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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kings of Spy Prom

by digby

I wrote a fun piece for Salon earlier about the big expose by Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim about the "Spy Prom."  Talk about too weird to be believed:
We’ve all heard of the junior prom for high school students. Many of us went to one, although those left peering in the window from the outside undoubtedly still feel the sting of not being invited. And everyone knows about the “nerd prom,” the absurd celebration of D.C. insiderism otherwise known as the Washington Correspondents Dinner. But now we know about the most exclusive prom of all: “spy prom,” an annual gathering of the clandestine services where the spooks all gather to let the good times roll. 
The big exposé comes from Ali Watkins and Ryan Grim at Huffington Post, who start off with this wry observation:
Relations between the intelligence community and the media are at such a low ebb it might be hard to believe that there’s a reporter who spies deeply admire. 
That’s the one jarring note in the whole piece, actually. I can personally think of at least half a dozen reporters whom I’m sure the intelligence community are pleased as punch to call their friends and protectors. It’s not as if there weren’t many so-called journalists who reflexively defended the spying on Americans and ruthlessly criticized reporters who revealed it. From the pages of the New Yorker to the the gabfests on MSNBC, even many ostensibly liberal journalists were quick to condemn the Snowden leaks and demand that he come home immediately to face trial, warming the hearts of police agencies the world over. In fact, I’m fairly sure that the intelligence community sees most reporters who write about them as friends and the few who reveal what they’re actually doing are just bad apples in an otherwise excellent barrel. 
Anyway, that’s just a quibble. The story is amazing.
It is.  Read on. You cannot make this stuff up.

You can't put lipstick on a pig

by digby

So Rand Paul is out there hustling for the African American vote  --- which is a good thing.  I don't know how successful Republicans might be ,considering their philosophy and policies, but they should, at least, want to.

But this made me laugh:
"Remember Domino's Pizza? They admitted, 'Hey, our pizza crust sucks.' The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans," Paul said, according to The Hill.

Paul said that the party needs a makeover because "the perception is that no one in the Republican Party cares."
Here's the thing. Dominos announced that their pizza crust sucks and did a big ostentatious re-brand. But the crust is just as bad as it always was. As is the pizza. It is what it is.

And, by the way, the most loyal customers would have bolted if they changed it in some fundamental way. They like the shitty pizza just the way it is --- and they certainly don't want some new fangled crust with a bunch of new toppings they have no use for.

As I said, it's nice that Paul "cares." And he needs to because his racially insensitive past (and his father's notorious newsletters) are problematic for some of the younger voters that form his fanbase. This makeover is personal for him. Making over the whole Party? Good luck with that.


You mean you can be a terrorist without being a Muslim? Who knew?

by digby

Shhh. Don't tell Bill Maher, but not all terrorists are Muslims. And there are a bunch of them right here in the United States:
Federal agents reportedly found a supply of the explosive ammonium nitrate, along with a pile of guns and ammo, when they searched the hotel room of a leader of a Texas border militia member earlier this month.

The San Antonio Express-News reported on Wednesday about court records that showed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dispatched agents to a hotel in Brownsville, Texas where Kevin "KC" Massey had been staying before his Oct. 20 arrest on weapons charges.

Along with a box containing the chemical, the officers found "an AK-47 with six loaded magazines, a loaded handgun, a ballistic helmet and several cameras," according to the Texas newspaper.

As the Express-News noted, ammonium nitrate is the substance used by the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in the attack that killed 168 people.

Massey belonged to the paramilitary group "Camp Lonestar," and was described as a "CO," or commanding officer, in a September profile in the Texas Observer.
Imagine that. A misfit weirdo with a bunch of explosives who isn't a jihadi. How could he have thought of this without the Koran telling him what to do? I can't figure it out ...

In fact, did anyone ever find the hidden Muslim extremist connection with McVeigh? There must be one somewhere. If there isn't one, that would mean that people find all kinds of reasons to commit political violence and you can't attribute it to a religion which claims 1.6 billion non-violent believers any more than you can attribute Tim McVeigh's violence to Thomas Jefferson who said "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants". You probably need to look a little more deeply to find the reasons for these things.

The "illegal" election

by digby

I was premature, but I think I got it right:

Thursday, June 08, 2006 

The Theme

by digby 
As I mentioned a month or so ago, Karl Rove was at the Republican Lawyers Association talking about how the Democrats are stealing elections. I can't find an exact transcript of his talk, but it exists on C-SPAN for 30 bucks if anyone wants to watch it. Raw Story caught a few excerpts although not the ones I recall about about the dirty elections in the "state of Washington and around the country."

I want to thank you for your work on clean elections," Rove said. "I know a lot of you spent time in the 2004 election, the 2002, election, the 2000 election in your communities or in strange counties in Florida, helping make it certain that we had the fair and legitimate outcome of the election."
Rove then suggested that some elections in America were similar to third world dictatorships.
"We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today," Rove said. "We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where they guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses. I mean, it's a real problem, and I appreciate that all that you're doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the ballot -- the integrity of the ballot is protected, because it's important to our democracy."
Nobody can ever accuse these Republicans of not having balls. It's really breathtaking sometimes. This is not an isolated remark. Here's an excerpt from yesterday's Chris Matthews show:
MATTHEWS: ... What did you make—we just showed the tape, David Shuster just showed that tape of a woman candidate in the United States openly advising people in this country illegally to vote illegally.

