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Hullabaloo


Monday, September 01, 2014

 
Navel gazing about November

by digby

Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium thinks the Democrats are going to hold the Senate:


In most cases, added assumptions (i.e. special sauce) have led the media organizations to different win probabilities — which I currently believe are wrong....The major media organizations (NYT, WaPo, 538)...all use prior conditions like incumbency, candidate experience, funding, and the generic Congressional ballot to influence their win probabilities — and opinion polls.

....Longtime readers of PEC will not be surprised to know that I think the media organizations are making a mistake. It is nearly Labor Day. By now, we have tons of polling data. Even the stalest poll is a more direct measurement of opinion than an indirect fundamentals-based measure. I demonstrated this point in 2012, when I used polls only to forecast the Presidency and all close Senate races. That year I made no errors in Senate seats, including Montana (Jon Tester) and North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp), which FiveThirtyEight got wrong.

Kevin Drum wrote about thisand said that all his instincts say this is wrong and that the Republicans are going to take over. I have to say my instincts are saying the opposite. I'd guess the Democrats will lose a couple of seats overall (and might pick at least one up in Georgia or Kentucky) but will keep control.

But here's why my instincts might be off: I don't care that much. It's almost inevitable that if the Democrats lose the Senate they will get it back in 2 years when a ton of seats are up that favor them. I don't see that the GOP taking over will alter the status quo much. I recognize that a lot of people are nervous about Obama caving to GOP demands, but honestly, they're so nuts at this point that I really doubt it. It's not as if they're going to craft elegant, sophisticated legislation that's designed to entice Obama to walk the tightrope that's holding the Democratic coalition together. They are juvenile bomb throwers who will make it easy for Obama to just say no.

And if anyone's worried about Supreme Court Justices, let's just recognize that it's highly unlikely Obama will get to appoint any more of them --- and if he does, it's unlikely they'll be confirmed. If one of the Justices retires in the next two years I'm fairly sure they'll keep the seat vacant until the next president takes office.

Obviously, I don't think it will be a good thing for Republicans to win the Senate. But I'm not fretting about it. They've already shown they are perfectly capable of obstructing the Democratic agenda from one House of congress. A Senate majority is just gilding the lily.


.


 
Keep calm and carry on

by digby

Via Buzzfeed from yesterday:
A message has gone viral claiming that there is a high likelihood of a terrorist attack on London’s underground network on Monday morning and all London police officers have been called in to a special 4 a.m. shift.


Wow. That sounds really scary. Except it wasn't true.
But a Metropolitan Police spokesman told BuzzFeed the text message is “completely untrue” and no extra officers are coming in early.

The Met, which is responsible for policing the capital, say they have a policy of not normally commenting on hoaxes for fear of encouraging more. But they felt this particular message had reached such a wide audience they had to issue a public denial.

The London boss of the British Transport Police, the law enforcement body that looks after the tube network, has hit out at such “rumours”.

I can see why the Brits are nervous. The government issued a scary warning on Friday. And since it's clear that some of these ISIL members are British I'd guess they feel more vulnerable than usual. But it isn't the Battle of Britain.

I feel as if we're going back to that place we were a decade ago when the fear of 9/11 excited people into a frenzy that led them to some very bad judgment. I get that governments have to warn their people of these threats and they should. But the people shouldn't allow themselves to be overstimulated by it. The old British trope, however stale and over-exploited it's been in the past few years -- is still a good one:


Just kidding ...

 
Charts 'O the Day

by digby

Here's a nice short labor day piece by Ezra Klein about unions and capitalism (including a thoughtful quote by Rich Yeselson.)  You can click over to read it but I thought I'd just share the charts:



Far be it from me to suggest that the continuing campaign to destroy unions in America has contributed to income inequality. But let's keep on bashing them! It's so much fun.


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Big Brother is paranoid

by digby

Ok, we're officially a depraved, paranoid society. A man was taking pictures of his daughters on the ferry as the family went on vacation. He's been doing that every year since they were little. Now they are teenagers:
Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”

At first none of us understood what he was talking about. His polite tone and tourist attire of shorts, polo shirt and baseball cap threw us off. It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over. (Only after we arrived at our rented condo did I find out I had gotten a great shot.)

As I was telling my wife what had happened, I saw the man again, scanning the horizon with his binoculars. The more I thought about what he had said, the more upset I became. My wife and I, both white, adopted our two daughters in China when they were infants. Over the years, as a transracial family, we have often gotten strange looks and intrusive questions from strangers, but nothing like this. Yet part of me understood what he was seeing: Here was this middle-aged white guy taking lots of pictures of two beautiful, young Asian women.

Would this man have approached us, I wondered, if I had been Asian, like my children, or if my daughters had been white? No, I didn’t think so. I knew I’d regret not going back to speak to him about what had happened. My wife warned me I might be asking for trouble, but I reassured her that I would be fine.

I walked outside to where he was standing and calmly said: “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.”

The man didn’t seem at all fazed. He replied: “I work for the Department of Homeland Security. And let me give you some advice: You were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes.”
A couple of things: it's bad enough that we've become so paranoid that a man taking pictures of teen age girls is automatically a sign of a pedophile at worst and a dirty old man at best. The girls were hugging because they are sisters. It says more about this man's turn of mind than it does about anything these people were doing. They were, after all, on a public ferry. Anyone with a normal thought process would not automatically suspect porn or trafficking in that situation. This says something about the way we have puritanically sexualized everything in this culture.

And then we have the fact that this is an undercover "Homeland Security" officer saying "let me give you some advice, you were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes" as if that's a suspicious act in itself that's bound to get the attention of authorities. I don't think the people have been made aware that the government finds this sort of thing a cause for intervention.

I appreciate the fact that we are concerned about human trafficking but this strikes me as absurdly intrusive. As the author of the piece points out, there were many ways to approach this if the agent felt it required further investigation. (For instance, he could have engaged them in a normal conversation and found out quite readily that they were a family.) But once again we see this authoritarian mentality encroaching on daily life in America wherein we see police everywhere, in various guises, looking over our shoulders, asserting their authority, making themselves known in small ways and large.

We always had aggressive cops in this country and they've always been willing to stretch the meaning of the bill of rights. But this sense of them being everywhere, seen and unseen, is new. And it's chilling.

.
 
As California goes, let's hope the rest follow

by digby

Good news for anyone who eats in restaurants in California:

Early on Saturday morning, the California Senate passed a bill guaranteeing at least three paid sick days a year for about 6.5 million workers, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

Brown’s office said it supports the bill, and in a statement after it passed he said, “Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians.” Assuming he signs the bill, California will become just the second state ever to guarantee paid sick leave and the law will be the tenth in the nation.

