Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do Voters Across The Spectrum Really Hate Their Elected Officials? Keith Ellison Threatens Primaries Against Democrats Allied With Banks Against Working Families

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A new poll from Marist for McClatchy indicates that conservative mistrust for the Republican Party is very high-- as is progressive mistrust in the Democratic Party. Both party bases are fed up with their representatives in Congress. That's hardly newsworthy, since the two Party Establishments have been relatively successful in painting themselves as the essential lesser of two evils in a simplistic equation for voters.

By a 66-28% margin, U.S. voters disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing-- and when you take Democrats and independents out of the sample, approval among Republicans for Republicans goes up to 51-45%, although among self-identified conservatives disapproval is heavier, 53-41%.

American voters disapprove of Democrats by around the same margin, 65-27% and, again, when you take Republicans and independents out of the mix, Democratic approval moves up to 55-33%. Among self-identified liberals, though, Democratic Party electeds are still underwater-- 48-45%.

After the big GOP wins in the midterms last month, only 35% of voters think the changes they will try to accomplish will be positive. Voters are very pessimistic across most issues, including their own family's finances. Main points from the poll:
Regardless of party, more than six in ten voters, 61%, think the Republicans in Congress will have more influence over the direction of the nation in 2015.  29% believe President Obama will be the driving force, and 2% report neither will be in command.

When it comes to who voters want to have more influence, 48% prefer the GOP to take the lead while 42% want Obama in charge. Looking at party, while 93% of Republicans want the GOP to have the most impact, 82% of Democrats look to President Obama to take the lead. 47% of independents turn to the GOP for leadership, and 40% put their stock in President Obama.

While 35% of voters think the Republican-controlled Congress will effect change for the better, a plurality, 40%, doesn’t expect to see any impact at all. One in five, 20%, reports GOP control will be change for the worse.

Seven in ten voters, 70%, think it is better for government officials to compromise to find solutions than stand on principle. Democrats, 82%, are more likely than Republicans, 59%, to choose to compromise. More than one-third of Republicans, 36%, value principle over compromise compared with 15% of Democrats who have this view.

Close to two-thirds of Americans, 64%, are pessimistic about the direction of the country. 31% say the nation is on track, and 6% are unsure. Earlier this fall, 61% of residents said the country was going in the wrong direction, and 35% reported it was moving in the right one.

The job approval rating of congressional Democrats is at its lowest point, 27%, since McClatchy-Marist began reporting this question. The previous low for Democrats was 28% and occurred in November of 2011. In October, 33% of voters approved of how the Democrats were doing their job.

The job approval rating of the Republicans in Congress, 28%, also falls short in voters’ eyes.  In October, 24% of registered voters approved of how the congressional GOP was doing its job.

43% of registered voters nationally approve of the job President Obama is doing in office while 52% disapprove. Obama’s approval rating stood at 46% in October. Mr. Obama’s favorable rating is also upside down. 44% have a favorable impression of him while a majority, 54%, does not. Voters divided on the president’s image, 48% to 49%, respectively, earlier this fall.

38% of the national electorate, down from 46% in October, approve of how the president is handling foreign policy. 52% disapprove, and 10% are unsure.

On his handling of the economy, 41% of voters approve of how the president is tackling the issue. This is unchanged from 41% in McClatchy-Marist’s previous survey. 55% currently disapprove of how President Obama is dealing with the economy.

More than six in ten registered voters nationally, 61%, want the Republicans in Congress to make changes to the 2010 health care law. This includes 23% who want the law repealed and 38% who favor modifications to the legislation. 34%, though, say the GOP should focus their efforts on other issues. While 53% of Democrats want the GOP to focus on other issues, and 48% of Republicans want to eliminate the law, 38% of Democrats and 35% of Republicans want changes to be made to the law. A plurality of independents, 43%, would like the health care law modified.

51% of Americans expect their personal family finances to stay about the same in the coming year. 32% think they will see an improvement, and 17% believe their family’s financial situation will get worse. In October, 54% reported their money matters would be status quo, 30% thought they would get better, and 17% believed they would get worse.
Could there be a better set-up for a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential contest in two years? I mean a worse set-up? Wall Street wins no matter what voters do. And America gets screwed... again. And you look down on people who opt out and just don't vote? Or vote for someone like Ralph Nader?

Earlier tonight Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison spoke on a DFA call about the role of economic populism in the Democratic Party. He was eager, he said, to see Elizabeth Warren enter the presidential race-- even if just to make Clinton a better candidate. "Elizabeth Warren is one of the great, bright lights of our time," he said and worried that Hillary Clinton "could just walk into the general [election] without having committed to some important real, real economic populism."

He also warned the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems ( what he called "our weak-kneed Democratic friends") that "we’re watching, and if they’re standing with the corporatocracy and the big banks, we’ll find some other people who will stand with the people."

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Science Watch: "Creatures That Have Sex in Your Coffee" -- and we've got the pix!

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Plus: Coming tomorrow -- Part 1 of "Crackpot
Utopia," Noah's 2014 "Year in Republican Crazy"





"Females sometimes don't even wait around for males. In addition to their incestuous sex, they can also reproduce all on their own."
-- An image for the day (just try to forget it!)

by Ken

Anyone who thinks I could pass up a story pitched as above, as it was in a Discovery News e-mail today, clearly doesn't know who they're dealing with. Come on, creatures having sex in our coffee? You want to know all about it, don't you?

INSECTS
Creatures That Have Sex in Your Coffee: Photos
DEC 18, 2014 06:00 AM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS



Kinky sex takes place in many coffee beans before they are roasted, suggests a new study on coffee berry borers, which are the most serious pests of coffee plants worldwide.

These small beetles, native to Africa, live much of their lives in coffee beans, according to the study, which is published in the Journal of Insect Behavior. It's little wonder that the fast-living beetles, Hypothenemus hampei, have the nickname "Ferrari."

