Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't be so sure that Pope Francis lost this round of squabbling with the bishops

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The pope at the now-concluded Vatican synod on the family.

by Ken

On Friday I poked around the pushback being felt within and without the special synod of bishops gathered in the Vatican to ponder family issues. The synod seems clearly an initiative of Pope Francis to see where the boys in the hierarchi he inherited are standing on his initiatives to imbue Catholic family values with some measure of humanity.

By then the vocal and power-grubbing coterie of scumbag bishops had already begun watering down the draft document circulated on Monday, and the power-grubbers in the hierarchy as well as their power-grubbing movers in the laity were flexing their backward-looking muscles. On Saturday the final document that was released fell a heckuva lot short of that the Holy Father had in mind.

As the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein reported:
A major meeting Pope Francis convened to help the Catholic Church improve its outreach to diverse modern families ended Saturday with a summary paper that removed earlier, revolutionary language that cited the value of same-sex and divorced families.

Critics of the pope were celebrating Saturday, with conservative Catholics cheering the reaffirmation that God prefers the traditional family.

The two-week meeting in Rome hadn’t been expected to result in changes to traditional doctrine, but the rare sight of cardinals from around the world debating matters such as whether same-sex couples can be called “partners” floored many Catholics. More liberal Catholics said Saturday that it was a victory for the church to even have such conversations, though many expressed disappointment with the paper.
This doesn't sound so bad.

But then we get:
“The language of compromise was eviscerated from Monday’s summary,” said Patrick Hornbeck, chair of theology at Fordham University, a Catholic institution. “The bishops who were more prophetic and progressive have found themselves drowned out by a chorus of hesitation and concern.”

Saturday’s summary reflected deep divisions in the world’s largest Christian church as it tries to reconnect with 21st-century families while sticking to its doctrine. Traditional bishops had spoken publicly and angrily in the past few days against the more open language in Monday’s draft document, saying it was a dangerous betrayal and potentially heretical. Some said the church could eventually be headed for division.
And even this is down-the-middle treatment that's a good deal more generous to the old pope than a lot of the noise being heard from the Catholic right-wing war parties, who seem positively exultant at kneecappping the puling pontiff.

Except that may not be what happened. It was, after all, the pope who pressed the synod to a swift conclusion, denying the bishops the opportunity to stall, obfuscate, and stultify, and it was the pope who insisted that in the interest of transparency, vote totals be released for every section of the proposed document, whether voted up or down -- and bear in mind that a two-thirds vote was required for adoption.

As Michelle Boorstein reports:
The Vatican on Saturday released the vote tallies for each section of the report, and [the international traditionalist conglomeration] Voice of the Family noted that the most contentious sections — encouraging a more welcoming attitude toward families who don’t conform to orthodox norms — weren’t overwhelmingly defeated.

“The voting numbers reveal that most Synod Fathers remain open to proposals contrary to Catholic teaching,” the statement said. “There has been much talk about ‘welcoming’ and ‘accompanying’ people, but this is impossible without the clarity of the truth.”
And of course it's the Inquisitionaries who are in sole possession of "the truth," and the clarity thereof.

Of course individual votes weren't made public, but everyone who participated in the voting is now answerable for his vote. (Isn't it handy that we don't have to worry about inserting gender-inclusive formulations like "his or her vote"?) Now I can't claim to speak for the pope, but a few things seem fairly clear:

• The pope has a lot of power, but he really can't take the Church anywhere it doesn't want to go, and he can hardly be unaware that the hierarchy isn't exactly the most enlightened. After all, for almost 35 unbroken years, his vile predecessors, the fake-saintly autocrat John Paul II and his even more unspeakable henchman, Cardinal Ratguts, later Pope Cardinal Ratguts, exercised total and ruthless control over hierarchical promotions, meaning that the whole shebang is now made up with their dregs -- a combination of reactionary power-grubbers and self-promoting toadies. As our friend John Puma pointed out in a comment on my Friday post, that very day one of the bulwarks of Catholic reaction, Cardinal Raymond Burke, was squealing like a pig about having been forced out of his high-level Vatican post.

• It's going to be some time, though, before Francis can have any significant impact on the overall makeup of the hierachy, and he doesn't know how much time he has. He has to be aware of the example of his great predecessor John XXIII, who was elevated to the papacy with a mandate to die soon but didn't, and caused all manner of trouble. Eventually he did die, though, and while it took the traditionalists decades to move the theological clock back, eventually they managed it. Both Francis and his enemies know that time can be a powerful obstacle to any meaningful reform.

So maybe it's time for the current pope to shake things up, to get people talking, and to make sure those people are aware that other people are listening.


WELL WORTH A LOOK ON THIS SUBJECT --

is the take of the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart ("Pope Francis and gays will win by losing this round on synod draft"), which begins:

Headlines called it a “setback” for Pope Francis that the initial draft of the synod of bishops released last week that spoke of “welcoming homosexual persons” was silent on them in the final document. But I don’t see it that way at all. The pope let the genie out of the bottle. And, as we all know, it’s difficult to put him back in once released.
And Jonathan concludes:
I’m not saying the church or the pope will become a champion of LGBT rights. And I’m definitely not saying they are going to support marriage equality. What I am saying is that by talking about the humanity of gay and lesbian Catholics and worrying about their place in the church, Pope Francis is openly recognizing them as children of God. After centuries of demonization, that’s a revolutionary act that can’t be undone.
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Whoever Wins In Mississippi, It Will Be A Victory For The NRA And For Anti-Choice, Anti-Immigrant And Anti-Gay Fanatics

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The bitterly divisive Republican Party primary in Kansas has endangered the Republicans’ ability to hold that red, red state’s Senate seat. The Republican Party primary in Mississippi was even more bitter and more divisive. But Thad Cochran, the senile 76 year old incumbent who was first sent to Washington in 1973 (as a congressman) and who has been in the Senate since 1978, is probably going to hold on. He spent almost $6,000,000 in the primary and squeaked by teabagger Chris McDaniel 157,733 to 156,315 in the first round and 194,932 to 187,265 in the runoff.

Two weeks from tomorrow he’ll face off against reactionary Blue Dog Travis Childers, before he was defeated in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010, one of the 3 most right-wing Democrats in the House. His platform in this race has basically been to appeal to disenchanted McDaniel supporters by bragging how he voted against Obamacare and reiterating that he’s a big NRA supporter and an opponent of women’s right to Choice, LGBT equality and immigrants. The most recent public poll, released by YouGov for CBS News on October 5, shows Cochran at 46% and Childers at 35% (when you include leaners). That is a loot of undecided voters— but 35% is nothing to write home about. Last time Cochran ran (2008), the Democrat, Erik Fleming, took 39%. In 2012 the other Republican Senator, Roger Wicker, beat Democrat Albert Gore 57-41% and Republican Governor Phil Bryant was elected in 2011 against Democrat Johnny DuPee 61-39%. Even President Obama did better than Childers’ 35%. He took 44% against Mitt Romney.

The DSCC hasn’t gotten involved in Childers’ long-shot bid and national Democratic groups have written the race off. As of the June 30 FEC filing deadline Childers had raised $178,621 and was holding just $34,895 cash-on-hand to Cochran’s $714,290 cash-on-hand. Although over $11 million was spent by outside groups during the primary— the Chamber of Commerce defending Cochran with $1,200,000 and Club for Growth attacking him with $3,140,012 for example— no outside money has been spent by anyone for the general. Childers isn’t getting any money from traditional Democratic sources, although the Blue Dog’s so-called Moderate Democrats PAC gave him $10,000 and conservative Democratic allies like Blue Dog Joe Donnelly ($5,000), Kirsten Gillibrand, a “former” Blue Dog herself, ($5,000), Mark Begich ($5,000), Steny Hoyer ($2,500), and Tom Carper ($2,500) have contributed through their own PACs.

Yesterday’s Clarion-Ledger did a profile of candidate Childers and what they call his “wild card” chance to win: angry teabaggers.
Many McDaniel supporters are spitting mad. They believe Cochran stole the Republican runoff through dirty tricks, race baiting and otherwise urging Democrats to raid the GOP primary.

Many have vowed to vote for Childers, sit out the general election or write in McDaniel (which would spoil their ballots). All of the above would help Childers in what is otherwise a very long shot. He faces a well-funded, six-term incumbent Republican in a very red state.

