Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Trump Will Probably Be The GOP Nominee-- Bernie Would Be The Best Opponent Democrats Could Run Against Him

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Trump didn't show up for the "debate" in New Hampshire Monday night, so neither did the public. The debate-- or forum-- was delegitimized by Trump's absence. ABC's Rick Klein wrote:
Trump is so much of the story right now that when he doesn’t show up at a candidate forum, there’s almost no story at all. Monday night’s pre-debate show in New Hampshire struggled to find a rhythm, as if the fact that a certain candidate’s name never got mentioned robbed the participants of their focal point. As the top 10 candidates get their debate invites from Fox on Tuesday, with 3 percent support looking like the bar to clear, it’s worth calculating that the frontrunner has enough support to earn seven or eight podium spots. Yes, that’s Mr. Trump, who now doesn’t need to exaggerate to claim that he’s leading essentially every poll, national and state. It may be time to change assumptions about Trump, whose numbers aren’t peaking as many GOP leaders had assumed or hoped. Expecting Trump to implode seems like less of a sure bet.
Go up to that long-suppressed Trump documentary up top. I watch it and see a wretched, self-aggrandizing crook and phony. Trump is a Brooklyn huckster who grew up on the same street as my first girlfriend, Avenue Z. I know exactly who and what he is. But Republicans look at the same video and see a "classy" presidency by a smart, successful businessman.

Beltway professionals underestimated Trump's appeal to Republicans whose power of analysis goes no deeper than parroting the dreck that pours out of Fox News and Hate Talk Radio. Long after he was supposed to have peaked and faded, the polls show him crushing the Republican Establishment's Jeb Bush, crushing the Koch Bros' Scott Walker, crushing Adelson's Marco Rubio and stealing all the thunder on the right from Chris Christie and Ted Cruz with their carefully developed stratagems meant to appeal to the crowd who admire authoritarian bullies.
The latest WMUR Granite State Poll, released Monday, says Trump is the top choice of 24 percent of likely GOP primary voters, doubling the support of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is backed by 12 percent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, at 11 percent, is the only other candidate in double digits.

Not only has Trump surged to the head of the pack in New Hampshire, but also for the first time, he is now viewed favorably by more likely GOP primary voters than unfavorably. And, he is named as the candidate best able to handle key issues facing the nation, from the economy to terrorism, and from immigration to health care policy.

...Trump’s move to the top of the New Hampshire primary field has coincided with an improvement in how he is viewed by likely voters. Currently, 51 percent of those polled view him favorably and 40 percent unfavorably. In the WMUR Granite State poll in June, 38 percent viewed him favorably and 48 percent unfavorably.

In February, Trump was viewed favorably by only 19 percent of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters and unfavorably by 69 percent.
Nationally, Trump's favorables among Republican voters have climbed from 28% in April to, according to the new Monmouth poll, 52% today, and his unfavorables among Republicans have shrunk from 56% to 35%-- adding up to a swing from -28% net approval to +17% net approval. He can win the nomination, and he probably will. The base embraces his Know-Nothing approach and admires his personality.

Ken occasionally writes about NYTimes in-house conservative David Brooks. I've avoided him-- until today, when I read his column, Donald Trump's Allure: Ego As Ideology. Brooks' perspective may comfort GOP elites looking for an explanation of Trump's mind-boggling success in the race for the Republican nomination.
A few decades ago the sociologist Jonathan Rieder studied what was then the white working-class neighborhood of Canarsie, Brooklyn. People there were hostile both to their poorer black neighbors, who they felt threatened their community, and to the Manhattan elites, who they felt sold them out from above.

We are now living in a time of economic anxiety and political alienation. Just three in 10 Americans believe that their views are represented in Washington, according to a CNN/ORC poll. Confidence in public institutions like schools, banks and churches is near historic lows, according to Gallup. Only 29 percent of Americans think the nation is on the right track, according to Rasmussen.

This climate makes it hard for the establishment candidates who normally dominate our politics. Jeb Bush is swimming upstream. Hillary Clinton may win through sheer determination, but she’s not a natural fit for this moment. A career establishment figure like Joe Biden doesn’t stand a chance... Bernie Sanders is swimming with the tide. He’s a conviction politician comfortable with class conflict. Many people on the left have a generalized, vague hunger for fundamental systemic change or at least the atmospherics of radical change.

The times are perfect for Donald Trump. He’s an outsider, which appeals to the alienated. He’s confrontational, which appeals to the frustrated. And, in a unique 21st-century wrinkle, he’s a narcissist who thinks he can solve every problem, which appeals to people who in challenging times don’t feel confident in their understanding of their surroundings and who crave leaders who seem to be.

Trump’s populism is pretty standard. He appeals to people who, as Walter Lippmann once put it, “feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row. … He knows he is somehow affected by what is going on. … [But] these public affairs are in no convincing way his affairs. They are for the most part invisible. They are managed, if they are managed at all, at distant centers, from behind the scenes by unnamed powers. … In the cold light of experience, he knows that his sovereignty is a fiction. He reigns in theory, but in fact he does not govern.”

When Trump is striking populist chords, he appeals to people who experience this invisibility. He appeals to members of the alienated middle class (like those folks in Canarsie) who believe that neither the rich nor the poor have to play by the same rules they do. He appeals to people who are resentful of immigrants who get what they, allegedly, don’t deserve.

But Trump’s support base is weird. It skews slightly more secular and less educated than the average Republican, but he doesn’t draw from any distinctive blocs. Unlike past populisms he’s not especially rural or urban, ethnic based or class based. He draws people as individuals, not groups.

Unlike past populisms, his main argument is not that the elites are corrupt or out of touch. It is that they are morons. His announcement speech was fascinating (and compelling). “How stupid are our leaders?” he asked rhetorically. “Our president doesn’t have a clue,” he continued. “We have people that are stupid,” he observed of the leadership class.

In other words, it’s not that our problems are unsolvable or even hard. It’s not that we’re potentially a nation in decline. The problem is that we don’t have a leadership class as smart, competent, tough and successful as Donald Trump.

...[E]go is his ideology, and in this he is absolutely consistent. In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.

Never before have we experienced a moment with so much public alienation and so much private, assertive and fragile self-esteem. Trump is the perfect confluence of these trends. He won’t be president, but he’s not an aberration. He is deeply rooted in the currents of our time.

Stupid people, empowered by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, are thrilled to imagine that the elites are even stupider than they are. The huckster in Trump knows exactly how to manipulate those feelings. Sunday, Robert Reich made some sense of this by contextualizing it as a revolt against the ruling class. "[A]s enthusiasm for the bombastic billionaire and the socialist senior continues to build within each party," he writes, referring to Trump and Bernie, "the political establishment is mystified. Political insiders don’t see that the biggest political phenomenon in America today is a revolt against the 'ruling class' of insiders that have dominated Washington for more than three decades. In two very different ways, Trump and Sanders are agents of this revolt."
America has long had a ruling class but the public was willing to tolerate it during the three decades after World War II, when prosperity was widely shared and when the Soviet Union posed a palpable threat. Then, the ruling class seemed benevolent and wise.

