Saturday, October 03, 2015

Weekend meditation: In human interactions, there are forces more powerful even than yoga, feng shui, and Irish dancing


Can there really be a force more powerful than Irish dancing?

by Ken

The pen is mightier than the sword, we've been told, and it's a theory, at least. No doubt there have been time when it has been true. There are fewer claims, you'll note, for the superior might of the sword of such weapons as handguns, automatic rifles, conventional bombs, and thermonuclear devices.

You'd think more attention would have been paid to what we might call the Hierarchy of Forces. So as a weekend thought provocation, I thought I would throw out a couple of choice contributions to the literature I've stumbled across.

First there was yesterday's Dilbert. I think we've all noticed Dilbert's Pointy-Headed Boss growing steadily -- um, what's the clinical term? -- nutsier lately. And encountering, at least in his familiar corporate world, depressingly little pushback. And then came this demonstration of force:

[Click to enlarge.]


And tonight I happened to be watching a rebroadcast on one of my local public TV stations of a 2004 Midsomer Murders called "The Straw Woman," in which DCI Barnaby is enmeshed in a string of murders in the village of Midsomer Parva involving witchcraft, or so the gullible villagers are being led to believe. Naturally this isn't helpful to the inspector in cracking the case, and we find him venting his frustration at one of those famous Barnaby family dinners. His daughter Cully offers this interesting perspective on the subject of witches:

"Everyone needs to have something they can feel good about hating."

And, we might add, something they can feel good about fearing.



I found this photo of a fist accompanying a 2012 ZME Science post titled "Punching may have shaped evolution of human hand." The post describes research reported by University of Utah researchers. After discussing the adaptability of the human fist to punching, the report note points out:
Researchers note that the human hand is also shaped for an increased dexterity in handling a number of objects and tasks, so they presume that the hand evolved both for dexterity and punching force – two things which don’t exactly go hand in hand.

There may, however, be only one set of skeletal proportions that allows the hand to function both as a mechanism for precise manipulation and as a club for striking,” the researchers write. “Ultimately, the evolutionary significance of the human hand may lie in its remarkable ability to serve two seemingly incompatible, but intrinsically human, functions.
Makes you proud to be a human, no?

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Bernie's And Hillary's College Affordability Plans Are VERY Different


Richard Eskow compared the very different college aid proposals by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Let's begin by acknowledging that none of the Republican candidates recognize any need for helping with growing college debt and that the Republican Party's generic college aid proposal is, basically, "Don't get sick and if you do, die quickly."

Their proposal can be neatly summed up in this week's heartless destruction of the Perkins Loan reauthorization bill. The program, which provided colleges with matching funds to provide low-interest loans to students with exceptional financial need, passed the House unanimously on Monday. Wall Street whore Lamar Alexander (R-TN) refused to bring it up in the Senate before it expired. So, no matter what you think of Hillary's weak proposal or Bernie's robust one, both are infinitely better than what the GOP has in mind.

Eskow introduced the subject by pointing out:
Elementary and high school education is correctly seen as the bridge to a better future for young people. It is offered to all, at no cost, because we understand that society does better when the individuals within it do better.

When we made elementary school and high school free in the 1800s, the United States was a largely agrarian nation. The benefits a high school diploma provided back then-- higher income, career opportunity and the ability to fully participate in our democracy-- often require a higher level of education in today’s world. Will we provide them in the same democratic and progressive way our forebears did?

We know that our current system is broken. It has left more than 41 million Americans owing more than $1.3 trillion in student debt. That burden is holding back an entire generation of Americans and is harming the economy as a whole.
His key point is that the plans offered by the Democratic contenders are fundamentally and significantly different. Bernie's plan would provide tuition-free public higher education to every qualified student. Hillary's plan doesn't.
The Sanders plan treats higher education the same way we have treated other forms of education in the past: Every young person who studies hard and succeeds in school should be able to get the education they need. By contrast, the Clinton plan charges tuition to middle-class students, using an as-yet unspecified formula based on a family’s income.

The Clinton approach is unnecessarily complicated.

The Clinton plan is unnecessarily complicated and difficult to administer. It leaves a number of key questions open to manipulation by future politicians, such as: What are the thresholds for paying part of the tuition? What’s a reasonable percent of family income to pay into the program?

Compare that to the simplicity and safety of a program like Social Security, which is run at very low administrative cost. If you qualify for its benefits, you receive them. We don’t “means test” Social Security-- and we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t do it for a public higher education, either.

The Clinton plan holds political risk.

The principles behind the Clinton plan seem closer to some of the Republican candidates’ ideas than they do to those of great Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt. Candidate Chris Christie, for example, wants to cut Social Security benefits for Americans earning more than $80,000.

Another conservative group, the Concord Coalition, proposed that Social Security benefits be cut for any family whose annual income exceeds $40,000 per year – and that includes both Social Security benefits and the cash value of their Medicare protection!

That’s the problem with ideas like these. Once the door is open, there’s always the possibility that politicians will use them to shift costs to the middle class.

The Clinton plan also requires middle-class students to work as well as study, something their wealthier peers won’t be required to do.

The Clinton plan also forces students who receive financial aid to work 10 hours a week, in addition to keeping up with their coursework.

College is a time for study and achievement. It can also be competitive. Students who are forced to comply with Clinton’s 10-hour-per week work requirement-- which is one-fourth of a full-time job – will carry a heavy burden of time and effort. Wealthy students won’t share that burden because their parents are paying full tuition.

“I’m not going to give free college to kids who don’t work some hours to try to put their own effort into their education,” says Clinton. But nothing is being “given.” Students must work hard and achieve academic success in order to be accepted to college. This seems like an oddly judgmental framing, especially if we believe that higher education and hard work are the doors to opportunity and improvement – for each individual student, and for society as a whole.

The Clinton plan doesn’t ask enough of the rich. It places a financial burden on the middle class instead.

It’s sometimes possible to make a burden on the middle class sound like a progressive idea. Christie ludicrously claimed that “the left are defending the rich,” for example, because progressives want to protect and expand Social Security benefits for everyone. (He didn’t mention the fact that progressives want “the rich” to pay their fair share in taxes to cover it.)

Clinton defends her college plan by saying that “I am not going to give free college education to wealthy kids.” And yet Social Security, Medicare, public elementary and high schools, the federal highway system, and a host of other programs are also available to all who qualify.

Just as with these programs, the progressive way to finance education is by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share. If you think they’re paying enough for what they’re getting-- which is what Clinton’s remark implies-- you don’t create a system of fees, which will be trivial in truly wealthy households but burdensome for the middle class. You ask the rich to contribute in an equitable way.

