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Thursday, March 26, 2015

They are so worth it

by digby

The other day I wrote about the fact that Wall Streeters were lamenting that their bonuses only rose 2% this past year. Tough times.

Mother Jones puts it into proper perspective:

Yes, yes, I know that one Wall Street trader is worth a million minimum wage workers in this world. Unlike the contribution of  say, the nannies who raise their kids or the servants who feed them and clean their home, their contribution to this world is worth every penny and more of that 28.5 billion dollars. Indeed, they actually get a lot more. Remember, that's just their bonus. And I think we can assume their money is making a lot of money too.

Why? Because they're woooorth it.

Better than a bumper sticker

by digby

This makes sense. As a Republican he's beholden to Big Energy and is likely to cause even bigger problems in the middle east than already exist. And he's well ... Ted Cruz, so the homage to the Onion is perfect.

And anyway I've always thought Cruz looked like a sad eyed Pagliacci. A tear drop is perfect. And his voters can show their loyalty simply by embellishing their existing adornments:

*Kidding, kidding.  Prisoners can't vote.

Forgiving Rand

by digby

This piece about how libertarianism's only true home being on the right came to mind this morning when I read this article by Paul Waldman about Rand Paul's rather convenient new position on military spending. In the original piece, the author contends that at one time he and all his libertrian friends were caught up in Obamamania, believing that he was going to be an economic moderate and an isolationist protector of civil liberties. (And considering that he was opposed by the warmongering hawk John McCain, you can see why at least a few of them might have leaned Obama's way.) But he was betrayed by all that Keynesian Obamacaring and then found out about drones and so he realized that the GOP is his one true home. Sure, theocrats might want to impose their religious rules on everyone but they are willing to let states and local governments do the imposing rather than the feds so they're not all that bad. And sure they all might be bloodthirsty warmongers and authoritarians but since there are some Democrats who are too it all comes out in the wash. And anyway, Rand Paul is a Republican and he definitely doesn't support all that excessive military spending and foreign wars and all that.

Or does he?
The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”

But under Paul’s new plan, the Pentagon will see its budget authority swell by $76.5 billion to $696,776,000,000 in fiscal year 2016.

The boost would be offset by a two-year combined $212 billion cut to funding for aid to foreign governments, climate change research and crippling reductions in to the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.
Paul Waldman suggests he has to do this in order to compete for the presidential nomination because Republicans are warmongers and he's right. But he thinks it could also be a problem for him because it makes him look like a hypocrite to his followers. And it should. But I'm going to guess this won't worry the Paulites all that much. They are, after all, mostly young white guys who deep down in their hearts think military spending isn't really the problem, it's the government spending on losers, both foreign and domestic, who aren't "self-sufficient" young white guys and imposing regulations that might impinge on their God-given freedom to exploit and pillage that pisses them off. The war business is unpleasant but it isn't a deal breaker. If it were, they wouldn't vote for the party that makes a fetish of them.

Scott Walker is a genius

by digby

A foreign policy savant at least:
Walker: I remember the movie in the 80s, Trading Places…

Hewitt: Right.

Walker: …you know, with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, it’s like Iran and Israel are trading places in the sequel. In the eyes of this president, our ally is supposed to be Israel. Our adversary has been historically Iran. And yet this administration completely does it the other way around. We need to call radical Islamic terrorism for what it is, and a commander-in-chief who’s willing to act.
Joan Walsh quips:
No word on which nation is Aykroyd and which is Murphy; hoping other reporters will follow up. (If Walker finds that metaphor doesn’t work, he can play around with “Freaky Friday.”)
Walsh's whole piece is worth reading. Honestly I cannot figure out why so many smart people think Walker is a formidable political talent. He's a typical GOP shallow, banal doofus without any of the macho swagger of Bush or the charisma of Reagan. You've got to have something and I cannot for the life of me see what it is he's supposed to have.

Bull in a china shop

by digby

Here's some good news:
Three major Shiite militia groups pulled out of the fight against the Islamic State in Tikrit on Thursday, immediately depriving the Iraqi government of thousands of their fighters on the ground even as American warplanes readied for an expected second day of airstrikes there.

The militia groups, some of which had Iranian advisers with them until recently, pulled out of the Tikrit fight in protest of the American military airstrikes, which began late Wednesday night, insisting that the Americans were not needed to defeat the extremists in Tikrit.

A fourth Shiite militia group said it would remain in the battle in Tikrit, but vowed to attack foreign members of the American-led coalition, raising the possibility that it might turn anti-aircraft fire against American planes from what had been Iraqi fighting positions.

American military leaders were likely to welcome the withdrawal of the Shiite groups, so long as enough Iraqi fighters remain to keep the pressure on the Islamic State’s holdouts. Before starting the airstrikes, American officials demanded that Iranian officials and the militias closest to them to stand aside, and had expressed concerns about sectarian abuses in areas controlled by the Shiite militias.

Defense Minister Khalid al-Obaidi of Iraq, center, visited the Al Rashid Air Base on Thursday near Baghdad. Credit Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters
But too great or abrupt a withdrawal by militia forces, analysts said, could complicate the entire Iraqi counteroffensive. Even with the militias involved, officials said the current pro-government force would not be large enough to help take Mosul back from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Together, the four Shiite groups that were pulling out represent more than a third of the 30,000 fighters on the government side in the offensive against the Islamic State, analysts said.

“We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS,” said Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the three groups which said they would withdraw from the front line around Tikrit. “In the past they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake,” he said.

It's very hard to know what this all means --- it's awfully confusing. But then, that's the point. It's very convenient for the Americans to say it's what they wanted all along. And maybe it's even true. Who can tell? But there can be little doubt that a good part of the time America is a bull in a china shop in the middle of these very complicated tribal and religious cross currents and alliances. We are not magic and we don't have super-powers even though we are a super power. The immense hubris of the hawks makes us very vulnerable to mistakes. Like the Iraq war, for instance. Just look at what that has wrought.

War of the Worlds

by digby

I have written for years that the right wing was so terrified of Muslim terrorists that they had literally confused them with invading space aliens. But maybe they aren't the only ones.

Emptywheel noted this strange passage in the recently released FBI report on post 9/11 changes:
The Review Commission recognizes that national security threats to the United States have multiplied, and become increasingly complex and more globally dispersed in the past decade. Hostile states and transnational networks—including cyber hackers and organized syndicates, space-system intruders, WMD proliferators, narcotics and human traffickers, and other organized criminals—are operating against American interests across national borders, and within the United States. [my emphasis]
My God, it's bad enough that all these people are out there operating against our interests. Now, we find out that "space-system intruders" hate America too.

Klaatu barada nikto, my friends.

*And yes, I'm sure they didn't mean this to imply that space aliens are threatening America. It's just one of those stupid opaque law enforcement terms. But as Emptywheel points out the report is so full of silly jargon and shrill fear-mongering that anyone can be forgiven for feeling that we are under siege from super-villains of every possible stripe.

New Leaked TPP Chapter; Worse Than the Last Leaked Version

by Gaius Publius

There's a new leaked chapter from the TPP draft agreement, thanks to WikiLeaks, and it confirms our worst fears. From a press release by Lori Wallach at Public Citizen (my emphasis):
TPP Leak Reveals Extraordinary New Powers for Thousands of Foreign Firms to Challenge U.S. Policies and Demand Taxpayer Compensation

Unveiling of Parallel Legal System for Foreign Corporations Will Fuel TPP Controversy, Further Complicate Obama’s Push for Fast Track

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) Investment Chapter, leaked today, reveals how the pact would make it easier for U.S. firms to offshore American jobs to low-wage countries while newly empowering thousands of foreign firms to seek cash compensation from U.S. taxpayers by challenging U.S. government actions, laws and court rulings before unaccountable foreign tribunals. After five years of secretive TPP negotiations, the text – leaked by WikiLeaks –proves that growing concerns about the controversial “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system that the TPP would extend are well justified, Public Citizen said.

