While the question of whether Donald Trump and company conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election is serious, it is not the most pressing problem. The fact that all the intelligence agencies and the FBI agree that Russian interference in our elections is continuing. The severity of the issue became even more evident …
Feb 14 2018
The Russian Connection: The Real Problem
Sep 11 2015
No, Joe, You Shouldn’t Run
In an extended, and sometimes poignant interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” Vice President Joe Biden discussed the loss of his son, Beau, and calls for his tossing his hat ring for president. Joe Biden is no doubt a really nice man and loving father and husband but even he expressed doubt last night that he has the heart, the soul or the energy to make that run.
“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president; and two, they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion,'” he told comedian Stephen Colbert in an interview on CBS’ “The Late Show.”
“I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there. I’m being completely honest,” Biden continued. “Nobody has a right in my view to seek that office unless they are willing to give it 110 percent of who they are.”
As Charles Pierce at Esquire Politics put it, “it was powerful television, but it doesn’t mean he should run for president.”
This is a guy who already had more tragedy than a merciful god would have allowed and that was before his son, Beau, died earlier this year. Of course, the man broke down. The wonder is that he ever gets out of bed in the morning. What he should do is continue as best he can to be the finest vice-president of my lifetime. What he should not do in his current state of emotional turmoil is run for president. [..]
Joe Biden shouldn’t run for president because he shouldn’t do it to himself. He has earned a unique place in the country’s heart, which is a far warmer place for him as a human being than shivering in some cornfield outside Ottumwa in the cold winter winds. A presidential campaign is a soulless mechanism designed to grind the human spirit into easily digestible nuggets. Moments of profound personal pain and loss are as unavoidable as are concussions in the NFL. It was almost unbearable to watch him speak of his son’s death even to someone as profoundly compassionate as Colbert. I would hate to see him coin that grief into political currency, or fashion it into a portion of a stump speech that would become banal the second time it was delivered. I think, at some level, he would come to hate himself for having to do that. It’s not that I wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden, though I probably wouldn’t. It’s that I don’t want to see him hurt any more.
Like Charlie, I admire Biden as a person but he is as hawkish as Hillary and just as friendly to Wall Street and the banks as Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. His record as a senator would hurt him just as Hillary’s is hurting her, the nonsensical e-mail tempest aside. The Democratic Party needs to stop tacking right and embrace the popular policies of Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Feb 20 2015
A Bird in the Hand
In remarks on foreign policy before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, potential 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush attempted to distance himself from his brother President George W. Bush and his father, Pres. George H. W. Bush, insisting that he is “his own man.”
He pretty much stumbled and fumbled, even with the telepromter, and, quite obviously isn’t ready for prime time on foreign policy.
One way he unmistakably resembles his father and brother is in his apparent discomfort with a prepared text. He appeared far more at ease answering questions than delivering his speech, which he read quickly, without the authority he has often shown when discussing domestic issues.
Still, his responses were not mistake-free: When he sought to attack President Obama, he inflated the number of Islamic State fighters, saying in his remarks that there were 200,000. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush later clarified that he had meant to say 20,000. At another point, he pronounced Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group based in Nigeria, as “Boku Haram.”
Mr. Bush said his formative experience on foreign policy had come not from watching his brother or father serve as commander in chief, but as a 20-something working and starting a family in Venezuela, and then as the governor of a state actively involved in foreign trade.
He recalled how many times he had visited Israel (five) and noted that he had “forced” himself to visit Asia four times each year.
Despite explaining how his biography differed – he recalled the high price of Pampers in Caracas – Mr. Bush is benefiting from the former presidents Bush.
As bad as his appearance was, the real problem is that someone forgot to tell his staff that it might not be a good idea to release the list of foreign policy advisers that Jeb has decided to be on his team.
The list represents the full spectrum of views within the Republican foreign policy establishment – from relative moderates, including former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, to staunch neoconservatives such as Iraq war architect Paul D. Wolfowitz. [..]
Among Bush’s announced advisers are several viewed as staunch defenders of the CIA, including former director Michael V. Hayden, who came under heavy criticism in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report about the agency’s interrogation techniques.
Just as telling were those missing from the official list.
Although former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is at least as close personally to the Bush family as anyone on the list – and has consulted with the former Florida governor – the absence of her name suggests that he is sensitive about being seen as a carbon copy of his brother.
Click on image to enlarge
The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree or that far from his older bother.
Feb 01 2015
Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Mouse Has Roared – Greece post-Elections by NY Brit Expat
The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected. This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.
However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).
Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany. Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!
Jan 14 2015
Lip Service – Caution Democrats At Work!