The bill would require employers to provide sick leave to employees who work 30 or more days within a year, allowing them to accrue at least one hour for every 30 they put in. Currently, about 44 percent of the state’s workers don’t have access to a single paid day off if they or a family member gets sick.

I will never in a million years understand why employers insist that their employees come to work sick. They can't work efficiently, they infect their co-workers and if it's a job working with the public or for the public, they can infect their customers. It's ridiculous.

California just took a step toward making paid sick days compulsory. On Labor Day week-end no less. We're not perfect here in the land of fruits and nuts, God knows. But sometimes we're pretty good.

(I have another idea --- how about neighborhood clinics like they have in Japan where anyone can get looked at on a walk-in basis. That way employers could even insure that their employees aren't malingering. Awesome for everyone, right?)


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Why labor day?

by digby

There are a lot of good reads around the internet on the subject today. (Here are a couple from Ed Kilgore and Ian Milhiser.)

I thought I'd just share this clip from Barbara Kopple's ground breaking documentary Harlan County USA:


Here's Kopple from a couple of years ago talking about the film. Very interesting discussion.


Enjoy your day off all you 99 Percenters. You deserve it.


.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

 
Not everything in life is horrible

by digby

Of course it isn't.  A whole lot of it is wonderful. But it's at times like these we might need a little reminder.  Here's one:




Seen here at just seven weeks old, San Diego Zoo Safari Park's Cheetah cub is getting to know his new dog companion as the two continue to bond and spend time at the Safari Park's Animal Care Center. The Rhodesian ridgeback puppy was paired with the cub after the Cheetah was rejected by his mother and had to be hand raised as an animal ambassador. The Cheetah and puppy will be raised together and the dog will serve as a lifelong companion to the Cheetah.

Safari Park Cheetahs selected for training as ambassadors are paired early in life with a domestic dog. As the two companions grow up together, the dog's body language will communicate to the cheetah that there's nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the Cheetah. The Safari Park currently has four cheetah ambassadors all of which are trained to participate in the Park's Cheetah Run experience.

My husband and I went to the San Diego Zoo some years ago just as it opened after a big rain. The zoo was almost empty and we came upon some zoo keepers walking two cheetahs and their dog companions on the path. They are amazingly beautiful, other-worldly creatures. It was a privilege to have a close encounter with them.


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Now you're talking

by Tom Sullivan

"Folks, they want to destroy public education," the state Senate minority leader told a room full of supporters last year. He said it as though he had just figured it out.

Since the Republican sweep in 2010, Democrats have spent so much time in state capitols defending against one frontal assault after another coming from yards away. They tend not to notice troop movements on the fringes of the political battlefield. Is The Village any different?

Outside the bubbles, it's been clear for years that destroying public education is where charters, vouchers, and online schools are taking us under the guise of helping the disadvantaged. But one rarely sees it put so bluntly as this week. The WaPo's Valerie Strauss quotes the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of public policy and economic development:
“The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future.”
Yup. Like Robocop, your kids are product. Maybe. Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson explained that globalization means, “I can get [workers] anywhere in the world. It is a problem for America, but it is not necessarily a problem for American business ... American businesses will adapt.” So unless the little darlings offer some upside to the bottom line, they add no value. Why should the 1% pay to educate American children when other nations will pay to educate theirs for us? And besides, how much education do waiters and gardeners really need, anyway?

OTOH, if corporations could tap the unrealized potential of that government-guaranteed, recession-proof, half-trillion-dollar stream of public tax dollars states "waste" each year on not-for-profit, K-12 public education? The Big Enchilada? Now you're talking.

Which is why, as the Education Opportunity Network explains, charters don't need ad campaigns. They need regulation. There are some good "mom and pop" charters out there, sure, but they are just small fry, bait for the bigger fish. The Progressive reports:
There's been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.
From Pittsburgh  to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnati to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.
It's almost as if charters have become what the Progressive calls "a racket."
Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.
In 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has been an ALEC member, declared K-12 public education "a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed." 
The transformation has begun. 
"Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation," says [associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, Kristen] Buras. "Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on-the-cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities."
Hide yer children. And yer wallets.

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They're comintagitcha!

by digby


The smoking mushroom clouds don't protect us anymore. Or something.

I think a certain percentage of Americans are probably looking for some action right about now after too many years of feeling like Bush blew it America is a paper tiger. All this dull talk about health care and social security and stagnant wages and inequality is for losers --- and little old ladies. Time to start kicking tail and taking names, amirite?

The first step is to scare the hell out of the folks --- then rush in with some big, swinging military gear to save the day.

.


 
Can't help lovin' those commie strongmen

by digby

So panic artist Ted Cruz called Obama a pussy (well, "kitty cat" but please ...) and expresses his admiration for Vladimir Putin --- a real bear of a man. How typical. One of the defining characteristics of the modern conservative movement has been their deep admiration for the machismo of their adversaries.

Here's a little blast from the past on this lazy holiday week-end:

Grover Norquist, is reported to have said back in the 1980's,"We must establish a Brezhnev Doctrine for conservative gains. The Brezhnev Doctrine states that once a country becomes communist it can never change. Conservatives must establish their own doctrine and declare their victories permanent…A revolution is not successful unless it succeeds in preserving itself…(W)e want to remove liberal personnel from the political process. Then we want to capture those positions of power and influence for conservatives. Stalin taught the importance of this principle."

Inspired as he is by all things totalitarian, Norquist went on to do a number of things that Uncle Joe would be proud of, one of which was The Legacy Project

Here's what Mother Jones had to say about it: 
Win one for the Gipper? Hell, try winning 3,067 for the Gipper. That's the goal of a group of a powerful group of Ronald Reagan fans who aim to see their hero's name displayed on at least one public landmark in every county in the United States.

A conservative pipe dream? The intrepid members of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project don't think so. Launched in 1997 as a unit of hard-line antitax lobby Americans for Tax Reform, the project's board of advisers reads like a who's who of conservatives; it includes, among others, staunch GOP activist Grover Norquist, supply-sider Jack Kemp, and Eagle Forum chief Phyllis Schlafly. To this crew, the Great Communicator is the man who almost singlehandedly saved us from the Evil Soviet Empire, made Americans proud again, and put the nation on the road to prosperity through tax cuts that helped the poor by helping the rich help themselves.

Buoyed by an early success in having Washington National Airport renamed in Reagan's honor in 1998, the project started thinking big. In short order, they convinced Florida legislators to rename a state turnpike. From there, it was a logical step to the push for a Reagan memorial just about everywhere. "We want to create a tangible legacy so that 30 or 40 years from now, someone who may never have heard of Reagan will be forced to ask himself, 'Who was this man to have so many things named after him?'" explains 29-year-old lobbyist Michael Kamburowski, who recently stepped down as the Reagan Legacy Project's executive director.
[...]
...it was the Gipper's ho-hum performance in a 1996 survey of historians that apparently triggered the right's recent zeal to enthrone him in the public eye. It was in that year that presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., in The New York Times Magazine, asked 30 academic colleagues and a pair of politicians to rank all US presidents, and when conservatives saw their undisputed hero languishing in the "average" column, they were aghast. Appearing on the heels of Clinton's landslide victory over Bob Dole, the Schlesinger article seemed a slap in the face, a challenge to the GOP to stake its claim on recent history.

