Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No, The Democrats Won't Win Back The House, But…


Someone forgot his makeup today

This isn't a rundown of races the DCCC and NRCC have decided to fight over for control of the House. Continued, unchallenged control of the House became a foregone conclusion the day Nancy Pelosi reappointed a failed, incompetent, corrupt and vision-free Steve Israel to run the DCCC for another cycle. Its numerically impossible for the Democrats to win back the House under Israel guide lines of ignoring Republicans who were members of his Center Aisle Caucus and his decision to give free passes to all GOP Leaders and committee chairmen, even vulnerable ones from Obama districts like the contemptible Fred Upton (chairman, Energy and Commerce Committee) and John Kline (chairman, Education and Workforce Committee).

No, the Democrats have no shot whatsoever at winning back the House and if Steve Israel chairs the DCCC for a hundred years, Boehner and Boehner the II and III and IV will be Speaker for a hundred years. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi. For The DCCC it's become an attempt to re-shape the Democratic House caucus into a more New Dem and Blue Dog tool-- less progressive and more under the thumb of the corporatist Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Most of Steve Israel's recruits are conservatives, maybe not as bad as his prized Sarah Palin of Ohio, but far more conservative than the average Democratic members currently-- despite the walloping House conservadems were given by the Democratic base in 2010's Great Blue Dog Apocalypse.

While Steve Israel tries to infiltrate more New Dems, more Blue Dogs and even 3 or 4 CIA agents into Congress disguised as Democrats, there are a number of real progressives running with shots at winning races Israel is ignoring. Proven, accomplished and battled-tested progressives like Ted Lieu (CA-33), Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) have already won primaries against more conservative opponents and are all but guaranteed seats in the next Congress. After their primary wins, the DCCC even embraced Murphy and Watson Coleman, two of the only progressives they are not undermining this cycle.

Progressives in swing districts who would probably stand a good chance of winning with reasonable financial aid from the DCCC include these 4 Blue America candidates in very winnable swing districts:
Paul Clements (MI-06)- PVI- R+1- Obama beat McCain 53-45%
Mike Obermueller (MN-02)- PVI- R+2- Obama won the district twice
Michael Wager (OH-14)- PVI- R+4)- Sherrod won the district in 2012
Kelly Westlund (WI-07)- PVI- R+2- Obama beat McCain 53-45%
All 4 progressives are being ignored-- at best-- by the DCCC in favor of deep red unwinnable seats in places like Arkansas where Israel hopes to bolster Blue Dogs and New Dems. Voters who value a progressive vision and do not countenance conservatives disguised as Democrats who not contribute a cent to the DCCC. You can find well-vetted progressives running for the House on this Act Blue page.

On the Senate side, the DSCC is so busy trying to bolster unpopular southern conservative incumbents like Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) and fighting for unpopular southern conservative challengers like Michelle Nunn (GA) and Alison Grimes (KY) that they are ignoring opportunities to hold 2 blue seats-- Montana and South Dakota where progressives are running-- and to win a blue-leaning state away from fake moderate Susan Collins. The DSCC should be making big bets on Rick Weiland in South Dakota, Shenna Bellows in Maine and Amanda Curtis in Montana. Here's the Blue America Act Blue page if you've got a hankering to keep the Senate blue without making it more conservative than it already is.

Politico kicked off the week with a poll of competitive seats showing a tiny bit of momentum towards the Democrats in these races.
The two parties were closely matched on the 2014 ballot, with 42 percent of likely voters planning to vote Democratic and 41 percent picking Republicans. That’s a slight shift in the Democratic direction since July, when a Politico poll showed Republicans with a 2-point edge.

…Several metrics of national gloom have remained stable throughout the year: 54 percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track, a number essentially unchanged since May. Voters are divided almost down the middle as to whether they feel more optimistic (47 percent) or pessimistic (52 percent) about the outlook for the U.S. over the next few years.

And while their contempt for politicians is evident across the board, they reserve a special category of distrust for congressional Republicans.

Midterm battleground voters disapprove of Obama by a 12-point margin, 56 percent to 44 percent, and congressional Democrats by a 30-point margin, 65 percent to 35 percent.

For Republicans, the gap is a towering 46 points: 73 percent disapprove of their performance and just 27 percent approve.

Marion Leonard of Mission, Kansas, a 61-year-old retiree, expressed disgust at how the dysfunctional Congress has handled its relationship with the president.

“I am satisfied with what the president is doing. I am disappointed in the Congress, because Congress-- the Republicans especially-- are looking at his skin color instead of what is best for the country,” Leonard said.
Next cycle, it is a foregone conclusion that the Democrats won't be anchored down by a born loser like Steve Israel at the helm of the DCCC. Sharper minds-- current frontrunners are Donna Edwards (D-MD), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Jim Himes (D-CT)-- are frontrunners for the chairmanship and any of them would be a vast improvement and would work, first and foremost to win back seats, not protect Blue Dogs and GOP leaders. You'll know the DCCC is a serious operation again when they field a candidate against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Miami's increasingly blue FL-27, where Obama beat Romney 53-47% but where Israel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz made sure Ros-Lehtinen would have no challenger to worry about again. This cycle though, the DCCC is not a serious operation and the best progressive voters could hope for are more progressives in Congress. That's what this is for.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Ugly, Anti-Christian Republican Hatred Of Poor People-- From Wisconsin To Arizona


Ending the chapter of my life called "College," brought two major changes: I moved abroad and, soon after-- following an incredible months-long binge in Afghanistan-- I stopped using drugs… forever. I lived overseas close to 7 years, much of it in Amsterdam, where I had a wonderful life working in a government-funded meditation center, the Kosmos. When I moved back to America in the late '70s I had to start all over again. Along with my friend, Chris, I started an independent record label from scratch. We had no money, none at all but we built a company that CBS bought and that led me to Warner Bros and, eventually, to paying millions of dollars in income taxes. I didn't celebrate writing those mammoth checks but I never begrudged paying them-- not once-- because I always knew that without this great country I was paying taxes to, I would never have earned the income that resulted in those big tax bills.

But at one time, those taxes might have gone to Holland and not America. At a time long before I was paying any taxes, I was struggling trying to keep my company afloat. Every week at least one or two days I would have to chose between eating and putting gas in my car. Someone turned me on to the idea of food stamps, which helped get me over the hump in a big way. It was a fantastic investment for the government. Without those few thousand dollars in food stamps for a couple of years I would probably have had to move back to Holland's easier life. The jobs generated by my company and the taxes paid by it and by me, would have been Dutch jobs and Dutch taxes. I'm so glad it worked out the way it did.