Look out! The ghost of Huey Long has taken over for all three of Dickens’ spirits and is haunting the Corporate Democrats. How else to explain the recent conversions of the darling of Goldman Sachs’ and Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project, the Crown family of General Dynamics and Penny Pritzger of the Hyatt fortune suddenly getting all populist and proposing a free community college education for one and all?
President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States. …
The proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average – about a C-plus – and who “make steady progress toward completing a program,” White House officials said. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields. The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, and states that choose to participate would cover the remainder. If all states participate, the administration estimates, the program could cover as many as nine million students, saving them each an average of $3,800 a year.
Mr. Obama will include the program, which would need congressional approval, in his budget for the coming year, his advisers said, and detail it in his State of the Union address Jan. 20. …
White House officials acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that the program was unlikely to win quick approval in Congress.
Huey has also been haunting congressional corporate Democrats, too! Programs and ideas that liberals/progressives and decent people have been politely pushing the Democrats to get behind are suddenly popping up all over! The “Robin Hood” (Tobin) Tax, incentives to raise worker pay, tripling the child-care tax credits – a program that for once redistributes wealth downwards!
All this from an administration that created a budget sequestration process and stood by with its hands in its pockets as a bipartisan deal was cut which rewarded the military industrial complex while failing to address drastic cuts in food stamp benefits and did not extend unemployment benefits for workers displaced by the banksters’ (whom Obama continues to protect) looting of the economy.The same administration that has been aching to cut old folk’s social security to reward his rich buddies. Corporate Democrats came out of the woodwork to support Obama in his attack on poor old folks with rhetoric that would make Frank Luntz wonder which party he works for:
Congressional Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), signaled greater willingness on Wednesday to cut Social Security benefits … Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that a cut proposed by President Barack Obama in the fiscal cliff negotiations would in fact “strengthen” the program, echoing the claims often made by Republicans about entitlement programs they want to slash. …
The cut involves swapping out the traditional method for calculating cost of living increases, based on the current standard for measuring inflation, for something called a chained CPI, or chained Consumer Price Index.
The cuts would start small, but wind up costing beneficiaries thousands of dollars over time … Pelosi wrapped both her arms around it Wednesday, insisting she does not regard it as a “cut.”
Huey must have clapped these guys upside the head with a spectral clue-by-four!
Nov 16 2014
Just Don’t Call It Democracy
What do we want, what are our demands? That’s been a question many have raised, and answered, particularly since the Occupy movement in 2011. Many complained about Occupy at the time because it seemingly did not have any demands. The focus was on Wall Street and the 99/1% theme and the narrative that our government works for the 1% and not the 99%. There were lists of demands going around at the time, some with 15-20 items ranging from ending the wars and establishing public banking to addressing climate change and jobs programs.
But in the end wasn’t it and isn’t it about one primary thing – democracy? That’s what Occupy was all about, the fact that our government operates for the rich and powerful and the rest of us can eat dirt.
OK Class, listen up.
A Democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” (Merriam Webster), or
“Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens are meant to participate equally – either directly or, through elected representatives, indirectly – in the proposal, development and establishment of the laws by which their society is run. (Wikipedia)
Democracy is supposed to be socially equal and classless, i.e, the rich bastards are not supposed to have all the power. Democracy is Power to the People.
There are two basic forms of democracy, direct democracy and representative democracy. Our country uses both forms, primarily representative. Direct democracy exists only at the state level and below in the form of referendums and initiatives placed on the ballot. Citizens in states that have voted to legalize marijuana and gay marriage have practiced direct democracy. Citizens can raise and lower their taxes to fund schools and libraries through direct democracy.
Some like to argue that our form of government is a Republic as opposed to a Democracy. That’s an argument that goes back to this nation’s founding when “all the young dudes” with the wigs were sitting around smoking weed and thinking about what kind of government was best while their slaves and women folk stayed back on the plantation. Primarily the arguments were about direct democracy versus representative democracy, or democracy versus a republic as James Madison argued.
Whatever, it’s still all about electing representatives and a President who are supposed to represent all people, not just the rich. Or was that “We the People, All Men are Created Equal” talk just rubbish?
Some argue that this form of representative government is actually an oligarchy, not a democracy. An oligarchy is defined as a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. The word Democracy comes from the Greek words Demos, meaning people, and Kratos, meaning power. Power to the People. The hippies had it right, man. The number of representatives in the House of Representatives in 1791 was 69 while the U.S. population was just over four million. That’s a ratio of about 58,000 citizens to 1 representative. Today there are 435 House Representatives “representing” 316 million U.S. citizens. That’s a ratio of about 734,000 citizens to 1 representative. That’s not Power to the People, that’s power to a small group of individuals, i.e., an oligarchy. And those individuals are controlled by another small group of individuals, the .001%. A small group of people controlling a small group of people controlling the rest of us idiots. We in the United States of Free and Brave People call that Democracy.
