Sunday, May 01, 2016

New York Values-- Zephyr Teachout vs A Culture Of Corruption

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Over the weekend Zephyr Teachout, the Blue America backed congressional candidate for the open blue-leaning seat in the Hudson Valley and Catskills (NY-19), made news twice. First came the announcement that, with no cooperation from a hostile DCCC she raised $418,000 in April, primarily from small grassroots donors who find her values-based, issues-oriented campaign appealing. She had already raised $530,733 by March 31, so she's closing in on a million dollars raised.

This turns the DCCC model on it's head in every way. Obama won this district against McCain 53-45% and then won it again in 2012 against Romney, 52-46%. The DCCC knows she's going to win this Republican-held seat and they're distraught over it. If Nancy Pelosi was worth a tenth of what the old Nancy Pelosi was worth, she'd go in there with a broom and clean the whole building out and start from scratch. But she's not... and she won't.

This was facilitated by an e-mail-- just one-- that Bernie sent out to his supporters in April, asking them to consider contributing to Teachout's campaign. "When we talk about a political revolution," he wrote, "we also need to have people in Congress who aren't beholden to special interests. That's why I want you to meet Zephyr Teachout, who's running for Congress in New York as a Democrat. Zephyr literally wrote the book on political corruption. She understands better than anybody how special interests try to buy off politicians, and she's dedicated her life to fixing our broken political system. Zephyr is exactly the kind of person I'd want in Congress when I'm president... Zephyr's not just against fracking-- she worked hand-in-hand with anti-fracking activists to help stop it in New York State. She's not just against political corruption-- she's led organizations to fight the influence of money in politics and to break up the banks too. And now that she's running for Congress, she's doing it with a grassroots movement, with more than 10,000 donors to her campaign in just a few months. Zephyr is the real deal. Can you help her with a contribution?"

That beats the DCCC model which dictates that candidates sell their souls to fat cats for maxed out contributions. That Zephyr can succeed this way drives party bosses like Israel, Schumer, Crowley and Hoyer to distraction. They refuse to put her or even the district on their Red to Blue page, which is primarily reserved for corrupt conservatives like Monica Vernon (IA), Randall Perkins (FL), Pete Gallego (TX), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Lon Johnson (MI), Val Demings (FL), Bryan Caforio (CA), and Mike Derrick (NY).

The second news Zephyr made over the weekend was the OpEd she penned for the Virginian-Pilot, far from the Hudson Valley geographically but about a topic as important to people in her district as it is for the folks in Virginia: there's no such thing as a free Rolex.
This week, the Supreme Court heard McDonnell v. United States, the case of Bob McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia who is appealing his 2014 conviction for public corruption. Although the court’s ruling is not expected until June, in Wednesday’s hearing several justices seemed set on undermining a central, longstanding federal bribery principle: that officials should not accept cash or gifts in exchange for giving special treatment to a constituent.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer dismissed the idea that, in the absence of a strong limiting principle, federal law could criminalize a governor who accepted a private constituent’s payment in exchange for intervening with a constituent problem. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. expressed disbelief that an official requesting agency action on behalf of a big donor would be a problem. A majority seemed ready to defend pay-to-play as a fundamental feature of our constitutional system of government.

In September 2014, after a six-week trial, a federal jury convicted McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, on multiple counts of extortion under the Hobbs Act, a key statute against political corruption, and honest-services fraud. It was not a complicated case. Jonnie Williams Sr., the chief executive of a dietary supplement manufacturer, Star Scientific, had showered the governor and first lady with gifts in return for favors.

We’re not talking about a few ham sandwiches. The McDonnells took expensive vacations, a Rolex, a $20,000 shopping spree, $15,000 in catering expenses for a daughter’s wedding and tens of thousands of dollars in private loans. In exchange, the governor eagerly promoted Williams’ product, a supplement called Anatabloc: hosting an event at the governor’s mansion, passing out samples and encouraging universities to do research.

There was ample evidence of connection between the favors and the governor’s actions. In one instance, McDonnell emailed Williams asking about a $50,000 loan, and six minutes later sent another email to his staff, requesting an update on Anatabloc scientific research. For the jury, that was more than enough to find McDonnell guilty.

The former governor has claimed on appeal that he had a First Amendment right to accept these gifts. He also disputed that holding meetings, hosting events at the governor’s mansion and recommending research were “official acts.” There were quids, he argued, but no quos.

The justices seem poised to agree. To overturn the McDonnells’ convictions, however, would also overturn more than 700 years of history, make bad law and leave citizens facing a crisis of political corruption with even fewer tools to fight it.

The legal principles involved date from England’s Statute of Westminster of 1275, which said that no officer of the king should take any payment for his public duties except what was owed by the monarch.

As modern corruption law developed, the axiom that an official shouldn’t accept gifts for public duties, broadly understood, was a basic feature of American law. The Supreme Court has held that under the Hobbs Act, “the Government need only show that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts.”

Otherwise, only the most unsophisticated criminal would ever get caught. A clumsy influence seeker might write an email offering “five diamonds for five votes in Congress,” but the powerful corrupting forces in our society would avoid explicit deals and give lavish gifts tied to meetings and speeches, winking and nodding all the while.

In its Citizens United ruling, the court gutted campaign finance laws. It acknowledged that American politics faced the threat of gift-givers and donors trying to corrupt the system, but it held that campaign finance laws were the wrong way to deal with that problem; bribery laws were the better path. Now, though, the court seems ready to gut bribery laws, saying that campaign finance laws provide a better approach. But if both campaign finance laws and bribery laws are now regarded as problematic, what’s left?

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the framers devoted themselves to building a system that would be safe from moneyed influence.

“If we do not provide against corruption,” argued Virginia delegate George Mason, “our government will soon be at an end.”