Will Republican voters really cross over in numbers and vote for the Democrat as they've vowed on social media?

"I take folks at their word," said Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole. "If they're committed enough to put it out there on Facebook or Twitter, I believe they will."

Recent polling shows the race has tightened somewhat, with Childers at 35 percent, Cochran stuck below 50, at 46 percent. A large tea party crossover or sit-out could tip the scales.

But Childers has to walk a very fine line. He needs some tea party crossover, but he can't risk losing any Democratic base. Cochran has enjoyed healthy support from Democrats, not just in his runoff hail Mary, but in general elections for most of his career.

Childers is guarded when asked about tea party support.

"I hear from all kinds of folks," Childers said while on his recent Jackson-Morton-Forest trip, mirroring earlier comments. "Since I started my career, I've always had great support from my fellow Democrats. I have always attracted a large independent vote … I have always had some Republican support."

But Childers has made two platform pitches to tea party voters.

At this summer's Neshoba County Fair, he pledged in his stump speech to vote for a balanced budget amendment, saying, "The tea party says we cannot sustain $17 trillion in debt. They're right."

More recently, Childers became the first Democrat to sign the Federation for American Immigration Reform anti-amnesty pledge.

Childers said this was not red meat for the tea party and "not aimed at anybody." But it drew accolades from some tea party leaders. The blowback from Democrats so far has been minimal.

…"I haven't always had the best relationship with Washington," Childers said. "It seemed when I was up there, I never did fall in line. I voted my genuinely held beliefs, what I thought best.

"I was fiscally conservative on money issues," Childers said. "I consider myself a moderate. I never got hung up on labels. I knew what my politics were. I really believe my politics fit the mode of the average Mississippian, and the average working Mississippian."

Childers said he voted against the Affordable Care Act because, "I just thought we could have done so much better." He said health care reform was needed, "because the insurance companies were running health care, and still do, to some extent.”
Childers claims he hasn’t switched to the GOP (yet) because he’s proud to be a Democrat. He favors increasing the minimum wage and attacks Cochran for voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Perhaps because he’s such a staunch anti-Choice fanatic, there is no gender gap working in his favor so far. 29% of Mississippi women say they will vote for him and 31% say they will vote for Cochran. With leaners they’re tied at 35-35%.

Equally bad news for Childers, especially in light of the NY Times report yesterday on Black voting, is that Childers isn't inspiring Blacks. Many remember what a conservative he was and don't plan to bother going to the polls to vote for him. Why should they? Only 58% of African-American voters say they’ll vote for him— which compares badly to African American support for other conservative southern Democrats like Mary Ladrieu (76%), Mark Pryor (76%), Michelle Nunn (77%), Kay Hagan (83%), Mark Warner (83%) and Alison Lundergan Grimes (92%).

The confidential memo from a former pollster for President Obama contained a blunt warning for Democrats. Written this month with an eye toward Election Day, it predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

...[S]ophisticated targeting, church visits, high-profile surrogates and even direct appeals by the president may go only so far, some Democrats said, when candidates are running away from a politician black voters adore. Ms. Grimes is but one example.

In Louisiana, Ms. Landrieu ran an ad calling the president’s policies “simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production.” In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, the Democratic Senate nominee, has refused to say if she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act-- Mr. Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
None of this sounds good for Childers. In 2008, while only 11% of wjite Mississippians backed President Obama's election, 98% of Blacks voted for him. Elijah Cummings of Maryland sums it up like this: "People understand that you have to walk a thin line," describing Democratic candidates’ dilemma. "But African-Americans do not want you denying any affiliation with the president, because they love this president. He is like a son to them."

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The Impeachment Of Barack Obama Is On The Ballot November 4

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Republicans aren’t campaigning on it— and there are certainly some Republicans who want nothing to do with it— but radical right Republicans in the House have every intention of trying to impeach President Obama after the midterms, particularly if the GOP manages to get control of the Senate. After the1998 midterms, Gingrich pushed forward with impeachment against President Clinton during the lame duck session. The first article of impeachment (perjury) passed the House 228-206 on December 19. Although all 5 Democrats who voted for it were subsequently defeated or driven to join the Republican Party, many Republican impeachers are still in Congress— and several are now in the Senate:
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
John Thune (R-SD)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Among the Republican senators who voted guilty— to remove Clinton from office— and who are still in the Senate are Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL). Everyone of of these will certainly jump at the opportunity to vote to remove the first African-American president from office after the elections. The bolded names are senators up for reelection 2 weeks from tomorrow. They voted to convict Clinton; they will certainly vote to convict Obama— eagerly.

Yesterday, the National Memo highlighted and excerpted a new book by historian Lewis Gould, The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party. Let’s go to the the miscalculation the Republicans made in regard to the Clinton impeachment.
Gingrich and the House Republican leadership saw the autumn of 1998 as the chance to increase their slim majority, since the voters would punish the Democrats for their loyalty to Clinton. That did not happen. The partisanship of the GOP, including the release of a salacious report on Clinton’s sexual misdeeds, backfired. The Democrats gained five seats in the House and cut the Republican majority to 221 over the Democrats’ 211. The Senate alignment remained unchanged. The unexpected outcome of the election sealed the fate of Newt Gingrich. Restive Republicans now saw Gingrich as a liability. After a false start with one leading candidate, the majority settled on Dennis Hastert of Illinois as Gingrich’s successor. Gingrich resigned his seat, ending one of the most fascinating legislative careers in American history. He was not done with American politics, however.

In spite of the election result, the Republicans pressed ahead with the impeachment of Clinton in December 1998. The writing of four articles of impeachment and the eventual adoption of two of them took place in a partisan atmosphere with only a handful of Democratic votes. By the time the trial opened in the Senate in January 1999, any chance of obtaining the dozen Democratic votes needed for conviction had long since disappeared. Republicans complained that Democrats had not displayed bipartisan statesmanship such as the GOP had shown during the Watergate controversy. Yet the Republicans in 1998 had forgotten to seek the votes of the Democrats if they really meant to oust Clinton. The Senate proceedings were anticlimactic and Clinton was acquitted on both counts. The Senate Republicans did not achieve a majority of senators voting for conviction on either count.


In a preview of 6 years of political cowardice to come, Alison Lundergan Grimes won’t even admit she voted for Obama. However, we already know how sociopath Mitch McConnell will vote on impeachment— will lead on impeachment— so it probably behooves Democrats too hold their noses and vote for Grimes. That’s the same reason to vote for Orman in Kansas and possibly— although who even knows how he’d vote— Childers in Mississippi. There can be no doubt that right-wing partisan Republicans Tom Cotton (AR), Joni Ernst (IA), Cory Gardner (CO), Thom Tillis (NC), Mike Rounds (SD), Steve Daines (MT), Mike McFadden (MN), Dan Sullivan (AK), Bill Cassidy (LA), Ben Sasse (NE), and Terry Lynn Land (MI) are also sure guilty votes, no matter who sketchy and crackpot the impeachment case that the House makes is. Unless you want to see Obama impeached, that one calculation is enough reason to vote for the Democrats running against this mob of monsters.

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Sheldon Adelson Sneak Attack Comes To Los Angeles House Race

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Garbage politics comes to Los Angeles, financed by the Mob

Vegas-Macau gambling kingpin Sheldon Adelson, who fronts for organized crime and launders money from China into America's politics, has decided to try to win Henry Waxman’s congressional seat on Los Angeles’ west side— from Malibu down through Santa Monica, Venice, El Segundo and Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes and Harbor City— for a Republican stooge he can easily control, Elan Carr. First the good news: the last publicly-available polling— by Democratic firm, GarinHartYang Research— showed Lieu, the state senator from most of the district, leading Carr 55-36%, nearly 20 points. Party registration in the district is 44% Democrat, 33% Republican and Obama beat Romney 61-37%. The PVI is D+11.

“Ted Lieu,” writes Garin, “maintains a healthy lead over Elan Carr in the initial trial heat and Senator Lieu’s support expands slightly, even after we assume attacks from our opponent. Senator Lieu’s strong position in the race is due to his legislative experience, better alignment with the values and priorities in this district, AND the tarnished GOP brand.”

