Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Will Harry Reid's Sell Out Of The Middle Class Help Solidify An Open Rebellion Caucus?

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Trouble for America

John Nichols post-election piece for The Nation, Democrats: The Party of Pablum, is pretty harsh... but completely on track, a track the geriatric, sclerotic Democratic congressional leadership is now utterly incapable of dealing with.
When Bernie Sanders gets to griping about the Democratic Party, which happens frequently, he asks, “What does it stand for?” The independent senator argues that, after years of sellouts and compromises on issues ranging from trade policy to banking regulation, and especially after letting campaign donors and consultants define its messaging, the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman has become an ill-defined and distant political machine that most Americans do not relate to or get excited about. His point has always been well-taken, but it was confirmed on November 4. How else can we explain voters who chose Mitch McConnell senators and Elizabeth Warren policies?

...While voter suppression and low turnout are huge concerns that must be addressed, voters who came to the polls on November 4 were sufficiently progressive and populist to support minimum-wage hikes, paid sick leave, crackdowns on corporate abuses of the environment, expansion of healthcare and radical reform of a money-drenched campaign-finance system. They just didn’t elect Democrats. Of course, personalities, dark-money interventions and plenty of other factors were at play. But the consistent pattern of progressive policy votes in combination with Republican wins provide the starkest evidence of the extent to which the Democratic Party was an incoherent force in 2014.

Sanders and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus tried to get Democrats on message throughout the year. Warren wowed the crowd at Netroots Nation in July, where she outlined a platform centered on economic populism but also including progressive social, environmental and political reforms. But the memo never got to most candidates, consultants, party chairs and leaders. And the results were devastating-- not just at the federal level but in the states, where Republicans grabbed governorships and eleven new legislative chambers. Midterms are usually rough for the party of the sitting president, but the 2014 defeats ran deeper, and in many cases will be harder to reverse.

At the root of the problem is a delinking of politics from policy. Increasingly, Democratic candidates in major contests run as “brands” carefully constrained to make a lowest-common-denominator appeal that is satisfying to campaign donors and insiders in Washington but that makes little sense to voters. While GOP candidates rage cynically against “elites” and “crony capitalism,” Democrats peddle pablum. As such, they don’t excite even their own base. What excited activists were those initiative and referendum campaigns; indeed, some of the biggest rallies I witnessed during the 2014 campaign were organized by backers of minimum-wage hikes and “Move to Amend” campaigners for an end to corporate influence on politics and policy. They were right to be excited: they were on their way to big and meaningful victories because they were fighting for big and meaningful-- as well as popular-- proposals. That’s a lesson Democrats should ponder, because as Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee reminds us: “When elections are about nothing, Democrats lose.”
Yesterday Igor Volsky reported at ThinkProgress that Harry Reid "compromised" with the Republicans that will allow them to eliminate tax breaks for the middle class, provide massive corporate tax breaks, end breaks for green energy companies while continuing to subsidize Big Oil and Gas. Sounds more like caving in than compromising, no?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reached a compromise with House Republicans on a package of tax breaks that would permanently extend relief for big multinational corporations without providing breaks for middle or lower-income families, individuals with knowledge of the deal tell ThinkProgress.

Under the terms of the $444 billion agreement, lawmakers would phase out all tax breaks for clean energy and wind energy but would maintain fossil fuel subsidies. Expanded eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would also end in 2017, even though the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that allowing the provisions to expire would push “16 million people in low-income working families, including 8 million children into-- or deeper into-- poverty.” The proposal would help students pay for college by making permanent the American Permanent Opportunity Tax Credit, a Democratic priority.

...The costs of the package will not be offset... On Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also blasted the emerging agreement as “fiscally irresponsible” and doing “very little for working families.” He said, “Any deal on tax extenders must ensure that the economic benefits are broadly shared. We are committed to working with Congress to address the issue in a manner that is fiscally responsible and extends critical tax benefits for working families.”
The "Democratic-controlled" Senate will be voting on this nightmare package-- a lovely gift for the Republican donors who bought the GOP their big victories Nov. 4-- next week. If you haven't read Gaius Publius' post a Senate Open Rebellion Caucus now is the time to do so. It should be interesting to watch which Democrats stand with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Brian Schatz and which will stand with Reid and the Republicans. And, then, of course... will we see a veto of this attack against the middle class and against a cohesive, forward-looking energy policy?

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Of course there's no chance of any actual discussion about immigration

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From today's Washington Post "Tuesday's Opinions" e-mail

by Ken

If I told you that I didn't bother to click through to the specimen of op-ed illumination promised by the above e-blurb, and merely waved it at you saying "See? See?," you would probably say, "Well, sure, that's dumber than dirt, but it probably doesn't represent what that noted far-right-wing sage Marc A. Thiessen really wrote or, you know, oversimplifies it." (As if everything MAT writes didn't come to us presimplified down to the single-cell-life-form level.)

So I clicked through, and you know what? What the simple one actually says is if anything dumber. To wit:
President Obama’s immigration address was profoundly moving and deeply cynical. Obama spoke of the plight of illegal immigrants who struggle in the shadows to build a better life for their kids and of his desire to “work with both parties” to find a solution. If Obama really believed a single word of that, he would not have taken unconstitutional executive action that he knows will kill any chances for reform.

Obama is not acting to help illegal immigrants. He is acting to provoke the GOP. The giveaway moment in Obama’s address was when he told Republicans that “Americans are tired of gridlock” and urged them not to “let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this.” . . .
You're welcome to pursue this on your own if you like: "Obama's cynical immigration ploy." But whatever one may think of the president's planned executive action on immigration, it's simply impossible for anyone with a working brain to say with any degree of sincerity that the purpose of the president's initiative is "to provoke Republicans." (On the simplest, most literal level, it would be a simply imbecilic idea, only likely to occur to someone who's not only an imbecile but an imbecile of a particularly paranoid and savage variety, such that from the fetid muck of your pre-brain might arise a pre-thought along the lines: "Leastwise that's what I'd fuckin' do if someone fuckin' put me in fuckin' charge of some fuckin' thing.")

I threw in the "with any degree of sincerity" to cover the possibility that Marc T isn't really that stupid -- is it even humanly possible to be that stupid? -- and rather is, for some unknown purpose, simply lying his putrid guts out. Although he has a long track record that suggests something close to a genius level at stupidity, it could instead by some sort of cunning. Perhaps it would be helpful if he began, as I've suggested in the past, by saying either "Speaking as a pathological liar" or "Speaking as a gibbering idiot." But would it make much difference?

The reality is that the dope has somehow gotten this electrical impulse (I hate to dignify it by calling it an "idea") buzzing about his brain, most likely by implantation from some other ultra-right-wing zero-brain-function life form, this notion that the president "is acting to provoke the GOP," and he's by God going to keep blithering about it until his word count says it's time to stop.

