Friday, February 28, 2014

Meet your Labor Secretary (via an "In the Loop" Background Check) -- plus State Dept. travel tips for students


Labor Secretary Thomas Perez with the boss

by Ken

If Washington Post "In the Loop"-master's idea with the Background Checks is to give us a better sense of the officeholder as a person, I have to say that this one on Labor Secretary Thomas Perez sure did the job for me.

When President Obama nominated Thomas Perez a year ago to be labor secretary, he noted that Perez was then an assistant attorney general for civil rights and had also been Maryland's labor secretary.

But he added that Perez -- the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the first Cabinet secretary of Dominican descent -- had also worked in some less glamorous jobs, helping to pay his way through college as a garbage collector and in a warehouse, before he "went on to become the first lawyer in his family."

In his Background Check, Perez reveals, that, despite his Dominican roots, he can't come around very well on a fastball and that his own fastball, well, left a little to be desired. So he had to seek other professional opportunities.

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

I have enjoyed working with all my Cabinet colleagues, and, while I have spent a considerable time with my former boss, Eric Holder, I currently work extensively and very productively with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. We have a shared belief that if we can help workers and businesses succeed, then America succeeds.

What's your favorite non-work-related Web site/blog/

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _____.

Ran the Boston Marathon three times and have coached at least one of my children in basketball or some other sport for 10 years.

What's your dream job (other than your current gig)?

Major League Baseball commissioner. I played baseball throughout high school, but, unlike other Dominican Americans, I couldn't hit a fastball. My own fastball had deceptive speed -- it was slower than you think.

What motivated you to go into public service?

My parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to escape a brutal dictator. [Loop note: That would be Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a.k.a. "El Chivo," finally gunned down, apparently with CIA help, in 1961.] America was a land of opportunity for them, and they taught my four siblings (all of whom are doctors) and me to work hard, aim high and always give back to others. They taught us that if you want to get to heaven, you better have letters of reference from the underserved.

Favorite TV show?

The Wire.

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

I identify with the young people living in tough neighborhoods for which meaningful opportunity was elusive.

What subject, other than your work, do you know most about?

Civil rights history.

What's one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

I would resurrect Steve Jobs and enlist him to work with the Department of Labor to develop the next generation of technological tools to enable us to carry out our mission of expanding opportunity for everyone.


Note that in this same column Loop-master Al offers his take on the State Department's just-released "Top Five Travel Tips for Spring Break 2014," which he suggests "read like a helicopter parent gone wild, or a post-Colorado-legalization version of Reefer Madness." You should check out Al's take on them, but here's the official State Department version (there are links onsite):
For some college students, Spring Break is a time to bask in the Caribbean sun. Some use their respite from classes to volunteer in a foreign country. Others venture across the Atlantic to embark upon a European adventure or to visit friends studying abroad. Regardless of the destination, the U.S. Department of State encourages students to follow our tips for traveling abroad:

• Avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption. “Overdoing it” can lead to an arrest, accident, violent crime, or death.

* Obey all local laws, and remember they might be different from our own. Don’t carry or use drugs, as this can result in severe penalties. Don’t carry weapons either—some countries have strict laws, and even possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble.

* Before you leave for your trip, learn as much as possible about your destination at our website dedicated to student travelers: Here, you can find out about entry requirements, crime, health precautions, and road conditions.

* Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This program keeps students up-to-date with important safety and security announcements, such as Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and security messages.

• Keep in touch with your parents. If you will be without Internet or phone service for a few days, let them know. We receive many calls from parents who fear the worst when they have not heard from their children. In most cases, their child is fine, but has been too busy to check in.

• Remember to wear clean underwear and, for heaven’s sake, floss regularly!
This last one, Al admits, "we made up."

The State Department media release notes in conclusion: "Of course, even well-prepared travelers may face an emergency, like a lost passport or an injury. In those cases, our embassies and consulates are available to help 24/7. Be sure to write down the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination country." And there's a link for "members of the media who wish to speak about Spring Break travel tips with an official from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs."

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Thanks to the discovery that brunch is an "event," New York's besotted brunchers are back in booze heaven


by Ken

In a moment the question that's going to come to the fore is: Is brunch an "event"? It's a question that hasn't come into play as much as you would expect among the great philosophers. In my vast reading of Plato, for example (that's a joke), I don't recall coming across any citable insights.

However, if upon reflection you come to the conclusion that brunch is not an event, well, there's a portion of the New York population that would beg you not to voice your opinion within the hearing of New York's State Liquor Authority (SLA). These people have just been to hell and back, and may not be able to withstand the possibility of another reversal from the SLA.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this only-just-resolved crisis, Thrillist's Dave Infante (who describes himself in his bio as "an editor for Thrillist Media Group who would rather just split the check evenly, because you DID have some of that calamari, remember?") took his readers on a step-by-step trip through these momentous events, and we really can't do better than to follow along on the tour.

What Really Happened in NY's Illegal Bottomless Boozy Brunch Scandal

PUBLISHED ON 2/27/2014

For three terrifying days, bottomless brunch was illegal in our city.

On February 24th, 2014, our right to boozy brunch -- nay, the very right to be a community! -- came under attack. The bedrock promise that New York weekends are strictly about two-plus hours of unlimited mimosas? Threatened. Nobody knows who struck first.

Oh wait, that’s just a quote from The Matrix. We do know exactly who struck first! The NYC Hospitality Alliance started the maelstrom, by firing this unassuming tweet across the bottomless-Bellini bow of our fair city’s brunch spots.

Behind that link is the trade organization’s press release on the matter, which totally snitches politely cites Section 117-A of NY state’s booze laws. This particular SLA statute is clearer than a vodka tonic:

What?! No! Yes? The truth seemed obvious: Gotham’s beautiful, benevolent, Benedict-slinging, bottomless brunch spots have been ILLEGALLY pouring unlimited booze into our livers the entire time. The dream was over. Never again would a sunny Sunday begin sunny-side up and end, many drinks later, with you face-down in a couch surrounded by seven gyros and grievous shame.

No. Nonononono. NO!

But buck up! Despite the setback, we’re still the best city in the world, right? New Yorkers, for their part, reacted with that aplomb.

Here Dave reproduces three tweets, including the heartrending one I've put atop this post.

It was happening. The hour of judgement was upon us. TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN CARRY AND HEAD FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE.

No one can accuse New Yorkers of crying over spilt milk. We’re a tough bunch. That said, milk is sort of weird, and also not made of alcohol, and so, for two days, blogger outrage flowed like beer tears. Think pieces were posted. Office listservs lit up. At least one New Yorker not named Dave Infante called his mom to ask about moving back home, because what’s the point anymore, and also it would be good to save some money on rent. Together, we wept.

