like to contribute to his congressional campaign, you can do it here through ActBlue.

Yesterday Paul Krugman's NYTimes column, Zombies Against Medicare, explains the Republican unending antipathy towards the social safety net.
Medicare turns 50 this week, and it has been a very good half-century. Before the program went into effect, Ronald Reagan warned that it would destroy American freedom; it didn’t, as far as anyone can tell. What it did do was provide a huge improvement in financial security for seniors and their families, and in many cases it has literally been a lifesaver as well.

But the right has never abandoned its dream of killing the program. So it’s really no surprise that Jeb Bush recently declared that while he wants to let those already on Medicare keep their benefits, “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others.”

...The real reason conservatives want to do away with Medicare has always been political: It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful. But when they make their case to the public they usually shy away from making their real case, and have even, incredibly, sometimes posed as the program’s defenders against liberals and their death panels.

What Medicare’s would-be killers usually argue, instead, is that the program as we know it is unaffordable-- that we must destroy the system in order to save it, that, as Mr. Bush put it, we must “move to a new system that allows [seniors] to have something-- because they’re not going to have anything.” And the new system they usually advocate is, as I said, vouchers that can be applied to the purchase of private insurance.

The underlying premise here is that Medicare as we know it is incapable of controlling costs, that only the only way to keep health care affordable going forward is to rely on the magic of privatization.

Now, this was always a dubious claim. It’s true that for most of Medicare’s history its spending has grown faster than the economy as a whole-- but this is true of health spending in general. In fact, Medicare costs per beneficiary have consistently grown more slowly than private insurance premiums, suggesting that Medicare is, if anything, better than private insurers at cost control. Furthermore, other wealthy countries with government-provided health insurance spend much less than we do, again suggesting that Medicare-type programs can indeed control costs.

Still, conservatives scoffed at the cost-control measures included in the Affordable Care Act, insisting that nothing short of privatization would work.

And then a funny thing happened: the act’s passage was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole.

Right now is, in other words, a very odd time to be going on about the impossibility of preserving Medicare, a program whose finances will be strained by an aging population but no longer look disastrous. One can only guess that Mr. Bush is unaware of all this, that he’s living inside the conservative information bubble, whose impervious shield blocks all positive news about health reform.

Meanwhile, what the rest of us need to know is that Medicare at 50 still looks very good. It needs to keep working on costs, it will need some additional resources, but it looks eminently sustainable. The only real threat it faces is that of attack by right-wing zombies.


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Monday, July 27, 2015

Your 2015 Boy Scouts of America: "Individual troops will be allowed to decide whether to discriminate"

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It isn't always Catholics vs. Mormons. When it comes to homo-hating, their hierarchies are as one, and they'll be the largest religious groups benefitting from the Boy Scouts' new policy leaving them free to insist on scout leaders who "reflect their teachings." (Their teachings, of course, are: (1) Hate them homos! (2) Hate them homos! (3) Hate them homos!)

by Ken

Is that American or what? "Individual troops will be allowed to decide whether to discriminate."

The head on this 7:23pm washingtonpost.com tease was: "Boy Scouts vote to end ban on gay leaders." But I like the blurb better: "Individual troops will be allowed to decide whether to discriminate."

Now I know defenders of the right to homo-hating will chime in that we Americans should always be allowed to decide whether to discriminate. Isn't that what we mean when we say, "It's a free country."

Well, you homo-haters know better than that. You're not that stupid. You know perfectly well that that isn't what we mean when we use the verb "discriminate." We mean discriminating, in matters that have been legally defined as "public," on grounds that we've decided that no, you don't have the right to discriminate. I find it kind of shocking that the Boy Scouts don't qualify as "public" enough to fall under any existing anti-discrimination statutes -- so far as the people who participate are concerned, scouting is sure as hell a public activity.

