Friday, July 31, 2015

Gosh, if we'd only known about Mullah Omar, we could've at least sent a card or something


We could have had, like, a little memorial service? Or maybe sent a nice floral arrangement? (A local florist would have known what's in season over there.)

Milt Bearden, a former CIA operative in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that “it is beyond puzzling” that Omar’s death could go unconfirmed for so long, especially given the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of the United States.

But “it’s another case of why intelligence collection in that part of the world is so difficult,” Bearden said. “The truth is layered, and there are multiple agendas, none of which we ever really understand.”
-- from "Taliban leader Omar's tale reflects clashing
," by the
Washington Post's Greg Miller

by Ken

It's a relief to find that a certified secret-intelligence pro is "beyond puzzled" by that two-year gap in getting out news of the death of Mullah Omar. At the same time, you wouldn't think that "alive" or "dead" would be a truth subject to such extensive layering.

Meanwhile, I'll bet there are Taliban fighers all over Greater Talibania frantically searching their memories now trying to figure out just how long ago it was they got that inspiring yet terrifying order: "Please to dispatch 20 infidels by sundown also clean out your cave it's disgusting. Kind regards Mullah O." Because as we know now, if the message came less than two years ago, it appears most unlikely that it was from the One-Eyed One after all, and it's now a much less interesting story to tell strangers passing through, not to mention the grandkids. ("You know, Mullah Omar and I were so close that . . . .")

After all, it was just a couple of weeks ago that there was buzz about the sudden appearance of a message from Mullah Omar. Daily Outlook Afghanistan reported "Mullah Omar's Dramatic Emergence; An Impetus to Talks."


As breaking-newsbreaks go, it has to be that some luster is taken off the news of Mullah Omar's death by the fact that the event apparently happened two years ago. I wonder what would happen if I tried telling my landlord or mobile-phone service provider that that payment they're so hot to have is on its way when I what I really mean is "at some point in the next two years . . ."

It may also take some of the top off memorial services for Mullah O, the fact that the man hasn't been with us for, you know, two years now. You know that sparkling grape juice you were planning to serve? (It surely wouldn't do to celebrate the passing of a fundamentalist Muslim fighter with sparkling wine. I guess in view of the nature of this particular celebration, you'd want to open the bottles so the fizz goes flat.

One thing I don't think we have to worry about is the late Mullah O feeling slighted by the delay in recognition of his passing. I'm guessing he'd be pleased as punch to have put another one over on the Western infidels. At the same time, if he felt slighted in life by all the attention focused on that upstart interloper in his country Osama bin-Laden, he might smart at public disclosure that his whereabouts and elimination were subjects of vastly less interest to the Western infidel security apparatus -- that basically we infidels didn't give all that big a whoop whether Omar was alive or dead.

As to reasons why the news may be so late in coming, near the end of Greg Miller's Washington Post report we learn: "A former Pakistani official said parts of the government may have sought to keep Omar's death secret out of fear that Taliban factions would splinter without him and damage Islamabad’s ability to influence peace talks with Afghanistan."

The Western infidel security people certainly had inklings. Here's the start of Greg Miller's report:
In early 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confronted the president of Pakistan with a disturbing piece of intelligence. The spy agency had learned that ­Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader who had become one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was being treated at a hospital in southern Pakistan.

The American spy chief even identified the facility — the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi — and said the CIA had “some raw intelligence on this” that would soon be shared with its Pakistani counterpart, according to diplomatic files that summarize the exchange.
U.S. intelligence officials now think that Omar probably died two years later, in 2013, and Afghan officials said this week that he succumbed while being treated for a serious illness in a Karachi hospital, just as those earlier intelligence reports had indicated.
Which suggests that if perhaps you were undergoing a medical procedure that you hoped might be kept under wraps -- a little cosmetic work, say -- that Karachi is a destination worth considering. As scary a place as we're often told it is, especially for Westerners, it does appear that the hospitals there know a thing or two about patient confidentiality.

But I digress.
The belated disclosure this week of Omar’s death has added to the legend of the ghostlike Taliban chief, a figure so elusive that it appears to have taken U.S. spy agencies two years to determine that one of their top targets after 9/11 was no longer alive.

But the emerging details of Omar’s death may also help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan.

Current and former U.S. ­officials said that despite intermittent intelligence on Omar’s whereabouts, there was never a concerted push to find him that remotely approached the scale of the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

At the same time, the one-eyed Taliban leader’s apparent ability to get medical treatment in the port city of Karachi has bolstered long-standing suspicions that Omar was being sheltered by Pakistan.
The Pakistanis, of course, don't want to hear this.
A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”

A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”
Then again, for any number of reasons, including all those drones we keep sending their way, Pakistani intelligence officials haven't been exactly Chatty Cathies with us in recent years. Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan and former CIA counterterrorism chief tells Greg Miller of the relationship with Pakistan's much-feared intelligence directorate, the ISI:
Pretty quickly you could see a pattern. Where the ISI was very effective working with us in tracking down ­al-Qaeda, anytime we had a lead on a senior member of the Taliban, the Pakistanis weren’t successful in following up.
But then, Grenier also notes, "We were overwhelmingly focused on al-Qaeda." When U.S. forces stumbled across Taliban leaders, it seems to have been a surprise both to us and to the Pakistanis.

And Pakistani officials aren't necessarily all that high on the ISI's "need to know" list. A source described as "a former Pakistani official" -- the same former Pakistani official we heard earlier speculating that the Pakistani government may have deliberately tried to keep Mullah Omar's death secret for fear of post-Omar factionalizing of the Tabliban -- says "the ISI told Pakistani leaders in March this year 'that Mullah Omar is seriously ill and his condition is deteriorating.' "

It seems he could only have wished to be "seriously ill" and "deteriorating" this past March. So it goes.

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DCCC Still Sneaking More Republicans Into Congress Disguised As Democrats


The DCCC has long looked the Republicans for congressional recruits. Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen and Steve Israel are all guilty of recruiting conservative Republicans to run as Democrats-- almost all of whom joined the Blue Dogs or New Dems and subsequently lost their seats. They lost their seats when Democratic voters realized they'd be sold a bill of goods by the DCCC and then refused to go out too the polls and vote fourths phonies. That they lost their seats-- and drove the Democratic Party into the minority in the House, a minority that could last decades, hasn't slowed the conservaDems down one bit. Steve Israel seems to have persuaded the naive new DCCC chairman, Ben Ray Luján, that this is how Beltway grown-ups are supposed to behave.

Right now Chuck Schumer is waging the ugliest and most vicious Senate campaign of the cycle in Florida-- but not against Republicans... against progressive icon Alan Grayson on behalf of "ex"-Republican/New Dem Patrick Murphy, the Wall Street candidate. And, unless you know otherwise, it's almost getting safe to assume that DCCC recruits-- like IA-01 GOPer-turned conservaDem Monica Vernon-- is a DINO. Yesterday Roll Call reported a story in Missouri that's even more complicated and with more twists and turns that most. This time a Republican the DCCC recruited, Eric Greitens, is back to running as a right-wing Republican, which is what he was all along anyway, regardless of the DCCC calling him a Democrat.
Depending on how things shake out, Missouri voters could face a bizarro world next fall: A former Democrat running as the Republican nominee for governor against a Democrat who used to be a Republican.