Yet in the last three decades-- when almost all the nation’s economic gains have gone to the top while the wages of most people have gone nowhere-- the ruling class has seemed to pad its own pockets at the expense of the rest of America.

We’ve witnessed self-dealing on a monumental scale-- starting with the junk-bond takeovers of the 1980s, followed by the Savings and Loan crisis, the corporate scandals of the early 2000s (Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Tyco, Worldcom), and culminating in the near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 and the taxpayer-financed bailout.

Along the way, millions of Americans lost their jobs their savings, and their homes.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to big money in politics wider than ever. Taxes have been cut on top incomes, tax loopholes widened, government debt has grown, public services have been cut. And not a single Wall Street executive has gone to jail.

The game seems rigged-- riddled with abuses of power, crony capitalism, and corporate welfare.

In 1964, Americans agreed by 64% to 29% that government was run for the benefit of all the people. By 2012, the response had reversed, with voters saying by 79% to 19% that government was “run by a few big interests looking after themselves.”

...Donald Trump is their human wrecking ball. The more outrageous his rants and putdowns of other politicians, the more popular he becomes among this segment of the public that’s thrilled by a bombastic, racist, billionaire who sticks it to the ruling class.

On the left are the rebuilders. The Occupy movement, which also emerged from the Wall Street bailout, was intent on displacing the ruling class and rebuilding our political-economic system from the ground up.

Occupy didn’t last but it put inequality on map. And the sentiments that fueled Occupy are still boiling.

Bernie Sanders personifies them. The more he advocates a fundamental retooling of our economy and democracy in favor of average working people, the more popular he becomes among those who no longer trust the ruling class to bring about necessary change.
Want to help make sure this revolt goes the right way? You can help Bernie's campaign here. Think of the alternatives.

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Obama On Climate Change: "Time Is Not On Our Side"

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Forget that Evangelical Republicans favor President Obama's approach to climate change. You would be crazy if you thought right-wing hacks like John Boehner would ever put partisan considerations aside for the good of the country, mankind and the planet. "The president’s energy tax," as Boehner put it yesterday, "is an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet."

Jeb Bush, who tries passing himself off as vaguely mainstream while still appealing to the lunatic fringe extremists that determine who wins his party's nomination, called Obama's carbon rule "irresponsible and overreaching."
The rule runs over state governments, will throw countless people out of work, and increases everyone’s energy prices. The fact is, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gasses are down to the same levels emitted in the mid-1990s, even though we have 50 million more people. A chief reason for this success is the energy revolution which was created by American ingenuity-- not federal regulations. Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy. The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.
Nice that Jeb acknowledges that there is a problem-- that's his nod to the mainstream-- but he still opposes doing anything about it, the nod to his crazy Foxified party base.
[D]ecreased emissions have been driven by a few key things: efficiency improvements (largely encouraged by policy decisions), improvements in the transportation sector (largely encouraged by policy decisions), and a dramatic shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, wind, and solar. Those, too, have been encouraged by policy decisions. All three of these technologies were supported by the Department of Energy. For wind and solar, those technological investments were followed by tax credits.

This is not pointed out to diminish the role of American ingenuity. In the past decades, the solar and wind industries have appeared virtually out of nowhere, largely on the backs of creative business models allowing the new technology to compete with entrenched fossil fuels.

Getting back to into Bush’s statement, let’s look at benchmarks. A decrease to mid-1990s levels-- while impressive-sounding-- is not going to be enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Scientists at the International Panel on Climate Change estimate that the United States needs to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. In other words, 1990 levels are not going to cut it.

Does Bush know this? He does, at least, believe climate change is a problem to be solved.

“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy,” Bush said in the statement Sunday. “The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.”

In one statement, Bush has recognized that climate change is a problem to be solved, but side-stepped what it will take.

Still, this is different from how he has talked about the problem in the past. This spring, he said people who accept the science of climate change were “really arrogant.” Of course, a month earlier, he told prospective voters in New Hampshire, “The climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that.”

Bush has backed himself into a corner here. “I don’t think it’s the highest priority. I don’t think we should ignore it, either,” he said at the time. “Just generally I think as conservatives we should embrace innovation, embrace technology, embrace science.”

So, climate change is a problem, but we shouldn’t worry about it. We should do something about it, but we shouldn’t use regulation.

McCain, another wingnut who occasionally plays to the mainstream on TV, tweeted that "Pres Obama's #CleanPowerPlan is yet another unconstitutional exec action that will hurt US businesses & consumers."

Yesterday's announcement was one crucial part of Obama's battle against climate change in the light of Koch-purchased Republican opposition to doing anything at all. These are some of the actions he's taken without any backup from a short-sighted and cowardly Congress which Jeb somehow failed to acknowledge:
Stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, which will steadily rise through 2025.
Stricter fuel-economy standards for heavy trucks, buses, and vans, which will steadily rise through 2027.
Proposed CO2 emission standards for any new coal- and gas-fired power plants built in the United States. This rule, when finalized, will make it extremely difficult to build any new coal plants that don't capture and bury their carbon-dioxide emissions (a still-nascent technology).
Standards to curtail methane leaks from all new oil and gas wells, as well as voluntary partnerships to limit methane from agriculture.
Various initiatives to curtail hydrofluorocarbons, another potent greenhouse gas used in air-conditioners and refrigeration.


From the President's remarks yesterday:

Now, not everyone here is a scientist but some of you are among the best scientists in the world. And what you and your colleagues have been showing us for years now is that human activities are changing the climate in dangerous ways. Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere, are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years; 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. And we've been setting a lot of records in terms of warmest years over the last decade. One year doesn’t make a trend, but 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have fallen within the first 15 years of this century.

Climate change is no longer just about the future that we're predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it's about the reality that we're living with every day, right now.

The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. While we can't say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we've seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons. Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.

Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. As one of America’s governors has said, “We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

And that's why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

Most of the issues that I deal with-- and I deal with some tough issues that cross my desk-- by definition, I don't deal with issues if they’re easy to solve because somebody else has already solved them. And some of them are grim. Some of them are heartbreaking. Some of them are hard. Some of them are frustrating. But most of the time, the issues we deal with are ones that are temporally bound and we can anticipate things getting better if we just kind of plug away at it, even incrementally. But this is one of those rare issues-- because of its magnitude, because of its scope-- that if we don't get it right we may not be able to reverse, and we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.

Now, that shouldn’t make us hopeless; it's not as if there’s nothing we can do about it. We can take action. Over the past several years, America has been working to use less dirty energy, more clean energy, waste less energy throughout our economy. We've set new fuel economy standards that mean our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. Combined with lower gas prices, these standards are on pace to save drivers an average of $700 at the pump this year. We doubled down on our investment in renewable energy. We're generating three times as much wind power, 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008.

These steps are making a difference. Over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, the United States has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. That's the good news. But I am here to say that if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we're going to have to do more. The science tells us we have to do more.

