Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ghost of Sunday Classics: Hoffmann just can't get over his "three mistresses"


"It's a song of love that soars aloft sadlly or madly": Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov (Hoffmann) and Hibla Gerzmava (Antonia) at Moscow's Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater

by Ken

In preparation for our quick survey of the poet Hoffmann's account of his three "mad loves," as set out last week, in last night's preview we made the acquaintance of the first of them, Olympia-- the "artist," according to Hoffmann's reckoning. (We'll come back to this in a moment.) As I noted last night, making Olympia's acquaintance is more than Hoffmann did before he fell soul-convulsingly in love with her. (It doesn't help that the poor fellow is literally looking at her through the equivalent of rose-colored glasses, sold to him by one of Olympia's creators, the eccentric inventor Coppélius.) Of course this is only the teeniest exaggeration of the way many of us so frequently fall just as consumingly in love as our poor hero has.

As noted, we're going to sample some of the astonishing music by which Offenbach captured the states of need and urgency and bliss that afflict Hoffmann in all three of his mad stories. First, though, let's meet another, very different object of the poet's passion: Antonia, one of the theatrical literature's great creations.

(Note that we're going to hear a sprinkling of German-language performances today. As with Gounod's Faust, the German-sourced Tales of Hoffmann -- the fantastic fables of E.T.A. Hoffmann, the source of the opera's tales, are standbys for German readers -- was taken up by German audiences if anything faster and more avidly than by French ones.)

OFFENBACH, The Tales of Hoffmann, Act III, Orchestral introduction and Romance, Antonia, "Elle a fui, la tourterelle" ("She has flown, the turtledove")
Munich. The home of Crespel. A bizarrely furnished room. At right a clavichord. Violins suspended from the wall. At left a window. At the back two doors, one the door to Antonia's room; in front, at left, a window casement that leads to a balcony, which is closed by a curtain. Between the two doors at the rear a large portrait of a woman hanging on the wall. The sun is setting. ANTONIA is seated at the harpsichord.

Romance, Antonia
She has flown, the turtledove!
Ah, a memory too sweet!
An image to cruel!
Alas, at my knees
I hear him, I see him!
Alas, at my knees
I hear him, I see him!
[She walks to the front of the stage.]
She has flown, the turtledove,
she has flown far from you;
but she is always faithful
and she keeps her faith!
My dearly loved, my voice calls to you!
All my heart is yours!
All my heart is yours!
She has flown, the turtledove,
she has flown, she has flown far from you!
[She approaches the harpsichord again and continues, standing, leafing through the music.]
Ah, dear flower that has just bloomed,
in pity answer me!
You that know if he still loves me,
if he keeps faith with me!
My dearly beloved, my voice implores you,
ah, let your heart come to me,
let your heart come to me!
She has flown, the turtledove,
she has flow, she has flown far from you.
[She lets herself fall on the couch in front of the harpsichord.]

[in German] Julia Varady (s), Antonia; Munich Radio Orchestra, Heinz Wallberg, cond. EMI, recorded 1979

Rosalind Plowright (s), Antonia; Symphony Orchestra of the Opéra National du Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Brussels), Sylvain Cambreling, cond. EMI, recorded June-July 1988

Victoria de los Angeles (s), Antonia; Paris Conservatory Orchestra, André Cluytens, cond. EMI, recorded 1964

Beverly Sills (s), Antonia; London Symphony Orchestra, Julius Rudel, cond. ABC-EMI, recorded July-Aug. 1972


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Normal People Have No Choice In The Ugly Arkansas Senate Race


Right-wing extremist Tom Cotton (r) with his lovely, blushing beard, Anna

Mark Pryor is way too conservative for my tastes. According to ProgressivePunch his 62.82 crucial vote score for the 2013-14 session marks him as the 2nd most conservative Senate Democrat, slightly better than Joe Manchin (D-WV) and slightly worse than Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). That's why you haven't been reading much about him and his see-saw reelection race in Arkansas here at DWT. He's sure not on the Blue America ActBlue Senate page-- and never will be. But that doesn't mean he has a much worse Republican opponent. He does. Tom Rice is more than just a garden variety right-wing extremist, although he would certainly be a member of a fanatic extremist triumvirate with Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) were he to win in November. There are a lot of particularly atrocious Republican candidates for the Senate this cycle-- Cory Gardner (CO), Mike Rounds (SD), Joni Ernst (IA), Thom Tillis (NC), Terri Lynn Land (MI), Steve Daines (MT)-- but none come close to Cotton, the most anti-democracy royalist to run anywhere in America for years.

Writing for The Atlantic last week, Molly Ball rang the alarm bell… loudly, reminding her readers that Cotton "is the ultimate product of today's hard-edged, ideologically driven Republican Party." She reveals the content-- for the first time-- of his 92-page Harvard senior thesis, calling it "A cogent and tightly argued document" revealing "a contrarian devotion to some ideals that seem out of date today. Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive." I wonder if Pryor will have the good sense to make sure Arkansas voters understand that Cotton was talking about them. If Pryor doesn't, polls indicate he is likely to lose his seat.
“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

Cotton was only summarizing the views of Publius, the collective pseudonym used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in the Papers. His reading is neither outré nor revisionist. Yet it seems significant that, out of all the ideas outlined in the Papers, these were the concepts Cotton chose to focus on and to defend forcefully against what he saw as more modish, inclusive ideas. To be sure, these words were written when Cotton was a mere undergraduate. But when I spoke to him in Arkansas recently—sitting in his campaign RV, which is decorated with a camouflage motif and a large red, white, and blue combat-boot print, as he prepared to give a speech in Hot Springs—he was eager to defend his views of a decade and a half before. He recited many of the thesis’s contentions nearly word for word, including the quotation from Abraham Lincoln that appears on page 70: “I have no [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men,” Lincoln said, “by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Men who seek national office, Cotton wrote in his thesis, are the most ambitious men, seeking the headiest sort of power over a nation’s commerce, finance, and affairs of state. Self-selection ensures that they have “a superior intelligence compared to the unambitious and to the lesser ambitious.” This does not necessarily mean that they are wise, he notes, but “it does imply some amount of sheer, raw brainpower. National officeholders will all possess something akin to shrewdness, cleverness, or perhaps even cunning.”

