Oct
10

Friday Open Thread

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Nothing happened this week, amiright?

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We’re going to discuss photo IDs and vote suppression in just a minute.

But first, God and beards were before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case of Holt v. Hobbs. At issue: Whether a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas should be allowed to wear a beard in accordance with his religious faith. Per federal statute, prisons should allow such accomodation. As a compromise, the plaintiff, Holt, had agreed that a half-inch beard would satisfy his obligation to God.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock testified for the plaintiff.

Inside the court chamber, Laycock told the justices that 40 prison systems allow beards of any length, yet Arkansas still will not allow a short, half-inch beard. That policy, he argued, is “seeking absolute deference to anything they say, just because they say it.”

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Oct
08

Picking sides

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The Boston Globe’s Noah Bierman examines the struggle between the populist, Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party and corporate-backed, Third Way centrists. When critics charge there is no difference between the major parties, Democrats have their Wall Street Wing to thank:

Third Way’s founders dispute that they are doing Wall Street’s bidding or are trying to leave the poor behind. They also insist their financial supporters on the board of trustees do not influence the organization’s political and policy positions.

And yet, Bierman points out,

Third Way’s insistence on linking tax hikes to a grand bargain — which has been impossible to obtain in the Obama era — has a direct bearing on the wallets of the group’s wealthy funders.

Among those are Goldman Sachs Gives. The charitable fund donated a total of $850,000 in 2010 and 2011. So even as the middle class erodes and the party itself moves further left, “financial dependence on Wall Street effectively ties the hands of the Democratic Party,” contends former Clinton labor secretary, Robert Reich.

In a surprising attack on the Warren Wing in the The Wall Street Journal last December, Third Way warned that Warren-style economic populism is a dead end for Democrats. Populist candidates may appeal to the party’s liberal base, writes Bierman, but sound anti-business to the party’s corporate funders.

“That really has never generated a hell of a lot of support on Election Day,” said former JP Morgan Chase senior executive, former Obama chief of staff, and Third Way board member, William M. Daley — no doubt also an authority on neighborhood organizing.

Or not. Especially since the country hasn’t heard a Warren-style populist message since FDR. And you know how that worked out.

As a matter of fact, while Third Way defends the Democrats’ right flank, the rest of the party is moving left, according to Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect. Since 2000, Gallup reports, as party moderates shrank from 44 to 36 percent, the ranks of self-described liberals swelled from 29 to 43 percent. Shifting demography fueled by immigration is one reason.

Nonetheless, business-cozy groups such as Third Way (supposedly concerned with electing Democrats) favor trade agreements unpopular with the Democratic base, but that cater to the “job creators” who bankroll them. But those agreements tend to create more new jobs offshore for people who cannot vote in U.S. elections! Meanwhile, the profit creators — American workers themselves — see fewer of those rising corporate profits in their paychecks. Therefore, as the American middle class continues to shrink, Meyerson believes it’s time for the party to — as both Roosevelts did — pick a side.

Meyerson offers several prescriptions you can read about here.

Village Democrats are consistently about a decade behind their base. Their dependency on corporate money is a big reason why. Money has such a nice, insulating effect that way. But it’s time party leaders caught on and caught up. Perhaps defending the status quo is the real dead end.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Democrats, National, Parties
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More analysis now of the recent attempt by Colorado conservatives to present students with a properly soft-focused American history. Their preference? To limit history curriculum to only those events that “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” And that do not “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” (A unit on the Biblical underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution is sure to follow.)

It’s your basic, Lee Greenwood America. You won’t understand why the South seceded or what policies precipitated the Depression or that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, but at least you know you’re free.

Sean McElwee examines for Salon what freaks out conservatives about teaching unvarnished American history.

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Categories : Education, National
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Oct
06

Are You Doing Enough?

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Nicole Sandler at Radioornot posts this guest piece by the amazing Billy Wimsatt:

Guest post by Billy Wimsatt who joins me on the show this morning at 10:30ET. Listen live or come back later for the podcast.

I’m freaking out about the Senate. I woke up this morning and thought:

WE HAVE TO DO MORE!!!

I’m freaking out BOTH because Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate is terrifying AND because I believe we can stop it.

Looking at the FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast, there are at least three races likely to be decided by somewhere between 1 vote and 17,000 votes.

senate chart

Iowa has been a 1 point race consistently since June (the Republican is ahead). That translates to roughly 11,000 votes we need to make up (out of approximately 1.1 million likely to be cast).

Colorado has become a 1 point race in the last month with the Republican ahead. This translates to roughly 17,000 votes we need to make up (out of 1.7 million votes cast).

Alaska has widened to a 3 point race with the Republican leading. But this translates to only 7,500 votes (of 250,000 total cast).

If we win 2 of these 3 races, plus Kansas, North Carolina, and New Hampshire (where the Dem-leaning candidates are ahead by 3-4 points), we can save the freaking Senate.

Yesterday, I freaked out and authorized VOTE MOB to hire 20-25 organizers in Kansas (where we currently have 8 paid organizers). This morning, I woke up and thought: Let’s do the same in Iowa (where we currently have 3). I’m talking with partners in Alaska and Colorado about what else we can do to help.

Mind you, VOTE MOB doesn’t have money to do this (we still need to raise at least another $80k). But I’m willing to break the bank and take money away from other states and projects if necessary. So any support people can send to VOTE MOB or other groups is appreciated (see this 2014 Hot List for ideas of key state and local groups).

But I believe there’s even more we must do. To turn out more voters, we need a lot more people talking to a lot more people – especially on and around campuses and in communities of color. If turnout in 2014 is similar to 2010, more than 300,000 Iowa Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 will not show up at the polls.

