Archive for National

The 2014 midterm elections were a disaster for Democrats across the country. Appearing on Meet the Press afterwards, former DNC chair Gov. Howard Dean complained about their lack of message, “Where the hell is the Democratic party? You’ve got to stand for something if you want to win.”

It takes more than that. You’ve got to demonstrate you are willing to fight for it too.

Yesterday, some Democrats finally did. By sitting down for over twelve hours to demand a vote on “no fly, no buy” gun control legislation. In the wake of the Orlando shootings, they’d had enough:

Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and coupled it with social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control — and disrupt political business as normal well into the night.

[…]

“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” said Lewis, one of the last living icons of the civil rights movement. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”

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Jun
22

Not a “nefarious thing”?

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“Your honor, I hope that I can persuade you that it was not a nefarious thing,” replied Thomas A. Farr, an attorney for the state of North Carolina. He was arguing yesterday to uphold the state’s sweeping 2013 voting changes before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. One of the judges seemed skeptical:

Judge Henry F. Floyd questioned the timing of the changes — done after Republicans took control of state government for the first time in a century and after the U.S. Supreme Court undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — and whether they weren’t done to suppress minority votes for political gain.

“It looks pretty bad to me,” Floyd said.

Floyd was not the only judge on the panel who appeared skeptical. Talking Points Memo:

The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the remaining provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals fast-tracked the review in an expected presidential battleground state, with competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Voters must now show one of six qualifying IDs, although those with “reasonable impediments” can fill out a form and cast a provisional ballot. The voter ID mandate began with this year’s March primary.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. asked pointed questions about why public assistance IDs, used disproportionally by minorities, were not acceptable in the final version of the law.

“Why did they take it out?” asked Wynn, a former North Carolina state appeals judge.

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Jun
21

You were expecting, what?

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From the Guardian:

The US Senate failed to advance new restrictions aimed at curtailing gun violence on Monday, as lawmakers voted down four separate measures just one week after a terrorist attack in Orlando marked the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

Democrats and Republicans had put forth competing amendments to both strengthen background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. But all four bills fell short of the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, in a near replica of a vote held in December when a pair of shooters killed 14 people and wounded 22 more in San Bernardino, California.

The scene is all too familiar for the families of past mass shooting victims From the New York Times:

With every mass shooting in America, a somber scene replays itself here. Victims’ families and survivors of massacres — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino — traipse up to Capitol Hill. They knock on lawmakers’ doors, attend news conferences and bear witness to Senate votes on gun measures that almost never pass.

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Categories : Gun Control
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Jun
20

Super-delicate situation

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Video by Full Frontal.

Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus are vehemently opposed to abolishing so-called superdelegates from the presidential nominating process. Setting the stage for a possible confrontation, the CBC sent a letter to both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns, Politico reports:

“The Democratic Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently voted unanimously to oppose any suggestion or idea to eliminate the category of Unpledged Delegate to the Democratic National Convention (aka Super Delegates) and the creation of uniform open primaries in all states,” says the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO. “The Democratic Party benefits from the current system of unpledged delegates to the National Convention by virtue of rules that allow members of the House and Senate to be seated as a delegate without the burdensome necessity of competing against constituents for the honor of representing the state during the nominating process.”

The letter from Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina provides some personal history on how the present nominating process developed since 1972. He makes three key points for consideration before the party makes changes regarding unpledged delegates. (Superdelegates, Clyburn notes, is a pejorative term found nowhere in the rules):

Let me be clear, our delegate selection process
is not rigged. It is transparent to the public and open
for participation for all who wish to declare
themselves Democrats. There are three questions,
however, that we should all ask ourselves as we
approach the 2016 Convention and consider whether
or not to allow the continuation of unpledged
delegates:

Number (1), Do we want to force party leaders
and elected officials to compete against their
constituents and party activists for delegate
slots to our national conventions?

Number (2), Do we wish to force our elected
officials to jeopardize their candidacies by
declaring their presidential preferences in the
middle of their campaigns?

Number (3), Should we expect party leaders
and elected officials to give unbridled support
to presidential nominees they had no role in
selecting?