From the time he was a teenager, Cotton has been nurtured and groomed by conservative institutions-- scholars, think tanks, media, and advocacy groups-- to be the face of their political crusade. Pure, upright, and ideologically correct, he is their seemingly flawless mascot. (Conservatives would surely argue that a potent network consisting of regular academia and the mainstream media nurtures left-wing candidates.) And now he is finally on the cusp of achieving the platform consummate to his talents, a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The upright part doesn't include the widespread rumors in DC that Cotton is another Republican closet case, a gay hypocrite like Aaron Schock, Patrick McHenry and Lindsay Graham, who votes against LGBT equality while sneaking around in dark places looking for quick sexual thrills with other men. Remember Idaho's hysterically anti-gay stalwart Larry Craig? Cotton is a lot like him, although no one has caught him with another man in a public toilet yet. Republican-style, he suddenly got married to a GOP hack attorney (female) from Nebraska a few months ago to cover up his sexual preference for males. Cotton has no personality and no ability to connect with other human beings on any basis other than his obsession with right-wing ideology. He's probably clinically insane-- and Arkansas voters who come in contact with him are starting to notice it.

At this appearance and others, many voters asked Cotton about his vote against $300 million in federal funding for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. The vote had been featured in a dramatic recent Democratic commercial (above) that said his priorities were “not with Arkansas children.” Cotton laughed it off and told them not to believe those nasty negative ads. “The legislation had no specific funding” for Arkansas, he said, and “I don’t support giving the president more leeway.” He added, “I ultimately did support later versions of the legislation, and I fully support Children’s Hospital, of course. Next week, when you hear I don’t support puppies, don’t believe that either.” But as John Brummett, the left-leaning columnist for The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has pointed out, Cotton’s “yes” votes were on meaningless, doomed budget bills; the one time the hospital appropriation was specifically at stake, Cotton voted against it. Every other Republican in the Arkansas congressional delegation voted in favor of the funding. “He voted against money for the hospital but won’t admit it,” Brummett wrote, in a column that was pressed into my hand by an 89-year-old Conway Lions Club member who urged me to read it. “Thus he obfuscates in the style of any other politician."

It is not the only time Cotton has outdone even other Republicans with his conservative absolutism. He was the only Arkansas Republican to vote twice against the farm bill and five times against disaster-aid funding-- two initiatives that national conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation see as symptoms of big government, but that many rural Southerners rely on heavily. Cotton also was the only Arkansan to vote for a budget drafted by the Republican Study Committee that would slash spending, voucherize Medicare, and raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 70.

The day after his speech in Conway, I spoke to Cotton in Hot Springs. I asked him whether it was important to stand on principle even when doing so might be unpopular. “I’ll tell you the truth, even in an election year, and that’s what people are ready for,” he said. “They don’t want traditional politicians like Mark Pryor, who’ve been hanging around for 24 years, who trim and hedge and won’t level with you.” If that was the case, I asked, why not own the unpopular votes-- against the hospital funding, or the farm bill, or disaster relief-- as necessary medicine for an out-of-control federal budget?

“Look at what I’ve said about disaster relief,” Cotton replied. “I support the traditional disaster-relief program FEMA administers. It is done by neutral, transparent criteria, and when communities like Vilonia or Mayflower are hit by a tornado, they can apply and receive that assistance.” Sixteen people were killed and the two towns were nearly destroyed by a tornado in April of this year. Mayflower’s mayor subsequently criticized Cotton for his disaster-aid votes. But, Cotton continued, “What I don’t support is a bill like Hurricane Sandy [relief] that is rushed through, that has $60 billion in new spending, much of which is not related to the disaster at all.” Cotton’s explanation sounded sensible enough; many House Republicans opposed the Sandy bill for similar reasons. Yet Cotton also voted against one bill that contained nothing but funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Cotton's campaign said he opposed that bill because the spending in it was not offset by budget cuts elsewhere.)… His is a harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy. “I don’t think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast,” Cotton said of his vote against the Hurricane Sandy relief bill.

…Today Cotton, in his 19 months in office, has earned a 92 percent on the Club [For Growth]’s scorecard. The votes that marked him an outlier in the Arkansas Republican delegation-- the farm bill, disaster aid, the Children’s Hospital--were all in keeping with the Club’s austere philosophy. “If every member of Congress was like Tom Cotton, the world would be a better place,” Chocola told me approvingly. Some D.C. Republicans wish Cotton weren’t quite so pure. One GOP strategist involved in the midterm elections complained about Cotton’s failure to leap decisively ahead of Pryor, telling me, “His problem is, his voting record was scripted by the Heritage Foundation."

Scorecards like the Club’s frustrate House Speaker John Boehner, who believes that it and other pressure groups-- the Heritage Foundation keeps a similar tally--encourage Republicans against constructiveness and compromise. But the groups’ tough-minded ideology has found willing acolytes in the House’s most staunchly ideological crop of members, many of them elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 that handed Republicans the House majority, and more, like Cotton, elected since. Politico last year dubbed Cotton the face of the “hell no caucus” that was making Boehner’s life difficult by refusing to entertain any inkling of gun control or immigration reform. Abigail Thernstrom worries that Cotton’s votes have hurt his popularity. “For political reasons, I would have been less principled than he has been on the farm bill,” she told me. “But he seems willing to vote his principles even when it’s not politically wise.”
I can't image ever voting for someone like Mark Pryor. And I can't imagine ever doing anything that would allow a dangerous psychopath like Tom Cotton to get a foothold on power greater than his rural, backward R+15 west Arkansas congressional district based in Pine Bluff and Arkadelphia.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Worst Republican? Yes, There's A Worst


This morning I saw a tweet by Noam Scheiber that got my attention: "The worst Republican in America may be about to lose office." The worst? Forget for a minute that whoever it is may lose, how does anyone sort out the racists, fascists, corporate whores and psychopaths who are the core of GOP officialdom to come up with just one "worst Republican?" Ted Cruz isn't up for reelection. That rapist doctor is Tennessee, Scott DesJarlais already won his seat. Deranged sociopath Paul Broun isn't running again and his off-the-shelf replacement, Hate Talk radio host Jody Hice hasn't been elected yet-- neither has similar crackpot Mark Walker in North Carolina. I had no choice but to click the link-- which led to a an excellent article by John Judis in the New Republic, crowning Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, Miss America's Evil Twin.