But even as the Scouts have begun to notice that the world around them has smartened up in some important respects (and as we'll see in a moment, it was hardly a matter of suddenly seeing the light; they're facing the double whammy of growing litigation and shrinking membership, and it may have occurred to the geniuses that there could be a connection), overturning the ban on, first, openly gay scouts and now on openly gay scout leaders, the great minds of the BSA have decided on this halfway step: to allow gay scout leaders, but to respect the right of troops controlled by organized homo-haters to exercise their right to, you know, hate them homos.

In the matter of litigation, for example, the Scouts are hardly standing up for the principle of fairness and equality.
[C]hurch-state legal experts said the decision will likely just shift the controversy and legal battles from the national group to local troops and councils as volunteers barred from participating file suit.

“It’s changing the target [of litigation] because now it will be all about the local, not the national,” said Douglas Laycock, a prominent religious liberty scholar at the University of Virginia. “It changes the dynamic a lot. It makes it more informal, less visible.”
Well, there you go: litigation that has to be undertaken all over the damned place and at the same time becomes "less visible." In this day and age, it's smart to make your public homo-hating less visible.

As former CIA Director and SecDef Bob Gates, now president of the BSA (as well as chancellor of the College of William and Mary), who spearheaded this policy adjustment, put it: "“For far too long, this issue has divided and distracted us. Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members.”
Boy Scouts of America votes to end controversial ban on openly-gay scout leaders

By Michelle Boorstein | July 27 at 7:25 PM


A Boy Scout wears an Eagle Scout neckerchief during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State in the House Chambers.

The Boy Scouts of America, facing litigation, shrinking membership and sweeping acceptance of gay rights, voted Monday to lift its ban on openly gay troop leaders and employees.

The national organization will no longer allow discrimination against its paid workers or at BSA-owned facilities. But local troops and councils will be permitted to decide for themselves whether they will allow openly gay volunteer leaders.

The executive board’s vote was taken at the suggestion of the group’s president, former defense secretary Robert Gates, who noted that the Scouts are facing potential lawsuits by gay adults who were shut out of positions. But church-state legal experts said the decision will likely just shift the controversy and legal battles from the national group to local troops and councils as volunteers barred from participating file suit.

[Monday’s vote comes after another top Boy Scout body unanimously recommended it]

“It’s changing the target [of litigation] because now it will be all about the local, not the national,” said Douglas Laycock, a prominent religious liberty scholar at the University of Virginia. “It changes the dynamic a lot. It makes it more informal, less visible.”

Gay equality advocates praised the measure as a start.

“This was a very important and difficult change for such an organization,” said Josh Schiller, an attorney representing Yasmin Cassini, a lesbian in Colorado who was hired to run a Scout center but then lost the job when she came out. Schiller is working pro bono with other high-profile lawyers to fight the Scout ban. “I definitely think it’s the beginning of building inclusive programs…It’s halfway where we want to be.”

The vote comes two years after the BSA lifted its ban on openly gay youth, a dramatic step for an organization whose leaders went to the Supreme Court to fight accepting openly gay members. Some 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are run by faith-based groups, many from orthodox communities including Mormons, Catholics, Southern Baptists and Muslims who do not accept gay equality.

But the march toward full equality for gay and lesbian Americans has unfolded with unusual speed, with 25 states accepting gay marriage in 2013 and 2014 before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Polls have shown acceptance of gay equality rising sharply among the young. Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts experienced a 7 percent drop in membership since lifting its ban on openly gay youth.

The Scouts’ smaller executive committee, whose members serve on the larger executive board, voted unanimously earlier this month to permit openly gay adults to serve as leaders.

The new rules approved Monday allow troops chartered by a religious organization — including churches, mosques and synagogues — to “continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”

“For far too long, this issue has divided and distracted us,” said president Robert Gates in a statement. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members.”

According to the Boy Scouts’ statement, 79 percent of board members voted in favor of the resolution. Equality activist Zach Wahls, son of lesbian parents, cited someone on the board as saying 45 people were in favor, 12 were opposed.