It's not even worth going into, say, what Marc T knows about the Constitution. The zero-brainers have implanted in his brain that this executive action is, plain and simple, unconstitutional, even though the whole pack of them put together don't know anything about the Constitution except that it's awful scratchy when you try to use it to wipe your festering stinkybutt.

What's important here is to note the effect: It makes any discussion of the rights and wrongs of, and possible fixes for, immigration policy literally impossible. And there you have the whole hulking Modern American Right: "Our brains are like a fortress, and no way can you come in."

And these hulking life forms loom and bluster and threaten, and there is no sentient human being to talk to. In some hard-to-quantify ratio they're people who either: (a) have no capacity to receive and process information, or (b) are at the service of masters who in one way or another command their fealty.

And Benghazi to you too, buttwipe.

(Afterword: Apologies to Professor Lakoff. Yes, I know I'm supposed to be remembering that right-wingers aren't stupid, and aren't necessarily even lying; they just have different values from regular people. I'm really trying, George. It's just that I look at a lunk like Marc T and I don't see values, I see a yutz who, apparent from his dominant mode of self-promoting careerism is brain-dead beyond believe, and viciously determined to avenge his deep awareness of his personal worthlessness on, well, any poor fucker he can get in the crosshairs of his word processor.)
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Who Does The Law Prosectute-- And Who Gets A Free Ride For Even The Most Heinous Criminal Behavior?

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Just a fantasy

At the end of 2011 there were 2,266,800 adults in prison and another 4,814,200 on parole or probation. Add to that 70,792 juveniles in detention. Almost 40% of those in prison are black. By age 18 almost a third of all black males and just over a quarter of all Hispanic males have already been arrested, compared to just 22% of white males. 5 years on and almost half of all black males have been arrested, as have 44% of Hipsanic males (38% of white males). Bias? Absolutely-- and it goes beyond race to class. Angela Davis and other critics of the U.S. gulags have been pointing this out for years. She's written that the country's prisons have "become venues of profit as well as punishment." 

In his new book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, Matt Taibbi argues that the expanding disparity of wealth and the increasing criminalization of those in poverty have culminated in the U.S. having the largest prison population in the history of human civilization. Wall Street banksters and Beltway politicians may be enriching themselves and ripping off the system to the tune of billions of dollars, but Wall Street banksters don't get prosecuted and grotesquely crooked politicians from Rick Scott (R-FL), Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Gina Raimondo (D-RI) to Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Bruce Rauner (R-IL) were not indicted but were all just elected governors a couple of weeks ago, despite very public and very overwhelming evidence that all of them are personally very criminally corrupt.

But it isn't just the rich who escape criminal prosecution. Police get away with murder-- literally (in fact 400 per year). Alex Vitale, an author and associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, explained for Al Jazeera America why police are rarely indicted for misconduct. Vitale writes that "successful criminal prosecution of a police officer for killing someone in the line of duty, if no corruption is alleged, is extremely rare. Even when officers are convicted, the charges are often minimal. For example, Coleman Brackney, a Bella Vista, Oklahoma, police officer who was convicted of misdemeanor negligent homicide in 2010 after shooting an unarmed teen to death while in custody in his cruiser, went on to rejoin the police and was recently appointed chief of police in Sulphur Springs, Oklahoma."
There are significant structural barriers to successful police indictment or prosecution. For one, investigations are usually conducted by a combination of police detectives and investigators from the prosecutors’ office. Prosecutors tend to take a greater role when there is a reason to believe that the shooting might not be justified. However, they must rely on the cooperation of the police to gather necessary evidence, including witness statements from the officer involved and other officers at the scene. In some cases they are the only living witnesses to the event.

The close collaboration between police and prosecutors, which is an asset in homicide investigations, becomes a hindrance in police shooting cases. In most cases, the prosecutors’ reliance on the cooperation of police creates a fundamental conflict of interest. As a result, prosecutors are often reluctant to aggressively pursue these cases.

Moreover, the local elected district attorneys often want to avoid being seen as inhibiting police power. Even in communities where distrust of police is common, no prosecutor ever got thrown out of office for defending the police. At its core, the public sees the DA’s office as a defender of law and order and expects these officials to uphold them.

...There are also huge legal hurdles to overcome. State laws that authorize police use of force, which are backed up by Supreme Court precedent, give police significant latitude in using deadly force. In the 1989 case Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court ruled that officers may use force to effect a lawful arrest or if they reasonably believe that the person represents a serious physical threat to the officer or others. This means that police may use force over any resistance to arrest and that if the resistance escalates, officers may escalate their force. The court also said that the totality of circumstances must be judged with an understanding of the split-second nature of police decision-making.

...Juror mindset creates yet another challenge to successful indictments and prosecutions. Grand juries and criminal court juries consist of local residents. Even in periods of heightened concern about police misconduct, most citizens retain a strong bias in favor of police. Popular culture and political discourse are suffused with commentaries about both the central importance of police in maintaining the basic structural integrity of society and the dangerous nature of their work. In addition, the legal standard for judging police misconduct calls on jurors to put themselves in the officers’ shoes, further strengthening the tendency to identify with the police.

Another important dynamic in police prosecutions is the state of race relations in the United States. Despite the rhetoric about being a postracial society, racial divisions and bias remain omnipresent in American society and nowhere more than in the realm of criminal justice. There is abundant evidence of jury bias in a variety of racially disparate criminal justice outcomes, including false convictions, application of the death penalty and drug convictions. Research shows that whites have a generally more positive view of the police than blacks do. The sad reality is that white jurors are much more likely to side with police, regardless of the race of the officer and the person killed. This was seen in the Rodney King prosecutions in California, in which a mostly white suburban state court jury did not convict four Los Angeles Police Department officers in the severe beating of King after a high-speed car chase, despite the incident’s being videotaped. (The jury acquitted three of the four officers and deadlocked on a charge of excessive force against one officer.) A more diverse federal jury later found two of the officers guilty of violating King’s civil rights.

...[S]tates should create a police prosecutor’s office, or blue desk, that is more removed from local politics. While relying on state attorneys general has its own challenges, the outcomes are likely to be viewed as more legitimate. These blue desks could become repositories of expertise on police prosecutions. Even if tied to state politics, they might be better able to insulate themselves from accusations of overly aggressive prosecutions as well as charges of not supporting the police.

Laws on the use of force need reform. Police shootings were much more common in the 1970s when regulations about the use of force were even looser. In response to public outcries and rioting in the 1960s and ’70s, local police began to tighten up regulations and offer training to officers, resulting in significant reductions in shootings. The 1984 Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner institutionalized some of these changes nationally, including making it unlawful for police to shoot a fleeing suspect. Since then, however, the courts have mostly expanded police authorization to use force.