This has been our focus these past six years. And it's particularly going to be our focus this month. In Nevada, later in August, I'll talk about the extraordinary progress we've made in generating clean energy-- and the jobs that come with it-- and how we can boost that even further. I'll also be the first American President to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life. We're going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it's too late.

And today, we're here to announce America’s Clean Power Plan-- a plan two years in the making, and the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.

Right now, our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution. That's more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined. That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe. But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water-- and we're better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air.

For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change. For the sake of the planet, that has to change.

So, two years ago, I directed Gina and the Environmental Protection Agency to take on this challenge. And today, after working with states and cities and power companies, the EPA is setting the first-ever nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from power plants.

Here’s how it works. Over the next few years, each state will have the change to put together its own plan for reducing emissions-- because every state has a different energy mix. Some generate more of their power from renewables; some from natural gas, or nuclear, or coal. And this plan reflects the fact that not everybody is starting in the same place. So we're giving states the time and the flexibility they need to cut pollution in a way that works for them.

And we'll reward the states that take action sooner instead of later-- because time is not on our side here. As states work to meet their targets, they can build on the progress that our communities and businesses are already making.

A lot of power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, reducing their emissions-- and by the way, creating new jobs in the process. Nearly a dozen states have already set up their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. About half of our states have set energy efficiency targets.  More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed an agreement to cut carbon pollution in their cities. And last week, 13 of our biggest companies, including UPS and Walmart and GM, made bold, new commitments to cut their emissions and deploy more clean energy.

So the idea of setting standards and cutting carbon pollution is not new. It's not radical. What is new is that, starting today, Washington is starting to catch up with the vison of the rest of the country. And by setting these standards, we can actually speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.

With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago. And the nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes. Or it's the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road. 

By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent-- and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year. And by combining this with greater investment in our booming clean energy sector, and smarter investments in energy efficiency, and by working with the world to achieve a climate agreement by the end of this year, we can do more to slow, and maybe even eventually stop, the carbon pollution that’s doing so much harm to our climate.
Some progressive groups don't feel President Obama went nearly far enough. This is the statement from CREDO:
Reductions in carbon pollution are much needed, but it’s hard to get too excited about this rule the same week that the president allows Shell to tempt fate in the Arctic. We have also now learned that this already too-weak rule is going to take another two years to kick in. President Obama has cleared the very low bar of the most climate pollution reductions of any president in history-- but in context of the progress that is needed, it’s hard to view this as especially ambitious. The need to stop burning dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean sources of energy couldn’t be greater. But in the context of President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which has increased the domestic production of fossil fuels, it is simply too weak and too late in starting. If this rule is President Obama’s signature achievement on climate change then his administration has missed a major opportunity to show real leadership on climate.
Most Democrats in Congress, though, were very supportive of the President's initiative. One of the House's spokesmen on climate, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), pointed out:
A team of dead-ender Republicans have made a career of playing dumb on climate change and can’t stop now. Everyone else understands how important this is. I agree with the people I represent that we shouldn’t sell our children’s future for a few more years of oil and coal profits, and I applaud the president for taking that public demand seriously. I especially thank him for facing down an obstructionist Republican majority that history will look back on with anger and disappointment.
Grijalva and Keith Ellison (D-MN), the other co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, jointly issued this statement of support right after Obama's speech:
The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious step ever taken by the United States to address global climate change. While we already limit harmful power plant emissions like arsenic, mercury and sulfur dioxide, we’ve turned a blind eye to carbon. This plan will begin to undo some of the harmful effects that have gone unchecked in recent years and reduce carbon 32 percent below what they were in 2005. 

At the same time, we’re setting a course for our nation to become energy independent while reducing our dangerous greenhouse emissions and creating clean energy jobs at home. By investing in energy efficiency and clean energy technology, we can reduce energy bills, boost our economy, and address climate change. 

The Clean Power Plan will also protect our health. The Environmental Protection Agency projects it will stop 3,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children. These health benefits will be especially important to communities of color, since they are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to air pollution from fossil fuels. We shouldn’t sell our children’s future for a few more years of oil and coal profits, and I applaud the president for leading on this vital issue.
Here's what Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, had to say yesterday:
The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious step the United States has ever taken in the global effort to tackle the threat of climate change. It sets landmark clean air standards and gives states the opportunity to craft individual plans customized to their needs. Climate change is a matter not just of national significance, but global significance as well. With 2015 on track to be the hottest year on record for planet Earth, we owe it to our economy, our environment, and the health of future generations to tackle this growing danger.

The Administration's Clean Power Plan outlines how all fifty states can work together to combat the danger posed by the effects of climate change. I urge state leaders nationwide to seize this opportunity to create innovative new jobs and protect public health. Maryland, as well as other states participating in carbon reduction programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), has already reduced household energy bills, bolstered state energy independence, and created new jobs in expanding industries. It's time for us to act as a nation. The Clean Power Plan is a tremendous step to boost American innovation and move us toward a clean energy future.
Ohio's progressive candidate for the Senate, P.G. Stittenfeld, who wrote an op-ed on climate change last week for HuffPo, was thrilled by President Obama's plan yesterday:
There is no greater threat to our nation’s future and the health of our families than the destructive force of climate change. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will begin to tackle the problem by reducing the amount of carbon pollution we put in the atmosphere and helping our economy transition into a clean energy future.

Not only is this a good plan for our nation-- it is a good plan for Ohio. The transition to clean energy will create thousands of jobs for Ohioans, reduce the amount of our utility bills and protect the air our children breathe.
In his HuffPo article, Sittenfeld pointed out that his opponent, Rob Portman,
introduced the amendment at the behest of lobbyists and special interests who are more concerned with their short-term bottom line than the health of citizens in Ohio. Over the course of his long career in Washington, Portman has taken over $850,000 in contributions from lobbyists and polluters intent on weakening environmental protection. Indeed, his current Congressional chief-of-staff is formerly one of those very lobbyists.Ohio, the country, and the planet can't afford more of Rob Portman. Nor can we afford Democrats who sit on the sidelines remaining silent about the pressing environmental issues of our day. The cautious approach to politics will not do. The moment demands more of us.
Alan Grayson was even more direct after listening to Obama's talk:
President Obama is proposing that when we make a mess, we clean it up. What is so radical about that?
Electing proven progressives and climate champions like Donna Edwards, Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold and P.G. Sittenfeld to the U.S. Senate will make it easier to meet those demands. You can help these four here on the Blue America Senate page.

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Monday, August 03, 2015

Hey, GOP presidential candidates, just asking: "What makes any of you think you're remotely qualified to be the leader of the Free World?"

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Trudeau only meant the question to apply to the three "amateur" candidates. But is there anyone in the GOP candidate "field" who has a plausible answer to this question? (Note: We're forgetting for the moment that they're such bad people.)

by Ken

Howie wrote earlier today about the, er, "qualifications" of GOP "presidential candidate" Carly Fiorina -- as well as those of GOP "presidential front-runner" Donald Trump. So I couldn't help but throw in yesterday's Doonesbury.