The charge was led by the Heritage Foundation -- a conservative think tank that helped devise the Republican Contract with America. In the March 1997 issue of the foundation's magazine Policy Review, the editors charged that Schlesinger's survey was stacked with liberals and New Deal sympathizers, and presented opinions from authors more appreciative of the Gipper. (The 40th president has always fared better with the general public than with the pointyheads: In a recent Gallup poll, respondents rated Ronald Reagan as the greatest American president, beating out second-place John F. Kennedy and third-place Abraham Lincoln.)

Two issues later, for its 20th anniversary, Policy Review ran a followup cover story: "Reagan Betrayed: Are Conservatives Fumbling His Legacy?" For its centerpiece, the magazine invited soul-searching by prominent Reagan acolytes including senators Phil Gramm and Trent Lott, representatives Christopher Cox, and Dick Armey, then-Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, and Grover Norquist. Soon after the cover story appeared, Norquist launched the Reagan Legacy Project as an offshoot of Americans for Tax Reform, which he had founded a decade earlier to further Reagan's fiscal policies.
Brezhnev and Stalin would be might impressed I'm sure.

.


 
QOTD: A Republican

by digby

“The question is, once you build an army, shouldn’t you use it, if you’re going to remain relevant?”

John McCain?

Lindsay Graham?

Bill Kristol?

No, it was Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican consultant. He was talking about the Koch Brothers but it could easily apply to foreign policy as well.

It illustrates their worldview nicely, doesn't it?



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Another jay walking tragedy

by digby

Well, no actually. In fact, this story is about an armed, belligerent jay-walker cursing police and daring them to shoot him. And guess what? They didn't. In fact, they were patient and respectful and used psychology to talk him down.

Of course, he was a middle aged white man. And an open carry advocate.

DPS Sgt. Sean Gordon is the first officer to arrive. From the dash cam footage from his patrol car, his vehicle can be seen pulling into the Cork Street Laundry at 4:09 p.m. as Houseman walks east on the sidewalk along Cork Street. Houseman crosses the street diagonally toward the Auto Zone parking lot, and Gordon engages him in conversation.

Gordon: Hey partner, how you doing? Can you set that down real quick and talk to me?

Houseman: I'm not setting it down.

Gordon: Well you can't cross the street like that.

Houseman: Am I being detained?

Gordon: Yes, you are being detained right now. You crossed the street illegally. Place the weapon down on the ground please.

Houseman: I will not.

Gordon radios that it appears the man will not drop his rifle.

Gordon: "Look, you crossed the street illegally; I just want to talk to you. I just want to talk to you. You're walking around here scaring people, man.

A second Public Safety vehicle arrives just after 4:11 p.m. About a minute later, Gordon asks Houseman for his name. Houseman says he is "Joe Schmoe."

"Based on training and experience I know that this is a euphemism used as an alias and knew it was not correct," Gordon would later write in his report.

Houseman: I am free to go?

Gordon: "No, you're not free to go. Right now you're committing a crime of resisting and obstructing (for failing to identify himself after being stopped for jaywalking). Now you've stepped up to a misdemeanor crime.

Houseman: Why don't you (expletive) shoot me?

Gordon: I don't want to shoot you; I'm not here to do that.

As the interaction continues, Houseman talks of a coming revolution, and calls police officers "gang members" with a "history of violence." While the audio is scattered -- Houseman was across the street from Gordon and it was a somewhat windy day -- Houseman can also be seen grabbing his genitals and making lewd gestures toward Gordon.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Lt. Stacey Geik said officers were called to Cork Street Coin Laundry, 823 E. Cork St., at 4:05 p.m. on a report of a man who appeared to be intoxicated openly carrying a rifle outside of the laundromat and across the street at an Auto Zone. The man was found to be exercising his Second Amendment Right to openly carry a gun, but his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and his hostile behavior led to his weapon being taken away for the time being, Geik said.

By 4:22 p.m., 12 officers are on scene and Gordon turns over negotiations to Sgt. Andres Wells, a trained SWAT negotiator. Cork Street has been shut down in both directions and most officers have taken up defensive positions behind their vehicles, their weapons drawn.

KDPS Lt. Stacey Geik takes over as commanding officer and directs officer Jon Schipper to be the "use of force applier ... if need be." Houseman still refuses to provide his name or identification to officers and can be heard directing numerous expletives toward them.

Houseman has his gun in the "parade-arms" position throughout the encounter, though he can be seen switching it from hand to hand, Giek later noted in his report. Houseman can be seen fumbling with the gun while reaching for chewing tobacco from a tin in his pocket.

Geik tells a dispatcher Houseman is "highly agitated" and "does not like police."

"He is exercising his open carry rights, however, he has certainly overextended them at this point," Geik says.

The lieutenant asks officer Peter Hoyt if this is the same open-carry advocate he has dealt with before. Hoyt says it is.

About two minutes later, Houseman agrees to sit on the ground and place his gun down. He allows Geik to approach him and take the carbine rifle, which Geik discovers to be empty of ammunition.

Geik speaks briefly with Houseman then crosses the street, with Houseman's rifle in hand, toward the other officers. Houseman follows, asking to have his rifle back.
Oh, and what do you suppose happened to this fine fellow? Was he tasered or wrestled to the ground in a choke hold once they disarmed him? Did they handcuff him and and arrest him and throw him in the back of the police car? These are all the common responses to confrontations like this one where cops routinely get a little street justice for wasting their time and showing them disrespect. None of those things happened.

He was armed and he was drunk and he hates police so I'd say the danger level for an accident was about as high as it gets. He's talking about revolution. He told the cops to shoot him. And yet, this is how the the altercation ended:
Geik tells Houseman he can have his gun back if he submits to a breathalyzer test. He declines. Geik says his hostile behavior and 911 calls suggest he may be intoxicated, and therefore may not be legally allowed to carry a firearm.

In Michigan, a person openly carrying a firearm can be charged with being in possession of a firearm while intoxicated if found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more or if they appear to be visibly impaired. A person licensed to carry a concealed weapon can have a weapon confiscated and potentially lose their license if they have a BAC of .02 or higher.

Geik later notes in his report that Houseman was found to be a CCW license holder, but that didn't factor in to this encounter.

Geik offers to allow Houseman to walk home and retrieve his rifle the following day, or to drive him home and continue the discussion there. Houseman declines both offers.