Eric Greitens is part of a crowded and growing field of Republican candidates who will face off next August. As he launched a statewide tour earlier this month, the former Democrat attempted to turn what could be a weakness in the crowded Republican primary into a strength.

“I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way,” Greitens wrote in a Fox News editorial in mid-July.

Greitens, an ex-Navy SEAL turned New York Times best-selling author who has led the veterans advocacy group The Mission Continues, said that Democrats tried to recruit him “several years ago” to run for a federal office.

An official at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told CQ Roll Call that ahead of the 2010 elections, Greitens met with the committee about running against Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from mid-Missouri.

Ultimately, Greitens told the DCCC no. As he put it, “There was one rather large problem: As I got older, I no longer believed in their ideas.”

The flirtation was not Greitens’ first with Democratic politics. Two years earlier, he got in the car with the state’s former Democratic governor, Bob Holden, and drove from St. Louis to Denver to see then-Sen. Barack Obama accept the nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention, Holden said.

“He was still just kind of getting his feet on the ground with The Mission Continues and all of that,” Holden told CQ Roll Call, who mentioned that Greitens actually finished one of his books at his cabin near Jefferson City. “Eric has said he leaned toward the Democratic Party. I wish he still did.”
Like many Beltway Democrats from the Establishment, Greitents had nothing but contempt for a progressive vision and for liberals. "I had concluded that liberals aren’t just wrong," he wrote. "All too often they are world-class hypocrites. They talk a great game about helping the most vulnerable, with ideas that feel good and fashionable. The problem is their ideas don’t work, and often hurt the exact people they claim to help... [G]ood intentions are easy. Even easier when you’re spending other people’s money. But they’re not enough. To actually achieve meaningful results, you have to have good ideas, discipline and accountability to go along with it. The problem is that most Democrats seem to think more money and bigger government are the solutions to virtually every single problem. They’re wrong. It’s easy to give people food stamps; harder to get people into good-paying jobs. It’s easy to encourage dependency; harder to help people into a life of purpose and dignity. The worst are politicians who smugly talk about caring for the little guy, and then abandon the poorest, most vulnerable of our children to schools that give them little chance to succeed. That’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a tragedy. I became a conservative because I believe that caring for people means more than just spending taxpayer money; it means delivering results. It means respecting and challenging our citizens, telling them what they need to hear, not simply what they want to hear."

That's what the DCCC thought would be a good idea to recruit-- just like so-called "ex"-Republicans Monica Vernon (IA) and Mike Derrick (NY) this cycle. Dozens of former congressional Democrats-- Blue Dogs primarily-- have become Republicans. Steve Israel seems completely comfortable with that. No Republicans or Blue Dogs on this Blue America list, just well-vetted progressive candidates.

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New Jersey Extremist Scott Garrett Finds His Base Turning On Him


NJ-05 sits on the entire northern border of New Jersey with New York, from the Hudson River in the east to just outside of Port Jervis in the west, and the entire northwestern border with Pennsylvania from Milford through the Delaware Water Gap and beyond my old home in Stroudsburg. It's an affluent R+4 district in blue New Jersey. Over 70% of the population is in northern Bergen County's suburbs and towns like Paramus, Hackensack, Teaneck, Mahwah and Lodi. The Sopranos was set there and Lodi was the location of the Bada Bing strip club. Politically, this is Chris Christie country although Sen. Bob Menendez won the district with 51% last time he ran. McCain won the district in 2008, 51-48% and Romney won in 2012, 52-49%. The congressman from the area, Scott Garrett, is the most extreme right congressman from New Jersey-- and the entire northeast United States-- since he was first elected in 2002. He was reelected in 2014 with 55.7% against political novice Roy Cho and in 2012 he won with 55.0% against Adam Gussen, Deputy Mayor of Teaneck. Cho spent $1,251,518 to Garrett's $2,245,456 and Gussen spent $51,444 to Garrett's $1,105,177. Neither Democrat was backed by the DCCC, which hasn't gone up against Garrett since giving some minor help to Dennis Shulman (the blind rabbi) in 2008.

The source of Garrett's power and campaign money stems from his position on the House Financial Services Committee, where he is widely considered a prime spokesperson for Wall Street banksters. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises he has been in a position to make sure Wall Street priorities become Republican policy, just the way he has worked for Vegas mobster Sheldon Adelson, sponsoring a federal prohibition of online poker and for Big Oil, making himself a pariah among New Jersey Republicans by being the only member of the New Jersey delegation to vote for oil and gas drilling off the state's coast and the only member to vote against restrictions on price gouging by oil companies. He is probably the most right-wing Member of Congress from New Jersey in history but Wall Street has backed him to the hilt-- until now.

Last cycle the Finance sector (Wall Street) only paid out legalistic bribes of a million dollars or more to 10 current Members of the House who were not running for Senate seats. Garrett was one of them, taking $1,171,579, even more than Wall Street's pet Democrat, Patrick Murphy, who gobbled up $1,127,650 in bribes. since Garrett's first congressional election Wall Street has given him $4,347,936, nearly as much as their House darlings Paul Ryan ($4,936,303) and Pete Sessions ($4,740,807). But many on Wall Street have now had it with Garrett's extremism and have decided to cut him off.

Garrett, likely to be a target of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's jihad against extremists, declared two months ago that he would stop paying dues to the NRCC for not being anti-gay enough. He'd voted against reelecting Boehner to the Speaker's job. Boehner and his team take it as part of the right-wing rebellion against his authority. Boehner told Financial Services Committee chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) to crack the whip on Garrett and Garrett responded that "his procedural vote against leadership was a matter of conscience. Then he stunned the room with this explanation: He had not supported the NRCC in the past, he said, because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries." This flipped out North Carolina closet queen Patrick McHenry, a junior member of leadership, who led the NRCC’s candidate recruitment during the 2014 election cycle and said that Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC supported, was "equally homosexual" when Garrett donated directly to him in 2012.
The northern New Jersey Republican has not yet paid his dues to the NRCC. He has a serious opponent this cycle. Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, raised $412,000 last quarter and has almost $600,000 in the bank. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon declined to say whether the campaign arm would get involved in that-- or any-- race.

"I’m not going to talk about who we’re going to support and who we’re not going to support anywhere across the line, because hopefully we don’t have to come into races like that," Walden said of Garrett’s race. "He’s been able to raise a lot of money, he’s got a lot of money in the bank-- close to $3 million. My preference is we have members who pay their dues in full."
But, as Walden well knows, new Wall Street money isn't going to be as available to him as it has in the past-- and will be available to conservaDem Josh Gottheimer who one New Jersey pundit termed "a conservative Jew who loves Wall Street more than lox." He's getting huge help from "top veterans of the Clinton and Obama administrations, over $219,000 in March alone. Obama and Clinton big-wigs like Patti Solis Doyle, Mack McLarty, who was President Clinton’s chief of staff; Julius Genachowski, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Sandy Berger, former national security adviser to Clinton; Paul Begala, Clinton political strategist and media commentator; and Jennifer Palmieri, communications director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, are helping him in his bid to oust the hated Garrett.
The outpouring of support for a challenger is unprecedented this early in the campaign cycle in the Republican-leaning 5th District, a place Democrats in North Jersey have repeatedly said they could win if a candidate could raise enough money to define Garrett on New York television.