They no longer have to “assume” attacks. Carr’s biggest, supporter, the Sheldon Adelson family and his crooked circle, came roaring into the district Friday with 4 mailers, one of which is an ugly racist piece trying to paint Lieu as not sufficiently pro-Israel— and appeal to the district’s huge Jewish population. And now Bold Agenda PAC, the Adelson front for Carr, has reserved several hundred thousand dollars on broadcast TV to saturate the airwaves with anti-Lieu smears. [UPDATE: the new PAC was started by Aldelson crony, winery owner and right-wing multimillionaire donor John Jordan.]

Blue America is the only group coming to Ted’s aid— and we need help. Our independent expenditure committee is running ads in South Dakota’s Senate race, Maine’s Senate race, the Michigan congressional race pitting Paul Clements against Fred Upton and now Ted Lieu’s race. This is Digby’s and John’s home district and we’re finishing up a full page ad for the Los Angeles Times that emphasizes 4 examples of national leadership by Ted:
the first successful bill to protect consumers from predatory mortgage bankers

the first successful legislation to end conversion therapy for LGBT minors

the first successful bill to take serious statewide action against Global Warming

the first successful bill to end state cooperation with the CIA, NSA and any other federal agencies engaging in unconstitutional domestic spying
Ted Lieu isn’t just another politician making sweet-sounding promises. He’s running on a solid platform of accomplishments and leadership. And, on these issues, the 3 other candidates our I.E. Committee is trying to boost— Paul Clements, Shenna Bellows and Rick Weiland— all agree 100%. Every cent contributed on our Independent Expenditure Committee page between now and election day will go right into these 4 campaigns. Please help us make Congress more progressive, more productive and more responsive to the needs of ordinary working families. Every dollar counts.

Ted Lieu told us he's running for Congress, first and foremost, to deal with the dangers of Climate Change-- for his children and for all of our children

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why Are Democratic Elected Officials Selling Out Monterey County?

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Scott 'n Walt
Shenanigans abound in a central California Sheriff’s race. Beautiful Monterey County, otherwise known as the salad bowl for it’s 4 billion dollar a year Agriculture Industry is also the youth homicide capital of California. For several years Monterey has led the State in youth homicides and violence. Most people say it is those pesky “gangs.” But by using the word “gangs” they are really saying ‘who cares it is just brown kids killing brown kids.’

Dems like Jerry Brown, Bill Monning, and Luis Alejo are backing the current Sheriff, Scott Miller against Deputy Steve Bernal. So this Miller guy must be good right? I mean he has the backing of all these stand up Dems.

Maybe he is tough on drugs? His son was arrested June 2011 after a search of the apartment he lived in behind his father's home. In addition to possessing methamphetamine for sale, he was charged with possession of hydrocodone without a prescription, possession of fireworks and possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana. Last year he was arrested again and convicted again.

Ouch; his own son was selling meth out of the back of the Sheriff’s house? Tough on crime? Miller spoke to the The Herald shortly after about the arrest. What he did not mention is the woman arrested— 21-year old Alison Davi— had once lived in his home and that on one occasion he had helped her retrieve her impounded car. Miller said he didn't disclose that because, "No one asked me," he said Monday afternoon, "and I haven't seen her in three years."

Maybe he is a good manager with his staff? Read what the head of the DSA had to say:
I’m hoping this will open the eyes of the public as to the inner workings of the department and what's actually going on behind closed doors," he said. "It's pretty significant for a union to have never held a vote of no-confidence and then for the first time ever to hold a vote of no-confidence and to have it pass overwhelmingly.”
Wait is this guy even a Democrat? Turns out he is a NPP and used to be registered as a Republican but was even too extreme for them. Take a look at his campaign manager Gregory D Lee’s writings. Lee is a friend of 35 years with Miller and was forced to fire him after numerous editorials and a letter by Latino Democrats. "It is not easily understandable why Sheriff Miller would choose such a such an individual to be a policy advisory, confidant and hold the most trusted position in his re-election campaign as his campaign [spokesman]," they wrote. "Worse is the possibility Gregory Lee could shape law enforcement policy as part of Sheriff Miller's Leadership Team.”
”People judge politicians not just by their records, their deeds or what they say but also by the company they keep.

That's why many recently were shocked to learn of the ultra right wing background of Gregory D. Lee— who says he is Sheriff Scott Miller's official campaign spokesman.

For those who didn't catch some of the coverage earlier in the week, a coalition of Latino Democrats put out a press release with some links to Lee's political writings.

The ones I saw were both bigoted and downright ugly.

Here's some of the titles:

"Los Angeles Should Stop Hugging Illegal Aliens"

"It's the NAACP That's Racist, By Definition"

"Obama and Holder Want To Empty Federal Prisons"

"Why do homosexuals want to serve in the military? For sex of course"

Seriously?”
Well maybe we shouldn’t judge him too much on other people’s actions but instead look at his own? The complaints aren’t the first Miller has faced. In his time as Pacific Grove police chief, Miller dealt with discrimination and retaliation complaints from Rhonda Ramey and Darrin Smolinski. Both were LGBT officers.

11 EEOC complaints in his first two years? When Miller took office the Sheriff’s department had a female Unersheriff and several Latino Commanders. All since have been replaced by his close friends, white men. When asked by a reporter during a forum how many Latino’s he has promoted to leadership positions, Miller couldn’t name one.

Well look, a good Sheriff runs a good jail:
"Severe overcrowding, outdated facilities and chronic under-staffing have created dangerous conditions in the jail, placing prisoners and staff at serious risk of injury and death," the complaint reads.
Among the allegations described in the suit:

Delays in medical treatment.

One of the plaintiffs, Jesse Hernandez, said he waited eight months to have surgery to reverse his colostomy and ended up with intestinal swelling, bleeding, fevers and obstructed bowels. Another man who was waiting for a colostomy bag showed up in court "leaking feces all over his body" and was immediately ordered to a hospital by the judge, the complaint says.

Deficient mental health care.

Inadequate suicide prevention measures.

Failure to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities.

Failure to protect prisoners from violence.

So it appears the Deputies Union might have some legitimate complaints about being forced to work 16 hour shifts day after day and citing unsafe working conditions. In fact 2 brand new cadets from the graduating class of 13 new Deputies, quit on the first day after walking into the jail. One of them was the valedictorian of the class.

Steve Bernal who is running against the Sheriff and the establishment has the audacity to be a union member. Bernal is a member of Operating Engineers Local 3 and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. Steve has received the endorsement of OE3, PORAC, Latino Police Officers Association former Chapter President, and the DSA of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Monterey. He has received the endorsement of the last four former Sheriff’s in Monterey and several retired Sheriff’s from nearby counties. Lastly, Nancy Cuffney the last undersheriff who spent 33 years in the department has also endorsed Bernal.

Miller has zero union endorsements. How do these upstanding Dems explain this and why would they be putting their name next to this guy?

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This line from "Ever Decreasing Circles" almost made me feel sorry for brain-locked right-wingers

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Until eerily close to air time, the show didn't have theme music, or even a name. Then somebody, or probably somebodies, thought of (a) Ever Decreasing Circles and (b) No. 15 of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (played by pianist Ronnie Lane). In Part 1 of the pilot episode, "The New Neighbour" (Part 2 is here), Richard Briars is Martin Bryce; Penelope Wilton is Ann Bryce; Peter Egan is Paul Ryman, the new neighbour; and Stanley Lebor is old neighbor Howard Hughes (no, a different Howard Hughes).

"No, no, what we mustn't do, Martin, is deprive ourselves of the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with."
-- Paul Ryman (Peter Egan), in "House to Let," Episode 3 of
Series 3 (aired September 1986) of Ever Decreasing Circles

by Ken

I love that phrase "the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with." I can't tell you who exactly wrote the line, because Ever Decreasing Circles was written by one of the great TV writing teams, John Esmonde and Bob Larbey. In one of the DVD audio commentaries, recorded some 20 years after the series (1985-87, plus a 1989 special) finished, the actors recall Esmonde as a "dark" writer and Larbey as contrastingly "light," one of the things that, obviously, made them such a good team. In case you don't instantly recall the names, they had written the classic series The Good Life -- which we in the U.S. got as Good Neighbors, for some name-conflict reason -- with the great team of Richard Briars, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, and Paul Edding. (The DVDs were released in 2007, at which time, by great good fortune, Richard Briars, Penelope Wilton, and Paul Egan were all still available and eager to participate. The audio commentaries are spectacular.)