But this is a family magazine (neither of those words are true, but just go with it, Barry Diller!), and every damn day, New York City tells a comeback story like one you’ve never heard. The saga of the Great Illegal Boozy Brunch has a happy ending, and not like the one you used to contemplate paying for on the West Side Highway after too many endless mimosas. The hero Gotham needed was about to emerge.

Batman! Not really. Wouldn’t that be great though? NYC’s actual liberating force turned out, improbably, to be the SLA itself. On the morning of February 27th, after nearly 36 hours of panic, a liquor board rep told Business Insider in a statement that reads equally bemused & befuddled:

So, as everyone who's ever been to one knows, boozy brunches are indeed events, and events are sometimes exempt. We were saved.

Play it again, Sam. Play it again, and again, and again. Then, play that sweet tune one more time for the shining stars at the SLA, who pulled an entire city from the jaws of despair by creating a loophole IN ITS OWN STATUTES so that we could continue to brunch like the kings & queens that we one day hope to become.

And that, dear neighbors & friends, is how it came to be that for three perilous days in February 2014, New York City lost, then won back, its right to bottomless brunch.

Now of course the "bottomless" boozed-up brunch isn't really bottomless. Typically it's all you can drink in an hour. And for most of us that's not likely to be a liver-killing quantity of the stuff. Still, one has to wonder at the quantity of agita experienced among the hard-core New York brunch set. (Or am I the only one wondering?)

I mean, even the strict interpretation of the ABC law in effect for those three blackout days would have permitted restaurants to offer special deals on two or three drinks. (Unless of course there's some other provision of NYS's often-impenetrable liquor laws that might have come into play.) One wonders then just how much those broken-hearted boozing brunchers are accustomed to consuming.


Bill Maher and Bill Moyers Give Fox News Zombies Heart Attacks Over Ronnie Raygun


That Bill Maher video above is one of the best explanations-- especially for young people who didn't live through it-- of the RRR-- the Real Ronald Reagan. We sure don't hear it from Obama… and never will. Tonight, Bill Moyers will tackle the same subject from a more… genteel, less vituperative perspective. Moyers sat down with Ian Haney López to talk about his new book Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class and you can watch the entire interview at the bottom of the page. Please do. But in this short clip directly below, Haney López recalls a story Ronald Reagan told on the campaign trail during his first run for president in 1976. It's very much on the same page of Maher's entire thrust. Throughout his presidency, Haney López says that Reagan subtly (and sometimes not  so subtly) played on stereotypes to manipulate middle-class white voters into supporting economic policies that benefited corporations and the wealthy.

BILL MOYERS: So why did you use this for the title of your book Dog Whistle Politics?

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: Well, think about a term like “welfare queen” or “food stamp president”. On one level, like a dog whistle, it's silent. Silent about race. It seems race-neutral. But on another, it also has a shrill blast, like a dog whistle, that can be heard by certain folks. And what the blast is is a warning about race and a warning, in particular about threatening minorities.

And the idea that I'm trying to get across here is, racism has evolved. Or, in particular, public racism has evolved. The way in which racism, the way in which racial divisions are stoked in public discourse has changed. And now it operates on two levels. On one level, it allows plausible deniability. This isn't really about race, it's just about welfare. Just about food stamps. And on another, there's a subtext, an underground message which can be piercingly loud, and that is: minorities are threatening us.

And so when people dog whistle about criminals, welfare cheats, terrorists, Islam, Sharia law, ostensibly they’re talking about culture, behavior, religion, but underneath are these old stereotypes of degraded minorities, but also, and this is important, implicitly of whites who are trustworthy, hard-working, decent.

BILL MOYERS: When I talk to people, I'm doing a group discussion somewhere, if I ask white people in the audience, if race is still relevant in your lives, they say absolutely not. You know, we're colorblind, is often what you hear.

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: Right. Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: And they believe that, don't you think?

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: They do believe it. And it's important they believe it. And it's important for us to recognize that they believe it and that it's genuine. Look, here's a hard, difficult truth. Most racists are good people. They're not sick. They're not ruled by anger or raw emotion or hatred. They are complicated people reared in complicated societies.

They're fully capable of generosity, of empathy, of real kindness. But because of the idea systems in which they're reared, they're also capable of dehumanizing others and occasionally of brutal violence. And that's an important truth. Most people are not racist out of some sort of a sickness of the soul. They're racist because of the society in which they operate.


IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: We need to understand that race has been one of the ways in which we’ve explained why certain groups get certain privileges and advantages and why other groups don’t get privileges or are exploited or are excluded from the country.

This operates not just in terms of class relations and group relations, this operates in terms of a common sense understanding of who’s trustworthy, who is decent, who is law-abiding, and in contrast, who’s loathsome, who’s diseased, who’s dangerous. That common sense of race used to be openly expressed through the 1950s, let’s say. Now it’s not openly expressed. And that’s one of the great triumphs of the civil rights moment. We ought not to gainsay that. But on the other hand, it didn’t all go away. It’s still there under the surface. Now it doesn’t, we don’t hear it in the language expressly of race, but we hear it in the language of culture and behavior.

BILL MOYERS: There are some assumptions in society, a general proposition, unexamined, that blacks prefer welfare to work, that undocumented immigrants breed crime, and that Islam spawns violence. Those are dog whistles, are they not?

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: I think they’re absolutely dog whistles. They’re dog whistles in the sense that they’re stereotypes.

A stereotype is a sort of cultural presumption of minority inferiority: blacks are lazy, Latinos are dirty or filthy, Muslims don’t respect human life. Those are stereotypes. Dog whistles are when politicians use coded language that try and trigger those beliefs. But they’re not the stereotypes themselves. And, it’s important, because dog whistling is not about bigotry. It’s about the manipulation of bigotry. It’s about the manipulation of stereotypes.

BILL MOYERS: So you make it clear in the book, that this is sort of an old sport, politicians communicating with small groups of impassioned voters and a kind of code that only kindred spirits understand. Nothing especially troubling about that. But it's when it comes to the issue of race that you see a real injury.

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: What makes race different? Two things. First, the message that politicians are trying to communicate, when they dog whistle in racial terms, is a message that runs directly counter to widely held values and norms of racial egalitarianism. The triumph of the civil rights movement is to teach us, to teach Americans that we're all human, we're all in this together. And so for a politician to come forward and say, I want your support because minorities are threatening and I believe that you ought to vote in solidarity with whites.

No one can say that expressly. That would be the end of a political career. So they use a dog whistle term and they say, I want you to vote in a way that cuts off food stamps and limits welfare and gets tough on crime and slams the border on illegal aliens. It's a racial appeal, but it has to happen in code. That's one difference.

The message that's being communicated is a message that violates core, common moral norms. Second difference, yes, there are lots of different cultural provocations that are expressed in dog whistle terms. Race is one of those. But I want to also suggest it's not just one of those, it's the primary cultural provocation that has been used by conservatives over the last 50 years. Race is special because it does so much damage not only to people of color, but in the way it restructured our society as a whole.

