Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Only One Thing Can Save House Dems From DCCC Incompetence-- Even Worse Republican Incompetence


Lame and lamer

This morning Alex Isenstadt's column in Politico, Homestretch made the case that the Republicans are blowing their chance to make the mammoth gains in the House many predicted they could. Despite the lamest and least competent DCCC chair in the history of the universe who has no strategy except a failed collection of tactics, the Republicans aren't in position to take advantage of their best moment to move in for the kill. "Tepid fundraising, underperforming candidates and a lousy party brand," he wrote, "are threatening to deprive House Republicans of the sweeping 2014 gains that some top party officials have been predicting this year. No one now expects them to net the 10-12 seats once predicted and they will probably only gain half that. If they can't beat Steve Israel, they can't beat anyone-- and it's unlikely the Democrats will ever have as incompetent a DCCC chair again. Isenstadt says there's a Beltway consensus forming round 4 points and that 3 of them bode poorly for the GOP:
Republicans are convinced they’ll be significantly outspent by Democrats-- in contrast to the 2010 midterm election when the GOP overwhelmed their opponents with an avalanche of cash.

GOP strategists are particularly worried about the performance of a handful of candidates who are well positioned to win but seen as running poor campaigns. Three candidates are mentioned repeatedly: Florida Rep. Steve Southerland, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Virginia Republican Barbara Comstock.

Nearly a year after the government shutdown, Republicans privately say the party’s tattered public image is dragging down candidates in key races.

Despite the GOP’s troubles, Democrats remain anxious that the political environment could deteriorate still further before Election Day. They say two of their vulnerable incumbents, New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Illinois Rep. Bill Enyart, may soon be lost causes and are scrambling to prevent that list from growing.

The GOP’s House prospects have fluctuated throughout the election cycle. For much of last year, it was widely assumed Republicans would pick up roughly the half-dozen seats they now look poised to gain, but President Barack Obama’s troubles this year raised hopes among party leaders they could do significantly better than that. As recently as July, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden was quoted as saying Democrats faced a “wave” and were about to get “blown away.”

…Democrats have gradually narrowed their focus to protecting jeopardized incumbents and are likely to seriously invest in only the dozen or so candidates seen as realistic contenders for Republican-held seats. At the start of the cycle, for instance, national Democrats had been talking up the candidacies of Ann Callis, a former county judge running for an Illinois seat, and Amanda Renteria, a former Capitol Hill aide seeking a California seat. Neither candidate is now seen as likely to win, and neither is receiving as much attention.
But Callis and Renteria aren't the only Red-to-Blue candidates the DCCC has already kicked to the curb. The DCCC and it's House Majority PAC have committed to spending big bucks for only a small handful of challengers. These are the only (non-incumbent) candidates they've reserved TV time for:
Jackie McPherson (AR-01)- $625,000
Michael Eggman (CA-10)- $1.1 million
Pete Aguilar (CA-31)- $625,000
Andrew Romanoff (CO-06)- $1,996,000
Gwen Graham (FL-02)- $785,000
Staci Appel (IA-03)- $1,453,000
Jim Mowrer (IA-05)- $670,000
Ann Callis (IL-13)- $1,753,000 (cancelled? only $21,700 spent)
Jerry Cannon (MI-01)- $940,000
Pam Byrnes (MI-07), and Bobby McKenzie (MI-11)- $1,140,000
Brad Ashford (NE-02)- $215,000
Aimee Belgard (NJ-03)- $1,290,000
Domenic Recchia (NY-11)- $950,000
Aaron Woolf (NY-21)- $820,000
Martha Robertson (NY-23)- $465,000
Kevin Strouse (PA-08) and Manan Trivedi (PA-06)- $3.1 million
John Foust (VA-10)- $3,537,000
Red-to-Blue candidates without DCCC ad buys: Patrick Henry Hayes (AR-02), James Lee Witt (AR-04), Pat Murphy (IA-01), Emily Cain (ME-02), John Lewis (MT-AL), Rocky Lara (NM-02), Erin Bilbray (NV-03), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Nick Casey (WV-02) and, of course, Sean Eldridge (NY-19), who at least got boxes and boxes of bagels and cream cheese from Steve Israel. Disappeared entirely from the Red-to-Blue page are Mike Obermeuller (MN-02), Jennifer Garrison (OH-06), Michael Wager (OH-14), Joe Bock (IN-02), Elisabeth Jensen (KY-06), Clay Aiken (NC-02), Suzanne Patrick (VA-02), Bill Hughes (NJ-02), Glen Gainer (WV-01), and George Sinner (ND-AL).

Grassroots candidates who built their own substantial field operations aren't dependent on the vicissitudes of the DCCC bosses. They can win their campaigns without the massive ad buys that didn't do Alex Sink a bit of good in Steve Israel's disastrous FL-13 special election. And that's exactly what Blue America candidates Kelly Westlund and Paul Clements, running, respectively, for Wisconsin and Michigan seats occupied by Sean Duffy and Fred Upton, have been doing. Neither gets the time of day from Steve Israel… and both are in winnable districts, far more winnable than some of the red toilets he's flushing away millions of dollars. If you'd like to help Paul and Kelly and the other Blue America House candidates build their field operations into wins for November, here's the place.

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How Glenn Greenwald Made President Obama's Meeting WIth China's President Xi Jinping In The California Desert A Drag


Walter Annenberg was connected. He built his familiy's business from publishing a shady race track form to an empire publishing TV Guide, Seventeen, the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nixon appointed him Ambassador to England in return for his financial and editorial assistance to the Republican Party. In 1976 the Queen made him an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), something every Republican plutocrat aspires to. His palatial estate in Rancho Mirage, our near Palm Springs, was often billed as Camp David West and hosted events for Nixon, Ford, Reagan, both Bushs, Margaret Thatcher, as well as for every puffed-out monarch that had thus far escaped being decapitated-- from Queen Elizabeth to the last criminal Shah of Iran. Reagan appointed his second wife, Leonore, Chief of Protocol for the State Department.

Today, his Sunnylands estate, is still used for diplomatic events and in 2013-- June 7 and 8, it was the site of the "shirtsleeves summit" between Obama and Xi Jinping. As Bobby Flay was preparing dinner to delight the two presidents' taste buds, The Guardian was publishing an article by Glenn Greenwald, Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks. This was especially ill-timed for Obama who wanted to meet with President Xi to get on his ass about cyberattacks from China.
President Obama said Friday that he told China's President Xi Jinping that it's critical they come to an understanding on how they'll work together on cybersecurity, one of the most contentious issues facing the two nations.

…China has been widely linked to network break-ins of numerous Western companies and agencies. And Obama issued an executive order this year to compel government and industry to share intelligence about network breaches, mainly to protect the nation's infrastructure.