Enactment of the leaked chapter would increase U.S. ISDS liability to an unprecedented degree by newly empowering about 9,000 foreign-owned firms from Japan and other TPP nations operating in the United States to launch cases against the government over policies that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms. To date, the United States has faced few ISDS attacks because past ISDS-enforced pacts have almost exclusively been with developing nations whose firms have few investments here.

The leak reveals that the TPP would replicate the ISDS language found in past U.S. agreements under which tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to foreign investors attacking land use rules; water, energy and timber policies; health, safety and environmental protections; financial stability policies and more. And while the Obama administration has sought to quell growing concerns about the ISDS threat with claims that past pacts’ problems would be remedied in the TPP, the leaked text does not include new safeguards relative to past U.S. ISDS-enforced pacts. Indeed, this version of the text, which shows very few remaining areas of disagreement, eliminates various safeguard proposals that were included in a 2012 leaked TPP Investment Chapter text
Stop here and reread that last bolded sentence. The leaked version is worse than the last leaked version of the same chapter, the one dealing with the corporate-only right-to-sue. Wallach again:
“With the veil of secrecy ripped back, finally everyone can see for themselves that the TPP would give multinational corporations extraordinary new powers that undermine our sovereignty, expose U.S. taxpayers to billions in new liability and privilege foreign firms operating here with special rights not available to U.S. firms under U.S. law,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “This leak is a disaster for the corporate lobbyists and administration officials trying to persuade Congress to delegate Fast Track authority to railroad the TPP through Congress.” 
Dear Barack Obama: If you think TPP is such a good deal, refute this leak on its merits. (The same goes for you, self-styled "Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.")

Back to Wallach:
Even before today’s leak, U.S. law professors and those in other TPP nations, the U.S. National Conference of State Legislatures, the Cato Institute and numerous members of Congress and civil society groups have announced opposition to the ISDS system, which would elevate individual foreign firms to the same status as sovereign governments and empower them to privately enforce a public treaty by skirting domestic courts and “suing” governments before extrajudicial tribunals. The tribunals are staffed by private lawyers who are not accountable to any electorate, system of legal precedent or meaningful conflict of interest rules. Their rulings cannot be appealed on the merits. Many ISDS lawyers rotate between roles – serving both as “judges” and suing governments for corporations, creating an inherent conflict of interest.

The TPP’s expansion of the ISDS system would come amid a surge in ISDS cases against public interest policies that has led other countries, such as South Africa and Indonesia, to begin to revoke their ISDS-enforced treaties. While ISDS agreements have existed since the 1960s, just 50 known ISDS cases were launched worldwide in the regime’s first three decades combined. In contrast, foreign investors launched at least 50 ISDS claims each year from 2011 through 2013. Recent cases include Eli Lilly’s attack on Canada’s cost-saving medicine patent system, Philip Morris’ attack on Australia’s public health policies regulating tobacco, Lone Pine’s attack on a fracking moratorium in Canada, Chevron’s attack on an Ecuadorian court ruling ordering payment for mass toxic contamination in the Amazon and Vattenfall’s attack on Germany’s phase-out of nuclear power.

“By definition, only multinational corporations could benefit from this parallel legal system, which empowers them to skirt domestic courts and laws, and go to tribunals staffed by highly paid corporate lawyers, where they grab unlimited payments of our tax dollars because they don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms follow,” Wallach said.

Public Citizen’s analysis of the leaked text is available here....
Click through for more, especially to read the leaked text itself. I know I'm going to. In the meantime, have I mentioned that Obama Legacy Library project lately?

Obama’s Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 1). Like Star Fleet Academy, but with corporate funding.




Why aren't these con men in jail?

By Tom Sullivan

"The lack of prosecutions, quite frankly, does not indicate a lack of evidence," Richard Bowen told Bloomberg's "Market Makers" last week. The former Citigroup Chief Underwriter for Consumer Lending has testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission but contends that evidence he provided never made it to the Department of Justice for further investigation and prosecution.

A lengthy article on Bowen in New Economic Perspectives outlines some of what the whistle blower might have provided. Furthermore, that the FCIC, DOJ, and the SEC might not (or might not want to) understand how the accounting control fraud "recipe" at the heart of the financial crisis actually worked. Once you explain how the "sure thing" at the heart of the recipe works, writes William Black, "jurors understand quickly that the officers were acting in a manner that makes no sense for honest bankers but is optimal for officers leading frauds."

Matt Taibbi (citing Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism) looks at corruption in the Private Equity business, and the seeming indifference of Andrew Bowden, the SEC's Director of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. A study "found that over half of the companies they looked at were guilty of ripping off their clients" using hidden fees. Bowden mentioned the discovery in a speech within the last year. Since then ... crickets:

By this month, Bowden had achieved a complete 180, telling a conference of PE professionals that their business was just "the greatest."

This is Bowden on March 5th, on a panel for PE and Venture Capital issues at Stanford. Check out how he pooh-poohs the fact that his SEC has seen "some misconduct," before he goes on to grovel before his audience:

Is a slightly less worshipful attitude too much to ask from people charged with oversight? Taibbi asks.

Apparently, yes.

(h/t MS)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mean Tweets

by digby

This is pretty good:

I'm not sure Boehner is really in the joke, but then that's what makes it funny ...
Ted Cruz, bro-country boy

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon today about Ted Cruz and country music:
So Texas firebrand Ted Cruz explained that 9/11 changed him so much that he lost his former taste in music and found another He said:
Music is interesting. I grew up listening to classic rock. And I’ll tell you sort of an odd story: My music tastes changed on 9/11. I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded. And country music — collectively — the way they responded, it resonated with me. And I have to say just at a gut level, I had an emotional reaction that says, ‘These are my people. And ever since 2001, I listen to country music. But I’m an odd country music fan because I didn’t listen to it prior to 2001.
I’m going to guess he figures Mike Huckabee has the Nugent vote all sewn up.

He “intellectually finds it very curious” that on 9/11 he didn’t like how rock responded? What is that supposed to mean? Apparently when they held all those concerts and fundraisers like the Concert for New York City he thought they were trashing America. Sure, the Dixie Chicks were famous for saying that they were ashamed George Bush was from Texas during the run up to the Iraq war, but they’re as country as they come. (And I think we can be fairly confident that Cruz endorsed the abusive treatment they received from radio stations for saying it. President Bush certainly did.)

But I’m hard-pressed to think of any rockers, classic or otherwise, who were disrespectful in the aftermath of 9/11. Certainly it wasn’t Bruce Springsteen or Paul McCartney or Neil Young or Fleetwood Mac or literally dozens of other rock and pop artists who penned heartfelt songs about the event. But then Cruz undoubtedly didn’t want to hear poetic songs about loss and pain. He wanted songs of revenge and killing, like Toby Keith’s famous anthem, “The Angry American” which featured the kind of language that gets Cruz and his voters very, very excited.

Read on. I talk about "bro-country" and strange happenings at Keith Urban concerts and Nixon wearing black socks and wingtips on the beach ...

QOTD: Cruz

by digby

Think Progress
“Global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.
This whole line of attack is very clever because it's so headache inducing. It shouldn't be, but it is. The reality is clear on this:
“Modern scientists follow the evidence-based scientific method that Galileo pioneered. Skeptics who oppose scientific findings that threaten their world view are far closer to Galileo’s belief-based critics in the Catholic Church"
Cruz goes on to say that he knows he's correct because "he follows the science." This is just a lie but it confuses matters just enough to leave you scratching your head and saying "wait a minute, the science says ..." And that's when he brings up the heretic example as if the small handful of scientists who disagree with the consensus are the the brave Galileos bucking the Church. Except the scientific consensus isn 't the Council of Trent, it's science, the very thing he says he follows. (Here comes the headache ...)