BILL MOYERS: Give me a clear example of that.

IAN HANEY LÓPEZ: So we know Ronald Reagan used to talk about welfare queens. But he also had this other stump speech that he would give. He would speak to his audiences and he would say, I understand how frustrating it is for you when you're standing in line at a grocery store waiting to buy hamburger and there's some young fellow ahead of you buying T-bone steak with food stamps.

Now the first time he told that tale, it wasn't some young fellow. He said, some “young buck." And a young buck was a racially-coded term that stood for a strong African American man. And so that term, that moved from being a dog whistle to an outright racial provocation. Reagan backed off and he started talking about, some young fellow buying a T-bone steak with food stamps.

Think about the characters in this story. The first character is the person buying a T-bone steak with food stamps. And that's conjuring the image of the lazy minority who's strong, who could work, but who doesn't want to work, and prefers to be on welfare. But the other image is the you in that story, who Reagan's talking to. And the you is ostensibly the voter, the hard-working taxpayer, the law-abiding American. That voter, that hard-working American implicitly has a racial identity. And that's white. So there you can see this racial narrative. You, Reagan is saying to white audiences, you're being taken advantage of.

There's a third character here. Government. It's government ostensibly that is taking advantage of whites, that is taking their money through taxes, and then giving it to these undeserving minorities. So what did Reagan suggest? He suggested tax cuts. We shouldn't, you shouldn't have to pay taxes to a government that's just taking your money and giving it to minorities.

And indeed, what did he do? He enacted tax cuts. In the first year of his tax cuts, $164 billion went to American corporations. Over the 1980’s, the Reagan tax cuts transferred a trillion dollars to America's top 1 percent. Yes, voters got the tax cuts they thought were aimed at cutting off undeserving minorities. But in fact, it was a politics that was showering money on the very richest Americans.

We have to understand the way in which something has fundamentally changed in American politics. We used to understand that the biggest threat in a political life was the power of concentrated money. The power of big money and of corporations to hijack the marketplace and to hijack government.

But now, Republicans for 50 years have been telling voters, the biggest threat in your life is that minorities are going to hijack government. That government has been taken over and now serves them. So when white voters vote against the government, they think they're voting against minorities. But in fact, they're voting to give over control of government back to the very rich, back to the big corporations.

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Republicans And Their Own Peculiar Version Of A "Gay" Lifestyle


To be a conservative always means swimming against the tide of history. Under intense pressure from business groups, Jan Brewer may have vetoed her party's latest crazy anti-gay legislation in Arizona, but that isn't stopping other conservatives in other states the GOP controls from trying to pass identical loathsome legislation. GOP bigots are on this particular warpath in Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Louise Melling, the deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the efforts are part of a misguided attempt to preserve an outdated social order. She noted that federal courts have repeatedly rejected biblical claims as a justification for discriminatory action. Cases rejected by the courts have included a Christian school that paid men more than women in the 1980s because men traditionally are the heads of their households, and a South Carolina barbecue chain that defended its refusal to serve black customers in the 1960s on religious grounds.

“At moments of social change, what you see is a resistance, and a desire to create or preserve certain pockets,” Melling said. “Historically we’ve rejected those claims, based on our understanding and deeply held beliefs about religious freedoms.”

…Republican consultant Ron Bon­jean, by contrast, said the veto helped the party as it heads into the midterm-election campaigns.

“Republicans have been burned time and again by a few ‘lone wolf’ Republicans that have hijacked the message and painted our party in a bad light over issues such as abortion and rape,” Bonjean wrote in an e-mail. “Many prominent Republicans could see the danger being seen as intolerant and many wanted to prevent the party from stepping on another political land mine that would have turned off voters across the board.”
As Asam Nagourney pointed out in a NY Times analysis this morning, this latest manifestation of resistance to social change by conservatives and reactionaries, is frightening Republican professional politicians who know how to read polls. "The decision," he wrote, "by members of the Republican establishment to join gay activists in opposing the bill reflected the alarm the Arizona battle stirred among party leaders, who worried about identifying their party with polarizing social issues at a time when Republicans see the prospect of big gains in Congressional elections on economic issues. No less important, the bill produced almost unanimous opposition among one critical Republican constituency-- business owners--who feared it would entangle the state in lawsuits and prompt a damaging boycott."
More than anything else, the division was a window into a Republican Party that remains torn on gay rights issues, be it the Arizona measure, same-sex marriage or permitting gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Some of the party’s most committed voters continue to be intensely opposed to gay marriage, but their views are at odds with an increasing percentage of the American electorate, particularly younger and independent voters.

“The establishment’s reaction to the Arizona law reflects the reality that much of the country’s views on these issues have changed,” said Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Frank Keating, a former governor of Oklahoma, said that while he opposed same-sex marriage, issues of public accommodation had long ago been settled. He said that he, too, would have vetoed a bill like the Arizona one.

“This isn’t 1964 anymore,” he said. “We’ve moved beyond that. If you open up your doors to the general public, you can’t pick and choose who you are going to deal with.”

Many Republicans, including some who oppose gay marriage, said this bill crossed a line, enshrining discrimination in a way that they argued violated fundamental Republican principles.

Same-sex marriage continues to be an issue that can reliably turn out the party faithful, but it no longer produces the near-unanimity among Republicans that was once the case. Opposition to gay marriage and other gay issues is strong among the Tea Party, but that wing does not have the power that it once had.

“The new increment of energy at the grass-roots level is libertarianism,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “And many libertarians do not embrace the typical conservative view on this issue.”

Over the past four years, an increasing number of Republican leaders have argued that the party needs to embrace gay marriage, or risk losing younger, independent voters who polls suggest support it.

“It just makes the party look small and out of touch,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican consultant who has warned that the party is hurting itself by being identified with opposition to gay rights. “Arizona has become an outlier state in which an extreme ring of the party is able to put forward legislation that damages the entire brand of the Republican Party.”
I guess it's better than the "closet case" brand the Republican Party has suffered through, as one hypocrite after another has been found to be having sex with men-- some with boys-- while preaching anti-gay Republican Party dogma. Some, like Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Rep. Robert Bauman (R-MD) and Rep. Ed Schrock (R-VA), have been publicly and traumatically outed and banished. Others, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) , Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Aaron Schock (R-IL) are told they will be tolerated as long as they don't get caught in a public toilet or with an underage boy, aberrant behavior for normal gay people, but more typical for fearful, mentally deranged closet cases.

Aside from flamboyant couture and a penchant for hanging around gyms and posing without his shirt on, Aaron Schock's outward manifestation of his status as a notorious closet case seems to be expressed through a decadent and lavish lifestyle-- and one not financed by his own income. A corporate whore to the nth degree, young Schock thinks nothing of being wined and dined-- and not always legally-- by special interests who count on his votes to betray the ordinary families of Quincy, Peoria, Springfield and a safely red swathe of central Illinois.
"These are not supposed to be slush funds so that lobbyists and others seeking influence can contribute in order to help support a member's lifestyle," Sloan said. "I think they'd be in a hurry to tell you if the purposes were all innocent and legitimate."

