Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was just so silly," Carroll writes.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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Last Night's Primaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rickie Lee Jones Helped Alan Grayson Win His Primary Today

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



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

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


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

Sell this junk to someone else.

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

by Ken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


THE SOURCE OF THE QUOTE

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

By the way, of the numerous other rehashings of this quote I found -- all, no doubt coincidentally, post-Death and Life (after, all Internet citings are awfully likely to be post-1961) -- I didn't find any that included the "but a word" that Holmes added, about us all being "very near despair."
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Does That Hillary "Inevitability" Thing Stand Up When You Look At The Issues?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surveillance programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bankruptcy reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free-trade agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glass-Steagall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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DesJarlais Won His Primary By 38 Votes-- But That Hasn't Gotten The DCCC's Attention

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Monday morning, Tennessee state Senator Jim Tracy conceded the August 7 Republican primary that had left Scott DesJarlais ahead by by 38 votes; Tracy won't be asking for a recount. So DesJarlais, a doctor whose reputation has been harmed because of a series of scandals involving women patients who he drugged up and had sexual affairs with-- even forcing one to have an abortion (which as a far right Republican zombie he loudly opposes… at least for other women. So the Republicans couldn't quite knock off the wounded and bleeding DesJarlais. Will a Democrat take him to pieces? Steve Israel, chairman of the DCCC, who spends his time collecting money from lobbyists and Big Business special interests while pretending that he's trying to win back the House, has nothing to say about TN-04. In his world that central Tennessee district that stretched from the Nashville suburbs (Rutherford County-- including Smyrna and Murfreesboro-- where 40% of the voters reside) all the way south and east, past Shelbyville and Winchester to the suburbs of Chatanooga.

TN-04 was Democratic territory until the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse saw the defeat of reactionary Democrat Lincoln Davis, first elected in 2002. Davis, an NRA supporter who is vehemently anti-Choice and virulently anti-gay. During the campaign, he bragged out voting with the Republicans against the Affordable Care Act and against the Democrats' energy legislation. He had one of the worst voting records of any Democrat in Congress. So Democratic voters didn't show up at the polls-- and he suffered a humiliating defeat, 57.1% to 38.6%-- after outspending DesJarlais $1,411,746 to $923,280.

Two years later, the DCCC recruited another reactionary, Eric Stewart, a crooked state senator who was later convicted on a theft charge. He was only able to raise $710,407 against DesJarlais' $1,260,459 and DesJarlais beat him 128,500 (56%) to 101,944 (44%), not a prohibitive margin. Apparently it never occurred to Steve Israel to see what would happen if they ran a Democrat with progressive values. Earlier today he sent out a fundraising letter for one of his ghastly conservative candidates: "As Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, my job description is (sorta) simple: Elect Democrats-- ESPECIALLY in the toughest races out there." But, not TN-04.

Even a weak candidate like Stewart was able to win 2 of the district's 16 counties, Van Buren and Warren and hold DesJarlais to a 53-47% margin in mammoth Rutherford. But the DCCC and the Beltway conventional wisdom media types wrote the district off entirely, even as Israel started spending money in much redder, much less likely districts.

This cycle Jim Tracy raised $1,468,783 against DesJarlais, who only managed to bring in $447,015. DesJarlais was forced to spend almost all of it on his 38-vote win. WIth the DCCC ignoring the district and discouraging donors to help Democrat Lenda Sherell, she still managed to out-raise DesJarlais with $470,786. The DCCC and the braying asses in the trade press who belch out their talking points say there is no chance for a Democratic victory in November. "In the current district and political environment, there's not a Democrat alive who could win this race, no matter the GOP nominee. It's not so much redistricting as the visceral dislike of President (Barack) Obama and the national Democratic Party that has gripped rural Tennessee in the last decade."
But Sherrell, 67, says she's run the numbers and can see a path to victory. She said data show that one-third of the voters in the 16-county district vote based on the candidate more than the political party, and 54 percent of the voters are women.