Today, Virginia’s former governor proposes that there is a “fundamental constitutional right” to buy and sell access. If the court finds in his favor, it will have turned corruption from a wrong into a right.
Americans are sick and tired of corrupt elites leading society. Let's make sure we elect Zephyr Teachout to Congress, first in her June 28 primary and then in November when she'll be up against either Andrew Heaney or John Faso, each of whom has raised around double what she's raised.
Goal Thermometer

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Ownership Of Self Isn't That Hard A Concept-- And You Better Start Understanding It

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Politically savvy Angelenos are excited that we don't have to always face east-- towards Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Alan Grayson (D-FL)-- when we're looking for a champion of civil liberties. We have our own: Ted Lieu in the Pacific coast district that goes from up in Malibu, down through Santa Monica, Venice, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and past Rancho Palos Verdes, AKA "Silicon Beach," a hub of technological entrepreneurship based on Southern California's traditional valuing of independent minds and its dominant small business ethos. Lately, it's been Lieu standing up in Congress for the personal privacy issues that are redefining the new technological era.

Aral Balkan-- the guy in the video up top-- should get together with Congressman Lieu for a discussion of the nature of the self in the digital age. Balkan wrote an OpEd for Zeit Online based on an exploration of how the nature of "ownership of self" is changing.
The nature of modern technology

Your smart television, the watch on your wrist, your kid’s new Barbie doll and the car that you drive (drives you?) all have one thing in common: they all work by gathering data-- personal information-- about you, your friends, and your family.

While this might sound creepy in and of itself, it is not the real problem.

Modern technology works by collecting swathes of (often personal) data. This is simply a fact of life. We’re not going to change that.

The important question is this: who owns and controls the data about you and the mechanisms by which it is collected, analysed, and transformed into useful services?

If the answer to this question is "I do" then we don’t have a problem. In such a world, technology would work to empower individuals with greater information about themselves and the world around them and translate that information into useful superpowers.

Sadly, we do not live in that world.

Today, the answer to the question is that multinational corporations like Google and Facebook own and control both your personal data and the means of collecting, analysing, and deriving value from it.

This is a socio-techno-economical state that Shoshana Zuboff of the Harvard Business School calls Surveillance Capitalism.

To understand why Surveillance Capitalism is so problematic, we must first understand two fundamental concepts: the nature of the self and the nature of data in the digital age.

The nature of the self in the digital age

According to Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, any well-designed technology should play the role of a butler when interacting with a human being. Say I want to remember something for later and I have my smart phone with me. The conversation between us could go something like this:

Me: Butler, remember this for later.

My phone: Sure, sir, I’ve noted it down in the Notes app for you.

Me: Thank you.

In fact, with technologies like Siri, you can have this exact same conversation today.

This is the mainstream way of viewing our relationship to technology: as the conversation between two actors. In this case, me and my phone. If this is how we see technology, surveillance is signals capture between two actors. This is no different to what the Stasi did when they bugged your home and listened in on your conversations. It’s not nice but it is what surveillance traditionally has been.

But what if this is not the nature of our relationship with technology?

What if, when I write down a thought on my phone to remember it later, what I am actually doing is extending my mind, and thereby extending my self using the phone.

Today, we are all cyborgs. This is not to say that we implant ourselves with technology but that we extend our biological capabilities using technology. We are sharded beings; with parts of our selves spread across and augmented by our everyday things.

Perhaps it is time to extend the boundaries of the self to include the technologies by which we extend our selves.

If this is how we begin to see our everyday things – not as separate actors but as extensions of our selves-- then several things become very clear:

Firstly, surveillance no longer becomes signals capture but a violation of the self. Consider the current Apple vs FBI case where the FBI wants to set a precedent so that they can access anyone’s phone. I’ve heard the request likened to a request by law enforcement to access a safe [NPR]. Nothing could be further from the truth. My iPhone is not like a safe any more than my brain is like a safe. It is a part of my self. In which case, if you want to get into my iPhone, what you really want to do is to violate my self. This is an assault on the self. And we already have a rich body of laws and regulations that protect the sanctity of the self and the rights of human beings.

Secondly, it becomes clear that we don’t need to concoct a new Internet Bill of Rights or a Magna Carta for the Web or any such nonsense: all we need to do is to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-- the human rights we already have-- to the digital era. There isn’t a digital world and a real world. There isn’t human rights and “digital rights.” The things that we are talking about are one and the same.

And, finally, we can begin to understand the true nature of those who peddle in our personal data and start to effectively regulate this egregious practice.

But first, we must also understand the nature of data.

The nature of data

We often hear data referred to as a valuable asset. According to Wired magazine, it is the new oil. It is only because we do not understand the true nature of data that we are not absolutely repulsed by such a comparison.

Let me illustrate:

Say I have a small figurine. If I have enough data about this figurine, I can take a 3D printer and I can create an exact copy of it. Now imagine what I can do if I have enough data about you. Data about a thing, if you have enough of it, becomes the thing.

Data about you is you.

Personal data isn’t the new oil, personal data is people.

Now this is not to say that Google, Facebook, and the countless other startups in the cult of Silicon Valley want to 3D print you. No, of course not. They simply want to profile you. To simulate you. For profit.

The business model of surveillance capitalism-- the business model of Google, Facebook, and countless other Silicon Valley startups-- is to monetise human beings. We all know that Facebook and Google operate huge server farms. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it is, exactly, that they are farming? Because if you do, you might quickly come to the conclusion to that is it us. What are Google and Facebook if not factory farms for human beings?

If this sounds familiar, it should: we have been practising variations of this business model for a very long time.

We call the very lucrative and yet dispicable business of selling people’s bodies "slavery." The business model of mainstream technology today is to monetise everything about you that makes you who are apart from your body. What should we call this?

We have a shameful history of selling people. Today, the business model of mainstream technology is to sell everything about you that makes you who you are apart from your physical body. What should we call that?


This isn’t a technology problem…

The modern-day system of colonialism and sharecropping being constructed by the new East India Company that is Silicon Valley isn’t uncouth or stupid enough to put people in physical shackles. It doesn’t want to own your body, it is content with owning your simulation. And yet, as we have already seen, the more data they have about you-- the higher the fidelity of your simulation-- the closer they are to owning you.