Geik: But you're not stable mentally, which now takes you away from that rifle.

Houseman: I'm not stable mentally? How do you decide that?

Geik: You're damn right. How did this happen with open carry? What are you supposed to do when you contact law enforcement? Do you say, 'I hate you mother(expletive), (expletive) you? I hate you, there's a revolution coming.' Do you say that? Is that what you're taught?

Houseman: It was wrong of me.

Houseman agains asks for his gun back. Geik tells him he wants to make sure he isn't a risk to himself or others.

Geik: You saying (expletive), (expletive), (expletive) and yelling across the street with a rifle in your hands ...

Houseman: That's my First Amendment right.

Geik: No it's not. You can't swear.

Houseman: That's bull---. I can threaten you if I want to.

Geik: That's incorrect.

Houseman: I can threaten you. I can threaten you're family. I didn't threaten your family, I said I could.

Unidentified officer: You said a war was coming.

Houseman: I didn't say a war was coming.

Unidentified officer: You said a revolution is coming.

Houseman: Think about it. You know it is.

The conversation continues, with Geik asking Houseman why he wants to scare bystanders and if he thinks his behavior while openly carrying a firearm is what the National Rifle Association advocates for. Houseman again becomes upset over officers questioning his mental stability.

Houseman: He told me I was unmentally stable. I tell you what, I got a job, I got grandchildren, I got children, I got a job ...

Geik: Is this what you want to portray to your grandchildren?

Houseman: Damn right. I teach them.

The exchange continues.

Houseman: My grandson and I walked the same way last Sunday. He had his rifle on and I had mine.

Geik continues to tell Houseman he is free to go and can retrieve his rifle at KDPS headquarters the next day, unless he is willing to submit to a breathalyzer to prove he isn't intoxicated. Houseman again refuses.

Geik: If I was going to open carry, which I have done before, there is no way in heck I would have come to a laundromat full of people trying to dry their clothes with an Auto Zone, carwash and 10 cop cars.

Houseman: That don't mean (expletive). I'm trying to raise awareness.

Geik: You're trying to make a statement, and you got it and now you lost your gun.

Houseman: You guys aren't always right.

Geik: No, but in this one, we're 100 percent right.

Houseman again asks if he can leave with his gun.

Geik: As I stated 12 minutes ago, you're not detained. You were detained initially because the officer was trying to have a conversation with you, a legal, lawful, allowed, non-intruding Fourth Amendment conversation and when you start screaming obscenities and grabbing your genitals armed with a rifle, you crossed the line.

Houseman: I apologize. I have a bad attitude because we're losing our rights.

Geik: They might as well put up a billboard right now that says the Second Amendment is junk because of people like this.

Houseman: I apologize.

Geik: I accept your apology, I don't apologize on our end ...

Houseman: I need a sling, I know I need a sling, you're right. My grandson, we went last week, he had a rifle, he had a sling.

Houseman agrees to meet with Geik the following morning, before apologizing again, shaking hands with him and walking away.
I love the fact that the cop says he is an open-carry demonstrator himself and acts as the NRA's Miss Manners. You have to wonder if his identification with this man played a part in his patience and perseverance in bringing the altercation to a peaceful end. (It could also be that he's just a smart cop who saw this was a good way to defuse the situation.) He didn't even arrest him, simply took away his gun. Temporarily. Without violence. It cost them nothing but time -- 40 minutes to be exact --- to work this through. It can be done.

So, let's ask ourselves how that confrontation would have likely gone if Mr Houseman had been a drunk, belligerent, armed African American man, shall we? I'd like to think those police would have taken the same approach. And maybe these particular cops would have.  They seem quite sensible.  But from what we've heard the last few weeks, most police department's protocol is to treat civilians as if they are all potential members of a guerrilla army. Armed citizens who curse and threaten them (even with knives and screwdrivers, much less guns)  are dispatched with alacrity --- police look at situations like this as kill or be killed. Especially, though not exclusively, if they're black.

These police seemed to see this man as a citizen not an enemy and saw their job as trying to keep the peace and ensure public safety, not fight a war. It makes a big difference.


*And yes, obviously not all situations like this can be handled this way. Good cops have a lot of tools in their tool box besides sheer dominance and violence and they should be trained and enabled to use them all.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

 
Saturday Night At the Movies

Dennis is taking the night off because .... it's labor day week-end and he deserves it! But if you're looking for a movie this week-end that is in keeping with the holiday, I'm re-running this piece from a few years ago to help you out. --- digby


Lord I am so tired: Top 10 Labor Day films

By Dennis Hartley





Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
who need leaders but get gamblers instead
-from “Salt of the Earth”, by Mick Jagger & Keith Richard


Full disclosure (I am so ashamed). It had been so long since I actually stopped to contemplate the true meaning of Labor Day, I had to refresh myself with a web search. Like many of my fellow wage slaves, I usually anticipate it as just another one of the 7 annual paid holidays offered by my employer (table scraps, really…relative to the other 254 weekdays I’m required to spend chained to a desk, slipping ever closer to the Abyss).

I’m not getting you down, am I?

Anyway, back to the true meaning of Labor Day. According to the U.S.D.O.L. website:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Fair enough. OK, the nation as a whole has sort of fallen behind in the “strength, prosperity and well-being” part of that equation; but we’re working on that. Oh, and Labor Day isn’t the only “creation of the labor movement”. There’s also all that F.L.S.A. stuff about workplace rights and minimum wage and such on those posters in the break room that most of us don’t bother to read (even if we do all benefit from it). So I guess I shouldn’t be so flippant about my “table scraps”, eh? At any rate, I thought I would cobble together my Top 10 list of films that inspire, enlighten, or give food for thought in honor of this holiest of days for those who make an honest living (I know-we’re a dying breed). So put your feet up, pop in a DVD, and raise a glass to yourself. You’ve earned it.

Blue Collar-This is one of Paul Schrader’s better directorial efforts, which he also co-wrote (along with his brother Leonard). Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto play a trio of Motor City auto worker buddies who are tired of getting the short end of the stick from both their employer and their union. In a fit of drunken pique, they decide to pull an ill-advised ‘inside’ heist that gets them in very deep doo-doo with both parties, which ultimately puts friendship and loyalty to the test. Similar to Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront (see below), Schrader is not afraid to paint over the standard black-and-white “union good guy, company bad guy” trope with shades of gray, reminding us that the road to Hell is frequently paved with good intentions (absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc.). I love the music score (by Jack Nitzsche and Ry Cooder), especially with the late great Captain Beefheart growling, “I’m jest a hard-woikin’, FUCKED-over man” over that compelling “ShhhOOMP ba-bom ba-bom” industrial blues riff in the opening credits.