The Pentagon also blamed China for cyberattacks in its annual report to U.S. lawmakers on Chinese military capabilities. The report, published in May, stated that some of the recent cyberattacks in the United States appeared "to be attributable directly to Chinese government and military."

Xi didn't address those charges but said China was also the victim of cyberattacks. He added that through good faith negotiations the U.S. and China could make the issue "a positive area of cooperation."
Greenwald's article included an unpublished Presidential Policy Directive issued in October 2012, which, according to Michael Gurnow's book, The Edward Snowden Affair, "instructs the secretary of defense, director of national intelligence and head of the CIA to create a list of overseas targets of 'national importance' for possible cyberattacks. The purpose of the tentative attacks is not heightened defense, retaliatory action or even as a pre-emptive measure. It is to 'advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.' Dauntingly the commander in chief also humors domestic targeting but specifies such theoretical operations cannot be carried out unless he has issued his consent or there is a national emergency, whereby various departments are authorized to act autonomously. Likewise the 18-page manuscript states cyberattacks are to conform to U.S. and international law unless they are overridden by presidential approval." Obama must have flipped. I bet he's still mad at Glenn!
The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America's offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.

Obama's move to establish a potentially aggressive cyber warfare doctrine will heighten fears over the increasing militarization of the internet.

The directive's publication comes as the president plans to confront his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a summit in California on Friday over alleged Chinese attacks on western targets.

Even before the publication of the directive, Beijing had hit back against US criticism, with a senior official claiming to have "mountains of data" on American cyber-attacks he claimed were every bit as serious as those China was accused of having carried out against the US.

Presidential Policy Directive 20 defines OCEO as "operations and related programs or activities… conducted by or on behalf of the United States Government, in or through cyberspace, that are intended to enable or produce cyber effects outside United States government networks."

Asked about the stepping up of US offensive capabilities outlined in the directive, a senior administration official said: "Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces."

The official added: "As a citizen, you expect your government to plan for scenarios. We're very interested in having a discussion with our international partners about what the appropriate boundaries are."

…The US is understood to have already participated in at least one major cyber attack, the use of the Stuxnet computer worm targeted on Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges, the legality of which has been the subject of controversy. US reports citing high-level sources within the intelligence services said the US and Israel were responsible for the worm.

In the presidential directive, the criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliatory action but vaguely framed as advancing "US national objectives around the world."

The revelation that the US is preparing a specific target list for offensive cyber-action is likely to reignite previously raised concerns of security researchers and academics, several of whom have warned that large-scale cyber operations could easily escalate into full-scale military conflict.

Sean Lawson, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Utah, argues: "When militarist cyber rhetoric results in use of offensive cyber attack it is likely that those attacks will escalate into physical, kinetic uses of force."

An intelligence source with extensive knowledge of the National Security Agency's systems told the Guardian the US complaints again China were hypocritical, because America had participated in offensive cyber operations and widespread hacking--breaking into foreign computer systems to mine information.

Provided anonymity to speak critically about classified practices, the source said: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world."

The US likes to haul China before the international court of public opinion for "doing what we do every day," the source added.

One of the unclassified points released by the administration in January stated: "It is our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats and that we will prioritize network defense and law enforcement as preferred courses of action."
When Americans win something big-- like some kind of title or a ball game series or something like that, Obama calls them and congratulates them and sometimes invites them to the White House. Greenwald, like Obama, a constitutional lawyer (although not that much like Obama) was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service as well as the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting. No invitation to visit the White House… and not even a hacked phone call!

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A Fleetwood Mac Song Helped Elect Bill Clinton President-- Can A Fleetwood Mac Platinum Award Help Elect Ted Lieu To Congress?


Friday was the last day of the 2014 session of the California legislature-- and the last day as a state legislator for Senator Ted Lieu of Los Angeles County. Lieu, the progressive Democrat running, with Henry Waxman's endorsement, for Waxman's congressional seat, passed one last piece of legislation Thursday night-- a directive he wrote to the state government of California to not cooperate with any unconstitutional attempts at domestic spying by the NSA, CIA or any other government operations legally prohibited from spying on American citizens.

What Blue America finds so great about campaigning for Ted is that you don't have to rely on telling people about campaign promises; all you have to do is tell them about what he has already accomplished. From holding shady mortgage bankers accountable to writing the first bill to outlaw so-called "gay conversion therapy," Ted has always been on the cutting edge of progressive legislation in California. And it's not just about a voting record… it's about a record of courage, persistence and leadership. When Wall Street paid off conservative corporate Democrat Gray Davis to veto Ted's bill to keep mortgage banksters from fraudulent action against California home-buyers, Ted wait until Californians recalled Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger-- who did sign Ted's bill!

This week, the San Jose Mercury News, which first broke the news of children in foster care being over-drugged, thanked Ted Lieu for "riding to the rescue." He also rode to the rescue last month when he led efforts to pass legislation to target child sex traffickers-- legislation that passed unanimously in the state Senate.

Ted should be a shoe-in for the CA-33 congressional seat. But the Republican running against him is a protégé of Las Vegas gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson and Adelson and his network are pouring unheard of sums into the district to try to slip in a conservative Republcian that doesn't share the strong progressive values of the district. You can contribute to Ted's campaign on this special page that will be open for one week. One week because it's a Ted Lieu/Fleetwood Mac page. Fleetwood Mac?

Fleetwood Mac is an iconic band that hails from Ted's district. When I was president of Reprise Records, I went to see the band record The Dance and prayed Warner Bros wouldn't see the potential and let Reprise release the album instead. Eureka-- my prayers were answered! The Dance debuted at #1 and sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. It did even better overseas.

This week Blue America is going to give one lucky, randomly-selected Ted Lieu donor-- regardless of how big or small the contribution is-- a very rare and very collectible quadruple platinum award for that album, the 5th biggest-selling live album in music history. The gorgeous, RIAA-certified custom plaque was never available to a store and was given to me for my (pretty inconsequential) role in making it a success. It hung in my Reprise office until I retired and I donated it to Blue America. In many ways Fleetwood Mac's sound is an integral part of the Southern California lifestyle and perfect for Ted's district, where several of the band members live.

This is two-fer-- helping a proven progressive champion get into Congress and… getting a chance to win the Fleetwood Mac platinum award. Just contribute to Ted's campaign on this ActBlue page this week and you have as much a chance as anyone else who contributes. And, if you're a big Fleetwood Mac fan but can't make contribution, send us a postcard-- asap-- and tell us you're rooting for Ted and want the plaque. (Blue America, PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027.) Meanwhile… this is from the 1997 live show at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank that became The Dance. Enjoy!

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Severe Establishment Disruption Among New York's Grubby Ruling Elite?