That’s what the Sanders plan does. It’s financed by a tax on Wall Street speculators, the same wealthy people the American people bailed out after they crashed the economy. (The tax should also decrease risky high-volume automated trading, which will help everyone.)

The Clinton plan is not a “no-debt” program.

While it has been described as a plan for eliminating student debt, the Clinton plan is highly unlikely to accomplish that goal. Middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet – a situation that already forced many to take on debt. Any plan that adds to their costs by charging for college tuition will inevitably force some cash-strapped families to take on additional debt.

The fact that it has been called a “no-debt” plan is highly misleading.

The Sanders plan is a mainstream, practical and smart proposal.

The Sanders plan, by contrast, lies squarely in the line of great initiatives like Social Security. And it’s not a new idea. The University of California offered free tuition to all in-state residents until the 1980s. The average tuition fee at a four-year public university in 1965 was only $243. Many of the best colleges, including the City University of New York, charged no tuition at all.

Germany eliminated tuition at public universities last year because they understood that their modest fees-- roughly $1,300 per year-- discouraged qualified students from going to college. Other countries are doing the same.

In the end, the difference between these two plans isn’t just financial. It also reflects different views of ourselves as a nation, and different attitudes toward the middle class and the young.
And, by the way, Bill Clinton's former school mate and Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, demolished the Washington Post's David Fahrentold silly assertions that Bernie college proposals were all about the government controlling colleges. "Apparently," wrote Reich, "Fahrenthold is unaware that three-quarters of college students today attend public universities financed largely by state governments. And even those who attend elite private universities benefit from federal tax subsidies flowing to wealthy donors. (Meg Whitman’s recent $30 million donation to Princeton, for example, is really $20 million from her plus an estimated $10 million she deducted from her taxable income.) Notwithstanding all this government largesse, colleges aren’t 'run by government rules.' The real problem is too many young people still can’t afford a college education. The move toward free public higher education that began in the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and was extended in the 1960s by leading public universities was reversed starting in the 1980s because of shrinking state budgets. Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years as states slashed education spending. It’s time to resurrect that earlier goal. Besides, the biggest threats to academic freedom these days aren’t coming from government. They’re coming as conditions attached to funding from billionaires and big corporations that’s increasing as public funding drops... The real choice isn’t between government and the 'market.' It’s between a system responsive to the needs of most Americans, or one more responsive to the demands of the super-rich, big business, and Wall Street-- whose economic and political power have grown dramatically over the last three decades. This is why the logic of Sanders’s ideas depends on the political changes he seeks. Fahrenthold says a President Sanders couldn’t get any of his ideas implemented anyway because Congress would reject them. But if Bernie Sanders is elected president, American politics will have been altered, reducing the moneyed interests’ chokehold over the public agenda. Fahrenthold may not see the populism that’s fueling Bernie’s campaign, but it is gaining strength and conviction. Other politicians, as well as political reporters, ignore this upsurge at their peril." Which plan do you prefer? You can express yourself here-- or not.

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No, Not Everyone Running For Office In Arkansas In An NRA Shill-- And Not All Dems There Are In The Tank For Hillary


Robbie Wilson, Arkansas progressive running for Congress

As we mentioned Tuesday, Arkansas isn't going to be an easy place for Democrats to rebuild. The Democratic Party has lost touch with what it means to be progressive, and they hold only 36 of the 100 seats in the state House and only 14 of 35 seats in the state Senate. The governor and lieutenant governor are both extreme right-wing Republicans, as are both U.S. senators and all four congressmen.

But there are plenty of good progressives in the state, and many have been inspired by Bernie Sanders' grassroots movement. We focused on Robbie Wilson, who is running for the congressional seat currently held by radical right Congressman Steve Womack in the northwest corner of the state (AR-03: Fayetteville, Benton, Fort Smith). So far there are no other Democrats running for Congress anywhere in Arkansas except for a Blue Dog hand-me-down from Blanche Lincoln, Connor Eldridge, hoping to replace John Boozman in Lincoln's old Senate seat.

Wilson isn't hiding his admiration for and support of Bernie Sanders:
I take great satisfaction in the fact that I align with Senator Sanders on every issue. Most importantly, I agree with the Senator on the subject of overturning Citizens United. There is no greater threat to the survival of the middle class, and no darker bruise on our political structure. Furthermore, this issue goes hand-in-hand with the likelihood that we will need to appoint Supreme Court Justices over the next two presidential terms, and the idea that a Republican President and Congress would steer those appointments is almost too much to bear.

Senator Sanders and I also share the same stance on the issues of women’s rights, foreign policy and economics, among others.  But in a broader sense, we both believe that our government was intended to benefit all Americans, not to hold down the many in order to appease a few. This is a fundamental theme that is woven throughout the fabric of my platform, and I’m proud to say Senator Sanders reflects these same values.

While nothing would please me more than to be part of a Progressive landslide across the country in 2016, and to have the honor of serving the Arkansas 3rd as a Congressman aligned with President Sanders and as a conduit for his policies, I’m not naïve.  Secretary Clinton is running a powerful campaign with powerful support, and may well win our party’s nomination. The importance of either Clinton or Sanders having Democratic support in Congress is not lost on me; in the wake of recent Republican abuses of power and self-serving legislation, I have already come to terms with the fact that my job, whether it be under President Sanders or President Clinton, will be to support legislation that rolls back the damage done, and to work in the interests of my constituency and for the benefit of the American people.

The change we all want may not happen in one single election. But my aim is to be a part of that first step toward reclaiming our government from the few who push their discriminatory policies on us through political puppetry. There will be no prouder campaign supporters than those who support my campaign, because for the first time in a long time in Arkansas, they’ll get what they expect; a compassionate, realistic and clear-headed Representative with their best interests at heart, regardless of which Democrat wins the White House.
Right after the horrific gun massacre in Oregon, Wilson communicated to Arkansas voters that something has to change with the way the NRA dominates American politics. (In Arkansas the NRA virtually controls both political parties.)

"Today," he wrote, "I actually found myself wondering if I wanted to count myself among those who say their hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families."

And the answer is no; because this response is the new automated talking point of Republicans these days, as if a party-wide memo had gone out. And no, because these same Republicans turn around and vote against gun law reform every single time it comes up.

Republicans like my opponent Steve Womack in the Arkansas 3rd, who in 2013, just after the unthinkable Sandy Hook shooting deaths of 20 first-grade children, responded to President Obama’s proposed gun controls by regurgitating another party line about Second Amendment rights. Steve Womack, who in 2014 voted Yea on House Amendment 1098, which prohibited the District of Columbia, a city with a gun violence and death rate among the highest in the nation, from implementing firearm registration laws. Steve Womack, who in a letter just seven months ago to ATF Director B. Todd Jones, expressed concern over their attempt to classify certain ammunition as "for non-sporting use," and strongly supported the continued manufacture and civilian sale of armor-piercing rounds.