Today Republicans are-- as always-- negative and condemnatory about fellow-Americans who need a hand. In his gubernatorial reelection platform, Koch-backed right-winger Rick Scott, promises to discourage and severely limit, arbitrarily, assistance to people in need. In his crabbed little world people who need a hand are "the other," not "us," not potential resources but a burden. He's telling Wisconsin voters that he will "require a drug test for those requesting unemployment and able-bodied, working age adults requesting Food Stamps from the state." If Wisconsin voters are smart, they'll unemployed Scott Walker.

But Republican contempt for the less fortunate isn't just a Wisconsin story. It's a pillar of the conservative world view and the disease is everyone. Do you remember the Mormon neo-nazi sympathizer state Senator in Arizona Russell Pearce? Long the ugly face of the Arizona Know Nothing movement, he was elected by right wing extremists president of the state Senate in January of 2011 and then recalled by the voters-- the first Arizona state legislator in history to ever be recalled 10 months later. He lost the recall election, 54-46%, and several of his top campaign staffers were charged with felonies for vote fraud during the election. A horrible, corrupt and ignorant man, he ran again in 2012 and was rebuffed by the voters with an even greater margin, 56-44%. At that point, the ultra-racist Arizona Republican Party hired him as First Vice Chairman.

Pearce was forced to resign on Sunday, not because of the racism and xenophobia, his trademark issues but because of his hatred of poor people and, especially, poor women. Republican Party candidates didn't want to be associated with him after he made some typically right-wing remarks on a Hate Talk Radio show on KKNT-AM. Like Scott Walker, he doesn't want to lend a helping hand-- he wants to sever outstretched hands asking for assistance. "You put me in charge of Medicaid," he boasted, "the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations… Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

Mark Brnovich, the Republican running for Attorney General was only one of many GOP candidates worried that Pearce's extremism would harm is own chances at the polls in November. "The notion that government would force sterilization upon anyone is counter to everything I believe about individual liberty and contrary to the founding principles of a free nation. Comments that demean the plight of the poor, including women in the dual role of mother and economic provider, are not conservative; they're cruel. And I reject them."

The Republican Party's top hope for winning a Democratic-held seat, Martha McSally, who has been making progressive against Blue Dog Ron Barber, also feared Pearce's comments could hurt her in the extreme southeastern part of the state, especially in Tucson and the Pima County suburbs where Barber beat her in 2012 52-48% and providing his margin of victory in one of the country's tightest races. She took to her Twitter account as fast as she could:

Maybe McSally should have thought more carefully about which party she joined and what they really do stand for at their core. Pearce, after all, has long been at the heart of the Arizona GOP and his comments are consistent with his career-- and with what the party espouses across the entire country.

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Frank Torre (1931-2014)


Joe and Frank Torre in 1977, kid brother's rookie managerial season, as player-manager of the New York Mets. (Frank's seven-year Major League career ended with the Phillies in 1963.) It was Frank who, at age 20, stood up to their violently abusive father.

"When I was a teenager and my brother Frank was in the World Series in '57 and '58 against the Yankees, Braves winning in '57 and the Yankees in '58, little did I know the next time these two teams would meet in the World Series, I would be managing the Yankees."
-- Joe Torre, in his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech, July 27

"One win­ter, when I was 12, my older brother Frank (20) said to my father, 'We want you out of the house. We don't want any­thing other than the house we live in. We don't want any­thing from you. Just leave.' And he left."

by Ken

For most people, Frank Torre, who died Saturday at his home in Palm Beach at 82, was Joe Torre's older brother. Surely everyone who lived through it remembers the high drama of Frank receiving a desperately needed heart transplant while Joe was managing the New York Yankees to their first World Series title together in his first season as Yankees manager. As Richard Goldstein recalls in his NYT obit of Frank, two years later he told the Times: "I got a chance to live again. The next night, I was able to see the winning game in the World Series."

And Frank lived to see his baby brother finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, on July 27. Their oldest brother, Rocco, the oldest of the five Torre siblings, died of a heart attacke suffered while watching a Yankees game during Joe's first season as Yankees manager, while Frank was languishing and hoping for a new heart. Frank remained active as an advocate for transplants, and was a second-time beneficiary -- a kidney transplant in 2007.

However, for a kid in Milwaukee at the time that Frank was the first baseman of the Braves team that won first the NL penant in 1957 and then the World Series in 1958, Joe was Frank's pudgy baby brother. He was first heard of when he turned up with Frank at the Braves' training camp one spring, supposedly also a baseball player, though what position could he have played but catcher? (Eventually Joe, already an All-Star Major League catcher, would slim down and reinvent himself as an All-Star third baseman, even though, as Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton recalled to Fox Sports' Zach Dillard, "he won a batting title and he couldn't run out of sight in two days." Sutton says he "hated him as a player, for all those line drives he hit up the middle. Sutton describes Joe as "a gamer," who "made himself into a good third baseman," and "a guy that's mastered so many facets of our game from the front office to the grunt work in the dugout.")

That same kid, by then transplanted from Milwaukee to Brooklyn, where he (along with Howie) attended Frank's alma mater, James Madison HS, had the thrill of an assembly visit from the man he considered the school's most distinguished alum -- although Frank was pretty much unknown to most Madison students. By then Joe was a rising star with the Braves, but he was not a Madison kid. He went to a Catholic high school, St. Francis Prep.

Of course it was hard not to be won over by Joe, first as a player -- an incredibly hard-working player who forged a great career playing for teams that never won anything -- and eventually as a manager, generally known as one of the most decent people in sports. And we could go on and on with inspiring Torre family memories.

But as I expect most people know, those memories include a lot of horror from the five siblings' childhood, when their father, Joe, an NYPD detective widely esteemed on their home turf in Brooklyn, was physically and psychologically abusing their mother, Margaret -- up until the day in 1952 that Joe recalls in the quote I've put at the top of this post. By then two of the five Torre siblings were out of the house. Brother Rocco was married with a family of his own, and in 1951 sister Marguerite had left to become, literally, Sister Marguerite, as she remained until her retirement in 2007, the last 27 years spent as principal of Nativity BVM School in Ozone Park, NY.

Which left it to 20-year-old Frank to stand up to their father, Joe, an act of almost unimaginable courage for such a closely knit, strictly Catholic Italian-American family in Brooklyn in the early '50s. (Margaret Torre never did divorce the senior Joe.)