DOONESBURY     by G. B. Trudeau

[Click to enlarge.]

But in my own mind, I can't shake the question Mike D hears the mythical moderator ask the three "amateur" candidates: "What makes any of you think you're remotely qualified to be the leader of the Free World?" Except that, again in my mind, the same question applies to the entire field of 60 or so (however many there are -- it sure feels like 60) GOP presidential candidates. There is, in addition, the issue of their being uniformly such horrible people, but forget that for a moment and focus just on "qualifications."

I mean, is The Donald really "less qualified" than aberrant life forms like Scott Walker or Jeb! Bush or Rick Perry or Rafael "Ted from Alberta" Cruz? In what way(s), exactly? Surely no one is going to advance their "government experience"? Isn't their "government experience" the first reason why they should not only be kept as far as possible from government service but, ideally, set adrift on an ice floe on a frigid sea or ocean somewhere? You know, while there still are ice floes and frigid seas or oceans somewhere?

I still can't help thinking that there's some generally hidden but tangible benefit to setting oneself up as a GOP presidential candidate, like a generous discount plan for national-chain movie-theater admissions or parking garages. Maybe a four-year free subscription to National Review or The American Spectator? Big price breaks on slasher porn, or under-age escorts of the gender of your choice?

Once upon a time there might be a logic to a long-odds candidacy for someone who stood to gain in name recognition for some future political candidacy, or some future job opportunity? But for these people, what future political candidacy could they be thinking of, or what future job opportunity? They can't all be taken on as paid Fox Noisemakers, can they? And a lot of these people, like Rick Perry or Booby Jindal, who can barely put a single sentence together, let along string together two or three.

LET'S ALL SALUTE "COLONEL" GRAHAM

What's more, it's not as if there's no cost to mounting such a campaign. And I'm not even thinking about the cost in dollar terms, since that's a matter of tapping into the overflowing pockets of right-wing profiteers with more money than they know what to do with. No, I'm thinking more in terms of the price of exposure.

Take SC Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance. To politically aware Americans he is at least reasonably well known, but of the people who are aware of him, how many have ever thought, "You know, that Lindsey would make a heckuva president"? He certainly doesn't have many fans among the fabled mouth-breathing "GOP base," and to the rest of the U.S. electorate he is, I suspect, totally unknown. He can't possibly believe he has any shot at winning the nomination, can he? So beyond some kind of vanity thing, I just can't imagine What Makes Lindsey Run. And the fact is that by doing so, he has opened himself to a measure of scrutiny he might well have gone the rest of his career in public office without incurring.

My case in point being what struck me as a fairly devastating report by the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock on the "military career" of "Colonel" Graham, "Sen. Graham moved up in Air Force Reserve ranks despite light duties." To a normal human being, the story would likely be profoundly humiliating, so you'd like to think that even to Senator Lindsey it would be at least embarrassing, and it's embarrassment he probably wouldn't have had occasion to suffer if he hadn't presented himself as a "presidential candidate."

But now that it's out there, it's something we probably ought to take a closer look at, given the senator's pretense to some kind of special "national security" credentials. Maybe tomorrow.
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Central Florida Building and Construction Trades Council Endorses Grayson For U.S. Senate

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Democratic Party political boss and throwback Chuck Schumer has no primary and no viable Republican opponent for reelection next year. So he has plenty of time to sit on the phone calling progressive donors and threatening them for backing Alan Grayson in his Democratic primary battle against Schumer's conservative puppet, New Dem/"ex"-Republican Patrick Murphy, who has just spent 3 years in Congress voting to back Boehner's and Wall Street's agenda. Almost everyone I know from the Democracy Alliance has gotten at least one slimy phone call from Schumer demanding they not back Grayson. And in a few cases, it's actually worked! 

One group Schumer's huffing and puffing didn't work with is the Central Florida Building and Construction Trades Council, which includes more than a dozen local trade groups and unions and represents several thousand Central Florida workers. They endorsed Grayson today.

Council President Wes Kendrick said:
Working people in Florida need a bold leader like Alan Grayson, who will stand with Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and take on Wall Street. Alan is a fearless leader and fighter for all working people who has a proven track record of getting things done even when it was not easy.
Patrick Murphy's Republican father owns a huge construction company, and they expected to win the backing of the more conservative building trades unions. This endorsement has left them reeling and wondering why Schumer doesn't seem to be delivering what he's promised.

Grayson, who has a 98% lifetime legislative voting record from the AFL-CIO, has earned the Council endorsement with his powerful and unambiguous stands for working families, stepping out ahead of Democratic leadership in advocating and proposing legislation to benefit workers and unions. While Patrick Murphy has been a shill for Wall Street banksters, Grayson never takes his eye off the ball for Florida's ordinary working families. He said:
I’m honored by this endorsement. Wall Street and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party are attacking me because they know my vote can't be bought and I can't be bossed around, but with the support of grassroots Democrats, Labor and others who believe in fighting for working people, I'm going to win this race.
Blue America has endorsed Grayson because of his positions and his voting record. If you'd like to help him win this race against the worst elements of the Beltway elites-- from both party establishments-- please consider making a contribution on this Blue America page. In 2012 and 2014, Grayson was the only Member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds from small donors like us, not lobbyists or special interests.



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How Trump Has Foiled The Campaigns of A New Jersey Governor And A Texas Senator To Capture The GOP's Ralph Kramden Vote

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Chris Christie had hoped to ride his patented loutish behavior to the Republican nomination. An advocate of violence and threats towards women teachers seemed to think he would come off as charming to the kind of people who found Jackie Gleason's 1950's era Ralph Kramden charming. (Note: Although The Honeymooners went as high as #2 in the ratings, it only lasted one year-- October 1, 1955 till September 22, 1956, 39 episodes-- before people grew sick of the misogyny-- "One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!" and "BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!"-- and of Kramden's bellowing, insulting demeanor.) 

Yesterday on CNN's State of the Union, Christie was still at it, telling Jake Tapper that the teachers' union deserved a punch in the face. The teachers' union is made up of teachers, most of whom are women. "They’re not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009."

The NJ teachers' union president responded by saying, "Chris Christie's instinct is always to threaten, bully, and intimidate instead of build consensus and show true leadership. That's not news in New Jersey." It might be news in the rest of the country, since Christie's weak campaign hasn't been able to cut through the intense coverage of Donald Trump, who has appropriated the Ralph Kramden (of Brooklyn, like Trump) shtick even more effectively than Christie.



Along the same lines, Texas extremist Ted Cruz hoped he could become the model of the anti-Establishment Republican angry man and channel the discontent many Republicans have twards their own deceitful, conflicted and dysfunctional party into his own campaign. Again, foiled by the show biz self-promoter, Trump.

Yesterday Michael Needham, head honcho at the extreme right Heritage Action super-PAC and a long-time Cruz partisan, told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that the Beltway Republican Establishment is alienating its base by ignoring its concerns. "Most Republican voters hate their party," he told Fox's easily manipulated viewers, "and that’s what needs to be addressed... People are sick of this. It’s a game."
Needham charged that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is gaining traction with Americans because he is a political outsider.