And what will it say on his Facebook page today? I haven’t looked, but I bet it’s something along the lines of "My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families." I’ll say that my heart aches for those parents, and my heart breaks for those lives that were snuffed out. And I’ll say that I think we’ve had enough of this contemptible voting, and that I am going to be a voice of reason, and one who knows that the Second Amendment doesn’t just give us the right to bear arms and form a militia; it specifies a well-regulated militia.

The time has already passed for us to legislate guns out of the hands of the wrong people and ensure that individual security and responsibility measures are nonnegotiable. We can’t wait until this nightmare comes to our own towns. Support my campaign. Be a part of the revolution across the country and let’s make sure our representation is being taken seriously.
I suspect that all regular DWT readers pretty much agree with Robbie Wilson on this. If you'd like to help him fund his campaign, you can do that at this ActBlue link. If we don't act, who will? Last cycle, the NRA rewarded Steve Womack with a $4,000 contribution to his campaign and rated him an "A" in return for his support of their murderous agenda.

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Patrick Murphy And His Parents Failed To Persuade Hillary To Endorse Him


We've been writing about how right-wing fake Democrat Patrick Murphy (FL) was one of only seven Democrats-- all corrupt conservatives from the Blue Dogs and/or New Dems-- to vote for the establishment of the Republican Party's Get Hillary Committee, which started out as a Benghazi committee and is now being used as a committee to promote a GOP-manufactured e-mail "scandal," led by Republican pinhead Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Although it has now been confirmed by bumbling imbecile Kevin McCarthy, every other Democrat knew that that's all the Benghazi committee ever was meant to be: a platform for slandering Hillary Clinton.

At the time of the vote, Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn let it be known that a vote in favor would be looked at by the House Democratic leadership very negatively and urged every Democrat to vote no. And every Democrat did vote no except for the seven who were always giving faux "bipartisan" cover to the House Republicans for their crackpot bills and resolutions:
Patrick Murphy (FL)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)
Collin Peterson (MN)
John Barrow (GA), driven from Congress the following year
Mike McIntyre (NC), driven from Congress the following year
Nick Rahall (WV), driven from Congress the following year
Ron Barber (AZ), driven from Congress the following year
I was on a media call with Alan Grayson and half a dozen Florida journalists Friday morning when he warned that Murphy's record of siding with Republicans, and in particular his vote to support the now thoroughly discredited Benghazi committee, could hurt the eventual Democratic presidential nominee in Florida. Grayson:
From the beginning the Benghazi Select Committee has been a partisan clown show, and anyone who was paying attention knew that’s exactly what would happen. Everything the Tea Party Republicans who run the Benghazi committee have done, they have done with Patrick Murphy’s permission... Murphy voted to allow Republicans to use the power of Congress to harass and smear Hillary Clinton... Murphy’s vote to support this witch hunt tells you all you need to know about him. He’s a Republican who voted like it when he thought no one was watching, and the consequences of his support for the Republican agenda will come back to haunt the Democratic Party and our presidential candidate.
Murphy's multimillionaire Republican parents-- who play fast and loose with campaign finance laws to begin with and who have given immense sums to right-wing GOP candidates-- have given Hillary thousands of dollars for her various campaigns. (Thomas is Patrick's father, and Leslie is his mother.) Journalists on the Grayson call told me that Karl Rove's operation had gotten the word out that Hillary was going to endorse Patrick's Senate campaign yesterday while she was in Florida. Instead, she ignored him. At a campaign stop at a half-empty gym at Broward College in Davie, Murphy and Ted Deutch were on a balcony overlooking the stage when she thanked "Ted Deutch and all the other elected officials here." Murphy winced and looked like he had just been punched in the stomach.

Earlier she had been raising money at the home of Fred Cunningham in North Palm Beach (the heart of Patrick's district)-- where Patrick was barred from entering so as not to embarrass Hillary by forcing his mug into a photograph-- and afterwards she was at the home of lawyers Mitchell and Sharon Berger in Fort Lauderdale, before moving on to another fundraiser in Miami Beach at the home of F.J. and Abigail Pollak. Murphy followed her around like a dog hoping for a bone an endorsement. He wasn't permitted to enter any of the homes and she again neglected to even mention his name. Schumer must be spitting nails.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Murphy's campaign spokesman denied Murphy was trying to help the Republicans embarrass Hillary with his vote to authorize the Benghazi committee. Joshua Karp: "When Patrick voted for the Benghazi committee, he was 100 percent confident it would vindicate Hillary Clinton, and he warned the committee must not be 'used as a way to politicize this tragedy and the deaths of four Americans.'" If Murphy really imagined the Benghazi committee was going to vindicate Hillary, he's the only Democrat who did-- and he didn't pay attention to the warnings of the House Democratic leadership.

Or maybe he's the stupidest person in Congress, which also explains why Wall Street has been spending so much money to help get him in his primary against Grayson. If you'd like to help Grayson, by the way, you can do that here on this ActBlue page.

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Hillary Doesn't Blame Her Bankster Buddies For The 2008 Financial Meltdown (And A Little History Of Repealing Glass-Steagall)


I'm not sure how much money Hillary is raking in from Wall Street these days, but every report I've read indicates that the amounts are absolutely massive and that crooked players like Citibank are funding her campaign significantly. Before the campaign she had taken in $34,935,233 from the finance sector, the third highest of any member of Congress in history. In her 2006 Senate reelection bid, her top three contributors were Citigroup ($236,610), Goldman Sachs ($205,670) and MetLife ($156,060), and also in the Top 10 were Morgan Stanley ($123,560), JPMorgan Chase ($122,715) and Credit Suisse ($111,850). The financial sector was by far her top contributor ($7,338,748); the securities and investment industry alone gave her $2,744,933.

So the Bloomberg report Friday by Jesse Hamilton and Cheyenne Hopkins that she is excusing the big banks for the 2008 financial crisis shouldn't have come as a surprise to people who follow the flow of money in politics. In their report, Hamilton and Hopkins wrote:
Bankers and the lawyers who love them deserve some credit for Clinton’s considerable war chest, which took in $28 million in third-quarter donations, her campaign announced Wednesday. (Sanders was just $2 million behind, according to his own campaign announcement, though his cash tends to come in a stream of smaller, online donations. Wall Street isn’t a fan.)

... From her opening speech on economic policy in July, Clinton has maintained a delicate balance between talking tough on the financial industry and staying clear of detailed promises. She said she’d appoint regulators who understand that the biggest banks are still seen as too big to be allowed to fail, and she said that individuals should be prosecuted more when they go astray within their firms. Clinton argued that the government relies too much on slapping the banks with large fines while "the human beings responsible get off."