Your simulation is not a static thing either-- it is a living, breathing construct (in algorithms, if not biological cells). It lives in the labs of Google, Inc., and Facebook, Inc., and is constantly subject to hundreds if not thousands of experiments aimed to analyse and better understand you. These are the sort of experiments which, if they were performed on your captive physical person, would land the executives at these companies in prison for crimes against humanity.

All of this personal information, and the wealth of insight derived from it, belong to the corporations and, by extension (as Edward Snowden has shown us), are shared with governments.

This creates a huge power differential between individuals and corporations and between individuals and their governments.

If I take a camcorder and walk into Google, Inc, I will be arrested. However, Google records countless homes with its Nest cameras. The world of Surveillance Capitalism is one in which those who have a right to privacy-- individuals-- do not have it while those who should be transparent-- corporations and democratic governments-- do.

When Mark Zuckerberg says "privacy is dead," he’s only talking about your privacy, not his. When he buys a house, he buys the houses on both sides also. His privacy, the privacy of Facebook, Inc., and the privacy of your government are still very much alive and well.

If this doesn’t sound like democracy, it is because it is not. Surveillance Capitalism isn’t compatible with democracy.

The system we live in today can best be described as a corporatocracy; a feudalism of corporations.

Ours is a neo-colonial age of multinational monopolies.

A digital imperialism, if you will.

The rise of corporatocracy is our reward for decades of unchecked neoliberalism and Californian ideology. It brings with it an unparalleled level of systemic inequality that has resulted in 62 people having as much wealth as half of the world’s poorest population combined (that’s 3.5 billion people). It carries alongside it the wholesale destruction of our habitat through resource depletion and climate change. It is, to put it bluntly, an existential threat for our species.

This is not a technology problem.

It is a capitalism problem.

And the answer is better, stronger democracy.

Decentralised, zero-knowledge alternative technologies can play an important role is helping us achieve better civil liberties and democracy but technology is not a silver bullet. Without regulatory and statutory changes, those technologies will simply be deemed illegal and those of us who build them will become the new Snowdens and Mannings.

Our challenge is great: The alternatives that we create must be convenient and accessible. They must be ethically designed and non-colonial in nature. This is no small task. But neither is it infeasible. I know because I am first-hand coding such alternatives today (and others are, also).

The battle for our civil liberties and democracy will be fought with our new everyday things. The outcome will determine whether we remain quantified serfs toiling in a digital feudalism or whether we live as free citizens, empowered by technology that we own and control as individuals to explore the potential of our species in the stars.

I wish and work for the latter future.

I hope you will, also.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt wasn't joking around when he said "If you have something you don't want everyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." He was dead serious. Let's make sure we do what we can to keep Ted Lieu in Congress:
Goal Thermometer

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KKK Imperial Wizard Backs Trump While George Will Whines About Making Hillary A One-Term President

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In a recent interview with the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Richmond's NBC-TV affiliate, WWBT, reports why the Klan is backing Trump and find themselves in the #NeverCruz kamp:
"I think Donald Trump would be best for the job," said the Imperial Wizard. "The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes in, we believe in. We want our country to be safe."

The Imperial Wizard said he supports Trump’s calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

"If Donald Trump dropped out tomorrow I would support Kasich before I would Ted Cruz because he is not an American citizen," said the Imperial Wizard. "Even if I agree with some of the things that Ted Cruz says, I would not support him because he was born in Canada. He is not an American citizen."
The list of Republicans on the #NeverTrump team is puny and without the power to sway the GOP primary base from nominating a fascist for president. Many are self-aggrandizing Hate Talk Radio blowhards with personal grudges-- Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Steve Deace, Charlie Sykes, Michael Berry-- and Republicans retiring from Congress at the end of the year anyway-- Scott Rigell (VA), Richard Hanna (NY) and Reid Ribble (WI)-- or members in blue districts about to get wiped out in November, like Carlos Curbelo (FL) and Bob Dold (IL). Friday Politico reported that Stop-Trump fever has broken and everyone is ready to get on board. After all, on Friday didn't Indiana Gov. Mike Pence-- too scared of Indiana Republicans to do otherwise-- half endorse Trump in a speech meant to rally the base to Ted Cruz? In Boehner's Lucifer remarks about Cruz, he was certainly indicating he prefers Trump. Professional "moderate" billionaire Jon Huntsman: "We've had enough intraparty fighting. Now's the time to stitch together a winning coalition. And it's been clear almost from the beginning that Donald Trump has the ability to assemble a nontraditional bloc of supporters… The ability to cut across traditional party boundaries-- like '80, '92 and 2008-- will be key, and Trump is much better positioned to achieve that."
Now, it looks like it’s the opposition-- not Trump-- who is dividing the GOP.



“We are not doing anything in the interest of party unity,” said Katie Packer, founder of the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, which put out a blistering anti-Trump ad Friday afternoon. “We do not think there is anything noble about wrapping our arms around a candidate who isn't a Republican, doesn't have a serious policy agenda and has not secured a majority of Republican votes.”

“I'm willing to do anything in my power to stop Trump from hijacking our party,” Packer continued.

But pro-Cruz and anti-Trump forces are running out of options to prevent Trump from becoming the nominee. If the real estate developer and reality television star scores a big win in Indiana on Tuesday, Cruz’s only remaining strategy may be a hostile takeover of the Republican National Convention-- a move GOP insiders still see as possible but certainly one that could severely damage the party.

Trump’s growing list of elected allies are encouraging Cruz to discard any such thinking.

"It’d hurt the very party that they want to represent,” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) told Politico on Friday. "That’s not good and that’s why I believe that the establishment and people in Washington should say this is over. Donald Trump is clearly, clearly who the people want.”
Clearly. But George Will is now claiming that it is the duty of the Republican Party or the Republican Party establishment to prevent Trump from getting into the White House even if he wins the nomination, as he's about to. The damage Trump is doing to his beloved GOP has barely even begun, he hisses menacingly from the sidelines.
Trump would be the most unpopular nominee ever, unable to even come close to Mitt Romney’s insufficient support among women, minorities and young people. In losing disastrously, Trump probably would create down-ballot carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House. Ticket splitting is becoming rare in polarized America: In 2012, only 5.7 percent of voters supported a presidential candidate and a congressional candidate of opposite parties.