Gottheimer is a North Caldwell native who moved back to North Jersey with his family three years ago. A corporate strategist for Microsoft, he previously worked for the FCC and on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

“I believe pretty deeply we need to bring people back to Washington who want to work and get things done,” Gottheimer said. “Like most people, I’m frustrated with the extremism from the wings of the parties.”
Politico pointed out that "according to FEC filings, Gottheimer already has raised $150K from Wall Street execs including Tom Nides (MS), Peter Scher (JOM), Blair Effron (Centerview), Orin Kramer (Provident), Phil Murphy (ex-GS), Marc Lasry (Avenue) and Jake Siewert (Goldman)."

Bloomberg: "Representative Scott Garrett, who heads an influential House subcommittee overseeing the U.S. capital markets, is facing a revolt by corporate and Wall Street donors after he reportedly made anti-gay remarks at a private meeting of Republican lawmakers. ... Earlier this month, in what financial lobbyists said was a sign of things to come, the Big 4 accounting firms and their trade association abruptly canceled a fundraising event for the New Jersey Republican.

"In addition, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has decided to stop making political action committee donations to Garrett ... Other firms are likely to follow suit, and some in the industry have debated whether to take a more drastic step and ask for their contributions back from Garrett, said the people, who asked for anonymity so as to not antagonize a lawmaker who oversees their industry." Couldn't happen to a more deserving sociopath!

Meanwhile, other New Jersey Republicans, as usual, are embarrassed by Garrett's deranged extremism. Mainstream conservative Leonard Lance: "I am not going to criticize Scott Garrett because I do not know what he said,” said Lance. “I, however, disagree with anyone who rejects Ronald Reagan’s 'Big Tent' philosophy of an inclusive Republican Party. We should welcome into the Tent all people who believe in Republican ideals and principles of fiscal responsibility regardless of their race, religion, creed, national origin, gender or sexual identity. That has always been my position and will continue to be so."

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Why Would Anyone Think Career-Long Corporate Shill Joe Biden Would Be Any Better Than Hillary?


Corporate goofball almost makes Hillary look good

Inevitably, there's been some speculation that, with Hillary stumbling a bit, Biden might be more electable. Few people remember what a corporate shill Biden was for his entire, long senatorial career. He may be a lovably goofy vice president but he's not even remotely part of the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. He's always been a DLC hack and an outrageous corporate shill and, first and foremost, a Beltway careerist.

Josh Kraushaar posits that Hillary's strength was her inevitability and electability. First woman president inspires a lot of people. "As an older white man," he wrote, Biden "would probably face challenges exciting the core of nonwhite voters who make up the base of Obama's support."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. Throughout the summer, Clinton has been hammered over using a secret, personal email server as secretary of State-- one that government officials believe may have compromised the country's national security and allowed her to conceal (and delete) email correspondence. Meanwhile, as she faces energetic opposition from her party's progressive base, she's decided to tack to the left, offering little to disaffected swing voters dissatisfied with Obama. Her campaign operatives believe it's worth mobilizing the Democratic Party's ascendant constituencies without offering much to the (shrinking) number of voters in the middle.

In the process, however, her favorable ratings have hit all-time lows, with clear majorities of Americans saying they don't like her and have trouble believing she's trustworthy. In the critical swing states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia, reputable new polls show her favorability ratings not much better than Donald Trump's-- with unfavorable ratings nearing 60 percent. Quinnipiac's swing-state polling found her losing in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia to all three leading GOP candidates (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker), while NBC News/Marist polling found her favorability ratings to be just as dismal in Iowa and New Hampshire. National polling doesn't put her in much better shape, with her favorability still upside-down in CNN/ORC's new poll (45/48, among all adults). Gallup found her overall favorability at 43/46, her worst net showing since their November 2007 survey. Her numbers aren't any better than Obama's, and many polls are finding them in worse shape.

Suddenly, if you're Joe Biden, running for president makes a lot more political sense.

...[A]t a time when authenticity is a highly valued asset-- for better or worse--Biden boasts the natural political skill set that Clinton clearly lacks. He's a happy warrior who enjoys campaigning and isn't constrained by talking points or rope lines. He's able to ham it up with union rank-and-file, while also giving a stem-winding speech blasting Republicans in Congress. His all-too-frequent malapropisms are endearing at a time when voters are cynical about scripted politicians.
Sounds like President Hubert Humphrey-- exactly like so, in fact. Except Humphrey, unlike Biden, was a genuine liberal. Biden has a long record as a corporate phony, who knows how to make the right noises for a base he often betrayed. Policy-wise, he's probably as bad as Clinton, nothing whatsoever like Bernie Sanders. More like his old ally, Joe Lieberman. From a post I did in 2007:
When one thinks of "Senator Joe Biden" and "bankruptcy," the first thing that comes to mind is his slavish support for corporate contributors like the big banking and credit card industries. Biden took the Republican position that has destroyed American families and he did it for his big campaign contributors. (Interestingly, Biden is also the only Democrat who is getting the kind of relative support between corrupt insiders and the grassroots that Republicans get.)

That said, Joe Biden is not a serious candidate for president. He's a quintessential Inside-the-Beltway windbag who is auditioning to be Hillary's Secretary of State. Like Richardson, that's why he's running for president and wasting people's time and money. Would he make a good Secretary of State. No, he'd be as terrible as Condoleeza Rice. Early in tonight's debate Biden was asked which Republican he would consider for VP if he had to. He picked Chuck Hagel-- and then he gratuitously threw in that he thought Dick Lugar would be a good Secretary of State, presumably whether he had to appoint a Republican or not.
Meanwhile, if you want to help the one candidate running for president who both can win and can make a substantive difference for the country, here's the page for you.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Advice conservatives never give themselves," courtesy of Jen Sorensen (who levels a shocking accusation at Davy Brooks)


Jen Sorensen, Daily Kos Comics (click to enlarge)

by Ken

This strip is so wonderful that it hardly needs amplification or commentary, though I think you're going to enjoy it even more after you've read Jen's own background note (see below). And I'm going to go a step farther, extracting the pearls of conservative wisdom Jen has incorporated here, just so you can hear them in isolation, and let them rattle around your head a little. I'm also going to preempt a bit of Jen's note by revealing that, beyond the obvious starting point of the death of Sandra Bland, the formulation here and indeed the content of panels 2 through 4 are filtered through the, er, sensibility of America's Whiner, Davy Brooks.

You can, of course, go straight to the strip -- as you likely already have done. And if you want to accuse me of overexplaining the joke, I can accept that. Still, I think there's value in first hearing these dicta on their own. Feel free to adapt them mentally to the right-wing voices you cherish most.
1. You need to cut out the victim mentality.
2. You should be more respectful of authority.
3. You people are too angry. Lighten up!
4. When are you going to stop living in the past? Get over it!
Now do you see what I mean by adapting them to other right-wing voices? It really doesn't come as a great surprise to learn that the voice Jen was kind of hearing in her head was the seemingly moderate whine of our Davy B. Consider, though, how harsh, even scathing these pieces of "advice" would sound coming out of the mouth of Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, to pick just a few examples. (I probably should have brought Noah in on this. He's a connoisseur of the kinds of diatribes I'm trying to imagine.)