But nobody would mistake her views for those of Sanders or Warren-- who seems to relish her role as the scourge of Wall Street. Warren said in an April speech that "if the big banks keep calling the shots, they will own both our economy and our democracy."
Hamilton and Hopkins began their piece: "Hillary Clinton's explanation of what caused the 2008 financial crisis contains a notable omission."
Throughout the 2016 presidential primary campaign, Clinton has taken a markedly less critical view of large financial institutions like Citigroup Inc. than Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and presidential rival Bernie Sanders. Instead, Clinton has placed the blame on “shadow banking,” a term she has used to describe hedge funds and high-frequency traders.

“Her comments on their face are wrong,” said Christopher Whalen, senior managing director at Kroll Bond Rating Agency and author of Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream. “It is incorrect to blame the crisis on shadow banks. You can’t really differentiate between what they were doing and what Citi was doing.”

Unlike many in her party, when Clinton recounts the events that caused the global financial meltdown, she casts Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc. as the primary villains.

“A lot of what caused the risk that led to the collapse came from institutions that were not big banks,” she told the Des Moines Register. And when actress/director/writer/cultural whirlwind Lena Dunham challenged her ties to Wall Street this week, Clinton said the problem with those who call for breaking up the giant lenders is “a lot of the problems were not from these traditional banks.”

In Clinton's hot-coals dash through financial topics, she's trying to criticize financial titans enough to satisfy her party while also taking campaign money from bankers. Any soft spot for big banks puts her at odds with the party's left flank. Sanders authored a bill in May to shrink such banks as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Warren remains the loudest critic of Wall Street, having introduced a bill to rebuild the Glass-Steagall wall between companies’ financial activities that Clinton’s husband breeched as president.

Deflecting blame from the banks also raises the question for Clinton: What about the crisis woes of firms such as Citigroup Inc., which has long been among her banking supporters? The lender and its employees have been the No. 1 contributor to her political career, giving more than $800,000--even during the period she told Dunham she “took on Wall Street” as a senator from New York. And two of Citigroup’s fellows in finance have stepped in as top-10 donors to the Democrat’s presidential run: Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan.

“If you don’t think Citibank was center to this crisis, it’s hard to imagine why we spent billions bailing them out,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign For America’s Future, who referred to Clinton as “Wall Street’s favorite Democrat.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, has hammered the biggest banks from Capitol Hill and isn’t about to let them off the hook for the crisis, even as he said he’s “not going to get in a fight with Hillary.”

“There is plenty of responsibility to go around,” he said in an interview. “Big banks are part of it.”
Brown learned the hard way. He was a member of the House in 1999 when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealing Glass-Steagall came up for a vote, catastrophically removing barriers that kept banks, securities companies and insurance companies from combining. The banking industry had been agitating-- and bribing members of Congress-- for decades to repeal Glass-Steagall. The Republican-controlled House passed it July 1, 1999, with a huge bipartisan vote of 343–86 (Republicans 205-16, Democrats 138-69, Independent [Bernie Sanders] 0–1). Bill Clinton signed the disastrous bill November 12, 1999.

Among prominent politicians currently still active, here's how the votes broke down. First, House members who voted with the banksters to repeal Glass-Steagall:
Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Roy Blunt (R-MO), now a senator
John Boehner (R-OH)
Richard Burr (R-NC), now a senator
Ben Cardin (D-MD), now a senator
Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Harold Ford (D-TN), now an extremely corrupt bank lobbyist
Richard Gephardt (D-MO), now a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), now a senator and a presidential candidate with 0% in the polls
Denny Hastert (R-IL), ex-Speaker currently plea-bargaining to stay out of prison

Baron Hill (D-IN), currently running for the Senate
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
John Kasich (R-OH), now a governor and a failing presidential candidate
Ron Kind (D-WI), currently head of the Wall Street-owned New Dems
Rob Portman (R-OH), now a senator
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), still protected by Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Joe Scarborough (R-FL), retired after involvement in the death of staffer Lori Klausutis, now an MSNBC news personality
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), now a senator
Ted Strickland (D-OH), currently running for Senate
Tom Udall (D-NM), now a senator
Fred Upton (R-MI)
David Vitter (R-LA), now a senator running for governor
Roger Wicker (R-MS), now a senator
And here are the still-active prominent brave souls who voted against the banksters that day:
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), now a senator
Sherrod Brown (D-OH), now a senator
John Conyers (D-MI)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Jerry Moran (R-KS), now a senator
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Ron Paul (R-TX)-- not Rand
BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), now a senator and a presidential candidate
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Hillary herself wasn't a senator until the year after the repeal, but there is no question that she would have supported the repeal, just as her husband did. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's old school buddy and his labor secretary, wrote in July:
Hillary Clinton won’t propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act-- at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton’s campaign. "You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall," Blinder said after her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it. Blinder said he had spoken to Clinton directly about Glass-Steagall.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Steely Dan Contest Ends With The Weekend


Sunday is the last day of our Blue America giveaway for the rare and collectible RIAA-certified Steely Dan platinum award. We want very much to make sure that when Donna Edwards leaves her House seat-- MD-04, primarily DC suburbs in Prince George's County-- for the Senate, her successor is another committed and capable progressive. That's why we're trying to help state legislator Joseline Peña-Melnyk raise the funds she needs to compete against a bevy of corporate careerist political hacks-- from conservative Derrick Davis and Donna-antagonist Glenn Ivey to failed gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown-- who are far from a progressive vision of where Maryland and the U.S. should be heading.

So how does the plaque (below) wind up on your wall? These awards are never sold. This particular one was given to me by the band when I was president of Reprise. It celebrated a million sales of Two Against Nature and the four Grammy awards Steely Dan won in 2001, including Album of the Year. Only a small number of these plaques were made, a dozen or so. What Blue America is doing is randomly selecting one contributor to Joseline's campaign and, as a thank you, sending that person the plaque.

The "contest" is over Sunday just before midnight. The winner isn't the person who contributes the most. Any amount goes. In fact, if you don't have any cash to spare at the moment and want a chance to win anyway, just send a postcard to Blue America, PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027, and you'll have the same chance as anyone else.

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"The Second Amendment is a gun-control amendment" (Adam Gopnik)


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

"The right the Court announces [in Heller] was not 'enshrined' in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today's law-changing decision.… Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court's announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding."
-- from Justice John Paul Stevens's dissent in D.C. v. Heller (2008)

by Ken

In the wake (all too literally) of our latest gunfest, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik rises to remind us that the Second Amendment, thought to leave us powerlsss to deal with gun violence, in fact does so only because of complete gross misreadings, that in fact "The Second Amendment Is a Gun-Control Amendment," provided that one (a) knows how to read and (b) has the basic historical knowledge to make sense of the nonsense that gun-loving Second Amendment defilers have so thoroughly mucked up.