To illustrate the brilliance of Esmonde and Larbey: After they've concocted that wonderful line about "depriv[ing] ourselves of the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with," the writers have "what we might end up with" turn out to be the Danbys, the tenants Paul has found for the the house he's bought, as an investment, in the close where he and the Bryces live. Martin is deeply concerned about the effect of a new tenant on the perfect equilibrium of the neighborhood. (Of course what Martin fears most of all is another Paul.)

Dan Danby -- borderline nuts?
As it turns out, Dan Danby is, well, borderline nuts, or perhaps over-the-border. Since his nuttiness is in the service of absolute social orthodoxy, Martin loves him, while both Paul and Martin's wife Ann are horrified. Sometimes what we end up with, after all that excitement of now knowing, turns out to be our worst nightmare. (Ann guesses correctly that what Martin assumes was an intensive search for just the right people was in fact Paul signing up the first people who looked at the place.)

The point here is that nobody could be less interested than Martin in the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with, or in ending up with anything other than exactly what he expects, and approves of. The key to Ever Decreasing Circles, of course, was Richard Briars, who was one of the few actors (if there have ever been that many) who could make a character like Martin anything other than unbearable. He had spent his estimable career charming the pants off of audiences, and the show's creators reckoned that he could make Martin not only bearable but likable, but likable only in his utter impossibility. In one of the DVD commentaries, Penelope Wilton -- now best known to us as Downton Abbey's Isobel Crawley, mother of the unexpected heir to Downton, the now-late Matthew Crawley -- mentions that she used to get letters from viewers asking how she could be married to that man.

This is where comedic genius, in both the writing and the acting, comes into play. I always think of Seinfeld and the character of Kramer. Sometimes it has been pointed out to me that our Kramer, Cosmo K, was ripped out of the real-life existence of Larry David's and Jerry Seinfeld's old acquaintance Kenny Kramer, and certainly Kenny Kramer felt ripped off. But I ask the obvious question: Does anyone suppose that anyone ever found the real-life Kenny Kramer funny? I have a strong hunch that he drove acquaintances stark staring crazy, and probably night unto unbearable, about as far from amusing as you can get. The genius of the Seinfeld team, it struck me, was to have made their Kramer both hilarious and deep-down charming.

So it must have been with Ever Decreasing Circles's Martin Bryce. Martin is almost limitlessly exasperating, and the viewer often wonders, as those correspondents of Penelope Wilton's wrote her, how her character could have remained married to Martin. But, almost incredibly, the team of writers Esmonde and Larbey and actor Briars made Martin both entertaining and, infuriating as he is, sympathetic. He means so well, after all, and after all what could have produced a person so deeply damaged?

So maybe it was because of this context, the context of Martin's hopeless befuddlement, that I was able to hear Paul's line -- the line about "the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with" -- so vividly. And heard it as something like a textbook description of the far-right-wing mind. For the adherents of right-wing orthodoxy, what matters more than never having to be uncertain about what to expect, and that what they expect is all their old certainties.

And suddenly I found myself feeling sorry, almost, for all those right-wingers who have been denied, or have denied themselves, the saving human grace of curiosity, of looking at the world around them with a passion to understand and explain -- and to reserve for themselves the sheer excitement of not knowing what they might end up with.

Ironically, they can't ever get their wish to always know what they're going to end up with, because reality doesn't allow it. Reality insists on behaving according to its own rules, showing hardly any respect for the protocols of institutionalized hokum.

There's a lot more to talk about in this connection, but for now let me just feel a little bad for those people who deny this fundamental aspect of their humanity, the deep-rooted need to explore and try to understand.
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Satan’s Man In The Vatican— Demoted Again

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American fascist Raymond Burke, the satanic cardinal, loses his power over Church law


We’ve been covering slimy little neo-Nazi Raymond Cardinal Burke for years. He’s the far right’s and Satan’s representative in the Vatican and, before Pope Francis came along, seemed destined to turn the hands of time back on the Catholic Church to the 15th Century, which is where his worldview comes from. He’s the Ayn Rand of Catholicism, just more primitive and more partisan. Pope Francis has finally tossed him out on his ass.

Predictably, Burke had gone against the Pope at the Synod, claiming Pope Francis was trying to “weaken the church’s teaching and practice.”
“According to my understanding of the church’s teaching and discipline, no, it wouldn’t be correct,” Burke said, saying the pope had “done a lot of harm” by not stating “openly what his position is.” Burke said the Pope had given the impression that he endorses some of the most controversial parts of the Relatio, especially on questions of divorce, because of a German cardinal who gave an important speech suggesting a path to allowing people who had divorced and remarried to receive communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper, to open the synod’s discussion.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke said. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke has publicly clashed with the pope since Francis took office in 2013, and he has come to represent the sidelining of culture warriors elevated by Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict and as the top doctrinal official under Pope John Paul II. Burke, who caused controversy while bishop of St. Louis by saying Catholics who voted for politicians supportive of abortion rights should not receive communion, went on Catholic television in 2013 to rebut remarks Pope Francis made to an interviewer that the church had become “obsessed” with abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of other issues, saying, “We can never talk enough about that as long as in our society innocent and defenseless human life is being attacked in the most savage way,” Burke said. While Francis famously responded to a question about homosexuality in 2013 by asking, “Who am I to judge?” Burke described homosexual “acts” as “always and everywhere wrong [and] evil” during an interview last week.

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of canon law to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

When the pope first took office, his pivot away from an emphasis on questions of sexuality were more a matter of personal tone rather than changes in church policy or personnel. There were rumors that he was trying to oust the man chosen by Pope Benedict to head the church’s office responsible for doctrine, Gerhard Müller, but last winter he instead elevated him from archbishop to cardinal. When word that Burke was on his way out began circulating last month, it signaled that Francis would take major steps to reshape the church. It coincided with the selection of a new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, whom Catholic progressives celebrated for positions like breaking with the American church hierarchy when it withheld its support for President Obama’s health reform law over questions of abortion and contraception.

Internal discontent among conservatives inside church leadership began to simmer over in the weeks leading up to the synod. Just before it began, Burke, Müller, and other senior cardinals published a book in several languages attacking the ideas laid out by Cardinal Walter Kasper on allowing those who had divorced and remarried to receive communion in a speech heartily praised by Pope Francis. It broke into open revolt at the midpoint of the synod, following publication of a document presented as a summary of discussions but that conservatives said misrepresented the debate by including passages on “welcoming homosexual persons” and discussing some of Kasper’s proposal on divorce. The backlash appeared to have been especially strong from the English-speaking world, which includes a large number of African and American bishops; in an apparent attempt to mollify anglophone conservatives, the Vatican released a new translation of the report that changed the phrase “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for homosexual persons” and made other small changes, while leaving the versions in all other languages unchanged.

The report is now being revised with feedback from small-group discussions held this week, and a final version is scheduled to be voted on on Saturday. Burke said he hoped that the committee writing the new report will produce a “worthy document,” but said his “trust is a little bit shaken” by the language in the interim draft he said lacks “a good foundation either in the sacred scriptures or in the church’s perennial teachings.”

But there seems to be little middle ground between Pope Francis’ worldview and Burke’s. Francis was president of the Argentinian bishops conference when that country passed a marriage equality bill in 2010 and reportedly tried to convince his colleagues to support a civil union proposal instead. He lost the internal battle and gave voice to the hard-line consensus that the law was “sent by the devil.” The fight over the bill left the church appearing out of step with the beliefs of many in Argentina, a country where 76% identify as Catholic but only 38.2% went to church in 2005, per the most recent data available from the Association of Religious Data Archives. While Francis has shown no sign he supports overhauling the church’s teachings that homosexuality is sinful, he seems to have taken from this experience a desire to downplay conflicts over sexuality in order to broaden the church’s message.
Burke isn’t being exiled to Malta and the Pope is keeping him in Rome where he can be watched. His job will be to head an organization charged with assisting the elderly, handicapped, children, homeless, those with terminal illness and leprosy in all parts of the world, as well as refugees and victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts without distinction of race or religion.

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Food, glorious food -- or maybe not so glorious in Bob Mankoff's cartoon world

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"Well, pay me! He ate it."

by Ken

First off, let me confess that I added the comma after "well" in the above cartoon caption. Sorry, I just couldn't read it without the comma.

Okay, that said, let me explain that New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff offers this cartoon as the first in a series of three he says sums up a piece he happened to reread recently, Anthony Bourdain's April 1999 "Don't Eat Before Reading This," which "detail[s] the unsavory behind-the-scenes restaurant practices that foist crummy cuisine on a credulous clientele."