Weliton Dias Silva of the University of São Paulo and his colleagues determined that females of this tiny beetle "have to be copulated by their sibling males before leaving the native coffee fruit to improve their chances of successful colonization."

Females are about .07 inches long, while males are only about .06 inches long.

AND THE FUN DOESN'T STOP THERE, LADIES AND GERMS!

Yessiree, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Are you strapped in?


Home for the coffee berry borer are the seeds of coffee fruit, which are commonly known as coffee beans. Dias Silva and his colleagues report that the insects find their coffee bean homes after sniffing out chemicals released by coffee plants. Like many gourmet coffee drinkers, they prefer beans of Coffea arabica.

Males are always much smaller than females, so they are referred to as "dwarves."

"After copulation with their few dwarf, flightless male sibs, H. hampei females often leave the coffee berry in which they developed," Dias Silva and his team share.

Females sometimes don't even wait around for males. In addition to their incestuous sex, they can also reproduce all on their own. This phenomenon, also seen in certain snakes, sharks and other animals, is known as parthenogenesis.

The telltale sign that a beetle has been in your coffee are minute holes that females bore into beans. Usually the beans will be eaten away by larvae, which hatch from eggs laid by the females.

Another clue is a coffee bean that seems hollow inside.
Worldwide, the coffee berry borer causes an estimated $500 million in losses among coffee growers, according to the USDA. The coffee industry has an economic value exceeding $70 billion annually, with over 20 million coffee-farming families producing coffee in more than 50 countries.

"The insect can cause coffee farmers to lose up to 20 percent of a crop and reduce the price by 30 to 40 percent," said Ted Lingle, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

He continued, "Damage from the borer fruits hurts every coffee-producing country in the world."
Now aren't you glad you asked? Happy to be able to oblige.


STARTING TOMORROW: "CRACKPOT UTOPIA" --
The 2014 edition of Noah's "Year in Republican Crazy"

Crackpot Utopia: A dream world as envisioned by republicans; a manifestation or expression of the deranged, warped alternate universe inhabited by republicans, at least in their minds. See also: Bachmannism, Boehneresque.
Starting tomorrow at 5pm ET/2pm PT -- and continuing every day thereafter until Noah either walks out of his compound smiling or is carried out feet first.
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State Innovation Exchange-- New Hope For Grassroots Progressives?

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A new progressive organization that aims to counter big-money conservative groups and move forward a proactive progressive agenda at state and local levels has just held its inaugural conference in Washington. There were more than 200 state legislators in attendance. The inaugural meeting of the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), featured addresses by Senior Administration officials, members of Congress and prominent progressive leaders including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Howard Dean, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, activist Saru Jayaraman and former White House s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Van Jones.

Legislators were "surprisingly upbeat," despite last month’s election results. There’s "no tension between great progressive ideas and what voters want," said Adam Green to BloombergPolitics, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee and an adviser to SiX. His presentation highlighted the popularity of making college more affordable and expanding Social Security and Medicaid.

Other speakers pointed to widespread victories on ballot initiatives, including in traditionally "red" states, from minimum wage increases in Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska to closing (at least part ) of the gun show loophole in Washington state, to rejecting "personhood" amendments in Colorado and North Dakota. Nationwide, voters also passed ballot initiatives to impose limits on fracking, decriminalize marijuana and keep petty drug offenders out of prison.

The new group aims to provide a counterweight to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative group funded by the Koch brothers and other major corporations that gained attention as it helped Republican lawmakers pass the Stand Your Ground self-defense laws that became notorious following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida and voter ID restrictions scathingly described by Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as "a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention."

But Executive Director Nick Rathod says SiX will not be merely an ALEC look-alike on the Left. "It's stupid to create an organization that is mimicking something else," HuffPo quotes him as saying to applause. "We're going to be better than that. We're different from them because we're going to be transparent: We won't go behind closed doors and vote with corporate America."

SiX hopes eventually to raise $10 million to help progressive state lawmakers advance legislation that would increase environmental protections, raise the minimum wage, promote criminal justice and election reform, among other priorities.

Monday, Tom Hamburger introduced the new group to Washington Post readers.
"There is a hunger and a need for an organization like this," said SiX executive director Nick Rathod, an Obama campaign and White House veteran.

Rathod, who served as White House liaison to the states during Obama’s first term, said he hopes SiX will eventually have a budget of $10 million a year, raised from individual donors, unions, progressive foundations, and corporations.

The new group effectively combines other recently formed organizations on the left, including the Progressive States Network and the Center for State Innovation.

Rathod, who most recently worked at the liberal Center for American Progress, has been informally studying the success that ALEC has had in developing model bills for state legislatures: The 42-year-old nonprofit has long linked state legislators with corporate and interest group lobbyists to discuss and draft legislation behind closed doors.

ALEC has produced hundreds of model bills that have become law on topics ranging from voter identification to environmental and education policy. Recently, ALEC stepped away from controversial social issues such as gun laws and immigration to concentrate more on federal-state economic issues.

At ALEC’s recent winter policy meeting in Washington, conservative state legislators met to talk strategy for rolling back the reach of federal agencies, with special emphasis on Environmental Protection Agency pushback.  State legislators met with lobbyists for coal, utility, oil and gas firms to discuss and draft model bills, which go to the ALEC board for approval and dissemination.

In contrast, the SiX meeting featured speeches and workshops from environmental advocates, including representatives of Blue Green Alliance, the American Lung Association and political consultants dissecting new polling on climate and energy issues. Many of the workshops were closed to the press.

...In an introductory packet provided to attendees, SiX leaders offered a statement of purpose. “Progressives suffer from a power deficit in state government," it read. "This deficit is primarily the result of a well organized and highly capitalized network of conservative organizations that develops, disseminates, and promotes state legislation in service to a large group of corporate funders and special interests."

To counter this, SiX says that the new organization will “advance a progressive policy and messaging agenda in the states by providing training and other policy , communications and technical support to state legislators, serving as the campaign war room and organizational hub for multi-state legislative campaigns.”