"It hardly seems worth the energy," Adam writes, "to once again make the same essential point that the President -- his growing exasperation and disbelief moving, if not effective, as he serves as national mourner—has now made again: we know how to fix this."
Gun control ends gun violence as surely an antibiotics end bacterial infections, as surely as vaccines end childhood measles—not perfectly and in every case, but overwhelmingly and everywhere that it’s been taken seriously and tried at length. These lives can be saved. Kids continue to die en masse because one political party won’t allow that to change, and the party won’t allow it to change because of the irrational and often paranoid fixations that make the massacre of students and children an acceptable cost of fetishizing guns.
To the inevitable argument "that the Second Amendment acts as a barrier to anything like the gun laws, passed after mass shootings, that have saved so many lives in Canada and Australia," Adam replies: "In point of historical and constitutional fact, nothing could be further from the truth: the only amendment necessary for gun legislation, on the local or national level, is the Second Amendment itself, properly understood, as it was for two hundred years in its plain original sense."
But, but, but . . . the Supreme Court, you say? We'll come back to that moment. To summarize what he's calling the Second Amendment's "plain original sense," he offers a single sentence:
"Iif the Founders hadn’t wanted guns to be regulated, and thoroughly, they would not have put the phrase “well regulated” in the amendment.
And he offers what he calls "a quick thought experiment":
What if those words were not in the preamble to the amendment and a gun-sanity group wanted to insert them? Would the National Rifle Association be for or against this change? It’s obvious, isn’t it?
And, he points out, "The confusion is contemporary." (To which he adds parenthetically, "And, let us hope, temporary.") This confusion "rises," he notes, "from the younger-than-springtime decision D.C. v. Heller, from 2008, when Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a 5–4 majority, insisted that, whether he wanted it to or not, the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own a weapon." (Again he adds parenthetically, "A certain disingenuous show of disinterestedness is typical of his opinions.")
This was an astounding constitutional reading, or misreading, as original as Citizens United, and as idiosyncratic as the reasoning in Bush v. Gore, which found a conclusive principle designed to be instantly discarded—or, for that matter, as the readiness among the court’s right wing to overturn a health-care law passed by a supermajority of the legislature over a typo. Anyone who wants to both grasp that decision’s radicalism and get a calm, instructive view of what the Second Amendment does say, and was intended to say, and was always before been understood to say, should read Justice John Paul Stevens’s brilliant, persuasive dissent in that case. Every person who despairs of the sanity of the country should read it, at least once, not just for its calm and irrefutable case-making but as a reminder of what sanity sounds like.

Stevens, a Republican judge appointed by a Republican President, brilliantly analyzes the history of the amendment, making it plain that for Scalia, et al., to arrive at their view, they have to reference not the deliberations that produced the amendment but, rather, bring in British common law and lean on interpretations that arose long after the amendment was passed. Both “keep arms” and “bear arms,” he demonstrates, were, in the writers’ day, military terms used in military contexts. (Gary Wills has usefully illuminated this truth in the New York Review of Books.) The intent of the Second Amendment, Stevens explains, was obviously to secure “to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.” The one seemingly sound argument in the Scalia decision—that “the people” in the Second Amendment ought to be the same “people” referenced in the other amendments, that is, everybody—is exactly the interpretation that the preamble was meant to guard against.

Stevens’s dissent should be read in full, but his conclusion in particular is clear and ringing:
The right the Court announces [in Heller] was not “enshrined” in the Second Amendment by the Framers; it is the product of today’s law-changing decision.… Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes upsets that settled understanding.
Justice Stevens and his colleagues were not saying, a mere seven years ago, that the gun-control legislation in dispute in Heller alone was constitutional within the confines of the Second Amendment. They were asserting that essentially every kind of legislation concerning guns in the hands of individuals was compatible with the Second Amendment—indeed, that regulating guns in individual hands was one of the purposes for which the amendment was offered.

So there is no need to amend the Constitution, or to alter the historical understanding of what the Second Amendment meant. No new reasoning or tortured rereading is needed to reconcile the Constitution with common sense. All that is necessary for sanity to rule again, on the question of guns, is to restore the amendment to its commonly understood meaning as it was articulated by this wise Republican judge a scant few years ago. And all you need for that is one saner and, in the true sense, conservative Supreme Court vote. One Presidential election could make that happen.
So now all we need is a Supreme Court majority that (a) can read and (b) understands these excruciatingly simple points. (I will add parenthetically that personally, I'm not holding my breath.)

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Money And Guns... And The Politics Of Wall Street And The NRA


We've talked a lot here about how Wall Street banksters are spitting angrily about the relatively weak and avoidable rules and regulations that have come down in recent years to prevent their companies from ripping off consumers with alacrity. They really hate Elizabeth Warren, and they have powerful allies in Congress-- dependable bought-and-paid-for allies-- to keep her and the handful of like-minded Democratic reformers in check. 

Warren, though, is a force of nature, and so the Wall Streeters want ever more shills to counterbalance her. They weren't shy in telling the DSCC they would cut off all funding to Democratic candidates if they don't get what they're looking for-- and Chuck Schumer, the Senator from Wall Street, is making sure they do.

First let's look at Wall Street's most loyal servants in Congress, the dozen current members from each house who take the biggest payoffs and act the most consistently in Wall Street's interests:
The Senate

John McCain (R-AZ)- $37,945,978
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $22,994,437
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)- $11,418,151
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $8,018,716
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)- $7,535,820
Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $7,259,962
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)- $7,218,545
Mark Kirk (R-IL)- $7,194,292
Mark Warner (D-VA)- $7,169,169
Rob Portman (R-OH)- $7,118,113
Bob Corker (R-TN)- $6,886,661
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)- $6,366,345

The House of Representatives

John Boehner (R-OH)- $12,242,498
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)- $6,554,094
Ed Royce (R-CA)- $5,839,948
Charlie Rangel (D-NY)- $5,546,821
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $5,412,528
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)- $5,369,713
Joe Crowley (D-NY)- $5,355,602
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $5,328,298
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)- $5,019,124
Pete Sessions (R-TX)- $4,886,727
Jim Himes (D-CT)- $4,795,227
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)- $4,546,786
There's not a person on that list who doesn't belong in prison for taking bribes to sell out their constituents. But they write the laws and have left in the exact loopholes they need to avoid being charged and prosecuted-- although some let their avarice get control of them and wind up in a pickle, the way Robert Menendez is right now.