For newcomers to the process this stuff is pretty weedy. However, one comment from the Politico column gets at why the CBC will fight to retain unpledged delegates (emphasis mine):

“The superdelegate system is not perfect but it has worked for us quite well over the years and frankly the superdelegates have never needed to cast any superdelegate votes to alter what the voters did during the primary elections,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “Never. That’s not the case this year either. The concern many of us have, of course, is that our numbers would shrink in terms of having influence over and involvement with what happens at the convention.

The Hispanic Congressional Caucus stands with the CBC, Cleaver says.

I have not walked in the shoes of a black voter, especially one from the South. But I have seen enough to know that black Democrats view procedural matters like this through very different eyes. One anecdote may illustrate that.

So speaking of weedy, annual precinct meetings here occur either at the polling place where the precinct normally votes or at an alternate publicly accessible location nearby. But getting access to community centers, libraries, etc. for the meetings on a set day and hour once a year is problematic, putting many party meetings in conflict with community groups’ scheduled monthly meetings. It’s a chronic problem. So at a state convention a couple cycles ago, a (white) delegate proposed modifying state party rules to allow meetings to be held in people’s houses. Seemed innocent enough.

Black delegates erupted in protest (mostly older women). How many of their friends would feel welcome attending their annual meetings at a strange house in a strange (possibly white) neighborhood? No way, they argued. Such a change would suppress participation among their community. They insisted — no, demanded — the existing rules be kept in place. Only neutral, public locations for the meetings. The proposed change failed.

It was a real eye-opener (and not the last). Their lived experience gave them a very different perspective on what appeared at first to an older, white male to be an innocuous request. I got schooled.

For what it’s worth.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jun
19

What’s fair is fair

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Dick DeVos, Jr. residence on Michigan's Lake Macatawa.

Dick DeVos, Jr. residence on Michigan’s Lake Macatawa.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) of Milwaukee plans to introduce a bill this week requiring drug testing for anyone claiming large tax deductions in a given year. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to require drug screenings for those receiving public assistance? Fine, says Moore.

Think Progress:

Her “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year to submit a clean drug test. If a filer doesn’t submit a clean test within three months of filing, he won’t be able to take advantage of tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction or health insurance tax breaks. Instead he would have to make use of the standard deduction.

A spokesman for Moore told Atlantic, “We don’t drug test wealthy CEOs who receive federal subsidies for their private jets, nor do we force judges or public officials to prove their sobriety to earn their paychecks. Attaching special demands to government aid exclusively targets our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families.” Alana Semuels writes:
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Categories : Democrats, National, Poverty
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Wicked Witch of the West: You cursed brat! Look what you’ve
done! I’m melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!

Reaction is coming in swiftly to The Self-Immolation of the Republican Party by Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, son-in-law of the ever-incorrect Bill Kristol, and author of “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” Continetti would like to nominate the Republican Party for a Darwin Award for nominating Donald Trump for president. As the party melts down, Continetti writes:

It’s a joke. All of it: his candidacy, the apparatus of propaganda and grift surrounding it, the failures of governance and education and culture that have brought us to this place. What disturbs me most is the prospect that Donald Trump is what a very large number of Republican voters want: not a wonk, not an orator, not a statesman, not even a leader, really, if by leader you mean someone who persuades and inspires and manages a team to pursue a common good. They just want a man who vents their anger at targets above and below their status.

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Jun
16

No intelligent life

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Sketch of a “spaceship” creating crop circles, sent to UK Ministry of Defence circa 1998. via Wikimedia Commons.

“Writing about a Donald Trump speech is like trying to describe the whiplash,” Jim Galloway wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution when Donald Trump visited town back in February. Trump was back again yesterday. George W. Bush was the U.S. president who thought Africa was a country. Now comes candidate Donald Trump who thinks Belgium is a city.

Andrew Stroehlein lives in Brussels.

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Jun
15

He’s not gonna take it anymore

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So now Donald Trump’s campaign has revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post because the paper called him out for suggesting President Obama is somehow complicit in the mass shooting in Orlando. (The Post staff responded with mocking tweets.) Because the president won’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe these incidents, Trump implies (as a lot of right wing commentators do) that there is “something going on” with the president. This is the gilded King of Comb Over’s idea of subtlety.