And anyway, Galileo was branded a heretic not because he refused to "listen to the science" but because the theologians were committed to believing this:
[T]o check unbridled spirits, [the Holy Council] decrees that no one relying on his own judgement shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which the holy mother Church... has held or holds...
They believed the earth was the center of the universe and that was that.

And the flat earthers had nothing to do with anything. He just wants to pretend that his people are the scientists and .... the scientists are the priests and it fits nicely with their overall anti-science wingnut worldview that says science is superstition and superstition is science.

We know that the deniers are acting like the Inquisition and that Galileo would be on the side of the climate change scientists. But Cruz knows that by framing this ridiculous argument as if the denialists are Galileo and the scientists are the Church, his confused right wing followers can not only feel they are martyrs to the cause but that they are the ones bucking the superstitious hierarchy. They like that.

And yes, I know you have a full-blown migraine by now, so go take an aspirin. Just wait until some partisan talking heads try to "debate" this on cable news. You'll need a fistfull of aspirin  --- and very large scotch to wash it down.

Watch your wallet

by digby

Speaker Boehner is so uncharacteristically enthusiastic about a bipartisan "reform" of Medicare you really have to wonder why:.

And look at all these accolades from far right wingnuts:
A major deal struck between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to overhaul Medicare appeared to win President Barack Obama's endorsement on Wednesday.

"As we speak Congress is working to fix the Medicare-physician payment system. I've got my pen ready to sign a good bipartisan bill, which would be really exciting," he said in a speech about Obamacare at the White House. "I love when Congress passes bipartisan bills that I can sign. It's always very encouraging."

The presidential endorsement could sway enough Senate Democrats, who have emerged as a potential obstacle, to support the agreement.

"We're just looking at it now," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said moments before Obama's remarks Wednesday. "We'll see where we come out."

The deal would end the perennial "doc fix" problem by replacing a formula that imposes steep annual cuts to Medicare physician payments. The package would also cut Medicare benefits for higher-income seniors and reduce spending on supplemental "Medigap" plans. It would extend the Children's Health Insurance Program for two years.

If the legislation passes both chambers, it would amount to the most sweeping health care overhaul since Obamacare.

Republicans sure love it:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI):

“Many of us have worked for a long time to repeal this flawed formula and replace it with a more patient-centered system. Now we have a chance to get it done. This package is the best opportunity to turn the page on years of short-term fixes so that we can finally make the reforms we need to strengthen Medicare for our seniors. This is real patient-centered reform—done in a bipartisan way—and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.”

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA):

“For years, the SGR has distorted Medicare’s finances and the federal budget. We’re now very close to permanently replacing it and passing some real Medicare reforms that will have a lasting impact. There’s a lot for conservatives to like here.”

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX):

“It’s historic: fundamental structural changes in Medicare not sold on the back of a tax increase.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN):

“This legislation will provide actual, structural entitlement reform by changing the way healthcare providers are paid. Everyone agrees that healthcare reimbursement should encourage quality and coordination of care, rather than volume. This legislation is the right move in that direction. It is a win-win-win for seniors, your local healthcare providers, and hard-working taxpayers.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN):

“For the first time, real structural reforms that ensure access to quality care for seniors and help us protect the Medicare promise are within our grasp. Let’s build upon the unprecedented progress of last Congress, and solve this problem once and for all."

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY):

“This is the type of substantive and cost-saving reform the American people elected us to enact. Repealing and replacing the SGR is a milestone achievement that will reduce long-term costs, increase quality of care and implement structural changes to Medicare.”

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY):

“Now is the time to finally leave the flawed SGR formula in the past, and begin working on real reforms to our health care system that will improve care for seniors while putting the Medicare program on more sound fiscal footing.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC):

“It’s time we in Congress do our job and show leadership by enacting permanent legislation to repeal and replace the flawed SGR formula. … Continually kicking the can down the road is only perpetuating Washington’s spending problem, while yet another SGR deadline quickly approaches.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX):

“The first concrete step in saving Medicare is solving the way it pays local doctors for treating our seniors. … Congress and the President could continue to duck the issue. They can simply ‘kick the can down the road’ by extending the current damaging doctor payment system for another year or two — as they have an astounding 15 times already. Or they can come together and pass a permanent solution now that encourages doctors to see Medicare patients and rewards them for providing quality care at affordable cost.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX):

“I think it's good. We need some of the structural entitlement reform. That's a good thing. … I know how hard this is. Our seniors are having more and more difficulty getting doctors because Medicare doesn't reimburse, and doctors are dropping Medicare.”

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA):

“These are two huge improvements that would drive costs down and actually, in the long-run, improve care and access to care. This is a long-term solution for doctors who are having their patients really destroyed. ... This is a huge advance.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX):

“We must find a way to get it done, and will. ... The art of getting it done is in everyone's interest. ... I view it as a must-pass piece of legislation.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R–MI):

“We can see the light at the end of the SGR tunnel—finally. Our bipartisan product begins the task of strengthening Medicare over the long term. This responsible legislative package reflects years of bipartisan work, is a good deal for seniors, and a good deal for children too. It’s time to put a stop once and for all to the repeated SGR crises and start to put Medicare on a stronger path forward for our seniors."

They really care. So what's the catch? McJoan at Daily Kos spells it out:

The existence of a bipartisan permanent fix, coming out of the insane Republican House is remarkable. Also remarkable is the expectation that it will pass.

A floor vote is planned for Thursday, House leadership aides said, after the top Democrat and Republican successfully resolved concerns about abortion language.

"It is all shaping up very well on both sides," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner.

Ah, but that "abortion language" is the kicker, and it's the reason that it is much less certain that the plan will pass the Senate. The nature of the "doc fix," a must-pass bill because it has two powerful constituencies—seniors and the medical community, means that it will be a magnet for other things. They can't resist tacking on a bunch of sweeteners, and those sweeteners end up being poison. That's the case here, when $7.2 billion for community health centers was added. That's great. Community health centers need to be funded. The problem is that Republicans insisted on anti-abortion Hyde amendment language being added to that funding, despite the fact that community health centers generally don't provide abortion and an executive action signed by President Obama when Obamacare passed makes doubly sure no federal funds will be used for abortion in these clinics.

House Democrats argue that it's okay to include the language because of those facts—it makes no difference. But the same argument could be turned against them—the anti-abortion language need not be included at all and is absolutely unnecessary. In fact, adding it—as Senate Democrats say—brings us that much closer to codifying the abortion ban in the law, as opposed to tacking it on as an amendment on spending bills. Accepting it means losing even more ground on choice, which so far Senate Democrats aren't willing to do.

Republicans are obviously ecstatic that they get to tell their constituents that they were able to stab abortion rights in the back. After all, they have to make sure doctors are being paid under Medicare or their grey haired constituents would have a fit. And a couple of years of funding for some poor kids and a few health centers that don't deal with lady parts makes them feel good about themselves. But down the road this codification of the abortion ban will come back to haunt them, probably when some Supreme Court case cites this big bipartisan vote as proof that the country has evolved on the issue of abortion and agrees that it should be banned.

They are, as usual, playing the long game.

"They smell blood in the water"

by digby

They just don't like Jeb. And why would they? They put their heart and soul into Poppy and then Junior and look where it left them ...
The leaders of evangelical and other socially conservative groups say they do not believe that Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida — whom they already view as the preferred candidate of the Republican Party’s establishment — would fight for the issues they care most about: opposing same-sex marriage, holding the line on an immigration overhaul and rolling back abortion rights.