Finally, the U.S. needs to dial back the dramatic expansion of police power over the last 40 years. For example, the growing prevalence of paramilitary SWAT teams and the ongoing war on drugs have significantly contributed to excessive use of force. In part this happened through the combined direct enforcement practices of these two types of policing. But they also contributed indirectly to a larger ethos of militarized patrolling that equates policing with the use of force and a war footing. The public and its representatives need to realize that there are better ways to prevent crime and serve the community than licensing excessive police force.
Michael Krieger posted a tangentially related article at his Boulder-based blog Liberty Blitzkrieg over the weekend. It's part of his concern about "how the percentage of sociopaths within a group of humans becomes increasingly concentrated the higher you climb within the positions of power in a society, with it being most chronic amongst those who crave political power." Makes sense? Continue reading-- and don't be disturbed that it's "about" England; it's about all of us.
Those with the sickest minds, and who wish to act upon their destructive fantasies, understand that they can most easily get away with their deeds if they are protected by an aura of power and ostensible respectability. They believe that as a result of their status, no one would dare accuse them of horrific activities, and if it ever came to that, they could quash any investigation. Unfortunately for us all, this is typically the case. I previously covered the issue of powerful pedophiles in the UK in the piece: Former BBC Host “Sir” Jimmy Savile Exposed as Major Player in Massive Pedophile Ring.

Now we have evidence of yet another case.

The Guardian reports that:
The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices-- warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.
Ah, national security. Remember that the next time you are lectured that we need to give up our civil liberties in the name of “national security.” Think about what that really means. It really means the security of the status quo to continue to behave like insane criminals with zero accountability.
Following the announcement that the grand gury declined to indict the police officer who murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison both released statements urging calm. “As emotions continue to run understandably high," said Grijalva, "it is crucial to bear in mind a lesson history has taught us time and again: justice is not won through destruction or violence, but through unity and perseverance. Just as violence can tarnish peaceful protestors standing for justice, excessive force by law enforcement can only further divide our nation. We must honor Michael through peace, and by fixing the failures in our system, from racial profiling to the militarization of local police." Ellison was even more pointed: "Our country has an indefensible history of racial violence. The same violence that killed Emmett Till and beat Rodney King is alive today as Michael Brown’s family grieves. I understand the anger and fear that many in Ferguson and around the country feel, but all must remain peaceful. Protest injustice, but do not meet violence with violence. I urge the federal government to continue its investigation of Michael Brown’s shooting. The fight for equality is not over. We have tremendous work to do, including protecting the right to vote. But right now, my thoughts are with Michael’s parents, whose son will not be coming home." 

But let's leave off with a powerful and wrenching performance from rapper Killer Mike in St. Louis about an hour and a half after the grand jury decision was announced:



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Professional Politicians Dread Them But Primaries Are An Essential Component Of Our Electoral System

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Hillary sees the billionaire class as her benefactors and partners; Bernie has a different perspective

One of the problems with the professional political parties based inside the Beltway is that they instinctively discourage primaries. Party bosses hate them because they cost money and tend to cater to the base, making it more difficult to get muddled careerist hacks without vision into office. And if the party elites are about anything, it's getting muddled careerist hacks without vision into office. This past cycle we talked a lot about how Harry Reid, Michael Bennet and Guy Cecil were so angry that a populist challenger in South Dakota, Rick Weiland, decided to challenge their recruit, Blue Dog careerrist Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, that she bowed out and they decided to let the Republicans win the state. That's pretty extreme.

Bordering on the southeast corner of South Dakota, we find Iowa, which holds a very special spot in electoral politics. Progressive radio talk show host, Ed Fallon, points out that the same antipathy DC Democrats feel towards primaries, imvues the state party careerists as well. "An elite Establishment controls the Iowa Democratic Party, and they simply don't like primaries," he wrote over the weekend. "Nominating candidates is so old school. The Establishment prefers coronations. It's less messy. And it's less expensive, saving limited Establishment dollars for essentials like yachts, trips to the Caribbean and that new Lexus your trust-fund kid so desperately needs.
Coronations happen in two ways:

One. Establishment Democrats wait until a day or two before the filing deadline to announce that an elected official is retiring, so potential challengers unacceptable to the Establishment have no time to collect the signatures needed to qualify. This happens more often than you think. (Two cases from a few years back that come to mind are the retirements of State Representatives Wayne Ford and Elesha Gayman.)

Two. The Establishment picks a "safe" candidate, one who won't rock the boat if elected, one who may pay lip service to challenging the Corporate Elite, but won't push for systemic reform. The Establishment gets the corporate-owned media to tout the candidate as the inevitable nominee, and hammer away at the "fact" that this candidate is so strong, so likely to win in November that no sensible Democrat would challenge them. Meanwhile, they pump loads of money and hype into the "race." If any upstart Democrats threaten to jump in, they discourage them with every means available, including threats and even bribes. When the chosen candidates get their clock cleaned in November, the Establishment just says, "Well, it was a Republican year."

Two of the most important races in Iowa this year involved coronations: Bruce Braley and Staci Appel. If Braley and Appel had been tested in a primary, perhaps they would have been prepared to fend off the attacks of the virtually unknown Republicans who beat them, who are now on their way to Washington, DC. (And in case you think the coronation problem is strictly a Democratic malaise, how many of you remember the perceived inevitably of Jim Ross Lightfoot in 1998 and Jim Nussle in 2006? Former Governors Vilsack and Culver remember-- and they both had primaries.)

Of course, the coronation thing is not just a state problem. It's a national one. Right now, both the Iowa and national Establishment Democrats are beating the drums for the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee for President. Don't let them do it! Regardless of how you feel about Clinton, insist on a good, hearty multiple-candidate nominating process. That's one thing the Republicans got right in 2012, although most of their candidates were . . . how do I say it politely . . . extremists? As 2016 approaches, a slew of Republican presidential wannabes are already making their intentions known. Democratic contenders better do the same, and they better start soon.
And centrist sparring partners for Hillary-- like Martin O'Malley and James Webb-- are not the makings of a meaningful primary. Webb wants to run as a progressive despite a reactionary voting record in the Senate and O'Malley wants to prove he could be a good vice president for Hillary. That's not what Fallon was talking about when he was asking for a consequential, ideas-oriented debate. And that's why we're staking so much here at Blue America on Bernie Sanders' likely run. You can encourage him here.

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McConnell To Senate Republicans: "Reelection Starts Now"

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Will Democrats run on this-- or run away from it again?

In theory, 2016 should be a good electoral year for Democrats. Their voters will probably be enthusiastic at the idea of electing Hillary Clinton (a moderate, the first woman president, familiar entitity everyone feels they know...). And Hillary at the top of the ticket is giving to mean rough wealth for Republicans in blue-leaning House seats and in non-Confederate Senate races especially in places where she's well-regarded, like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, maybe even North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and Arizona-- all states where Republican incumbents are up for reelection. The Democrats could blow it of course... but so might the Republicans. Let's keep the tendency to blow it out of this discussion.