The DCCC usually makes mediocre ads-- or worse. They hire over-paid, overly-cautious consultants who only care about one thing: the next job they can get. The video above, however… that's a decent ad. And the DCCC started running it today-- part of a $950,000 investment in anti-Grimm broadcast ads on Staten Island and the parts of south Brooklyn that are part of NY-11 (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, right up to the border of Midwood). I grew exactly 2 blocks from the far corner of Grimm's district-- Avenue P and East 15th Street-- and this area is nothing like the parts of the district on Staten Island and in Bay Ridge where people see the Mafia as folk heroes who will protect them from the coloreds. My sister lives on Staten Island. She told me that among her neighbors, Grimm's multiple indictments have made him more popular!

In 2012, it was the new NY-11 precincts in the northwest part of the district, my old neighborhood, that swung the congressional district in a very blue direction-- from a district that supported McCain 51-48% to a district that supported Obama 52-47%, one of the biggest pro-Obama swings anywhere in the country.

Grimm's campaign, though, is flailing. The GOP Establishment has cut him off as an embarrassment. He can't raise money, can't respond to DCCC attacks and is getting no help at all from the NRCC, which has written off the seat.
Mr. Grimm has been unable to respond with television advertisements of his own, after his indictments ended the flow of cash to his campaign from national Republicans. He has few paid campaign staffers-- though Mr. Molinari, 85, who helped launch Mr. Grimm’s first campaign, has said they meet regularly to discuss the race. In the last monthly filing period that campaign contributions were available to the public, Mr. Recchia raised 11 times more than Mr. Grimm, who had pulled in just $23,430, most of it from just 18 donors.

Still, the congressman is a skilled retail politician who has been shaking hands and taking selfies a slew of local events all summer long, and he remains popular with many in his district. He has dismissed the charges against him as a plot by Democrats and President Barack Obama to rid the city of its lone Republican in Congress, and has offered a refrain in his social media messages to his supporters: “I’ve got your back.” That could resonate in a district that often feels at worst targeted for unfair policies like high tolls, and at best forgotten by government.
So far the DCCC has spent $332,076-- not counting the money to run the ad up top. The NRCC has spent zero. Since it's Labor Day, let me just mention that the Mafia-controlled building trades unions in NY haven't given up on Grimm this year. The NRCC is embarrassed. The building trades bosses aren't. They've given him $199,000 so far-- $10,000 each, for example, from the Plumbers/Pipefitters Union, the Painters & Allied Trades Union, the Operating Engineers Union, the Carpenters & Joiners Union. Normal, non-Mafia affiliated unions have given Democrat Domenic Recchia $59,500.

My favorite possible outcome of the NY-11 race would be for Grimm to win-- from a prison cell. He's likely to go to jail on the charges but Staten Island definitely deserves to go down in history for having reelected a Mafia stooge who was already in prison. Recchia is as worthless as Grimm and there's no reason on earth for anyone to vote for him. But NY-11 isn't the only place where New York's grotesquely corrupt political Establishment is suffering from paroxysms of discontent and dislocation. This morning Fred Dicker reported in the Post that Cuomo is weighing dumping his handpicked right-wing running mate, Kathy Hochul. First watch this video:

The NY Times endorsed Tim Wu, which not even someone as remote from the street as Cuomo can ignore. Dicker isn't some kind of ridiculous Post scandal monger. He's the paper's state political editor and is very well-connected and knows what he's talking about. This is what he's talking about:
Gov. Cuomo’s political operatives are eyeing a "painful scenario" to dump Kathy Hochul, a moderate upstater, as the governor’s running mate for lieutenant governor amid growing signs that leftist law professor Tim Wu is picking up momentum in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.

Such an action could be needed because a Wu victory would result in a Cuomo/Wu ticket on the Democratic line in the November election but potentially disastrous Cuomo/Hochul tickets on the Working Families, Independence, and Women’s Equality lines, where no primaries are slated.

Under the state Election Law, votes for a Cuomo/Hochul ticket in November would not be added to the tally for the Cuomo/Wu ticket, potentially costing Cuomo hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cuomo would have until Sept. 16 under the election law to swap Wu for Hochul, using a technique that would allow the former Buffalo-area congresswoman and lawyer to be nominated instead for a judgeship, according to an expert on legislative election law.

"This is the painful scenario being reviewed by the Cuomo people, who realize that there is an outside possibility that Wu could win the primary," said a source close to the Cuomo campaign.

Wu won the surprise endorsement of the New York Times as well as other left-of-center groups last week as they criticized Hochul’s past opposition to state aid for illegal aliens and her 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association.

…Cuomo campaign operatives, nervous about the Sept. 9 primary, privately concede that he would suffer considerable national political damage if Fordham University Professor Zephyr Teachout, the governor’s hard-charging "progressive" challenger and Wu’s running mate, gets more than about 30 percent of the vote.

"About 30 percent will be a huge embarrassment to Cuomo on the national scene and would reinforce the sense that progressives don’t like or trust him," said a prominent Democratic activist.

Several activists told The Post they believed that Teachout, who has been endorsed by the state’s second-largest public employee union, would hit 30 percent.

UPDATE: No Prison Time For Grimm Before Nov.

My dream of seeing Staten Island reelect a Mafia hoodlum while he's in prison was shattered today when U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen announced that jury selection in the first of Grimm's many trials will begin Dec. 1. This trial is for the 20 indictments on all the baby-charges-- tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy… that kind of stuff. The more intense criminal stuff is still being investigated by the FBI.

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"Get Your Socks Today!" (You mean to save a lousy 35 bucks you'd pass up these Limited-Edition George H.W.Bush Socks?)


No, they 're not Bert Cooper's sock rejects, they're . . . well, see for yourself. The design is sure, er, distinctive. Get yours now at gop.com.

by Ken

Who says the Republican Party isn't a Party of Ideas? I believe the "makers not takers" at GOP Central have crafted their message for 2015 and beyond.

And there's more good news: "For a limited time, a group of donors will match every dollar you contribute to the RNC. Donate and double your impact today."

Yes, the electoral walls will come tumbling down as Republicans at all levels in all 50 states begin chanting this new message, which speaks to the country's economic malaise as well as its underlying confidence in America's future. Yes, it's afternoon in America. Let's say it all together now:

"Donate $35 or More to Get Your Socks Today"

Or, even pithier, "Get Your Socks Today!" I believe the new slogan is drawn from Rep. Paul Ryan's hot-off-the-presses manifesto The Way Forward, but I can't say for sure since I haven't actually read the book. (I've put it on my list of "Possible Things To Do" for the day when hell freezes over.) But I know that part of Pauly R's "way forward" is that from now on Republicans, instead of soliciting votes only from white males, is going to be competing for every single vote in the country, and sure enough the Republican National Committee's Socks Offer states:
We need your help to fully fund the RNC’s 50-state, Party-building plan that is vital to expanding our Republican Majority in the U.S. House, winning back the U.S. Senate and electing more GOP governors in the 2014 mid-term elections.
I know you're thinking that I'm just making this all up, or that I've maybe cribbed it from The Onion. Or maybe that this Web page is a relic from the dawning days of the Internet. But no, just go to the gop.com front page, and see if you don't see the Magic Socks.