Now look at the strip -- or if you already have, look at it again.

Finally, let's add Jen's own thoughts:
Some people blame Sandra Bland for escalating the situation during her traffic stop, suggesting she should have been more respectful to the barking, button-pushing officer. Funny how all this finger-wagging about manners when dealing with law enforcement didn't seem to apply when the person in question was Cliven Bundy, the freeloading rancher who put up armed resistance over paying grazing fees. Apparently rebellion is virtuous if you're a highly-armed white cowboy/militia leader/Tea Party activist/Jade Helm conspiracy theorist, but if you're a black woman who forgot to signal while changing lanes, do not even think about behaving ungraciously towards the authorities, no matter how abusive they are.

Other panels in this cartoon were somewhat inspired by a recent David Brooks column, which was written as an open letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates in response his new book. After professing what felt to me like patronizing faux humility, Brooks more or less lapsed into ye olde "why don't you stop wallowing in victimhood and pursue the American Dream?" spiel.
"Patronizing faux humility"? From our Davy? That's shocking! (Just kidding. Actually, if you look up "patronizing faux humility" in the dictionary, I think we all have a good idea whose picture you'll find there.)

"Patronizing faux humility"? From Davy Brooks? Can it be?

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New Collection of Prison Writings by Mumia Abu-Jamal Provides a Compact History of America's War on People


Writing on the Wall-- Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal
(City Lights Books, 2015)
Foreword by Cornel West
Edited by Johanna Fernández

by Denise Sullivan

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in jail longer than members of the millennial generation have been alive. Those who've followed his case---from the time he was a Philadelphia radio journalist, framed by police in 1981, through the wrongful death sentence he served until 2011 (when it was converted to a "slow death" or life sentence)---know he's served his time in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution "ona move," to use one of his catchphrases. Agitating for America to live up to its claim as land of the free, when it comes to his positions on our injustice system, unbridled capitalism, and the "need" for wars of aggression, he's also served as the invisible line so-called liberals will not cross. Even in the more radical and progressive wings of politics there is a tyrannical hierarchy of supporters more concerned with who's protested louder and longer for Mumia, than for what Abu-Jamal stands for (life in the face of death and and faith against the odds, in case there is any doubt).

Thirty-three years after his incarceration, it would seem Abu-Jamal's 15 minutes in the media spotlight would have elapsed, a possibility that would not be lost on Abu-Jamal who knows well the Society of the Spectacle. Yet while over two million Americans are neglected in prisons, and despite the age and attention gap, it's a victory we are still talking about him all. The most identifiable prisoner in the known world, through his own persistence and with the help of a core council of support who works to deliver his books and his Prison Radio broadcasts, Writing on the Wall is his latest communique to reach us from the confines of the prison nation.

Published by City Lights Books and selected by Johanna Fernández, a scholar, educator and coordinator of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, over 100 previously unpublished short essays by Abu-Jamal well-cover our history of violence (from the police bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, to commentaries on the violence in Ferguson, MO ) and the media circusry that accompanies it. Prepared in the style and format of his Prison Radio pieces broadcast on public radio, Fernández wrests hope from Abu-Jamal's prophecies that one day America might live up to the truth of its own advertising. "Like Nelson Mandela, Mumia defies his captors by preserving his integrity and compassion in the face of the hateful repression orchestrated against him," she writes.

Despite his personal circumstances on the inside, Abu-Jamal consistently, dispassionately, and evenly assess the cost of selling freedom worldwide. The book opens with early writings on MOVE, the black liberation organization bombed out of its headquarters on order of Philadelphia's first black mayor, Wilson Goode, in 1985. Though there is a repetition to these writings, they serve to set the stage for the larger theme of state violence, the bulk of it waged on people of color, along with our poorest and most pacifistic citizens.

Two essays from 1991 serve as examples of Abu-Jamal's ability to see things clearly where the rest of us may be blinded to the reality of everyday racism, our vision obstructed by denial or the demands of surviving. Dated February 7 and titled Opposing Anti-Arab Racism, Abu-Jamal cautioned of a developing anti-Arab sentiment at the dawn of the first Iraq war. "The potential for extraordinary evil launched against them is real." In the piece that follows dated March 10 simply titled Rodney King, he writes, "'There's always a few bad apples in every bunch,' the cops will say, adding, 'Don't blame the bunch!' To now cry 'bad apples' is to insult Black intelligence. It is not 'bad apples,' but a bad system, that relegates Black life to the psychic underworld of terror." Both statements, written over 20 years ago, are alarming in their prescience. For anyone who needs the idea of systemic racism and police violence further unpacked, he writes, "For what did Black youth cross the seas of Saudi sand? For what did their fathers wage war in Vietnam? For what did their grandfathers fight a fascist Hitler? To be eaten in the streets like dogs?" These questions would appear to remain unanswered.

As if further documentation was needed, in the piece that is perhaps the book's most profound, Abu-Jamal outlines the danger presented by the "doorway execution" of Amadou Diallo in New York City in February of 2000. He perceived the appalling 41 shots fired at Diallo, "A harbinger of greater violence against unarmed Black and non-white life by the cops… contributing toward the illusion "That perhaps Black life will somehow be safer in the city with Democrats in political control." Somewhere along the way he has introduced the term "police terrorism" into the social and racial justice lexicon. He continues, "No major political party in America can even begin to promise Black folks in America the power to stand on their own doorstep, or ride their own car, or walk the streets of the urban center, without the very real threat of being 'accidentally' blasted into eternity. A politics that cannot, or will not, control the agents of that polity (that is the police) is unworthy of our support."

He writes on Abu Ghraib with an authority that can't be denied, given his firsthand experience with torture. Just this year, Abu-Jamal was denied proper medical treatment and visitation following complications from diabetes, its onset not unrelated to lack of care by a deficient prison hospital. His words on the surveillance state, inspired by news that the pacifist organization, the Thomas Merton Center had been suspected of ties to terrorism, are also chilling. "Thanks to the utility of fear, we are seeing how virtually silent people are in the asphyxiation of the alleged constitutional rights of the People."

Whether he's writing about Palestine, George Zimmerman or singer Nina Simone, the years flash by and the events of our times unfold, until finally, in 2011, Abu-Jamal leaves death row, but not before an inspirational missive titled, To My Brethren and Sistas on The Row: "I write not of death but of life. If I can walk off, so can you."

It's not every prisoner, political or otherwise, who has the endurance and temerity, nor the call to testify like Abu-Jamal, from researching the miscarriage of justice in his own case to becoming a self-proclaimed jailhouse lawyer; few have streets in France named for them or public support from figures diverse as Cornel West, Amy Goodman, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and Eddie Vedder. It's safe to say, though consigned to prison for life, Abu-Jamal will not be forgotten now or any time soon: His collected prison writings will be appreciated by human rights activists for ages to come, but more importantly they are useful right now, for anyone seeking a light in the darkness of the American night.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep on Pushing, Black Power Music from Blues to Hip Hop and an occasional contributor to DownWithTyranny.