Ready for a leap? Democratic Party bosses-- and many of these folks above are Democratic Party bosses, like Schumer, Crowley and Hoyer-- insist, insist, insist that only conservatives, like themselves, can win elections. Corruption and conservatism go hand in hand. They can never be separated. Party bosses, and the media shills who hang on their every word, claim America is a "center-right nation" and that therefore they have no choice but to recruit center-right candidates like Patrick Murphy (FL), Donald Norcross (NJ), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Baron Hill (IN), Ted Strickland (OH), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Connor Eldridge (AR), Isadore Hall (CA), Monica Vernon (IA), Susie Lee (NV), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL) and Glenn Ivey (MD).

But America is not a "center-right nation," and elections are not more likely to be won by center-right Democrats than by progressives. To begin with, take a look at this chart, which shows the issues that in some combination tend to divide conservatives from normal people.

These days economic issues, particularly, is where both the corruption and the conservatism come in when you're looking at Democrats. Elizabeth Warren's latest attempt to put the banksters in check is an excellent example of how this works in the real world. Tierney Sneed reporting:
The Obama administration is moving forward with a plan that could bring a sea change to how retirement advisors must treat their clients, while financial industry-allies in Congress engage in another round of push back.

The new rules for retirement advisors that the President and consumer advocates are pushing address a conflict of interest the White House estimates costs retirement savers $17 billion annually. The problem? Contrary to what many investors believe, the advisors who direct them to retirement funds are not always required to act in their clients' best interests.

"People have incentives to push people in products that might not be the best for them, and when we're talking about longterm retirement savings even a small difference can make a big impact in the longterm retirement savings," Anne Tucker, a professor at Georgia State University College of Law, told TPM.

Due to decades-old loopholes in the current law, retirement advisors can direct their clients towards investments that compensate the advisors but are not the best option for the investor. This higher standard of responsibility is known as a "fiduciary duty."

“The way broker-dealers are often compensated is they get a percentage of retirement investments in vehicles in which their clients select, so they have incentives to place their clients or their customers in certain products that they get compensated for," Tucker said. "The idea is this conflicted advice costs individuals because they may be being encouraged to invest in vehicles that are higher fees, or may not produce the same longterm returns on their retirement investment.”

To use one example from a White House-cited report: "A retiree who receives conflicted advice when rolling over a 401(k) balance to an IRA at retirement will lose an estimated 12 percent of the value of his or her savings if drawn down over 30 years." That amounts to five fewer years a retiree can afford to live off of his or her investments, the report said.

The proposal from the Department of Labor would essentially require that financial advisors behave in their clients’ best interests when offering retirement investment advice, something that three-quarters of investment advice consumers assumed already was the case.

...The proposed regulations would close many of those loopholes, while still allowing for some exemptions. The rule change would allow advisors to continue to be compensated by funds they direct investors to, but they would have to more clearly disclose the fact of that compensation to their clients. They would also be required to enter into a contract declaring they nonetheless will act in their clients’ best interest.

“The rule’s biggest strength is that it fundamentally changes the way that retirement advisers will view their relationships with clients,” Arthur Laby, a professor at Rutgers School of Law, told the New York Times. “It sends a strong message that any behavior short of a fiduciary standard of conduct is unacceptable.”
Wall Street is treating defeating the proposed legislation as an existential battle; they're calling in all their chits and favors. House Republicans are already at war on their behalf. And what about Democrats like Schumer in the Senate and, in the House, Joe Crowley, Jim Himes and Patrick Murphy (who serves the banisters on the Financial Services Committee, and whom Schumer and the banksters are trying to help barge into the Senate)? Crowley, Himes and Murphy are all New Dems, a right-of-center grouping within the Democratic Party funded and owned by Wall Street. The New Dems are working full-time to undermine, sabotage and water down the legislation. Sneed: "The heavy pushback the Obama administration has received on the Hill reflects the kind of impact the regulations will have on the industry."

One more little leap: According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 98% of Democrats, 92% of independents and even 90% of Republicanos favor background checks for all gun purchases. The NRA, like Wall Street, controls enough members of Congress-- one entire party and enough corrupt conservatives in the other-- to prevent that from happening. President Obama spoke passionately after yesterday's mass gun slaughter in Oregon. Watch:

"This, the president told the nation, "is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America." He went on to advocate connecting desired policy outcomes-- in this case, immensely popular gun safety legislation-- with voting for one candidate or another.
The American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.
About a month ago, we took a look at some of the Democrats the NRA controls-- like Ted Strickland (an NRA A+ endorsee), who is running for the Ohio Senate seat against another NRA shill and gun lunatic, Republican incumbent Ron Portman. No choice? That's what primaries are for, and in this particular primary progressive P.G. Sittenfeld is running against both of the guns worshippers. P.G., who has been enthusiasticly endorsed by Blue America, has been using the promise of gun safety legislation as a way of differentiating himself from Portman and Strickland as a key plank in his campaign:
In the Senate, I will fight for common sense gun safety measures, starting with universal background checks with no gun show loopholes. Senseless killings by people who never should have had a gun in the first place must stop, and it's going to take more senators willing to stand up and do what's right  to make that happen.
Chuck Schumer is doing everything in his power to undermine P.G. Had President Obama endorsed him last night, he would have been headed for the Democratic nomination today. But did Obama really and truly believe what he said about "making a determination this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor" in elections? If he did, he can still endorse P.G. Sittenfeld today.

Schumer has an agenda and it isn't anything like ours

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More Evidence We've Reached a "Peak Water" Tipping Point in California


March in Yosemite, four years running (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

It may be a see-saw course, but it's riding an uphill train.

A bit ago I wrote, regarding climate and tipping points:
The concept of "tipping point" — a change beyond which there's no turning back — comes up a lot in climate discussions. An obvious tipping point involves polar ice. If the earth keeps warming — both in the atmosphere and in the ocean — at some point a full and permanent melt of Arctic and Antarctic ice is inevitable. Permanent ice first started forming in the Antarctic about 35 million years ago, thanks to global cooling which crossed a tipping point for ice formation. That's not very long ago. During the 200 million years before that, the earth was too warm for permanent ice to form, at least as far as we know.

We're now going the other direction, rewarming the earth, and permanent ice is increasingly disappearing, as you'd expect. At some point, permanent ice will be gone. At some point before that, its loss will be inevitable. Like the passengers in the car above, its end may not have come — yet — but there's no turning back....

I think the American Southwest is beyond a tipping point for available fresh water. I've written several times — for example, here — that California and the Southwest have passed "peak water," that the most water available to the region is what's available now. We can mitigate the severity of decline in supply (i.e., arrest the decline at a less-bad place by arresting its cause), and we can adapt to whatever consequences can't be mitigated.