Logical as it might seem, I don't think you can get additional pairs of socks by donating multiples of $35 -- say, $105 for a three-pack. But what you could do is have your friends donate, and your employees, and recently deceased people in your town, and people you find listed in the phone book. (You probably still have a phone book lying around.) Just so you know, everyone who contributes has to list their employer and occupation, which the RNC say it's "required by law to report." However, "if you are currently not working you may enter 'Retired' or 'Not Employed'." Hey, it's not as if the FEC is going to check or anything!

I suppose you could spread holiday cheer by donating in the names of all your friends and relations. (Then perhaps you could get them to pass the socks on to you! You don't think they'd actually consider wearing anything so hideous, do you?)

So remember, Get Your Socks Today®! Because if anything says "the way forward," it's blindingly grotesque socks commemorating that GOP icon George H.W. Bush!

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Loving On Empty


Last week Rickie Lee Jones was in Orlando helping Alan Grayson turn out the voters in front of his 75% primary victory on Tuesday. A fews weeks before Peter Case did two concerts for Grayson supporters in the Bay Area. And Grayson isn't the only Democrat turning to musicians to help turn out young voters. Our friends at HeadCount are doing voter registration drives with, among others, Jason Mraz, Spoon, Wilco and the Black Keys.
With young voters more apathetic about voting and government than ever, several organizations are trying to woo the “selfie generation” to the polls this fall.

"About half of those who vote in presidential elections do not vote in midterms," explained Andy Bernstein, executive director of HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that partners with musicians to get youth engaged in politics.

While overall turnout among young voters in presidential elections has grown, turnout for midterms has stagnated, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIVIC).

In 2010, the under-30 vote dropped 27 percent since Obama first sailed to victory two years earlier, according to CIVIC analysis of Census data.

Bernstein's group hopes to engage these so-called drop-off voters by riding the popularity of musicians.

HeadCount will go on tour with the band The Black Keys for 15 shows in more than a dozen cities from Sept. 6 through Nov. 3 registering young voters.

…Musicians and celebrities often jump into the political game, most often for Democrats. For instance, Katy Perry has already promised to write Hillary Clinton's campaign song if she runs for president. Other entertainers were heavily involved in President Obama’s presidential runs, including Beyonce, Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen.

While their focus is usually on presidential races, the groups’s uphill task ahead of 2016 is getting youth involved in the elections happening this year.

Of likely midterm voters ages 18-29, 44 percent of Mitt Romney supporters in 2012 plan to vote this year compared to 35 percent of Obama voters, according to another Harvard Institute of Politics survey.

Still, in an election with Senate control up for grabs, Republicans are unlikely to see much of a bump from young voters-- less than one in four (23 percent) will "definitely" be voting in November, according to the spring poll.

That's the case in other surveys, too. While 72 percent of those 18-31 said they would "definitely" or "probably" vote in the 2016 presidential election, less than half-- 49 percent-- said they were likely to vote in the upcoming midterms, according to a poll from Democratic pollster Paul Harstad in early spring.

During every election, it's important to use cultural leaders to get young voters interested in the issues, said Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote.

Celebrities, artists and musicians help draw young voters interested in other issues, Spillane said, such as voter ID laws, women's health and college affordability… big push for the youth vote will be National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 23. The day, which started in 2012, became a holiday when the National Association of Secretaries of State designated the fourth Tuesday each September through 2019.
A few days before that, Grayson will be rallying progressives in Los Angeles-- along with local political leaders Xavier Becerra, Judy Chu, Karen Bass, Janice Hahn, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Linda Sanchez and Marianne Williamson-- to the sounds of one of the hottest new up and comers, Dan Godlin. Don't know him yet? You will...

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How Happy Is YOUR Labor Day?


Last week, prostrating himself before the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaire campaign financiers, Mitch McConnell swore that if they helped the GOP take over the Senate-- and reelect him in Kentucky-- he would guarantee that there would never be a vote taken on raising the mimimim wage. Happy Labor Day… as the rest of the civilized world enjoys nice long vacation, regular pay raises, healthcare, pensions, maternity leave and benefits most American workers no longer even dream of.

Yesterday, the Lexington Herald-Leader released a poll showing that most Kentuckians disagree with McConnell on the minimum wage. Kentucky voters have been victimized by a systematic anti-union propaganda onslaught through right-wing radio and it has had a tremendous impact-- except on the minimum wage. Thanks to the success of Hate Talk Radio, the state is pretty much anti-union these days but increasing the minimum wage is still something even Kentucky workers see as beneficial.
Fifty-five percent of Kentuckians think the federal government should raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, while 37 percent want to leave it alone. Eight percent were not sure.

Support for raising the minimum wage has dipped slightly since February, when a Bluegrass Poll showed 61 percent favored raising the minimum wage and 32 percent opposed it.

The issue appears to be especially popular among young people and blacks. Sixty-five percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 say the minimum should be higher, and 75 percent of blacks embrace it.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats back it, while only 35 percent of Republicans favor it. Fifty-six percent of independents said the minimum should be higher.

Slightly more women than men-- 57 percent to 53 percent-- endorse it, and 52 percent of Kentuckians with four-year college educations like the wage hike.

Support for raising the minimum wage decreased as income increased.

Sixty-five percent of respondents making less than $40,000 a year support a higher minimum wage, while only 41 percent making more than $80,000 a year favor it.

The increase garnered most support in Eastern Kentucky, where 62 percent back it. That dropped to 51 percent in Western Kentucky and the Louisville area.

Jane Eberwein, a retired businesswoman and teacher in Lexington, said the minimum wage should be increased.

"There are so many low-income people who can't get their head above water. I don't think it would be catastrophic to businesses to raise the minimum wage," she said. "It's been done before in the past and didn't kill business."

…Glenda Dryden, a poll respondent who agreed to a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader, said Kentucky needed a right-to-work law.

"Unions were good things when workers were treated terribly, like having to work 15-hour days, but unions now, from what I read, are about raising a lot of money," said Dryden, a clerk in the Madison County sheriff's office. "People should be able to work without having to join unions."
Uninformed views like Glenda's warm the hearts of the plutocrats who met with McConnell. The party that wants to do away with the minimum wage entirely-- and that includes both Kentucky senators-- considers "Right to work" laws good labor policy-- a work force free of labor unions. Over the weekend, Tim Fernholz's look at the state of labor in America, has been driving conservatives crazy. Start with the chart up top. "[T]he share of US national income going to salaries and wages," he writes, "has been falling pretty steadily in the past four decades, and despite some recent gains, hasn’t yet returned to pre-recession heights."
Every time America produced $10 of income this year, $4.26 went into a worker’s pocket-- and the rest went to investors (minus taxes, of course.) Bummer.