Yesterday, Politico did a story on how McConnell, who doesn't want to be minority leaders again, isn't leaving anything to chance. "Republicans face a daunting map in 2016," wrote Manu Raju, "when they will be forced to defend 24 seats in a presidential year, while Democrats have to defend only 10 seats-- a scenario McConnell is taking so seriously he’s leaving nothing to chance, starting now."
Last week, McConnell summoned all 24 Republicans up for reelection in 2016 to a morning meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was even attended by potential 2016 presidential candidates like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has said he wouldn’t run for the White House and Senate at the same time. At the meeting, McConnell and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the new NRSC chairman, made a blunt declaration to their colleagues: Reelection, they said, starts now.

...“Members need to begin to do the things to tool their campaigns differently, to understand the significant change in resource needs,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, recounting the message from the meeting. “And now is the time to begin to think about the mechanics of the campaigns.”

Burr, who is up for reelection for a third term in 2016, has just $720,000 in cash in a state where more than $100 million was spent in the 2014 North Carolina Senate race, in which Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan narrowly lost to Republican Thom Tillis. But despite the lack of money, Burr said he plans on running and even seemed ready to take on Hagan if she were to run against him.

...The Republican path to keep the Senate won’t be easy. They have to defend seats in blue states and swing states, like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin-- compared to just 10 for Democrats. Moreover, Democrats could have some serious statewide recruits. In recent interviews, two Democratic senators who lost this year-- Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and Alaska’s Mark Begich — punted on their intentions to run in 2016 in their respective states, though they didn’t rule it out.

“We’ll see,” Begich said when asked if he’d run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2016.

Plus, Hillary Clinton could end up at the top of the ballot if she decides to run and becomes the party’s nominee, a scenario that could boost turnout, giving Democrats hope that they can increase the gender gap among women voters after seeing it shrink in 2014.

With Democratic turnout typically higher in an election year and a big-spending Democratic super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, prepared to dump tens of millions into the effort to bring its party back to the majority, McConnell is seeking more effective ways to spend GOP money.

Josh Holmes, McConnell’s chief political adviser, is holding private conversations with donors and operatives to see if there’s interest to form a new super PAC dedicated to helping Senate Republicans retain the majority. Currently, a bevy of big-spending GOP outside groups influence key races, including the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads, as well as the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. But in 2016, their attention may focus on the presidential race.

Plus, Holmes has identified at least $8 million spent by smaller super PACs on individual races in 2014 that Republicans believe could have been better spent this cycle.

...“In 2012, we got off to a tough start because our donors were so discouraged that we actually lost ground in the Senate as well as the presidency,” Wicker said. “We’re now in an era of good feeling and our donors believe in us and we need to get started early.”
As we mentioned over the weekend, right-wing extremist Ron Johnson (R-WI) is on everyone's target list-- even his own. “Obviously, I’m going to be the No. 1 target,” he said. “I don’t dispute that whatsoever.” Let's take a look at the seats up in 2016. Among the Democrats, the toughest races will be Harry Reid's and Michael Bennet's, the only two likely to draw serious Republican attention. Barbara Boxer (CA) is retiring and I expect Barabra Mikulski (MD), who will turn 80 before election day and isn't in great health, may as well. Both states are extremely likely to select Democratic replacements. These are the Democratic incumbents whose seats look safe:
Richard Blumenthal (CT)
Brian Schatz (HI)
Chuck Schumer (NY)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Pat Leahy (VT)
Patty Murray (WA)
Now let's take the safe Republican seats out of the equation:
Richard Shelby (AL)
Mike Crapo (ID)
Jerry Moran (KS) although Hueslkamp has been threatening a primary
John Hoeven (ND)
James Lankford (OK)
Tim Scott (SC)
John Thune (SD)
Mike Lee (UT)- though mainstream conservatives may run a primary challenge against him
That leaves the battle ground Senate states as 2 Democratic-held seats, Nevada and Colorado and 16 Republican-held seats. Nevada and Colorado will be big focuses for the Clinton campaign and so will most of the states where Republican incumbents could face choppy waters, depending, of course, on the success of Democratic recruiting efforts. Here are the states with the interesting post-primary Senate races for 2016:
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
John McCain (R-AZ)- will be 80, screaming at people to get off his lawn
John Boozman (R-AR)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Chuck Grassely (R-IA)- will be 83 on election day, already noticeably senile
Rand Paul (R-KY)
[David Vitter (R-LA)]
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Bolded incumbents are the five I would bet will be most likely to not be returning in 2017. Democratic recruitment is key. 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cosby mess

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Illustration by PJ Loughran for Philadelphia magazine

by Ken

Beyond the fundamental creepiness of the behavior attributed to Bill Cosby by a growing number of women, there are a bunch of creepy aspects to the mess now swirling around the beloved comedian. Of all of them, perhaps the creepiest is that hardly any of it is news. As New York Times media columnist David Carr notes, "the accusations had already been carefully and thoroughly reported in Philadelphia magazine and elsewhere" at least as early as June 2006, when the Philadelphia magazine piece, "Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Cosby," by Robert Huber, appeared.

The matter received little or no attention:

• by Mark Whitaker in his recently published "almost 500-page biography," Cosby: His Life and Times;

• by Ta-Nehisi Coates in "a long and seemingly comprehensive article" for The Atlantic in 2008;

• by Kelefa T. Sanneh in a September New Yorker profile;

• and by Carr himself in a 2011 Q-and-A for United Airlines' in-flight magazine, Hemispheres. Hence the title of Carr's column today, "Calling Out Bill Cosby's Media Enablers, Including Myself."

"We all have our excuses," says Carr, "but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, he notes, "recently expressed regret on The Atlantic website"
that he did not press harder on Mr. Cosby’s conflicted past. In the course of his reporting, he said he came to the conclusion that “Bill Cosby was a rapist.”

He added: “I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough.”
And in the wake of the appearance of the Carr column, the Hollywood Reporter notes, biographer Mark Whitaker "admits he was wrong to not mention any of the sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby," declaring in a tweet: "David, you are right. I was wrong to not deal with the sexual assault charges against Cosby and pursue them more aggressively."

As for his own case, Carr owns that he "read the Philadelphia magazine article when it was published," but "knew when the editors of the airline magazine called that they would have no interest in pursuing those accusations in a short interview in a magazine meant to occupy fliers."
My job as a journalist was to turn down that assignment. If I was not going to do the work to tell the truth about the guy, I should not have let him prattle on about his new book at the time.

But I did not turn it down. I did the interview and took the money.
He says, though, that he "paid for that in other ways," but in this case we're the beneficiaries, because he provides us with this vivid picture of what it can mean to be a certified media icon:
The interview was deeply unpleasant, with a windy, obstreperous subject who answered almost every question in 15-minute soliloquies, many of which were not particularly useful.

After an hour of this, I mentioned that the interview was turning out to be all A. and no Q. He paused, finally.

“Young man, are you interested in hearing what I have to say or not?” he said. “If not, we can end this interview right now.”