For decades the Torres didn't talk outside the house about what happened inside their house. Joe has said that he never talked to schoolmates about it. Not having a father in the house must have been extremely difficult for a teenage kid in the early '50s, when the only acceptable excuse for not having two parents at home was that one or more had died. Here's how the story is told on the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation website:
Joe Torre, for­mer pro­fes­sional base­ball player and man­ager of the Los Ange­les Dodgers, grew up the youngest of five chil­dren in Brook­lyn, New York. His father was a New York City police detec­tive and revered in his com­mu­nity. He was the cop that made every­one feel safe. Every­one except his own family.

Joe, Sr. ruled his home with an iron fist. He was a phys­i­cally abu­sive hus­band and an emo­tion­ally abu­sive father. The vio­lence that had besieged the Torre house­hold for so many years was a well-kept fam­ily secret and stayed a fam­ily secret for gen­er­a­tions. How­ever, in Decem­ber of 1995, Ali and Joe Torre attended a sem­i­nar called Life Suc­cess. As a result of Joe’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in that sem­i­nar, he began to talk openly of his child­hood expe­ri­ence with domes­tic vio­lence. He went pub­lic with his fam­ily secret in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Chas­ing the Dream: My Life­long Jour­ney to the World Series.

Ali and Joe Torre wanted to edu­cate chil­dren about the issue of domes­tic vio­lence. In 2002, they cre­ated the Joe Torre Safe At Home® Foun­da­tion. The mis­sion of the Foun­da­tion is “edu­cat­ing to end the cycle of domes­tic vio­lence and save lives”.

"My dad was a bully. He controlled my mom, whether it be the paycheck, physical abusing, intimidating her, bullying. . . . The one thing I knew was that I didn't want to be my dad."

In the video, Joe goes on to say that he was lucky, both to have had an outlet in baseball and to have had different sorts of male role models in his older brothers, Rocco and Frank. In 1996 Frank and Joe's sister Marguerite (yes, Sister Marguerite) told People magazine: "I think Rocco was like the father image to Joe. Frank, of course, was his hero. I would say he almost worshipped Frank."

"There were five of us, and he's our baby," the other Torre sister, Rae, told Nj.com's Randy Miller on the day in July when Joe was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. "We spoiled him rotten."

Marguerite chimed in: "Spoiled but precious. We had to run if he spoke or he cried. My mother -- ohmygosh, 'Go get what he needs.' "

Here's Joe telling the family story, again on the Safe At Home website:
I grew up in Marine Park, Brook­lyn. I am the youngest of five chil­dren. My father, Joseph, was a New York City police offi­cer. When I was grow­ing up, my father was a bully. My mother faced ver­bal and phys­i­cal abuse from my father. If he didn’t like the food mom made, he would throw it against the wall. He used to make her get up in the mid­dle of the night to cook for friends he brought home.

Although I did not get phys­i­cally abused myself, I grew up in fear because my mom did. I was shy and dad would make fun of me. When­ever I saw his car in the dri­ve­way, I didn’t want to go home. One win­ter, when I was 12, my older brother Frank (20) said to my father, “We want you out of the house. We don’t want any­thing other than the house we live in. We don’t want any­thing from you. Just leave.” And he left.

Grow­ing up in a home where there was domes­tic vio­lence was very dif­fi­cult and left last­ing scars. Although I didn’t real­ize it then, I used to feel like the abuse was my fault. I felt help­less and alone. For many years, I felt ashamed and worthless.

In those days, no one in my neigh­bor­hood knew what was hap­pen­ing in my home, or if they did, nobody talked about it. I did not talk about it because I was afraid. I didn’t know who to turn to for help.

But today, things are dif­fer­ent and there is help for you. The way we can con­quer and stop domes­tic vio­lence is to form a team. If we grow up respect­ing one another, we will even­tu­ally end domes­tic vio­lence. The more we talk about it, the more we’ll be likely to pick up a phone and tell a rel­a­tive, a teacher or a counselor.
Once Joe, with Ali's assistance, came to grips with his family history enough to go public, he and Ali became warriors in the fight against domestic violence. So it was hardly surprising when the Dallas Morning News 's Sarah Mervosh wrote yesterday in a piece headlined "":
Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre says the video of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée unconscious with a single punch accomplished one good thing: The footage ripped off the cloak of secrecy that typically emboldens domestic abusers.

“What’s gone on here recently has certainly caught people’s attention and, I want to say, in a positive way. Everybody’s reacting the same way — that we need to do something about this,” the former New York Yankees manager told The Dallas Morning News. Torre is scheduled to visit Dallas this week for a previously planned luncheon for The Family Place shelter. . . .


Despite Torre’s storied baseball career, which includes leading the Yankees to four World Series championships, he said he suffered from paralyzing insecurity as a child. He said he didn’t try out for the high school baseball team his first year because he feared failure.

His insecurity, he later realized, stemmed from the violent environment he grew up in. Torre remembers the way his father threw dishes in anger, woke up his wife to cook for him when he came home late, and once, reached for his gun when his daughter held a knife up to protect her mother.

Torre’s older brother eventually forced his father out of the house. But the memories stayed with Torre. In 2002, he established the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, which uses education to end the cycle of abuse and provides safe-rooms at schools for children to seek help.

Given Torre’s emphasis on education, he said he wonders about Rice’s past and whether anyone spoke to him about how to treat women. While Torre said the NFL was right to make an example of Rice, he hopes the running back will get treatment, too.

“Have him understand what he did and why it’s not the right thing to do,” Torre said. “He’s got more of a life to live than just the NFL.”
That's Joe for you. But then, he's got his share of experience living that life. This is surely not a happy moment for the extended Torre family, but then, they have some pretty good family to fall back on for support.

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Sean Eldridge Taking Upstate New York By Storm?


Sean at home in his $5 million dollar Soho loft

-by Concerned Monticello Democrat

As far as campaign budgets go, Sean Eldridge has more money than God. Or, to be more precise, $3,069,179 raised so far ($1,340,000 from his own bank account); $962,959 already spent, albeit mostly wasted on over-priced consultants taking him for a ride; and $2,106,220 cash-on-hand, all as of the June 30 filing deadline. It could easily double as campaign professionals (hustlers) persuade Sean to pay no attention to the polls that show him losing by over 20 points.

This self-funding multimillionaire, married to lucky Facebook billionaire Chris Hughes, has the resources to employ nearly the entire Hudson Valley with campaign jobs-- and every unemployed comedian in the Catskills to boot. Let’s take a quick geographical tour of the district to see if there would be individuals who could benefit from such jobs.