Laycock said it’s not clear what will happen over the long-term in court. No states, he said, have bans on discriminating against gay people for volunteers. And about half the states do not have employment discrimination bans.

It’s also unclear how these changes will play out in the years to come, as some conservative leaders say like-minded troops are moving away from the Scouts. Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said traditional groups are braced for the possibility that soon, even church-based groups will be required to fully accept gay leaders.

“The next step, which may be a year or two down the road, seems obvious to us,” Oldham wrote. Traditional groups “are being put into a situation where they have to either compromise their conviction or choose to leave. And for those for whom Biblical sexual morality is a conviction they have no alternative,” he said.

The Mormon Church, the largest group in scouting, and the Catholic Church have issued statements since 2013 affirming their desire to stay in Scouting — so long as they can continue to select leaders who reflect their teachings.

[Read more onsite.]
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Why Do Democrats Lose In Backward, Reactionary Parts Of The Country? Maybe They Should Try Something New-- Like Running As Real Democrats

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Friday, Politico warned: "Governor’s races in South and Midwest could be lost if party brand becomes too liberal." The culprit: a leftward shift in the Democratic Party. "Centrist Democrats were wiped out in the 2014 elections and in their absence emerged a resurgent liberal movement, embodied most recently by the surprisingly competitive presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders." 

By "centrist Democrats," Politico always means right-wing Democrats who vote with the Republicans, DINOs or Republican-lite Dems like Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL), Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA) and other feckless congressionals who vote more frequently against the progressive agenda than for it and back Boehner's initiatives far more than anything proposed by Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. "The party lost every competitive gubernatorial and Senate race in the South last year," they report, but never wonder what might have happened if the losers had actually behaved like Democrats instead of like DINOs.

Ultimate Beltway bullshit that gets repeated endlessly: "Democrats in red states are worried that the party’s shift toward an even more polarizing, populist tone could turn off the swing voters they need to mount a comeback in 2015 and 2016, when a handful of GOP-tilted states with Democratic governors are on the ballot."

For example, in Delaware in 2012, President Obama beat Romney 242,547 (59%) to 165,476 (40%), Democrat Jack Markell was elected governor with 69%, Democrat Tom Carper was elected to the Senate with 66%, and Democrat John Carney was elected to the House with 64%. But that doesn't stop these 3 DINOs from warning against populist trends in the Democratic Party.
Though his state is fairly reliable for Democrats, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell told Politico he worries that overemphasizing liberal themes to turn out the Democratic base will backfire.

“There are still more self-described conservatives than there are self-described liberals,” he said. “I think relying on a strategy where all you’re trying to do is turn out your base of liberal Democrats is not a very compelling electoral strategy. I think what we need to do is we need to have a message that is compelling to Democrats, to independents, and even to some Republicans.”

Georgia Democrat Jason Carter, the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter and the narrow loser of his state’s 2014 governor’s race, said the party would do well to preserve its inclusive image.

“Democrats in the South are the only truly ‘big tent’ party left,” he said, adding that he expects that mentality to pay off in the near future. “The only real litmus test we have is that you have to want to be in the fight with all different kinds of people-- and not exclude folks because of one or two issues.”

Though Sanders has largely come to represent the restive left, supplanting liberal beacon Elizabeth Warren, the fear among moderate Democrats is not that he’ll win their party’s nomination-- they’re still confident Hillary Clinton will be the party’s nominee-- only that his supporters will tug the party so far away from the middle that there’s no place for Southern moderates or Midwestern centrists.

The shift comes amid furious turnover for moderate Democrats at the gubernatorial level. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is term-limited and the race to succeed him takes place in three months. Missouri’s Jay Nixon and West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin are also term-limited and will see successors elected in 2016. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is up for reelection next year.

These Democrats, who congregated here for the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, treaded cautiously around the issue, emphasizing repeatedly that energy within any faction of the party is a positive force that will aid Democrats across the ideological spectrum.