By persuading independent voters, turning out the Democratic base and expanding the electorate through voter registration, Sherrell believes she can win. And while she said she doesn't plan to remind voters of DesJarlais' specific indiscretions-- issues that don't seem to have made a difference in the GOP primary-- she does plan to tell a story about his values-- and hers.

"Frankly, Scott DesJarlais and I are vastly different," she said. "This district deserves someone who is of good moral character, someone who takes an oath and upholds it, someone who you can trust to respect their clients, their colleagues, their co-workers. When I was an auditor and a controller, I was entrusted with multimillion-dollar budgets. For me, it was a sacred trust. This is how I will represent the district. So that's the difference."

Nothing controversial there-- until you examine it through the prism of DesJarlais' past.

A 2001 divorce filing, most of which was released after the 2012 election, showed DesJarlais, a physician who has publicly opposed abortion, urged his former wife to end two pregnancies. He also had affairs with patients and encouraged at least one of them to have an abortion.

Sherrell says she doesn't need to spell out those details because "everybody knows that" by now. But other parties may not show the same restraint. She said her campaign has been in regular contact with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is "extremely supportive," though it hasn't "sent us a check" yet.

…"They were arguing (during the primary campaign) about who was more conservative and who opposed Common Core first," she said. "That's not germane to how voters make decisions."

At a "listening tour" stop Monday in South Pittsburg, where DesJarlais lives, Sherrell talked to a small but appreciative crowd in terms that wouldn't have been out of place in a speech by a Kennedy in the 1960s: Neighbors helping neighbors. Community members looking out for one another.

"When we see a need in our communities, we don't sit back and complain," she said to the leaders of EYES (Educating Youth Ensures Success), an after-school program at a low-slung building in a park where dope dealers used to reign. "We step up."

That kind of appeal to community good will, to brothers helping brothers, could propel Sherrell to victory, supporters say. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat who represented South Pittsburg and Marion County for five years in the Tennessee Senate, came to the event to see old friends and endorse Sherrell, who volunteered on both of Obama's presidential campaigns.

Berke said Sherrell represents the small-town, neighborly qualities the area is all about.

"We want someone in Congress who's going to fight for those values," he said. "The best of what I see in Marion County is also what Lenda has to offer."
DCCC… crickets. And Nancy Pelosi has still not fired Steve Israel.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Hasn't Obama Fired John Brennan Yet?

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We've been going through Michael Gurnow's book, The Edward Snowden Affair and finding some pretty awful facts about domestic spying. Basically, Cheney put a system in place they allowed for no privacy from government snooping for anyone for any reason at any time. Neither Bush nor Obama was completely comfortable with it-- but comfortable enough to leave it in place.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, for example, accounted for 98% of PRISM data intake. They and all the commercial internet firms were facilitating the government to spy-- unconstitutionally-- on their own customers. And then they lied about it.
Speaking on behalf of Apple, Steve Dowling announced, "We have never heard of PRISM" while the chief security officer for Facebook, Joe Sullivan, declared, "We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers," despite the PRISM slide which includes the phrase, "Collection directly from the servers of."
A couple weeks ago, Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic asked an uncomfortable question: Does John Brennan Know Too Much for Obama to Fire Him?. Brennan's broken a lot of law and lied his ass off, as you can see in the BraveNewFilms clip up top. And he's pissed off a lot of senators. But Obama says, he still has confidence in his CIA chief. The two of them were certainly in cahoots in regard to drone strikes of dubious legality.
When John Brennan assured the country that the CIA hadn't improperly monitored the Senate team that compiled a report on Bush-era torture, he fed us false information. That much is clear from Thursday's news that "the C.I.A. secretly monitored a congressional committee charged with supervising its activities." Either the CIA director was lying or he was unaware of grave missteps at the agency he leads. There are already calls for his resignation or firing from Senator Mark Udall, Trevor Timm, Dan Froomkin, and Andrew Sullivan, plus a New York Times editorial airing his ouster as a possibility.