In the video up top, Rachel Maddow summarized the latest events in the unlikely horserace the Kansas Senate race has turned into. That's the background to Judis' story on Kobach's inept, hyper-partisan handling of his job as Secretary of State. But the big story isn't just about Pat Roberts losing his Senate seat to Independent Greg Orman. Kobach himself, a notorious racist and Know Nothing zealot, is also on the ballot.
Kobach is running for re-election against Republican-turned-Democrat Jean Schodorf. Ordinarily, a race like this would be irrelevant in national politics, but Kobach is a crusader against illegal immigrants—and, by extension, most immigrants not of European extraction—and has used a minor state office to rewrite Kansas’s voting laws. He has long been associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization founded by a proponent of eugenics and population control and funded in part by the Pioneer Fund, an organization founded to promote “race betterment.” He is also quite effective, and even brilliant, at what he does.

Kobach, who is now 48, grew up in Topeka. He went to Harvard, where he studied under Samuel Huntington, who at the end of a long and glorious career, had become obsessed himself with the threat that immigrants from the south posed to American civilization. Kobach wrote a prize-winning senior thesis on the efforts during the apartheid era of South African business to evade the effects of sanctions. He got a law degree from Yale and returned to Kansas where he practiced law in Kansas City and taught law at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

In 2001, he joined the Bush administration, first as a White House fellow and then as an aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft, where he helped devise the national security visa system that required Muslims and Middle Easterners to register and be finger-printed. (It was suspended in 2011 because it had proved both ineffective and discriminatory.) In 2003, he returned to Kansas City, where he ran for Congress against Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore. He called for keeping out illegal immigrants and making English America’s official language. He lost, but six years later ran for secretary of state on a platform of preventing immigrant voter fraud.

In the meantime, Kobach had become the senior counsel for FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. He remains today their senior counsel. With FAIR, Kobach helped write Arizona’s highly discriminatory immigration law, which required police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally and advised other states, including Alabama, that have passed similar legislation. He also filed suit to prevent Kansas, Nebraska, and California from offering in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, and he has defended laws in Nebraska, Texas, and Pennsylvania that would make it illegal to rent to undocumented immigrants.

In his 2010 campaign for secretary of state, he promised to stamp out voter fraud. (Kobach has been able to come up with one case-- from 1997-- that involved fraud by an undocumented immigrant.) After Kobach was elected, he got the Kansas legislature to pass and Governor Sam Brownback to sign a law that allowed him to rewrite the state’s election registration laws. Kobach adopted rules requiring all new registrants to show documented proof of citizenship to obtain Kansas registration. At the polls, all registered voters had to show photo identification.

In the run-up to this year’s election, Kobach was able to disqualify almost 20,000 new registrants because they hadn’t proven their citizenship. These had to include many people (including a 92-year-old woman who appealed her denial) who for one reason or another didn’t have passports or birth certificates on hand. Kobach’s ruling created a weird two-tier system, where Kansans who had national voter registration, which only requires a registrant to swear that he or she is a citizen, could vote in congressional or senate selections, but unless they had a Kansas voter registration, which requires proof of citizenship, could not vote in a state or local race.

There are, of course, anti-immigration nuts who don’t care about any other issues or about politics in general, but Kobach is also an avid partisan who was chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. His rulings on voter registration appear equally designed to help Republicans and to eliminate an alien presence in American life. His attempt to keep Taylor on the ballot-- and his subsequent threat to force the Democrats to replace him on the ballot-- reflects a diehard partisanship that shows little concern for legal niceties. In 2012, he even justified an attempt to keep Obama off the Kansas ballot on the grounds he had not proved his citizenship. And he is also a hardline rightwinger on the welfare state (he wants to remove Kansas entirely from the purview of the Affordable Care Act) and on guns, championing a law that has made guns produced in Kansas not subject to federal regulation. (He is a shareholder in a new Kansas gun firm aptly called Minuteman Defense.)

Kobach is running again on his attempt to stamp out voter fraud, and enjoys the enthusiastic support of anti-Obama stalwart Ted Nugent. “The Leftists and commies are working overtime to defeat him in this year’s election,” Nugent warned. Kobach’s opponent, Schodorf, is a former Republican state senator who was ousted in the 2010 primary by a more conservative challenger backed by Brownback and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Chamber of Commerce. She switched parties to run against Kobach.  Schodorf has never run statewide before, and faces a two-to-one Republican edge in registration in a race that voters don't normally pay attention to, but she has been running even in the polls and could benefit from the snafu over keeping Taylor on the ballot.

If Schodorf does win, it will be a victory for American democracy and not simply the Democratic Party. Kobach is that bad. To be sure, there has always been a case to be made for better controlling American borders and for discouraging entry by undocumented workers, but Kobach’s position, like that of FAIR, edges into the dark corners of nativism. And his attempt to manipulate state election laws is quite simply an attempt to subvert the democratic process. Here’s to his defeat and banishment from elected office.
And… Maddow's weird Kobach update from last night (in which, among other things, she compared Kobach to a "Family Values" GOP hypocrite who gets caught in bed with a  goat-- "a boy goat":

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Ghost of Sunday Classics Preview: "The name of the first was Olympia"


Party chez Monsieur Spalanzani! A real doll is Olympia, the first of Hoffmann's "mad loves." (That's Matthew Polenzani and Anna Christy at Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2011.)

by Ken

We heard the ineffable line "The name of the first was Olympia" last week -- five times over, actually -- as the poet Hoffmann prepares to give his crowd of adoring students in Luther's tavern his account of the first of his promised three "mad loves." Now we hear it again, in three languages, showing how hard it is to make the line work quite as poetically in any language but French, where "Olympia," being accented -- like most all French words -- on the final syllable, can stand at the top of the line's upward rise.