All we need to do is GOTV 1 in 30 of these progressive drop off-voters (who are disproportionately folks under 30 and people of color) and we can swing the Senate race in Iowa

Getting out another 7,500 or 17,000 progressive voters in these states is totally do-able. We just have to remind folks what day the election is, help them find their polling place – easy stuff. In Iowa, there is currently in-person Early Voting. So you can literally grab people off the street or out of dorms in Iowa City and drag them to register and vote in 15 minutes. It’s SO easy.

I’m serious. Everyone in DC needs to take a leave from work, get on a damn plane and go to Iowa or Colorado or another swing state -or do SOMETHING. We’re not going to do anything done but play defense on every issue for the next two years if Republicans control the Senate. Climate people – if Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader, he is literally planning to get rid of the EPA. And as we know, he will shut-down the government to do it. Ditto for every issue folks are working on.

What else can we do? What else are you willing to do?  I will raise money to fly people to Iowa if I can. I will help find folks good volunteer placements and places to stay. (Yes, there are lots of other important states that will help determine control of the Senate and Governors and other races which are arguably just as important). So go to Florida or Michigan or Illinois or Wisconsin or North Carolina or Georgia – or wherever you want to go!

But seriously… we need to prioritize this election. We have to learn the lesson from 2010 – and for that matter, from 2000. Stopping a GOP Senate take-over affects every issue and every person each of us cares about. We cannot sit this out.

We have to start treating mid-term elections like Presidential elections. Or else we’re gonna have 2010 all over again – which is totally preventable. It is not too late to change the outcome. I would challenge anyone to come up with something more important to do over the next 4 weeks.


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Oct
06

They’re comin-a-git-ya

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In a folder labeled “Spam – Right wing” dating from 2005 on, I have 200 or so examples of the kind of right-wing, pass-it-on spam you get from friends and relatives. (And yes, I have a “Spam – Left wing” folder, too, with fewer than ten. Pass-it-on spam is a phenomenon of the right.)

For awhile I even got right-wing chain-mail from a Republican elected official in Oxford, MS on whose personal list I landed somehow. They kept coming even after I responded and told her, no, I wasn’t who she thought I was so, no, I couldn’t send her that chicken recipe she liked so much.

But we’ll come back to that.

A week or so ago, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity came under fire for “hundreds of thousands of mailers with false information” that appeared in mailboxes across North Carolina, prompting hundreds of complaints from voters and drawing fire from state Democrats:

Casey M. Mann, N.C. Democratic Party executive director, filed the complaint Monday over the Americans for Prosperity Foundation voter registration mailers that included incorrect information on where to send applications, an incorrect registration deadline, and inaccurate information about getting answers to questions.

Addressees included a dead child and a cat.

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During a recount here in November 2012, I was at the local Board of Elections when a T-party member flashed a handwritten sign at a young woman from Warren Wilson College: “You are a law breaker.” A redistricting error by the GOP-controlled legislature — a precinct line drawn down the middle of the campus — allowed a handful of students’ votes to decide control of the county commission in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Democrats held the majority by 17 votes.

So it was no real surprise to see this the other day:

The head of the College Republicans at one North Carolina college is determined to stop voter registration drives on her campus, whether they’re being sponsored by conservative or liberal groups.

According to MSNBC, Chairwoman Leigh Thomas of the High Point University College Republicans was caught on camera on Wednesday telling a conservative group that it could not register voters on campus because she wasn’t comfortable with it.

[...]

“I don’t approve of it whatsoever—on a campus like High Point University,” she said. ”I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus, with students.”

During the 2012 recount, T-party members argued that students legally registered at their school should not have their votes counted. It didn’t matter what the law said. (The Board chair quoted it to them.) The T-party charged voter fraud (naturally) and argued, essentially, that the law should be what what they wanted it to be. Ironically, they would lose because the GOP’s high-paid mapmakers failed to safely sequester all of the campus in the liberal ghetto created for the city of Asheville, a.k.a. The Cesspool of Sin.

As the High Point University incident this week demonstrates, Republicans don’t want people voting. Paul Weyrich admitted as much in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” What they want to ensure is that only the right people vote.

So North Carolina holds its breath this weekend as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to enforce a stay on implementing two key provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive, new voting law.

In North Carolina, the Oct. 1 decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals restores same-day registration for early voters and out-of-precinct voting in the upcoming election. The panel overturned a U.S. District Court decision that found implementing the controversial 2013 law would not cause “irreparable harm” to voters. Voting rights advocates requested a preliminary injunction blocking the law for this year’s election as the broader lawsuit on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s law will be tried next July.

In his job as N.C. Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper has asked the Supreme Court to block the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts oversees the Fourth Circuit and could rule any day.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Oct
05

Sunday Morning Music

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Had a great time yesterday at Blue Ridge Pride!

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The two middle-aged aged women spoke with an English accent familiar from Monty Python sketches.

“Look at that one there,” said the first. “It’s got a swastika on it.”

I was traveling in Europe after college and visiting the Louvre in Paris. I was standing in the Roman antiquities section beside two British tourists. Before us, a glass case filled with ornate silver bowls and trays – ancient relics covered with intricate designs.

“Look at that one there,” said the first. “It’s got a swastika on it. Must be German.”

Her companion read the little white card lying in front of the tray, and in a non sequitur I remember to this day, said, “‘Donated by friends of the Louvre.’ Well, there you are.”

A polite-sounding name for this is the Dunning-Kruger effect, “a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.” Here, let John Cleese himself explain it:

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