Take Peoria Republican Aaron Schock's Generation-Y PAC, for example. According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, the fund started 2012 with $50,004.18 cash on hand. Over the next 24 months, the PAC had total receipts of $550,633.00. About half of that came from other PACs. But of the over $600,000.00 available to spend, less than half of GEN-Y's disbursements went to candidates and committees. More than $250,000.00 went to expenses apparently involved in running the PAC itself.

That included over $56,000.00 spent at hotels. During the 24-month period examined by NBC5 Investigates, the Schock PAC listed three stays at the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, totaling $9,462.27. There were three nights at L.A.'s luxurious Mondrian, and other stays at the Luxe and Beverly Wilshire. Gen-Y dropped another $12,285.00 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. In Chicago, the PAC listed 14 stays totaling over $11,000.00 at the Peninsula, and another four stopovers at the Trump.

The Generation-Y PAC dropped over $26,000.00 on private aircraft. Fine restaurants across the country added another $36,909.00. They shelled out $11,604.00 at a Colorado ski resort, with hundreds more for snowmobile rentals - all during a 24-month period.

Who enjoyed the largesse? Schock's staffers won't say.

"Gen-Y conducts its activities with all applicable rules and regulations," campaign spokesman Karen McDonald told NBC5 Investigates in a statement. "All activity is properly disclosed, and the committee is in full compliance with federal campaign finance laws."

"This is all we're offering on the record," she said.

"I think the reason they don't tell you is they have no good reason why members of Congress need to stay at the most expensive hotels in Los Angeles," Sloan said. "They'd rather not talk about it, and hope that it's just ignored, and their constituents don't notice."

Sloan and her organization point to one other tantalizing fact: The source of Leadership PAC funds. Often, thousands upon thousands of dollars come from the political action committees of special interest groups, hoping to curry favor.

"I think constituents have a right to wonder why somebody would give you so much money, what they would want in return, and how you're spending the money," she said. "It's a completely reasonable question for any constituent to ask."

Click here to view a three-month sampling of all of the "Itemized Disbursements" which NBC5 Investigates found for GEN-Y PAC over a three-month period in early 2013.
Schock is already under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for several serious breaches of campaign finance laws and Illinois media has their eyes on his shady dealings. This week, the Chicago Sun-Times let local readers know about the high life young Schock is living and who's footing the bill. And long ago, veteran DC reporter Al Kamen blew the whistle in Schock's real hometown paper, the Washington Post-- Aaron Schock Gets Ripped, about what we could expect from the rule-bending Aaron Schock over time.
Appearances matter.

Rep. Aaron Schock seems to understand this better than most members of Congress. After all, his chiseled physique and fashion sense has landed him, shirtless, on the cover of Men’s Health and in a photo spread in GQ in which he sported designer suits.

But the looks of his spending from campaign and PAC coffers aren’t quite as attractive. The sophomore Republican from Illinois has spent thousands of dollars from his campaign and political action committee on luxury hotels from Palm Beach to Manhattan, town-car service, antique stores and concerts.

That’s all perfectly legal: As long as the trips and expenses are legitimately related to campaigning and fundraising, they’re fine. “It’s an appearance problem,” said Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the watchdog group that analyzed Schock’s spending. “He seems perfectly happy to live high on the hog as long as someone else is footing the bill.”

In the past three election cycles, Schock’s campaign and PAC spent $85,622 on luxury hotels, about half of which were four- and five-star outfits, including the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago, the famed Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif.

…CREW says the group first flagged Schock’s champagne tastes while scouring House members’ financials for a report titled “Family Affair.” In that analysis, they noted that Schock had used campaign funds for a fancy hotel stay in Greece (he later repaid the campaign) and for DVDs of the P90X fitness routine (billed under “healthcare,” by the way).

Other purchases included:

$5,522 on what the campaign called “office equipment” from Euro Trash, an Illinois-based antique-import and design business whose must-see Web site (dig the massive chandeliers and to-die-for European antiques) declares that “everyone can and should live well.” Shearer, though, said the campaign purchased used office furniture, not antiques.

$1,565 in “travel expenses” from “J Bondi Inc.” in Beverly Hills. Shearer says this was for concert tickets (that company, CREW says, appears to be a holding company owned by Elton John).

$859 on “gifts” from Storks Snapshots ($407) and the Bare Belly Boutique ($452), upscale maternity boutiques in Illinois. We’re still awaiting an explanation from Shearer on that one.
One of the big problems with closet cases is that because they grow accustomed to living a lie to hide their sexual identity, they inevitably slip into lying about everything, the way normal people take a breath of fresh air or a sip of water. And eventually mental illness sets in. Living in the closet is a sick thing conservatives force on their own gays. And right-wing gays see how normal gay men and women live their lives and they are eager to see their own party dragged into modern times. But, like Schock, they are too scared to do anything about it. There are a dozen active Republican homosexuals in Congress now-- and not one of them has come out… while gay Democrats are getting married and having children and leading normal, healthy lives. Man up, Aaron; it's not too late to save yourself. Don't wait 'til you're caught doing something sexually embarrassing.

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You Remember Miami's Ex-Rep David Rivera, Right?


Florida GOP crooks Alliegro and Rivera

We've been on his case for a long time but this isn't about him beating up a woman or even his crooked fundraising or even about the free-flowing-drugs-and-shady-cash party house he and Marco Rubio maintained in Tallahassee-- or even about how he managed to finance his extravagant and expensive lifestyle. All the evidence of Rivera, who was defeated in a reelection bid last cycle by Joe Garcia, immersing himself in gangsterism is leading to a trial and yesterday intrepid Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo had the latest scoop on Rivera.

A fake Democrat who Rivera recruited to run, Justin Sternad, finally admitted for the record that "Rivera was a part of the conspiracy to funnel illegal contributions to his campaign." Rivera and one of his associates, Ana Alliegro (who's been on the lam in Central America), gave Sternad $81,486.15 in illegal campaign contributions. Sternad has been cooperating with federal investigators who are trying to bring charges against Rivera and Alliegro.
“To those who think this case has gone away: You’re wrong,” said Enrique “Rick” Yabor, an attorney for Sternad, who last month amended three of his FEC reports to note the involvement of Alliegro and Rivera in his 2012 Democratic primary race for Congressional District 26, which stretches from from Key West to Calle Ocho in Miami-Dade County.

Neither Alliegro nor Rivera-- both of whom have denied involvement in the scheme-- could be reached for comment.

Sternad has never publicly mentioned Rivera or Alliegro, but he has privately discussed them at length with federal investigators.

Sternad was busted by the FBI after the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald raised questions about his campaign finances and reports.