All of which apparently came to mind because Bob was thinking about a familiar phrase: "Like watching sausage getting made."
The idea being that you may like how sausage tastes, but that if you saw how sausage was made, you would find it a lot less appealing. The idiom applies not just to sausages but to the unsavory activities that are the backdrop for what we enjoy or admire, from law to medicine to politics to whatever.
The Bourdain piece, Bob says, "brings the sausage metaphor home to its source -- food." And here are the other specimens that for Bob "sum up his piece in a few cartoons."


"Push the salmon with dill sauce."


"Is there anyone here who specializes in stress management?"

NATURALLY THERE'S A SLIDE SHOW

And it's of restaurant quality. Perhaps not surprisingly, I can't resisting this gem from the great Carl Barsotti:

"The chef said all the regular stuff is
as special as it's going to get today."

Okay, maybe one more. You can check out the classier offerings for yourself. I offer you this cautionary tale from the great Jack Ziegler:


"That's the food biz. Celebrity chef one day,
graveyard shift hash jockey the next."
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Thinking Of Running For Congress? Only The Rich And The Corporate Whores Need Apply?

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Mark Warner, not really homeless

The two richest Members of Congress are both House Republicans, career criminal Darrell Isis (net worth: $357 million) and Texas wing nut Michael McCaul, who got rich by marrying the daughter of Hate Talk radio empire Clear Channel (net worth at least $117.5). When it comes to the Senate, though, the richest members are Democrats. Once Rockefeller retires in January, the richest senator will be venture capitalist and Virginia centrist Mark Warner (net worth $95 million). A former Virginia Governor, Warner won an overwhelming victory against a former Republican governor, Jim Gilmore, 65-34%. Obama won Virginia as well that same day, besting McCain by a far less impressive 53-46%. Virginians like the moderately conservative Warner as governor and they’ve liked him as senator. His 75.38 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score puts him down towards the bottom of the Democrats, a little better than fellow corporatists and right-wing Dems Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) but worse than cautious moderates Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). A Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders of Tammy Baldwin he’s never going to be.

The polling indicates that, despite a big name Republican opponent, lobbyist and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, Warner never had a serious challenge. Every poll has shown him ahead— and by a lot. In fact, not a single poll— not even by laughable Republican polling firms like Harper and Rasmussen who always try to show Republicans winning— has Gillespie breaking 40%. Several have him mired in the 20s unable to even get a third of the vote. The most recent CBS News/NY Times poll by YouGov (released the first week of October) shows Warner beating Gillespie 49-36%, 51-39% if you factor in “leaners.” Among self-described “moderates,” Warner is ahead 56-21%.

This week, Gillespie waved the white flag and admitted he has no chance. The way you do that 2 weeks before election day is to stop spending money. Though Gillespie had reported raising $4,164,818 on his FEC forms June 30— and had $3,111,992 cash-on-hand— he’s now pulled his TV advertising. CBS News reported this week that “political operatives who track television advertising said Thursday that Gillespie does not have ads reserved in the final push toward the Nov. 4 elections.”
The financial struggles of Gillespie's campaign are something of a surprise. He was the Republican National Committee chairman, served in President George W. Bush's administration as a top adviser and was a top lieutenant to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

That pedigree, however, has not translated to extraordinary fundraising. And that has left Gillespie at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to advertising.

Following a report by The Associated Press about the drop-off in advertising, the Gillespie campaign said Thursday it would launch new rounds of TV ads on Saturday— but it did not specify when or where the ads would run, or at what cost. The campaign also announced it had banked $2 million for the final push to Election Day.

That's about a quarter of what his Democratic rival, first-term Sen. Mark Warner, has on hand.

Warner's campaign on Wednesday announced it had more than $8 million to spend in the race's final days. Warner is currently blanketing the state with TV.

Gillispie has struggled to keep pace in fundraising and advertising. He loaned his campaign $65,000 over the summer.

The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity shows Warner has spent $4.4 million on ads and the liberal Virginia Progress PAC has spent another $2 million.

Gillispie has spent $3.5 million on ads, but a scant $174,000 has come from outside groups.

…[B]uying television time to reach voters in population-heavy northern Virginia requires spending in the Washington, D.C., media market, where ads can cost more than $1 million each week.

Airtime always becomes more expensive as Election Day nears and more candidates are clamoring for more spots. Last-minute efforts to buy ads put the campaigns at the mercy of station owners who can demand premium prices that put cash-strapped campaigns at a disadvantage.


Campaigning for Senator Al Franken, Governor Mark Dayton and state Senator Mike Obermueller at Carleton College in Northfield this week, Elizabeth Warren told the crowd that "The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it." The crowd agreed. Today’s she’s in Iowa, campaigning for Bruce Braley with the same message.

I hope you already read yesterday’s post about how the very wealthy have come to control our democracy. As Noam Chomsky explained in the video at the bottom of the post, candidates are “vetted by corporate interests.” If the very rich don’t get behind you, you don’t have the finances it takes to run for office. There are very few exceptions. And corporate interests, while having no problem with Gillespie, of course, are perfectly happy seeing Mark Warner rise in national prominence and work for them inside the Senate Democratic caucus to counter pro-working family tendencies pushed by people like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Jeff Merkley and Tammy Baldwin. And, of course, that’s why the South Dakota Senate race is suddenly such a big deal. All the momentum belongs to independent-minded populist/progressive Rick Weiland who is on the verge of beating two corporate Establshment darlings, former Republican Governor Mike Rounds and former Republican Senator Larry Pressler. If you want to help beat the plutocrats and corporate predators… you can do it here, on the Blue America Act Blue Senate page.



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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eichmann Was Completely Unrepentant About The Extermination Of The Jews

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Adolph Eichmann, like Mitt Romney, started off as an advocate of self-deportation

I never understood Roland’s interest in Jews-in-exotic-places but whenever we travel to off-the-beaten path countries, he always wants to visit synagogues— in places where you wouldn’t expect Jews, like Singapore, Yangon, and India. We still haven’t visited Madagascar but there’s even a small Jewish community there. Until Hitler decided to invade Russia, it looked like there was going to be a really big Jewish community in Madagascar. Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish Department of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proposed that Germany take over the French colony of Madagascar and resettle Europe’s Jews there (originally an idea that Poland’s right-wing government came up with in the late ‘30s. Half of Germany’s Jews had, in Mitt Romney’s timeless words, “self-deported” (to the U.S., Palestine, the U.K., Argentina and Brazil) in the 6 years after the Nazis took power. Hitler liked the Madagascar plan and Adolph Eichmann released a memorandum on 15 August 1940— Reichssicherheitshauptamt: Madagaskar Projekt calling for the resettlement of a million Jews per year for four years. His plan was to put the SS in charge of the island. In the end though, the Nazis got too busy with a two-front war and chose direct extermination over deportation. No European Jews were forced to resettle on Madagascar.

The plan was touched on by Bettina Stangneth in her new book, Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer, reviewed yesterday by Richard Evans for The Guardian. The book covers Eichmann’s years in exile after the Holocaust and the Nazi defeat and before he was kipnapped in Argentina (1960) and brought to Israel to be hanged in 1962.
So what kind of a man was Adolf Eichmann? How and why did he become a mass murderer? The first and still the most famous and influential attempt to answer these questions came from the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, who attended the trial as a correspondent for the New Yorker, subsequently publishing her articles in a revised book-length version as Eichmann in Jerusalem. The book stirred up a storm of criticism, particularly though not exclusively from Jewish intellectuals in the United States. There were many reasons for this. Reflecting what was known at the time, and in common with other early historians of the Nazis' genocide of the Jews, Arendt was highly critical both of the passivity of the great majority of European Jews in the face of persecution and extermination, and of the collaborationist administration of the Jewish Councils in the ghettos, whose tragic and impossible situation failed to arouse her sympathy. [She wouldn’t be a fan of gay Republicans like Aaron Schock, Lindsey Graham, Carl DeMaio and Richard Tisei today.]

The judgments she offers in Eichmann in Jerusalem are utterly independent and totally unsparing. Time and again she raises questions that provoke and disturb. The abduction of Eichmann from Argentina was illegal; the trial was a show-trial; Israel's marriage laws were similar to the racist Nuremberg laws of the Nazis; Eichmann's crimes were crimes against humanity, so international law should have dealt with the case. Arendt's independence of mind is one of the most impressive features of her reporting. She writes as a detached philosophical inquirer, not as the representative of any particular group or political tendency.