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Alan Grayson Introduces Legislation To Expand Medicare


Wednesday my doctor told me that I'm recovering from 9 months of cancer treatment much more rapidly and strongly than she expected. She was so overjoyed that she told me that instead of coming to the hospital for checkups twice a week, I can come twice a month

One thing that was really lucky for me is that I was diagnosed when I was 66, a year into my relationship with Medicare. As president of a division of TimeWarner, I had incredible health insurance (part of my employment contract). My coverage lacked for nothing. But-- except for some glaring omissions that Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson is addressing in his new bill-- Medicare is at least as good. My cancer treatment cost way over a million dollars. Medicare, plus the inexpensive supplemental insurance I buy on the side, paid all the costs. I don't think I spent $100 out of pocket for anything related to the treatment!

Most Americans are proud that our country is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare. Grayson, though, is working on expanding it. "Today I introduced a bill," he wrote, "that will repeal the ban on Medicare coverage for eyeglasses, hearing aids and dental care... Seniors have eyes, ears and teeth, and any program designed to keep them healthy must include access to vision, hearing and dental care. Thanks to Medicare, for 50 years now our seniors have received the healthcare that they’ve needed to stay healthy, and to live a full life. But despite this success, this glaring gap in Medicare coverage needs to be closed.

Somewhere in Florida tonight there's a senior who is going to have to figure out how to get to sleep with the searing pain of a severe tooth ache throbbing away. Tomorrow morning, a senior somewhere in Florida will struggle to make out a blurry prescription label through a pair of glasses that haven't brought life into focus for months. Across our great state, grandmothers and grandfathers will wonder if they'll be able to hear their grandchildren's voices, or the doorbell, or even sirens.

That's just wrong.

Seniors who depend on Medicare should be able to afford eyeglasses, eye exams, hearing aids, cavity fillings and dentures. And it says something about our priorities as a nation that the law currently bans treatment for medical conditions that lead to blindness, deafness, lost teeth and serious gum disease, which has been strongly linked to heart disease.

There are 2.7 million seniors in America who are blind. How many of them would be able to see today, if they had received a simple annual eye exam as part of their Medicare coverage?

You can tell a lot about a society by how we care for their elderly. Right now, our seniors are being shortchanged.

I think it's time to give seniors a raise and make sure that they have he quality healthcare that we have promised them from a system they've paid into for decades.
There's no reason to think "ex"-Republican Patrick Murphy would support Grayson's initiative. Murphy has voted more frequently than almost any Democrat in Congress for Boehner's anti-family agenda rather than progressive alternatives. But Chuck Schumer, at the behest of his pals on Wall Street, is forcing the DSCC to work to sabotage Grayson, while pumping for Murphy. Schumer has personally been calling New York progressive donors and demanding they not contribute to Grayson's campaign. He doesn't want another senator from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. He wants conservative Wall Street shills like Murphy. 

You can watch Grayson's announcement video-- and, if you want to-- contribute to his Senate campaign right here.

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Happy 56th Birthday, Mark Meadows (R-NC)


To best understand the resolution North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows filed to oust Boehner as Speaker, let's go back to his message to Boehner last June and to Boehner's open secret of plotting against GOP "rebels"-- primarily members of the so-called Freedom Caucus-- with his pals at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Meadows has been complaining, publicly, that Boehner's tyrannical leadership style has created "a culture of punishment and fear." And, taken to the extreme, that led to Boehner backing the failed multimillion-dollar campaign by Establishment Big Business Republicans against libertarian Justin Amash (R-MI) and plans to find weaker members of the Freedom Caucus this cycle who can be defeated-- either in primaries or by conservative Democrats.

"There has been a suggestion," said Meadows in June, "that I should keep quiet and mind my manners for several months and then I will be given an opportunity to receive some of the benefits leadership allows. But if we allow ourselves to be bullied in the House of Representatives, how will we stand for Americans being stripped of their freedoms?" Tuesday Meadows, in fact, did the opposite, filing a resolution to "vacate the chair," which would remove Boehner as Speaker. Meadows' resolution went to the Rules Committee, where chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), a firm Boehner ally, is expected to kill it without a vote.
“It’s really more about trying to have a conversation about making this place work, where everybody’s voice matters, where it’s not a punitive culture,” said Meadows, who has felt the repercussions of bucking leadership.

Just last month, Meadows saw his subcommittee chairmanship revoked, then reinstated as leadership attempted to put the two-term congressman in his place for joining 33 other Republicans in trying to sink a key procedural rule vote on trade legislation.

In filing his motion in a non-privileged form-- meaning it did not require immediate consideration, or consideration at all-- Meadows said he wanted to see if just raising the issue of dissatisfaction with Boehner might prompt some changes at the top. He said he hoped for a “family discussion,” borrowing Boehner’s favorite euphemism for ugly intraparty fights.

But when he was asked if a lack of results on that front could culminate in Meadows bringing the motion up again, this time as privileged, Meadows was clear.

“Correct,” he said.

Republicans speculated Tuesday night that Meadows knew he didn’t have the votes at this point to remove Boehner and deliberately filed the motion as a non-privileged measure in order to let the prospect of a leadership change-- however far-fetched-- simmer over the monthlong August recess.

Speaking on background to scrums of reporters lingering near the Speaker’s Lobby, some lawmakers dismissed the attention-grabbing move as a gambit by Meadows to gin up fundraising. They also accused the North Carolina congressman of needlessly creating a distraction that could overshadow what many Republicans would prefer to focus for the next several weeks: Bashing President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Meadows objected to both accusations.

“I haven’t raised money off of anything that has happened to me in this House,” he said.

“There’s no one that’s been stronger on the Iran message, and to suggest we can only have one message when we go back home to talk to the American people would be to imply that our town halls can only have one question,” he said.
Fox News' well-connected chief congressional correspondent, Chad Pergram, reported: "In a single stroke, the rebellious congressman has not only infuriated the GOP leadership but scrambled their plans of using the August recess to focus on the Iran deal and a web of other issues. Now, the House goes into recess with this debate churning, even if the push stands little chance of succeeding."
"The Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People," Meadows wrote in his resolution to bump Boehner from his leadership perch.

Betcha' Boehner didn't phone Meadows to wish him a happy birthday or send over a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot.

That said, a rambunctious group of Republican insurgents, contemptuous of the House GOP leadership, may be more than happy to fete the birthday boy. Twenty-five House Republicans voted for someone other than Boehner for speaker at the start of this Congress in January. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, voted "present."

"There's been a lot of discussion about leadership or the lack of leadership," said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who waged a Quixotic effort of his own to claim the speaker's gavel over the winter. Yoho marshaled precisely two votes for speaker. His own and the ballot of Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

"I'll probably support [the resolution]," said Yoho.

"This will be pervading our thoughts through the recess," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who backed Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., instead of Boehner. "It gives constituents the chance to lobby their members of Congress."

...Boehner loyalists could barely contain their anger as they stormed off the House floor Tuesday night, having just learned of Meadows' gambit.

"It's something that will disrupt our plans to talk about policy for the August recess," fumed Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La. "It's really damaging. We were trying to leave on a high note. It's divisive."