During the campaign, Sternad-- a political unknown with no experience and little money-- was producing and mailing slick flyers that sophisticatedly targeted specific segments of the electorate in the district.

One mailer savaged fellow Democrat Joe Garcia over his divorce, echoing a line of attack espoused by Rivera, who was then the Republican incumbent. Sternad also admitted to using Alliegro as a de facto campaign manager-- a strange choice for a Democrat considering her Republican background and close association with Rivera.

As the feds closed in, Alliegro fled to Nicaragua at one point, returned to Miami to talk to investigators last year, and then apparently left again, according to her Facebook page.

If Rivera was involved in the conspiracy, it indicates he wanted to use Sternad as a straw candidate to defeat Garcia in the primary or at least wound him before the 2012 election. It didn’t work. Amid the scandal, Garcia walloped Rivera in the general election.
This kind of thing is pretty standard operating procedure for Florida Republicans and although Rivera will probably end up in prison for it, it could just as well be Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the Miami-Dade district next door. Last year we looked at how she managed-- probably with help from her allies Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel-- to pick her own un-funded Democratic "opponent," Manny Yevancey.
One of the easiest districts for a Democrat to win would be FL-27, the seat now held by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But there is no recruitment; there is anti-recruitment. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made it abundantly clear to Florida Democrats that she will not tolerate anyone credible running against Ileana, who, like her, is owned by the sugar baron Fanjul brothers. Last year Obama's 7 point margin in FL-27 was one of the highest margins of victory in any district held by a Republican Member of Congress. But Wasserman Schultz had the DCCC make sure there would be no viable candidate. The "Democrat" who ran, Manny Yevancey, still hasn't filed an FEC financial disclosure report, which means he raised and spent less than $5,000. His petitions-- which were commercially collected by a firm in Tampa that was paid by "someone else"-- is almost totally signed by folks in Tampa, not in Miami, Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami Springs, South Miami, Westchester or anywhere else in Ros-Lehtinen's district. The total signatures on his petitions from Miami-Dade- 12. The total from Tampa- 1,147. And the other counties with significant petition numbers were also on the other side of the state, Hillsborough with 656 and Pasco with 502. Very convenient for Wasserman Schultz and Ros-Lehtinen to have a candidate with no income, no roots and no chance-- and old dirty trick that anti-democracy hacks employee.
The DCCC has moved to make sure there would be no plausible opponent for Ros-Lehtinen again this year-- despite polling that shows a Democrat would beat her and despite FL-27 being one of only two districts in the country with Republican congressmen where Obama increased his winning margin in 2012. So, by all means… throw Rivera in prison, but take Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Debbie Wassserman Schultz and Steve Israel as well. And throw away the key.

UPDATE: Alliegro Arrested, Deported To U.S.

The noose is tightening around Republican criminal and former Miami-Dade congressman, David Rivera. His coconspirator, Ana Alliegro, was arrested Friday in Nicaragua where she was hiding and is now in federal custody in a Miami jail. She's facing a quarter million dollars in fines and 5 years in prison. The expectation is that she'll rat out Rivera and that, eventually, Rivera will rat out Marco Rubio on unrelated criminal enterprises the two of them were involved in when they were running the Florida legislature.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Susan Collins Proves Rick Santorum Was Right About Her-- GOP Ideology First, Maine's Veterans Last


This afternoon, the Republicans were able to kill a bill living up to the country's debts to military veterans, by filibustering the attempt to move it forward. Although every Democrat plus two Republicans-- Dean Heller (NV) and Jerry Moran (KS)-- voted for it, they needed 60 to shut down the filibuster. The final vote was 56-41. Even if Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was away from the Senate today, was there and voting yes-- she's one of the few Republicans who is reliably pro-veteran-- the bill would have still failed.

All the fake GOP "moderates," who claim to want to help military veterans, like Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Bob Corker (R-TN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and, worst of all, Susan Collins (R-ME), joined the lunatic fringe obstructionists-- the Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees and Jeff Sessions-- to prevent a straight up or down vote. When far right fanatic Rick Santorum said that Collins was, at heart, one of the nuts like himself, he wasn't just hoping it was true. Santorum said that Collins may vote moderate sometimes, but at least she is a team player who "always plays with the team and never plays against the conservative side even if she has to give the liberals a vote because she's from Maine." Yes, that's an apt description of Collins alright. After the vote today, we contacted Shenna Bellows, the independent-minded progressive Democrat opposing Collins' reelection this cycle.

She seemed surprised Collins would vote with the extremists against Maine's veterans. "It is unconscionable," she told me on the phone, "that Republicans, including my opponent Susan Collins, would block veterans' benefits over the issue of Iran sanctions, which most military, diplomatic and intelligence experts think would bring us closer to another war in the Middle East. We cannot keep calling upon young men and women to serve in costly overseas conflicts without keeping our promises to them when they come home."

Iran? What does Iran have to do with it? Well, nothing really. But Collins and the other right-wingers were using the veterans benefits as a hostage in their desire to push Obama into a war with Iran. Collins is always eager to play the rule of the floating third stooge to McCain and Lindsey Graham in anything that looks warlike. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “I hope all the veterans groups have witnessed all the contortions the Republicans have done to defeat this bill. Shame on Republicans for bringing base politics into a bill to help veterans.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. He worked hard to try to get Collins and the other self-styled "reasonable" Republicans to put partisanship and their bloodlust aside for the veterans. But he wasn't able to move anyone aside from Moran and Heller. This came from his office after the vote:
A disappointed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pledged today to continue to fight for improved benefits for veterans after Senate Republicans blocked a vote on comprehensive legislation to expand health care, education, job-training and other programs.

Republicans derailed the bill by raising a budget point of order challenging outlays for veterans. Sanders’ motion to advance the bill won by a vote of 56-41, but Republicans invoked a rule that required 60 votes to proceed.

“I had hoped that at least on this issue-- the need to protect and defend our veterans and their families-- we could rise above the day-to-day rancor and party politics that we see here in Congress,” said Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I am going to keep fighting. I am proud that we received every Democratic vote and that two Republicans also voted with us. In the coming weeks I will be working hard to secure three additional Republican votes and I think we can do that,” Sanders added.

The legislation was backed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and virtually every other veterans’ and military service organization in the country.

“The cost of war does not end once the last shots are fired and the last battles are fought,” Sanders said. “When members of the military lose arms, legs and eyesight fighting in wars that Congress authorized, we have a moral obligation to make sure that those Americans receive all of the benefits that they have earned and deserve.  When American soldiers die in combat, we have a moral obligation to make sure that the spouses and children they leave behind are taken care of and do not live in abject poverty.”

The measure would have improved health and dental care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also would have allowed the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities. Educational opportunities would have been expanded for post-9/11 veterans. Another provision would have improved access to care and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military. Also full cost-of-living adjustments would be restored for future military retirees.
And, by the way, if you'd like to help Shenna Bellows replace Susan Collins in the Senate, you can do that here.