Trump’s freedom from Republican leadership, he added, is winning him potential voters.

“Donald Trump is a symptom of a party who has decided they will govern based on special interests,” Needham said.

“The reason Donald Trump is getting enthusiasm is that he’s ticking off all of the right people,” he said of establishment Republicans.

“If you can identify the crux of cronyism in Washington, D.C., that’s how you start building trust,” Needham added.

Needham’s comments come as Republicans consider one of the largest presidential fields in recent memory.

The Heritage Action for America CEO said on Sunday that the party’s eventual nominee is the contender who best represents true conservatives.

“There’s going to be a candidate who says it’s time for us to change,” Needham said.

“That candidate is going to be someone who unites traditional Republicans, the Tea Party, independents and even former Democrats,” he said.

“This isn’t going to be the same drill we’ve seen all over again,” Needham added of the 2016 race.
This past week, Cruz went on a noisy jihad against Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a way of signaling Republican malcontents that Trump isn't the only angry man running for the GOP nomination. It doesn't appear to have done much, although his place in the top 10 for Thursday's Fox News "debate" seems assured.
Most of the Republicans are wary of taking on Mr. Trump because he seems impenetrable, yet they also do not want to look weak in the face of his attacks. The best they can hope for is that Mr. Trump will attack their biggest perceived opponent; one ally of Mr. Cruz, who is running hard in Iowa, said he would like nothing more than for Mr. Trump to continue criticizing the Wisconsin record of Mr. Walker in hopes of weakening him in Iowa.

“You only attack the king if you can kill him; otherwise you leave him alone, because the king will kill you,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster. “So the candidates better have something good ready if they come after Trump. Or they might try to find a way, in their responses, to remind Trump of something that another candidate said that really bothered him.”

Stagecraft is critical, especially for Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker, since they are expected to be standing on either side of Mr. Trump and often in the same camera shot. Advisers say they are confident that Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker will not scowl or stiffen in reaction to anything Mr. Trump says, but rather will seek opportunities to look and sound more presidential than he does-- and like the strongest opponent to Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she become the Democratic nominee.

...Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is crafting one-minute answers and 30-second rebuttals in case Mr. Trump or others continue attacking him as a flip-flopper on Common Core education standards and as a weak jobs creator, testing lines in mock debates with advisers playing Mr. Trump and other candidates.
Conservative men feel they're the victims of pushy women. There are Democrats in that category too, but only one political party has taken it to heart and made it part of its image. And, as GOP longshot Christie explained to NBC's John Harwood in New Hampshire, he insists he won't try to match the decibel or outrage levels of his longtime friend Donald Trump or others like Mike Huckabee. "Some people are feeling the pressure to try to be outrageous to get on the news," he said. "If you think you've got the best product, you've got to be patient. Slow, steady progress. So I'm not going to get into the hyperbole."
He's casting himself as the candidate most willing to tackle serious issues with specific, if controversial, ideas. He has proposed raising the retirement age and denying Social Security benefits to senior citizens with more than $200,000 of annual income. He has proposed eliminating most income tax deductions-- including the deduction for state and local levies that helps residents of high-tax states like New Jersey-- to get the top rate down to 28 percent. ...In the first 2016 Republican debate on Fox News this week, Christie may face criticism from more conservative rivals of his decision to expand Medicaid in New Jersey under Obamacare. He insists he isn't worried.

"They don't have to buy it," he said. "It was what was best for the state of New Jersey. I'm going to make decisions based on what is best for the people that I'm elected to represent. That's what I did on Medicaid expansion."



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Would A GOP White House Offer Failed Businesswoman Carly Fiorina A Cabinet Post? How About An Ambassadorship?

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The elites who make up the Republican Party Establishment have good reason to fear Donald Trump. After all, Mitt Romney was just one of many, many Republicans who gave Trump credibility when it appeared to help their own cause. He had been widely quoted saying, "There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I am so honored and pleased." That played right into Trump's lifelong strategy of building himself up and putting himself in position to play the world for a sucker, the basis of his "success."

Republican rubes in the sticks who cheer Trump's declarations of wealth and his unadulterated self-aggrandizement need to watch the documentary he fought so hard to suppress. (Watch it here before he sues to get it taken down.) But Trump isn't the only Republican whose self-awareness is primarily guided by delusion. At the Koch Summit Saturday, also-ran Carly Fiorina was whining about Hillary, babbling her hate-filled nonsense about how "track records matter." Well, she's right; track records do matter. And Fiorina's is a clear case of failure writ large, enormously large. In theory, she could be viewed as an inspirational success story. She was, after all, a woman CEO at one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Hewlett-Packard. The business world, however, viewed her time at Hewlett-Packard as a gigantic, costly failure.

Walter Hewlett was right.

Walter Hewlett, you may remember, was the low-key, cello-playing scion of the Hewlett family who fought HP's then-CEO, Carly Fiorina, over her planned $25 billion merger with Compaq, which was announced 10 years ago next month.

Hewlett's point was simple: Just maybe it's a really bad idea to double down on a low-margin business like PCs.

Of course, we all know what happened. Hewlett's opposition was no match for the publicity-savvy Fiorina and her team of brass-knuckled marketers, who seemed a better fit for politics than the high-tech industry. (Which explains Carly's second career as the Republican loser in the race for one of California's seats in the U.S. Senate.) Hewlett folded his cards, went back to his quiet life, and Fiorina got fired three years after the merger because she was better at selling an idea than running a really, really big company.

Now HP is trying to get out of the PC business.

...But even after Fiorina got canned, her apologists stuck to their guns. Her ideas were sound, you see, but her execution admittedly lacked. Then HP's board brought in Mark Hurd, who executed with the ferocity of Patton relieving the troops at Bastogne. He cut, cut, cut. He cut R&D. He put workers on unpaid furloughs, he tried to automate consulting services, and Wall Street loved him. Just look, they said, HP dominates store shelves at Best Buy. It's No. 1 in PC sales! It's the biggest computing company on the planet!

Then Hurd got fired, generally because he managed his personal behavior with the ineptitude that Fiorina had applied to managing the company. It's a funny thing with these HP CEOs--they have a habit of self-destructing. That said, if you think Hurd merely inherited Fiorina's business model and didn't really believe in it, guess again: He was the guy who agreed to buy Palm for $1.2 billion, apparently for the thrill of competing for the fifth position in the mobile operating system stakes. That was just a few months before he got canned.

Now Leo Apotheker, the latest CEO, has quite a mess on his hands: A company without focus dominating a market that isn't what it used to be. He wants out; sell the PC business, dump the products based on Palm's WebOS, and figure out if there's anything that can be done with the mobile OS (hint: don't bet on it). Seems like he wants to create IBM West. Nice idea, but it's a doozy of a challenge, as Larry Dignan at our sister site ZDNet points out.