This state of affairs is likely why, despite a growing economy and a falling unemployment rate, there’s still not much of a sense that a US recovery has truly taken hold-- unless you’re a corporation. Corporate profits as a share of national income are at their highest level since the US government began measuring them in 1947, which is even more amazing when you consider the growth of executive salaries and the rising number of self-employed professionals whose business income isn’t counted in this measure:

Trends like these are driving the debate about inequality in the United States today, and make Thomas Piketty’s theories about the growing advantage of capital over labor so compelling to many, even as economists debate the precise sources and durability of this disparity.

If these charts are giving you more heartburn than your Labor Day feast, consider raising a glass to US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen: Her revolutionary strategy at the Fed is predicated on generating higher wages for workers, a move that, at least in theory, puts some of the Fed’s awesome monetary power on the worker’s side of the scale.
Although the building trades unions tend to back Republicans and conservative Democrats, the GOP jihad against working families is not aimed only at progressive unions. All working families suffer under Republican policies-- which doesn't stop sold-out, right-wing labor bosses.
According to a February report from the Congressional Budget Office, the Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce total employment by 500,000 workers over the next three years. At the same time, it would lift more than 900,000 families out of poverty and increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers. What’s more, it’s reasonable to think we would gain jobs as a result of new economic activity generated by higher wages and new consumer spending.

But none of this mattered to Republicans who read the report. For them, it was vindication. “Raising the minimum wage could destroy as many as one million jobs, a devastating blow to the very people that need help most in this economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, all but speaking for most of the Republican Party, and echoing decades of rhetoric against increasing the minimum wage.

All of this doomsaying raises a question: If raising the minimum wage destroys jobs and prevents employment, then lowering it would do the opposite. And if you gain from lowering the minimum wage, then why have one at all?

…Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, for example, has no tolerance for the minimum wage. “When you set the minimum wage, it may cause unemployment,” he told ABC News during his 2010 Senate campaign. “The least skilled people in our society have more trouble getting work the higher you make the minimum wage.”

UPDATE: Rick Weiland

Let me tie the early morning post in with this one by quoting the Democratic candidate for the South Dakota Senate seat, Rick Weiland:
The next time you hear another Big Money attack on organized labor, consider the source. These are the same people who legally change their business address to a foreign country to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. These are the same people who oppose allowing young Americans to refinance their old, high interest student loans. These are the same people who park their profits in overseas banks instead of investing in America.

The only way we can win in November is to hold them accountable.

For my part, I will continue to work as hard as I know how to take our country back from Big Money.

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Is A Prairie Populist Building A Big November Surprise While The DSCC Wastes Its Time In Dixie?


If the Democrats lose the Senate majority in November it will be because Harry Reid and DSCC chair Michael Bennet decided to concede South Dakota without a fight. So far Establishment Republican Mike Rounds has spent $2,941,991 on the race to win the seat being abandoned by Democrat Tim Johnson, while populist Democrat Rick Weiland has only raised $1,094,098 in total and spent $650,325. The DSCC has put all its eggs in the baskets of much more conservative Democrats than Weiland-- and much more Republican-Leaning states than South Dakota, like Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. Despite massive DSCC efforts, Grimes is falling further behind McConnell and Nunn isn't closing the deal in Georgia. Weiland, on the other hand-- and without a scintilla of assistance from the DSCC-- is slowly, slowly, slowly gaining ground on Rounds.

A few weeks ago, PPP found the gap between Weiland and Rounds had closed to 39-31%. In just two weeks, the gap narrowed further as Weiland continued one of the two most grassroots Senate campaigns in America (the other being Shenna Bellows' in Maine). Over the weekend, PPP reported that the gap is now just 6 points-- 39-33%:
Public Policy Polling’s newest South Dakota survey finds that Rick Weiland is continuing to cut into Mike Rounds’ once double digit lead in the race to replace Tim Johnson.

Key findings from the survey include:

Rounds’ lead now stands at just 6 points- he’s at 39% to 33% for Weiland, 17% for Larry Pressler, and 4% for Gordon Howie. Rounds’ lead has dropped from 10 points in April to 8 points in early August to now just 6 points in late August as Weiland has become better known and more popular.

Weiland is considerably more well liked by voters than Rounds. 48% see him favorably to only 27% with an unfavorable opinion. That +21 net favorability rating for Weiland is up from +15 earlier in the month, and it’s 24 points better than Rounds’- only 44% of voters see him positively to 47% who have a negative opinion.

There are several reasons to think the race could close further. Among voters who are familiar with Weiland, whether they have a positive or negative opinion of him, he leads Rounds 42/36. Rounds is ahead in large part thanks to greater name recognition, but as Weiland has become better known, Rounds’ lead has gotten smaller and smaller.

Additionally Pressler supporters say that if they had to pick, they’d choose Weiland over Rounds 48/29. Third party candidates tend to see their support fade as an election gets closer. If Pressler sees a decline in his support over the next two months, Weiland is likely to be the beneficiary-- he trails Rounds only 45/42 when you take Pressler out of the mix.

Rick Weiland has the momentum in this race. The more voters get to know him, the more they like him, and it’s making what was once a wide lead for Mike Rounds less and less comfortable.
Weiland is on the road every day visiting every location in the state where more than a dozen people gather-- while Rounds spends all his time with wealthy campaign donors. Rounds, always the high-handed elitist, has refused bates offered by KSFY, KSOO, Dakota Wesleyan University, the Rapid City Journal and the Native Sun News. Weiland: "Mike Rounds is going to take a 54 day vacation from these debates which is unfortunate and frankly, disrespectful of the voters. This shouldn’t be a coronation. No one is entitled to be a United States Senator.  You need to earn it and I challenge Mike to reconsider his decision not debate over the course of the next 54 days."

And Weiland didn't stop there, he went on to compare and contrast what he and Rounds are offering South Dakota voters, noting that South Dakota is "not a state of the rich and powerful. We are everyday folks, playing by the rules, who expect a level playing field and a fair shake. Nothing more, nothing less."
I’m for raising the minimum wage. 62,000 South Dakotans will have a chance at better life. Mike is opposed to it.

I’m for a tax code that makes billionaires and corporations pay their fair share. Mike is not.

I’m for protecting and expanding Medicare. Let’s open up Medicare for everyone and bring some honest competition to the market place. Mike is on the side of the big health insurance companies.