El Norte-Gregory Nava’s highly effective portrait of two Guatemalan siblings who make their way to the U.S. after their father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you long after credits roll. The two leads give naturalistic, completely believable performances as the brother and sister whose optimism never falters, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Claustrophobic viewers should be warned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a rat colony during an underground border crossing will give you nightmares. And don’t expect a Hollywood ending; this is an uncompromising look at the plight of undocumented workers and how they are exploited.

The Grapes of Wrath- I’m stymied for any hitherto unspoken superlatives to ladle onto John Ford’s masterful 1940 film (taken from John Steinbeck’s classic novel), so I won’t pretend to have any. Suffice it to say, this probably comes closest to nabbing the title as THE quintessential film about the struggle of America’s “salt of the earth” during the Great Depression. Perhaps we can take comfort in the possibility that no matter how bad things get over the next few months (years?), Henry Fonda’s unforgettable embodiment of Tom Joad will “be there…all around, in the dark.” Ford was on a roll; the very next year, he followed up with How Green Was My Valley, another classic about a working class family (this time set in a Welsh mining town) which snagged a ‘Best Picture’ Oscar.

Harlan County, USA-Barbara Kopple’s award-winning film is not only an extraordinary document about an acrimonious (and murderously violent) coal miner’s strike in Harlan County, Kentucky back in 1973, but easily rates as one of the best American documentaries of all time (I’d put it in the top 5…uh-oh, I smell a theme brewing for a future post). This has everything that you look for in, well, any great movie, documentary or otherwise: drama, conflict, suspense, even mystery. Kopple and her film crew are so thoroughly embedded in the milieu that you may find yourself ducking during the infamous and harrowing scene where a company-hired thug fires off a round directly toward the camera operator (it’s a wonder the filmmakers lived to tell the tale). Amazing.

Made in Dagenham-Even though it was on my “to do” list, I missed this one in theatres earlier this year (I can’t see ‘em all, folks) but managed to catch up with it on Starz just a few days ago (and got the inspiration for this post!). Based on a true story, it stars the delightful Sally Hawkins (who sparkled in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky, which I reviewed here) as Rita O’Grady, a working mum who was employed at the Dagenham, England Ford plant in 1968. She worked in a run-down, segregated section of the plant where 187 female machinists toiled away for a fraction of the pay scale enjoyed by the thousands of male employees (the company smoke-screened the inequity by classifying any female worker as “unskilled labor”). Encouraged by her kindly and empathetic shop steward (Bob Hoskins), the initially reticent Rita finds her “voice” and surprises family, co-workers and herself with a formidable ability to rally the troops and effect a change. An engaging ensemble piece (directed by Nigel Cole and written by William Ivory) with a standout supporting performance by Miranda Richardson as a government minister (she’s at her best when she’s playing ‘slyly subversive’). You know, we need to see more inspirational, progressive positive rabble-rousers like this opening at the local multiplex. So if it makes you feel like cheering, by all means, give in… because it is great therapy.

Matewan-It’s easy to forget that a lot of blood was spilled back in the day in order to lay the foundation for many of those labor laws we tend to take for granted in the modern workplace. John Sayles sets out to remind us about that in this well-acted and handsomely mounted drama. Based on a true story, it is set during the 1920s, in West Virginia coal country. Chris Cooper is excellent (as always) portraying an outsider labor organizer who becomes embroiled in a violent local conflict between coal company thugs and fed-up miners who are desperately trying to unionize. Like all of the historical dramas he has tackled, Sayles delivers a compellingly complex narrative, rich in characterizations and steeped in impeccable period detail (beautifully shot by one of the truly great cinematographers, Haskell Wexler). In addition to Cooper, you’ll recognize many Sayles “regulars” in this fine ensemble cast (like David Strathairn and Mary McDonnell). The film features a great “rootsy” folk-blues-traditional bluegrass soundtrack (by John Hammond, Hazel Dickens, Mason Daring and others) that rivals that of the wildly popular O Brother Where Art Thou (which this film pre-dates by 13 years).

Modern Times-Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 masterpiece about man vs. automation (among other things) has aged quite well. This probably has everything to do with his uncannily timeless embodiment of the Everyman (the technology around us may be constantly evolving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are). Although frequently referred to as his “last silent film”, it’s not 100% “silent”. There’s no dialogue, per se, but Chaplin does find ingenious ways to work a few lines in (via technological devices). His expert use of sound effects in this film is unparalleled, particularly in a classic sequence where Chaplin (a hapless assembly line worker) literally ends up “part of the machine”. Paulette Goddard (then Mrs. Chaplin) is on board for the pathos. Brilliant, prescient and hilarious.

Norma Rae-Martin Ritt’s 1979 film about a minimum-wage textile worker (Sally Field) turned union activist launched what I have dubbed the “Whistle-blowin’ Workin’ Mom” subgenre (Silkwood, Erin Brockovich, etc). Field gives an outstanding performance (and deservedly picked up a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar) as the title character, who gets fired up (in more ways than one) by a passionate labor organizer from NYC (Ron Leibman, in his best role). An inspiring film, bolstered by a fine screenplay (Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.) and supporting cast (including Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle and Barbara Baxley).

On the Waterfront-“It wuz you, Chahlee.” Oh, the betrayal! And the pain. It’s all right there on Marlon Brando’s face as he delivers one of the most oft-quoted monologues in cinema history. Brando leads an exemplary cast that includes Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint in this absorbing portrait of a New York dock worker who takes a virtual one-man stand against a powerful and corrupt union official. The trifecta of Brando’s iconic performance, Elia Kazan’s direction, and Budd Schulberg’s well-constructed screenplay adds up to one of the best American dramas of the 1950s.

Roger and Me-While our favorite lib’rul agitprop documentarian has made several films addressing the travails of everyday wage slaves and the ever-appalling indifference of the corporate masters who grow fat off their labors (see Sicko and The Big One), Michael Moore’s low-budget 1989 classic remains his best (and falls within the top 25 in the list of highest-grossing docs of all time). First-time filmmaker Moore may have not been the the only resident of Flint, Michigan scratching his head over GM’s local plant shutdown right at the spike of record profits for the company, but he was the one with the chutzpah (and a camera crew) to make a beeline straight to the top to demand an explanation. His target? GM’s chairman, Roger Smith. Does he bag him? If you’ve seen it, you know the answer. If you haven’t, I hope I’ve intrigued you to see this insightful and fascinating cultural snapshot of Middle America that is at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and hopeful.




 
No brainer

by digby

“Waterboarding dates to the Spanish Inquisition and has been a favorite of dictators through the ages, including Pol Pot and the regime in Burma,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) said in an op-ed in 2008. “Condoning torture opens the door for our enemies to do the same to captured American troops in the future.”
Nah. They wouldn't do that:
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
When asked about whether he has any regrets, the ISIS Commander shrugged and said it was a "no brainer" for him.