It bears repeating: Just maybe, doubling down on a low-margin business that even 10 years ago looked like a tough place to make a profit was a bad idea. The thinking behind Fiorina's plan was that HP needed to achieve some sort of massive scale in order to make its PC business work. Voodoo economics, as the elder Bush once said? Sure sounded like it. Problem is, having a big position in such a tough market makes you vulnerable to cost-cutters and innovators. The margin for error is incredibly thin. You never know when something new is going to come along and disrupt your business. HP, meet the iPad. It's your official disruptor.

That was Hewlett's point. Why would you spend billions to get more of a risky market? Today, Oracle and IBM have 45 percent and 20 percent operating margins, according to The Wall Street Journal. HP has an 11 percent margin, dragged down by the 6 percent margin of its PC business. Turns out the "dilettante," as many called Hewlett, had a better understanding of the dynamics of the computer industry than the savvy executives working for Fiorina.

So what was that last decade at HP all about then? Beats me. Maybe it was about making mistakes. Maybe it was about a big company flailing as smaller companies innovated around it. Whatever it was, it was a terrible waste.
She was the first Hewlett-Packard CEO ever fired. And the firing was abrupt and public. 60 Minutes did a story on it.
Asked why the board fired her, Fiorina tells Stahl, "You know, Lesley, I wish I could answer the question: 'Why did the board fire me?' I can't. They never had a conversation with me."

"It was just (clap) out the door," Stahl asks?

"That's right," Fiorina replies.

"It was that cold?" Stahl asks?

"That's exactly what happened," Fiorina says.

She says she felt devastated and hurt by the sudden firing.

..."In the book you said, 'The board did not have the courage to face me. They did not thank me. They did not say goodbye.' Do you think it was nasty? Mean? Meant to hurt?" Stahl asks.

"I think the way this was handled was heartless in some ways and disrespectful in other ways," Fiorina replies.

"Almost as if they meant to take you down a peg or two, that kind of thing," Stahl asks.

"Well, if that was there intent, they certainly succeeded in that. Maybe they took great pleasure in seeing me beat up publicly for weeks and weeks and weeks. I don't know," Fiorina says.
Last May, the Washington Post's Fact Checker column awarded Fiorina 3 Pinocchios for the twisted lies she's told about her track record, which she summed up on her website like this: "Under Carly’s leadership, great things happened at HP: Doubled revenues; more than quadrupled its growth rate; tripled the rate of innovation, with 11 patents a day."
The Facts
"We took a company and doubled it in size to almost $90 billion."

This is figure based on revenue. According to the company’s annual 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, net revenue was $42.37 billion in 1999 and $86.7 billion in 2005.

That’s certainly double, but the key factor for the jump in revenue was Fiorina’s decision in 2001 to merge HP with a rival company, Compaq. In that year, Compaq had revenue of $33 billion and HP had revenue of $45 billion, or a combined total of $78 billion.

Moreover, the statistics don’t tell the story about how difficult the merger was. (For some fascinating-- and critical-- history, read this Fortune magazine article from 2005 titled Why Carly’s big bet is failing.) Fiorina pushed the merger to make HP the dominant maker of personal computers-- just as PCs began their long decline. HP announced in 2014 that it would spin off its PC and printer business, signaling that it was giving up on Fiorina’s gambit.
"We took the growth rate from two percent to nine percent."
This is an astonishingly cherry-picked figure. Fiorina was named HP’s chief executive effective July 17, 1999. HP operates on a fiscal year that ends Oct. 31, so the third quarter ends on July 31.

The Fiorina Super PAC initially said it was comparing first quarters of 2000 and 2005, which didn’t make much sense, except for the fact that she was forced out in the first quarter. Then officials compared a year to year growth for the second quarter (ending April 30) in 1999, which was 2 percent, to the full year figure for 2004.

Yet given that Fiorina started on July 17, using the third quarter probably makes more sense. The net revenue growth in that quarter was 12 percent, not 2 percent. In other words, growth can vary from quarter to quarter, making it a misleading metric for evaluating a nearly six-year tenure.

Annual revenue comparisons make the most sense. Fiorina only headed HP for three months in the fiscal year of 1999, so that year is an appropriate base. The net revenue growth in 1999 was 7 percent, according to the 10-K. Fiorina only headed HP during the first quarter of 2005, so let’s use the growth figure for fiscal year 2004. The 10-K says revenue growth was 9 percent, but much of that was due to currency exchange rates, so on constant currency basis the revenue growth was 3 percent.

Thus, apples to apples, revenue growth went from 7 percent before she started to 3 percent when she left-- not from 2 to 9.
"We tripled the rate of innovation to 11 patents a day."
Patents are the lifeblood of the technology industry. As evidence of this claim, the Fiorina Super PAC points to the fact that the 2005 10-K says that HP’s patent portfolio was over 30,000 as of Oct. 31, 2005, while a news article from 1999 quotes her as saying the company had 10,000 patents.

That is certainly a tripling of patents, but the statement was about the rate of patents a day. That 1999 article quotes Fiorina as saying that patents were growing at a rate of five patents a day, so that should be considered the base for comparison.

The gap between the two statements is almost six years (Dec. 1999 to Oct. 2005), so 20,000 additional patents indicates a growth rate of 9 patents a day. (The campaign counts it as five years, for a rate of 11 a day.) Either way, that a doubling of the rate, not a tripling.

Also, the purchase of Compaq added to HP’s patent portfolio. While we could not determine a precise number for Compaq patent portfolio at the time of the merger, HP’s 2003 10-K suggests Compaq added about 3,000 patents. So that takes off about a patent a day, resulting in an innovation rate of about 8 patents a day.

In a 2002 speech, Fiorina bragged about HP obtaining 1,000 patents in 2001-- which is a rate of three a day.

No matter how you slice it, there’s no way the rate of creating new patents tripled under Fiorina. It is probably a stretch to say the rate doubled.
"We grew jobs."
This statement is based on the fact that the number of employees was 84,800 in 1999 and 151,000 in 2004, according to the 10-K reports. On paper, that certainly looks like an increase in jobs.

But before the merger with Compaq, HP had 86,200 employees and Compaq had 63,700 employees. That adds up to 149,900. HP’s filings show that the combined company had 141,000 employees in 2002 and 142,000 employees in 2003. By 2005, the number was 150,000. In other words, the number of employees barely budged from the pre-merger total–and people lost jobs as a result.

The Los Angeles Times, evaluating Fiorina’s record when she ran for the Senate in 2010, noted that during her tenure HP also acquired more than a dozen other companies with at least 8,000 employees. Indeed, Fiorina has acknowledged firing more than 30,000 workers in the wake of the Compaq merger.

"It is true, I managed Hewlett-Packard through the worst technology recession in 25 years," she told Fox News Sunday in 2010. "And in those tough times, we had to make some tough calls."

Given these facts, it’s a stretch to say she "grew jobs."

Every politician tries to put a gloss on their record, but Fiorina’s claims about her business success are questionable in almost every respect. Her statements either lack significant context or resulted from a creative cherry-picking of the facts. She earns Three Pinocchios.