Mr. Cosby was not interested in being questioned, in being challenged in any way. By this point in his career, he was surrounded by ferocious lawyers and stalwart enablers and he felt it was beneath him to submit to the queries of mere mortals.

He was certain of his own certainty and had very little time for the opinions of others. Mr. Cosby, as all of those who did profiles on him have pointed out, was never just an entertainer, but a signal tower of moral rectitude.
Which brings us to another creepy aspect of the Cosby mess: the now-clear gap between our image of The Cos and this not-so-newly-revealed image.
From the beginning, part of his franchise was built on family values, first dramatized in “The Cosby Show” and then in his calling out the profane approach of younger comics and indicting the dress and manner of young black Americans.

Beyond selling Jell-O, Mr. Cosby was selling a version of America where all people are responsible for their own lot in life.

He seldom addressed bigotry and racism. Instead, he exhorted individuals to install their own bootstraps and pull themselves into success. And while they were at it, they should pull up their pants and quit sagging, a fashion trope Mr. Cosby found inexcusable.
Carr notes that this theme found more favor with white audiences than with black ones. "A generation of black comics who revered other pioneers like Richard Pryor," he writes, "found Mr. Cosby’s lectures tired and misplaced."

"In the end, " he says, "it fell to a comic, not an investigative reporter or biographer, to speak truth to entertainment power, to take on the Natural Order of Things," and he quotes from the October 16 Philadelphia stand-up performance by comedian Hannibal Buress, in which he decried The Cos's "smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the '80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom." And: "Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches."

I'm not entirely sure, though, that this entirely qualifies as "speaking truth to entertainment power." Yes, the revelation of The Cos's massive hypocrisy brings The Cos down a couple of notches. However, I don't see how it raises Hannibal Buress -- or any of the targets of The Cos's scorn -- the littlest fraction of a notch. A guy who refers to The Cosby Show as '[being] on TV in the '80s" sounds to me awfully like a screeching imbecile.

Of course The Cosby Show, for all its sustained brilliance over eight blockbuster seasons (being "on TV in the '80s," indeed), is now pretty much lost to us. As David Carr notes, TVLand has already yanked its reruns from the schedule. Washingtonpost.com's Alexandra Petri made a valiant effort the other day to see whether perhaps the person of Bill Cosby might somehow be separable from the show -- as are, after all, so many luminous creations produced by and/or with fairly creepy people. In this case, though, the contradiction between Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Cosby seems to me too fundamental to bridge.

Oh well.

One final note on creepiness, though a lighter one (I think). In an AOL.com piece, Ryan Gorman notes:
Model Jewel Allison told the New York Daily News that Cosby drugged and forced her to touch his genitals during a dinner. Female staffers with CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" said he forced them to watch him eat curry before every appearance.
And later:
Cosby's latest appearance on the show was canceled amid the torrent of rape claims being made against him, and Letterman's staffers expressed relief at not having to go through the "hated" pre-show ritual with the accused pervert.
Forced to watch the man eat curry? Oh, the horror!
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Malibu And Beverly Hills Are Not Tanzania, Not Yet Anyway

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If we've become inured to the plight of our own countrymen being kicked out of their own homes by predatory banksters, something tells me not too many Americans rushed to the Tanzanian embassy at 1232 22nd St NW in DC or to the consulate at 201 East 42nd Street in Manhattan to protest the eviction of 40,000 Masai from their ancestral homeland bordering the world-famous Serengeti national park, to make room for a Dubai royal family private hunting preserve. They have until the end of the year to vacate the premises. The Tanzanian government, to make it up to the displaced Masai, have offered around half a million dollars in contributions towards development projects meant to benefit the tribe.
“I feel betrayed,” said Samwel Nangiria, co-ordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group. “One billion is very little and you cannot compare that with land. It’s inherited. Their mothers and grandmothers are buried in that land. There’s nothing you can compare with it.”

Nangiria said he believes the government never truly intended to abandon the scheme in the Loliondo district but was wary of global attention. “They had to pretend they were dropping the agenda to fool the international press.”

He said it had proved difficult to contact the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company set up by a UAE official close to the royal family. The OBC has operated in Loliondo for more than 20 years with clients reportedly including Prince Andrew.

Activists opposing the hunting reserve have been killed by police in the past two years, according to Nangiria, who says he has received threatening calls and text messages. “For me it is dangerous on a personal level. They said: ‘We discovered you are the mastermind, you want to stop the government using the land’. Another said: ‘You have decided to shorten your life. The hands of the government are too long. Put your family ahead of the Masai.’”

Nangiria is undeterred. “I will fight for my community. I’m more energetic than I was. The Masai would like to ask the prime minister about the promise. What happened to the promise? Was it a one-year promise or forever? Perhaps he should put the promise in writing.”

This will be the last time the Masai settle for talks, he added, before pursuing other methods including a court injunction. They could also be an influential voting bloc in next year’s elections.

An international campaign against the hunting reserve was led last year by the online activism site Avaaz.org, whose Stop the Serengeti Sell-off petition attracted more than 1.7 million signatures and led to coordinated email and Twitter protests.

Alex Wilks, campaign director for Avaaz, said: “The Masai stare out from every tourism poster, but Tanzania’s government wants to kick them off their land so foreign royalty can hunt elephants there. Almost two million people around the world have backed the Masai’s call for president Jakaya Kikwete to fulfil his promise to let them stay where they’ve always lived. Treating the Masai as the great unwanted would be a disaster for Tanzania’s reputation.”

A spokesperson for Tanzania’s natural resources and tourism ministry said : “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m currently out of the office and can’t comment properly.”
As a result of the ensuing media attention, Gulf hunting culture in Africa has been exposed in its starkest, ugliest form. Arabs in their Ray Bans with their new money and shotguns on the one side, and the exploited Masai on the other.
It would be easy to dismiss this as an example of the filthy rich doing what they do best-- trampling over the rights of others in order to have a good time. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, however. None of these expeditions would happen without government sanction and, indeed, encouragement. It’s easy money for cash-strapped African treasuries. And if the hunters seem to have no respect for the traditions of those whose property and way of life they know will be sacrificed, that is only because of the eagerness of Tanzanian politicians to strike a deal; for them, the relocation of a few people (40,000, in this case) is deemed a price worth paying.

There is without doubt a “cheque-cutting” relationship between some African countries, specifically those in the east and north of the continent and in the Gulf, where random amounts of money are handed over in dodgy transactions that are neither aid nor debt. And the deals made are usually at the expense of the citizens these governments are supposed to represent.

When Osama bin Laden-- incidentally also fond of hunting in Sudan-- sought refuge in Khartoum, it was mistakenly seen as an indication of the Sudanese government’s sympathy with his ideology. In fact, his money was the main attraction. At one point it was reported that bin Laden was the single largest landowner in the country. When he was forced out, the land reverted to the government and he was never compensated. There is a view-- and perhaps this acts as an incentive, who knows?-- that those from the Gulf who choose to do business in Africa are, shall we say, easily parted from their money.