We're also hearing the line with a bit more in context this week, including the hauntingly resonant chorus of the students, which we can now hear is the tune that echoes after Hoffmann's ethereal announcement of the name "Olympia," and also including the Entr'acte that follows immediately -- or rather two of them. Cambreling and Beecham use a quiet mediation on the haunting "Écoutons! Il est doux de boire" theme, while Wallberg uses the more traditional first statement of the grand minuet that will be heard later as entrance music for the guests at Monsieur Spalanzani's grande soirée.

STUDENTS: Let's listen! It's pleasant to drink
during the telling of a mad story . . .
STUDENTS and NICKLAUSSE: . . . watching the bright cloud
that a pipe throws into the air!
HOFFMANN [sitting on the corner of a table]: I'll begin.
STUDENTS: Silence!
In an hour, I hope, they'll be dead drunk.
HOFFMANN: The name of the first was Olympia.
[The curtain falls while HOFFMANN speaks to all the attentive STUDENTS.]


Ann Murray (ms), Nicklausse; Neil Shicoff (t), Hoffmann; José van Dam (bs-b), Councilor Lindorf; Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Opéra National du Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (Brussels), Sylvain Cambreling, cond. EMI, recorded June-July 1988

[in German] Ilse Gramatzki (ms), Nicklausse; Siegfried Jerusalem (t), Hoffmann; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b), Councilor Lindorf; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra, Heinz Wallberg, cond. EMI, recorded 1979

[in English] Monica Sinclair (ms), Nicklausse; Robert Rounseville (t), Hoffmann; [Lindorf's line omitted]; Sadler's Wells Chorus, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, cond. Decca, recorded 1947-51 (soundtrack of the Powell-Pressburger film)


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Who Voted To Arm Syrian Terrorists-- And Who Voted Not To?


Last night John Amato and I went to the first of two rallies in L.A. this weekend meant to help turn out Democratic voters. The main speaker was Alan Grayson and he was out here supporting CA-33 progressive Democrat Ted Lieu. Without any doubt, the biggest reactions came when Grayson explained why he was one of the leaders of the fight against arming and training the so-called "moderate" Syrian terrorists-- the tragic McKeon Amendment that passed the House Wednesday, 273-156. Grayson went on for 45 inspired minutes on all the reasons why this policy is wrong and destined to fail on so many levels. Ted Lieu concurred and said that had he been in Congress last week, he would also have voted against it. "If the U.S. was unwilling to arm so called 'moderate' Syrian rebels two years ago when they were stronger and fighting only Assad, it makes little strategic sense to arm them now when they are weaker and fighting two enemies, Assad and Isil," explained Ted. "I have a strong fear these rebels will lose and U.S. weapons will end up in the hands of our enemies, AGAIN."

I was on the phone this morning with Rob Zerban, the progressive Democrat running against Paul Ryan, as he was driving home from the Walworth County Democratic Party's new office. Ryan, who has as little comprehension of foreign affairs as he does of budget matters, voted to arm the same "moderate" terrorists who sold one of the American journalists to ISIS-- hey, everyone needs to make a buck, something Ryan feels very passionately about. The Wisconsin delegation was split on the vote. Progressive champions Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore were out front in their opposition. Republicans Tom Petri, Jim Sensenbrenner, Reid Ribble and Sean Duffy-- one of the only times he's ever broken with Ryan on anything-- also voted against the naive and ill-fated amendment. In the Senate, Tammy Baldwin voted NO as well. The only members of the Wisconsin delegation to vote for it were deranged war-monger and Military Industrial Complex shill Ron Johnson plus the two worst corporate whores in the House delegation, New Dem Ron Kind and, of course, Ryan. I asked Zerban how he would have voted had he been in Congress Wednesday.
I would have voted no. Providing more arms to a region embroiled in conflict is not the correct course of action to reduce and minimize the loss of life. History has proven over and over when the U.S. provides arms the blowback and harm that is caused is greater than the desired outcome.
The progressive Democrat running in WA-08, east and north of Seattle, Jason Ritchie-- like Zerban, running in a winnable swing district Obama took that the DCCC is ignoring-- told us he would have voted against the McKeon amendment. Washington needs his kind of independent-minded leadership more than most states. Of the whole state House delegation, only Jim McDermott had the guts and the good sense to stand up to the Establishment and vote NO. All the little party hack zombies-- Rick Larsen (New Dem), Jaime Herrera Beutler ®, Denny Heck (New Dem), Adam Smith (New Dem), Doc Hastings ®, Suzan DelBene (New Dem), Cathy McMorris Rodgers ®, Derek Kilmer (New Dem), and Reichert ®-- need to see what happens when you get another person who thinks for himself in the delegation. Ritchie:
My opponent, Rep Reichert's, vote to arm Syrian terrorists is absolutely wrong. Giving these terrorists weapons will come back to haunt the American people. There is no oversight or control of these weapons. Reichert is shortsighted and arrogant if he thinks that more killing will solve this problem.

Wasting American taxpayer money on another foreign military venture is wrong. The American people demand infrastructure reinvestment at home. We need roads, bridges and new schools not more bombs.

Republicans like Reichert love to bomb but they have no idea how to create middle-class living wage jobs.
Grayson refers to these endless wars in the Middle East that Cheney started as a "War on Error" and he points out that among the "accomplishments" we have
spent four trillion dollars on the War in Iraq alone, which is roughly eight percent of our entire national net worth, thereby wrecking our economy,
killed 8000 American soldiers and contractors, and left around 15% of all US troops serving in Iraq with permanent brain abnormalities, and
killed somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis, and made millions of Iraqis and Afghans homeless refugees.

I have always felt that if our goal is to foil Al Qaeda attacks in the United States, there probably are more efficient ways to accomplish that goal than military occupation of two foreign countries-– two foreign countries that Al Qaeda isn’t even in (as General Petraeus pointed out a couple of years ago).

But we seem to be having a lot of difficulty ending wars, lately. So my modest proposal is that instead of ending the war, we replace it.  We replace the War on Terror with the War on Error.

And-– I must say – the War on Error is a very target-rich environment.  Let’s start with the error that Saddam Hussein was targeting the United States with weapons of mass destruction. Smoking gun, mushroom cloud, etc., etc.  Certainly, that was an error.  Some say an honest mistake, others a lie. No matter. We declare a War on Error, and achieve a quick victory by bringing the troops home.