Fiorina wants to be vice president or get a cabinet position. She's offering herself up as a rabid female attack dog against Hillary Clinton. And the Koch network loves it-- even if they don't see her in the VP slot, which they want to give to Marco Rubio once they've secured the GOP nomination for Scott Walker. Must be frustrating for them to have Trump roiling the waters, though!



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Sunday, August 02, 2015

TV Watch: An enthusiastic thumbs-up for the just-completed Season 3 of "Last Tango in Halifax"

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The preview for tonight's highly satisfying Season 3 finale of Last Tango in Halifax

by Ken

This illustrates the problem with having no writers about TV I can turn to for guidance. All through the six-episode Season 3 of Last Tango in Halifax, which aired tonight on many PBS stations, I kept thinking, somebody shoulda told me about this. I know that probably there are people who tried, but since I don't listen to them about anything else, why would I have listened to them about this?

So while I was aware through the previous seasons that a show of this name had popped up and gone away again, I mostly figured, well, they've gone and dragged Derek Jacobi to Nova Scotia for some sort of country-bumpkin shenanigans. Well, no. It's not even that Halifax. It's the original one, in West Yorkshire (so everyone gets to do appropriate accents.)

I guess with a show like this, either the characters command your attention or they don't, and coming in late, I was agreeably surprised to find that these characters did. In which case, it's a challenge but a good sort of challenge to get caught up on their lives -- at least enough to keep up with the new season's developments. There's still a fair amount about the first two seasons' goings-on that's blurry or even totally mysterious to me, and I imagine I'll need to plug that gap at some point.

But I enjoyed the company of the families that were sort of joined when -- 60 years after their teenage love went astray -- Alan (Derek J) and Celia (Anne Reid) refound each other and now, a lifetime later, decided to give it a go together. All manner of plotlines and complications are spun around their families, even though their own immediate offspring are limited to a daughter apiece, Alan's Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Celia's Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) -- or at least that's the way it was until this season, when, through the magic of TV writing, a "new" sibling was added -- the always-working Rupert Graves as Gary, a son Alan never knew existed.

Obviously these folks and their partners (past, present, and future) and kids (Gillian has one son; Caroline, two) had been through a lot grappling with life goals and romantic relationships, before I made their acquaintance -- some of which I've had sketched out, and some of which I haven't. I realize this isn't much for you to go on, especially with the "new" season now in the books. At the same time, previously aired shows have never been more accessible, and while I haven't yet tried to track down those Season 1 and 2 episodes, I know that the six of Season 3 can be found easily online.

People getting on with their lives, in the face of assorted obstacles -- it's not something today's TV programmers go out of their way to put on the air. Perhaps because it means you really have to create people and situations that really engage the interest and concerns of an audience. It's a challenge that doesn't seem to have fazed Sally Wainwright, who created Last Tango and has written all 18 episodes to date.

In the Season 3 finale I thought she did a masterful job of pressing ahead with current business (notably Gillian's wedding and major tensions between Alan and recovered son Gary) while tying up and advancing plot threads from the season and sending many of the characters off into off-season business I assume we'll learn more about come Season 4. I'm really looking forward to it.
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Hillary: On Board With The Boardroom

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The courageous environmentalist who refuses to take a stand on Keystone XL

"Dems," reads a headline in the Beltway trade paper The Hill, "Give Clinton Pass On Keystone." A more accurate, less Beltway headline would read: "Some Dems Give Hillary A Pass On Keystone, And Many Others Are Demanding She Take A Position." Every Democrat I know wants her to take a position. And they want her to oppose it. Professional careerist Democrats see it very differently, of course. To them sound public policy, which is almost always controversial, is always secondary to career opportunities.

Of course The Hill questioned the sincerity and motivation of Democrats who were demanding answers, particularly Bernie Sanders, who they claimed is "looking to bolster his credentials with environmentalists," saying, "It is hard for me to understand how one can be concerned about climate change but not vigorously oppose the Keystone pipeline."

Clinton is getting a pass from many Democrats on Capitol Hill, even those opposed to the pipeline, something that could undercut the pressure on her to publicly say that the pipeline should be constructed or shelved.

“I think the decision is going to be made in this administration, so I think her position on this is moot,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a fierce Keystone opponent who is not pressing Clinton to come out in opposition.

“I want to make sure that she’s the president, and I think her recent video shows how important the climate priority is for her, and how she wants to develop that argument is, to me, up to her. I don’t question her judgment on this,” he said.

Even the lawmakers most opposed to Keystone gave Clinton cover on the matter.

 “The climate policy is what we care about,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a Clinton supporter and vice-chair of the congressional Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC). 

“Out of respect for the president and her professional role in his administration, it would be improper for her to comment at this point on the Keystone pipeline while the decisions are currently pending.”

Clinton introduced the first aspects of her climate change platform this week but gave scant details on several issues important to environmentalists, including off-shore drilling and oil and gas policies.

Yet it was her strident refusal to say if she supports Keystone that struck home the hardest for greens.

“This is President Obama’s decision,” Clinton said. “And I am not going to second-guess him, because I was in a position to set this in motion, and I do not think that would be the right thing to do.”

She then laid out a marker for when she might offer her position: “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question,” she said.

The answer did not please environmental groups.

“We find it completely unacceptable that she cannot provide an answer,” Jane Kleeb, the founder of the anti-Keystone group Bold Nebraska, said. “She is the only candidate in the presidential race that doesn’t have an answer on where she stands on Keystone.”

...Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate yet, and he said Clinton’s wavering on Keystone is a leading reason why.

He said he thinks Clinton is eventually going to have to take a position on the issue given not only its policy implications, but its symbolic importance for many environmentalists in the Democratic Party. 
“If it is a symbol, it’s an environmentally important symbol, Keystone, and to 2016, politically, a very important symbol,” he said. If Clinton were to come out against the pipeline, “I think her campaign would be very pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction. Symbol or no symbol, it’s there.”

Grijalva is one of the few Democrats on Capitol Hill to scrutinize Clinton’s silence on Keystone.

...Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who hasn’t endorsed a candidate, said he “assumes” Clinton opposes the pipeline because of the climate proposals she began rolling out this week. He said Clinton is right to resist taking a position just because her rivals are pushing her toward one.

“She doesn’t want to look like she’s being pushed by anybody. It’s not good for her campaign to appear to be sort of influenced. But at the same time, the base wants these things,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton have taken very comparable positions.“

But green groups say they don’t want to judge a candidate on assumptions alone.

Kleeb said she thinks Democrats should push Clinton to take a stand on Keystone, but she expects many of them are “playing the long game” and trying not to alienate the odds-on favorite to win the party’s nomination.

Her group, she said, will look to pressure Clinton when she campaigns near the Iowa-Nebraska border later this summer by playing a game of dodge ball outside her events.

“Us in the heartland aren’t looking for an invitation to the White House,” Kleeb said. “We’re looking for clean water.”
There's an alternative to Hillary-- and I'm not talking about a worse alternative. I'm talking about Bernie Sanders. Do you want to help him save America for real? Here's the page.