"People are stunned. People are angry that somebody would pull this stunt," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and a top Boehner lieutenant. "I thought we had gotten past all of this. It seems odd and bizarre."

Republicans had plotted an August agenda to hammer Democrats on the Iran nuclear deal, funding Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, targeting by the IRS, Hillary Clinton's emails and ObamaCare.

And now...

"The August recess is going to be about a lot of things," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said.
Late yesterday, Boehner was telling journalists that Meadows' effort to unseat him "frankly...isn't even deserving of a vote." He also said, "You've got a member here and a member there who are off the reservation. No big deal... I've got broad support among my colleagues." We'll see; Boehner's Congress has an 8% favorability rating among voters, the lowest in history.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

House Republicans Vote To Prevent The EPA From Enforcing Regulations That Protect The Public


A Republican vision of public health

Only two "Democrats"-- both right-wing Blue Dogs, Henry Cuellar and Collin Peterson-- voted for the Republicans' REIN Act (HR 427) Tuesday afternoon. Todd Young (R-IN) was the chief sponsor, but the enthusiasm among Republicans was huge-- 171 cosponsors. It passed 243-165

Ted Lieu, an active duty Air Force Reserve officer was in California on official business and couldn't vote. But he explained to his constituents why he opposes the bill, which he termed
a radical, potentially unconstitutional House Republican-authored bill that guts the ability of federal agencies to establish rules protecting food safety, clear air, clean water and other crucial common-sense safeguards. The Reins Act is strongly opposed by a broad range of consumer, health, environmental, labor, scientific, and public interest groups.

In a press release to local media, Lieu explained his dogged opposition to the bill:
I strongly oppose H.R. 427, the so-called Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015. This bill is a blatant attempt by House Republicans to create another hurdle for the Administration to protect the environment and to act boldly on a foremost issue of our time-- combating climate change. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon implement the final rule of the Clean Power Plan, a critical rule to protect the environment and public health and to strongly curb climate change-inducing pollution. The REINS Act would implement a new hurdle for the EPA to implement this crucial rule. This is an unnecessary, dangerous piece of legislation, and I hope my colleagues will oppose.
President Obama has promised to veto the bill, if it passes in the Senate.

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Yes, Long Island DINO Steve Israel Is Still Dooming DCCC Recruitment Efforts


More than a few highly qualified progressives told me they would never-- or, in many cases, never again-- waste their time and resources running for Congress with Blue Dog Steve Israel anywhere near the DCCC. Technically, Nancy Pelosi replaced him with New Mexico novice Ben Ray Luján, although many observers see Luján as little more than a figurehead, with Israel still calling entirely too many shots, especially in regard to recruitment. And, as could have been easily predicted, Israel and the DCCC are failing again-- in a cycle that's supposed to be great for Democrats, a presidential year with strong Democratic presidential contenders in Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and with an insane, even horrifying array of crazy Republican opponents, from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee to Jeb "Let's Phase Out Medicare" Bush, Scott Walker and Chris Christie.

Yesterday Emily Cahn, writing for Roll Call, noted that the Democrats’ window to find strong House candidates is slowly closing. Blame Steve Israel, who is still conducting his suicidal jihad against progressives.
When former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller passed on a bid in the Silver State’s 3rd District last week, it sent Democrats back to the drawing board again to find a nominee for this Tossup seat in 2016. Miller’s decision to sit the race out was a disappointment for national Democrats, who thought his profile would make him a strong candidate for this highly competitive seat. But it’s indicative of a larger issue Democrats face this cycle: Recruiting House candidates in 2016 hasn’t been as easy as many predicted two years ago.

More than a year from Election Day, Democrats are without top-tier recruits in five of the 11 races rated Tossups by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. Democrats are also searching for strong recruits in at least five more of the 15 other districts rated as competitive in 2016.

The holes in the roster contrast with the message former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel pushed last cycle. In a June 2013 interview with BuzzFeed, Israel said he spoke to a number of candidates in the early days of the 2014 cycle who were reluctant to run in a daunting midterm environment. Israel said candidates wanted to wait to run until 2016-- when presidential turnout and the promise of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of the ticket would make for a better Democratic year.

“Whoever has the job of recruiting for the DCCC after I leave will not have a difficult job for as long as people believe Hillary Clinton is gonna be on the ballot,” Israel told BuzzFeed at the time.

Among the seats Democrats must win in 2016 if they have any shot at chipping away at Republicans’ 30-seat House majority-- but where the party still doesn’t have recruits-- is upstate New York’s 24th District. The Syracuse-based seat voted for President Barack Obama by a 16-point margin in 2012, making it one of the most Democratic districts held by a Republican in the country, but so far no candidate has emerged to take on freshman Republican Rep. John Katko.
Eric Kingson, co-founder of Social Security Works and one of the best qualified candidates running for Congress anywhere, has been blackballed as "too progressive" by Israel. The DCCC is desperately searching for a more Wall Street-friendly, pro-Big Business candidate, a DINO like Israel, to oppose Kingson in the primary. One DCCC insider told me they're running around like chickens without heads to find someone to prevent Kingson from getting the nomination. NY-24 is a D+5 district, one of the bluest held by a Republican anywhere in the country. "This should be a slam dunk," my DCCC source told me, "but Steve would rather lose the district again than see another progressive win the nomination... and the seat."

Israel and his DINO allies are working to sabotage progressives everywhere, but especially in IA-01 (Pat Murphy, despite his huge polling advantage among Democratic primary voters), CA-25 (Lou Vince), and WA-08 (Jason Ritchie). In each race, Israel is dead set on a track that will lead to a Republican victory in a blue district. People ask me if I blame Pelosi. I do.
In California’s 21st District, a seat Obama carried by an 11-point spread in 2012 but that is now held by two-term GOP Rep. David Valadao, Democrats are hunting for a stronger recruit after the current candidate posted a measly $24,000 fundraising haul in the second quarter. And in Iowa’s 3rd District, a competitive seat held by freshman GOP Rep. David Young, Democrats are also without a recruit. Democratic former Gov. Chet Culver is mulling a run there, but it’s unclear when or if he’ll announce.

Still, national Democrats say they are unconcerned about the current state of recruitment, noting there are potential recruits mulling bids behind the scenes in a number of districts-- though they declined to name names or specify which seats.

They also point to a number of districts where the party has secured top-tier challengers in top-target races in 2016. They include Colorado state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll, who is challenging GOP Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s competitive 6th District, and former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson, who is running against vulnerable GOP Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan’s 1st District.
Morgan Carroll is one of the only progressives the DCCC hasn't undermined, and Lon Johnson is a useless DINO who's failed at everything he's tried in life except getting Obama-connected Juliana Smoot, now a corporate lobbyist, to marry him. Perfect Steve Israel candidate in a district Israel has habitually lost!

Learn how to be a habitual loser

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The Rorschach Candidacy of Hillary Clinton


Thom Hartmann on Donald Trump's other strong appeal to Republican voters (hint: Think Ross Perot). People who like Trump for this reason are potential Sanders voters. Mainstream Democratic trade policy, another party problem, is discussed below.

by Gaius Publius

Schedule note: This will be the last piece for a few weeks from me. Writing will resume the third week of August. Happy summer, all!