Then we have this bizarre notion that if we keep stuffing our money into the pockets of Big Business, we might get some of it back. That is a big, big error. It’s not going to happen. Believe me, if corporate welfare could reduce joblessness in America, our unemployment rate already would be minus-56 percent. Corporate income taxes in America have been cut from $354 billion in 2006 to $191 billion in 2010. Then there was the $700 billion in bailouts by the Treasury. Then there was the $15 trillion or so in other bailouts. And how many private sector jobs has all that private sector candy created?

Apparently, none. There are one million fewer private sector jobs in America today than there were ten years ago. Despite the fact that there are 27 million more people in America today.

Corporate welfare doesn’t work. For sure, it doesn’t put people to work. It’s an error to think that it does. Ending corporate welfare will be a huge conquest in the War on Error.
Blue America candidates support peace, not war-- and not harebrained schemes to ease us into wars. Compare the Blue America candidates and their stands with their Republican opponents, a bunch of lockstep warmongers. Aside from Paul Ryan, House members David Joyce (OH), Tom Rice (SC), Dave Reichert (WA), Fred Upton (MI) and John Kline (MN) all voted to arm the Syrians Wednesday. There's only one way to end policies like that: defeat the congressmembers who vote for them and replace them with candidates who do not. You can do that here.

One last thought, the so-called "moderates" Paul Ryan, David Joyce, Dave Reichert, Tom Rice, Fred Upton and John Kline all voted to train and arm are absolutely committed to the destruction of Israel. Are they going to claim ignorance when those weapons are turned on Jews living next to Syria?

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Apple Says They Aren't Going To Help The CIA And NSA Illegally Spy On Their Customers Any More


Do you believe them? Or any of the big tech companies? They all lied and lied about protecting our privacy while allowing the spy agencies easy access to all our personal information and communications, as though we are all legitimate suspects in some kind of Orwellian dystopia.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, is savvy enough to know how that cooperation with the worst aspects of the National Security State has damage Apple's precious, hard-earned brand, which has already been tattered around the edges. Yesterday Cook released this statement at
At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay. And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.

We believe in telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us. And if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us. Every Apple product is designed around those principles. When we do ask to use your data, it’s to provide you with a better user experience.

We’re publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don’t collect, and why. We’re going to make sure you get updates here about privacy at Apple at least once a year and whenever there are significant changes to our policies.

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

One very small part of our business does serve advertisers, and that’s iAd. We built an advertising network because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service. iAd sticks to the same privacy policy that applies to every other Apple product. It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether.

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.


Earlier today we looked at the widespread belief that Obama Administration has the very worst record in history for transparency, even worse than Cheney and Bush, which is saying a lot. Apple claims that they are "working for greater transparency and protects on behalf of our customers" and that their "commitment to customer privacy doesn't stop because of a government information request. Government information requests," they write, "are a consequence of doing business in the digital age. We believe in being as transparent as the law allows about what information is requested from us. In addition, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'back door' in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will."

Last week we took a look at what Ed Snowden had to say about these kinds of claims that, are, obviously very self serving. From Michael Gurnow's book, The Edward Snowden Affair:
Snowden divulges that his greatest fear is not death but his efforts might ultimately be in vain, "[ ... ] that nothing will change. People will see the media, all of these disclosures [and] they’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society, but they [the American people] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests." He closes the interview with a prediction of where the current state of affairs might ultimately lead: "And the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse until eventually there will be a time where policies will change because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law and because of that, a new leader will be elected ... they’ll find the switch ... say that 'Because of the crisis-- because of the dangers we face in the world-- some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power' and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it and it will be turnkey tyranny."

Early in the dialogue, Greenwald bluntly puts to Snowden, "Does it [the intelligence community] target the actions of Americans?" Greenwald wants to have the world hear, directly from the lips of a high-ranking ex-CIA employee and NSA contractor, what is taking place behind the surveillance curtain.

"The NSA, and intelligence community in general, is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can, by any means possible. It believes-- on the grounds of sort of a self-certification-- that they serve the national interest. Originally we saw that focus very narrowly tailored as foreign intelligence gathered overseas. Now, increasingly, we see that it’s happening domestically and to do that they, the NSA specifically, targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyses them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient, and most valuable way to achieve these ends." He continues, "Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything, but I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal e-mail." He adds that the American populace should take notice "[b]ecause even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded, and the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."
Apple admits that the "most common requests we receive for information come from law enforcement in the form of either a Device Request or an Account Request. Our legal team carefully reviews each request, ensuring it is accompanied by valid legal process. All content requests require a search warrant. If we are legally compelled to divulge any information and it is not counterproductive to the facts of the case, we provide notice to the customer when allowed and deliver the narrowest set of information possible in response. National security-related requests are not considered Device Requests or Account Requests and are reported in a separate category altogether.

"On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

Sounds like an ad. But the trade press seems persuaded and, of course, Yahoo couldn't be more eager to sing Apple's praises. How about you? Do you believe them?

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On Transparency Is Obama Even Worse Than The Cheney-Bush Regime?


In January 2009, the newly elected President Obama said that "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." Watch the video above. He also said that "The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made and whether their interests are being well-served… For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known."

A consensus at the the American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors joint convention this week was that things haven't gotten better, nor have they stayed as bad as they were under Cheney and Bush. They've gotten worse. Worse than Cheney and Bush. Can you imagine? This is how President Obama, when he was first elected, said he wanted it to be:
Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that's why, as of today, I'm directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans-- scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs-- because the way to solve the problem of our time is-- the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.
It didn't turn out that way. The editors seem to agree that not only has the Obama Administration not lived up to its promises about transparency but that things are getting worse and worse. "It's widely agreed by journalists who cover the Obama administration that it has the worst record of all time when it comes to freedom of information. 'There is a serious problem with access across the federal government,' [AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally] Buzbee says, adding that the situation has 'worsened significantly in the last few years.' Says AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, '(President George W.) Bush was bad. Obama's worse.'"