This upstate New York District has some of the poorest areas of the region. The Poughkeepsie and Albany/Troy areas plus Ulster County and Oneonta (home to most of the Democratic base) are filled with unemployed residents and struggling students who would love nothing more than a paid canvassing position in a giant, robust Sean Eldridge field campaign.

I am willing to bet Sean Eldridge could spend a fraction of his fortune building a paid canvass that would inspire the entire region and leave voters with the feeling that Sean is a truly philanthropic member of their community who does care about something in New York State beyond Soho-- and something beyond a career move to Congress.

Not to mention, it would set Sean up pretty well for a potential 2016 primary by giving him access to political machinery necessary in a Democratic primary.

But, as my source at the DCCC willingly told me, Sean wants nothing to do with such a field program. Sean doesn’t want to employ poor minorities in his campaign, but rather, he wants to spend millions in paid advertising that lines pockets of talentless consultants who he likes partying with when he and young Chris fly into town (Washington, DC) with a $10 million dollar check for the DNC. Paid field operations may win elections for serious candidates but they are difficult, tedious and, worst of all, they don't yield any fat commissions for the Beltway power brokers and consultants to way paid media buys do.

Sean Eldridge is this year's ultimate rich dilettante in his quest for Congress. He believes that money should be spent lining his friends’ pockets, while leaving his district’s poorest residents starving and unemployed. Not a good get-out-the-vote strategy, at least not for a Democrat.

Sean Eldridge believes that money will buy him a seat in Congress. He believes that he can spend millions to dupe the residents of New York 19 with glossy mailers, and TV and digital ads just like Steve Israel was able to dupe him into thinking he was the next Barack Obama by sending his staff weekly bagels and cream cheese via Federal Express. I hope he didn't soil his Gucci sweater vest with cream cheese and chives.

Shame on you, Sean Eldridge. You know nothing about how to win a political campaign and you're wasting a good opportunity Democrats have in a swing district Obama won twice. You waste your money, and you leave the most needy in the district hungry and unemployed.

Go back to your 4,000 square foot loft on Crosby Street with it's 12-foot high ceilings and spend your loot on nicer things than polling and TV ads. Go to the Brunello Cucinelli store, or Ascot Chang, and buy some more nice shoes and shirts.

If you're not going to help Upstate New York’s poor communities stay in Soho and Tribeca with your millionaire pals. Your Prada and Tom Ford style/mindset will ruin your potential political career and render you unelectable anywhere.

You are the ultimate loser, a perfect Steve Israel recruit. Speaking of which... is it really such a good idea for the DCCC ads to keep putting Gibson down because he supports tax breaks for millionaires? Generically, it isn't a bad line of attack, but when most NY-19 voters hear the word "millionaire," they probably immediately think of Sean!

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More Republican Voter Disenfranchisement Over The Weekend-- Why Are They So Scared Of Voters?


The history of democracy has always been a battle between conservatives trying desperately to restrict the right to vote and progressives battling to increase it. Conservatives predicted the world would end if anyone other than older, white, male, property owners voted. While they fought and threatened and fought some more, progressives won the franchise for working people, for women, for young people, for ex-slaves, for minorities, immigrants, renters… But conservatives and the wealthy elites they represent, never give up. Today the battle over the franchise is a rear guard action by the Republican Party to restrict voting rights by bits and pieces wherever and whenever they can, through voter ID laws aimed at minorities and by restricting early voting, weekend voting and night voting that make it easier for working people to vote.

The Republican-controlled legislature in Wisconsin-- backed by a right-wing, virulently racist Republican governor, Scott Walker-- passed a voter ID law with the specific intent of making it more difficult for poor people, African-Americans and students to vote, three classes of people conservatives have always fought to keep away from the polls. That law was invalidated by Wisconsin district court judge Lynn Adelman in May, who pointed out that most of the 300,000 registered voters without the government ID mandated by the GOP law are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans hated by racist Republicans, while pointing out that the GOP was unable to present any evidence whatsoever indicating that their legislation was justified by voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent. Friday, a panel of three right-wing Republican judges threw Judge Adelman's ruling out and told their pals in the Republican legislature to go right ahead and keep all the minorities they want from voting.

Rick Hansen at the Election Law Blog pointed out that not all the voting news on Friday was as bad as the disenfranchisement ruling that came out of Wisconsin, where Gov. Walker, trailing in the polls, hopes that keeping poor people from voting will guarantee him a victory in November over Mary Burke. There was a better judicial outcome in Ohio, where a Republican-controlled legislature and a racist right-wing governor, John Kasich, are also trying to disenfranchise working class voters by cutting back on early voting days.

The week before, in a preliminary injunction unheld Friday by the Sixth Circuit, a federal judge, Peter Economus, had blocked Ohio’s cuts to early voting and ordered the state to establish additional polling days before November’s elections, saying the reductions would disproportionately harm the poor and members of minority groups. He wrote that the state’s measures violated both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act by creating unlawful barriers to the polls for minorities and the poor. The state’s arguments about reducing fraud, according to the judge, "did not withstand logical scrutiny." There has been virtually no in-person voter fraud documented in the country.
Judge Economus’s ruling directed Ohio to restore early voting during evenings and on at least two Sundays, and to reinstate Golden Week, the first week of early voting in which many African-American churches organize congregants to register and vote on the same day. Mr. Kasich and his supporters have said the measures were needed to reduce fraud, save money and create uniformity of practice across the state, and that the four-week early voting period allowed sufficient time for people to cast ballots.

A spokesman for the state attorney general, Mike DeWine, said the state would review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

The United States Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the case and has challenged similar measures elsewhere, including in North Carolina.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Ohio Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., several African-American churches and the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

“This ruling means that thousands of voters who have needed these particular early voting opportunities will continue to have that right,” said Dale Ho, director of the A.C.L.U.’s Voting Rights Project.

Ohio introduced early voting in 2008 after encountering significant problems during the 2004 election, including people waiting in lines at polling sites for as long as six hours. In 2012, of the 5.6 million votes cast, 1.9 million were cast early, including about 600,000 that were cast early in person, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s office.