As far as local intermediaries are concerned, these hunters are simply the latest bunch of rich eccentrics, coming to or travelling through Africa either to hunt like the white explorers and colonialists, or go on safaris like honeymooners.

In countries with few other resources, the land’s natural gifts are one means of earning money. And the Arabian peninsula has a long history of trade with east Africa, just across the Red Sea. The Arabic language as well as Islam travelled with traders to and from the region. Even the word Swahili is derived from the Arabic for coastal. This relationship has always had an exploitive edge, particularly when slaves and material resources have been concerned. There is arguably still a certain sense of entitlement among the Gulf Arabs, not unrelated to racial disdain. But in this case it is as much the greed of the Tanzanian government that perpetuates the anguish of the Masai as it is the desire of Arabs to make a playground out of Africa.
Last week-- entirely unsolicited, I promise-- the new issue of Modern Luxury's Angeleno arrived. I don't allow electronic devises in the bathrooms-- other than shavers; I read magazines that find their way to my doorstep instead, even Angeleno. This one is called "the Philanthropy Issue." Big bold letters across the front cover make that perfectly clear. Inside... less clear.

Attempting to navigate between the pages and pages and pages of ads and the articles that are barely discernible from ads, we come to columns about worthy events that seem like an excuse to write about the L.A. jet set:
Among the A-listers who turned out for Operation Smile’s annual gala, held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, were actor David Charvet and his wife (and the event’s emcee), Brooke Burke Charvet, along with honorees Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush and Days of Our Lives Executive Producer Ken Corday. More than $1 million was raised for the 32-year-old international children’s charity that has performed more than 220,000 free surgical procedures to repair cleft palates and other facial deformities. A silent auction and cocktail reception kicked off the event, which was followed by dinner, the program and a post-dinner raffle, which included gorgeous bespoke diamond jewelry by Le Dragon d’Or. NBC Entertainment’s Jennifer Salke made a touching speech about her son, Henry, who was diagnosed with a cleft palate and made an astounding impact on Operation Smile, raising more than $100,000 through his own initiatives.
Or the party supported by "the culinary world's top talents" for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, hosted by Suzanne Goin, Caroline Styne, and David Lentz. They raised $700,000 for childhood cancer research. A live auction for a private dinner prepared by Goin, Giada De Laurentis, April Bloomfield and Nancy Oakes "sold for $40,000-- talk about girl power." So, yes, philanthropy. Someone donated $40,000 for childhood cancer research for that dinner. That is awesome! The readers, one could reasonably suspect, might have more in common with the louche Dubai hunters in Tanzania than with the awesome $40,000 donor. This isn't even an ad per se. Who would pass over a chance to own this $90,000... thing (at Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills)?





There’s far more than meets the eye to the Magnipheasant Feathers collar from British jeweler Stephen Webster. The aptly named pièce de résistance pays homage to the glorious game bird. A single glance at the hand-selected marquise-cut amethyst, citrine, blue topaz, rhodolite, red garnet, iolite and peridot gemstones, tipped in black pavé diamonds and set in 18K white gold, confirms that this bauble is every bit as regal and exotic as its muse. And, just like the fine-plumed bird, it flaunts a most alluring tail-- only this one can be removed from the piece and worn separately as a pendant. Now, if that’s not enough to ruffle your feathers, we don’t know what is.
Other non-ads displayed a $640 Interecciato brushed steel dog bowl (from Bottega Veneta), an Egocentrismo umbrella stand for $1,205 by Fornasetti at Barney's, a fair of "fossilized dinosaur bone double pentagonal earrings with 18K recycled oxidized white gold" for just $4,700 at Barney's, and a hand-painted alligator Bloomsbury bag at Burberry for $37,000. Or how about helping welcome Westime's 4th L.A. location to Malibu. Which belongs on the wrist of one of the Dubai hinters-- the MB&F (Maximilian Büsser and Friends) design for $92,000 or this thing from Audemars Piguet?
"There are only 15 of these available in the world," says Ron Groezinger, a Westime sales associate who puts on black gloves to reveal a massive Audemars Piguet tourbillon chronograph ($288,000), proving that the shop's inventory is as impressive as its new views.

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Why Did Pelosi Pick Ben Ray Luján? No One Seems Sure

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by Anonymous Operative

Pelosi has lost some of her mental facilities with old age-- as we all do. It's inevitable... and often everyone recognizes it except the person gradually becoming less focussed. When I used to ask Members if they could detect her losing it, they would either flat out deny it or get very defensive. These days, even her allies and admirers cop to it, albeit never on the record, of course.

Rewarding her abysmally failed, two cycle DCCC chairman, Steve Israel, with a manufactured leadership post-- as though rewarding him for a job well done-- was shocking enough. But then replacing him with a nice guy/novice who immediately signaled he doesn't intend to change a thing at the dysfunctional committee, riven with systemic corruption and stinking to the high heavens from failure, was more discouraging news for congressional Democrats eager to move off the dime and win back the majority.

Luján is not a bad choice, but he's an odd choice.

Other than Pelosi, no one knew that Luján was even under consideration. The discussion was about the three DCCC deputy co-chairs, the grassroots' choice, Donna Edwards (D-MD), Wall Street's choice, Jim Himes (D-CT) and Jared Polis (D-CO). (Edwards didn't have that title, but she functioned as such.) Reporters speculated that Joe Kennedy III (D-MA)and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) were in the mix, but neither one ever applied for the job, and Kennedy specifically told Pelosi that he wasn't interested. Lois Frankel (D-FL) tried to barge in and take it, but no one other than Lois thought that she was a serious contender and people were openly snickering at her clumsy attempts to plant stories in the press about her qualifications for the job. There was a sense that Pelosi wasn't happy with choosing among Edwards, Himes and Polis, but it was quite a leap from that dissatisfaction to Luján. All three of the deputy co-chairs reputedly worked hard, so by rejecting all of them, she has deterred both them and others from putting in the same kind of effort, although she did give Edwards a significant consolation prize as the new co-chair of the House Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee.

Luján is a solid liberal on most issues. He is a particularly strong supporter of renewable energy. He supported the public option in healthcare reform, and he opposed the troop buildup in Afghanistan. He is a little weak on civil liberties, having co-sponsored SOPA, a GOP bill to criminalize internet copyright issues.

Luján has never worked in the private sector, and he has no management experience. The DCCC's internal budget is around $25 million per year, so I am concerned that he may not manage that operation effectively. There is no indication that Luján would have any interest in dealing with the "revolving door" issue at the DCCC, going after high-ranking Republicans in weak districts, or addressing any of the other structural problems at the DCCC. Luján doesn't make waves. This is a time in DCCC history that waves are exactly what is desperately needed. Instead Luján announced he is keeping the failed, incompetent but well-like Executive Director, Kelly Ward, in place for the next cycle.