Eichmann in Jerusalem bore the subtitle "A Study in the Banality of Evil.” What she meant by this was not that Eichmann was a mere bureaucrat, a conscienceless pen-pusher who was only obeying orders. On the contrary, she argued, he was an ideological antisemite, a man of overweening ambition who wanted not only power but also fame. He had a compulsion to "talk big,” she observed, and indeed "bragging was the vice that was Eichmann's undoing.” Not a particularly intelligent man, he assimilated the ideology and behaviour of the evil system within which he sought to achieve distinction. He admired the Third Reich not least because it allowed men from a humble background like his own— or Hitler's, for that matter— to climb to the top. He was under no compulsion to act as he did: he could have opted out at any time; all his actions were voluntary. He deserved to die because he had failed, or refused, to exercise the kind of moral judgment Arendt herself showed in her book. His crimes were the crimes of a system, even a nation; as the psychologists who examined him in prison concluded, he was not a psychopath or a sociopath, though, as Arendt points out, he was most certainly, and frequently, a liar and a deceiver. This was the "banality of evil.”

In Argentina, Arendt notes, Eichmann did not go underground but occupied himself with "talking endlessly with members of the large Nazi colony, to whom he readily admitted his identity.” These conversations were recorded by a Dutch ex‑member of the SS, Willem Sassen, and edited extracts were published anonymously, though there could be little doubt about the identity of the principal participant. The existence of the original tapes and transcripts has long been known, but up to now their poor quality has defied systematic investigation. The German philosopher and historian Bettina Stangneth has now performed the invaluable service of deciphering them, putting them together with other, often little-known source material, and delivering a full analysis of Eichmann's ideas as he expounded them to his friends and former colleagues in exile.

In the conversations he had with Sassen and others, Eichmann was completely unrepentant about the extermination of the Jews, which he saw as historically necessary, a policy he was proud to have carried out in the interests of Germany. The cynicism, inhumanity, lack of pity and moral self‑deception of the conversations are breathtaking. This is a very disturbing book, and every now and then, as you read it, you have to pause in disbelief. Ten years and more after the war's end, Eichmann's lack of realism, typical for a political exile, even persuaded him that he could make a comeback, or that nazism could be rehabilitated, and he planned to launch a public defense of what he saw as its achievements.

In one of the conversations, Eichmann described himself as a "cautious bureaucrat" but also "a fanatical warrior, fighting for the freedom of my blood.” Stangneth dissents from Arendt's belief that Eichmann was unintelligent, and points out that he calculatedly presented himself only as the cautious bureaucrat during his trial, deliberately concealing his "fanatical" side. But his clumsy attempt to present himself as pursuing a Kantian "categorical imperative" does not show that he was in any way an intellectual; and his mendacious self-presentation as a mere pen-pusher did not convince anyone, least of all Arendt. What he lacked was moral intelligence, the ability to judge the system he worked for and whose ideology he assimilated so completely.

Stangneth's absorbing account of his years in exile, which is translated by Ruth Martin, adds considerably to our knowledge of Eichmann, but it is not a "total reassessment of the man", as the publishers claim, nor is it true to claim that the book "permanently undermines Hannah Arendt's notion of the 'banality of evil'." Half a century after it was written, Arendt's book, despite the fact that it has been overtaken in many of its details by research, remains a classic that everyone interested in the crimes of nazism has to confront.


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Time again to test our geographic mettle with those fiends from National Geographic (Zombies? Zombies??? Gimme a break!)

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Zombies, eh?

by Ken

We haven't done this in a while, and when I saw the new issue of National Geographic in the mailbox this evening when I got home from today's urban gadding (first a visit to NYC Transit's Bergen Sign Shop out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, then a Historic Districts Council walk up in Harlem and even farther up in Mott Haven, the Bronx, focusing on three still-in-use Carnegie-paid-for public libraries, with a drive-by of a third on the bus en route to the Bronx), I thought, you know, we haven't done this in a while!

So here it is, direct from the address insert in this month's subscription mailing:
1  Izmir, Adana, and Bursa are major cities in what country?

2  The Strait of Malacca links the South China Sea with which ocean?

3  Name the largest city in Scotland, which is located on the Clyde River.

4  The Corfu Channel separates the Greek island of Corfu from which neighboring country?

5  What country north of Ghana, formerly known as Upper Volta, won independence from France in 1960?

THE ANSWERS




I DID JUST . . . WELL, NEVER YOU MIND HOW I DID

Okay, okay, I got three right, and two others maybe not quite as right. I'm frankly a little dubious about (4), the answer to which seems hardly worth concerning ourselves with. So maybe I don't know exactly where Corfu is. Am I expected to keep track of every last Greek island? Hey, there are, uh, millions of them. And then --


HOLD ON! RECOUNT! I WANT A RECOUNT!

Now just a doggone minute! When did [name withheld] become Scotland's largest city? Everybody knows that [name withheld] is the capital and Edinburgh the largest city. Okay, Edinburgh isn't on the Clyde (it's on the Firth of Forth, as I was reminded when I looked it up), and I should have remembered that (besides, shouldn't that be "the River Clyde," not "the Clyde River"?), but it hardly mattered since I knew perfectly well what the largest city in Scotland is -- I've got this! And in any case I can hardly be expected to keep track of every confounded river in the world.



Oh.

Never mind.
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How Do They Define Treason In Missouri These Days? Meet Debbie Dunnegan, Republican Jefferson County Recorder Of Deeds

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Jefferson County includes many of St Louis’ southern suburbs. It’s well-off, very white, kind of centrist… a very Hillary Clinton kind of area— and not a very Barack Obama kind of area. Of the 10 elected county-wide officials, 8 are Democrats and only two are Republicans, County Commissioner Ken Waller and County Recorder of Deeds Debbie Dunnegan Waters. She expected an easy ride to reelection next month. A Facebook posting calling for a military coup against President Obama is causing her a little problem.

Chances are, no one outside of eastern Missouri would have ever heard of Debbie had she not crossed over into treason on her Facebook page this week. “I have a question for all my friends who have served or are currently serving in our military,” she wrote, “having not put on a uniform nor taken any type military oath, there has to be something that I am just not aware of. But I cannot and do not understand why no action is being taken against our domestic enemy. I know he is supposedly the commander in chief, but the Constitution gives you the authority. What am I missing?”

Dunnegan is upset that her words have been twisted, she says. “Something innocent and simple got twisted into a disaster because it’s an election.” She just wanted to know about the oath the soldiers take. That’s all. “I meant no ill intent toward the president. I meant no ill intent toward anybody,” she said. She worries her remarks could hurt her reelection chances as much as they will help her. Because, sure, among certain Republicans calling for a military coup on Facebook does help, especially when the president is an African-American fighting to bring health care to working families.

I wonder if Dunnegan will be invited to address the Republican National Convention— maybe put Ted Cruz’s name in nomination to be president. Or will Democrat Mike Bone defeat her in 2 and a half weeks at the polls?




UPDATE: Meanwhile, Up In South Dakota

No one is accusing former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds of treason, per se. He’s just an old fashioned crook, looking for ways to line his pockets. His administration was selling EB-5 visas to wealthy foreigners— and everyone in South Dakota knows it. Bloomberg News was out in South Dakota for a few days this week covering the race. The video below is their report and it. paints Rick in a very positive light. Take a look, think about Debbie Dunnegan. Think about Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell and all the other GOP crackpots and, if you can, please consider contributing to Rick Weiland’s Get Out The Vote efforts.

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Colorado Voters Are Making The CIA Domestic Spy Agents Very Happy-- Very, Very Happy

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Getting control over congressional oversite was the biggest goal of the CIA and NSA in this election cycle. They’re actively infiltrating CIA agents into Congress itself. On the Democratic side, Steve Israel conspired with them to push forward several CIA candidates, including, among others, Kevin Strouse (PA-08) and Bobby McKenzie (MI-11). They were unable to gain any traction and were eventually abandoned by the DCCC to their own miserable fates. Both are expected to lose badly November 4. But don’t feel badly for the CIA.