[Updated to clarify and correct some language.]

It's been clear for a while that from the left, the biggest criticism of Hillary Clinton is her close relationship with holders of big money. One could argue that she may or may not have agreed with Bill Clinton's strategy of incorporating the interests of "big money" into the Democratic Party. But it's nevertheless clear that her current relationships, and those of the people around her, show a strong and current interest in maintaining the interests of wealth. More on that below.

This suspicion (on the part of some) and certainty (on the part of others) that Clinton will "take care of" her well-heeled friends while also (and sincerely) trying to mitigate the damage done to ordinary Americans — these form much of the reason the Sanders campaign is surging among Democratic voters. (Our own brief looks at Clinton's relationship with "money" are here and here and here, among other places. Or just click here and scan the list of titles.)

Now come a series of news stories that add to that larger story.

Hillary Clinton Will Not Reinstate Glass-Steagall

From Robert Reich, former Clinton labor secretary, on Clinton's unwillingness to reign in Wall Street banks (my emphasis everywhere):
Hillary Clinton’s Glass-Steagall

Hillary Clinton won’t propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act – at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton’s campaign. “You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall,” Blinder said after her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it. Blinder said he had spoken to Clinton directly about Glass-Steagall.

This is a big mistake.

It’s a mistake politically because people who believe Hillary Clinton is still too close to Wall Street will not be reassured by her position on Glass-Steagall. Many will recall that her husband led the way to repealing Glass Steagall in 1999 at the request of the big Wall Street banks.

It’s a big mistake economically because the repeal of Glass-Steagall led directly to the 2008 Wall Street crash, and without it we’re in danger of another one.
Why does reinstating Glass-Steagall matter? Reich again:
Under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, banks couldn’t both gamble in the market and also take in deposits and make loans. They’d have to choose between the two.

“The idea is pretty simple behind this one,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said a few days ago, explaining her bill to resurrect Glass-Steagall. “If banks want to engage in high-risk trading — they can go for it, but they can’t get access to ensured deposits and put the taxpayers on the hook for that reason.”

For more than six decades after 1933, Glass-Steagall worked exactly as it was intended to. During that long interval few banks failed and no financial panic endangered the banking system.

But the big Wall Street banks weren’t content. They wanted bigger profits. They thought they could make far more money by gambling with commercial deposits. So they set out to whittle down Glass-Steagall.

Finally, in 1999, President Bill Clinton struck a deal with Republican Senator Phil Gramm to do exactly what Wall Street wanted, and repeal Glass-Steagall altogether.

What happened next? An almost exact replay of the Roaring Twenties. Once again, banks originated fraudulent loans and sold them to their customers in the form of securities. Once again, there was a huge conflict of interest that finally resulted in a banking crisis.

This time the banks were bailed out, but millions of Americans lost their savings, their jobs, even their homes.
Two ideas — first that big banks are too big to be allowed to fail, so they must be bailed out, and second, that banks can gamble with government-insured customer deposits — add to this state of affairs:
  • All banks will be allowed to continue to gamble on the riskiest of investments.
  • All gambling ("investment") profit goes to the banks.
  • Large gambling ("investment") losses go to taxpayers for reimbursement via FDIC deposit insurance or Fed and congressionally managed bailouts, like TARP.
If you're a Wall Street bank, it's impossible to lose money in this scheme (a scam or racket, actually). And if you "own" everyone who matters in government, the scheme will never end.

Clearly the not-so-secret formula for ending the hostage relationship between the public's money and Wall Street banking is to (a) reinstate Glass-Steagall and (b) break up "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks so they can ... well, fail ... when their business plan brings them to grief (because, capitalism, right?).

Hillary Clinton, according to Reich and others, will not reinstate Glass-Steagall, the first part of our solution, even though, according to Reich, "Hillary Clinton, of all people, should remember." There's a lot more in Reich's piece; it's a good informative read.

"Bernie Sanders backs big bank breakups, in contrast with Hillary Clinton"

Now let's look at the second piece of our "too big to fail" solution — break up the big banks so the public is never forced by their size to bail them out again. We have a pretty clear indication from the Clinton campaign that she would not pursue that policy either, and a clear indication from Sanders that he would.

Bernie Sanders backs big bank breakups, in contrast with Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders is backing a bill to break up big banks after advisers to presidential rival Hillary Clinton made clear earlier this week she will not support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.

Noting that he’s long supported reimposing a firewall between investment and commercial banks, the Vermont senator said he’s officially rejoining an effort led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to break up the big banks, saying, “If we are truly serious about ending too big to fail [TBTF], we have got to break up the largest financial institutions in this country.”

“Allowing commercial banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies in 1999 was a huge mistake. It precipitated the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. It caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college,” said Sanders, who said that change in the financial world “substantially increased wealth and income inequality.”

Earlier this week, a Clinton campaign adviser told Reuters that “you’re not going to see Glass-Steagall.” Clinton was also interrupted by a heckler on Monday who challenged her to revive the depression-era policy, though she did not answer the question.

By moving quickly to reassert his support for a proposal from liberal superstar Warren, Sanders is highlighting the differences between his platform and Clinton’s more centrist [in DC and NY] positions on financial regulations, a major issue among progressives. Sanders actually cosponsored a version of the bill in 2013, well before he began challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and in a press release reminded reporters of a speech he gave in 1999 as a House member.
I realize that the statement "you’re not going to see Glass-Steagall" is the same one that Reich uses, and is about Glass-Steagall only. Is Politico being unfair to Clinton in saying she would not back a Sanders-Warren–style breakup policy? I don't think so, since of the two "not-so-secret solutions" I listed above, reinstating Glass-Steagall is by far the milder from a Wall Street standpoint.

And now the third news story in this story.

Hedge Fund Titans Choosing Hillary Clinton Over Top Republicans

It's hugely rewarding to Hillary Clinton professionally to maintain money-friendly policies like these, independent of whether you think she's personally aligned with the interests of "big money" and "the one percent," or whether you think she's disgusted by their behavior but feels somehow forced to go along. Either way, it looks like she's taking their money and planning to advance their interests.

It looks like they think so too. About that "taking their money" part, here's Bloomberg:
Hedge Fund Titans Choosing Hillary Clinton Over Top Republicans

Hillary Clinton received donations from some of the biggest names in the hedge fund industry, including Paul Tudor Jones, even as the presidential candidate wants to boost their tax rate.

Jones, the billionaire founder of Tudor Investment Corp., Jamie Dinan, who started York Capital, and Neil Chriss, who runs Hutchin Hill Capital, each contributed the maximum $2,700 to Clinton’s bid for the White House, according to Federal Election Commission filings for the second quarter.

Clinton, who’s made closing the wealth gap the centerpiece of her campaign, lured more donations from boldface industry names than Republican candidates 16 months before the election. Hedge fund managers, their employees and family members donated at least $54,000 to Clinton, a Democrat, according to the FEC. Republicans Jeb Bush got at least $27,000, Marco Rubio took in at least $10,800 while Carly Fiorina received at least $4,200.

“Something is wrong when CEOs earn more than 300 times than what the typical American worker earns and when hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,” Clinton said in May.