But we can no longer go back to plentiful fresh water from the Colorado River watershed. That day is gone, and in fact, I suspect most in the region know it, even though it's not yet reflected in real estate prices.
Two of the three takeaways from the above paragraphs are these: "California and the Southwest have passed 'peak water'" and "most in the region know it." (The third takeaway from the above is discussed at the end of this piece.)

"For the first time in 120 years, winter average minimum temperature in the Sierra Nevada was above freezing"

My comment, that "most in the region know it," is anecdotal. What you're about to read below isn't. Hunter Cutting, writing at Huffington Post, notes (my emphasis):
With Californians crossing their fingers in hopes of a super El Niño to help end the state's historic drought, California's water agency just delivered some startling news: for the first time in 120 years of record keeping, the winter average minimum temperature in the Sierra Nevada was above freezing. And across the state, the last 12 months were the warmest on record. This explains why the Sierra Nevada snow pack that provides nearly 30% of the state's water stood at its lowest level in at least 500 years this last winter despite precipitation levels that, while low, still came in above recent record lows. The few winter storms of the past two years were warmer than average and tended to produce rain, not snow. And what snow fell melted away almost immediately.

Thresholds matter when it comes to climate change. A small increase in temperature can have a huge impact on natural systems and human infrastructure designed to cope with current weather patterns and extremes. Only a few inches of extra rain can top a levee protecting against flood. Only a degree of warming can be the difference between ice-up and navigable water, between snow pack and bare ground.

Climate change has intensified the California drought by fueling record-breaking temperatures that evaporate critically important snowpack, convert snowfall into rain, and dry out soils. This last winter in California was the warmest in 119 years of record keeping, smashing the prior record by an unprecedented margin. Weather records tend to be broken when a temporary trend driven by natural variability runs in the same direction as the long-term trend driven by climate change, in this case towards warmer temperatures. Drought in California has increased significantly over the past 100 years due to rising temperatures. A recent paleoclimate study found that the current drought stands out as the worst to hit the state in 1,200 years largely due the remarkable, record-high temperatures.
The rest of Cutting's good piece deals with what the coming El Niño will do. Please read if that interests you.

There's an easy way to think about this. Imagine the thermostat in your home freezer is broken and the temperature inside goes from 31 degrees to 33 degrees overnight, just above freezing, with no way to turn it down. Now imagine the Koch Bros (and "friends of carbon" Democrats) have emptied your town of repair people — every last one of them is gone. It's over, right? Everything in the freezer is going to thaw. Then the inside is going to dry out. And everyone in your house who doesn't already know this will figure it out. All because of a two-degree change in temperature that can't be reversed.

When it comes to climate, two non-obvious rules apply:
  • Change won't be linear; there will be sudden bursts at tipping points.
  • Pessimistic predictions are more likely to be right than optimistic ones.
Most people get this already, even if they haven't internalized it. Which is why most people already know, or strongly suspect, that California and the American Southwest have already crossed a line from which there will be no return. This revelation, from the state's water agency, just adds numbers. Time to act decisively? Do enough people think so?

Negative and Positive Takeaways

I said that two of the three takeaways about California, from the text I quoted at the beginning, were these: "California and the Southwest have passed 'peak water'" and "most in the region know it." The third is from the same sentence: "though it's not yet reflected in real estate prices"  — meaning farm land as well as urban property.

It's just a matter of time, though. Prices will fall as awareness hits, awareness that future prices can only fall. Note that prices in bear markets tend to be decidedly non-linear. And when that awareness does hit, when land is cheap, insurance expensive and the population in decline, nothing coming out of the mouths of the Kochs — or methane-promoting politicians in the Democratic Party — will change a single mind. (In terms of our playful freezer metaphor, you know the thing's going to end up in the yard, right? It just hasn't been carted out yet.)

But that's just the negative takeaway. There's a positive takeaway as well. It's not over everywhere, not yet. From the same piece quoted at the top, referring to the tipping point of extreme weather:
This [incidence of extreme weather] is "a" tipping point, not "the" tipping point. We have slid into a "new normal" for weather, but please note:
  • We're talking only about the weather, not a host of other effects, like extreme sea level rise. I don't think we've passed that tipping point yet.
  • We can stop this process whenever we want to — or rather, we can force the "carbon bosses" and their minions in government to stop whenever we want to stop them. They have only the power we collectively allow them to have.
It really is up to us, and it really is not too late in any absolute sense. For my playfully named (but effective) "Easter Island solution," see here. For a look at one sure way out, see here.
Will it take a decidedly non-linear, noticeably dramatic, event to create critical mass for a real solution? If so, we could use it soon, because the clock is ticking. It may be a see-saw course, but it's riding an uphill train. (Again, the real solution, expressed metaphorically, is here. Expressed directly, it's here. Everything less is a delaying tactic.)


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Kevin McCarthy-- Unfit To Be A Congressman, Let Alone Speaker Of The House


Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Majority Leader of the House-- still on track, if just barely, to replace John Boehner as speaker-- pissed off everyone by admitting that the purpose of the Benghazi committee was to give hyper-partisan Republicans an opportunity to smear Hillary Clinton and bring down her poll numbers. Only a complete moron didn't know that from the day the committee was proposed, but it still isn't something you're supposed to say out loud, even on Fox News. So now Democrats, from Harry Reid in the Senate to Adam Schiff in the House (and Tammy Duckworth in between), are calling for abolishing the committee, and some of the members are threatening to resign from it. Pelosi said she's thinking about yanking all the Dems off the bogus committee.

Even as complete a hack and shill for the GOP establishment as Joe Scarborough was on TV lamenting McCarthy's impolitic public exposure of the GOP plot-- if not the plot itself-- calling it "a rookie mistake." All process; no substance, as always on Morning Joe:
Morning Joe panelist and Bloomberg Politics editor Jon Heilemann also speculated that McCarthy's remarks would damage him in two ways. First, Heilemann said, McCarthy cited the Benghazi committee as one of his top accomplishments as GOP leader rather than an actual act of governing. Second, he said, McCarthy deviated from Chairman Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) and other Republicans' talking points about the committee being nonpartisan and not a "witch hunt."