I’m for keeping Big Money from buying our politicians and running our government. The first bill I will introduce as your next United States Senator will be a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and McCutcheon. Corporations aren’t people and money isn't free speech. Mike opposes campaign finance reform.
It's a shame we can't depend on the Democratic Beltway Establishment to help elect Rick. It means real people with real values that go beyond careerism have to work a little harder. Can you help?

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Douglas Carswell Leaves The Conservative Party For The Much More Right-Wing UKIP


Unless you're a Brit, you've probably never heard of Douglas Carswell, until last week, the Conservative Member of Parliament from Clacton a generally well-off, retirement seaside area in Essex, just northwest of London. Carswell, who often passes himself off as a libertarian, was on the extreme fringe of the Conservative Party, switched to the neo-Nazi UKIP last Thursday (August 28) and resigned from Parliament, triggering a by-election in which he will face off against a Labour candidate, Tim Young and an as yet unnamed Conservative candidate. If Carswell wins, he'll be the first UKIP Member of Parliament ever.

First elected in 2005, he's been viewed as a rebel within the Conservative ranks and a pain in David Cameron's ass. He's a clownish Climate Change denier with a facade that makes him appear like a Conservative reformer, but has been caught cheating on his expenses in a very big, very Conservative Party way. In the 2010 election he was one of the few Conservatives that the neo-Nazis actively backed, primarily because he was campaigning on getting the U.K. out of the EU and because he is viewed as generally sympathetic to their racist dogma. The UKIP has unceremoniously dumped its own candidate for the seat, Roger Lord, to make way for Carswell, their best chance to insert a fascist into Parliament. "The problem," said Carswell, "is that many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not on our side. They aren't serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs. Of course they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say to get our support... but on so many issues-- on modernising our politics, on the recall of MPs, on controlling our borders on less government, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum-- they never actually make it happen."
He said only UKIP could "shake up that cosy little clique called Westminster."

On Mr Cameron's pledge of an in/out EU referendum in 2017, after renegotiating powers back from Brussels, he said the prime minister's advisers had "made it clear that they're looking to cut a deal that gives them just enough to persuade enough voters to vote to stay in."

He added: "Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative Party became untenable."

Mr Cameron-- who was not warned by Mr Carswell about his plan to defect-- said: "It's obviously deeply regrettable when things happen like this, when people behave in this way.

"But it's also, in my view, counterproductive. If you want a referendum on Britain's future in the EU-- whether we should stay or go-- the only way to get that is to have a Conservative government after the next election.

"And that is what until very recently Douglas Carswell himself was saying."

Speaking exclusively to BBC political editor Nick Robinson in Glasgow, the prime minister said the by-election in Clacton would be held "as soon as possible" and he "wants to make sure there's a very strong Conservative campaign in that seat."

"I want to go early to Clacton for this reason: people in Clacton voted not just for Douglas Carswell, they voted for a Conservative government, for a Conservative member of Parliament," he added.

Douglas Carswell's announcement took Westminster by complete surprise. UKIP had told everyone they were about to unveil a major new celebrity donor.

No-one expected a Conservative defector to be unveiled instead. The identity of the defector is, perhaps, less of a surprise-- Mr Carswell has a long history of rebelling against his party and is known to be deeply disillusioned with what he sees as David Cameron's failure to clean up Westminster politics and deliver democratic reforms.

But it is Mr Carswell's decision to call a by-election in Clacton - rather than continuing to sit in the Commons under a different party banner - that will cause the biggest headache for Mr Cameron.

The prospect of defeat is real. And if it happens, expect more Conservative MPs to call for a pact-- at least informally, seat by seat-- with UKIP at next year's general election.

It will encourage Eurosceptic MPs to harden their rhetoric on a referendum and renegotiation. And for swing voters worried about the cost of living, they will hear the Conservatives-- to use the prime minister's words-- "banging on about Europe."

Technically the seat could be left vacant until the general election. But Mr Cameron cannot look like he is "running scared" on Europe.

In South Thanet the Conservatives selected a senior UKIP defector. They will have to trawl their membership lists to find another Eurosceptic to take on Mr Carswell.

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard-- a fellow Eurosceptic-- said Mr Carswell had been "flirting with UKIP for some time" and his defection would inflict "short-term" damage to the Conservative Party, as he may win the by-election.

But he said voters would realise a "vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who this week was selected to fight South Thanet at the 2015 general election, shared the platform with Mr Carswell at his press conference.

He said the MP's decision was the "bravest and most honourable" he had seen in British politics.

The UKIP leader, who has been attempting for some time to convince MPs to join his party, told BBC News "there are others in Westminster having similar thoughts" to Mr Carswell.

A poll released this morning shows that Carswell will retain his seat… in an historic landslide, rebuking and humiliating the Conservatives. The poll shows old, white, middle class Brits happily embracing the nationalism, racism and neo-fascism that UKIP represents, at the expense of all the other parties, but especially Camron's Conservatives. Carswell will beat whatever the Tories throw at him and if the election were held today, he'd walk off with a staggering 64% of the vote to 20% for the Conservatives. This is going to put gigantic pressure on Cameron to form a coalition with the neo-fascists and ditch the Lib-Dems.

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Update: "Is this why we hate the gummint?" -- the sequel


Again, pay no attention to the "NO BICYCLE RIDING IN SUBWAY TUNNEL" sign. After all, no bicycle riders did in the time the sign was up. It's gone now.

by Ken

I just wanted to provide a quick update on the situation ("Closed for repairs that aren't being made: Is this why we hate the gummint?," December 10) at the entrance to the three-block-long pedestrian tunnel that links my stretch of upper Broadway (roughly at what would be 190th Street) to the IRT 191st Street station of the no. 1 train to the east, which lies far below St. Nicholas Avenue -- it's the deepest station in the subway system -- running north-south atop Fort George hill.

It's a tunnel of considerable historical -- and present-day -- importance, providing acess fromt the north-south valley in which Broadway runs, between the Fort George hill and the Fort Washington hill to the west -- to mass rapid transit. (Later, when the IND train that's now the A was dug beneath the Fort Washington hill, shorter pedestrian tunnels were built to join the valley to its 181st and 190th Street stations.)

At the entrance from Broadway, as I tried to explain, there is an immediate descent of about a story to the grade of the tunnel, which is managed two ways. The width of the opening is split in half, the left half as you face the tunnel being a stairway, the right half a fairly steep concrete ramp.

Last month, flimsy wooden barriers suddenly appeared at the top and bottom of the stairway, with cryptic signs stating that it would be closed for necessary repairs from 7/12/14 to 8/12/14. Well, what are you going to do? Necessary repairs are, you know, necessary. (A commenter on my original post contributed the helpful information that "actually, one of the steps is broken.") And, after all, we still had access to -- and egress from -- this vital tunnel via the ramp. Or at least access/egress of a sort; the incline is pretty steep. For some of us, it's manageable but not easily so. I imagine that for others it's just plain not manageable.