 
There's no upside to border vigilantism

by digby

Ask yourself what will happen if a border patrol agent kills an armed militia member? We almost got to find out:
A border patrol agent fired several shots at an armed militia member while chasing a group of immigrants Friday near Brownsville, Texas.

Border Patrol Spokesman Omar Zamora told the Associated Press that agents were pursuing a group of immigrants when one agent spotted a man holding a gun near the Rio Grande.

The agent fired four shots but did not hit the man, Zamora said. The man then dropped his weapon and identified himself as a militia member.

The unidentified man was not arrested and appeared to have permission to be on private property where the incident occurred, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the AP. Lucio, whose agency is involved in investigating the incident, said the man was wearing camouflage and was carrying either a rifle or shotgun.

The sheriff said militias really aren't needed at the Texas-Mexico border given the number of law enforcement agencies already working to secure the area.

"It just creates a problem from my point of view, because we don't know who they are," Lucio told the AP.
So you can't actually tell the "bad guys" from the "good guys" in these situations? Didn't they tell the undocumented migrants to wear black hats and the militia to wear white hats? No?

Lot's of things can happen when armed vigilantes decide to "help" the police. They can kill innocent people. They can kill a cop. And they can get themselves killed as well. An yes, down at the border, they might just kill some poor Latino who's crossing the border to work in a kitchen somewhere for next to nothing.

Is any of this worth someone dying over?

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A little king undone

by digby

Offered without comment. (But you know what i'm thinking ...)

According to Dallas’ D Magazine, John Goodman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) was ousted by the group’s board of directors in June for “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty.”

Goodman, 68, founded the center more than 31 years ago and has long served as its president and CEO. He has advised Republican politicians like former President George W. Bush as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Goodman is known to many as “the father of health savings accounts,” an anti-Obamacare proposal that the GOP floated as a possible alternative to the current health care system.
[...]
“According to documents, emails, and interviews with multiple sources familiar with the situation,” wrote D‘s Glenn Hunter, “Goodman’s firing stemmed from an extraordinary arrangement that was made with an NCPA employee named Sherri Collins, after Collins accused Goodman of assaulting her in a Southern California hotel room in 2012.”

Goodman reportedly promoted Collins from an assistant’s position to director of the firm’s human relations division. She was awarded a salary of $85,000 per year, a guaranteed bonus check each year for at least three years and other benefits, all in an effort by Goodman to stave off legal punishment.

When an employee complained about treatment they’d gotten from Collins, the arrangement was brought to the attention of NCPA’s directors, who felt that the assault in California and Goodman’s handling of it seriously called into question his professionalism.

Then, in early June, Collins was arrested for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend with a fake plant. The boyfriend — not Goodman — pressed charges and Collins was booked for assault and criminal mischief. It was not her first arrest. Collins had multiple brushes with the law for theft, assault and criminal mischief.

Shortly thereafter, Goodman was fired by the board of directors. In a series of increasingly hostile press-releases, Goodman and the NCPA accused each other incompetence, dishonesty and “serious misconduct.”

The NCPA hired Collins in 2011 as a temporary clerical worker through an agency called RecruitTexas, which did not perform a background check. Goodman immediately took a shine to her.

“John liked her,” a former NCPA employee told Hunter. “He would rub her leg. She would smile. It seemed like two people in a relationship.”

Goodman divorced his wife in 2012.

By 2013, however, things had gone sour enough between the pair that an apparent physical confrontation erupted between them in the California hotel room. Goodman reportedly choked Collins in the course of a violent argument that left the hotel room “torn up.”

Not long after, Collins received her extraordinary promotion.

In the new servant economy we can anticipate that our betters will not be in danger of such unfortunate turns of events. Surely we will see a return to legal droit du seigneur. CEOs are under a lot of pressure being the job creators they are. They need to blow off steam. It's not right that a comely vixen can entrap an important man like this an send him into ruin.


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Winking and nodding at the constitution

by digby

Ian Millhiser analyzes yesterday's Texas abortion ruling:
Texas’s justification for an anti-abortion law enacted last year is “disingenuous,” according to Judge Lee Yeakel’s opinion striking parts of that law on Friday. Indeed, Judge Yeakel’s opinion dismantles the state’s avowed justification for the law, pointing out that it does little to protect women’s health and a great deal to restrict access to abortion. Whatever the strength of Yeakel’s argument, however, his decision is unlikely to stand for long, as it will be appealed to one of the most conservative courts in the country — and the Supreme Court has done little to constrain that court from restricting the right to choose.
[...]
One of the most significant innovations developed by lawyers and lawmakers who oppose abortion are sham health laws that, on their surface, appear intended to make abortions safer, but which have the practical effect of making abortions difficult or impossible to obtain. Texas’s House Bill 2 (HB2) is one of these laws. Last October, a provision of HB2 took effect that prohibited doctors from performing abortions unless they have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Judge Yeakel halted that provision shortly before it took effect, noting that “there is no rational relationship between improved patient outcomes and hospital admitting privileges.” The Fifth Circuit reinstated the law only a few days later.
It seems that this "more ways than one way to skin the cat" concept is oddly common in our system of justice. And it's even endorsed (sort of) by Supreme Court justices. For instance, in the recent buffer zone ruling, the court rested its decision on free speech grounds, which makes sense. But then it gave some broad hints to the pro-choice side by saying they could use existing traffic or zoning laws to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish without offending the constitution. I know it's not a perfect analogy, but the underlying concept is that it's ok to use existing laws in novel ways to accomplish what a straightforward ban on a certain right cannot. That seems to me like an invitation to the sort of backdoor ban on abortion we see in states all over the country.

Since we have the Court telling pro-choice advocates that it's fine to find a different way to keep anti-choice zealots away from the clinic doors, I'm not sure I see why the Court won't tell the anti-choice advocates that it's perfectly permissible to find novel ways to keep doctors from performing abortions as long as it doesn't directly obstruct a woman's right to choose. (And yes, I get that there's this subjective "undue burden" test but that looks like yet another example of an end-run around the underlying principle.) If free speech is being infringed upon by a "buffer zone" it seems to me that it's being infringed upon by a traffic ordinance that's being used as a phony excuse to create a buffer zone. Likewise, if the Court has said that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion then using safety regulations as an excuse to infringe that right should be a violation of the constitution.

I'm sure I'm sounding like a 12 year old to the constitutional scholars who undoubtedly have a well-thought out rationale as to why this is a necessary aspect of constitutional jurisprudence. Even I can see how these piecemeal rulings are designed to add up to a more solid legal framework over time. But to this layperson it just looks rather odd to see judges winking and nodding to various players about how they can circumvent what they have just proclaimed to be a constitutional principle.