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More on our "courageous" right-wing loons, including the nutjob who wanted to ban gay players from the NFL


"Lucky Jack" Burkman sez: "If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it."

"Ultimately, the bill proposed by lobbyist Jack Burkman isn’t aimed at keeping gay players out of NFL locker rooms.  Instead, it’s about keeping gay players in the closet."

by Ken

You remember lobbyist Jack Burkman, don't you? He's the other "profile in courage" I tried my darnedest to make fun of night before last ("From Arizona to K Street: Profiles in courage, 2014 right-wing-loon-style ") -- the other being Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Governor Jan, of course, faced the thorny decision whether to sign or veto her state's spanking-new Religious Right to Hate bill, which would have allowed good Christians to abuse gay people any way they like as long as they pinky-swear that Jesus made them do it.

I say "would have allowed" because as we know, Governor Jan screwed up her courage yesterday and wielded her veto pen, as all the non-crazy people on the Right (including most of the Arizona business community) as well as the Left were urging her to do.

That just leaves the hard-core right-wing loons -- viz. HuffPost's "Conservative Pundits Lose It Over Veto Of Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill." Which is to say the people whose votes Governor Jan would have needed if she were going to run for another term as governor -- which causes the's Fix-master Chris Cillizza to conclude that her veto was simultaneously her announcement that she's not going to run.

Chris reminds us that when Governor Jan first presented herself for the Republican gubernatorial nomination -- after taking over for Janet Napolitano when she quit the governorship to become secretary of homeland -- she security was generally considered to be dead in the water until she pounced on the issue of Arizona's crackpot anti-immigration law, thereby courting the support of the very people Chris supposes would never support her now.
If any politician understands the political power in signing a controversial measure supported by the most conservative elements of your party, it's Brewer. Had she signed SB 1062, she would have enhanced her position among the most die-hard Republican primary voters -- even while taking a series of body blows from national Democratic (and Republican) leaders. But, unlike five years ago, Brewer chose a different path -- vetoing the legislation and insisting that there is no evidence to support the idea that business owners' rights could be violated by serving gays and lesbians.

Brewer has said she will make a decision on whether to seek reelection sometime around March 1. But, by exercising her veto power of SB 1062 tonight, she effectively has made her future plans known.


Lucky Jack, you'll recall, is the right-wing Washington lobbyist who stepped up to announce -- as the NFL for the first time faces a college draft with an announced-gay draft prospect, the University of Missouri's Michael Sam -- that he would propose a law to forbid the NFL.

"We are losing our decency as a nation," Lucky Jack declared. He also said, "If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it."

The Hill's Rebecca Shabad reported (at the link above) that Lucky Jack's "four-lobbyist firm specializes in helping companies secure contracts with the federal government." In other words, our man Jack is an influence peddler, and one presumes that the influence he peddles traces back to the degenerate life forms that chair House committees and subcommittees.

What makes Lucky Jack think his opinion about anything except the best way to bribe a congressmember counts for anything at all is impossible to fathom. What makes him think that Congress has any business legislating employment policy to the NBC -- well, that's even impossibler to fathom.

The Hill's Rebecca Shabad reported (at the link above) that Lucky Jack's "four-lobbyist firm specializes in helping companies secure contracts with the federal government." In other words, our man Jack is an influence peddler, and one presumes that the influence he peddles traces back to the degenerate life forms that chair House committees and subcommittees.

Shabad also reported: "Burkman's firm, JM Burkman & Associates, signed 70 new clients last year, the most of any K Street firm, a recent review by The Hill found."

Just how eager all those shiny new clients are going to be to be repped by a public laughingstock remains to be seen; already there are reports of at least one client pulling out. (One wonders too how eager the government solons through whom Jack peddles their influence will be to do business with him.)No doubt Lucky Jack thought he could get himself some great business-building publicity from this crackpot stunt. Hmm, maybe not.

As noted at the top of this post, however, now that Lucky Jack has released the text of his bill, and it turns out to be a little different from what he represented previously. Here's more from NBC Sports's Mike Florio:
The proposed bill, titled The American Decency Act of 2014, prohibits NFL teams from employing "self-declared homosexual football players."  If that label weren't clear enough, the next sentence states that the bill "shall apply only in cases where a football player has openly declared himself to be a homosexual."

In other words, as long as the player doesn't come out as gay, there would be no problem.  Moreover, there would be no witch hunts or other efforts to out gay players.  The law would apply only if/when a player comes out publicly and openly as gay.

Even then, the openly-gay player wouldn't be banned from playing.  Instead, the team would have to give the player "facilities" that are "separate and distinct from the facilities used by heterosexual players."

As Burkman has explained, the bill provides for a fine of not less than $3 million and not more than $8 million.
Burkman will officially be unveiling the bill later today.  It's intended to be introduced to Congress.

Unless the Arizona legislature gets to it first.
Good one, Mike!

Of course, as many observers have been pointing out, Lucky Jack's terror scenario, innocent professional footballers showering alongside self-proclaimed homos, is kind of foolish when you consider that every NFL locker room already has gay players. Apparently it's OK for innocent NFL-ers to shower alongside gay players who haven't talked to Sports Illustrated about it.

Maybe we should cut Lucky Jack some slack. What more noble concern could there be than for the morals and decency of professional football players? I mean, that they not be forced to shower with announced-gay teammates.

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What Do We Do When Our Own Government Becomes The Enemy?


Earlier today we looked at the interview Bill Moyers did with Adolph Reed, Jr. about how the American left has basically shriveled up and withered away. Reed made the point that Clinton and Obama both sold out entirely to Wall Street in the same way that the Republican Party has. The corporate agenda is their agenda. Yesterday Curtis Ellis of the American Jobs Alliance, wrote that the TransPacific Partnership, the latest manifestation of their trade policies, is the next step in a 50+ year plan to replace national governments with rule by multinational corporations.
The TransPacific Partnership is labelled as a "free trade" magic elixir that will cure all ills-- Jobs! Prosperity! World Peace!-- but in fact it's a toxic brew that weakens the American body politic and the Constitution. And when you look at how it came about you see that those are design features, not bugs.

The historical record is clear: what are misleadingly called "free trade agreements" were never really about trade. Their goal is to render independent nation states null and void, and hand power over to unaccountable, transnational corporatist authorities.

This sounds like a plot lifted from a Bond supervillain, yet it is precisely what a powerful State Department official told a Congressional hearing in 1967. And much of what he laid out nearly 50 years ago has come to pass under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

…TPP is not about trade, tariffs or quotas-- it's about creating 'supranational institutions' whose diktat trumps national governments, Congress and the courts.