The thing was, though, that as days and weeks passed, and 8/12 began to become closer than 7/12, there was no evidence of any attention of any kind to these famously necessary repairs. ABout the only development was a gradual accumulation of trash on the orphaned steps. As the supposed reopening date of 8/12 approached, there was still no indication of any of this necessary repair work being begun. No doubt there were other necessary repair projects around town deemed more necessary -- not to mention conceivable others on the to-do list that weren't getting much more attention than ours.

What's more, it wasn't at all clear where one might complain, or inquire. The pair of signs at the head and foot of the steps didn't indicate who had closed off the steps, or who could provide information. I should explain that jurisdiction in the tunnel is always problematic. Since it's officially mapped as a street, New York City Transit, which operates the subways (itself a division of the MTA, the Metropolitan Transportation Association), always points out that it's under the control of the NYC Dept. of Transportation. For such cleaning of the tunnel as is done, DoT hands off to the Dept. of Sanitation. On the signs, no agency claimed, er, credit for the planning and accomplishment of the necessary repairs. Meanwhile, one recalled tales told of street-connecting stairways around town -- there are some pretty big hills in parts of NYC -- remaining closed and unrepaired for eons.

I first wrote about this situation, with 8/12 on the horizon and still no evidence of the start of work. This led me to wonder whether this sort of thing isn't why we hate government? Then 8/12 came and went. Still nothing.

Until one day -- maybe ten days ago, as I recall -- the lower "barricade" (really just a wood frame held up by police-activity-type yellow tape) was down. Literally down, lying flat on the floor of the tunnel at the foot of the steps. A day or two later the upper barricade was down too! At which point intrepid pedestrians began stomping over the downed barricades to resume use of the now-heavily-trash-littered steps.

A couple of days later, both barricades could be found leaning against the wall of the tunnel, leaving free access to the steps! And then, one day earlier this week, they were gone, vanished! And the steps themselves had been swept, perhaps the most miraculous occurrence in the whole business. Cleaning of the tunnel is always a rarely practiced and highly contentious affair, with NYCT, DoT, and Sanitation pointing "Who, us?" fingers. I'm embarrassed to say that many of my fellow tunnel-walkers are wicked bad litterers. (I just noticed that Wikipedia says "the passageway . . . is maintained by the Parks Department rather than the MTA." Okay.)

And this is where the matter stands. The steps are once again freely accessible, still in need of those necessary repairs. (I really must remember to look for that broken step.) Where the barricades came from and where they went remain a mystery.

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Ghost of Sunday Classics: "Kaleidoscope" -- a fondly remembered LP happily holds up under decades-later scrutiny



Point A, the opening of the piece (as heard last night):

Later we'll hear how we get from there to Point B:

However, Point B leads directly into Point C:

London Symphony Orchestra, Charles Mackerras, cond. Philips-Mercury, recorded July 1961

by Ken

Last week I reported my discovery of a hidden treasure trove (free!) of overtures, F. Reeder's Internet Archive compendium of "Overtures - Recorded 1926-1847)" -- 33 mp3 transfers of 29 overtures conducted by 18 conductors, most of them legendary (e.g., Barbirolli, Beecham, Furtwängler, Mengelberg, Mitropoulos, Reiner, Rodzinski, Toscanini, Walter, Weingartner). That helped nudge me into an overtury mood. I recalled that a happy heap of my listening over the years has been to recorded collections of overtures and related short orchestral pieces.

As I mentioned, this mood inspired me to finally order CD issues of material that had once been part of my "go to" listening material. As a result, we're not going to do much with the Reeder treasure trove this week, but we'll come back to it. Also, I should mention that in a February 2011 post I already flashed back to one of those treasured overture discs, the Capitol Paperback Classics reissue of Erich Leinsdorf's wonderful c1958 catchily titled Opera Overtures LP with the Philharmonia, augmented on CD with some fine overture performances by Felix Slatkin and Miklós Rózsa.

Another of those LPs sprang back to life with the arrival of those ordered CDs: a Mercury Living Presence CD reincarnation of sorts of Charles Mackerras's Philips LP Kaleidoscope. What we heard in last night's preview was the music that more than anything made me fall in love with the original Kaleidoscope. The CD isn't the original Kaleidoscope, exactly. On it material from two LPs is smooshed together (from the Kaleidoscope LP everything is here except two additional Brahms Hungarian Dances, a minimal loss), all recorded at the same time by the legendary Mercury "Living Presence" team of Wilma Cozart Fine, recording director; Harold Lawrence, musical supervisor; and C. Robert Fine, chief engineer and technical supervisor. The domestic Philips LP was in effect a "Living Presence" LP, which explains why it sounded so good. Unfortunately as with the general run of domestic Philips pressings, it could be, well, problematic -- my copy came badly warped.

But that didn't stop me from listening to it a few zillion times, especially the piece we began hearing last night. What we heard was the hushed, haunting opening -- "Point A" in the A-to-B-to-C sequence above. Now here's the whole thing, starting with the Mackerras recording. Then we have that wise old German hand Robert Heger (from a complete Merry Wives recording) and vintage Herbert von Karajan, plus a dip into the F. Reeder overture grab bag, turning up a conductor now hardly known, Nikolai Sokoloff (1886-1965), who does a pretty nice job while squeezing the thing onto one 78 side.

NICOLAI: The Merry Wives of Windsor: Overture

London Symphony Orchestra, Charles Mackerras, cond. Philips-Mercury, recorded July 1961

Bavarian State Orchestra, Robert Heger, cond. EMI, recorded 1964

Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. EMI, recorded c1959

[trimmed (and rushed) to fit on one 78 side] Cleveland Orchestra, Nikolai Sokoloff, cond. Brunswick, recorded May 1927 (digital transfer by F. Reeder)


Read more »

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We Still Have Police Brutality? In America?


Over the weekend, Jonathan Martin, writing for the NY Times postulated that because control of the Senate will be largely determined by the ability of Democrats to hold or win 4 southern states that were won by Romney with substantial margins-- Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia-- there is a major effort to mobilize African-American votersbased, in part, on the police brutality and racism in Ferguson, Missouri.
In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.

“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”

The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point-- an important predictor of turnout.