(Note: Back in those glorious days of the early 1900′s when this country was completely hijacked by the bankers in 1913, Congress passed the Apportionment Act of 1911 capping the number of Representatives at 435. Over one hundred years and no change. Wonder why? I guess they thought 435 was just the right amount of representation we citizens needed.)
Tell me how that is democracy. How is it that one person can represent the interests of over 700,000 people? Even with all the outside pressures from corporations and billionaires and RICH PEOPLE, it’s not possible. It’s not democracy, not unless you reinvent the word. It’s not “Power to the People”, that’s for sure. I’m 59 years old and I’ve never, ever, ever been asked by a politician what I thought about an issue prior to their votes in Congress. I always wondered about that when I was young – how do they know what my opinion is if they don’t ask? I learned, as we all have, that is just not how it works. Our opinions don’t matter.
Then when you consider what has become of this “representative” democracy, it becomes just that more ludicrous. The two party system that is corrupt as hell. The inability of third parties to become part of the game. The billion dollar elections, Citizen’s United, the thinktanks and lobbyists, the billionaires, the millionaire/billioinaire Congress and Senate. The CIA and NSA and the CFR. There’s just no way this representative system of government can be called democracy, the power to the people.
Which brings us back to what do we want. Sure, we want to end the wars, feed the people and save the planet. But we can’t do that without democracy and we do not live in a democracy. Is that what we want? Do we want a democracy or don’t we. It’s that frigging simple.
We’re back to where we were over two hundred years ago. We need the same discussions. The system of government installed for this country doesn’t deliver democracy. There were many back then who predicted this would happen. They said the people would have to rise up and make changes, even carry out another REVOLUTION. They even put that in the Constitution.
The funny thing about Americans is how prideful we are about our “democracy”, and yet we live our lives under an illusion. The United States of America is nothing but an illusion. But it’s still up to us. We can change things if we want, it depends on what we want. Do we want democracy or do we want to continue this silly and self defeating game of voting for an oligarchy that doesn’t represent us? Do we really want to address this question? That’s the first thing we have to do, address the damn question.
We can have direct democracy. We can have that Power to the People we’ve dreamed of since that first toke over the line in 1969. We can create a system, such as breaking the large nation-state into small, manageable units and establishing thousands of local assemblies that debate the issues and then collect the votes nationwide. We can implement a national initiative process to vote nationally on gay marriage and legalizing weed and ending imperialism and saving Social Security. We can create democracy. First we have to decide if we really want it, democratically. Because we can’t have it with the system now in place.
A good first step is to organize a boycott of the Democratic and Republican national political parties for the 2016 election process. Over half the eligible voters are already boycotting this undemocratic system. Join them if you haven’t already and let’s make it official. We can call the shots here, it’s what this country is supposed to be all about. Power to the People. Let’s demand democracy. We can say we want a new government, one that is democratic. That’s where it all starts.
Nov 05 2014
Selling Out Won’t Save Democrats
In December 2012, the Wonkblog ran a story about the laws that would have passed the 111th and 112th Congress were it not for the filibuster. The House passed-or was considering-a number of bills that would have benefited the middle class and excited Democratic voters, but those bills were killed by “moderate” Democrats in the Senate. When liberals decried the practice of threatening to filibuster one’s own party, “pragmatic” Democrats said that we had to take what we could get and let the moderates do what they needed to protect their seats.
Apr 04 2014
Obama Signs Law To Get Money Out Of Politics!!!
Mirable Dictu! President Barack Obama has joined hands with Republican Eric Cantor to get money out of politics!
Even cooler, they’ve agreed to give the money to support research for illnesses that hurt children.
What could possibly be wrong with that?
Um… remember that little checkbox on your tax form that lets you give $3 to support presidential candidates? The one that enabled public funding of presidential campaigns?
Obama just dismantled that with a stroke of his pen.
Obama signs ban on public funding of presidential campaigns into law
A ban on public funding of presidential conventions was quietly signed into law by Barack Obama on Thursday in a move that could further increase the dependency of US political parties on wealthy donors.
A day after the supreme court removed aggregate limits on how much wealthy individuals can spend supporting candidates, the White House agreed to enact legislation dismantling what was left of an alternative public financing model set up after the Watergate scandal.