President Obama could surprise the country by axing his former counterterrorism adviser, explaining that under Brennan's management, employees broke laws and undermined the separation of powers core to our democracy. Obama may well make a good-faith effort to act in the national interest. But it's impossible to believe that he won't be aware of the following: No U.S. official knows more than Brennan about Obama's many drone killings. Some of the killings were solidly grounded in international law. And others may have violated the Fifth Amendment, international law, or the laws of war.

In the past, Brennan has been willing to lie about those drone strikes to hide ugly realities. For example, he stated in the summer of 2011 that there had been zero collateral deaths from covert U.S. drone strikes in the previous year, an absurd claim that has been decisively debunked. What if he grew more forthright, either in public statements or by anonymously leaking information?

…I am not suggesting that Brennan is blackmailing Obama, or even that he would necessarily retaliate if fired. Still, if Obama is like most people in positions of power, he fires no subordinate without first asking himself, "Could this person damage me?" If Obama is a normal person, rather than an unusually principled person, the answer factors into his decision. Look at what Brennan said in March, immediately after denying that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee, when Andrea Mitchell asked if he'd resign his post if that turned out to be wrong: 
... if I did something wrong, I will go to the president, and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go. 
He's a smart man.

All this may be irrelevant to his continued tenure. Perhaps Obama has always believed and continues to believe that Brennan is doing a heckuva job. But just as secret torture acted as a cancer on the U.S. government, encompassing acts so barbaric and criminal that, even recently, the CIA spied on a Senate subcommittee investigating the subject, America's semi-secret policy of semi-targeted killing rendered everyone involved complicit in activities sufficiently dubious that all desire their secrecy. Would you fire a guy who knows as much about your most morally fraught acts as Brennan knows about who Obama has killed in secret? Yeah, me neither. This isn't the biggest cost of presidents who hide arguably illegal actions by declaring them state secrets. But it is certainly one of the costs.

There's inevitably a need to review the job performance of people party to these secrets. They typically keep their jobs. So George W. Bush left us a CIA staffed partly with people willing to torture, and Obama will likely leave us with a CIA that includes torturers, people willing to kill American citizens in secret without due process, and people willing to spy on their Senate overseers. The Senate intelligence committee was established precisely to stop this sort of thing from playing out, but it is failing in its duties, as yesterday's crimes spawn today's efforts to spin or suppress those crimes. If the Senate doesn't act now to rein in the CIA, what will it take?

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One question for the (female) school sup't who likes to make female students bend over

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Superintendent Bass is said to have said, "If you’re not comfortable with bending over, we might have a problem." She doesn't think she did anything inappropriate.

by Ken

You know how sometimes you wish you could ask someone in the news just one question? That's how I felt when I read this report by ThinkProgress's Igor Volsky (links onsite):
School Superintendent Asks Female Students To Bend Over During Dress Code Check

A school superintendent in Noble, Oklahoma allegedly asked female students to bend over during a dress code check on the first week of school and claimed, “If you’re not comfortable with bending over, we might have a problem.”

Students at Noble High School report that the superintendent, Ronda Bass, kicked off a school assembly by saying, “Have y’all ever seen any ‘skanks’ around this school . . . I don’t want to see anyone’s ass hanging out of their shorts.” She later completed another dress code check, singling out just the female students.

Several students were sent home “crying and humiliated,” KFOR reports, and now parent are also raising concerns over how their daughters were treated. They’ve started a petition demanding that she step down.

For her part, Bass denies doing anything inappropriate and says she was trying to protect her students from the names others were calling them. “The message I wanted to send to them was I don’t want them to be called those names,” she told KFOR. “I want us to be known as the classy lady Bears.”

The incident is just the latest installment in a long line of examples of schools telling girls to cover up so they don’t distract their male peers. Critics worry that these policies teach girls that it’s their responsibility to prevent themselves from being ogled, rather than teaching boys to have the self-control to refrain from objectifying their classmates.
And my question -- okay, my question with a follow-up question or two -- would be:

Did anyone with the power to make you do it ever order you to bend over?