The efforts to coalesce behind an alternative candidate — in frequent calls, teleconferences and meetings involving a range of organizations, many of them with overlapping memberships — are premised on two articles of conservative faith: Republicans did not win the White House in the past two elections because their nominees were too moderate and failed to excite the party’s base. And a conservative alternative failed to win the nomination each time because grass-roots voters did not unite behind a single champion in the primary fight.

This time, social conservatives vow, will be different. They plan to unify behind an anti-establishment candidate by this summer or early fall, with the expectation that they will be able to overcome the presumed fund-raising advantage of the Republican elite by exerting their own influence through right-wing talk radio and social media, and by mobilizing an army of like-minded small donors.

“Conservatives smell blood in the water,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who has participated in the vetting. “They feel they’ve got the best shot to deny the establishment a place.”

Ms. Conway said the candidates seen as having potential to energize the party’s right wing would be invited to make their case before national groups of social conservatives in the coming weeks and months.
Also too, they've gotta make a buck:
Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail pioneer, said he was involved in the effort to rally behind a candidate so “we won’t go into this season divided six or eight different ways.”
More power to them. Primaries are designed for the party rank and file to decide who the party nominates. Sure, the "donor primary" is awfully important. But it's really just the modern version of the men in smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear. If those plutocrats and party insiders want to take control completely, they're going to have to cut out the voters entirely. And frankly, I won't be surprised to see them do that. Especially if these grassroots conservatives have any luck in organizing themselves around someone the Big Money Boyz don't find acceptable and they win. Remember, the true conservative position on all this is that "those who own the country ought to govern it."

Let's face it, they're just better at everything

by digby

The good news today is that the Supreme Court ruled that UPS has an obligation not to treat pregnant workers like crap. (Or something like that.)

The bad news continues to be this:
Even though nine out of 10 nurses are women, men in the profession earn higher salaries, and the pay gap has remained constant over the past quarter century, a study finds.

The typical salary gap has consistently been about $5,000 even after adjusting for factors such as experience, education, work hours, clinical specialty, and marital and parental status, according to a report in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

"Nursing is the largest female dominated profession so you would think that if any profession could have women achieve equal pay, it would be nursing," said lead study author Ulrike Muench from the University of California, San Francisco.

Muench and colleagues used two large U.S. data sets to examine earnings over time. One, the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, provided responses from nearly 88,000 participants from 1988 to 2008. The other, the American Community Survey, offered responses from nearly 206,000 registered nurses from 2001 to 2013.

Every year, each of the data sets found men earned more than women; the unadjusted pay gap ranged from $10,243 to $11,306 in one survey and from $9,163 to $9,961 in the other.

There was a gap for hospital nurses, $3,783, and an even bigger one, $7,678, for nurses in outpatient settings.

Men out-earned women in every specialty except orthopedics, with the gap ranging from $3,792 in chronic care to $17,290 for nurse anesthetists.
The standard explanation, and also offered in the article, is that women don't deserve the same pay because they insist on slacking off when they give birth. Either that or they're just bad at getting what they want. (And who's fault is that, amirite?)

This is obviously wrong. Sure nursing may have been an exclusively female profession for years and is still dominated by women. But clearly, it wasn't until men joined the profession that it started getting done properly. Just as all those Wall Street traders are harder and smarter workers than nuclear physicists, so too men are harder and smarter workers than women. It's called meritocracy. And lord knows our meritocratic system works perfectly.


Dear Smart People Charged with Influencing Idiots, How's Your Fiction?

by Spocko



This is the kind of entertaining, cynical comedy that makes me nod my head in agreement. You might too.

You see, I'm a liberal smart person who wants to be seen as smarter than I am.

I see myself doing activities or working on activities like those listed at  :54 seconds, and wondering if I, and they, have zero influence.

I see myself, or friends, doing jobs like the ones described at 1:53.

I don't like thinking or feeling I have zero influence. It feels like a Simpson's clip. "Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably, the lesson is, never try."

There is the part of me, and I'm betting a bunch of you, that needs to have hope.

The success using our "smart people ways" are much greater than zero. For example, the FCC Net Neutrality vote.

The cynical will say, "Well, that action only happened because the rich people wanted it to happen." That was the line I heard after the FCC Net Neutrality vote.
That opinion doesn't take into account the cumulative and supporting effects of all the actions. It also misses another huge important strategic move:

Figure out how to use rich people and companies who want some of the same things you want

It reminded me of how I went about de-funding right-wing talk radio.
I convinced rich people (advertisers) that they didn't want to associate their brands with the violent, sexist, racist, and bigoted comments coming out of talk radio.

How did that happen? Through passionate emails, letters, blogging, tweets and phone calls.

Who did it? People like my friend James Madison (not his real name), Angelo with @stopbeck and all the wonderful people who work on #stoprush.

This was NOT a Zero Influence action. It has had 100's of million of dollars of influence on some companies bottom lines. That is a big fraking deal.

But, but Spocko, Rush is still on the air!  Glenn Beck got booted off of Fox News, but he's still on radio! They are still making money from other sources! They still have Influence!

Yes, but they are now diminished in a way that pisses rich conservative people off. And that is always fun.

Now the rich have to pay for their propaganda more directly. They loved the idea that their propaganda was influential AND made them money. They liked to rub that line in the faces of liberals, 'Ha, ha! Our radio propaganda MAKES money!"

At this point I usually remind people that Rupert Murdoch's New York Post loses about 110 million dollars a year. Every. Single. Year. Also, think tanks don't turn a profit. They beg for donor money Every. Single. Year.

Yet they sell a product. Ideas and Metaphors about how they want the world to work.

Which leads me to the other kind of influence the we wield that cynical smart people like to dismiss.  Language, Metaphors and Fiction.

I thought this example of the influence of fiction was an interesting one:
It's from The Take Away, John Hockenberry's new NPR show. It is about the "soft power" of fictional TV on North Korea.

If I'm one of those "smart people" who is charged with influencing idiots or smart people, I'd look to fiction.

Ideas, values and culture in fiction are some of America's biggest exports. We are soaking in so many common ideas and values that we don't really see them anymore.  As they say, "Fish don't discover water."

 I want to look at how we talk about the economy and torture.  The interesting thing is that when we change how we talk about things in our fiction, it can change how we talk about things in our non-fiction.

Looking at the media coverage of the budget and torture, I've noticed how people are carefully choosing the language, metaphors and stories they use to talk about these areas, in both fiction and non-fiction.  

I'd like to have some influence in this area, we can make changes. Hopefully greater than zero. It's very possible. We did it before and we can do it again.

Tomorrow: National Budgets. Which Fiction Does the Media Like and Why.

Millionaires just get no respect these days. Billionaires take it all.

by digby

The Washington Post reports on the very sad plight of a group of wealthy former bundlers who just aren't rich enough to garner the attention from politicians that billionaires do:
“They are only going to people who are multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires and raising big money first,” said Neese, who founded a successful employment agency. “Most of the people I talk to are kind of rolling their eyes and saying, ‘You know, we just don’t count anymore.’ ”

It’s the lament of the rich who are not quite rich enough for 2016.

Bundlers who used to carry platinum status have been downgraded, forced to temporarily watch the money race from the sidelines. They’ve been eclipsed by the uber-wealthy, who can dash off a seven-figure check to a super PAC without blinking. Who needs a bundler when you have a billionaire?

Many fundraisers, once treated like royalty because of their extensive donor networks,are left pining for their lost prestige. Can they still have impact in a world where Jeb Bush asks big donors to please not give more than $1 million to his super PAC right now? Will they ever be in the inner circle again?