But in February, Democrats and civil rights groups objected after Mr. Kasich signed a bill eliminating Golden Week, reducing to 28 days from 35 days the time given in which early voting could take place. And Jon A. Husted, Ohio’s secretary of state, issued a directive limiting evening and weekend hours. Like Mr. Kasich, Mr. Husted and Mr. DeWine are Republican. The poor and minorities tend to vote Democratic. Mr. Husted said Thursday that he believed the state should appeal the decision.
Funny how the same people working so diligently to prevent poor people from voting are the exact same folks who scream the loudest about how if try to restrict the wealthy from buying elections you are violating their rights. And then there's… Georgia. Friday, Chris Hayes showed how Georgia Republicans have been reacting to Democrats daring to register more African-American voters:

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Aaron Blake Is Wrong-- Bill Maher Didn't Pick The Wrong Guy When He Announced He Will Try To Defeat GOP Douche Bag John Kline


Actual wrong guy

Friday night, Bill Maher ended his big-buzz Flip A District competition by announcing the right-wing jerk he would work to defeat in November: John Kline in southeast Minnesota. Democrats have grown unaccustomed to anyone holding any Republican Party leaders or committee chairmen, like Kline, accountable for their destructive policy agendas. That's because DCCC chairman Steve Israel has taken the entire GOP leadership, including all their committee chairs, even ones like Kline in vulnerable districts, off the table. (Its a deal he has with them that keeps them from running campaigns against him in his very vulnerable swing district, the only PVI neutral district in the entire country that isn't ever a battleground.)

About a year ago Keith Ellison introduced us to Mike Obermeuller, the progressive Democrat running for the seat Kline currently occupies. Ellison looked at the poll below and so did Blue America and we came to the same conclusion: this is a winnable race. The Steve Israel brain trust looked at it too and decided to invest their money with Blue Dogs and New Dems in much redder seats that don't have half the chance to be taken by a Democrat. Look at the PPP results:

Who would you vote for now, the Republican or a Democrat? Democrat wins 46-36%. That's big; it must have scared Steve Israel who knows he's supposed to protect Republican committee chairs, not defeat them. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi saw the poll. Kline has a 42% to 32% unfavorable to favorable rating among his constituents. And a 40% to 31% negative to positive job disapproval rating. Then the key question-- "If the election for Congress were held today, would you vote for Republican Congressman John Kline or his opponent, Democratic state representative Mike Obermueller?" Kline scored 38%. Obermueller scored 42%. A DCCC chairman with even a modicum of competence would have started a crusade. Steve Israel, instead, decided right on the spot to start bad-mouthing the poll, bad-mouthing the race, bad-mouthing the district, bad-mouthing the Democratic candidate… and telling naive and gullible Beltway pundits that it is an unwinnable district.

That's why we saw pathetic DCCC lackeys moaning and groaning when Maher made his announcement Friday night. If only he picked one of Steve Israel's horrible conservative, anti-Choice, anti-gay recruits. Or how about one of the CIA spies Steve Israel is trying to infiltrate into Congress? Why Mike Obermeuller? No one's talking about it, by Maher did an independent poll that shows Kline is still very vulnerable. Everyone knows except people who get their information from Steve Israel.

Blue America has been slowly, steadily helping Mike build a war chest for his autumn ground game. We're cheered by what Bill Maher is going to do to make voters in MN-02 aware of what a real sack of garbage they have for a congressman now. He won't be doing compare and contrast ads, just ads about Kline. We want to remind everyone why we decided to back Mike Obermueller.

"I know," he told us over the weekend, "that Social Security is vital to the retirement security of all working Americans and that's why I will vigorously defend this vital program. To the extent solvency becomes a concern, it can be resolved by raising the cap for the wealthiest Americans. I'll stand up to those who are trying to weaken Social Security and decrease benefits through misguided policies like chained CPI." OK, Blue America doesn't endorse candidates who don't take that stand. Nor do we endorse candidates who don't take this one:

"Access to affordable health care is a fundamental human right and that's why I've been one of the few Democratic challengers not running away from the Affordable Care Act. In Congress, I'll fight to improve the ACA and will lead a renewed discussion regarding expanding Medicare to cover every American."

Check three: "I'll be a champion for the rights of women and I will oppose any attempt to weaken the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, will confront the epidemic of sexual assault occurring in our military and believe that a woman’s medical decisions are between her and her doctor." That's completely at odds what John Kline on every count, the same John Kline who is currently single-handedly bottling up the Paycheck Fairness Act in his committee, making sure women still don't get the same wage for doing the same work that men do. It's a backward and venal position and it's John Kline's position.

"I also understand the importance of moving forward in a big way on renewable energy," concluded Obermueller. "We've given huge tax breaks to oil and coal companies for far too long-- and it's impact on our environment has been terrible. While we can't change decades of poor energy policy overnight, I will work to eliminate these tax breaks as part of comprehensive tax reform and focus on  our efforts on renewable energy sources that will leave us with an environment that we are proud to hand onto our children."

Please consider helping Mike directly. You can do it here. Until Pelosi gets rid of Steve Israel, the DCCC will never take on John Kline or any other Republican policy-makers. It's the way he rolls-- which is why it's up to us. When Maher first announced Flip A District last January, we applauded him-- and suggested a really bold move that would do the most good possible for Democrats: defeating Steve Israel. Going after John Kline is a more modest goal, but one, if successful, that will be immensely beneficial to American working families (and students).

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Run, Bernie, Run


I haven't watched Meet the Press since I was in high school. Today they had Bernie Sanders on, who, coincidentally, went to that same high school, James Madison in Brooklyn. He'd never been on Meet the Press before, which helps explain why I stopped watching that program. I suspect a political toadie who also went to Madison, Chuck Schumer, has been on Meet the Press plenty of times. But Schumer, thank the Lord, will never run for President. Bernie, it appears will, presumably as a Democrat-- so a party switch-- so that he can debate Hillary and, push her in a moire populist, less corporate direction.

About a year ago, Blue America started an ActBlue page, Why Settle?. You can click that link and contribute to Bernie's campaign (or his PAC, Progressive Voters of America). This is what we wrote when we started the page:
There are all sorts of characters gearing up to run for president in 2016. Conventional wisdom says that if Hillary Clinton runs, it's game-over for the Democrats and she walks away with it while everyone else cheers. That's a shame because… well, if you want to judge how she's likely to rule based on who she's surrounded herself with, we're looking at another corporate-oriented presidency akin the her husband's and the Bush père et fils, probably worse than Obama's. If she doesn't run, the gates open on a careerist cavalcade of mediocrity, from Biden, Cuomo, and O'Malley to Mark Warner and, believe it or not, Claire McCaskill! Of course, in Republicanville, it's an even sadder-- and more ominous-- sight, ranging from proto fascists like Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum to garden variety conservative careerists like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry.