Given this reality, why would anyone sworn to uphold the Constitution give President Obama the fast track power he and David Rockefeller want him to have?
There are no contemporary reports on Jesus Christ. Roman media and historians missed the most important occurrence of their century. Today's corporate media is missing the most important occurrence of ours: the slide towards the climate change tipping point. Wall Street huckster Joe Kernan was on CNBC this morning deriding climate science as "witchcraft." The man has been too stupid for the public forum for at least two decades. He should read this essay by author Tom Englehardt on how the media missed the story of the millennium.
The fact that 97% of scientists who have weighed in on the issue believe that climate change is a human-caused phenomenon is not a story. That only one of 9,137 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between November 2012 and December 2013 rejected human causation is not a story either, nor is the fact that only 24 out of 13,950 such articles did so over 21 years. That the anything-but-extreme Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers an at least 95% guarantee of human causation for global warming is not a story, nor is the recent revelation that IPCC experts believe we only have 15 years left to rein in carbon emissions or we’ll need new technologies not yet in existence which may never be effective. Nor is the recent poll showing that only 47% of Americans believe climate change is human-caused (a drop of 7% since 2012) or that the percentage who believe climate change is occurring for any reason has also declined since 2012 from 70% to 63%. Nor is the fact that, as the effects of climate change came ever closer to home, media coverage of the subject dropped between 2010 and 2012 and, though rising in 2013, was still well below coverage levels for 2007 to 2009. Nor is it a story that European nations, already light years ahead of the United States on phasing out fossil fuels, recently began considering cutbacks on some of their climate change goals, nor that U.S. carbon emissions actually rose in 2013, nor that the southern part of the much disputed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring particularly carbon-dirty tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, is now in operation, nor that 2013 will have been either the fourth or seventh hottest year on record, depending on how you do the numbers.

…What makes climate change so challenging is that the carbon dioxide (and methane) being generated by the extraction, production, and burning of fossil fuels supports the most profitable corporations in history, as well as energy states like Saudi Arabia and Russia that are, in essence, national versions of such corporations. The drive for profits has so far proven unstoppable. Those who run the big oil companies, like the tobacco companies before them, undoubtedly know what potential harm they are doing to us. They know what it will mean for humanity if resources (and profits) aren’t poured into alternative energy research and development. And like those cigarette companies, they go right on. They are indeed intent, for instance, on turning North America into “Saudi America,” and hunting down and extracting the last major reserves of fossil fuel in the most difficult spots on the planet. Their response to climate change has, in fact, been to put some of their vast profits into the funding of a campaign of climate-change denialism (and obfuscation) and into the coffers of chosen politicians and think tanks willing to lend a hand.

In fact, one of the grim wonders of climate change has been the ability of Big Energy and its lobbyists to politicize an issue that wouldn’t normally have a “left” or “right,” and to make bad science into an ongoing news story. In other words, an achievement that couldn’t be more criminal in nature has also been their great coup de théâtre.

In a world heading toward the brink, here’s the strange thing: most of the time that brink is nowhere in sight. And how can you get people together to solve a human-caused problem when it’s so seldom meaningfully in the news (and so regularly challenged by energy interests when it is)?

This is the road to hell and it has not been paved with good intentions. If we stay on it, we won’t even be able to say that future historians considered us both a wonder (for our ability to create world-ending scenarios and put them into effect) and a disgrace (for our inability to face what we had done). By then, humanity might have arrived at the end of history, and so of historians.
Today, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) penned a devastating OpEd for the NY Times, Obama's Pipeline.
The administration’s approach to the pipeline is a throwback to the time when endangered species were defenseless in the face of corporate moneymaking. It is a reminder that even though our environmental laws use science, not profits, as the basis of our environmental decisions, any company with bottomless pockets used to be able to game the system and get away with it.

That’s why Keystone is about more than one pipeline. It is about establishing once and for all whether we have moved on from the disastrous Bush-Cheney view of environmental policy. President Obama’s own Environmental Protection Agency has said in no uncertain terms that the pipeline will contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. That should be the end of the conversation. The fact that it isn’t-- that we’re left hanging and hoping-- is more than disappointing. It is a very troubling sign for the future.
Whether it's the neoliberal trade policies, the slide into feudalism, corporate mergers that rape consumers or the Keystone XL Pipeline that Obama will soon be approving… we are royally screwed. Let go of your parochial allegiance to the Democratic or Republican Party. The lesser of two evils is evil. Evil is bad. If you're voting for anyone who isn't an independent operator-- whether a Bernie Sanders or Marianne Williamson who are literally independents, or independent-minded Democrats like Alan Grayson and Raúl Grijalva, or even an independent-minded Republican like Justin Amash (ugghhh… I know, I know)-- you're voting for Evil, evil that will destroy our democracy, our families, our world… and all to further enrich the already obscenely rich. I didn't vote for Obama last year-- I broke free. It was the best election ever for me. Watch the video up top about the Keystone XL lies they're feeding us. These people are our enemies-- our mortal enemies.

By the way, progressive icon Dennis Kucinich (D) endorsed Marianne Williamson (I) for Congress (CA-33) this afternoon. Makes perfect sense to me.

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How WIll We Ever Know If America Gets A Left Again?


Tuesday I was laughing over a remark by Blue Dog co-chair John Barrow, a cowardly Georgia reactionary. In announcing 3 new Blue Dog recruits for Congress-- corporate shills Jennifer Garrison (OH), Gwen Graham (FL) and James Lee Witt (AR)-- he said, "Now, more than ever, the American people are tired of the gridlock in Washington that has been created by the extremes of the right and left." As I retorted, "many of the extremists on the right are his fellow Georgia congressmen like Paul Broun, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, and Phil Gingrey. But who are the 'extremists on the left' Barrow is deriding? John Lewis?" Basically, there are none, and certainly not in either House of Congress. There are some solid left-of-center Democrats, but "extremist on the left" on a level of Broun or Gingrey (not to mention Bachmann, Gohmert, Stockman or dozens of neo-fascist Republican elected officials? Not a chance!

The video up top is an interview by Bill Moyers with political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr., whose provocative essay, Nothing Left-- The Long, Slow Surrender Of American Liberals was just published by Harpers. Reed's point is that the American left failed and basically doesn't even exist anymore, primarily because it neglected to build "broadly based, mass movements" that can change the terms of political debate... As any actual progressive will tell you, both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, are heavily indebted to Wall Street for their careers and are, at best, progressives in name only-- ... "they've done the Wall Street bidding... Wall Street controls the agenda." If "economic issues are the fundamental existential questions," as Moyers asserts, and the left can't even put the issue of economic inequality, back on the table, the left, as Reed asserts, "is no longer a significant force in American politics." Moyers explains, by way of introduction, that Reed "sees the populist, progressive wing of the Democratic Party giving up to the corporate wing putatively embodied in Hillary Clinton sailing forth surrounded by a mighty armada from Wall Street." So a conveniently paranoid callow corporate whore like John Barrow doesn't have much to worry about-- at least not from "extremists on the left"-- not when the House Democrats are being run by the likes of Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Crowley and Steve Israel-- basically your father's Republican Party!
BILL MOYERS: Well, what do you mean nothing left?