“A couple presidential elections ago, somebody who had raised, say, $100,000 for a candidate was viewed as a fairly valuable asset,” said Washington lobbyist Kenneth Kies. “Today, that looks like peanuts. People like me are probably looking around saying, ‘How can I do anything that even registers on the Richter scale?’ ”

Sexual favors? Offer to kill someone? There must be something.

This is so twisted you have no choice but to laugh. These people are feeling slighted because they aren't rich enough to gain the attention of politicians. Welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit, friends. But perhaps they need to ask themselves why they are treating these people as if they're royalty or demi-Gods in the first place. This is supposed to be a democracy and politicians are supposed to be seeking the approval of the citizens. Instead we have citizens seeking approval from the politicians and the politicians seeking approval from the ultra-wealthy. Something isn't quite right.

Still, you have to feel sorry for them for this terrible loss of status. It's gotta hurt to be a millionaire member of the upper five percent, used to being treated with deference by the servant class (the rest of us) and suddenly find yourself tossed aside as just another useless poor person. The answer to this dilemma --- the answer they would certainly give to any of the sad middle class and working class people who would ask this question is --- must be to "work harder" and become a billionaire themselves. Isn't it the case that rising to the top is just a matter of having a good work ethic? And if you fail, it's because you just don't put the kind of effort into it that billionaires do? That's what I always heard anyway.

Come on, millionaires, buck up. Anyone can become a billionaire if they really try. This is America. You only have yourself to blame if you just don't have enough money to make a politician care what you have to say.



Your daily apocalypse

by Tom Sullivan

Rush Limbaugh's popularity during the Clinton administration prompted some restaurants to create "Rush Rooms" where you could listen to el Rushbo piped in over speakers while you washed down your burger and onion rings with iced tea. Two Minutes Hate that lasted for hours. A daily dose of outrage to get the juices flowing.

In an interview at Salon, historian Rick Perlstein looks at how other conservative hucksters such as Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck peddle outrage and miracle cures. The practice has its roots in evangelical culture and in Richard Viguerie's mass marketing:

What he ended up mastering was a rhetorical style which is very familiar to viewers of Fox News, in which the apocalypse is right around the corner, and his innovation was to intimate that you could help stop it with a, y’know, $5, $10, $50 donation. His business model, as was very soon discovered, was taking 95 percent to sometimes even more than 100 percent of the take for his own purposes and profit and giving in only a minuscule percentage of the proceeds to the ostensible beneficiary, whether it was a fund that supposedly helped FBI officers injured in the line of duty or sending Bibles to Africa or supporting something like the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

Perlstein responds to Huckabee’s diabetes ad:

Let’s not forget 1988, when Pat Robertson won the New Hampshire primary. A lot of this stuff comes from Evangelical culture, which is a culture of witness, so the hawking of miracles is absolutely baked into the cake. Someone like Pat Robertson was followed by a figure like Pat Buchanan or any number of candidates in the last two or three Republican primary seasons, who make a lot of noise by doing decently well in early polls but then fade out once the seasoned pros take over and the money becomes preeminent.

If this historical pattern holds, Mike Huckabee, if he does well early, will flame out before the second or third inning but I see no impediment whatsoever for him to be disqualified by the conservative rank-and-file, simply because this stuff has been going on without much complaint since the 1970s. This is part of the hustle, right? If Huckabee can claim to have been victimized because of his activities, he can always claim it’s the conspiracy of the liberal elites… and then it’s off to the races.

Like Flannery O'Connor's bible salesman, except selling reverse mortgages and diet pills via multilevel marketing.

"Aren't you," she murmured, "aren't you good country people?"

What's infuriating is that now everybody's getting in on the daily apocalypse style. This DCCC appeal came in from Nancy Pelosi last night:

Thomas -- I don’t have much time:

The House is voting TOMORROW on the Republican budget.

Paul Ryan, blah, blah, blah ...

That’s why I’m coming to you. We need to raise $80,000 more before the vote tomorrow to show our Democratic strength.

Are you ready to fight back with me before it’s too late?

Hang on tight to your wooden legs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The twisted mind of a duck caller

by digby

Here's a little glimpse into the thoughts of America's most popular Christian patriarch:
“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters.

Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him.

And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him.

And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’”

Robertson kept going:

“Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? 
But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’”

“If it happened to them,” Robertson continued, “they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”
I don't think that sociopathic little homily says what he thinks it says.

Hysterical Huckleberry Quote 'O the Day

by digby

"The language used by the chief of staff of the president of the United States is exactly what Hamas uses. Today, the chief of staff of the president of the United States used language that has been reserved for terrorist organizations."

Oh my God! What did he say?

Speaking at J Street's annual conference, McDonough said that "an occupation that has lasted more than 50 years must end," adding that Palestinians should be able to govern themselves.

And then he screamed "Allahu Akbar" which was really disconcerting.

Huck continued:

"Is your country occupying the West Bank, or are you there to make sure the West Bank doesn't turn into Gaza? The chief of the staff of the president of the United States is looking at a world completely different than the one I am viewing."

Graham warned Obama that, if his administration does not block anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, "Congress will recalculate how we relate to the United Nations."

"All I can say is, when I thought it couldn't get worse, it has," Graham said, referring to McDonough's speech.

"Wake up and change your policies before you set the whole world on fire. Please watch your language. ... You're making everything worse, and now, you've added fuel to the fire."

Runferyerlives!!! Everybody's trying to kill us!!!!THE WORLD IS ON FIIIIYAH!!!!


An official act of racism

by digby

I'm horrified by the death penalty for many reasons. It's simply immoral to premeditatedly kill people who are in the custody of authorities and are no threat to anyone. When the system that put them there is capricious, unequal and unjust it's even worse. I will never understand how people can consider it a civilized act to murder someone who is shackled and unarmed.

But the absolutely most horrific aspect of capital punishment in America is the way it is used as an official, governmental act of racism. In the name of all of us:
IN APRIL 2005, nearly eight years after Kenneth Fults was sentenced to death for kidnapping and murdering his neighbor Cathy Bounds in Spalding County, Georgia, one of the trial jurors made a startling admission under oath: He'd voted for the death penalty, he said, because "that's what that nigger deserved."

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given the circumstances—a black man admitting to the murder of a white woman in the deep South—that some white jurors might secretly harbor racist views. The surprising part was that this juror, Thomas Buffington, came right out and said it. And what should have been the most surprising development of all (alas, it wasn't) came this past August, when a federal appeals court, presented with ample evidence, refused to consider how racism might have affected Fults' fate.

In fact, state and federal courts have routinely avoided the evidence and consequences of racism in the criminal-justice system. (See "5 Death Penalty Cases Tainted by Racism.") Consider one of the most famous examples, the 1987 Supreme Court case of McCleskey v. Kemp, in which lawyers for Warren McCleskey, a black man sentenced to death for killing a white police officer, presented statistics from more than 2,000 Georgia murder cases. The data demonstrated a clear bias against black defendants whose victims were white: When both killer and victim were black, only 1 percent of the cases resulted in a death sentence. When the killer was black and the victim white, 22 percent were sentenced to death—more than seven times the rate for when the races were reversed.
It's sick. Jim Crow may have ended and a whole lot of our fellow citizens are better off, but its racist intentions just moved to a new space behind prison walls.

I wish I could understand how any judge could be so cold-blooded as the allow an execution under these circumstances. I know they care about making "the system" efficient and worry in the abstract about what will happen if they start tinkering too much with the machinery of death. But this machine is designed to snare the innocent along with the guilty and it seems to have a need for black bodies to fuel it. It's a machine that doesn't work properly and never will. It needs to be scrapped.