…And the terrain is tricky: Many of the states where the black vote could be most crucial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply unpopular among many white voters. So Democratic senators in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina must distance themselves from the nation’s first African-American president while trying to motivate the black voters who are his most loyal constituents.
Last week was the 20th anniversary of passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act by the House (HR 3355). It passed 235-194, 46 mainstream Republicans joining 188 Democrats to pass it. 64 mostly conservative Democrats crossed the aisle in the other direction to vote with 131 reactionary, racist Republicans. And last week, Bruce Dixon's Black Agenda Report delved into the unpleasant realty of how the Department of Justice Department instill ignores the law requiring it to gather national police brutality statistics.
20 years down the road no such stats exist, because the Justice Departments of the Clinton, the Bush and the Obama administrations have all simply ignored the law and refuse even to try to gather the information. Let me say this again: the Clinton Justice Department defied the law and refused to gather national stats on police misconduct. The Bush Justice Department thumbed its nose at the law and also refused to gather national stats on police misconduct, and now the first black attorney general, who sometimes even utters the phrase “mass incarceration,” which he recently discovered, selected by the first black president who says if he had a son, his son could be Trayvon Martin-- Eric Holder and Barack Obama have likewise shown no interest whatsoever in fulfilling their legal duty when it comes to assembling a national database of police misconduct.

This should not surprise the president's apologists, who will surely counsel us that he has to be president of all the people, including the police. Everybody knows black and brown people are the disproportionate targets of police violence, so enforcing laws which particularly benefit black and brown communities are something we must not expect. Perhaps after the president leaves office, they'll tell us, he'll speak out more forcefully on this. Maybe the “My Brothers Keeper” initiative can get some charitable dollars to organizations like , or PUSH or the Urban League to help more of our young boys to pull their pants up so they won't get beat down.

Let's get real. The Republicans haven't stopped Obama and Holder from doing this, they stopped themselves. Like every cop on the beat, the Obama administration chooses which laws to enforce, which ones to bend and in what direction, and which ones to ignore. Obama's DOJ has resurrected the century old Espionage Act, not to prosecute spies, but to threaten and to imprison whistleblowers who tell the truth to reporters, and to journalists themselves if they do not reveal their sources with decades in prison, like Chelsea Manning, and on so-called “secret evidence.” So when you think about it, it's entirely logical that a president and attorney general who place such a high priority on protecting their torturers, their bankster friends, and the official wrongdoers of past and future administrations should want to protect the police from scrutiny as well.

It's time to shed some illusions, not just about this president but about the whole political class that claims he or any president can be “held accountable.” Barack Obama and his Justice Department are no more interested in justice than the administrations of ten presidents before him, and uncritical black and brown support has made this president less accountable to black and brown people than any in living memory.
This morning Alan Grayson sent his supporters an e-mail, "Acknowledging the Reality of Police Brutality." He began by reminding his readers that "a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri killed an unarmed African-American teenager. The police officer shot him somewhere between six and eleven times. According to some eyewitnesses, the victim, Michael Brown, was shot in the back. Then Brown turned around, with his hands up, and shouted 'I don’t have a gun-- stop shooting!' At which point the officer shot him shot several more times, and killed him." Grayson sees it as part of a pattern of behavior he's observed his whole life. You'd have to be either completely clueless or delusional not to have.
Since I grew up in the Bronx, I have some general familiarity with that scenario. In 1978, a Bronx police officer was convicted of beating a Puerto Rican to death-- while he was in custody.

In 1994, a young man in the Bronx was arrested for accidentally hitting a police car with his football. His brother expressed dismay to the officer about that arrest, crossing his arms across his chest. The officer then arrested the brother, for “disorderly conduct,” and literally choked the life out of him; the coroner listed the cause of death as “compression of his neck and chest.”

In 1996, a Bronx police officer frisked an African-American male, Nathaniel Gaines, on the “D” Train, and found that he was unarmed. One stop later, at 167th Street, overlooking the Grand Concourse on the southbound platform, one stop before Yankee Stadium, the officer ordered Gaines to disembark. The officer then shot at Gaines five times, including four times in the back, and killed him. Gaines was a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, he had no criminal record, and he had never been arrested.

In 1999, four Bronx police officers approached an unarmed Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo and ordered him to “show his hands.” Misunderstanding them, presumably because his native language was Fulfulde and not English, Diallo reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. The officers shot him 41 times, and killed him.

And in the meantime, in 1997, New York City police arrested Abner Louima, a Haitian-American, and then sodomized him with a broomstick. But that was in Brooklyn. My parents used to warn me about Brooklyn.

I could go on. Sadly, I could go on and on and on. But what is the point? Police brutality is a reality. And you can’t miss it, unless you literally close your eyes to it-- which all-too-many people seem willing to do.

Let’s start with Fox News. When I listen to Fox News, I feel torn. I just can’t decide: Are they idiots, or are they fools? Are they nitwits, or are they imbeciles? Are they morons, or are they jerks? Are they blockheads, or are they boneheads? They report, and we decide.

Remember how you used to hear the phrase “clever like a fox”? Since Fox News, you don’t hear that anymore.

The primary Fox “talking point” regarding the killing of Michael Brown is that Brown may or may not have been in a convenience store earlier in the day, and that he may or may not have stolen some cigars from that store. Fox has been playing the convenience store video footage in an infinite loop. But there is little or no evidence that the officer knew of the store incident, or that he connected it to Brown.

And if he did, then so what? Even under sharia law, if you steal a few cigars, the worst that can happen is that you get your hand cut off. Not eleven shots from a high-caliber weapon.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that our Constitution permits the death penalty only in cases of first-degree murder, and treason. Not cigar theft. If 11 bullet holes for stealing some cigars is not “cruel and unusual punishment,” then I don’t know what is. It’s definitely cruel, and I certainly hope that it remains unusual.

The other major Fox talking point is “why aren’t we talking about all of the black-on-black violence, and the black-on-white violence?” OK, let’s talk about that. I can give you dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of white police officers killing unarmed black men. I just gave you several from my younger days in the Bronx, alone. The Bronx represents well under one percent of the population of the United States, and my “younger days” were, sadly, quite a while ago.

Now, Fox News, give me an equal number of examples of black police officers killing unarmed black men. Also, give me a list of black police officers killing unarmed white men.

I’m waiting . . .

Anyone who thought that electing our first American-American President would end racism in America must be sorely disappointed this week.

If you ask a sociologist for a definition of “the government,” he or she will not mention Social Security, or the fire department, or the public school system, or our national parks. The sociological definition of the “government” is the entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of force. In every nation on Planet Earth, only the military and the police have the legal right to exercise force, up to and including deadly force. And that makes it tragic when that force is used indiscriminately or-- even worse-- discriminately.

In 1969, the American psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book about how people facing death deal with death. She said that there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When it comes to the reality of brutality by our peace officers, too many of us are still in that first stage: denial.
Anyone think Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee is going to deal with this and make it better? How about Hillary Clinton? By the way, do you remember which people in your high school class became policemen? Fox News fans?


There will be a post today, which will include all of the piece whose opening we heard in last night's preview ("Attention, please!"). But I got bogged down doing some LP dubbing (yes, for a ghost post!). Check back at 2pm PT/5pm ET.

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