At least half a dozen Republican senators seeking reelection and Senate aspirants can hope to win if the person at the top of the Republican ticket loses their state by, say, only four points, but not if he loses by 10. A Democratic Senate probably would guarantee a Supreme Court with a liberal cast for a generation. If Clinton is inaugurated next Jan. 20, Merrick Garland probably will already be on the court-- confirmed in a lame-duck Senate session-- and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer will be 83, 80 and 78, respectively.

...Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states-- condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. Second, conservatives can try to save from the anti-Trump undertow as many senators, representatives, governors and state legislators as possible.

...If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power. Six times since 1945 a party has tried, and five times failed, to secure a third consecutive presidential term. The one success-- the Republicans’ 1988 election of George H.W. Bush-- produced a one-term president. If Clinton gives her party its first 12 consecutive White House years since 1945, Republicans can help Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump, confine her to a single term.


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What Hillary Won't Agree To On May Day... Or Any Other Day

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Let's put Adolph Reed's quote-- "Ideology is the mechanism that harmonizes the principles that you want to hold and what gets you paid"-- aside for a moment and look at what Bernie would like to accomplish within the confines of the Democratic Party at this point. During a speech Thursday in Springfield, Oregon he said said the party should go back to Howard Dean's 50-state strategy-- shit-canned by Rahm Emanuel, Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- as well as towards open primaries and automatic voter registration. "All over this country we have Republican governors trying to make it harder for people to vote," he reminded his supporters. "Our job is make it easier. Bring more people into the system and that means if you are 18 years of age you are registered to vote, end of discussion." Aside from the process reforms, there are specific policy proposals he would like to see the party adopt-- from free public university education, a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation, significant improvements to Obamacare in the direction of Medicare-for-all, and a real commitment to fighting climate change to equal pay for equal work for women, far more muscular Wall Street reform, expanded Social Security and a fairer tax system.

Hillary's unlikely to go along with any of this-- other than equal pay for women-- and her supporters insist that Bernie has already pushed her too far to the left in a way that will risk her general election victory. This is absurd for a number of reasons. First of all Bernie's proposals are extremely popular among Democrats and independents and the only groups who don't like them are die-hard Republicans and the wealthy Clinton financiers who have captured her career. If the general election is between Hillary and Trump-- as looks likely-- it will be an ugly, bitter, divisive lesser-of-two-evils contest in which policy nuances will not play a decisive role.

One of her conservaDem Missouri surrogates, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, sounds a lot like the official Clinton line: "I don’t know what’s left to extract," claiming Bernie has pushed her "farther to the left than most moderate Democrats would like to see. Some would say it even endangers a victory in November because the further you go to the left or right, the further you frustrate independents." First off, Cleaver uses Beltway-speak that substitutes "moderate" for "corrupt conservative." Second, it wrongly pre-supposes that independent voters (40% of the electorate now) are between the 2 corrupted Beltway professional parties instead of against them, a concept Beltway politicians find impossible to grasp.

In the new issue of Jacobin, Samir Chopra makes a compelling case that "Clinton's record suggests she’ll wield power to undermine progressive goals-- not advance them." His critique stems from her "political opportunism, her reflexive secrecy, her frequent patronage of friends and cronies, her belligerent approach to foreign policy, her scant legislative record in the Senate, and her unimpressive tenure as secretary of state." His point is that "her identification with, and championing of the interests of, the powerful and wealthy American elite that makes her an unworthy candidate."
The Clintons are card-carrying members of that elite: Bill Clinton’s wealth has been estimated at is $55 million; Hillary’s at $32 million. They defend the powerful and the structures that maintain that power, they pay lip service to caring for the not-so-fortunate, and under cover of doing so, find ways to increase their wealth and political power (as the close ties between their Clinton Foundation and its corporate allies show)... Clinton’s record has repeatedly demonstrated: her desire to cozy up to power and her disinclination to rock political boats; her commitment to expediency above any political principle; and her trafficking in greed of several flavors.

In Arkansas, during her pre-Washington days, Clinton served on Walmart’s board for six years and never spoke up against its anti-union activities or against its discrimination against women, and in her Senate campaign, Clinton supported the death penalty, welfare restrictions, and a balanced budget.

Once in the Senate, she voted for the Iraq war-- without, as Henwood notes, even reading the intelligence report on Iraq-- while opposing the 2001 bankruptcy reform bill, which made it harder for ordinary Americans to file for bankruptcy, more often than not caused by unaffordable medical bills.

Overall, Clinton’s legislative record was scant, and as [My Turn: Hillary Clinton Takes Aim At The Presidency author Doug] Henwood caustically concludes, purely nominal-- the equivalent of “opposing cancer.” In this regard, Clinton is in no way unique among career politicians, but she’s certainly no transformational outsider either.

...Clinton’s lack of progressive ideals is especially visible in her work as secretary of state-- a record that Henwood subjects to especially withering analysis-- where she oversaw a belligerent foreign policy: she backed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, supported intervention in Libya, called for strikes in Syria, urged an ongoing military role in Iraq, and enthusiastically supported Israel’s policies in Gaza.

As secretary of state, Clinton supposedly worked on issues like “empowerment of women, gay rights, Third World development, health and internet freedoms,” but there is little tangible impact to report in those domains. She did help impose tough sanctions on Iran and negotiated neoliberal free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. She also dispensed plenty of patronage to friends, ensuring waiver of the usual background scrutiny for those she hired to well-paid positions at the Department of State.

In a classic instance of neocolonial appropriation of nationalized industries, Clinton actively worked to open up Mexican oil and gas to American corporations, and joined a long and dishonorable tradition of American foreign policy by supporting a coup in Honduras against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya.

Henwood’s account of the Clinton State Department is damning in other respects as well. He argues that the position was extremely lucrative for the Clintons: in a rather transparent quid pro quo Clinton dispensed favors in international business deals to her corporate allies who in turn donated to the Clinton philanthropies-- business elites got contracts and in turn gave funds to the foundation, which were siphoned off for luxurious travel and sundry expenses.