STOP THE PRESSES! WATCH THIS SPACE
TOMORROW FOR PART 1 OF "CRACKPOT UTOPIA"


At 5pm ET/2pmPT we'll have Part 1 of Noah's annual holiday extravaganza, "The Year in Republican Crazy." The 2014 edition: "Crackpot Utopia." For a preview, see Ken's 9 pm ET/6pm PT post.
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Don't Feel Sorry For Blake Farenthold

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Yep, the one on the right is a Republican congressman (from Texas)

To many Americans who have ever heard of him, it looks like tubby freshman Blake Farenthold, an ex-Hate Talk Radio host, is on a very downward spiral career wise. Although his East Texas district-- TX-27: Corpus Christie, Victoria, Port Lavaca, Bay City-- was redrawn to make it safe Republican territory (it's now has an R+13 PVI and only gave Obama 38% in 2012 and reelected Farenthold with 63.6% in November) he barely beat out Solomon Ortiz in 2010-- 50,954 (47.85%) to 50,155 (47.10%)-- and could be vulnerable if the Democrats take the district seriously in 2016. Farenthold is generally seen as an extremist lunatic who is also an ineffective clown. His latest bout with the media involves a sexual harassment lawsuit that has stomachs turning from the Gulf to the Beltway. Court documents filed against him on Monday portray him as an alcoholic mess-- which his Texas congressional colleagues have already uncomfortably noticed-- who admitted to another employee that he had "sexual fantasies" and "wet dreams" about another staffer. She's suing him for creating a hostile work environment, sexually harassing her and then firing her after she complained to Farenthold's chief of staff, Bob Haueter, who Californians remember well-- if not fondly-- as a former bungling operative for corrupt Congressman Buck McKeon. This kind of behavior isn't even acceptable among many Texas Republicans.

But if the Democrats do get it together-- a big if-- or if Farenthold is successfully challenged in a primary, a new report , Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Members of Congress, from the Congressional Research Service included some news that could cheer him up if he's defeated in 2016.
These privileges include access to the floor of the chamber where they served, though senators who have not served in the House are traditionally granted House access as well. However, that access is revoked if the former member becomes a lobbyist or an “agent of foreign principal,” meaning someone who advocates on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or organizations.

If those lawmakers are visiting the floor, they can also park in House and Senate parking lots. They can still access House and Senate gyms after they leave as well, though for a fee. Congressional Research Service reports are also available to former members, though they can no longer request that the CRS conduct original research on their behalf.

Former members of Congress can also obtain a permanent identification card from the clerk of the House or the Senate sergeant-at-arms, and become members of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.
And even Farenthold, who is generally thought of as the unkempt schlubb in the ducky pajamas who registered the website BlowMe.org, could become a K-Street lobbyist. Remember, even if ex-Members can't lobby on the House floor-- at least not technically-- many do and even more do so in the House gym. Or, he could always go back to Hate Talk Radio... which thrives in Texas like nowhere else in America.

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Obama Did Real Good On Cuba Yesterday But... There Are Some Serious Problems Elsewhere He's Involved With

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You may not be aware that there's a lot of evidence coming out that the whole mess in Ukraine was, is essence, a CIA coup. A few days ago Eric Zuesse talked about it in the context of how American media avoids reporting on stories the military-industrial complex don't want to see out in the open. "How many Americans," he began, "know that the current regime in Ukraine was installed in a very bloody February 2014 coup d'etat, that was planned in the U.S. White House, and overseen by an Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, and run by the CIA, and carried out for the White House by one of Ukraine's two racist-fascist, or nazi, political parties, whose founder and leader still controls Ukraine though not officially, even these many months after his coup, and which nazi party has been up to their elbows since then in a genocidal policy to exterminate the people in the region of Ukraine that had voted approximately 90% for the man whom Obama and those nazis overthrew in February?

The implications to any semblance of any open/informed democracy, if Zuesse is even partially correct, are absolutely chilling. And the secrecy around U.S. policy in Ukraine is hardly unique. The other day we looked at the secrecy around the TPP negotiations. And obviously, the blatantly unconstitutional spying on Americans by the NSA and the CIA running a rogue torture regime for Dick Cheney. Mike Lofgren has long been our favorite Republican ex-staffer/operative. Tuesday he wrote about the implications of the torture report for Truthout. It's pretty heavy... scary even.
"Hysteria" does not arise from groundless causes, but from a guilty and conflicted id seeking to displace blame from itself onto others. The reaction to the senate study is as significant as the facts that the study uncovered in providing a window on the psychology and methods of those who run the Deep State-- the hybrid association of key elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States with limited reference only to the consent of the governed as it is normally expressed through the formal political process. This essay will discuss some of the implications of that reaction.

President Obama is an operative of the Deep State, but it is unclear whether he is its master or its prisoner. The president's role in this affair has been extremely puzzling. On March 11, 2014, when the torture issue blew up in the senate because of Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein's allegations of CIA spying on her committee's staff members, she said that the White House had been supportive of her committee's probe of CIA activities. That may have been true, but that is still only what she said she believed. It is hardly beyond the realm of plausibility that the president or one of his aides told her that the White House was supportive of her committee's investigation while at the same time tolerating, or even encouraging, CIA obstruction. But suppose the president did support the committee's probe? That would imply that the White House does not really control the CIA. In either case, whether from obstruction or lack of control, the implications of the CIA's spying on Congress merited Senator Feinstein's description of it as a constitutional crisis.

Obama showed a similar split personality nine months later when the report was finally released. The president, and his White House press secretary, insisted that he was in favor of the public seeing the study (or at least the redacted summary of it). Yet on the Friday before its release, John Kerry, the most senior cabinet official in the government, called Senator Feinstein and urged her not to disclose it.