The National Surveillance Establishment’s top goal of the election season is to replace their most fearless and relentless critic in the Senate, Mark Udall (D-CO)— to send a message to the rest of Congress that they can be taken out— with a slimy little right-wing worm who has shown a willingness to acquiesce to whatever the CIA and NSA want— so long as he can target women’s rights, equality and working families struggling to get a fair shake.

I bet the CIA would rather see Udall defeated— and will do anything and everything they can to get Cory Gardner in— than even catch Ed Snowden. In fact, let me turn, once again to Michael Gurnow’s book, The Edward Snowden Affair, for some insight into why the CIA is so freaked out about having someone as courageous as Mark Udall in Congress.
Snowden reiterates from his interview with Poitras that there are no technological limitations to what can be gathered and requested. Previewing a forthcoming disclosure, he states, “[T]he intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a ‘real’ warrant like a [p]olice department would have to, the ‘warrant’ is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.” Policy, which is subject to administrative whim, is the only restraint, but Snowden declares “policy protection is no protection— policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens and one very weak technical protection— a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘widest allowable aperture,’ and can be stripped out at any time.” Like the NSA’s reminder to its analysts that accidental intercepts are “noth ing to worry about,” Britain’s system of checks and balances for query protocol is equally lax. “For at least GCHQ,” Snowden tells his audience, “the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.” It is worthy to note Menwith Hill is over— seen by a Royal Air Force officer.

Toward the end of the interview, Snowden overtly condemns America’s invasive surveillance policies and practices: “Journalists should ask a specific question: [S]ince these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source?” He assures his audience that regardless of what happens to him or how strict whistleblowing legislation becomes, gray hat leaking will not cease, because “[c]itizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it.” He boldly proclaims, “Truth is coming, and it can- not be stopped.”
I wonder if the CIA and NSA agents were laughing when they read that— or just too busy trying to undermine Mark Udall to stop long enough to laugh. The latest poll— released by Quinnipiac yesterday— is bad news for America, bad news for Colorado… good news for the CIA and other agencies that are spying on Americans.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenger in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, leads U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent 47 - 41 percent among likely voters, with 8 percent for independent candidate Steve Shogan, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Another 4 percent are undecided… Colorado likely voters give Sen. Udall a negative 42 - 49 percent favorability rating, compared to Gardner's positive 47 - 41 percent rating. [Wait! An even more recent poll was released by the more accurate Mark Mellman and it shows Colorado voters coming to their senses and giving Udall a 44-41% lead over Gardner. This is going to be a nail-biter... for ordinary Americans as well as for the spy-masters of the CIA and NSA.]

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If Plutocrats Have Been Leasing American Democracy, They Are Now On A Path To Owning It Outright

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Thursday evening we saw how Ro Khanna, a corporate shill posing as a Democrat while willing to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, is being bankrolled by some of the most insidious anti-democracy forces in America. Crooked banksters and hedge-fund managers who should be in jail are buying out America’s entire electoral system, not just Silicon Valley’s.
In the winter of 2000, just as John McCain and George W. Bush were entering a pivotal series of Republican primaries, a mysterious new campaign ad appeared on television stations in New York, Ohio and California. The ad showed McCain’s disembodied head floating over belching smokestacks as a narrator intoned about votes McCain had made against solar and renewable-energy incentives— policies that in reality he had supported. The ad was sponsored by a group called Republicans for Clean Air.

The financial backers behind Republicans for Clean Air were the Texas billionaires Charles and Sam Wyly. They had a history of supporting Bush, but they were also heavily invested in a company seeking government-induced increases in alternative-energy production. The revelation that a single Texas family could so easily insert itself into the political process set off a round of frenzied indignation, and after McCain’s loss, it became crucial fodder for his effort to reform the national campaign-finance system. In 2002, along with a Democratic senator, Russell D. Feingold, he helped push a bill through Congress that ranked alongside some of the most sweeping efforts to contain “special interest” money in American history: the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned corporate contributions to candidates; the Smith-Connally Act of 1943, which prohibited union donations to candidates; and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which placed strict limits on what individuals could give to parties and campaigns.

Before 2002, parties could accept unlimited donations from individuals or groups (corporations, labor unions, etc.) so long as they devoted the funds — so-called “soft money” — to the amorphous act of “party building.” The McCain-Feingold law, as it came to be known, banned soft-money contributions, and it also prohibited political groups that operate outside the regulated system and its donation limits— like the Wylys and their Republicans for Clean Air— from running “issue ads” that appear to help or hurt a candidate close to an election. It implemented tough fines and even prison terms for those who illegally coordinated with the official campaigns.

In 2010, the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court effectively blew apart the McCain-Feingold restrictions on outside groups and their use of corporate and labor money in elections. That same year, a related ruling from a lower court made it easier for wealthy individuals to finance those groups to the bottom of their bank accounts if they so chose. What followed has been the most unbridled spending in elections since before Watergate. In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion.

The result was a massive power shift, from the party bosses to the rich individuals who ran the super PACs (as most of these new organizations came to be called). Almost overnight, traditional party functions — running TV commercials, setting up field operations, maintaining voter databases, even recruiting candidates — were being supplanted by outside groups. And the shift was partly because of one element of McCain-Feingold that remains: the ban on giving unlimited soft money to parties. In the party universe, rich players like the Wylys, Tom Steyer or the Kochs were but single planets among many. The party bosses had to balance their interests against those who brought just as much to the table in the form of money or votes. A party platform has to account for both the interests of the oil industry and those of the ethanol industry; those of the casino industry and those of the anti-gambling religious right; those of Wall Street and those of labor.

With the advent of Citizens United, any players with the wherewithal, and there are surprisingly many of them, can start what are in essence their own political parties, built around pet causes or industries and backing politicians uniquely answerable to them. No longer do they have to buy into the system. Instead, they buy their own pieces of it outright, to use as they see fit. “Suddenly, we privatized politics,” says Trevor Potter, an election lawyer who helped draft the McCain-Feingold law.

…The president of Americans for Prosperity is Tim Phillips. Tall and fit at 50, Phillips holds forth with evident delight, betraying the slight accent of his native South Carolina, on whatever topic is at hand. (A somewhat larger than usual breakfast, for instance, earns an emphatic “I’m in awe of our country at this moment.”) After attending Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Phillips worked on several congressional races before starting a consulting firm with the Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed. The Kochs hired Phillips in 2005 to make Americans for Prosperity into a force that could defeat liberalism and elect true free-market conservatives— ones who understood that when business gets hurt, people lose jobs and the country suffers— and make them pay a price if they strayed. (David Koch is the chairman of the group’s foundation, while Charles Koch has no formal role.)

Americans for Prosperity started small, with an effort in Charles Koch’s home state of Kansas to defeat a proposed tax increase; it then moved on to spearhead a quixotic fight against the teachers’ union over pay in Wisconsin. As recently as 2008, the group’s activities were negligible, and it had just $7 million in its operating budget, according to its Internal Revenue Service filing. But after Citizens United, donations poured in. In 2012, it raised $115 million. It is impossible to know the identities of the donors, though the group’s annual closed-door conferences are regularly attended by many of the biggest conservative donors in the country, including the hedge-fund executive Foster Friess and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Where does the money go? Americans for Prosperity obviously spends a lot on television, but it also maintains offices in 35 states with 600 paid staff members. The group funds phone banks, big-ticket events and many other details like beer cozies and water bottles. Its biggest chapter is in Florida, where its 50 paid staff members work out of 10 offices and constitute a year-round organization that rivals that of the state Republican Party.

The A.F.P. offices are in the same brick corporate campus in Arlington, Va., that housed George W. Bush’s campaign in 2004. The narrow white hallways and gray cubicles would be somewhat grim if not for Phillips’s insistence that each staff member place an image of something he or she holds dear on their nameplates (a pinup of the actress Jane Russell, the logo of the University of Virginia or, on Phillips’s own door, a photo of the band U2, with his own head pasted atop Bono’s body). A.F.P. operates at such a low hum that it would have been hard to guess, at the moment I was visiting, how many different operations its staff members were overseeing simultaneously. There was a $1 million ad buy criticizing the Democrat Mark Begich in Alaska, as well as a new ad campaign against Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado. There was a series of rallies attacking the Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley in Iowa and a door-knocking campaign for Rick Scott.