During her tenure as secretary of state, Bill Clinton gave ten of his thirteen speeches-- between 2001 and 2012-- that have netted him over half a million dollars each; “many of those speeches were sponsored by groups with interests before the state department.” As Henwood notes, journalists can only go so far in charging the Clintons with corruption; legal investigation is needed to make these charges stick.

Whatever factors motivated Clinton’s retreat from the positions she once held, she has now had ample opportunity-- as first lady, as US senator, as secretary of state-- to demonstrate how she will wield power once she gets it; it is implausible to suggest the real, more progressive politician will emerge once the demands of the campaign are behind her.

Henwood’s critique of Clinton is, however, more than just a long recitation of charges to be laid at her door. He reminds us real political change will only be achieved by unglamorous work, by racking up, slowly, the small victories of the kind that Clinton, in her battles against ACORN in Arkansas, did a great deal to undermine.

It will not be enough to crown a new ruler; militant political mobilization and worker organizing remain the only sure way to challenge entrenched corporate power.
In the immortal words of Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up. Let's support the candidates who are doing just that in their congressional campaigns, who don't believe in ever giving up the fight... here at the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Would You Believe Campaign Cash-- Bribes Basically-- Keeps Up The Price Of Medications?

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This afternoon we looked at David Jolly's STOP Act, an attempt to start chipping away at the domination of big money over Congress. Several people told me I should have included some concrete examples of how the money chase influences policy. Of course, that's been one of the major themes of DWT since 2005 but let me offer a specific example I ran across today regarding how Big Pharma bribes Congress to keep drug prices high. Ryan Grim pointed out that pharmaceutical industry lobbyists are desperate to slow down an Obama administration plan to reduce drug prices and that they're getting some help from both sides of the aisle. Before we get into looking at how Huff Po dealt with that yesterday, lets take a quick look at which House members are scooping up the biggest does of cash from Big Pharma so far this cycle. So far in the cycle they've spent $8,982,706 bribing members of the House, of which $5,779,854 went to Republicans and $3,202,852 went to Democrats. This year's dirty dozen:
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $288,050
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $254,139
Kevin Brady (R-TX)- $198,751
John Shimkus (R-IL)- $188,190
Erik Paulsen (R-MN)- $186,550
Frank Pallone (D-NJ)- $168,113
Fred Upton (R-MI)- $159,350
Renee Ellmers (R-NC)- $155,449
Brett Guthrie (R-KY)- $138,199
Leonard Lance (R-NJ)- $133,100
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)- $126,190
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)- $123,335
No, none of them have signed on as co-sponsors of Jolly's bill to prevent congressmembers for asking for bribes-- but all of them are integral to pushing Pharma's agenda in Congress. And one thing Pharma wants is to stop the Obama administration plan to promulgate a "new rule that would experiment with ending the financial incentive doctors have for prescribing some extremely expensive medications." When doctors prescribe an expensive drug to a patient they can take a 6% cut off the top-- so a lot of overly expensive drugs get prescribed a lot more frequently than is reasonable.

The Democrats say their protests against the rule aren't as bad as the Republicans' protests
The Democratic letter gives HHS the opportunity to quickly answer the questions and move forward with the rule, while the GOP missive aims to stop it cold. All of the tussling takes place amid the implicit threat to attach a rider to legislation that would block the rule. If Republicans think they can do so without much Democratic opposition, there’s little to stop them. Pelosi’s alternate letter can be seen as an attempt to show there is division between the parties in how frightened they respectively are of the powerful lobbies at work here.

Pelosi encouraged her caucus to get behind the Neal letter to fend off the GOP attack. In fact, Pelosi’s office even helped with the letter: Democrats forgot to scrub their data from the document before circulating it, and an inspection of its properties reveals that it was last handled by a health policy fellow in Pelosi’s office.

The Republican letter simply asks for HHS to withdraw its new rule, citing “deep concerns.”

...The Medicare drugs proposal is part of a larger push by the White House to tackle prescription drug costs, which are rising rapidly even as costs in other parts of the health care system have grown more slowly in recent years. The administration is limited in what it can do to ameliorate drug spending without new legislation, but convened a forum at the White House in November to air the issue and has issued a slate of smaller reforms.

Any effort targeting the pharmaceutical industry and a segment of the medical community’s wallets is bound to attract staunch opposition, as this Medicare plan has. The proposal launched a fierce lobbying battle, with drug makers, cancer doctors and some patient groups charging that the plan to shift the financial incentives to provide more expensive drugs, higher doses of the medicines or both would be harmful to patients and interfere with clinical decisions by health care providers.

Congressional Quarterly recently reported that “the pharmaceutical industry is spending record sums in Washington, amid rising congressional and regulatory interest in high drug prices,” noting that its spending in the first quarter of 2016 outpaced everything since 2010, the height of lobbying over Obamacare.

The pharmaceutical industry also is fighting back against a set of cost-cutting proposals released this month by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a coalition that includes the lobbying arms of the hospital and health insurance industries, physician societies, the seniors’ advocacy group AARP and large companies such as Walmart.

The rationale for the proposed regulation is that the current system not only can overpay for these drugs, but can encourage physicians to use medicines that are the most profitable to their practices instead of most appropriate for patients. The independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on policy, has cautioned about these incentives and urged lawmakers to update the way these drug prices are set.

The change would affect medicines administered by doctors in a medical setting, not drugs purchased at pharmacies and taken by patients, and those costs are covered by Medicare Part B, the portion of the program that pays for doctor visits and similar services. Medicare spends about $20 billion a year on these medications, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under a formula created during the George W. Bush administration, physicians who purchase these medicines for use in their offices are paid the “average sales price” of the drugs plus an additional 6 percent. The Obama administration wants to reduce the markup to 2.5 percent plus a fee of $16.80 per day. The regulation also would call for experiments with other payment methods, including linking the amount doctors get to how well the medicine works to treat patients’ illnesses.