Team Obama seems to have written a road map that others are eagerly following. The information spigot is increasingly being turned off by state and local governments, universities and sports teams, according to journalists who spoke Wednesday as well as ASNE legal counsel Kevin Goldberg, who says the problem goes all the way down to high schools. "There is a concerted effort," he says.
Buzbee has a long list of infractions, including: few opportunities to take photographs or video of Obama appearances (the administration likes to distribute its own); no photos or video of bombers taking off for sorties against the Islamic State and no embedded journalists on hand; a massive blackout on information about Guantanamo; unprecedented ferocity in prosecuting national security leaks designed to intimidate journalists and chill sources.

And the get-tough approach is having an impact. "It's harder to get sources to believe that we can protect them," says AP senior managing editor Mike Oreskes.

But the information crisis has spread far beyond the Beltway, says AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano, infecting state and local governments and institutions of higher learning. "It's the most difficult climate we've seen," he says.

Carovillano points to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also ran as a big transparency guy, then tried unsuccessfully to have his swearing-in closed to the press. But, says Carovillano, Hizzoner has since barred the media from 53 events, and on some days his entire schedule is off-limits.

And there is no limit to the absurdity. Outgoing ASNE President David Boardman, the former Seattle Times editor who is now dean of the Temple University School of Media and Communication, recalls a time when the University of Washington wanted to limit the number of tweets at sporting events.

So what's the answer? The news media have to battle back on every front. They should refuse to run government photos and video. Reporters should constantly push back as hard as they can. News outlets should be ready to challenge unreasonable restraint in court. And the industry must band together in a full-fledged campaign against government secrecy.

And they must do their best to educate the people about why this is their problem. Because the American public-- and American democracy-- are the losers when the electorate can't get the information it needs to make informed decisions.

Oh, and one more thing, says New York Times reporter James Risen, the convention's keynote speaker, who faces jail time for refusing to ID a confidential source: The best idea is to do even more hard-edged investigative reporting, to find out more things the government doesn't want you to know. That, he said, would amount to a "brushback pitch."

"If there's not pushback," he says, the authorities are going to "keep doing what they are doing."

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Friday, September 19, 2014

So that wretched doofus David Cameron won't go down in history as the British PM who "lost Scotland"


Does this make Scots, or anybody else, feel better? You could laugh or you could cry -- don't ask me.

by Ken

As the polls were coming in last night predicting a "no" vote on Scottish separation from the United Kingdom (which as we know now was indeed defeated by 55 to 45 percent, with more than 85 percent of eligible voters voting), Ian Welsh wrote:
I think this vote is a mistake, and I note that having been given a clean vote to leave and a chance to live their own values, but having given in to fear; for me, at least, Scottish complaints about privatization of the NHS and other cuts to the social state will now ring rather hollow.

However, as with Greece voting to have its economy destroyed by refusing to take a chance on Syriza, people are voting their fear and for the status quo.  Older folks seem to want to just hang on, and are unwilling to take chances for a better future and they can’t really believe that their own elites are intent on impoverishing them, and, effectively, in many cases, killing them. (Because that’s what deliberate austerity policies do.)

The Great Complacency will come to an end; but people aren’t going to like how that happens.  Oh well.
I think Ian is utterly correct. But I noticed that when I heard the news this morning on the radio, I felt a certain measure of relief -- a "yes" vote would have involved such a leap into the unknown.

And I think this isn't just fear-driven clinging to the status quo on my part. Or maybe what I mean is that it's justifiable fear-driven clinging to the status quo. Yes, all sorts of changes would have opened up as possibilities for the Scots if they had taken the leap, but does anything in 21st-century history-to-date suggest that any of the good changes would have happened? If we've learned anything, isn't it that all over the world there are rich and powerful (or violent and soon-to-be-powerful) forces lying in wait to seize any opportunity? If I were a Scottish voter, would I have been eager to take that risk?

Or to put it another way: If it isn't the Koch brothers, isn't it just going to be somebody else? There will be some entertainment value in seeing how eagerly PM Cameron fulfills his campaign promises to Scotland -- with all the same concessions presumably going to Wales and Northern Ireland (and, um, England, I guess?) as well. My guess is that by the time the dust settles, the usual elites will have figured how to cash in, with maybe some token kickbacks to rising regional predators.

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Looks like Republicans get the last laugh over Senate (non)confirmation of presidential appointments


Former Clinton administration deputy chief of staff Maria Echaveste was named yesterday by President Obama to be our new ambassador to Mexico. The good news for her is that -- as a nonjudicial appointee, not subject to post-"nuclear option" majority vote -- she shouldn't feel any rush about packing.

by Ken

Goodness knows, most Democratic pols aren't good for much, but set them alongside their Republican counterparts and, well, we're looking into an absolute void. At this point it's hard to think of any exception to the general principle that all Republicans are vile, worhless filth, of no possible human use except as landfill. The fact that any American who isn't part of he Thieving Predator Class (or their fluffer wannabes) would consider for even a second votiing for any Republican for any elective office testifies to the final moronification of the country.

Today's case in point: an update on the Senate confirmation process in the post-sort-of-nuclear-option era. The Washington Post's "In the Loop" team reports today, in an item called "Dribs and drabs":
Back when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unleashed the nuclear option in November 2013, keen observers, such as our colleague Paul Kane, predicted that Democrats might rue the day — they might get their long-blocked judicial nominees confirmed, but precious few others.

Turns out that was right. The Dems have gotten their judges, but furious Republicans retaliated by blocking or delaying action on other nominees, reducing a steady confirmation flow down to a trickle.

This week, the Senate did manage to approve 26 nominees for various posts, including key ambassadorships, with 11 confirmed just before the Senate recessed for the elections.

More than a hundred other nominees will have to hope they’re part of a tiny group that can get through during the lame-duck session in November — or maybe next year, though then they’ll have less than two years in their jobs. (On the other hand, President Obama’s judges will be wearing those robes for decades.)
The "Loop"-ers go on to enumerate the trickle of confirmees, starting with three ambassadors (Mark Lippert for South Korea, Kevin O'Malley for Ireland, and Adam Scheinman as "special rep to the president for nuclear nonproliferation"), followed by a sprinkling of deputies and assistants in cabinet departments and other federal agencies.