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The war at home

by digby


Via Moyers, a statistic:

28,000 – the number of children and teens shot and killed in the US between 2002 and 2012. According to ABC News, that means that 13 kids died at home for every soldier killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan during that period.

Maybe we need to think of those kids as child soldiers paying the price for our freedom.

Doesn't that make you feel better?

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Thom's way or no highway

by Tom Sullivan

Besides his woman problem, North Carolina GOP Senate nominee Thom Tillis has a toll problem. And a base problem.

Interstate 77 in Tillis' district badly needs widening. But Thom and his ALEC buddies insist on installing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes over objections from his party, local Republican lawmakers, and a conservative think tank in Raleigh. His local tea party calls the I-77 project Thom's Tholl Road.

The GOP is expert at exploiting wedge issues to divide and conquer opponents. But here the wedge is intraparty. There is a split among the GOP's right-wing populists, its libertarian ideologues, and it's ALEC-friendly, crony corporatists. It seems HOT lanes have become a flash point. Free-marketeer libertarians consider that when government (We the People) provides any product or service on a not-for-profit basis, it's another big-government crime against capitalism; they favor anything that gets government out of the way of private profit. Grassroots fiscal conservatives see schemes such as HOT lanes -- contracted to foreign conglomerates, funded with federal loans, and with private profit margins backstopped with state tax dollars -- as yet another example of crony capitalism screwing taxpayers. It is. And it's just what the Koch brothers' privateers want more of.

So how big a wedge is this? Behold the Weekly Standard from April, critiquing at length a 75-year, single-bidder HOT lanes concession in Virginia:

The arrangement is every capitalist’s dream: free land, developed with taxpayer money, for privatized profits and socialized losses.

Of course, in the Weekly Standard's fever dream it's not rent-seeking corporatists ramrodding privatization of America's highways, but progressive ideologues (and libertarians) bent on discouraging a middle-class lifestyle they find "distasteful."

Thom Tillis himself did not address the HOT lane issue at an appearance before a group of business leaders in Asheville Friday morning (timestamp 1:00:00). But as party activists and business-minded constituents have before, several times on Friday questioners asked state candidates about highway funding and the possibility of seeing of "dynamic tolling" on I-77 and I-26. These aren't progressives and libertarians. They are Thom Tillis' base voters. And they are uneasy.

Hard to tell, but when even conservative are worried about the impact ALEC's designs might have for their small businesses, tolls just might be a sleeper issue for Republicans that so far the press has missed.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

 
They all look alike

by digby

That's right, all Americans look like Americans. Since Americans look like everyone.

This story from Gawker is about an interection between the conservative Governor of Georgia and a latina who asked him a question:
Deal addressed a variety of topics, including immigration, during a question and answer session sponsored by the UGA College Republicans Tuesday night.
"There's a fundamental problem that can only be resolved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here," said Deal who was looking toward Lizbeth Miranda, a Hispanic student who was standing up with others asking questions.

"I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not," said Miranda. "I don't know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?"

The governor replied: "I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to."
Miranda and her colleagues in the school's Undocumented Students Alliance found Deal's assumption offensive, though judging from the boos she received, College Republicans in attendance were more offended by her reaction.

Those college Republicans undoubtedly assumed she was an "illegal" too. As they undoubtedly assume all Hispanics are "illegals" or, in any case, not Real Americans regardless of their citizenship.

This illustrates the problem for Republicans on this issue. To most Latinos, whether they hold American citizenship or not, demonizing the DREAM kids and all the other immigrants who are merely trying to eke out a living so they can feed their families (particularly when these haters claim that people from south of the border "destroy our way of life) is a sure sign that they too are seen in similar fashion.

But what are these Republicans going to do? They have a base full of people who are fearful xenophobes and are being egged on by the conservative industrial complex for profit. They're stuck.

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"A Fierce Minimalist"

by digby

I think Peter Beinert has this right. Obama isn't a hawk or a dove and he does have a strategy and a worldview:
On the one hand, Obama has shown a deep reluctance to use military force to try to solve Middle Eastern problems that don’t directly threaten American lives. He’s proved more open to a diplomatic compromise over Iran’s nuclear program than many on Capitol Hill because he’s more reticent about going to war with Tehran. He’s been reluctant to arm Syria’s rebels or bomb Basher al-Assad because he doesn’t want to get sucked into that country’s civil war. After initially giving David Petraeus and company the yellow light to pursue an expanded counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, he’s wound down America’s ground war against the Taliban. Even on Libya, he proved more reluctant to intervene than the leaders of Britain and France.

On the other hand, he’s proven ferocious about using military force to kill suspected terrorists. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, he’s basically adopted the policy Joe Biden proposed at the start of his administration: Don’t focus on fighting the Taliban on the ground, since they don’t really threaten the United States. Just bomb the hell out al-Qaeda from the air. Compared with George W. Bush, he’s dramatically expanded drone strikes, even though they’re unilateral, legally dubious, and morally disturbing. And, as promised, he sent special forces to kill Osama bin Laden without Pakistan’s permission, even though his vice president and secretary of defense feared the risks were too high.

When it comes to the Middle East, in other words, Obama is neither a dove nor a hawk. He’s a fierce minimalist. George W. Bush defined the War on Terror so broadly that in anti-terrorism’s name he spent vast quantities of blood and treasure fighting people who had no capacity or desire to attack the United States. Hillary Clinton and John McCain may not use the “War on Terror” framework anymore, but they’re still more willing to sell arms, dispatch troops, and drop bombs to achieve goals that aren’t directly connected to preventing another 9/11. By contrast, Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is more clearly defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.
I'm a dove so I disagree with his drone war. It's hard to see that it's done much good and, as with most wars, it's done a lot of harm. But I'm with him on the minimalism when it comes to unleashing the military and firmly believe that our alleged humanitarianism is only rarely truly motivated by humanitarianism and almost always makes things worse. I think it's very smart for a global military empire to take a minimalist approach to war. Seriously, it should be the default position.

There are threats in the world to be sure. There's a true sense of global instability right now. But the world's most powerful military injecting its ultra-violence into the situation is hardly guaranteed to make a positive difference. And the costs are huge. Beinert lays out all the critiques, particularly by liberals who believe that a minimalist approach allows these situations to fester when earlier engagement might prevent them from hurtling out of control. But also explains why Obama might disagree with that. And again, I agree with Obama (if this is what he thinks.)
Obama would probably respond that when it comes to stopping jihadist terrorism from taking root by ensuring representative government, territorial integrity, and national unity in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, an ounce of prevention isn’t nearly enough. The effort costs billions of dollars and a whole lot of American troops. Even then, it might fail because given America’s track record, analogies that portray Washington as a doctor with a sophisticated and empathetic understanding of its Middle Eastern patients are way too benign. Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan could certainly have used preventative care in the Obama years. But America’s prophylactic efforts might have involved leeches, not aspirin. As Richard Holbrooke learned the hard way during his time as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s national-security bureaucracy isn’t geared toward diplomacy and economic development. It’s mostly designed to blow things up.
It would be a very good idea to change that. But that's a very tall order. The American national security establishment (aka our Imperial Bureaucracy) has been in place for over half a century, growing stronger and stronger by the decade to the point at which it is now unassailable. I'm all for changing that. Ideas on how to proceed are welcome.