As one senior House Democratic aide put it in an email:
Basically the old system was really good for doctors-- they got paid more if they prescribed really expensive drugs because they got a percentage of the cost of the drug. So guess what they did? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We’ve been trying to solve this problem for awhile and the spike in drug costs has made it even more urgent. The administration certainly went big and bold with this proposal but many people think it will be dialed back somewhat in the final version. Only a few specialties will really lose out, the others will actually benefit. But those specialists are the ones who have been making tons of $ on a broken system. Is it their fault the system is broken? Of course not. Is it their fault that drug costs have gone up so much? No, but you didn’t see them complaining too much either.
Meanwhile Indiana crook Larry Bucshon (R), says he's introduce legislation to repeal whatever the Obama administration passes along these lines and vows he has Democratic votes lined up-- New Dems and Blue Dogs, primarily, not actual Democrats-- to make it look bipartisan. So how's that for understanding how campaign contributions make your life worse?

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My Fabulous, Wonderful Adventure At Stony Brook This Week

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This was a pretty special week for me. My doctor gave me permission to fly for the first time since my stem cell transplant left me without an immune system. I've spent the last 6 months gets immunized for everything from whooping cough and diptheria to polio and dozens of strains of influenza. But she told me I can start going to concerts again and even go on planes-- crowded places where germs are known to lurk. My old university, Stony Brook, had planned a ceremony to honor my support of the EOP/AIM program, which provides access to higher education-- and the opportunities that come with that-- for economically disadvantaged students who possess the potential to succeed in college, but whose academic preparation in high school has not fully prepared them to pursue college education. The scholarship I've set up with them is particularly aimed at kids determined to pursue a career in public service.

I wasn't sure what they had in mind but I did know there would be a ceremony starting at 5 and there'd be dinner. Since I was going out there for the day anyway, I asked if it would be possible to put together a lunch with the current EOP/AIM students who are interested in public service and I asked 3 friends to join me in answering questions from the students, DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, and a current candidate for Congress (Peter King's seat on Long Island's South Shore); Tom Suozzi, the fiery former Nassau County Executive who is also running for Congress this year (Steve Israel's seat on the North Shore); and David Keith, closer in age to the students and one of the most sought-after political strategists anywhere in America, currently employed by Michael Bloomberg and Bette Midler's non-partisan greening of New York initiative.

My three guests were outstanding and, judging by the questions and responses, the students seemed to get a great deal out of it. Afterwards a faculty member stood up and announced that long after the students in the room had forgotten any individual classes they had taken during their college careers, they would probably still remember the two plus hours we had just spent talking about public service and leadership.

DuWayne Gregory has been endorsed by Blue America and we've talked about his qualifications for office and about his campaign for the seat before. The other candidate, Tom Suozzi, is in the middle of the extensive Blue America vetting process and we haven't written much about him and his swing-district race that came alive when Steve Israel announced he would finally be retiring from Congress. Tom is a consummate Long Island politician, albeit always a fighter and an outsider, never an establishment hack, and he turned out to be a truly inspirational speaker in the best sense of the term.

The NY-03 race features 5 Democrats vying for Israel's seat, including Jonathan Clarke, the candidate who endorsed Bernie and is running on his platform, plus 3 pretty standard, garden variety careerist local Democrats, Jon Kaiman, Anna Kaplan and Israel-crony Steve Stern. Suozzi is the outlier in the bunch, the deep thinker, primarily concerned with what he can do to perfect democracy and make the lives of his Nassau, Suffolk and Queens constituents better.

As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline, Israel's candidate, Steve Stern, had raised the most money, $500,634 (including nearly $70,000 in self-funding) with the help of Israel's machine. Suozzi, a late entrant into the race, was close behind with $451,306, an amount similar to the $445,161 Anna Kaplan had raised. Jon Kaiman reported $242,379 and Jonathan Clarke, who's running a Bernie-style small donor campaign, hadn't generated enough money to have triggered a report by the end of March. Many observers are betting on Suozzi to win the Democratic nomination and to go on and win the district, which is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans but swings reliably blue in presidential years. Obama won the area against McCain 54-46% and 4 years later beat Romney there, 51-48%.

This cycle, the DCCC has been quietly counseling their corrupt conservative candidates to challenge their progressive opponents' ballot petition signatures, tying them up in court and draining their campaign funds in endless and expensive bickering. Israel recently got his puppet candidate, Steven Williams to try that with Syracuse progressive Eric Kingson and the DCCC succeed with that strategy to knock Lindy Li off the ballot for "ex"-Republican Mike Parrish in a suburban Philadelphia district. Jon Kaiman, a sleazy ex-Hempstead town supervisor, clallenged Suozzi's signatures, in what looks like a Steve Israel-inspired move that he hopes will help Stern. The likely Republican nominee, Jack Martins, pointed out, through his campaign manager, that "Whoever wins will be crawling across the finish line bruised and out of money" and that "Martins will be ready for them and will win in November."
Though more than 2,400 people signed Suozzi’s petition backing him as a candidate, Kaiman’s campaign charges the former Nassau County executive did not have 1,250 signatures from active registered Democrats living in the Third Congressional District.

“Suozzi did not submit the required number of valid signatures, and thus is not eligible to run for Congress,” Kaiman campaign manager Jeff Guillot said in a statement Monday. “As was shown, by our successful filing of over 4,000 signatures, it takes only grassroots support and a strong organization to get on the ballot.”

The signatures in question could be from people registered under different parties or at an address outside the district, or those who signed more than one candidate petition.

In a statement on Tuesday, Suozzi campaign manager Mike Florio said Suozzi’s petition is valid and called Kaiman’s objections “sad attempts by his opponents to distract voters from the real issues” that come “straight out of the Republican playbook.”