Shorter Kerry: "Lots of things going on in the world; not a good time for disclosure." But when is there ever not a lot of things going on in the world? Kerry seems to have travelled a great distance since he was the young Winter Soldier who proclaimed that you can't ask someone to be the last man to die for a mistake. Did Obama authorize Kerry to make that call? If not, did he care that Kerry was contravening stated White House policy? Or does Obama have any say in the matter?

...General Hayden waxed positively lyrical about the blessings of torture, as he has been doing virtually nonstop since he stepped down as CIA director in 2009.

It was all hogwash and misdirection. The rebutters produced no concrete evidence that torture brought worthwhile results. Blaming the revelation of the crime, rather than its commission, on anything bad that might happen in the future is to stand ordinary ethics, not to mention common sense, on its head.

It requires only a moment's thought to realize that mistreated detainees who were subsequently released knew exactly what was happening to them, and they would tell their family, friends and anyone else in their home countries, including local media, what went on in those prisons. The only people who would not know, absent official disclosure, would be the American people. That, however, is how the Deep State operates: It forces through its agenda by appealing to the elemental fear of terrorism so that it short-circuits the logic of the listener.

The news media are complicit. The rebutters' gaps in logic and evidence have almost never been challenged by the bulldogs of our gloriously free and adversarial press. During the two or three days prior to the senate report's release, the media were awash with unbalanced stories trumpeting the (hypothetical) damage disclosure would cause, all based on interviews with former government officials with an obvious interest in keeping the report under wraps.

This is in part because the media maintain an incestuous relationship with their current and former government sources. One of the most egregious examples was CBS News; one of its national security consultants is Michael J. Morell, a former acting CIA director. The network actually permitted Morell to inveigh against the report's release under color of being a news consultant, despite the fact that he was one of the former CIA big-shots who had prior access to the document and had worked on a rebuttal to it! The mortal remains of Edward R. Murrow are presumably spinning like a rotisserie.

"We're the real victims here." When they are caught in the act, it is a frequent psychological ploy among bullies and con men to accuse other of the crime and to play the victim. The senate study has been accompanied by a torrent of such behavior on the part of the Deep State's current and former operatives. Several former CIA directors and other former intelligence players have even launched, with suspiciously miraculous speed, a website devoted to attacking the senate report and portraying themselves as victims.

The themes were predictable: senate Democrats were just picking on dedicated public servants doing their patriotic duty to keep Americans safe. The program they administered was lawful. CIA officers now have to worry about shifting political winds. We got bin Laden, didn't we? Those sloppy senate staffers didn't even interview us. And so on. Let us examine those assertions.

False appeals to patriotism have become so common after 9/11 that they are almost an involuntary reflex. But, as Samuel Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. In reality, however much of the rebuttal brigade see themselves as patriots, they were actually senior operatives of the Deep State, deeply imbued with an ideology that is neither specifically Republican nor Democrat, and certainly not the beliefs necessary for the maintenance of a constitutional republic under law and the informed consent of the governed.

The ideology of the Deep State is about maintaining and enhancing power-- and cashing in afterwards. It is worth noting that almost all senior national security operatives never retire after leaving government; they cash in with consultancies and board memberships with security-related corporations. It's not that no one ever truly retires, but like snakes in Ireland, they are a vanishingly rare phenomenon. It is profoundly in the material interest of these operatives to defend the Deep State so as to keep the cash flowing.

When they complain about the CIA being subject to shifting political winds, they are expressing distaste for the very processes of elective politics that constitute the democracy they once swore to defend. Their demand for secrecy is really a penchant for self-dealing without public scrutiny. It is exactly what James Madison warned about: "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cheering Iran For Taking Down Vicious Warmonger Sheldon Adelson? Or Could They Have Done Better?

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Tuesday afternoon we focused on the agent the Israelis use to control Democrats, Haim Saban and how the Israel-First agenda works in the Democratic Party. It's far worse inside the Republican Party, where the agent working for the Israelis is Sheldon Adelson. We've gone over that for years but something happened last February that has been very much kept from the general public until this week.

By now everyone probably knows about North Korea's spectacularly successful cyber-attack on SONY Pictures. It's been all over the news-- often covered as comedic. Why comedic... well this movie trailer has over 7.5 million views on YouTube.



And this one has almost 2.9 million views:



The damages to SONY (a Japanese-owned company)-- including a very serious law suit-- may not be worth all the publicity they got for the movie's opening, which was pulled today and is not opening after all. But what's this got to do with Adelson and Israel. Adelson has been urging Members of Congress-- some of whose careers he has substantially financed-- to get behind the Israeli policy calling for a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran, which Israel sees as an existential enemy. Adelson has been very public about it and his war fever hysteria has been widely reported worldwide. Including in Iran... which, predictably, didn't react well. Remember, this one isn't just a funny movie starring James Franco.

Adelson is the Mob's man in Vegas (or one of them) although he makes most of his money from being the Communist Chinese Party's man in Macau, where he's the gambling and prostitution kingpin. As far as we know-- or think we know-- Iran or Iran sympathizers, chose to go after Adelson in Vegas.
Most gamblers were still asleep, and the gondoliers had yet to pole their way down the ersatz canal in front of the Venetian casino on the Las Vegas Strip. But early on the chilly morning of Feb. 10, just above the casino floor, the offices of the world’s largest gaming company were gripped by chaos. Computers were flatlining, e-mail was down, most phones didn’t work, and several of the technology systems that help run the $14 billion operation had sputtered to a halt.

Computer engineers at Las Vegas Sands Corp. raced to figure out what was happening. Within an hour, they had a diagnosis: Sands was under a withering cyber attack. PCs and servers were shutting down in a cascading IT catastrophe, with many of their hard drives wiped clean. The company’s technical staff had never seen anything like it... Numerous systems were felled, including those that run the loyalty rewards plans for Sands customers; programs that monitor the performance and payout of slot machines and table games at Sands’ U.S. casinos; and a multimillion-dollar storage system.