But why settle for another lesser-of-two evils contest? Aren't we entitled to a really extraordinary president, literally the best among us? Why not a brilliant and dedicated civil servant instead of a power-hungery sociopath for a change? Here are three we have in mind. Let us know if you have any suggestions.
Blue America has never endorsed anyone running for president before; no one has been even nearly good enough. If Bernie runs, I suspect that will change. Sad enough, today's news coverage focused more on a Hillary Clinton will she or won't she story than a Bernie appearance on Meet the Press. This was big news:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stoked speculation on Sunday that she was moving closer to announcing a bid for the White House in 2016 as she visited the early-voting state of Iowa to take part in the state's annual "steak fry," a gathering of Democratic activists that often attracts presidential hopefuls.

…[S]he was coy as she parried questions about her intentions in 2016.

"Too many people only get excited about presidential campaigns," she said. "Look, I get excited about presidential campaigns."

“We’re just here to support Democrats,” Clinton added.
Someone named Phil Bump, or writing under that name, had a little thing about Bernie in the Washington Post. In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press," wrote Bump, "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was noncommittal about almost everything. He might run for president, he might not. He might run as a Democrat, he might not. But if he were to run for president, his opponent would be clear: America's wealthy, whether they're spending that money on themselves or on political campaigns. If Sanders does run, of course, he won't win. A poll from CNN this month put his support at 5 percent, less than it is for Hillary Clinton (by far), Vice President Biden (by a large amount) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). He's one of the few elected officials in American history to embrace the word 'socialist' to describe his policies. But even though his campaign is clearly an attempt to draw attention to the issues he cares about-- wealth inequality, the Citizens United decision-- he wasn't willing to strongly criticize either Clinton or President Obama in doing so."

Imagine having a real choice-- not a choice between the lesser of two evils but a choice between corporate governance and actual democratic governance. It boggles the mind. Run, Bernie, run.

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Are Missouri Dems engineering a Republican-style grand-jury report in the Ferguson case?


Demonstrators outside the Ferguson PD on August 30

by Ken

I don't know whether Ferguson (MO) police officer Darren Wilson should be indicted in the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, or if so what me should be indicted for. Rather obviously I don't have all the information or know all the relevant law.

The thing is, the St. Louis County grand jury now hearing the case is going to have masses of information and law dumped on them, but may not be in a much better position to answer thes e questions. What's disturbing, though, is the suggestion that "the fix is in," a possibility that worries Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank ("Ferguson traged becoming a farce"). "It’s a good bet the grand jurors won’t charge [Wilson]," Dana writes, "because all signs indicate that the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, doesn’t want them to."

Dana cites the report by the Post’s Kimberly Kindy and Carol Leonnig, "In atypical approach, grand jury in Ferguson shooting receives full measure of case," which notes that prosecutor McCulloch's office, quite unusually, apparently intends to make no recommendation to the grand jury, instead trusting to the jurors to make sense of all the information dumped on them.
McCulloch’s office claims that this is a way to give more authority to the grand jurors, but it looks more like a way to avoid charging Wilson at all — and to use the grand jury as cover for the outrage that will ensue. It is often said that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to. But the opposite is also true. A grand jury is less likely to deliver an indictment — even a much deserved one — if a prosecutor doesn’t ask for it.
"One might give McCulloch the benefit of the doubt," says Dana, "if not for his background."
His father was a police officer killed in a shootout with a black suspect, and several of his family members are, or were, police officers. His 23-year record on the job reveals scant interest in prosecuting such cases. During his tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.
Dana takes a closer look at one of the four cases when McCulloch did present evidence to a grand jury but didn't get an indictment --
A 2000 case in which a grand jury declined to indict two police officers who had shot two unarmed black men 21 times while they sat in their car behind a Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant. It was a botched drug arrest, and one of the two men killed hadn’t even been a suspect. McCulloch at the time said he agreed with the grand jury’s decision, dismissing complaints of the handling of the case by saying the dead men “were bums.” He refused to release surveillance tapes of the shooting. When those tapes were later released as part of a federal probe, it was discovered that, contrary to what police alleged, the car had not moved before the police began shooting.
For the record, McCulloch -- although declining to withdraw from the new case -- has distanced himself from it by having other attorneys in his office do the presenting to the grand jury, and he presumably won't try the case himself in the event that there's a case to try. Still, Dana notes that his spokesman, "asked by The Post’s Wesley Lowery about those remarks," said that the slain men "should have been described as 'convicted felons' rather than 'bums.' " Pointing out that the Post's Wesley Lowery "gained national attention last month when he was unjustly detained by Ferguson’s out-of-control police while covering the demonstrations," Dana notes:
He has since asked McCulloch’s office for a list of cases in which prosecutors pursued charges against a law enforcement official. McCulloch’s office ultimately came up with only one case over 23 years that The Post could verify of the prosecution of a white officer for using inappropriate force against a black victim, and it wasn’t a shooting.
Then there's the awkward political dimension to the case. If you suspect that the political actors involved are Republicans, gaming the system to produce a Republican result, the facts, alas, are otherwise. "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon — like McCulloch, a Democrat — is refusing to appoint a special prosecutor," and "Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has issued a statement in support of McCulloch. Dana doesn't claim to know any more than I do what Darren Wilson is guilty of, and he understands that "proving a case of excessive force against a police officer is difficult."
But that doesn’t justify declining to prosecute such cases. There’s no dispute that Brown ran away after Wilson shot him in a scuffle and that Wilson shot Brown several more times after that. Several witnesses — including those in a newly discovered video showing the immediate aftermath of the shooting — claim that Brown had his hands up in surrender. The alternative account offered by Wilson — Brown charged at him — requires us to believe that the unarmed and wounded man ran away, reconsidered and ran back toward the man pointing a gun at him.

And McCulloch won’t have his prosecutors recommend even involuntary manslaughter? If he persists and if the governor won’t intervene, their behavior will confirm suspicions that justice is rigged.

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Do Members Of Congress Really Sell Out America For A Little Cash From Big Oil?


Since 1990 the Oil and Gas industry has pumped $221,453,356 into congressional campaigns, legalistic bribes that went almost four to one to Republicans, exceptions being a handful of Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party whom Big Oil finds it useful (and easy) to bribe. The Dirty Dozen House Members taking the most in bribes from Big Oil since 1990 are all Republicans:
Joe Barton (R-TX)- $1,816,205
Steve Pearce (R-NM)- $1,675,914
John Boehner (R-OH)- $1,398,338
Don Young (R-AK)- $1,238,763
Mike Conaway (R-TX)- $1,139,718
Lord Charles Boustany II (R-LA)- $973,780
Pete Sessions (R-TX)- $972,072
Kevin Brady (R-TX)- $922,862
Mike Pompeo (R-Koch)- $877,260
John Sullivan (R-OK)- $835,900
Kay Granger (R-TX)- $796,853
Cory Gardner (R-CO)- $754,100
But these 12 crooks have more in common than just the Republican Party and the immense amounts of money they have gobbled up from Big Oil. Each and every one of them has, time and again, put the interests of Big Oil ahead of the interests of their own constituents and ahead of the interests of the United States. And with the possible exception of Steve Pearce, not a single one of these crooked Republicans is being challenged by the enfeebled and corrupt DCCC this year.