Charlie Pierce had this to say about Obama’s response yesterday:

That is the great blessing of having a president whose big bag of fcks is empty and gathering dust up in the Residence. His great gift in the first place was to be the chillest president who ever lived, and that was when he was trying to find his way out of the mess the last guy left behind.

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The small-government crowd never cared about the size of government. They only ever cared about into whose pockets government tax dollars flowed. So it always raises a chuckle to hear the Grover Norquists of the world talk about taxes as theft, “confiscatory taxes,” etc. One can hear from the same crowd that the market-based private sector is always – always – more efficient at delivering services than “collectivist” gummint. (Grab your wallet and update your resume when they start using the word efficient.)

More efficient at getting taxpayers to subsidize their bottom lines? More efficient at profiting from infrastructure built with public funds? Damn right. Because there’s nothing government can do on a not-for-profit basis that can’t be done more efficiently at a stiff markup to the taxpayer. Just the skim off the old milk, the middleman in every middle school.

Talking Points Memo (TPM) has begun a series entitled The Hidden History of the Privatization of Everything sponsored by the National Education Association. Because the NEA knows that privatization is another word for FIRED!

I’ve written a lot about privatization here and here and here and here and here. Everything from schools to roads and bridges to prisons to water systems. War has largely been privatized as well. But what with our colonial history, we still shun the term mercenaries when describing whom we hire to support our overseas adventures.

TPM has just rolled out Part 1. President Reagan put forward “more privatization proposals than any president had ever recommended,” but with a Democratic Congress succeeded only in privatizing Conrail:

In 1985, a group of large firms created the Privatization Council. The driving forces were David Seader and Stephen M. Sorett, the privatization coordinator for Touche Ross & Co. a top-tier consulting firm that became Deloitte and Touche in 1989. Touche was involved because it wanted to change the tax codes standing in the way of private municipal sewerage work. Seader went on to lead the Privatization and Infrastructure Group of Price Waterhouse, the global consulting and accounting firm. (The Council was renamed the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships – a less politically charged term than privatization – in the early 1990s).

By 1990, The Privatization Council boasted 150 members, a who’s who of consulting firms, corporations, and industry associations that had their sights on contracting opportunities in water treatment, transit, prisons, trash pickup, airports and finance.

The other significant corporate voice came in through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which increased and operationalized corporate involvement in moving state-level privatization policy.

ALEC put together working groups of corporations, think tanks, and legislators, like one that brought together the Reason Foundation’s director of the Local Government Center, Heritage’s Stuart Butler, Seader from the Privatization Council, a private prison company (Corrections Associates, Inc.) and the National Solid Wastes Management Association to set priorities and draft legislation to make it easier to outsource public services. ALEC, too, has been funded by right-wing foundations like Scaife and Coors as well as major American corporations, some/many of which had an eye on public contracts.

What’s behind the push to privatize? Smaller government? Lower taxes? Freedom? Nah. (Emphasis mine):

Today, privatization is weakening democratic public control over vital public goods, expanding corporate power and increasing economic and political inequality. Domestic and global corporations and Wall Street investors covet the $6 trillion in local, state and federal annual public spending on schools, prisons, water systems, transit systems, roads, bridges and much more.

A new pro-public movement, with this history in mind, is growing quickly. It has become clear that the 40-year conservative assault on government is enriching some and leaving more and more Americans behind. Groups across the country are organizing and starting to see success. Water systems are being remunicipalized, private prison companies are losing contracts (and both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to end for-profit incarceration), and a growing movement is focused on rebuilding our national commitment to public education. Over the last 40 years, private interests have gained control over important public goods and the impacts are clear. The next 40 years are ripe with opportunity to put the public solidly back in control.

They covet what’s ours.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Privatization
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Jun
13

Sweet nightmares, Pat

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So now the guy who signed the anti-LGBT “Hate Bill 2” into law in North Carolina wants to help Florida in the aftermath of the slaughter at the gay bar in Orlando. Gov. Pat McCrory is getting right on it:

McCrory issued a statement Sunday calling the shooting a tragedy that should never happen in America. He says those killed were “innocent victims of an inexcusable act of violence.”

McCrory says his prayers go out to the families, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the people of Orlando.

He says he’s contacted Florida Governor Rick Scott offering any assistance North Carolina can provide.

Here’s one suggestion:
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