Back to Stony Brook for a moment, the school I graduated from in 1969. The Suffolk County legislature recognized the award the university gave me last week with an official proclamation of congratulations, a fancy-looking document suitable for framing and hanging. I had to laugh because my last previous interaction with Suffolk County was when I was the focus of the largest college campus drug bust in history (until then), Operation Stony Brook. Being incredibly incompetent, the police failed to arrest me. (They used to try busting me by sending policemen "disguised" with store-bought fake beards and hippie vests but with police shoes sticking out under their pants.) Anyway, instead the corrupt, Republican D.A., Harry O'Brien, negotiated with me to testify at a Grand Jury convened in Riverhead. During the proceedings there was a lot of screaming and cursing from righteously indignant conservatives and O'Brien had vowed to lock me up forever. He failed and years later he was caught late one night on Jones Beach with an underage black kid engaging in oral sex. These conservatives never change! But after all these years Suffolk County has changed-- and very much for the better; hey... I guess they like me now.

The picture up top is of me and Stony Brook poet Nickeisha Gaynor-- you can call her Keisha-- who introduced me at the ceremony. The Right To Grow Up is a video she made as a class project, inspired by Black Lives Matter, connecting the Jim Crow era to the present day. It's worth watching:

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Grayson: "Money Is The Original Sin Of Politics And Governance"

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Campaign money is very bipartisan and is also the root of power for the congressional leadership. It takes a special kind of crooked mind-- a Rahm Emanuel, a Mitch McConnell, a John Boehner, a Chuck Schumer, a Steny Hoyer, a Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- to suck up to the corrupt sources of cash and then use it to buy influence from your colleagues without those kinds of inclinations but with the same all-encompassing need to raise ungodly sums of money for reelection.

Jolly, a former lobbyist himself, told the CBS News audience this week that to chase the money-changers out of the temples of government the American people are going to have to get genuinely angry, something he contends will happen "when they learn that you have a part time Congress in a full-time world, spending more time shaking down the American people for money than doing their job."

His appearance on 60 Minutes, which CBS has conveniently expunged from YouTube, infuriated the congressional leadership of both parties-- and the NRCC is pushing back against Jolly hard, accusing him of lying "when he told O’Donnell that he was told at a meeting shortly after being elected that he needed to raise $18,000 every day."
"Simply put, this meeting never happened,” [NRCC Executive Director Rob] Simms writes. “It is a work of fiction. Had the reporter or producer of the story bothered to verify this claim, they would have been told as much.”

The letter was made public in a story written by Politico Friday afternoon.

Jolly’s congressional office denies Simms statement outright, and they say they have the exact time and date when Jolly was told by “party leadership” the directive that he was going to have to raise $18,000 per day.

“In response to the NRCC’s broadside to the credibility of Rep. David Jolly, and in response to the Executive Director’s bold assertion that a meeting with party leadership directing Rep. Jolly to raise $18,000 per day did not occur, we can confirm the date was April 3, 2014, the time was 5:30 p.m., the location was the NRCC’s Political Conference Room on the Second Floor,” writes Preston Rudie, Jolly’s communications director, in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “Out of respect for those involved, Rep. Jolly has intentionally left out names of participants since the beginning of this story, but if the NRCC wishes to escalate their denial, we are happy to provide additional information regarding the meeting.”

Simms takes several shots at Jolly in his letter to CBS News, writing that the NRCC raised over $2 million in his special election victory over Democrat Alex Sink in March 2014, “significantly more than the congressman raised and spent on his own behalf.”

And he makes explicit what some of Jolly’s GOP senate opponents have said about The Stop Act since he first introduced it three months ago-- that it’s purely a publicity stunt to cover over the fact that he is struggling to compete financially with some of his other opponents in fundraising.
The Stop Act, which has virtually no chance of passing for the very reasons Jolly introduced it-- money = power = more money = more power = congressional garbage like Steve Israel, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Steny Hoyer-- would prohibit federal officeholders from directly soliciting political contributions. The bill has 8 co-sponsors:
John Mica (R-FL)
Rich Nugent (R-FL)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Sean Duffy (R-WI)
Reid Ribble (R-WI)
Rick Nolan (D-MN)
Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Grayson is the big deal on that list because, unlike Jolly and unlike the others on the list, he knows how to mobilize members across party lines and in the face of opposition from the party leadership to pass legislation. If Grayson-- who is running against Jolly for the open Florida Senate seat and crushed him in the race's first debate last week-- really gets into putting his energy behind passing the bill, he can get it done... even if it would face certain death in the Senate.

Grayson and Jolly

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How Do You Make The Criminal Justice System Fairer? Ted Lieu Is Working On It

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Ted Lieu: "We cannot both be a nation that believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, yet incarcerate over 450,000 Americans who have not been convicted of a crime"


When Blue America endorsed Ted Lieu for Congress in 2014 we didn't expect him to just kick back in his prestigious new job and vote correctly. His record of achievement in the California legislature made us certain he would go to Congress as a leader, not a follower. And his peers saw him the same way; he was immediately elected president of the freshman class. And we were right about him. Ted's the opposite of a go-along-to-get-along backbencher and has already been working to solve real problems for real people in his new role, while many of his colleagues get bogged down in partisan bickering that leads nowhere.

In February, Ted introduced the No Money Bail Act, not exactly something any class of wealthy campaign donors is going to get all excited about-- and not an issue Congress has considered before. But it is an issue constituents back in the Los Angeles area have talked with him about. Now there are 27 co-sponsors who have signed onto the bill, including some of Congress' most senior members on issues of criminal justice, like Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), John Conyers (D-MI) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). This week, Ted wrote an OpEd at Talk Poverty about the injustices of the current system and how his bill addresses the problem.
After reading about the recent death of 26-year-old Jeffrey Pendleton-- who was being held in a New Hampshire jail simply because he couldn’t afford to pay $100 in bail-- my reaction was anger.  Why was Mr. Pendleton held in jail in the first place?  He had not been convicted of a crime, nor did he appear to pose a flight risk or danger to the public. He was locked up simply because he was poor. And he died in a jail cell.

Tragically, stories like his are far too common in America, and they are the reason I have introduced the No Money Bail Act of 2016 to reform our system of pretrial detention.