When Big Oil wants to get something done, even something absolutely antithetical to the best interests of the United States, these 12 Members are always the starting point. And no one carries their water more diligently than Joe "Oily Joe" Barton, who has made himself a detested comic figure by ritually dismissing and defending massive and deadly oil spills. This week though, Barton is trying to push through Big Oil's latest policy: lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Barton, safe from electoral challenge, doesn't care that his proposal puts American national security at risk-- just so long as it adds to the immense profits that Big Oil rakes in… and shares with him and his party.

The U.S. has had a moratorium on crude oil exports since the 1970s. But Big OIl and their GOP shills want it lifted now. Barton told The Hill this week that "The shale revolution has drastically reshaped America’s energy landscape, unlocking a vast supply of untapped oil and gas. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, we need to rethink outdated laws that were passed during an era of energy scarcity, which is why I am in favor of overturning the ban on crude oil exports." Barton, who can't see beyond the next big bribe check he expects from Big Oil-- last cycle alone (although he had no viable opponents) he took $164,150 from the oil and gas industry-- claims the U.S. has “more than enough resources to meet our domestic energy needs." Barton says he is working on legislation-- meaning waiting for the exact wording from Big Oil lobbyists-- that would repeal the ban on crude oil exports altogether, and will be introducing that soon.
Barton isn’t alone in his push for exports, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) too wants to see the ban completely lifted. [So far this cycle he's taken $158,139 in legalistic Big Oil bribes.]

But where Barton sees real action coming next year, Flores thinks his Republican colleagues need time.

Flores is confident they will come around to agreeing with him. For now, though, he said it’s “premature” for the House to vote on the ban.

Flores said it was important to educate the public on the benefits from oil exports.

“We just need to get through the economic benefits for the American soccer mom about how she is better off, and her family’s better off, by having crude oil exports,” he said. “That’s just going to take a little time.”

Flores is being patient, allowing his fellow lawmakers time to think through the issue. He hopes that the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on lifting the ban next year-- or even in 2016.

“It’s going to take a full discussion to make sure everybody knows the economics and they know whose ox gets gored in this,” he said. “And really, if we do it right, nobody’s ox gets gored.”

The likelihood of any movement this year is slim.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy panel, said he is focused on natural gas exports, but is still studying crude exports. [His haul from Big Oil and Gas this cycle alone has been a whopping $646,950.]

When asked if he supported lifting the moratorium, Upton said he “hasn’t said yet,” but acknowledged “there is a push from the Texas folks.”

Next year is a different ball game, according to Barton.

“I am confident that it will gain traction legislatively next year,” he said.

“Pressure to remove the ban on crude oil exports is growing from both ends of the political spectrum,” he added.

Many Republicans and a majority of Democrats, though, are hesitant over the impact more oil exports could have on consumers.

Refiners like San Antonio-based Valero argue the system works as is.

“It would do more harm than good and lead to higher prices in the U.S. for consumers,” Valero told The Hill earlier this year.

Still, Barton says he is “seeing support grow every day” for a change in policy.

Jordan Haverly, a spokesman for Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.), a top Republican on the Energy committee, said his boss is open to lifting the ban “and treating American crude oil like other domestically-produced commodities.” [Shimkus' haul from Big Oil and Gas has been $498,361 since 1990 and so far this cycle, a generous-- and persuasive-- $97,000.]

The Commerce Department too has indicated it is having a serious discussion about crude oil exports. The White House says it is “evaluating” the policy, but has not announced any changes.

But Barton is confident the ban will soon be lifted.

“I predict that no matter which party controls Capitol Hill or the White House, the ban will eventually be lifted for the same reasons Congress eventually overturned other failed government efforts to regulate energy price and supply,” he said.
He has a point. Democratic lobbyists and corporate whores-- take Lawrence Summers for example-- are, predictably, on the side of Big Oil too. But not all Democrats are as fast to sell out as Summers.
[N]ot everyone's convinced. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has argued that the export ban was put in place back in the 1970s to "protect U.S. consumers from volatility and price spikes." Allowing more exports, he argued, might cause U.S. gasoline prices to rise and hurt American consumers. And some environmental groups are leery of boosting fossil-fuel production even further.

…What was the point of the ban?

It all dates back to the 1973 oil embargo by several Arab nations. World oil prices were soaring, and Congress was trying to limit U.S. exposure to the global crude markets. So lawmakers enacted a bunch of conservation measures (including fuel standards for cars and trucks) as well as restrictions on exports. The idea was to keep as much crude oil at home, limit the nation's reliance on imports, and sidestep the volatile global markets.

…There are three common objections [to lifting the ban]:

Gas prices: First, opponents like Menendez have worried that lifting the export ban could raise the price of U.S. gasoline. Many consumers in the Midwest benefit from the current refinery bottleneck, because it artificially depresses the price of crude. If oil producers can sell abroad, prices would presumably rise.

Environment: Second, there's the environmental argument. A recent report (pdf) from Oil Change International agreed that lifting the export ban would probably allow U.S. companies to drill for more oil. But, the report added, this would be a bad thing-- because it would increase overall greenhouse-gas emissions. "In order to play its part in meeting global climate goals, it is imperative that the United States maintains the ban on crude oil exports and does everything it can to decrease, rather than increase, the global pool of fossil fuel reserves that are exploited," the report said.

Lobbying: Third, many U.S. refineries like the existing state of affairs just fine-- since they can buy oil at artificially low prices and then export the gasoline and diesel abroad at a markup. "We wouldn't be doing as well financially if it weren't for that [the ban]," one refinery lobbyist told National Journal's Amy Harder. And Valero Energy, a major U.S. refiner, has spoken out against allowing exports.
No one seems to be talking about dwindling oil supplies and asking what happens when domestic oil actually runs out? Thinking about the future isn't something people do-- not when millions of dollars are riding on not thinking about the future. Meanwhile… remember the "clean coal" scam? How about "clean oil" or "green oil?" Do I smell a huckster here?