Tomblin predicted West Virginia Democrats would continue to run as “moderate to conservative” candidates and won’t suffer from the pull of national politics. Beshear, whose preferred successor Jack Conway has bragged on the campaign trail about suing Obama over EPA regulations, underscored the importance of retaining the Democrats’ big-tent mentality.

“We include viewpoints all across the political spectrum and that includes everything from the most liberal viewpoints to the most conservative viewpoints,” he said. Beshear argued that Democrats’ focus on common goals-- job creation, improved education and access to health care-- would keep the party united. “Those issues bring us all together and I think will serve as sort of the anchor of the party throughout future years.”

...Democrats are mindful of how easily Republicans managed to tag local and statewide candidates as pawns of national leaders deeply unpopular in Republican-leaning states.

“Nancy Pelosi in South Carolina does not play well,” said Sheheen. “We need to have moderate figureheads in the party who can speak to people and relate to people in the south. If the message is a less mainstream message, if it is a more extreme message, then that would be a problem.”

One Democratic operative who works with gubernatorial candidates argued that the Democratic Party must avoid a slide into factionalism that mirrors the rise of the tea party on the right.

“The Democratic Party cannot become what the Republican Party is today – a fractured party with the tea party crazies on one side and the libertarian loonies on the other,” the operative said. “We have to be able to embrace all.”
Why doesn't Nancy Pelosi play well in these red states? Is it because of her ideas or is it because conservative Democrats run ads like these? (Bright was one of the reactionary Southern Blue Dogs who lost his reelection bid.)



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One Way to Ease the Worldwide Water Crisis — End Water Privatization

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Silicon life forms declare war on "ugly giant bags of mostly water" — in other words, us.

by Gaius Publius

Water is literally the stuff of life for living beings. All life began as single-celled organisms floating in water. In their earliest and simplest form, living things are organized bags of water capable of reproduction, whose "inside" water is held together by a permeable or semi-permeable membrane ("sack" or "skin") through which nutrients borne by the "outside" water (the environment) pass in, and through which waste passes out.

The simplest organisms live like that today. Bags of water, floating in water, taking what they need from water, passing what they don't need back to water.

What one organism doesn't need, another does. Water is the soup, each life takes from other lives via the medium. Without water the planet is barren, a Moon, a Pluto.

Later, living things developed mouths — so much for the peaceful passing of nutrients through the outer membrane — and skin and shells. With skin and shells, the inner water could be retained even in non-water environments. With mouths, the nutrients didn't need to be water-borne. To sustain itself, a being could simply ingest the nutrients and water in other "sacks of water" by ingesting the sacks themselves. So armed, life would eventually roam and inhabit the non-watery parts of the world.

But the basis of our life starts with our ability to contain and maintain our inner water environment. We began in water. We must remain in water — retain and maintain our inner water — or we die. In the physical world, water is the god that gave us birth and keeps us living.

So why, in a drought, are we allowing water to be ring-fenced by the few, "appropriately priced," marketed and sold back to us by the only people capable of buying it in quantity? Or does "promote the general welfare" have no meaning?

I want to explore two aspects of the water discussion here. First, the drought itself — it's not ending anytime soon. Second, the way to end one of the great squeezes on our remaining water supply — end the death grip of privatizers.

The Bad News for Western Drought: 'Monster' Hot El Nino on the Way

This report is from western Canada, but it applies to the western U.S. as well, especially California and the Southwest (my emphasis throughout):
In the dead of a Prairie winter, when cars won't start and exposed skin freezes in 30 seconds, people pray for a searing hot summer. But across Western Canada this season, many may be recalling the old adage, "be careful what you wish for" as forest fires, drought and pestilence invite biblical comparisons.

More worrisome, though, than the sight of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia wilting under 30 degree [Celsius; 86°F] temperatures in June and July — and rationing scarce water supplies in some areas — is that this might just be the start of an even bigger problem.