Then there was the balloon. Phillips pointed to a photograph on the wall, depicting a scene from an event Americans for Prosperity held in Bozeman, Mont., in 2009: a 70-foot balloon awaiting takeoff. “We called it the ‘Cost of Hot Air,’ ” Phillips said. At the time, A.F.P. was trying to counter the movement to establish a cap-and-trade system. Many Republicans, including John McCain, supported such a system, and a bipartisan implementation of it seemed likely upon Obama’s election. A.F.P.'s balloon was part of a national tour to block it. “We put on the side of the balloon: ‘Cap and trade means: higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom’— six words.” It made dozens of trips, including one over Al Gore’s house in Tennessee. All the while, Americans for Prosperity, joined by other conservative groups, directed ads and phone calls pressuring lawmakers to vote against the major cap-and-trade bill when it came up for a vote in 2009; Phillips helped to rebrand the bill more negatively as “cap and tax.” It died in the Senate, and support for cap-and-trade among Republican officeholders fell to a negligible level, where it remains today. “I rode more hot-air balloons in that year-and-a-half period than I ever want to ride again,” Phillips said. “I do not like hot-air balloons.”

…The environmental impact of the Koch family is not entirely an abstract question. Koch Industries is the second-largest private company in the country, and its holdings include oil refineries, oil-services companies and one of the nation’s biggest fertilizer manufacturers. Another Koch property is the paper-goods producer Georgia-Pacific, whose plant in Palatka, Fla.— at the end of the narrow Rice Creek tributary of the St. Johns River— is seen by Scott opponents as an object lesson in how political donations can materially affect the planet.

In July, I went to see the plant with Lisa Rinaman, who heads an environmental group called St. Johns Riverkeeper, and two of her local friends, Sam Carr and Robert Virnstein. Because the plant, a hulking pale green structure festooned with smokestacks and rusting steel drums, is closed to outsiders, we approached it by water, in Virnstein’s pontoon boat. Georgia-Pacific employs 1,000 people at the plant, which produces Brawny paper towels and Angel Soft bathroom tissue. The plant also has a state permit to disperse certain amounts of wastewater into the creek. As such, Rinaman takes occasional boat trips to the plant, like this one, to keep a careful eye on the consequences. It’s work that she does not trust the state to do under Rick Scott.

In Rinaman’s view, the Kochs have reason to be bullish on Scott. More than a decade earlier, before Koch Industries owned it, Georgia-Pacific ran into trouble with state and federal regulators over the pollution from its mill on Rice Creek. The plant’s salty, dioxin-tainted wastewater was creating a putrid odor— “It was horrendous,” Carr said. “Oh, God. You’d come over the bridge and the smell was just unbelievable” — and worse, it was leading to “masculinization” among the creek’s native mosquito fish. The regulators settled on a solution that left environmentalists even more alarmed. Georgia-Pacific would need to take specific steps in an attempt to bring its pollution in the creek into compliance with clean-water standards. But if those steps failed, it was to then divert the wastewater to the much larger (and therefore more dilutive) St. Johns River, an ecological treasure. “It was one of those slap-in-the-face rulings,” Rinaman said.

Koch Industries bought the plant in 2005. Georgia-Pacific says that the $200 million in improvements that it completed were roughly twice the outlay that had been required by state and federal regulators. Even environmentalists saluted the effort. “Now, this is one of my favorite fishing holes,” Carr said as we sat on the creek. As if on cue, a giant alligator splashed in the water in front of us. “That was a big one!”

But even though the creek was cleaner, the plant’s pollutants were still above legal limits. So Georgia-Pacific, convinced it had done all it could and eager to move on, began making plans to build a $30 million pipeline to the St. Johns River. The Crist administration refused to grant it a permit to use the pipeline until it cleared a few more hurdles; these included a new kind of dioxin test that the state Department of Environmental Protection promoted as more sensitive than those commonly in use, but which was not validated under state rules. Georgia-Pacific, arguing that it should be required only to use formally sanctioned tests, managed to resist using the new method through the end of Crist’s term.

Crist had appointed two successive heads of the Department of Environmental Protection, both trained scientists with decades of experience in environmental policy. When Rick Scott took office, his choice for the post was Herschel Vinyard, an executive with a military contractor called BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards; previously, he had been a corporate lawyer specializing in regulatory issues. One of Crist’s environmental appointees said the department would be primarily concerned with “ensuring Florida’s dynamic natural resources, state lands, waterbodies and beaches are protected”; Crist himself challenged the department to create “a strategy to protect our state from the effects of climate change.” The Scott administration, by contrast, described Vinyard’s mission as “protecting the natural resources of Florida, while creating the best possible mechanisms for job creation in the state.”

Nearly every initiative related to climate change was dropped. Vinyard laid off 58 employees and declared a “time out” on the state policy of purchasing ecologically sensitive land for protection. He also worked with the State Legislature to change the rules for environmental permits, shifting the burden of proof onto groups trying to block them. To the dismay of many editorial boards across the state, he instituted a bonus system that encouraged workers to expedite the process by which companies received permits of every kind.

One company to which Vinyard granted a permit was Georgia-Pacific— the permit it had been seeking for many years under the Crist administration. The Department of Environmental Protection under Scott required some containment and monitoring measures that environmentalists had sought— officials of the department say it was among the strictest permits they had ever issued— but not the extra dioxin test. The Legislature also passed a provision banning the state from requiring any environmental test that was not on its officially recognized list. In Rinaman’s view, this language seemed suspiciously designed to exclude the test that the Crist administration had been pushing on Georgia-Pacific. Scott signed the provision into law; he also instituted a freeze on any new regulations, and then shed existing regulations by the hundreds.

Scott’s deregulatory efforts did not go unnoticed. Americans for Prosperity invited Scott to speak at the group’s Defending the Dream summit in 2013. “Here we are, two and a half years into his term, and he’s created more than 370,000 jobs in the state of Florida,” Slade O’Brien, the Florida director of the group at the time, said by way of introduction. “And one of the ways he did that was by eliminating over 1,000 burdensome regulations.” When Scott spoke, he noted that the number had grown to 2,600.
There are people running for office who understand the nature of this problem and are committed to fixing it. No one gets endorsed by Blue America who isn’t. The candidates we endorse do understand and are committed. It’s a red line in the sand. We don’t endorse wish-washy centrists, Wall Street-owned hacks or careerists, even if they wave blue banners and call themselves Democrats. There are no good Republicans on this issue— but there are plenty of bad Democrats.

Today might also be a good time to bring up another facet of encroaching plutocracy— multimillionaires buying themselves (or their children, as in the case of Florida New Dem, Patrick Murphy) congressional seats. Below is a list of this cycle’s top 10 self-funders. One, Florida sociopath Curt Clawson— who spent the most ($4,017,543 of his own money, 86% of what his campaign cost)— is already in Congress. He used all that cash to win a special election to replace Republican Party coke dealer Trey Radel. Most of the other biggest spenders this cycle have already lost. This is the whole sordid list in order of how much of their own money they used:
Curt Clawson (R-FL-19)- $4,017,543 (86%)
Paul Mitchell (R-MI-04)- $3,167,626 (100%)- lost primary
Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ-03)- $3,000,000 (96%)- likely winner
George Demos (R-NY-01)- $2,500,000 (89%)- lost primary
Dave Trott (R-MI-11)- $2,423,402 (71%)- likely winner
Tom Sanchez (D-TX-33)- $1,475,000 (99%)- lost primary
Sean Eldridge (D-NY-19)- $1,340,000 (44%)- likely loser
Ben Streusand (R-TX-36)- $1,301,030 (93%)- lost primary
Matt Rosendale (R-MT-01)- $1,126,547 (84%)- lost primary
Brian Ellis (R-MI-03)- $1,007,214 (55%)- lost primary
Self-funding plutocrats… not a very good investment bet... even if Florida Governor (and Medicare fraud millionaire) is about to write his campaign a personal check for $22 million to save his ass. One final thought from Bernie Sanders before we get to the short Noam Chomsky clip below. After Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivered a speech on income and wealth inequality in the U.S. Bernie issued a statement all 100 senators should have (but didn't): "Janet Yellen is right. Income inequality is the worst it has been since the 1920s. Now that we have a Fed Chair who recognizes the problem, the Fed must act as boldly to rescue the disappearing middle class as it did when it bailed out too-big-to-fail banks. The Fed has got to demand that big banks significantly increase affordable loans to small businesses to create jobs, instead of parking its money at the Fed and making risky bets on Wall Street.”

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