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Ghost of Sunday Classics: The poet Hoffmann and the legend of Kleinzach


"Le nom de la première était Olympia"

Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Paris Conservatory Orchestra, André Cluytens, cond. EMI, recorded 1964

Richard Tucker, tenor; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Pierre Monteux, cond. Live performance, Dec. 3, 1955

Léopold Simoneau, tenor; Orchestra of the Concerts de Paris, Pierre-Michel Le Conte, cond. Philips-Epic, recorded 1958

Plácido Domingo, tenor; Orchestre National de France, Seiji Ozawa, cond. DG, recorded 1986

Francisco Araiza, tenor; Staatskapelle Dresden, Jeffrey Tate, cond. Philips, recorded 1987-89

by Ken

I don't think I have, but it may be that you've heard music more hauntingly beautiful than this tiny bit -- the final half-minute of the Prologue to Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, as the drunken poet Hoffmann offers a tavern's worth of adoring students, hanging on his every word, his promised account of the first of his promised three "mad loves." I've gathered five distinctly different performances, plain and fancy, but all, I think, decently haunting. (Any preferences?)

I've painted myself into a corner here. For a good part of this week it was seeming like the time for the giving up the Sunday Classics ghost. However, while we already had, goodness knows, lots of loose ends that will be left dangling, one that I added just last week is strikes too close to home for me. I explained that last week's assortment of operatic (mostly) drinking songs touches me too personally. (There are times when Hoffmann is my favorite opera.)


Starting by going just up to the point where something clearly goes wrong with the song.

Read more »


Shockingly, CIA Director John Brennan Is Still Not In Prison-- Or Even Out Of A Job


Since August 1, Ken and I have written 4 posts vaguely along the lines of Obama Hasn't Fired John Brennan Yet-- Let Alone Had Him Arrested, the others being here (August 3), here (August 6), and here (August 25). September is nearly half eaten up and I thought it was already past time for us to look at the scandal of unaccountability again. If we don't punish government criminals who break the law then we are guaranteed to have future government criminals to break the laws-- even worse. Had Kissinger faced the firing squad he earned, for example, I bet Cheney wouldn't have shredded the Constitution with such alacrity and contempt.

Congress is supposed to oversee the National Security State through their intelligence committees. One big problem is that the intelligence committees are utterly dominated by shills of the National Security State itself. If you ever wonder why Steve Israel has recruited CIA spies Bobbie McKenzie (MI), Kevin Strouse (PA) and Jerry Cannon (MI) to run for Congress, just keep in mind how eager the CIA is to infiltrate its own operative into the legislative branch charged with "controlling" it. After all, the need someone to carry their water when Mike Rogers moves on. Mark Udall (D-CO), who had already demanded the Obama fire Brennan, renewed his call for Brennan to be replaced this week.
Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

“I’m concerned there’s disrespect towards the Congress,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told McClatchy. “I think it’s arrogant, I think it’s unacceptable.”

“I continue to be incredibly frustrated with this director,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. “He does not respect the role of the committee in providing oversight, and he continues to stonewall us on basic information, and it’s very frustrating. And it certainly doesn’t serve the agency well.”

…Hours before Tuesday’s meeting in the committee’s secure offices, the panel received a letter in which Brennan said he wouldn’t respond to written questions he’d received in January from the chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joined Brennan for the meeting, which had been expected to focus on the threat posed by the Islamic State. But tempers flared as some lawmakers challenged Brennan on his decision not to answer Feinstein’s questions, witnesses said.

At one point, said a person familiar with the meeting, Brennan raised his voice at Feinstein [called her a meddling bitch and threatened to have her 22 year old granddaughter Eileen thrown into a special CIA tank filled with starving great white sharks… just kidding].

Feinstein sent the questions after Brennan told her that agency personnel investigating a security breach had searched computers her staff used in a secret CIA facility. The questions included a demand to know who ordered the intrusions and under what legal authority they were conducted.

Brennan “shouldn’t get away with not answering questions,” said Levin. “Nobody in the executive branch should get away with not answering questions to a legitimate legislative inquiry.”

Feinstein described the questions in a scathing March speech on the Senate floor. In her address, she confirmed an earlier McClatchy report about the computer intrusions and suggested that the CIA might have violated the law and the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution.

The committee staff used the computers to compile a report on the agency’s use of torture on suspected terrorists under the George W. Bush administration. Bush ended the program, in which detainees were abducted and held in secret overseas prisons, in 2006. The CIA and former Bush administration officials deny that the interrogation techniques, which included simulated drowning known as waterboarding, constituted torture.

For its part, the CIA accused Feinstein’s staffers of removing without permission classified documents from the secret facility in which the agency required them to review millions of pages of operational cables and other highly classified materials on the program.

Both sets of charges were referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigations.

At the time, Brennan adamantly denied Feinstein’s allegations that the CIA had spied on her committee. But in July, he was compelled to apologize to her after a review by the CIA Inspector General’s Office confirmed that CIA personnel gained unauthorized access to her staff’s computers and combed through their emails.

The inspector general report also revealed that the agency’s contention that the staff had removed classified documents without permission from the top-secret facility was unfounded and based on inaccurate information.

Levin dismissed Brennan’s defense that CIA Inspector General David Buckley was the appropriate person to answer Feinstein’s questions.

“It may or may not be appropriate for the (CIA) IG to answer, but it’s not appropriate for Brennan to refuse to answer. If he doesn’t know the answers, he can say so,” said Levin.

Levin continued, “He either knows the information or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t know the answers, OK, tell us. It’d be kind of stunning if he didn’t know the answers to those questions, but if that’s what he wants to say, he should tell us.”

In June, the Justice Department cited insufficient evidence and declined to launch criminal investigations into the CIA computer intrusions or the allegation that the staff had removed top-secret documents without authorization.

But Levin said that the answers to Feinstein’s questions could yield new information that could prompt the Justice Department to reopen an inquiry into the CIA’s computer monitoring.

The committee spent $40 million and five years compiling its more than 6,000-page report on the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program. It submitted the 500-page executive summary to the CIA and the White House for a declassification review in April, but the sides have been locked in a contentious debate over how much to black out prior to its public release.
Feinstein's been as total a suck-up to the CIA and other spy agencies as Republican National Security State Shills Saxby Chambliss, Susan Collins, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Dan Coats, and Marco Rubio and as much as the worst of the House Intelligence Committee lackies Mike Rogers (R-MI), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Peter King (R-NY), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Joe Heck (R-NV, who's hiding Area 51), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Jim Himes (D-CT) and Terri Sewell (D-AL). But imagine how happy the spy agencies will be to have a few (more?) of their own right in Congress!

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