Last July, Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to signal while driving in Texas. She was put in jail and bail was set at $5,000, an amount she could not afford to pay. Three days later she was found hanged in her cell.  And Qiana Williams, who shared her story at the White House last December and on Capitol Hill this past February, spent weeks in a St. Louis jail because she couldn’t afford to pay court and traffic fees.

Across the country, it comes down to this: People of means are able to pay their way out of jail, while the poor remain behind bars awaiting their day in court.

Even for those who can muster the funds, the money bail system is unfair.

In San Francisco, 29-year-old Crystal Patterson, who gets by on a $12.50-an-hour job, paid a bail bondsman $1,500 plus interest to post her $150,000 bail so she could return home to care for her grandmother.  She also signed an agreement to pay back the $15,000 bond posted by the bail bondsman. Afterwards, the District Attorney dropped the charges, but, though the bail bondsman would have been returned the $150,000 bail, Patterson is unlikely to ever see the money she paid to the bail bond company.

At any given moment, more than 450,000 Americans are locked up without ever having been convicted of a crime.  In my home state of California, more than two-thirds of those in jail haven’t been convicted, a total of more than 42,000 people.

Moreover, even a few days in jail can be devastating for families-- especially those that are already fighting to make ends meet.  Perversely, money bail gives inmates a strong incentive to plead guilty, even when innocent, because they cannot afford bail and need to get back to their families, jobs, or education. Being locked up can also increase an individual’s risk of suicide and depression.

Finally, unnecessary pretrial detention of low-risk defendants is expensive. State and local governments in the U.S. spend an estimated $14 billion annually to incarcerate people who haven’t been convicted of a crime. In contrast, pretrial systems based on risk, rather than wealth, cost on average $7 per day.

For these reasons, most nations consider money bail an obstruction of justice. In fact, the only other country that maintains a large commercial bail bond industry is the Philippines. In the case of our disgraceful bail system, American exceptionalism is decidedly not a good thing.

Any serious effort at criminal justice reform must address our feudal-like bail system, which amounts to modern-day debtors’ prisons.  The “No Money Bail Act of 2016,” which I introduced earlier this year, would eliminate the payment of money as a condition of pretrial release at the federal level, and also would give states three years to switch to alternative systems or else forfeit law enforcement grants.

Justice in America should not be bought and paid for.  For the sake of Jeffrey Pendleton, Sandra Bland, Qiana Williams, and the countless other Americans who have suffered at the hands of our unjust money bail system, it is long past time that the United States join the rest of the civilized world when it comes to pretrial incarceration.
Ted's No Money Bail Act has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Pretrial Justice Institute, The Drug Policy Alliance, The Sentencing Project, The National Legal Aide and Defender Association, and the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies. If you'd like to help Ted in his reelection campaign, he's one of a tiny handful of incumbents Blue America has endorsed this year.

With Republicans running the show in the House, H.R.461 is sitting in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, which is chaired by Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and populated primarily with right-wing GOP crackpots-- like Louie Gohmert, Trey Gowdy,and Ken Buck-- who don't see the Justice system in terms of fairness but in terms of retribution and revenge. Two members of the subcommittee, Karen Bass and Judy Chu, have signed on as co-sponsors, but legislation of this nature isn't ever going to get out of committees and subcommittees to even be debated ad voted on until the Republican grip on Congress is broken. That's why we spend so much time here at DWT railing against the incompetent corrupt conservatives who run the DCCC and prevent Democrats from winning back the House. Both Blue America and Ted Lieu have endorsed Lou Vince for the congressional seat currently held by right-wing Republican Steve Knight, who hasn't signed onto Ted's bail bill. Lou Vince, an L.A.P.D. detective, explained why he will sign on and help Ted pass it:
After 21 years on the streets of Los Angeles, I know that our criminal justice system is in sore need of reform. The money bail system is the perfect place to start. The current system disproportionately harms low-income people that often times don't have the means to pay the lowest amount of bail, forcing them to remain in jail. The United States is one of the very few countries in the world that even have this type of system. In the state of California, where our jails are already overcrowded, we can solve two problems with one bill. We can reduce prison overcrowding and take a serious, meaningful step towards addressing the many injustice of our criminal justice system. I would be glad to join Congressman Lieu as a co-sponsor of this important legislation and use my background and experience in the criminal justice system to push strongly for this bill.
But it isn't just congressives Republicans uninterested in helping reform the system. Ostensibly, New Jersey machine candidate Donald Norcross is a Democrat. Like Steve Knight, he has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill either. The progressive running against him in the Camden/Cherry Hill area of South Jersey, Alex Law, in eager to work with Ted on passing this bill. This morning he told us "I fully support Ted Lieu's No Money Bail Act of 2016. Ted is taking courageous action to help those less fortunate in our country. It is plainly obvious that our criminal justice system is broken. Plans like this are an excellent start to make sure not only our criminal justice system improves, but also in that the bill moves our governing philosophy as a nation towards one with more compassion in it. When I get to Washington, this is exactly the kind of policy I would support."

I doubt anyone thought Debbie Wasserman Schultz would ever consider co-sponsoring Ted Lieu's legislation, or even votung for it. She stands firmly behind her campaign donors in the private prison industry and their business model requires keeping cells full, guilt of innocence be damned. Wasserman Schultz's primary challenger this year, reformer Tim Canova, offers South Floridians an entirely different perspective. "I support Ted Lieu’s bill, H.R. 4611, the No Money Bail Act of 2016," he told us yesterday. "The present money bail system punishes the poor, is applied in a racially discriminatory manner, and according to research, fails to prevent nearly half of the most dangerous pretrial detainees from being released without supervision. The present bail system costs taxpayers $14 billion a year, while lining the pockets of the private for-profit prison industry and the politicians who support the prison privatization agenda. According to the bill, pretrial detention should not be based on the ability to pay money as a condition of pretrial release, but instead 'on whether the accused is likely to fail to appear in court is a threat to public safety.' Public safety and the interests of taxpayers both demand that we rethink our costly and ineffective money bail system."

And that's exactly why we're trying to help reform-minded Democrats like Lou Vince, Alex Law and Tim Canova win their races. If you'd like to help, you can follow the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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