Many meteorologists are chalking up today's weird and wacky weather in the West to the fact that this is an El Nino year, referring to the cyclical Pacific Ocean phenomenon that disrupts global weather patterns.

The problem with that, according to Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips: "It's not even arrived in Canada yet."

"We don't see the effects of El Nino until late fall, winter and early spring," he says.

What that likely means is at least three more consecutive seasons of warmer, drier weather when farmers are already, quite literally, tapped out in the moisture department.

As for what that could mean for drought conditions next summer and beyond, Phillips says it's "not looking good."
So the drought will likely continue through next year at least. Again, not good. "Game over" for ranchers:
Canada's Prairies have just experienced their driest winter and spring in 68 years of record keeping. "So they were behind the eight-ball before the summer season ever came," says Phillips.

That, coupled with a record low snow pack in North America, and few of the traditional June rains needed to grow crops, has had a cumulative effect that's hit some producers harder than others.

Says Phillips: "For ranchers it's pretty much game over."

The tinder dry land has kept pastures for grazing cattle from turning green and producing feed, forcing cattle ranchers to sell down their herds or ship the animals around looking for alternative feed sources.
And farmers:
"Our cereal fields, our oats, our wheat, our barley essentially baked in the field," says Garett Broadbent, agricultural services director for Alberta's Leduc County, just south of Edmonton.

The municipality voted unanimously this week to declare a local state of agricultural disaster as soil moisture and crop conditions continue to decline to the worst levels in half a century.
And here's a NOAA scientist saying that there is a trend, and it will continue "as long as greenhouse gas levels continue to rise year after year":
NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden says, in addition to the dwindling snow pack, "glaciers are melting, sea ice is melting, sea levels reached record highs last year, the ocean heat was record high last year, sea surface temperatures were record highs last year, so you put it all together and there's a definite trend."

It's a trend Blunden expects to continue into 2015 and beyond as long as, she says, greenhouse gas levels continue to rise year after year.
I'm feeling more than a little confirmed for disagreeing with other NOAA scientists quoted in the ProPublica Colorado River report. It's going to take at least a decade or more of better-than-normal rain and snowfall to bring us back to where we were before the drought began.

"We have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis; by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent"

There's also an excellent piece in The Nation that gets to this issue, but also offers solutions. First, the drought analysis. The writer is Maude Barlow:
The California Drought Is Just the Beginning of Our National Water Emergency

For years, Americans dismissed dire water shortages as a problem of the Global South. Now the crisis is coming home.

The United Nations reports that we have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis and that, by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. Five hundred renowned scientists brought together by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that our collective abuse of water has caused the earth to enter a “new geologic age,” a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Already, they reported, a majority of the world’s population lives within a 30-mile radius of water sources that are badly stressed or running out.

For a long time, we in the Global North, especially North America and Europe, have seen the growing water crisis as an issue of the Global South. Certainly, the grim UN statistics on those without access to water and sanitation have referred mostly to poor countries in Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia. Heartbreaking images of children dying of waterborne disease have always seemed to come from the slums of Nairobi, Kolkata, or La Paz. Similarly, the worst stories of water pollution and shortages have originated in the densely populated areas of the South.

But as this issue of The Nation shows us, the global water crisis is just that—global—in every sense of the word. A deadly combination of growing inequality, climate change, rising water prices, and mismanagement of water sources in the North has suddenly put the world on a more even footing.

There is now a Third World in the First World. Growing poverty in rich countries has created an underclass that cannot pay rising water rates. As reported by Circle of Blue, the price of water in 30 major US cities is rising faster than most other household staples—41 percent since 2010, with no end in sight. As a result, increasing numbers cannot pay their water bills, and cutoffs are growing across the country. Inner-city Detroit reminds me more of the slums of Bogotá than the North American cities of my childhood.