My follow-up would be:

How did it make you feel?

Or, if it has never happened to you:

How do you think it would have made you feel?

And if by chance you had (or might have had) some objection, would it have answered your objections if the person giving the order had explained, "If you’re not comfortable with bending over, we might have a problem"?

As I understand it, law-enforcement people can make you do it (assuming the genders align correctly), and health-care professionals. But apart from that, I really have to wonder. I know that Superintendent Bass thinks she's just trying to protect her students, but like I said, seeing as how she's so confident that she didn't do anything inappropriate, I just had this one question I wished I could have asked her.
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Stopping Militarization Of Local Police Departments

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Below is a copy of the letter Blue America sent out to all members letter last night. We were eager to make sure everyone was aware that most Democrats joined the Republicans in voting against the amendment Grayson offered to just the brakes on excessive militarization of local police departments but that congressmembers who Blue America has helped get elected-- from Grayson himself, right up through last year's two big success stories, Matt Cartwright and Beto O'Rourke-- defied the leadership and voted for the amendment.

Our candidates this year are cut from the same stock. Shenna Bellows, for example, says she would have introduced companion legislation in the Senate. This was the letter:


When Alan Grayson brought up an Amendment to stop funding the extreme militarization of local police departments, the Republican House leadership flipped out and ordered it killed. Grayson outmaneuvered them by rounding up 19 Republicans to vote with him-- as well as some of the Blue Dogs like John Barrow and Jim Matheson who normally vote with Boehner. But the Republicans didn't need those 19 rebels and their pet Blue Dogs; this time they had the House Democratic leadership.

At the urging of the bill's Democratic floor manager, Military Industrial shill Pete Visclosky (D-IN), Hoyer and Pelosi gave the amendment an official thumbs down. Much to Grayson's dismay, 145 Democrats voted with the GOP against a bill that would halt using federal taxpayer dollars to arm local police with rocket launchers, tanks, guided missiles, mines, torpedoes, ballistic missiles, toxicological agents, grenade launchers and even nuclear weapons! Pelosi called Grayson's amendment "a blunt instrument." Every Democratic House leader voted against it: Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Wasserman Schultz, Van Hollen, Becerra, Crowley and, of course, the most odious of all, Steve Israel. And then came Ferguson, Missouri.

As a Blue America member there's a good chance you contributed to at least one of the 43 Democrats in the House who voted for the Grayson amendment. That's because the kind of candidates we help recruit and back are the kind of political leaders who think the same way Grayson does on matters like this.

Blue America was the first national PAC to back Donna Edwards-- at a time when Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer were working frantically to defeat her. She voted for the Grayson amendment. We backed Bruce Braley (IA) when he first ran for Congress. This year he has a tough Senate race but that didn't stop him from doing the right thing and getting behind Garyson's proposal. Last cycle, we fought hard for progressive insurgents Matt Cartwright (PA) and Beto O'Rourke (TX) who ran against entrenched, conservative Establishment stooges. Matt and Beto were slammed by Hoyer's political machine but your contributions helped get them over the line. They both ignored Hoyer and voted for the Grayson amendment. So did all these past Blue America candidates: Raul Grijalva (AZ), Keith Ellison (MN), Barbara Lee (CA), Jerry McNerney (CA), John Tierney (MA), Mike Honda (CA), Judy Chu (CA), Rush Holt (NJ).

Kelly Westlund is running for the northwest Wisconsin congressional seat (WI-07) that Paul Ryan clone Sean Duffy was able to grab when Dave Obey retired. And Duffy, like Ryan, voted against the Grayson amendment. Kelly strongly supports it. "Police should be able to protect themselves," she told us "but there is a difference between military tactics and law enforcement tactics. Adding military weaponry to a crowd control scenario only has the potential to escalate conflict. I stand with Representative Grayson to limit the funding of military weaponry to local law enforcement agencies."