In an effort to save as many machines as they could, IT staffers scrambled across the casino floors of Sands’ Vegas properties—the Venetian and its sister hotel, the Palazzo—ripping network cords out of every functioning computer they could find, including PCs used by pit bosses to track gamblers and kiosks where slots players cash in their tickets.

This was no Ocean’s Eleven. The hackers were not trying to empty a vault of cash, nor were they after customer credit card data, as in recent attacks on Target, Neiman Marcus, and Home Depot. This was personal. The perpetrators wanted to punish the company, or, more precisely, its chief executive officer and majority owner, the billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Although confirming their conjectures would take some time, executives suspected almost immediately the assault was coming from Iran.

This was new. Other countries have spied on American companies, and they have stolen from them, but this is likely the first time—occurring months before the late November attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment-- that a foreign player simply sought to destroy American corporate infrastructure on such a scale. Both hacks may represent the beginning of a geopolitically confusing, and potentially devastating, phase of digital conflict. Experts worry that America’s rivals may have found the sweet spot of cyberwar-- strikes that are serious enough to wound American companies but below the threshold that would trigger a forceful government response. More remarkable still, Sands has managed to keep the full extent of the hack secret for 10 months.
The Iranians asked the U.S. government to penalize Adelson after the little speech at Yeshiva University last year. Nothing happened-- until the Iranians took matters into their own hands.



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Right-wing ideologues, not just off the bench but also ON it, do their damedest to pervert the legal system

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Dim-bulb Western PA District Court Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who yesterday struck down the president's executive order on immigration, is pictured here in 2012, when for the second time in four years the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals took the extraordinary step of removing him from a case.

"It's one thing to have your own personal beliefs. It's quite another to use your official powers and your official office to subvert the court and the lawful process."
-- attorney George Felos

by Ken

The funny thing is, you might guess that attorney Felos, quoted above, is somehow involved in the stuningly inept decision by a GWB-appointed Western Pennsylvania district court hack declaring the Obama executive order on immigration unconstitutional. Felos's observation certainly applies.

In fact, though, Felos is the lawyer who represented Michael Schiavo in 2002 when Florida's then-Gov. Jeb Bush served as the point man for the brigade of ideologically diseased pandering pols who did everything in their power to force Schiavo's brain-dead wife Terri to be kept alive artificially, for no reason except to satisfy their own contrary-to-law beliefs.

In the wake of Jebbie's declaration that he's considering a 2016 presidential run, ThinkProgress spoke to both Schiavo and Felos ("Terri Schiavo's Husband Speaks Out On Jeb Bush's Presidential Bid"). As Josh Israel reports, neither is enthusiastic about the prospect: "Both expressed concern that Bush's record was one of government interference and opposing individual liberty."

Josh recalls for us (with lots of links onsite):
Though Michael Schiavo got a court order in 2002 to remove his wife’s feeding tube — he said his wife had not wanted to be kept alive artificially — Jeb Bush intervened, pushing the state legislature to pass an unconstitutional bill in a special session giving him authority to order the feeding tube reinserted. When a state judge ordered it removed again, Felos told ThinkProgress, Bush “manipulated the organs of state government in order to try to evade the court order.”

“Through the Dept. of Children and Family Services and through the Department of Law Enforcement they tried in the courts to ignore the higher court pronouncements – this was documented in an article by the Miami Herald,” he recalled, though, “when local authorities said you’re going to have to go through us in order to get her, and the state law enforcement agency backed down.”

Though Bush, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and social conservative activists protested that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, an autopsy confirmed that she had been.
Josh reports further that Felos --
also recalled that after Schiavo’s death, Jeb Bush went after Michael Schiavo personally, asking the state’s attorney to investigate whether he had called 911 fast enough. “It was very odd, almost like a personal vendetta the governor had towards Michael Schaivo.” The state’s attorney found no evidence against him and closed the case. “The propriety of using your office to hunt and harass people, as the governor did to Mr. Schiavo after his wife’s death, I think raises significant questions about his judgment and his character,” Felos said.
When it comes to "subvert[ing] the court," though, nothing beats having dishonest, legally incompetent judges sitting right there on the bench, spinning legal fantasies blown out of their butts.

Which brings us back to Western Pennsylvania District Court Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who pounced on the opportunity of a case with only the thinnest, most tortured connection to the executive order, and applied to it an almost total ignorance of immigration law and the Constitution to come up with a result that came blown out of his butt.

ThinkProgress legal eagle Ian Millhiser was all over this astonishing development yesterday:
In an extraordinary opinion that transforms a routine sentencing matter into a vehicle to strike down a politically controversial policy, a George W. Bush-appointed judge in Pennsylvania declared President Obama’s recently announced immigration policy unconstitutional on Tuesday. Because the policy “may” apply to a defendant who was awaiting sentencing of a criminal immigration violation, Judge Arthur Schwab decides that he must determine “whether the Executive Action is constitutional.”
In case the suspense is killing you, Ian continues: " He concludes that it is not."

Yesterday Ian spent some time going through the startlingly brief (for such a significant decision) rationale for the decision, a major portion of which is devoted to rambling about political comments made by President Obama, which have no demonstrated relevance to the legal basis for his executive order. Ian then showed that Judge Schwab really doesn't seem familiar with the actual legal and constitutional issues here, and among other things totally ignores probably the most relevant federal precedent,Arizona v. United States,
where the Supreme Court said that the executive branch has “broad discretion” [this link is to a November 19 post of Ian's, "The Roberts Court Has Already Said That Obama Has The Power To Issue His Immigration Order" -- Ed.] in matters of deportation and removal. As Arizona explains, a “principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.” Executive branch officials, moreover, “must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”

Notably, Arizona also indicates that this broad discretion flows from federal immigration law — i.e. laws that were enacted by Congress. This matters because Schwab’s opinion concludes that Obama’s “unilateral” policy “violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause.” In essence, Schwab concludes that the president lacks the authority to act in the absence of authorization by Congress. Schwab does not even discuss the possibility that Obama’s actions may actually be authorized by Congress. Thus, even if Schwab’s reading of the Constitution is correct — itself a questionable proposition — the judge does not even discuss another major source of law that can justify the president’s actions.