Bill Maher, the one true liberal?

by digby

My post for Salon today discusses some recent Bill Maher comments that truly are startling.  If he hadn't made such a fetish out of the Islamic fundamentalist threat one might just dismiss it as a case of lazy rhetoric.  But in the context of everything else he's been saying lately it's worth looking at:
When he is defending his sweeping condemnation of the Muslim religion, Bill Maher inevitably proclaims himself to be “the real liberal” implying that those who don’t see things his way are impure in some way. He’s said it numerous times on his show and in interviews such as the one he did here at Salon with Elias Isquith claiming that standing on liberal principles (as he defines them) even against people who are oppressed minorities is what makes him “the liberal in this debate.”
But how to explain his latest comments defending the comments of Benjamin Netanyahu in the final days of the Israeli election complaining, “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls, left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.” Maher said:
“I guess that is racist, in the strictest sense — he’s bringing race into the equation. But, first of all, like Reagan didn’t win races with racism? Or Nixon? Or Bush? Like they didn’t play the race card? Reagan opened his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, remember that? Remember Willie Horton?”
Real liberals don’t say that racism doesn’t work. It’s that it’s wrong. But he didn’t stop there:
“I heard a lot of commentators here say, it would been as if Mitt Romney, in 2012, on the eve of the election said, ‘black voters are coming out in droves to the polls. But I don’t know if that’s really a great analogy. I think that would be a good analogy if America was a country that was surrounded by 12 or 13 completely black nations who had militarily attacked us many times, including as recently as last year. Would we let them vote? I don’t know. When we were attacked by the Japanese, we didn’t just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.”
I’ve got a better analogy for him. Not too long ago there was a nation run by white people, surrounded by “black nations” and filled with oppressed black citizens who were very hostile to it. It is called South Africa. And principled liberals didn’t think their system was such a great idea and they certainly defend the white South African overlords simply because they felt afraid of losing power. Ronald Reagan did, as did most right wingers. And so did the other Republicans who Maher mentions using racist language to get elected. Liberals, on the other hand, believed that black South Africans should have full citizenship. Certainly they thought trying to prevent black people from voting, whether over there or here, was a very illiberal thing to do. Liberals were on the right side of history on that one.

Interning the Japanese was an immoral blight on America’s record for which the nation apologized and made reparations. The president who signed that reparations bill was none other than Ronald Reagan. The internment happened more than 70 years ago during a period when open racism was a normal part of American society. Today, the only people who support such a horror are Maher’s right wing buddy Ann Coulter and her fellow travellers like Michelle Malkin.

Read on...

The good cops

by digby

This nice note came across my twitter feed last night and as a harsh critic of police tactics, I think it's important to make sure the other side gets out there too:
El Dorado Police Department Lieutenant Tim Baker and Sergeant Larry Arnold responded to a disturbance call. The homeless man was combative toward the officers, even throwing his bicycle. The man has a volatile history and his behavior could have escalated and caused injury to the officers or himself.

Instead, Sgt Arnold patiently calmed him down and Lt Baker helped him reattach his bicycle tire. 
Patrol Officer Mike Holton brought the man lunch, spent hours finding him a bed in a shelter in Wichita and then drove the man to the shelter.

None of these officers would have expected anyone to notice or thank them, but a citizen just happened to look out their window, see the interaction and snap these pictures.

I see this sort of thing frequently here in Santa Monica where the local police are often called upon to deal with a large homeless population. They are unfailingly polite and patient. (LAPD, not so much --- it must be a cultural thing.) The best cops are those who not only project authority but also have an understanding of psychology and a healthy dose of patience and empathy. It's not the job of a soldier. It's something more.

Update: and I can't let this post go by without showing this youtube again. It makes me laugh out loud every time I see it:

Huge White House Scandal!

by digby

Sure this happened in the Obama White House but it's so redolent of the travel office firing back in 1993 that you have to suspect that Hillary Clinton had something to do with it. She's been talking about emails regarding weddings and funerals after all. And who but a florist would be in the know about all that, amirite? Call the special prosecutor!
When White House chief pastry chef Bill Yosses left the executive mansion last summer, the president publicly mourned the loss of “the crust master’s” mysteriously addictive pies. And when the first family’s personal chef and pal, Sam Kass, left in December, Michelle Obama heaped praise on Kass’s “extraordinary legacy of progress” in an official White House statement.

But the recent exit of head florist Laura Dowling, who’d been in the job since 2009, has been a much quieter affair. So hush hush, in fact, that most outside of 1600 Penn knew nothing about it. There’s still no official comment on why Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13.

The East Wing initially confirmed via a very brief e-mail that “Laura left her position earlier this year” but provided no further details. Later, the first lady’s office (not quoting the first lady specifically, mind you) sent this enhanced statement:

“As Chief Florist, Laura Dowling and her team treated guests of the White House to their beautiful floral arrangements. Ms. Dowling’s creations were always lively and colorful, reflecting not only the season but the unique and historic rooms which they graced. No two arrangements were ever the same and each one left guests with a lasting impression of the elegance and history of the People’s House. We are grateful for her contribution over the years and wish her well”

We also reached out to the Office of the Chief Usher, which oversees all residence staff. When we asked to speak with Dowling, the woman who answered the phone said, “She no longer works here.” And when asked if there was another head floral designer, she responded, “There really isn’t.”

Hours after we put in a call to Dowling’s Alexandria floral design shop, Intérieurs et Fleurs, she issued a statement via the law firm Sidley Austin.

“After almost 6 years as Chief Floral Designer at the White House, I have resigned in order to pursue exciting new opportunities and explore my passion for floral artistry and design. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be launching a new platform for my work as an author, speaker, instructor and design consultant that builds on the creative ideas and partnerships I’ve formed during my tenure there. It’s been such an honor to work at the White House and I will always be grateful for this incredible opportunity.”

“This absolutely comes from the top. The first lady has the final say,” explained Kate Andersen Brower, author of the upcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.” Andersen Brower first heard of Dowling’s departure from three former residence staffers.

The silence from the East Wing surrounding Dowling’s exit is in sharp contrast to the buzz of her hiring.

According to a former residence staffer, Dowling’s exit “surprised a lot of people.” But the White House’s staff, continued this source, was discouraged from “trying to come up with their own conclusions.” Rumors, of course, have been flying ever since.

“I’m not sure what the reason is,” continued our source. “But I can think of a few.”
As Jon Stewart would say, "Doo tellllll ...."

Ok, so the Clinton connection might be a bit thin, even for the Village. But obviously Michelle Obama was unhappy with the floral arrangements for some reason. So she fired the florist without so much as a by-your-leave or a fare-thee-well. Now why would that be, hmmmmm?

I have no idea and obviously neither does the journalist who wrote this but it would be irresponsible not to hint darkly at something.


Oh what a tangled web we weave

by digby

Via WSJ:

Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

Yeah, I hate when that happens.

That is one shocking situation if you think about it. Israel is spying on the US, with US knowledge apparently. But Israel is sharing what it learns with opposition members of congress in order to influence policy within the US government.

These people want to jail Edward Snowden for espionage while actual members of the US Government are working with a foreign nation to undermine an anti-nuclear peace agreement! WTH?


From the red wood forest to the xxxx xxxxxx waters

by Tom Sullivan

I got yer trickle-down right here, pal. Those melty glaciers in the Antarctic and Greenland? Well:

The Gulf Stream that helps to keep Britain from freezing over in winter is slowing down faster now than at any time in the past millennium according to a study suggesting that major changes are taking place to the ocean currents of the North Atlantic.