Possibly for laughs, a couple of new ambassadorial appointments are chronicled: for Mexico, Maria Echaveste ("a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and before that a senior Labor Department official"); and for India, Richard Rahul Verma ("a former foreign policy adviser to Reid and assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs").

To play a quick round of my favorite game, If The Shoe Was On the Other Foot, if the situation was reversed and Republican nominees had so much as a gentle glove laid on them, the Great Right-Wing Noise Machine would be up in arms. The Fox Noisemakers would be screaming at full volume, and George Will would be strutting his stuff as the Most Dishonest Life Form in the History of Planet Earth by screeching about the Death of Democracy as Caused by the Tyranny of a Crazed, Wildly Overreaching Liberal [sneer!] Congress. We would be hearing about it 24/7, no doubt with limitless heart-rending video vignettes -- most of which would turn out to be faked -- of Ordinary Americans victimized by those demonicallly power-drunk Senate Dems. Polls would soon show that Americans overwhelmingly blamed the evil Dems for destroying America.

My own fantasy in the matter of Senate confirmation of executive appointments is a secret pact to the effect that no nominee who has support from the Senate Republican caucus will ever again be confirmed for any post. Ever.

Of course Dems don't have the moxie to try anything like that, and probably for good reason -- the Great Right-Wing Noise Machine would crucify them. But as anyone who has, for example, been following Howie's coverage of the reelection bid of that next-to-useless pile of protoplasm Maine Sen. Susan Collins knows, even if the candidate had any virtues -- and I'm prepared to concede that our Susie has some very, very modest ones -- they become irrelevant when it comes to election to Congress, where all Republican members of both the Senate and the House now accept the blood oath of loyalty required of them. Vote for Susie and you might as well be electing one of those infernal piles of Senate sludge from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Idaho, et al.

The one small note of consolation, as sounded in the "Loop" item, is that over time, and with the change in the Senate rules, a whole lot of federal judges have been seated who will be very different from the sociopathic crud packed onto the bench during Republican administrations, and in particular that of the late unlamented Bush regime. Of course Republican presidents have learned the trick of naming judges more or less as they graduate grade school, to ensure that they can perpetrate more than a lifetime's worth of judicial mayhem. Whereas the Obama appointees, by the time they're actually seated on the bench, are closing in on nearing retirement age.

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Welcome To America-- A Guest Post By Melissa San Miguel


Melissa San Miguel currently serves as one of California Young Democrats Latino Caucus, Northern California Regional Directors and Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party Region 1 Chicano Latino Caucus. This opinion piece was written after conducting interviews as part of her work with the National Center for Youth Law. Melissa can be reached at

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.

-Emma Lazarus

In my office hangs a drawing made by one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. She had big, piercing brown eyes; curly, dark brown hair; and a quiet, knowing air. She had been dexterous enough to draw a neat, little house with a chimney coming out of the roof. Her graceful drawing struck me. She was two years old and living in a prison-like family detention center with her mother, whom I was interviewing.

I think of her, each time I look at that drawing, and of the other kids I spoke with when I traveled to the Texas border. As part of my work at the National Center for Youth Law, I interviewed the children seeking refuge whom you hear about in the news. And I am forever changed by what I saw and heard in the detention centers there.

The McAllen Border Patrol Station is one of the many stations used to hold children and families after they are arrested at the border. The station smelled like feces and looked like a dungeon. Here, I spoke to a 10-year-old boy who was sitting alone in a cement cell. As we walked out of the cell to the interview room, his mother suddenly appeared from a separate cell carrying a baby in her arms. The boy ran to hug his mother and she asked me, as any mom would, where I was taking her son.

As I began to explain to her that I was there to investigate the detention conditions, another cell door opened and a teenage boy ran to the mother and younger boy. I soon learned this whole family had been separated in different cells. It was the first time in several days that they had been able to physically hold each other. The mother told me she had fled her country with her sons because she was afraid for their lives. Her teenage son had refused to cooperate with the Maras gang and was beaten as punishment. He lifted up his shirt to show me the marks the gang left along the right side of his abdomen. His mom was afraid they would kill her eldest son and harm her 10-year-old son, too. The boys wept, and she continued speaking with tears in her eyes. She shared that she herself had been a survivor of sexual violence and the perpetrator had just moved back to her town. She was afraid for her life, but most of all, for her sons’ lives. All she wanted was for them to be safe here in the United States.

Many children in the Rio Grande Valley are then taken to the McAllen Processing Center. We entered this building through a side door. As I made my way through the facility, on my right was a table full of telephones. They were all lined up, with no one around, as if there were no plan to use them. When I turned to my left, I saw faces. Not just one face, but two, three, four and then many more. All these little faces stared at me from behind a tall, chain-link fence, but we were indoors. And those faces were of scared kids. Kids in cages.

As I surveyed the giant warehouse we had just entered, the place reminded me of a giant dog kennel. Girls were placed in one cage and boys in another. I spotted a few boys in a separate cage and wondered why they weren’t with the others. A teenage boy I spoke with explained why.

The Border Patrol agents told him that the kids from Reynosa (Mexico) were too rough and could not play well with other kids, so they would not be allowed to play at all. Even though he had never harmed another child there, the guards told him he was bad and refused to let him play. Border Patrol didn't treat any of the boys from other countries better. It was more about who was treated worse. Indeed, he shared with me that when the children complained of the cold, the guards would laugh at them and say they would send the kids to Alaska where it was even colder. Like McAllen Station, the warehouse was so cold that many of the children referred to it as a “hielera,” or icebox.

At the Processing Center, I also spoke with a teenaged girl from El Salvador who had a lovely smile. She had just arrived and felt so cold. She had only a pair of flip-flops over socks to keep her feet warm. Border Patrol agents had thrown away her shoes because they were “too dirty,” and had given her black flip-flops instead. She didn’t have a jacket to stay warm, and as we spoke, she shared with me that she was in much pain. She was on her period and felt embarrassed to ask a Border Patrol agent for a pain reliever. There was only one female Border Patrol agent who worked at the facility, and she wasn’t there at that time. Every other agent guarding the boys and girls was a man.

The next day, at the prison-like family detention center in Karnes City, Texas, I spoke with the mothers of young children. Many of the mothers had been victims of physical and sexual violence, often at the hands of men. Most were afraid for their lives and their childrens’ lives and were making the perilous journey to the United States so they could simply exist in this world.