After doing his best to find legal grounding in Judge Schwab's ruling, and failing, Ian wrote yesterday,
So Schwab’s legal analysis is thin. He spends nearly as much time making what appear to be political attacks on the president as he does evaluating actual legal matters. And what little legal analysis he does provide fails to cite key Supreme Court decisions that seem to contradict his conclusion. Judge Schwab traveled far along a very thin branch to reach this decision, and he anchored his decision with little grounding in legal authorities.

Moreover, it’s not clear what effect, if any effect at all, this decision will actually have. The judge does not issue an injunction halting the new immigration policy. Nor does he even state with certainty that the actual defendant in the case before his court will benefit from an order declaring the immigration policy unconstitutional.
Today Ian notes that Judge Schwab's shaky procedural grounds are of concern even Mr. Torture himself, John Yoo, who declares himself (in a National Review Online post called "Was Today's Ruling Against Obama's ImmigrationOrders Judicial Activism?") in sympathy with the view that the president's executive order is executive overreach but nevertheless --
criticizes Schwab for opining on the immigration policy’s constitutionality when the issue was not properly before his court. As Yoo notes, “[t]his is not a case where the executive order applies, because the Obama administration is not allowing an illegal alien to remain in the country.” Thus, the case presents “no real dispute over the law, because regardless of whether the executive order is constitutional or not, it would make no difference in [this defendant’s] case.”

RIGHT-WING IDEOLOGUES CARE ABOUT
BEING RIGHT-WING, NOT BEING RIGHT


Of course it has become standard operating practice for right-wing ideologues (GOPSOP?) to declare the president's executive order unconstitutional, despite their near-total ignorance of the relevant legal and specific constitutional issues. But then, if you're a confirmed right-wing liar-obfuscator, with a deep-gut-level conviction that facts are a left-wing conspiracy, then you just naturally blow with whatever whizzes out of your butt.

Ian looks more closely at the case of John Yoo, who he points out "once argued that the president’s power to act unilaterally is so expansive that the chief executive could order interrogators to crush a child’s testicles" (the title placed by the poster on this 2006 YouTube clip is "John Yoo Says President Bush Can Legally Torture Children"). Specifically, he notes "the former Justice Department attorney's transformation from a proponent of largely unchecked executive power under Bush into a man deeply concerned with government action under Obama." Suddenly Mr. Torture has become ever so fastidious about the issue of executive "reach" -- now that the chief executive is no longer a right-wing sociopath.
Yoo has argued that the Supreme Court decision upholding much of the Affordable Care Act “did great violence” to constitutional limits on federal power. Yet, during the Bush Administration, Yoo offered a view that, if followed to its logical conclusion, would grant President Obama the authority to implement many provisions of Obamacare even if Congress had never passed the law in the first place.

During the Bush years, Yoo argued that the Constitution permits the president to judge what steps are “necessary” to prosecute a war.
To be sure, this attitude hasn't been confined to legal commentators. From the outset of the Obama administration, a president who has for the most part exercised his powers with exceptional timidity has been assaulted as a monstrously overreaching executive tyrant by the usual band of Lying Liars of the Right (stand up and take a bow, George will) by the very media thugs who hailed George W. Bush's every exercise of dictatorial powers. In the legal arena, Ian notes, "Yoo seems particularly willing to advocate in favor of expansive powers for presidents of his party and narrow contractions of federal power when Democrats are calling the shots." In which connection, Ian suggests, Yoo is "a harbinger of a new legal era."
Data shows that the best predictor of whether a lawsuit challenging portions of Obamacare will succeed is whether a majority of the judges hearing the case are Republicans. Justice Antonin Scalia authored an opinion that provided a clear rationale for upholding the Affordable Care Act several years before he joined another opinion attempting to repeal the entire law. Judge Schwab rejected Obama’s immigration policy without even feeling the need to cite precedents supporting the core of his reasoning.

Yoo’s flexible approach to the law, in other words, is hardly limited to Yoo himself. It is increasingly easy to find on the federal bench.
Yesterday Ian pointed out that, while Judge Schwab's ruling striking down the immigration executive order is a sham as legal argumentation, "immigrant families would be wrong to write off the threat his decision could present."
There was a time when the constitutional challenges to the Affordable Care Act were widely dismissed by legal experts — Ronald Reagan’s former solicitor general said he would “eat a hat which I bought in Australia last month made of kangaroo skin” if the Supreme Court struck the law down — yet these challenges rapidly gained momentum after a few Republican judges reached out to strike the law down. The same can be said about the legal theory in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court that seeks to gut much of Obamacare.

It remains to be seen whether Schwab’s opinion — thin though its reasoning may be — will also grant legitimacy to the case against the president’s immigration policy.
When the courts are packed with dimwitted thugs, chosen for their ideological thuggery I guess it's not a surprise that we wind up with dimwitted legal hooliganism.
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Does FitBit Owe a Royalty to the Writers of This Song?

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by Gaius Publius

Something fun. Lately I've been inundated with ads for something called "FitBit" — a health toy that sits on your wrist and, apparently, talks to the Health app on your iPhone. Or something. The problem is the song. It's catchy, yes, very earwormy. But if you know your punk (or "parody punk") French popular music, it's also way too familiar.

Bear with me; this will be worth it. In 1977 Yvan Lacomblez composed the song "Ça plane pour moi" — slang that means "Everything's going great" or "It works for me." (It could be either, depending on whether Ça is used for things in general, as in Ça va, or something specific, as in Ça marche.) The song is a loose, feel-good, verbally kinetic piece of French fun that, in the hands of a classical music student and percussionist who called himself "Plastic Bertrand," became a big hit in Britain and elsewhere.