Scientists believe that the huge volumes of freshwater flowing into the North Atlantic from the rapidly melting ice cap of Greenland have slowed down the ocean “engine” that drives the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean towards north-west Europe, bringing heat equivalent to the output of a million power stations.

Scientists say the change has largely taken place since 1970. According to Stefan Rahmstorf at Potsdam's Institute for Climate Impact Research, this could be ... bad:

The Gulf Stream is just one component -- albeit the largest and most powerful -- of the system of ocean water flows known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Similar overturning systems happen in all of the world's oceans. The latest research supports previous studies that suggest overturning has slowed abruptly over the last several decades.

"If the slowdown of the Atlantic overturning continues, the impacts might be substantial," Rahmstorf said in a statement. "Disturbing the circulation will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries and the associated livelihoods of many people in coastal areas. A slowdown also adds to the regional sea-level rise affecting cities like New York and Boston."

The latest research was published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Charlie Pierce speculates that the American conservative response will be:

a) Don't trust the science-y scientists with their scientific science and Al Gore is fat, and what are "proxy measurements," anyway? or

b) Look at England and how nice and temperate it's been. Carbon dioxide is our amigo!

So long, Gulf Stream, it's been good to know ya. Maybe Arlo can do the rewrite on "This Land Is Your Land."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lists of tyrants everywhere

by digby

This ISIS threat against US servicemembers is really scary:

An Islamic State "kill list" with the names, addresses and photos of American military members has triggered a federal investigation, the White House confirmed -- and one military spouse told Fox News she's already heard from someone, who said they were with NCIS, urging her family to be vigilant.

The military spouse, who was willing to discuss details on the condition of anonymity because she says her family fears for their safety, said the information posted by ISIS sympathizers is accurate -- and she knows several other families identified on the web by the terror group. The original posting listed information for dozens of American servicemembers and called on ISIS sympathizers to kill them.
And I'm not being facetious. It is scary. These are people are fanatics.

But tell me, is there a difference between a threat like that one and a threat like this one?

A Sipsey Street Public Service Announcement:  
The Connecticut Tyrants List: The state of Connecticut is making lists of firearm owners to raid. It seems obvious to me that it is thus only fair to list those anti-constitutional tyrants who will have blood on their hands the moment the first Connecticut citizen is shot by the CT state police while carrying out their orders. I will be sending these folks my own email later today. CT State Senators voting Yes on "An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety, also known as Public Law 13-3 or Connecticut Senate Bill No. 1160," 3 April 2013. 
List includes home addresses. Photos and home phone numbers of these tyrants are available here. 
We are at a crossroads. You, in the arrogance of your power and your ignorance of the people you seek to dominate are extrapolating from your own cowardice — you believe that just because the government orders these folks to knuckle under that they will do so BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU WOULD DO. You mistake them, and your mistake is, in the fullness of time, going to get people killed. And who do you think these people who you victimize — these people who you will have state agents seek to round up and kill — who do you think they are going to blame for that? It doesn’t take Madame Lawlor and his crystal ball to predict that such people — victimized by their own state authorities in an unconstitutional law that likely will be found to be null and void anyway — will blame the people who sent the killers. Which is to say, you.  
This is deadly serious stuff, this foray into an undiscovered country that you have so blithely entered upon, like blind men and women tap dancing in a minefield you scarcely comprehend. Fully eighty-five percent of the people you targeted with the law — the people that YOU AND YOU ALONE made into lawbreakers — have just told you by their noncompliance to take your unconstitutional law and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Does that not tell you ANYTHING? These people are ARMED.They are familiar with the finer points of marksmanship. They are principled in a way that perhaps only the Founders would understand — at the risk of their own lives. So what part of “Oh, HELL no” don’t you understand? You have been playing with titanic forces. You are going to send armed agents of the state to their doors to work your collective and collectivist will upon THEM? You have unintentionally sown the wind and if things go predictably south you will reap the whirlwind. 
BUT IT IS WITHIN YOUR POWER TO REVERSE. You own the weather machine, as it were. I’m not asking you to repeal the law, although that makes perfect sense to me. No, I realize that too much of your ego, your own false vision of omnipotence is wrapped up in it to do THAT. What I am asking you to do — no, what I am BEGGING you to do — is to use your power to suspend the enforcement of that Intolerable Act at least until it is ruled constitutional or not by the United States Supreme Court. “An unconstitutional law is null and void.” Do you really wish to risk death and destruction upon innocent people — upon us all — on a bet against the odds? Is your appetite for your own citizens’ liberty, property and lives that insatiable? Or now, as the likely unintended consequences of your actions have been directly explained to you, are you willing to reconsider the menu choices?  
What will your political fortunes be when the first shots are exchanged over this? When the first innocents are killed in carrying out your will? What will your arrogance, your ignorance, your insufferable pride be worth to you then? What will it be worth to any of us? Starting a bloody civil war seems an odd way to avoid “violence against children.”
- See more at: http://www.teaparty.org/connecticut-patriot-group-fights-back-gun-confiscation-order-35917/#sthash.7fZFGXRf.dpuf

They bring bad things to life

by digby

This piece by Tom Engelhardt about our swiftly decaying democracy is a must read for a lot of reasons. He discusses everything from our increasingly corrupt electoral system to the rise of the National Security State and near total congressional dysfunction. It's quite an indictment.

But I thought this was particularly worth highlighting a bit:
Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11. Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country. Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization. The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporationsdoing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting. Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying. You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy. And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

The obvious place where this merging of domestic government and special interests happens is in the criminal justice system with private prisons, "asset forfeiture" and the scams like that run in Ferguson. There is even a move toward debtor's prisons.  And as we saw with the Enron electricity gambit, the move to privatise public utilities and government run services has been moving quickly for some time. One might also say that the insistence on keeping the health care industry profitable was a primary requirement of Obamacare.

Outsourcing and privatization is a huge part of the Republican revolution and one of the main forms of "modernization" enthusiastically adopted by the New Democrats back in the 1980s.  Part of this was surely designed to make it possible for Dems to keep their share of the special interest money that was already flowing into politics. But some of it is simply the fact that elites who spend most of their time with other elites tend to believe that elites know what they're doing and should be left to do what elites do best. This scheme to give taxpayers money to the private sector to do traditional functions of government was touted as being more "efficient" even though we were paying a profit-taking middle man. The idea stemmed from a belief that those profit-taking middle men were just so much better at everything than some faceless government bureaucrat. And they are very good at what they do --- scamming lots of money from the taxpayers.

One of the GOP's great successes during the Reagan era was persuading people that government was their enemy.  This, in turn fed naturally into the idea that private institutions, corporations, were your friend. They were making it possible for you to live a better life. (GE's famous advertising slogan was literally that: "We bring good things to life.")  Now, why average workers actually believed this I never understood except for the idea that they were intimate with their own bosses and co-workers and so saw the essential humanness of them as compared to "the government". But they did believe it. And the results are in. In nearly all aspects of our lives, wealthy individuals and private institutions in conjunction with government are spying on us, getting us into useless wars from which they profit, putting us in jail and making us financially vulnerable.

This new discussion of income inequality remains quite abstract in many ways.  And it's hard to tell if it will mean anything if people start to feel a little bit less stressed financially.  But the fact remains that people have been getting royally screwed for decades and things aren't getting any better.  If the Democrats can shake off their propensity to sell themselves to the highest bidder for campaign cash, they might have a winning message.  This experiment has been a failure for average people. If they are willing to tell the truth about that, people may just be ready to hear it.

The Canadian Candidate

by digby

I assume liberals are not going to jump on this Ted Cruz being born in Canada business with the same fervor as the right's masturbatory obsession with Obama's birth certificate because the facts are clear: he is eligible to run for president.  But it cannot pass unnoted that the right wing spent years attacking Obama for allegedly not being a "natural born American" even to the extent that they claimed he faked his birth certificate. But the fact is that he was born in the US and it wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't been since his mother was American, just like Ted Cruz's.