Another family detained at Karnes described to me their experience upon entering the U.S. The mom, teenage boy, and young daughter had also been detained at the McAllen Border Patrol station and had been separated from each other in different cells there. They told me that Border Patrol agents would use a metal tube to bang on the cell doors and walls regularly to prevent them from sleeping. When children asked Border Patrol agents the time, they would tell them, “you don’t need to know.” The first night there, the cell was so packed that mother and daughter did not sleep at all. They had to stand up the entire night.

These children and their mothers had fled their home countries, survived the journey to the U.S.-Mexico border and once they had made it safely here, our government was treating them like animals. Many would not likely have an immigration attorney to help them through the process and would be deported-- to die.

I felt ashamed, ashamed of my own country. I am a U.S.-born daughter of Peruvian immigrants. Growing up, my Dad often spoke about the greatness of America. I wondered how our country could treat human beings-- let alone children-- this way. How could our government’s response be to try to break their spirits and keep them ignorant of their legal rights so that they would give up and sign a deportation order? It hurts to know my government is doing this to refugees and that our tax money funds it all.

Our country must do better by these women and children. What is happening to them along the border is not right, and our very own humanity is at stake. Many of the refugees have been made to feel less than by our government for being female, for having dark skin, for being young, for being from a Latin American country. They have confronted similar insults to their person back home, too. These are strong human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. After listening to their stories, I have never felt prouder of being a Latina daughter of immigrants with brown skin and dark features, and fluent in Spanish. Our country must live up to its ideals of justice, fairness, and freedom. I grew up believing in them. The struggle for immigrants' rights breathes new life into those American values. They are worth fighting for, and so are the children knocking at our door.
From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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The GOP Way Of Dealing With Immigration-- Sell Visas To Rich Foreigners And Rake Off A Cut


Primarily because of Harry Reid's childish pique at Tom Daschle, he isn't allowing the DSCC to engage in keeping the open South Dakota Senate seat blue. Reid is a madman who would have preferred Blue Dog corporate shill and sleazy lobbyist Stephanie Herseth Sandlin-- who was rejected by South Dakota voters in 2010-- instead of prairie populist, and Daschle ally, Rick Weiland. Reid should get over himself and get a grasp that control of the Senate is more likely to stay with the Democrats if they keep Tom Johnson's South Dakota seat than if they spend millions of dollars on showy-but-failed campaigns for conservatives Democrats in deep red Georgia and Kentucky. Weiland is on the verge of winning, even without DSCC help. If Reid wasn't playing the roll of spoiler, Weiland would be crushing the GOP's unattractive and corrupt candidate by now. But Rounds has already spent $2,962,183 and still has $754,800 cash-on-hand up against just $447,919 that Weiland has on hand, almost all of it from grassroots donors. Which reminds me, here's the Blue America Senate page if you can help out.

Last week we did a rundown of the Mike Rounds visa-selling scandal that is roiling the Senate race now. The independent ad above, from a non-partisan, good government SuperPAC called Every Voice Action (formerly Public Campaign Action Fund), started running on South Dakota TV stations on Wednesday. The group says their buy is $200,000... which goes a long way in South Dakota media.
It's the Mike Rounds citizenship-for-sale scheme. It all started with an exclusive no-bid contract. Gov. Mike Rounds gave his friend a no-bid contract to sell EB-5 green cards to the highest bidder. Now there's a half-million dollars unaccounted for. It's under federal investigation, and taxpayers are left with millions in EB-5 liability. Mike Rounds: rich foreigners get green cards; cronies make a profit, and South Dakota gets stuck with the bill.
South Dakota is the key to the Democrats keeping control of the Senate and it's the key to keep Senate Democrats on a progressive path, not on a path that has to walk gingerly around every issue crucial to working families because conservative Democrats in red states might lose in the next election.

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Bernie Sanders Explains Why Arming Syrian Terrorists Is A Bad Idea-- Mark Walker (R-NC) Campaigns On War Against Mexico


The GOP has a lot of freaks and nuts running for Congress this cycle. As we've explained before, few are as off-the-chart out of their minds, as North Carolina extremist Mark Walker. Watch the video up top, in which he talks about "blitzing somebody [Mexico] with a couple of fighter jets to make our point" and how he doesn't have a problem with going to war against Mexico. Or is that his stand up comedian role? But, really, how much crazier and off-the-rails are the fanatics like Walker than the Republicans already in Congress. Wednesday the bulk of the House Republicans-- 159 of them, acting on orders from Boehner-- voted for Buck McKeon's moronic amendment "to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals." In other words to arm the nonexistent moderate Syrian terrorists, a figment of John McCain's overactive imagination.

Yesterday the Senate voted on the whole budget CR that the House passed and sent over including funds to arm the Syrian terrorists. It passed 78-22 with most progressive senators-- Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) voting NO. This is the press release Bernie Sanders released right before the vote explaining why he would vote no, and beneath that is his floor speech. If you'd like to help his run for the presidency… we have a page for that.

The Senate prepared to vote Thursday on whether to allow the American military to arm and train Syrian rebels. Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the United States training and arming Syrian rebels. Sanders said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria "is a brutal and dangerous extremist organization which must be defeated, but this war cannot be won by the United States alone. There needs to be a real international coalition led by the countries most threatened-- Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran. The worst thing that we can do now is allow ISIS to portray this struggle as East vs. West, as Muslim vs. Christian, as the Middle East vs. America. That is exactly what they want and that is exactly what we should not be giving them."

The senator faulted wealthy Middle East nations for doing too little to protect their own interests, especially when Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. He also questioned why American taxpayers are footing the bill when royal families that rule those Mideast nations are worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

"This is not just a question of whether young men and women in Vermont and across America should be putting their lives on the line in another Mideast war. It is not just about whether the taxpayers of our country should once again pay for a war in the Middle East. It is about the reality that, long term, this struggle will never be won by the United States alone. It must be won with the active participation of the Muslim countries in the region," Sanders said.

Sanders said he supports President Barack Obama’s judicious use of airstrikes which already have shown some success, but in opposing the resolution Sanders said, "I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement."

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