This cycle, Blue America is attempting to help elect another strong batch of sterling progressives. We don't know what all the specific issues that will come up are, but we do know where these men and women are coming from and we feel confident that they will do the right thing, not serve the interests of Big Business and not dance to the tune of corrupt Beltway forces. 

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Is Hillary Really A War Hawk? Is Rand Paul An Isolationist? And What's Tony Blair?

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Tony Blair, Hilary Clinton, Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel-- most elderly "left" of center politicians come from a period when it was requisite to prove your manhood-- and whatever Hillary is trying to prove-- by being "tough" on… Communists, anti-colonialists, Muslims or whomever was playing the role of Eurasia or Eastasia that year. It's fascinating to read Rick Perlstein's account of the Ronald Reagan transition from superficially liberal Democrat to right-wing corporate shill in his new book, The Invisible Bridge. Tony Blair's transition is just plain ugly.
Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan’s autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress” his country had made.

Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action.

Mr Blair is paid through his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates (TBA), which he set up after leaving Downing Street in 2007. TBA is understood to deploy a number of consultants in key ministries in Kazakhstan.

Human rights activists accuse Mr Blair of acting “disgracefully” in bolstering Mr Nazarbayev’s credibility on the world stage in return for millions of pounds.

…The words written by Mr Blair but spoken by Mr Nazarbayev with some changes, were widely picked up at the time. They were used to portray Mr Nazarbayev as a visionary leader who had improved living standards in his homeland.

Mr Nazarbayev has been president of Kazakhstan, which is oil and gas rich and occupies an area larger than western Europe, since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. He won the last presidential election in 2011 with almost 96 per cent of the vote.

Mr Blair advised his client to insert into his speech one paragraph beginning: “I love my country. I have worked hard to help it overcome the bitter legacy of its recent history. I have been at the helm as it has dramatically made these strides in living standards, wealth and prosperity for the people... I rejoice in the essential religious tolerance of the nation that allows people of different faiths to practise those faiths freely.”

Mr Blair also wrote into the speech the role Kazakhstan played in helping Nato forces withdraw from Afghanistan and Mr Nazarbayev’s decision to give up nuclear weapons-- a relic of the Soviet era.

On the issue of Zhanaozen, Mr Blair suggested Mr Nazarbayev say in his speech: “There are issues of democracy and human rights which it is essential to address. I understand and hear what our critics say. However, I would simply say this to them: by all means make your points and I assure you we’re listening. But give us credit for the huge change of a positive nature we have brought about in our country over these past 20 years... We are going to have to go step by step.”

In the speech finally delivered by Mr Nazarbayev, he largely followed Mr Blair’s advice although he ignored one key aspect-- by failing to mention Zhanaozen by name.

In its latest analysis of the country’s record, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that: “Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record continued to deteriorate in 2013, with authorities cracking down on free speech and dissent through misuse of overly broad laws.”

Hugh Williamson, the director of HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Division, said: “It is disgraceful that Tony Blair has taken millions of pounds from this autocrat to write speeches for him without really tackling head on the huge human rights problems in Kazakhstan,” he said.
Usually the rap against Hillary is that she's in the tank for Wall Street-- which is certainly true-- but Rand Paul's critique of her yesterday on Meet the Press, that she's a "war hawk" is equally salient. Even if "war hawk" wasn't the best word for Paul, or any other Republican, to use, she is certainly a willing cog in the MIlitary Industrial Complex machine. Team Hillary struck back at Paul in a very telling way:
Michael Czin, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said on Sunday in a statement that Democrats are eager to debate Paul about “his fringe, isolationist vision” that Czin says would end all aid to foreign allies, including Israel.
Remember, Hillary can never take back her vote to give Bush the power to declare war on Iraq for no reason at all. It's why show lost the 2008 primary to Obama. And no matter how disappointed Cornel West is that Obama is not a progressive, his instincts are not from this old school, chest-thumping, war-making, machismo defensiveness. I wonder how long it will take for that kind of baiting it will take before Rand Paul turns into a John McCain, Joe Lieberman or Lindsay Graham.



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