Historic poverty and unemployment in Europe have also put millions at risk. Caught between unaffordable rising water rates and the imposition of European-wide austerity measures, thousands of families in Spain, Portugal, and Greece have had their water service cut off. An employee of the water utility Veolia Eau was fired for refusing to cut supplies to 1,000 families in Avignon, France.

As in the Global South, the trend of privatizing water services has placed an added burden on the poor of the North. Food and Water Watch and other organizations have clearly documented that the rates for water and sewer services rise dramatically with privatization. Unlike government water agencies, corporate-run water services must make a profit for their involvement.
Talk about heartless — "An employee of the water utility Veolia Eau ["Veolia Water"] was fired for refusing to cut supplies to 1,000 families in Avignon, France." Veolia is the largest privatized water company in the world according to this list.

World's ten largest privatized-water companies (source; referenced here; click to enlarge)

Veolia had $50 billion in revenue in 2009. No doubt they've grown since then. The writer clearly notices that this is predatory behavior. (In fact, it's behavior that kills for profit, so we're in psychological territory here. If Veolia were human, they'd be diagnosed as psychopathic and put away forever.)

The story of over-stressed water resources is the same everywhere in the world. Barlow discusses China ("more than half the rivers in China have disappeared since 1990"), Africa, Brazil and ends in the U.S.:
The story repeats itself in the North. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Ogallala Aquifer is so overburdened that it “is going to run out…beyond reasonable argument.” The use of bore-well technology to draw precious groundwater for the production of water-intensive corn ethanol is a large part of this story. For decades, California has massively engineered its water systems through pipelines, canals, and aqueducts so that a small number of powerful farmers in places like the Central Valley can produce water-intensive crops for export. Over-extraction is also putting huge pressure on the Great Lakes, whose receding shorelines tell the story.
I'll say now there will be no "Chinese Century" or "American Century" or "Basque Century," for that matter. A century of chaos is coming if we don't get a grip and end carbon emissions fast. (I've been told by renewable-energy industry professionals that the only barrier to fully transforming the U.S. to renewables in ten years is political — we have the money and the physical and technical ability. We just have to want to use them.)

A critical-mass cry to do that — end emissions fast — could be coming, by the way, as the climate screws turn tighter and tighter. What governments do when that cry comes will determine how we fare as a species. Will governments remain wealth-captured, or will they take up the cause of the people they claim to represent?

The Growing Water Justice Movement

In that vein, Barlow writes the following:
There is some good news along with these distressing reports. An organized international movement has come together to fight for water justice, both globally and at the grassroots level. It has fought fiercely against privatization, with extraordinary results: Europe’s Transnational Institute reports that in the last 15 years, 235 municipalities in 37 countries have brought their water services back under public control after having tried various forms of privatization. In the United States alone, activists have reversed 58 water-privatization schemes.

This movement has also successfully fought for UN recognition that water and sanitation are human rights. The General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing these rights on July 28, 2010, and the Human Rights Council adopted a further resolution outlining the obligations of governments two months later.

Working with communities in the Global South, where water tables are being destroyed to provide boutique water for export, North American water-justice activists have set up bottled-water-free campuses across the United States and Canada. They have also joined hands to fight water-destructive industries such as fracking here and open-pit mining in Latin America and Africa.
And the global goal:
Water must be much more equitably shared, and governments must guarantee access by making it a public service provided on a not-for-profit basis. The human right to water must become a reality everywhere. Likewise, water plunder must end: Governments need to stand up to the powerful industries, private interests, and bad practices destroying water all over the world. Water everywhere must be declared a public trust, to be protected and managed for the public good. This includes placing priorities on access to limited supplies, especially groundwater, and banning private industry from owning or controlling it. Water, in short, must be recognized as the common heritage of humanity and of future generations.
Saying it should be so doesn't make it so, Captain Picard to the contrary. But an organized force pushing back against the "plunder" is both needed and welcome.

Pickpockets on board the Titanic; they would be comic if death-for-dollars weren't part of the plan. 

GP



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