This is the situation with Cruz. His father was a Cuban citizen when Cruz was born, his mother was American and he, unlike Obama,  actually wasn't born in the US and held a dual citizenship with Canada until last year. All of that makes him perfectly eligible to be president, of course. But the idea that these right wingers are a-ok with Cruz's circumstances after having made such a spectacle of themselves over Obama shows them to be ... hypocrites. Shocker, I know.

But get a load of this from the New York Times story about it this morning:
Critics of Mr. Cruz sought to stir controversy about his candidacy on social media, noting that he was born in Canada and saying that he could never legally become president.

The trope is a common one for would-be presidents, and President Obama and Senator John McCain both faced questions about their birthplaces and eligibility as recently as 2008.
The difference in "questioning" those two (and Cruz, no doubt) is substantial. The right wing had an entire cottage industry dedicated to attacking President Obama's legitimacy, largely based on questions about his race and his religion. It was a disgusting display that continued for many years. There were maybe three questions in the Daily Kos comments section about McCain. The scale of the questioning makes them completely different in substance.

Cruz probably will get some ribbing from the left for the hypocrisy of his followers and he'll probably try to turn it into some sort of martyrdom to the flag and be somewhat successful at doing it. That's how they operate. And maybe in this case hypocrisy really is the tribute vice pays to virtue --- Cruz's father is an immigrant and Cruz himself is a highly accomplished ethnic minority. The right is going to be forced to defend that. Sure, they would easily turn around and condemn a Democrat for the same thing. They've proved what they are capable of. But every time they have to defend Cruz they defend the law as it is. And that's the best you can hope for.

Two years of hell 

by digby

Via Daily Kos Comics

Loathing Rahm --- and what you can do about it

by digby

I wrote a piece for Salon today about the history of the progressive Netroots and its particular loathing for Rahm Emmanuel. It's not just that he never fails to show maximum contempt for the left. It's that he has done everything he can over many years to drive the party into the arms of the national security hawks and the Wall Street billionaires.

Way back in the day (a decade ago) when the Progressive Netroots were just starting to organize, the first “scalp” any of the left leaning movement activists took was that of a Democratic hack from Maryland named Al Wynn when they backed a progressive challenger by the name of Donna Edwards. Edwards defeated Wynn in 2008 and is now running to replace Senator Barbara Mikulski who recently announced her retirement. In each congressional cycle Netroots progressives have fought a number of hard-fought primaries, losing more often than they won (just like the Tea Party) but slowly managing to make the House of Representatives a bit more progressive than it was before. Congressional representatives like Matt Cartwright, Beto O’Rourke and Senators like Jon Tester were backed strongly by the grassroots of the party and managed to unseat incumbents. Nobody in the beltway noticed or cared, of course. (Progressives always forget to order their tri-corner hats and Betsy Ross wigs…)
Back in 2006 when all this really started to come together there was one Democrat who quickly determined that this nascent progressive movement was a major threat to the status quo. His name was Rahm Emanuel who was, at the time, an Illinois congressman in charge of candidate recruitment for the congressional Democrats. If there’s anyone who can take credit for being the catalyst for this long term Netroots commitment to elect progressives to congress it is him. His crude dismissal of grassroots concerns was blatant. His contempt for anyone who disagreed with his centrist Blue Dog/New Democrat philosophy was palpable. While his wholehearted support for big money interests was seen as the ultimate in strategic brilliance by the beltway elites, it repelled Democratic activists everywhere.

Despite the fact that lame-duck George W. Bush and the war in Iraq were so unpopular that virtually anyone who could draw a breath who had a D after his or her name could have won, the conventional wisdom said that Emanuel’s DCCC win in the off year election of 2006 was a validation of his political savvy. (In case you were wondering, Emanuel wasn’t elected to congress until after the Iraq war resolution but was on record supporting it, saying that the U.S. needed a “muscular projection of force” there. You can let the shrinks sort out just what that language says about him …)

When the newly elected President Obama tapped him as chief-of-staff, you could hear progressives screaming “nooooooo” across the land. And when he departed to run for mayor of Chicago, the collective sigh of progressive relief (everywhere but Chicago) was just as audible. He is, in other words, the symbol of everything progressives are trying to change about the Democratic Party.

Read on.

Today all those Netroots groups along with the SEIU are running a "money Bomb" for Chuy Garcia, the progressive Chicagoan who is giving Rahm the run of his life. This is what we sent to Blue America members this morning:
Blue America

Dear Friend,
Chicago's mayoral race is two weeks from Tuesday-- April 7. Today, Monday, is the first day of early voting. The race pits the "pay-for-play politics" and endemic corruption embraced by careerist and Wall Street shill Rahm Emanuel against the communities and neighborhoods of one of America's great cities trying to reclaim its dignity and its independence. The race is a neck and neck contest between Emanuel and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

Does it seem too late in the cycle to make an effective contribution? It isn't-- thanks to electronic contributions delivered directly to campaigns by ActBlue. Netroots donors can still have a significant impact on the outcome of the race.

No one ever thought Chuy would have the ability to raise as much money as Emanuel, who had already spent $30 million in the first round to Chuy's $1.2 million. But no one thought Chuy needed to match Emanuel either.Emanuel's record as mayor has devastated Chicago's neighborhoods and most voters have soured on him. Chuy's campaign was designed from the beginning to be a person-to-person operation-- street politics, door-to-door, friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor.

Money contributed today isn't going to be wasted on expensive network TV ads-- which Rahm is spending $10 million on-- but will be spent on real community outreach efforts.

If you're thinking about donating, remember that it costs the campaign $6 to provide a box lunch for a volunteer out in the field. This campaign is going to be won because of a get-out-the-vote effort. That's what Chuy's operation is all about right now. Providing 50 buttons for distribution at an event is $25. It costs $100 to print 1000 copies of an 8½x11 piece to pass out on street corners, outside grocery stores, on subway platforms, in front of churches and synagogues and community centers, outside high school basketball games, at parades and rallies. Money contributed today--even small amounts-- combine with others’ to make a real difference.

If Rahm loses, it will shake up Democratic politics to its core; a shake-up that is long overdue. Pleaseconsider contributing what you can-- today, 2 weeks out-- via ActBlue. There is no such thing as a contribution being too small to make a difference. 

Last week, looking back at his presidential run in 2004, Howard Dean explained that he had
“represented the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party'-- a line inspired by Paul Wellstone that captured the spirit of my grassroots campaign. Jesús 'Chuy' García is running a similar people-powered campaign in Chicago and that's why I am proud to announce that I am endorsing him as the progressive choice to be Chicago's next mayor. Chuy García brings years of experience standing up for the people of Chicago. He worked with Harold Washington, Chicago’s reform mayor, to clean up Chicago in the 1980s. He also served alongside a then-unknown Illinois State Senator, Barack Obama, in the 1990s. In that time Chuy García fought for better schools and neighborhood services while developing the leadership skills required to lead Chicago in the 21st century. As mayor, Chuy García will focus on the needs of Chicago's working and middle class. He'll work to improve public schools and take a community-oriented approach to ending the violence in Chicago's neighborhoods. Chuy García will put the people first, not the 1%.”
Like Chuy says in the video (that I highly recommend you see) at the donate link, "Chicago doesn't belong to '$omebody.' Chicago belongs to Everybody!" Let's see how far a progressive Money Bomb for Chuy Garcia can go to start the ball rolling towards a progressive tidal wave sweeping the Country.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,

--Howie, for the entire Blue America team

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