ADOLPH REED: Well, what I mean basically is that if we understand the left to be anchored to a conviction that the society can be made better than it actually is and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone.

I mean, there are leftists around, certainly. There's no shortage of them. And there are left organizations, and there are people who publish left ideas and kind of think left thoughts. But as a significant force that's capable of shaping the terms of debate in American politics, you know, the left has gone and has been gone for a while.

I often note that, you know, working people in America got more from Richard Nixon than we got from Clinton or Obama. And it's not because he was our fan, right, it's because, you know, the labor movement and what has since been called the social movement of the '60s were dynamic enough forces in the society that even Nixon, who called himself a Keynesian, felt that there was a need to respond to them.

So that's how we got occupational health and safety, affirmative action like other stuff. So it's not, and, see, this is the key point, I think, right. Because one of the ways that our politics have been hollowed and a source of the collapse of the left is a forgetting, right? A kind of social amnesia about what movement building is and how and what social movements are and how they're constructed.

BILL MOYERS: In this piece you write, "If the left is tied to a democratic strategy that, at least since the Clinton administration, tries to win elections by absorbing much of the right’s social vision and agenda, before long the notion of a political left will have no meaning. For all intents and purposes, that is what has occurred."

ADOLPH REED: Look, I've never wanted to dismiss electoral action. But the problem is that it can only be a defensive engagement for us now. Because the way that the center of gravity in American politics has moved right, we're kind of dealt out of it.

So the only option that there is for us in the electoral realm is going to be finding the less bad candidate.

And what that means is in that there's no possibility of being able to push any of the sort of progressive, egalitarian ideas that would've popped up in FDR's campaign in 1944, right, or even Truman's campaign in 1948.

What we can do is try to have some influence on the least worst, right. But, I would never argue that we shouldn't pay attention to electoral politics. But I think we need to understand that that can't exhaust the scope of our political activity.

And we've sort of fallen into a groove of putting all of our political hopes into electing Democrats and just seem to have a lot of, you know, difficulty just getting off the dime of about trying to build around campaign issues, right.

Like, single payer health care, right, was a moment that's come and gone. I mean I've been pushing off and on over the years for universal free public higher education.

…President Obama in the speech he gave a couple weeks ago, the ballyhooed speech where he mentioned the word "inequality" a couple times.

He leaves the podium in effect and goes straight to try to, you know, strong arm his own party to support Fast Track for trans pacific partnership.

So, I mean, what we've got is, like, a bipartisan neoliberalism, right, that's at the center of gravity of the American government. And to be clear, what I mean by neoliberalism is that, it’s two things.

It's a free market, utopian ideology. And it's a concrete program for intensified upward redistribution. And when the two objectives conflict, I mean, guess which one gets put-- on the shelf? But both parties are fundamentally committed to this. And at this point, and I think we've seen this much more clearly since the 2008 election, the principal difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Is the choice between a neoliberal party that is progressive on multicultural and diversity issues, and a neoliberal party that's reactionary and horrible on those same issues.

But where the vast majority of Americans live our lives and feel our anxieties about present and future and insecurity is not about the multicultural issues over which there's so there's so much fight. In the very realm of the neoliberal economic issues to which both parties are, in fact, committed.

BILL MOYERS: So, I hear you saying, Adolph, that while social and cultural factors are important to us, economic issues are the fundamental existential questions. And that the neo-liberal parties, both of them, devoted to promoting the interests of multinational companies and capitalism don't care what you think about cultural and social issues, as long as they control the process by which nothing interferes with markets.

ADOLPH REED: I think that's quite succinct.

BILL MOYERS: When Obama spoke about inequality and then a little bit later championed fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Aren't… Don't you take some encouragement from the fact that soon after Obama spoke, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, minority leader of the House and majority leader of the Senate both said, no deal. We’re not for fast track.

ADOLPH REED: Right, right.

BILL MOYERS: You know why they did, apparently? Because 550 organizations in this country essentially representing the base of the Democratic Party said, no, Mr. President, we're not going with you. And so Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi responded. You must take some encouragement from that.

ADOLPH REED: Oh, absolutely. Totally.

BILL MOYERS: So it's not dead out there. It's not a cemetery.

ADOLPH REED: Well, it's not quite. But, I mean, the lesson I take from it, too, is that it's the organization that sort of brings them to where we'd like for them to be, right? It's a pressure from underneath. And, you know, and that's what largely hollowed out, right? I mean, except for you know, I mean, some issues.

BILL MOYERS: Why is that?

ADOLPH REED: Because Wall Street controls the agenda. I mean, I go back again to the primaries in '92. And I was calling friends of mine that I had, you know, long connections with, you know, again in the South, early on. And the word that came back was that Clinton's people had come through and had said from the outset, look, our guy's going to be the nominee. Don't ask for anything. If you don't get onboard, then you won't have any access later, after we win.

So access, which is a kind of crack cocaine, has become part of the problem.

…BILL MOYERS: And how do you change it?

ADOLPH REED: I'd say the first step has to be a focus on changing the terms of political debate. Because we've got to be able to put that issue back on the table, right? I mean, the issue of economic inequality, back on the table. I mean, even you know, the Democrats who raise it tentatively and back away as soon as they do.

Gore, with his odd little populist flirtation that he offered in the spring or the summer of you know, 2000, which provoked this torrent of outrage from the right wing. Saying that he's fanning the flames of class warfare, and that's not what we do in America, right? The same things happen, you know, with Obama. I can't even recall enough about the Kerry campaign, you know, to recall if he even made a gesture.

BILL MOYERS: You remind us of how leftist, progressive, liberals, a lot of everyday folks were swept up in the rhetoric and expectations surrounding Obama's campaign, his election, and his presidency. I'll bet you remember election night in Grant Park in 2008.

ADOLPH REED: Yeah, I do.

BILL MOYERS: Here it is.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one. That while we breathe, we hope.

And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

ADOLPH REED: The clip is interesting, right? Because you think about the clip and his utterances, right, were a collection of evocative statements. But there was no real content there, right? I mean, he didn't say, I'm going to fight for X, and I have--

BILL MOYERS: Against inequality or for equality--

ADOLPH REED: Right, right.

BILL MOYERS: --or for wages, or--

ADOLPH REED: Right, right. So it was as he said himself in one or both of his books, his move is to encourage people to imagine a better world and a better future and a better life for themselves through identification with him.

BILL MOYERS: And you say in your article that his content, essentially, is his identity.

Is there anything we can do about it? Forget Democrats or Republicans. Keep just three things in mind: progressive, integrity and independent-mindedness… like these people and these people. Let's build a team in the Senate around Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and a team in the House around Alan Grayson and his allies.

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