US taxpayers could previously elect to earmark $3 (pdf) each year to help support presidential candidates, primaries and conventions in a bid to reduce their reliance on donors, but the amount spent has dwindled in recent years as parties increasingly ignore the subsidies on offer because they require agreeing to some limits on overall spending.
Now the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has proposed scrapping the last actively used part of the subsidy system, which provided an $18m grant to support each party convention in 2012, and use the money to fund national research into childhood diseases instead.
Despite opposition from some Democrats, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who regard it a political stunt, the bill called the The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was signed into law in a ceremony at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
Apr 03 2014
The Bidding on The Republic Begins in Earnest
Get out your check books, folks, the Supreme Court opened the bank for the deposits of big money to flood the US political system.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.
The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.
The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.
Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.
Power Surge for Donors
By Nicholas Confessor, The New York Times
The ruling opens the door for each party’s establishment to reclaim some power from the super PACs and other independent spending groups that are now playing an outsize role in campaigns. Experts said the decision would permit party leaders to form joint fund-raising committees and solicit multimillion dollar checks on behalf of candidates. The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, for example, could in theory approach a donor seeking to help Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, and solicit as much as $2.3 million – $5,200 for each Democratic candidate in every House race, plus a contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
A donor could also, in theory, give $5,000 per year to every political action committee currently registered with the Federal Election Committee. That would total more than $13 million, versus the $74,600 allowed under the existing aggregate cap.
The bidding is now open.
Mar 31 2014
Voter suppression efforts by Republicans still ongoing
It’s happening so often it’s like we’re getting used to it. A voter ID law here, reduced voting hours there. Ho-hum, “nothing to see here” says Mainstream Cable News.
A New York Times article highlights ongoing efforts by swing states with GOP-controlled legislatures to make it more difficult for people to vote.
In my state, Ohio, one of the biggest changes will be in early voting. For 2014, people will no longer be allowed to vote the Sunday before election day. This may sound like small change, but it’s a big deal. Some churches have done “souls to the polls” efforts to transport their members to the polls, and they do it on the Sunday before election day. The Sunday vote is important to low-wage workers forced to work 6-day weeks to make ends meet. Sunday may be the only day they have to vote. In 2012, I voted the Sunday before Election Day, and waited 2 and a half hours for the privilege.
Republicans, of course, know this. “They know when they are taking away early voting exactly who it’s affecting,”, says Democratic candidate for Governor, Ed Fitzgerald. It affects black voters, low-income voters, urban voters, groups that trend Democratic.
Recently, a group of officials in the Cincinnati area took part in a 90-minute bus ride and walk to a proposed early voting site as a protest over how long the trip took from one inner-city neighborhood.
Another dirty trick is to require documents that are harder to obtain.
Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport,
Low income voters are more likely to lack the time and money to obatin these documents. But that’s the point isn’t it?
Of course, in a classic mainstream media fair-and-balanced moment, the NYT article infers that by fighting against voter suppression, Democrats are somehow the badguys too.
Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said Democrats had their own partisan agendas for doing so since an expanded electorate would benefit mostly Democrats.
“It’s not just out of the goodness of their own hearts they are doing this,” he said….
…”The case has not been made that these things so far have had a huge effect on turnout,”
But it has had an effect. Anecdotally, I didn’t wait in line at all in 2000 and 2004, but in 2012 I waited 2 and a half hours. My wife was forced to vote provisionally because her name was purged from the voter rolls, something mainstream media and blogs say isn’t happening. But it is. I used to just be able to show up, state my name, and exercise my right to vote. Now I need an ID and to make sure beforehand my name is still registered.
Even if mainstream polls and studies say there’s no decrease in turnout, voting is more difficult than it once was. Fact. It’s simple logic that if something is more difficult, people are less likely to do it. Waits are longer. There’s more hoops to jump through.
OK, so fighting against voter suppression does help Democrats, but it is also the right thing to do. For all their talk about being “pro-American” or whatever, Republicans have made it a priority to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. Their assault on voting rights is an assault on one of the most American of values: that everyone gets to vote, everyone has a say.
Voter suppression has been talked about before, but it’s not “old news”. It’s happening now. Republicans are getting away with it. It’s a dirty trick. By not talking about voter suppression, or even discouraging talk about voter suppression, we are enabling it. Not only does it hurt Democrats’ chances in November, it’s fundamentally wrong.
Some of us in Ohio get annoyed at the Election Day circus that envelops us every four years. It seems like national politicians only care about us every four years, then return to Washington forgetting the people who helped them get there. We’re not stupid. We know it’s getting harder to vote, and if Democrats halfheartedly oppose voter suppression or wait until 2016 to care about it, we will remember. There needs to be a sustained, long-term pushback against the Republican agenda to Block the Vote.