The past several DCCC Chairs have emphasized fundraising. Luján hasn't been bad at that, but he hasn't been good, either. He raised around $1 million for his campaign, which is on the low side these days. He complained to the Congressional Progressive Caucus at the beginning of the year that he was quitting the group because he couldn't raise the dues. I'm hearing he was unable to raise the amount he had promised the DCCC for the cycle and he didn't raise much for other House Democratic candidates in contested races, the way ambitious politicians like Polis and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did.

Keep in mind, though, that the DCCC outraised the NRCC in 2013-14 by $41 million. Outside groups, including the Koch Brothers, went GOP by $60 million to $17 million, so in terms of money, it was a draw.

The DCCC spent $67 million on TV ads in 39 races. They DCCC went against the NRCC in 22 of those races. In those 22 races, the NRCC outspent the DCCC by $6 million, but the DCCC bought cheaper time, so the DCCC ended up with more "points." Whatever the problem was this year for Democrats, it certainly wasn't money.

My own sense is that Luján is an "identity politics" choice, which is something that Pelosi does often. She wants the Hispanic vote. Luján is Hispanic. Therefore, she chose Luján. She wants the youth vote. Luján is relatively young. Therefore, she chose Luján.

The DCCC is well set-up for failure far into the future. Going forward, the Republicans have plenty to fear, but not from the DCCC-- and not from Nancy Pelosi.

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Ready For Hillary? Or Bernie?

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Recovered from losing race after race around the country, all the Ready for Hillary operatives came together at Le Souk in New York last week to celebrate their own and their candidate's fabulousness. There was Stephanie Shriock of EMILY's List, who chalked up spectacular losses all cycle, starting with two for Alex Sink (FL), two for Wendy Greuel (CA), another mindblower for Martha Coakley (MA), losses for all kinds of conservative Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party that EMILY's List is drawn to these days, from Colleen Hanabusa and Donna Mercado Kim in Hawaii to political hacks like Mary Rose Wilcox (AZ), Ann Callis (IL), Emily Cain (ME)...

And, yes, Schriock and EMILY's List were big backers of spectacular loser Amanda Renteria, but the pilot of Renteria's doomed campaign, sleazy L.A. political hatchet man, Michael Trujillo, who jumped into her race immediately after dooming Wendy Greuel again, was also in attendance (of course). Renteria enjoyed a 17 point registration advantage over conservative Republican David Valadao in a district that gave Obama a solid 55-44% win over Romney but Trujillo, eager to develop and sell a lame, unworkable proprietary field system he could profit from, hobbled Renteria's campaign with it so badly that she lost a race she should have won-- and she lost big... Trujillo big: 41,167 (58.5%) to 29,244 (41.5%)... no turn out, thanks almost entirely to Trujillo's new proprietary field program he now expects to peddle to Hillary's campaign.

The Hill covered the Friday gathering by listing the 5 fears of the Clintonites. Although Bernie Sanders wasn't one of them, Elizabeth Warren was. "If I have one big fear, that’s it," said one Clinton supporter. "She needs to present a strong message on the economy and tell people why she not only supports Wall Street but every day economic issues. She needs to unite the party." With enough coaching, she probably can-- although progressives will come along only grudgingly and sullenly. Personally, I can't imagine any set of circumstances that would get me to vote for her. Sunday, Doyle McManus posited the idea that a Bernie Sanders candidacy would actually help Hillary. He wrote about Bernie's appearance on Colbert's show last week.
“A self-described socialist!” Colbert faux-sneered. “Do you frighten people when you walk around the Capitol? Are they afraid you're going to take their tractor and give it to the whole village?”

“Hopefully we frighten the billionaire class,” Sanders replied as a youthful studio audience cheered.

Get ready to hear Sanders repeat that phrase, “the billionaire class,” a lot. It's the core of his message, the theme that makes him passionate: his conviction that the wealthy have hijacked not only the economy, but also the political system.

There may not have been a major-party presidential candidate with so blunt a populist message on the economy since Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against “economic royalists” in 1936.

“The biggest issue in the country is that we don't discuss the biggest issue in the country,” Sanders told me in his Senate office last week.

“How does it happen that today the economists tell us that 95% of all new income created in America goes to the top 1%? How does it happen that we have by far the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on Earth, where one family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American people? How does that happen, and what do we do about it?”

Sanders' answers on what to do come from a crisp checklist: Higher taxes on the wealthy, a much higher minimum wage, $1 trillion of new spending on roads and public transportation and European-style national health insurance (which he tries to make less foreign by calling it “Medicare for all”).

He's asking the right questions. The stagnation of middle class incomes in the midst of an economic recovery has become the central challenge for both political parties. Exit polls in this month's midterm elections found that 63% of all voters believe the U.S. economic system isn't fair to most Americans, but “favors the wealthy.”

...Challenges like these would be a good thing for Clinton.

For one thing, they would give voters a reason to tune in to Democratic primary debates; otherwise, the brawling Republican field would get hours of television time all to itself.

For another, if she has challengers on both the left and right, Clinton could conveniently cast herself as the woman in the middle, the champion of her party's broad center.

And finally, it would be good for Clinton to work through her campaign style in more friendly waters. The last thing she wants is to sail through the primaries untested and have to develop her battle skills in actual combat with her Republican opponent. “She needs to get out of the cocoon of inevitability,” former Barack Obama strategist David Axelrod said last week.

If Clinton wins the nomination, she's unlikely to thank her Democratic opponents for trying to stop her from breaking the glass ceiling-- but she should.
Yeah, we're hearing whispers of a place in her Administration for corrupt conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- like lobbyist Evan Bayh (who was busy last week trashing Obama's move on immigration reform)-- but never a hint Hillary would ask a reformer with a progressive vision for the country-- someone like Sanders or Warren, for example-- to be her running mate, a position likely to be reserved for someone as bland as pablum. These are the substantial, not-bland candidates Hillary-- and more importantly, the American people-- should be looking at. You can encourage them to run at that link.


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Chicago Can Still Replace Rahm Emanuel With A Mayor Who Cares About People

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Last spring and summer there was a hopeful stir as polling showed several candidates could beat Rahm Emanuel's bid for reelection. For various reasons, none of them decided to make the run. But as of last month, another candidate has stepped up to the plate, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Chicago Teachers Union and other progressive groups have already endorsed him. A classic battle between reformers and good government independents and the corrupt transactional Machine is shaping up.
As state senator, Garcia represented a majority Latino district on the Southwest side with no shortage of social problems, including crime, school overcrowding and lack of access to healthcare. The same is true of the overlapping, heavily Latino 7th District he oversees as Cook County commissioner, where his job is ensuring that residents have access to county services.

Garcia supported legislation in both roles that tackled housing, healthcare and education inequities, among other areas. Most well-known was his championing, as commissioner, a successful 2011 ordinance to require Cook County’s sheriff to decline requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants, unless the federal government would pay the detention costs.