"It gives her [Clinton] a huge talking point, undermines Gowdy and makes, I think, a lot of people in the Republican caucus wonder whether Kevin McCarthy is in fact up to the job of being speaker of the House," Heilemann said.
Georgia right-wing fanatic Erick Erickson used the episode to warn Republicans not to elect McCarthy Speaker, writing on his website:
McCarthy actually admitted that the Benghazi committee was designed to hurt Hillary Clinton politically" and that "[h]e is shallow and unprincipled and is showing what an opportunist he is willing to be. Conservatives in the House call him transactional-- meaning they think they can do business with him-- but at what price?... It's all downhill from here.
Yesterday, at the Washington Ideas Forum, when the only gal in Republican House leadership, Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), tried claiming the Benghazi committee isn't just a political tool the GOP came up with to beat up on Hillary, she was booed and hissed at. And on and on and on. But there's more to this than the Benghazi committee, which, thanks to seven of the worst right-wing Democrats, (only three of whom-- Patrick Murphy, Kyrsten Sinema and Collin Peterson-- are still in Congress), is counted as a bipartisan creation. More to the point, a point that Rachel Maddow made brilliantly in her Wednesday night show's opening (the video up top), is the competence of Kevin McCarthy for the job of Speaker.

McCarthy is a consummate schmoozer who just got bounced along by circumstance from one job to another until now he has become the ultimate personification of the Peter Principle, which holds that in a hierarchy-- like Congress-- people tend to "rise to their level of incompetence." As a relatively mediocre politician like McCarthy was promoted and rose in the ranks, he become progressively less effective, since even tangentially good performance in one job certainly doesn't guarantee acceptable performance in the next highest job. When he finally reaches the job where he can't hide poor performance, he doesn't get promoted-- and stays where he is forever (the definition of stagnation).

As Alex Rogers pointed out at the NationalJournal (and Maddow demonstrated in that video above), McCarthy doesn't have even close to the requisite knowledge and experience to do even a vaguely competent job as Speaker. He will always be dependent on-- and at the mercy of-- those around him. Whatever strengths he has have more to do with partisan politics than with legislating or policy. As Rogers put it, McCarthy 
rose to the top of D.C. in a flash-- about eight years-- up the lead­er­ship lad­der, fo­cus­ing less on ne­go­ti­at­ing com­prom­ises and more on build­ing the ranks of Re­pub­lic­ans (tak­ing the House in 2010) and his re­la­tion­ships with them, al­though in his role as his party’s primary vote-counter there were a hand­ful of high-pro­file face-plants.
Those who think he is up to the task are toadies or people of even less competence than he is.

By the way, though McCarthy's district is shifting demographically (because of a huge influx of Latinos, now 38%), the DCCC hasn't run against him since... since forever. Thanks to the DCCC, he's never been in a competitive race. Last year he was reelected with 75.4% of the vote. He didn't even have a token opponent in 2008 or 2010 and ran unopposed.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Maybe the best reason to spread word of Nancy Reagan's first home is that she doesn't seem to like people knowing


Justin's caption: "Though this modest 2-story frame house with yellow siding at 149-14 Roosevelt Avenue, between 149th Street and 149th Place, remains unmarked by a plaque or medallion of any kind, this is the home where former First Lady Nancy Reagan spent the first two years of her life."

by Ken

The other day I promised to return to what sounds like a fairly routine question: Where was Nancy Reagan born? What makes the question rather more interesting is that it seems to be a touchy subject for Mrs. Reagan, and suggests in turn that Mrs. R has a relationship to reality reminiscent of that of her late husband, the sainted Ronnie, whose most enduring legacy to the country seems to me the lesson, now totally absorbed by the Right, that reality is whatever you want it to be -- or, to put it another way, whatever makes you feel best.

Now of course "feeling best" doesn't necessarily mean "feeling contented." For right-wingers, in fact, it often means what seems like the opposite: feeling mad as hell. We just need to remember that one of the things they like best in life is feeling outraged, aggrieved, betrayed, and so on. And of course the people who treat the unwashed rubes like brainless puppets know this better than anyone, and know how much return there is to be gotten from getting the pathetic, otherwsie-useless, doody-kicking legions of right-wing saps hopping mad at the usual targets. Thus the ease of spreading psychotic delusions about, say, Hillary Clinton, or Planned Parenthood, or indeed anyone with a working brain and an ounce of decency or humanity.


Read more »

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Sanders Campaign Needs More Punk Rockers To Join The Chorus of Musical Support


photo of Alice Bag and Frightwig by Eric Goodfield

by Denise Sullivan

The rock 'n' roll choice for president is clear, according to the Artists and Cultural Leaders for Bernie Sanders. Politically conscious, engaged, and enlightened performers whether from folk roots like Bonnie Raitt or Jackson Browne, or edgier stock like Wayne Kramer, Jello Biafra, and Margaret Cho, comprise the diverse list of performers. Meshell Ndegeocello, Lucinda Williams, David Crosby, John Densmore, and Serj Tankian (System of a Down) have also signed on to support Sanders.

Of course music people traditionally lean left, whether Fleetwood Mac for Clinton or Bruce Springsteen for Obama; we rock the vote. We also know Democratic leaders and insiders rarely allow rebels like Sanders to prevail, but we in the arts and humanities must maintain hope and stand with Sanders. As a woman, I'm particularly interested in Sanders on the ERA and the Paycheck Fairness Act, his advocacy for increasing minimum wage, commitment to expanding health and reproductive rights, and belief that childcare, pre-school and parental leave should be available to all Americans, not just a privileged few.

While I don't know where original punk rocker Alice Bag stands on Sanders, over the weekend I heard her perform "Equality in the USA" with Frightwig in San Francisco at the Punk Renaissance, a weeklong festival organized by Punk Rock Sewing Circle, former punk rockers committed to social justice. Interestingly, Sanders has ties to punk rock, when as mayor of Burlington, he approved the Mayor's Youth Office and punk gathering spot, 242 Main. Not only do I think there could be a valuable meeting of the minds here-- as in a coalition of punk rockers for Sanders-- but Bag's powerful punk performance once again reminded me of my generation's musical ability to change hearts and public opinion in fundamental ways.

Sung to the tune of "Anarchy in the UK," Bag snarled, "Time for equal pay I thought this was the USA!" This is one punk rocker with plenty to say and she does it with more fire than most ("I'm tired of this patriarchal bullshit!"). Accompanied by the forceful  Frightwig, core members of the San Francisco scene who have long advocated for women's rights in song, the band's Mia Simmans led the group through her own anthem, "Redistribution of Wealth." Bag also sang out against Monsanto in "Poison Seed." The evening's lineup also featured the Mutants and Penelope Houston with the Avengers performing her "We Are The One" and "The American In Me," among other timeless indictments of a broken system.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear these kinds of songs, sung by women, leading our way into the future, instead of "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)." I look forward to the continually updated roll call of the artists joining the fight with Sanders, and more songs that will lead the way forward. Until that time, here's some inspiration worth remembering from punk rock's past.

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