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Sunday Classics snapshots: More Vickers -- "I am afraid, I am afraid that I will never again be granted this divine moment" (Boito and Verdi's Otello)

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A chunk near the end of the Otello Act I duet lip-synched by Jon Vickers (Otello) and Mirella Freni (Desdemona), from the Unitel film, with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, including our excerpt (at 1:21)
[The sky is now quite clear. Some stars are visible and, on the rim of the horizon, the blue reflection of the rising moon.]
OTELLO: Such is my soul's joy that I am afraid,
I am afraid that I will never again be granted
this divine moment
in the unknown future of my destiny.
DESDEMONA: Dispel such anguish.
Our love will not change from year to year.
OTELLO: Upon this prayer,
let the ranks of angels respond: Amen.
DESDEMONA: Amen, let them respond.

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Leonie Rysanek (s), Desdemona; Rome Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tullio Serafin, cond. RCA, recorded July-Aug. 1960

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Mirella Freni (s), Desdemona; Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, July 30, 1971

by Ken

We've talked about this before, and for me the giveaway here is Otello's repeated "temo" ("I am afraid"). I suppose someone without his potentially disabling fear might express himself similarly at a moment of such perfect happiness -- and this is surely the greatest love scene, with or without music, ever imagined by the mind of artistic man, only somewhat undercut by our knowledge that by the end of the opera the man will murder the woman.

But again, listen to that repeated "temo," and tell me you're not hearing a man who, at the pinnacle of his success, both career-wise and personal, believes at every moment that in the next moment it could all be taken away from him. If for some reason you really, really hated Otello, and wanted to destroy him, and you knew this about him, this might be the angle you would work.


AT THE RISK OF BELABORING THE OBVIOUS --

Jon Vickers's great roles were always some sort of outlier, outsider, or other kind of social doesn't-fit-in. And there happen to be a group of such roles that were written for -- and some others that can be advantageously allotted to -- a voice of this immense scale.

I don't think we need to say any more before listening to the whole of the Otello Act I Love Duet, backing up to the riot that brings Otello back out to face the Cypriot mob, a riot orchestrated by Jago to bring down his rival, Cassio.

VERDI: Otello, Act I, Cypriots, "All'armi! All'armi!" . . . Otello, "Abbasso le spade!" . . . Otello-Desdemona duet, "Già nella notte densa"
It's the night of the triumphant but terror-inspiring return to Cyprus of its governor from his whupping of the Saracens, which was almost climaxed by the demise of his own in a violent storm within sight of home port. Now, amid the island festivities, Jago has been furiously setting in motion plots against his rival, Cassio -- a first step in his ultimate plot, against Otello himself. Jago has nudged events so that a drunk Cassio winds up starting a riot that brings Otello storming out of his castle followed by torchbearers like so.

CYPRIOTS: To arms! To arms! Help! Help!
OTELLO: Down with your swords.
[The combatants stop fighting.]
Hold there! What's happening?
Am I among the Saracens?
Or have you become rabble Turks,
who fight each other like dogs?
Honest Jago, by the love and loyalty
that you have for me. Speak.
JAGO: I don’t know . . .
We all were just celebrating, as friends.
Then, as if a malicious star fell upon us,
a quarrel broke out.
Weapons were drawn -- chaos ensued.
I would rather cut these legs off,
for having brought me to witness this.
OTELLO: Cassio -- how could you forget yourself like this?
CASSIO:. Pardon, my Lord. I don't know . . .
OTELLO: Montano?
MONTANO [supported by a soldier]: I'm wounded, and cannot speak.
OTELLO: Wounded! By Heaven, my blood rages.
Yet my better angels restrain me.
[DESDEMONA enters. OTELLO quickly goes to her.]
What -- my sweet Desdemona.
She too was awoken by this outrage.
Cassio, you are no longer my captain!
[CASSIO lets his sword fall. It is picked up by JAGO.]
JAGO [handing CASSIO's sword to a soldier and speaking aside]: Oh, my triumph!)
OTELLO: Iago, go around the frightened town
with this squadron and restore the peace.
[JAGO leaves.]
Someone help Montano.
[MONTANO is helped into the castle.]
Everyone return to your homes.
[With an imperious gesture] I will remain here until the streets are deserted,
and calm reigns once more.

[The people leave. OTELLO makes a sign to the torchbearers who accompanied him to return to the castle. OTELLO and DESDEMONA are left alone.]
OTELLO: The vast night sky extinguishes all strife,
And my trembling heart is calmed by its embrace.
Yet, from such immense hatred
comes our immense love.
DESDEMONA: My superb warrior.
Many torments, and such sadness,
And much hope have brought you
to this blessed embrace.
How sweet when we whispered together:
Remember now with me.
When you revealed your life of exile,
and told me of your battles, and sorrow.
And I would listen from my very soul
with fear, and ecstasy in my heart.
OTELLO: I painted a canvas of armies,
of weapons poised to attack,
The assault -- of terrible victory –
cutting to the rampart -- killing the foe.
DESDEMONA: Then you would guide me
to the shining deserts of your homeland,
At last sharing your suffering –
in chains, as a slave.
OTELLO: Your tears ennobled my story.
Your beautiful visage, and your sighs
Descended upon my darkness
a blessed glory -- a paradise -- and the stars.
DESDEMONA: And I saw in your brow
a genius of eternal beauty.
OTELLO: And you loved me for my misfortunes;
And I loved you that you pitied them.
DESDEMONA: And I loved you for your misfortunes:
And you loved me that I pitied them.
OTELLO: Truly you loved me.
Let death come! And may the supreme moment take me
in the ecstasy of this embrace.
[The sky is now quite clear. Some stars are visible and, on the rim of the horizon, the blue reflection of the rising moon. ]
Such is my soul's joy that I am afraid,
I am afraid that I will never again be granted
this divine moment
in the unknown future of my destiny.
DESDEMONA: Dispel such anguish.
Our love will not change from year to year.
OTELLO: Upon this prayer,
let the ranks of angels respond: Amen.
DESDEMONA: Amen, let them respond.
OTELLO [supporting himself against the parapet]:
Ah. Such joy overcomes me
so vehemently, I cannot bear it.
A kiss.
DESDEMONA: Otello.
OTELLO: Yet another kiss.
The stars of the Pleiades descend toward the sea.
DESDEMONA: It is late.
OTELLO: Come. Venus shall guide us.
DESDEMONA: Otello!
[They go slowly toward the castle, clasped in each other's arms.]

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Tito Gobbi (b), Jago; Florindo Andreolli (t), Cassio; Franco Calabrese (bs), Montano; Leonie Rysanek (s), Desdemona; Rome Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tullio Serafin, cond. RCA, recorded July-Aug. 1960

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Peter Glossop (b), Jago; Ryland Davies (t), Cassio; Siegfried Rudolf Friese (bs), Montano; (s), Mirella Freni (s), Desdemona; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, July 30, 1971
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