During his time as commissioner, Garcia was also one of the sponsors of a county bill to safeguard holders of public housing vouchers from discrimination by landlords, which was signed into law in 2013.

Garcia spoke to In These Times by phone earlier this week. His proudest achievement, he says, was his work balancing Cook County’s budget. In 2010, the county was facing a revenue shortfall of more than $480 million. In response, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and the board of commissioners laid out a plan to lay off more than 1,000 county workers, as well as refinance the county’s debt and go after unpaid taxes. In the end, after weeks of negotiations with local unions, the number of layoffs was reduced to 500.

“I am proud of our ability to address budget deficits,” says Garcia, who was in his first year as commissioner during the budget battle. “The budget deficit we inherited was massive, and to balance it we had to lay off 500 people. That was probably the most painful decision we had to make.”
There are 5 candidates running now and it seems unlikely Rahm will get the 50% he needs to avoid a runoff-- despite the millions and millions of dollars he's raking in from enemies of working families. Emanuel has a job performance rating that is underwater with every group in the city. The first number is the percentage of Chicagoans who rate his job performance excellent or good. The second number represents Chicagoans who rate it fair or poor:
Men- 37-61%
Women- 31-64%
Black- 32-62%
White- 37- 62%
Hispanic- 33-61%
Democrats- 36-60%
Independents- 27-67%
Republicans- 27-71%
The poll was conducted by Lake Research, the most accurate firm in the business. They found that in a three-way race including Emanuel, Garcia and Alderman Bob Fioretti, Emanuel would take 33% of the vote, Garcia 18% and Fioretti 13%. In a head-to-head between Garcia and Emanuel, Emanuel led with 36% to Garcia's 31%. Undecided was huge-- 30%.

On Friday Daily Kos became the first national group to endorse Garcia. Markos:
[Emanuel] was virulently anti-immigration when running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and was essentially the reason the issue didn't move forward during Obama's first term when he served as the president's chief of staff. He once said that liberals were "fucking retarded" for wanting to push the president to the left. He was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's biggest ally in bailing out the banks with zero reciprocity for taxpayers.

About the best thing that could be said about Rahm's mayoralship was that it got him the fuck away from D.C., and good riddance. But that still leaves the little problem of that asshole screwing up Chicago, and that's not fair to our nation's third largest city where the mayor has closed 50 public schools while focusing his efforts on the downtown business core while ignoring its vibrant neighborhoods. He truly is a mayor for the 1 percent. So how about we help boot his ass into the private sector?

...Rahm is far from the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff during this February primary, which is shocking given his near-universal name ID. He's sitting on $9 million, and the business community will shower him with millions more, but he's built little goodwill or core base of support during his first term. Garcia, a long-time community organizer, was a city council supporter of groundbreaking Mayor Harold Washington, later ousted by the Daley machine, the same machine now backing Rahm.

Garcia won't raise $9 million, much less whatever total Rahm ends up with by the time votes are cast. But he doesn't need to. People have either decided they want an alternative, or are open to one... Garcia's job will be to have enough money to get his message out, and to withstand the shit Rahm will throw his way.
As Markos pointed out in his endorsement, if you want a better Democratic Party, primaries are the place to fight that battle most effectively. Blue America has a brand new page for 2015 races like this one. Our first endorsed candidate: Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. Please consider making a contribution to his campaign to replace one of the worst Democrats in contemporary politics-- anywhere.


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Facts Be Damned-- As Usual-- The Republican Party Has No Intention Of Giving Up On "Benghazi"

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Boehner, McConnell and, with them, the Republican-dominated Congress, slinked out of town Friday for another epic paid vacation... instead of dealing with raising the minimum wage, crumbling U.S. infrastructure, student-loan reform and other matters the American public-- overwhelmingly-- wants dealt with (or even what Fox and Hate Talk Radio consumers want them to deal with). Instead they quietly-- quietly as possible-- released the big Benghazi report from the Republican-controlled Intelligence Committee.

As Rachel explains in the clip up top, it was a Friday news dump just before the Thanksgiving holiday when the fewest people possible would be likely to hear about it. After all, two years of smearing Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and the Democratic Party with unfounded lies about a Benghazi conspiracy that the Republican base completely embraced, had come to naught. Could be a big letdown in Limbaughland or for the zombies who get all their information from Fox "News." But even the Republican Party newspaper of record, the Wall Street Journal, was forced, grudgingly, to acknowledge the report.
A House report on the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, concludes that the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. military responded properly and that Obama administration “talking points” were flawed, but didn’t find that administration officials attempted to mislead the public.

The two-year-long investigation by the Republican-led House intelligence committee is the latest congressional probe to examine the attacks, and its conclusions deflate allegations suggesting misconduct by the Obama administration. Among other findings, the report concluded that a CIA response team hadn’t been ordered to “stand down” after an assault began on the U.S. compound, and didn’t delay a rescue operation.

The report also said there had been no intelligence failure prior to the attacks, and that intelligence on those who participated in the attacks “was and remains conflicting” concerning their identities, affiliations and motivations.

The panel said the CIA received all U.S. military support available at the time in the region, and said the military didn’t miss a chance to perform a rescue operation.
Not that this is going to shut the Republicans up-- not by a long shot. When have facts ever mattered on the right? That's why Boehner appointed South Carolina pinhead Trey Gowdey and his completely politicized Select Committee on Benghazi (which features raving extremisst and ridiculous GOP apparatchiks like Martha Roby (R-AL), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), and Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the last two of whom are-- like kooks Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Peter King (R-NY)-- also members of the Intelligence Committee. The Republican Party and its affiliates have figured out how to turn Benghazi into a cash cow for themselves. They're not going to let some dinky report from some committee spoil that any time soon. Clowns like Darrell Issa, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, John Mica have too much riding on it. So does Fox News, which called Benghazi an inside job and made it the theme of their "news" programming for two full years. Back to the Journal for a minute:
The report by the House intelligence panel is unlikely to be the last word on the furor over Benghazi. A separate investigation by a House select committee is under way and members said Friday they have reviewed the House intelligence report.

The issue is certain to be raised in the 2016 presidential race if Democrat Hillary Clinton , the secretary of state in 2012, decides to run. GOP attacks over Benghazi have focused on Mrs. Clinton, as well as on Susan Rice , then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and now the White House national security adviser.


Alan Grayson, in September 2013, at a meeting of the House Foreign Relations Committee, called Benghazi, "the scandal that never was." Since then the Republicans have wasted tens of millions of dollars on it-- something they don't regret, since the cost to the taxpayer was dwarfed by the amount of money the GOP and its allies raised by shrieking "Benghazi," meaningfully. Don't expect that to stop, after this report they worked so hard to bury in obscurity. Fox's coverage of the report was, predictably, a joke. If they had even a shred of concern for the country, the GOP leaders in the House, would have announced they were disbanding the Trey Gowdy clown show immediately. They haven't. That's an integral part of their 2016 anti-Hillary Clinton campaign strategy.


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