The candidate’s populist rhetoric didn’t dissuade many managers from supporting her. They include Frank Brosens, co-founder of Taconic Capital Advisors, Mitchell Julis, co-founder Canyon Partners, David Shaw, the billionaire founder of D.E. Shaw & Co., BlueMountain Capital Management Managing Partner James Staley, Jake Gottlieb, who runs Visum Asset Management, and Richard Perry, who heads Perry Capital.

Bush, Rubio and Fiorina drew a smaller cohort of top hedge fund managers.
Note that this story merges two elements. The first, that even though Clinton speaks against income inequality (not the same as speaking against wealth inequality, by the way) ...
“Something is wrong when CEOs earn more than 300 times than what the typical American worker earns and when hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,” Clinton said in May.
... the big money people are financing her anyway ...
The candidate’s populist rhetoric didn’t dissuade many managers from supporting her.
You can draw a number of conclusions about why this is happening. In that sense, the "Clinton and money" story is a kind of Rorschach test — you can see in this picture what you're looking for.

The Rorschach Candidacy

Put these stories together and ask yourself what this means to you. You could end up in a couple of places.

If you're Clinton-resigned — If you're a Clinton fan who was really "ready for Warren," resigned rather than eager, you may see someone who cares about people but has to deal with "big money" to get elected. She doesn't like what many are calling "rule by the rich," but like many of her supporters, she's also resigned. The way of the world is regrettable, but the exclamation point at the end of "Jeb!" is a dagger to be avoided at all costs. No Republicans; vote Clinton anyway — even in the primary so she comes out strong.

If you're Clinton-quite-hopeful — If you're an eager Clinton fan, you're much more positive. In a Clinton presidency, you may expect strong advocacy for "Black Lives Matter," maybe even with DoJ prosecutions of murdering police and corrupt departments. You may expect to see executive-mandated immigration reform with even more teeth. And you certainly would anticipate that all of the issues faced by women, from abortion rights to pay rights, will certainly find an eager and effective friend. All of this offsets for you whatever damage her "friends of money" bargaining may entail.

And if you're very hopeful, you're convinced that her presidency could be far to the left of the other Clinton presidency, even on money matters. After all, there's no proof yet that this hopeful analysis is wrong. If this is your picture, your primary choice is easy — it's Clinton all the way.

If you're Clinton-appalled — But if you see "capture by wealth" as the root of almost every evil in this country except our deep-seated racism, and especially if you see that the climate crisis will reach multiple additional tipping points and are certain a carbon-captured Clinton would be a disaster ... well, what's a Democratic primary voter to do?

I'll put that differently. The Clinton-appalled (on the left) see a candidate who's threading the progressive needle while trying not to anger her moneyed friends, or at least not undo their expectations that this "rein in the rich" stuff is just campaign talk. Her critics on the left see one who does care about people, but also one who sees her role as confirming the current order, with better mitigation for the suffering worst among us.

They also see someone who will take us into a fossil fuel–heavy future — again with mitigation for the suffering worst, but with no loss of profit for the wealth-heavy carbon industry. For example, this is former Secretary Clinton speaking in 2013 at Hamilton College in upstate New York's Oneida County:
Late into the lecture portion of Clinton’s Oneida County appearance, she referenced a report that the U.S. in on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil-and-gas production.

That’s good news, Clinton said.

“What that means for viable manufacturing and industrialization in this country is enormous,” she said to the crowd of 5,800 in Hamilton’s athletic field house.
For the Clinton-appalled and carbon-aware, it means "we're cooked," literally, and sooner than anyone expects — because this crisis is always moving faster than anyone expects, or publicly claims to expect. (You should know that in private, a great many climate scientists are, frankly, freaking out, and not metaphorically. They know that what no one is saying is nevertheless true.)

In other words, the full awareness of the damage we've handed ourselves — the wide-eyed Wile E. Coyote "nothing beneath me" moment — will likely come on a President Clinton's watch, and she and Obama will get the blame for not being more aggressive, for being too wealth-serving.

Wile E. Coyote considers his climate future.

And that's just the "Clinton, money and carbon" piece of the story. The "Clinton, money and banking" piece says the next financial meltdown will also come on Clinton's watch, that the next bailout may be a "bail-in" (a bailout using depositor funds) as is being done in Europe, and in either case, the economy is screwed — but only for people who aren't good friends of "friends of money."

So what will hit first under a money-friendly (but better-than-Republican) presidency — climate or the next banking bailout? How about an aggressively pursued endless war that truly "comes home," the way European and Middle East wars have always come home? How about environmental disaster after environmental disaster caused by exploding oil trains, frack-poisoned ground water, burst pipelines, and oil spill after oil spill?

Or how about even more exported American jobs under a bipartisan (but decidedly Democratic) "trade" regime? Want to go worse? How about imported foreign contract labor being fast-tracked into the country when the deadliest of the coming trade deals, TISA, is signed by the next wealth-serving Democrat? The just-passed Fast Track law — the discussion of which Clinton's campaign wanted to "go away" — hands, to this president and the next, six years' worth of job-destroying, global investor–enabling power.

If you're this appalled, what's a primary voter to do? Avoid damaging Clinton so no Republican can win? Cheer all the wonderful things that a progressive Clinton might do? Or vote for Sanders and if he loses, walk away?

I'm hearing all three cases being made, and the voices are getting louder. Who's right? Of course, only time will tell.

Leaving It to the Voters to Decide

You can look at the Clinton candidacy and see what you want by adjusting what's foreground and what's background in your mental image. Is Clinton a woman who deserves much better than being trashed by the constant misogyny of the troglodyte Right? You can see that person.

Is Clinton a bright Sixties rebel who now wants a chance to do the best she can to fix a wealth-dominated world? You can see that person.

Is Clinton a person who's long bought into "rule by the rich" — rule by the class she hangs with, the class that knows better than us how to run things that matter — but thinks their regime can use some tweakage so the "most vulnerable" are protected? You can see that person too.

I guess this is why we are leaving it to voters to decide, and not to the few of us who pay early attention. Because if the voters choose wrong, they will pay the price, but at least they will have done it to themselves.

Unless there's friends-of-money mischief afoot, of course. Like this perhaps?
DNC Chair Says Candidates Must Meet 'Threshold' For Debates, Though Criteria And Dates Still Unclear

Democratic presidential candidates will have to meet a certain “threshold” to participate in the party’s six scheduled primary debates, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday, though she did not specify which criteria, such as state or national polling, will be used to determine who qualifies.

“It’ll be a threshold that’ll be expansive and allows for the maximum inclusion of our major party candidates," Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC’s Ari Melber. She said the DNC hasn’t “quite finished formulating the details” for the debates, including specific dates, locations and media sponsors.

The lack of clarity has been frustrating to both campaigns and major TV networks, the latter of which produce the debates and need to book venues and handle logistical details well in advance.

In May, the DNC announced plans to hold six primary debates, four of which would be held in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The DNC said debates would begin in "the fall of 2015," though didn't specify when. 
Kind of a Rorshach news announcement, right? Starting with how you see Debbie Wasserman Schultz.


Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins of Ring Of Fire in a discussion of the Bloomberg article linked above. (Apologies for the lurid preview image; not my first choice.)


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