Beinert's article goes on to explain how politics enters into this and thinks Obama is reflecting the country's mood with this approach. He points out that, so far, the GOP presidential hopefuls haven't gone all Cheney on us, which means that Obama still has his finger on the pulse. Maybe. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be emerging from that post-Iraq, recessionary malaise and could be looking for some action. I hope not. But when I see the Democratic Party accusing their rivals of being isolationists in the "Blame America First" crowd I get worried. War can be a marvelous distraction from other problems.


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Memo from the Department of Duh

by digby

Surely this didn't just occur to them:
A House Republican-led investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, will extend well into next year, and possibly beyond, raising concerns among Democrats that Republicans are trying to damage Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential prospects.
Some of us have known this for years. Literally:
...they didn't drag out Toensing and DeGenova by accident. And that's because this is only marginally about Obama's second term.

I've got one word that explains it: Hillary.

These people are Clinton character assassination specialists. And the right sees Benghazi as a Clinton scandal. Just watch Fox news for any half hour slot in a 24 hour period and it will come up. It's already become a punchline --- and a mantra.
Trumped up Clinton scandals are of a particular variety that are likely to make a comeback when Hillary Clinton runs again. I've written a lot about that too over the years. I call them "smell-test" scandals which are these long, drawn-out investigations in which details are dribbled out over time to give the impression of wrong-doing simply by the length and number of inquiries. When you add up the details they inevitably amount to nothing but that's not the point. The point is to create an atmosphere of scandal, a "feeling" that all this smoke must add up to something. (And there's always the hope that Monica Lewinsky  -- or something like her -- will turn up to explode the whole thing into a real scandal.)

They've tried this with Obama and the IRS scandal and Solyndra and a few others and it doesn't seem to work with him. (They're settling now on the "tyrannical despot" approach.) But with the Clinton and her long history in politics, it's inevitable that they would dust off this scandal manual. It will be interesting to see if she handles it any differently than former president Clinton did. He fended them off one by one, but there was always a feeling that he was somehow energized by that challenge. I'm not sure that's true of Hillary.


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QOTD: DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson

by digby

FYI:
At present, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are unaware if any specific credible threat to the U.S homeland from ISIL.  Plainly, however, violent extremists who support ISIL have demonstrated the intent and capability to target American citizens overseas. And ISIL constitutes an active and serious threat within the region.
Somebody go throw a bucket of ice water on Huckleberry Graham's head ---- to stop him from running around in circles screaming "they're coming to kill us, ohmygod we're all going to die!!!" It would appear that ISIL and its friends are busy right now wreaking havoc on the people in its neighborhood and aren't planning to invade South Carolina to commit atrocities on God fearing Christians over the labor day week-end.


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RIP public higher ed

by digby

This quote from Janet Napolitano, now head of the University of California system, is via Ed Kilgore:

[I]t is troubling to consider that at some point in the last six years, 41 state legislatures in the United States slashed funding for their public universities and colleges.

Sadly, funding remains constrained for public higher education, despite an economy that slowly grows more robust. Only 14 states have re-invested in higher education at levels equal to or above their pre-recession levels. Last year, 20 states actually cut more funding from their public universities and colleges.
Kilgore comments:

... the deep cuts in higher ed funding by state legislatures that occurred nearly everywhere during the Great Recession haven’t been fully restored much of anywhere, despite radically improved state fiscal climates.

The skyrocketing public college and university tuitions we’ve all become accustomed to seeing are the direct result of this reduced state support. And it’s worth remembering that no matter how much progress we make in controlling college costs (and student debt levels) through various reforms won’t much matter if state legislatures perpetually pocket the savings and disinvest in higher ed.
Libertarian paradise here we come. Higher education will only be for those who can afford to pay huge sums or are willing to indenture themselves for decades. (And I'm sure the for-profit fly-by-nights will continue to sucker low income students into going into crippling debt.)

It sounds like perfect preparation for the new servant economy.


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"Concerned" that Obama does nuance

by digby

Congressman Mike Rogers is "concerned":
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers did not mince words Thursday, slamming President Barack Obama for an “odd” news conference during which the president said, “We do not have a strategy” to deter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“It was an odd press conference at the very best, but to have a press conference to say we don’t have a strategy was really shocking given the severity of the threat. That’s what’s so concerning to me,” Rogers (R-Mich.) told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Right. What you want is a president pounding on the podium insisting "I'm the decider! I'll decide because I've decided!" Or something like that.

It is a good thing for a president to be thoughtful and to show the world that he's being thoughtful. The US is a massive, military superpower and that can be threatening. Much better to have leadership that doesn't sound as if it's eager to drop bombs or invade at a moments notice and that it's taking all sides into account.

President Obama is a lot of things but he isn't stupid. I find it hard to believe that he didn't say they were working out a strategy as part of a diplomatic move as they're working with allies in the region. I know it's hard for hawks to understand this because they spend their entire lives trying to prove their manhood, but sometimes it's better not to rush in and take charge of every situation. Sometimes it makes more sense to give others the chance to step up. It tends to give them a different stake in the outcome and possibly allows them to not feel as if they are a vassal of the United States. (Which is undoubtedly why Mike Rogers doesn't like it.)

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Pennsylvania takes up Medicare expansion, drives another nail in the anti-ACA coffin

by David Atkins

It looks like 500,000 more Americans are about to get healthcare thanks to the ACA. Greg Sargent has the details:

In another sign that the politics of Obamacare continue to shift, the Medicaid expansion is now all but certain to come to another big state whose Republican governor had previously resisted it: Pennsylvania.

The federal government has approved Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s application for the state’s own version of the Medicaid expansion, without a handful of the conditions Corbett had hoped to impose, Dem sources tell me.

Corbett just announced that he will accept the expansion that has been offered, perhaps with some last-minute changes — expanding coverage and subsidies to as many as half a million people.

This comes after months of jockeying between Corbett and the federal government. Corbett had pushed for a version of the expansion that would have imposed various conditions designed to make it more palatable to conservatives and to achieve political distance from Obamacare — while simultaneously taking all that federal money. Among them: Using the cash to pay for private coverage for the poor.
This is a big deal not only for the future of the ACA but also for Pennsylvania politics. The GOP has been wanting to make gains in the Keystone State for a long time now. Another half a million voters who get healthcare through the ACA puts another big crimp in that plan.


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