"Plastic Bertrand" went to lunch on that song the rest of his career, and he's still at it. If you say "ça plane ..." to a French adult of a certain age, they'll get the reference immediately.

"Ça plane pour moi"

Musically "Ça plane" is simple but deceptive. It has a straight 12-bar blues structure — I-I, IV-I, V-I — which you can hear immediately in the chorus. But in the verse there's a lot of "phrase syncopation." If you count the beats ("one, two, three, four") starting from the instrumental intro, and try to keep track of where the verbal phrases start and end, you'll see what I mean. The lyric of the first verse starts after the first downbeat, not on it or before it, so they're already not synced. Unlike the chorus ("Ça plane pour moi, ça plane pour moi..."), the verse is never in sync with the music, and its phrases aren't the same length. Simple but deceptive.

It's that phrase syncopation, by the way, that made the singer's percussion background valuable. He never loses the rhythm in live performances, like that at the end of this piece. (French, by the way, is a natural language for rap. Equal syllable length is built into it.)

The center of the song is a short, flying, non-verbal four-note phrase — you'll spot it as soon as you hear it. Overall the lyrics are a kind of French nonsense (click to see a version with translation). A great fun song and again, a major earworm.

Here's a live but lip-synced 1978 performance from Italian television that offers a good sense of the performer, the song, and why it was so successful. Click and listen — and if you feel like counting the beats, start from the instrumental intro:



There's a more relaxed physical performance in this 1978 lip-synced recording from British TV. The official released version, is here. But the best YouTube'd version is below — my favorite in fact. Scroll down to listen.

Me, I'm stuck; the song's been burned into my brain for the last few years.

Did FitBit Kinda-Sorta Steal this Song?

Now the FitBit jingle, the one that's everywhere this gifting season. Is this a version of "Ça plane pour moi" with subtle changes? Listen — it's not just the rhythm. The first four musical notes after the drumbeat intro are a huge tell:



The opening notes are damning, in my hearing, or at least reimbursement-inducing. Property rights freaks, does someone owe someone a payment? Seem so to me, unless FitBit has already paid up.

Once More With Dancers

Either way, both of these piece make great earworms, and you've now been infected. So, since I can't do any more damage than I've already done (you're welcome), here's a more modern version. "Bertrand" is obviously older, but he's fit, in full control of his chops, and still having fun. This is my favorite version.

From French TV:





Care to Help a Non-Corporate Bro?

FitBit corporate HQ is here:


FITBIT, INC. 
405 HOWARD STREET 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105

The composer of "Ça plane pour moi" is Yvan Lacomblez, and I think he's still alive.

Anyone want to give him an early Season's gift? You can write to FitBit and suggest you're onto them (maybe they'll tell you they've already ponied up). Or write to the composer — if you get contact info, let me know  — wish him a merry, then send him a link to the FitBit jingle. Or both. The Plastic Bertrand official website is here (professional contact page here).

The composer may well need the money, or not, but at least he's a person. FitBit, on the other hand ... well, you may already know what I think of corporations and their billionaire venture investors. (Read the résumés, then scroll down to "Our Investors". Look for Qualcomm.)

Wishing you a merry as well,

GP

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Obama To Establish Diplomatic Relations With Cuba

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This is great news-- and unexpected. But just as the Senate adjourned and the senators went home to demagogue in their own states, the White House made a pretty dramatic announcement about the future of U.S.-Cuba relations. I'm sure Debbie Wasserman Schultz's hair is standing on end, but with the release of Alan Gross in a prisoner exchange swap, it looks like Obama is finally doing with every U.S. president since the first Bush wanted to, but was afraid to do. This is legacy-building. We'll have comments from the peanut gallery later, but here's the White House statement:
Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect-- today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas. We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future-- for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps aimed at supporting the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future. Today, the President announced additional measures to end our outdated approach, and to promote more effectively change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests. Major elements of the President’s new approach include:

Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba-

The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961.

In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process. As an initial step, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana.

U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people.

The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people-

The changes announced today will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce. Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population.

Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society.

These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people. Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law-

General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services.

The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector. Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.

Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons-

Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license.

Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.

Authorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services-

The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector. Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers. This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba-

Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

Facilitating authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba-

U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.

The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba.

U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba.

These measures will improve the speed, efficiency, and oversight of authorized payments between the United States and Cuba.

Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely-

Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent—one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited.

The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized. This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.

Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services, which will improve telecommunications between the United States and Cuba.

Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in third countries-

U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries will be generally licensed to provide services to, and engage in financial transactions with, Cuban individuals in third countries. In addition, general licenses will unblock the accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba; permit U.S. persons to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba; and, allow foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba, among other measures.

Pursuing discussions with the Cuban and Mexican governments to discuss our unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico-

Previous agreements between the United States and Cuba delimit the maritime space between the two countries within 200 nautical miles from shore. The United States, Cuba, and Mexico have extended continental shelf in an area within the Gulf of Mexico where the three countries have not yet delimited any boundaries.

The United States is prepared to invite the governments of Cuba and Mexico to discuss shared maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism-

The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism. Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.

Addressing Cuba’s participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama-

President Obama will participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Human rights and democracy will be key Summit themes. Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate along with civil society from other countries participating in the Summit, consistent with the region’s commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The United States welcomes a constructive dialogue among Summit governments on the Summit’s principles.

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society

A critical focus of our increased engagement will include continued strong support by the United States for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba. The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future. Our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.

The U.S. Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to provide humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information in places where it is restricted and censored. The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials.

The United States encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.

Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who drive economic and political reforms. That is why President Obama took steps to increase the flow of resources and information to ordinary Cuban citizens in 2009, 2011, and today. The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Lindsey is having another hissy-fit


And... first out of the peanut gallery... Miami-Dade's newly elected Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) says exchanging Cuban spies for Gross was "is condemnable and unacceptable." It was a deal Pope Francis helped put together and it also included the release of 53 Cuba political prisoners rightists like Curbelo have been whining about. Gross was escorted back to Andrews Airforce Base by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), but definitely not by Bob Menendez (R-NJ), as far right and out of his mind on anything to do with Cuba as any GOP fascist. Menendez on hearing the news: "President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government." What an asshole! Expect Marco Rubio to try to outdo him momentarily. Bernie Sanders, had a very different perspective: "I applaud the president for beginning discussions to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba, just like most of the rest of the world. This is a major step forward in ending the 55-year Cold War with Cuba. Normal diplomatic relations would mean not only that Americans have the opportunity to visit Cuba, but businesses in Vermont and elsewhere can sell products there."

Marco Rubio, who keeps switching religions-- is he a Baptist or a Mormon or does he belong to some weird Catholic separatist cult?-- went on a nasty personal attack against Pope Francis' role in brokering a peace deal. "I think the people of Cuba deserve the same chances to have democracy as the people of Argentina have had, where he comes from; as the people of Italy have, where he now lives. Obviously the Vatican's its own state, but very nearby," the senator and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful continued. "My point is I hope that people with that sort of prestige on the world stage will take up the cause of freedom and democracy."

And this from PPP: Florida Republicans who support Jeb for President support lifting the embargo 51/28. Ones who support Rubio closely split-- 39/38 for keeping it

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This Time Joe Sestak Probably Will Beat Pat Toomey

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With the announcement Monday from Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane that she will run for reelection rather than seek the state's Senate seat currently held by Pat Toomey, the path to the Democratic nomination is wide open for Admiral Joe Sestak. As far as I can tell his only opponent is a thoroughly mediocre Montgomery County Commissioner, Josh Shapiro. Sestak served for two terms in Congress before beating Republican-turned-quasi-Democrat Arlen Specter in 2010. The entire Democratic Establishment, from Obama on down-- but especially conservatives and corporate shills like Ed Rendell-- campaigned vigorously for Specter. Though the underdog, Sestak beat Specter 568,563 (53.9%) to 487,217 (46.1%). In the general, with Toomey, a Wall Street favorite, outspending him $16,958,449 to $7,524,257, Sestak lost narrowly, 2,028,945 (51%) to 1,948,716 (49%). It's been clear for some time that he would seek a rematch.

Toomey's from the Greed and Selfishness wing of the Republican Party. He was one of the only Wall Street shills willing-- and eager-- to publicly defend the derivatives deregulation that was slipped into the CRomnibus last week. His tactic was a nasty, personal attack against Elizabeth Warren. It's very personal for Toomey, formerly a sleazy derivatives trader himself. He's also one of the loudest proponents of outsourcing American jobs of anyone in Congress. During the 2010 campaign Toomey attempted to hide his record on outsourcing, which wasn't easy given his book, The Road to Prosperity, in which he insisted Americans have an “unfortunate tendency” to use “buy American language” in legislation. According to a report in the Allentown Morning Call a month and a half before the election, Toomey said he favored a regulatory system more like Hong Kong. He's a big fan of China's authoritarian approach. "I was seeing pretty close up which economies were succeeding and which ones weren’t, and there is an unmistakable correlation," Toomey said. "Those that are heavily regulated and centrally controlled underperform. And those like Hong Kong, where there is regulation but it is sensible, they thrive." There was a lot of talk at the time that China was helping finance Toomey through large sums of money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $1,692,056 in Independent Expenditures on Toomey's behalf.

After Toomey's attack on Elizabeth Warren we asked Admiral Sestak how he felt about the Wall Street deregulation agenda Toomey, who has taken $4,865,798 from the Finance Sector for his efforts, has been pursing. He has a very different approach:
"I want to advance individual opportunity so everyone can contribute to the advancement of America. Sen. Toomey, on the other hand, simply believes you’re on your own and therefore doesn’t believe in helping the working class.

The most important issue for me is to re-gain the trust of the American people by willing to be accountable as a public servant for one's deeds. Sen. Toomey, on the other hand, will say one thing in Pennsylvania and vote another way in Washington, D.C., against the middle class. Take for example Toomey’s recent vote that puts taxpayers on the hook to bail out banks that gamble with derivatives. This is a change from what I had voted for and passed, which made sure that banks were no longer too big to fail."
Of course, deregulating Wall Street predators isn't the only instance of Toomey saying one thing to Pennsylvania voters and doing something entirely different in Washington. Recently an insipid Toomey newsletter blathered on about how on December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, five days after Delaware, by a vote of 46-23. Frederick Muhlenberg (who would become the first speaker of the House of Representatives) presided as president of the ratification convention, with PA Supreme Court Chief Justice (and future 2nd governor) and how on December 5, 1933, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Ohio approved the 21st amendment, fully ratifying the repeal of prohibition. Today, Pennsylvania is home to more than 100 breweries throughout the state."

Pennsylvanians who follow Toomey's activities in DC, however, might be tempted to consider a different perspective on history. From a Joe Sestak e-mail this week:
It was a Pennsylvanian, Gouverneur Morris, who coined the phrase, “We the People of the United States,” the words that begin our Constitution. The first three words are the greatest of our land-- they are our very soul-- and are the essence of the greatest invention of humankind: our U.S. Constitution.

In contrast, Sen. Toomey believes that, "The free market has been one of the greatest human inventions ever." For Toomey, it is not about "we the people," but rather an unfettered private market. It is why he votes repeatedly against "we the people"-- our nation-- providing health care for our veterans coming home injured from war-- a war that he voted to send them to. And why he votes against legislation our nation provides for our children’s safety and health. And why he did nothing as a congressman as 162 Pennsylvanians were losing their health care every day-- these Americans were "on their own." And why Toomey has sponsored legislation to dismantle the ACA 30 times: because of his belief that "we the people"-- our nation-- has no role in effecting a better health system.

Pennsylvanians deserve better than a U.S. senator like Sen. Toomey who believes that "we the market" or "we the bank" is his first priority.

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