Oct
13

Watch This

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Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post, argues that if Islam is a violent theology, then 99.99 percent of its 1.6 billion followers have failed to get it.

[h/t Jill Boniske]


Categories : International, Religion
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I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

Sting

As other states across the country, North Carolina is looking at ways to implement legislation that would allow drone use in the state. The FAA is still attempting to define how they might safely share the skies with other aircraft. Equipped with a GoPro camera, small drones seem like nifty tools for photographers and hobbyists. But given the growing surveillance state revealed by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, it is natural that civil liberties groups – and even the T-party – are wary of their use by the government against civilians. It didn’t help that one of the sites chosen for early testing in the state belongs to the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

This morning, the Winston-Salem Journal begins a 3-part series on how drones have been promoted in North Carolina, and by whom.

Imagine: You’re having an open-invitation BBQ in your own backyard. Friends can bring friends. Anyone can come. Thanks to newly enacted legislation, local and state law enforcement agencies are allowed to show up, too, without a warrant, to spy on you with drones.

It seems an unlikely scenario. Yet, a staff attorney at the state General Assembly’s Research Division, confirmed that it could happen. At a BBQ, “a Moral Monday planning session at a friend’s house” or “a conservative Tea Party gathering.”

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Oct
12

Sunday Morning Music

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Brought to you a surprise business trip to LA and an awful serving of tiramisu.


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Oct
11

A new prairie populism?

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Somebody described the DNC’s presidential campaign strategy as counting on large, reliable blocks of Electoral College votes from the East and West coasts, then betting on hitting a triple bank shot and pick up enough votes in a couple of big, Midwest states to total 270. The less-populous “flyover states” in the heartland and the South they abandoned to Rush Limbaugh and the GOP long ago.

Howard Dean thought that was nuts. The DNC thought Howard was nuts. And even after Dean as DNC Chair implemented his Fifty State Strategy and Democrats started winning in places that had not seen the DNC in decades, Beltway Democrats pitched Dean’s strategy as soon as Dean left.

Mike Lux sees a new populism lifting Democratic fortunes in the Plains States in a way Dean would approve. In Oklahoma and North Dakota Democrats are surprisingly competitive this year. And more:

In my home state of Nebraska, the open seat Governor’s race is very competitive, with prairie populist Chuck Hassebrook within 7 points in the latest public poll of close friend of the Koch brothers (He spoke at their secret meeting in June), Pete Ricketts. Hassebrook has spent his career advocating for small farmers and small town businesses at the Center for Rural Affairs, while Ricketts’ Koch-style extremism has gotten him into hot water. (First bias alert: Hassebrook is a long time friend.) Meanwhile, the Democrat running for the House in the Omaha district, Brad Ashford, is in a dead heat race with Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

In Kansas, as anyone following politics has become aware of in recent weeks, both incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback and incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts are in very deep trouble, with high unfavorability numbers and trailing consistently in the polls. The Roberts campaign has been awful, but a big part of the reason for the problems these Republicans are having is that Brownback’s extreme tax and spending cut agenda have badly alienated voters.

Finally in South Dakota, in a race long written off by many pundits and national Democrats, support for Republican Mike Rounds has been collapsing in a 4 way race, and Democrat Rick Weiland (2nd bias alert, Rick is also a good friend whose campaign I am helping) is now close enough in the polling that both the DSCC and several progressive groups are putting real money into the state to help him. Rick is running a classic folksy prairie populist campaign against big money, including writing his own lyrics and singing songs like this one on the campaign trail:

Someone complained to me yesterday about Sen. Kay Hagan ignoring rural counties in western North Carolina. She parachutes into the cities for high-dollar fundraisers and high-profile events, but is invisible in redder counties with few Democrats with fat checkbooks. If your priorities run in election cycles, that makes a kind of sense. Lux offers observations taking a longer view [Emphasis mine]:

The first is that these Democrats are campaigning with gusto in small towns and rural counties. There is a very large part of America that Democrats can’t win without appealing to rural voters, and as Democrats have become more oriented over the years toward focusing on big cities and the suburbs, they have sometimes forgotten to reach out to folks in small towns and on farms and ranches. That has made red states redder, and it has made it harder for Democrats to win a majority in the House. But Democrats in the Plains States are making campaigning in small towns and rural counties a cornerstone of their campaigns. Hassebrook, as I mentioned, has been an advocate for rural folks his whole career, and had robust, active steering committees set up in every county in Nebraska from early in his campaign. He fully expects to win or come close in a lot of rural counties where the last Democratic candidate for Governor, Bob Kerrey, did not get to 30%. In South Dakota, Rick Weiland made as the centerpiece of his campaign strategy the idea that he would become the first candidate to ever go to all 311 South Dakota towns, making quite a contrast with Rounds who has spent most of his campaign raising money on the east and west coasts. The bottom line is that rural voters are like anyone else: if you ignore them, they won’t like you. National Democrats have been ignoring rural America for too long, but these Plains States Democrats are proving that they can win a lot of rural votes if they just work at it.

Are we willing to?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Democrats, National
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The U.S. Supreme Court last night blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s photo ID law for next month’s election:

By a 6-3 vote, the justices granted an emergency appeal from civil rights lawyers, who argued it was too late to put the rule into effect this year.

Lawyers for the ACLU noted that the state had already sent out thousands of absentee ballots without mentioning the need for voters to return a copy of their photo identification.

It would be “chaos,” they said, for Wisconsin to have to decide whether to count such ballots now because voters had failed to comply with the new law.

Meanwhile in Texas, a federal district judge ruled the state’s photo ID card law unconstitutional:

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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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