MEHLMAN: It sounds like she may have been an adviser to that Washington state candidate for governor or some other places around the country where this has happened in other cases with Democrats.
That is almost verbatim what Rove said at that lawyers conference. He also singled out one very special "voting rights" Republican lawyer named Thor Hearne, about whom Brad Friedman did a great deal of investigation last year. (Links here.):

Karl Rove spoke to Republican lawyers this weekend (carried on C-SPAN) and thanked them for their work ensuring "clean elections" in 2000 and 2004.

He singled out Mark F. "Thor" Hearne by name. Hearne was the National General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. who, along with RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke, created the so-called non-partisan "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR) just three days before being called to testify before Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) U.S. House Administrative Committee hearing in March of 2005 on the Ohio Election. The front group, which declared tax-exempt 501(c)3 status, has still failed, to our knowledge, to disclose any information of it's funders or proof of their 501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan status. They operate out of a PO Box in Houston, TX, though neither of their founders live in Texas.

ACVR was the only "Voting Rights" group called by Ney to testify at the hearings, and identified himself only as a "longtime advocate of voter rights" in his testimony. He failed to mention his connections to Bush/Cheney '04 Inc.

Hearne and ACVR have done little more since they opened shop beyond creating propaganda reports to suggest that their is an epidemic of Democratic voter fraud in the country to encourage state legislatures around the country to implement Democratic voter disenfranchising "Photo ID requirements" at the polls. Their charges of a voter fraud epidemic has been roundly disproven in various court cases around the country. (Though it does appear that at least one voter, Ann Coulter, seems to have engaged in voter fraud lately.)

They have been gearing up for this for some time. However, Rove had wanted to use this against African Americans, not Hispanics. He knows that alienating the Latino vote is the kiss of death for the party long term. But it's out of his hands now. Immigration has a life of its own and I suspect it will be quite easy to adjust the plan and the machinery to try to 1) get out the base, 2) suppress the Latino vote which is now heavily leaning democratic and 3) serve as a rallying cry and cause when they lose seats and possibly their majority. This will be immediately played for 08 with a whole bunch of "voter integrity" legislation. They will be screaming to high heaven. Lou Dobbs will have his aneurysm removed on live television.

The Democrats could have innoculated against this when the Republicans stole the 2000 election, but they didn't. Had they been screaming bloody murder for six solid years about Republican vote fraud, it would be much more difficult for the GOP to suddenly glom onto this issue. Instead, it was a mere underground drumbeat that was heard, but only in the vaguest way. Now the CW about stolen elections is going to be turned on us --- and we will be on the defensive fighting both the charge of electoral fraud and being soft on criminal Mexicans because we need illegal aliens to stuff the ballot boxes for us. 

If we allow the Republicans to define this next election as they usually do, it will be about immigration and voter fraud. If I were in Vegas I'd be placing a bet on it. And it won't take a gaffe like Busby's. They will attempt to create a national story, which will be exploited in the last days of the campaign in various individual ways through their media infrastructure. If they lose it will be blamed on dishonest vote stealing Democrats and illegal aliens. If they win it will be be because they fought back against the dishonest vote stealing Democrats and illegal aliens. 
I dredge this moldy old post up because of this new "study" being ballyhooed all over the right wing media that supposedly proves that illegal immigrants are voting by the millions.

If you go to that link you'll see the study is flawed, to say the least.  But that won't stop them.

Also too, this:

Polls show that the Republicans have an advantage in the fight for control of the Senate. They lead in enough states to win control, and they have additional opportunities in North Carolina and New Hampshire to make up for potential upsets. As Election Day nears, Democratic hopes increasingly hinge on the possibility that the polls will simply prove wrong.

But that possibility is not far-fetched. The polls have generally underestimated Democrats in recent years, and there are reasons to think it could happen again.

In 2010, the polls underestimated the Democrats in every competitive Senate race by an average of 3.1 percentage points, based on data from The Huffington Post’s Pollster model. In 2012, pre-election polls underestimated President Obama in nine of the 10 battleground states by an average of 2 percentage points.

I think it's fairly predictable what they will say if close elections don't go their way these days.


Wary of change?

by digby

This is from a story on the pot measures around the country looking like they're coming up short in this election:
"We're dealing with a tough mood in the country right now with Ebola and ISIS and the big drop in the stock market," Nadelmann said. "It puts a drag on things. People are not in a forward-thinking state of mind. They are more wary of change."
It made me wonder if 2008 might have been different if the financial crisis had hit earlier in the cycle. Would people have been less "forward thinking" and more wary of change? I guess it's possible. But I think this mood right now is different because people don't see a way out. In 2008 there was a lot of fear growing sharply at the end but Obama was well positioned to be seen as the savior who would fix it. Now it feels like nobody can.

I just hope the country doesn't decide that Ted Cruz and his ilk might be the way to go after 8 years of ongoing duress. Because they really are nuts, even the allegedly normal ones.

From the "if you build it they will use it" files: Inside the Border Patrol

by digby

Politico Magazine is featuring a fascinating photo essay about the Border Patrol:
In 2007, artist David Taylor began documenting the quickly changing face of the U.S.-Mexico border at the height of the U.S. Border Patrol’s post-9/11 surge. He built relationships with smugglers, migrants and, in particular, the Border Patrol agents with whom he embedded off and on for four years, observing their workaday routines and shadowing them while they responded to calls. Over time, Taylor gained access to some of the most hidden corners of the agency’s various facilities along the border—in one instance, an agent told him he was the only person who had ever photographed a room stocked to the brim with M4 rifles. Throughout the project, Taylor saw a network of no-frills double-wide trailers staffed with career agents balloon into a state-of-the-art $3.5 billion behemoth, beset with allegations of rampant abuse and misconduct. The Border Patrol today, he says, “is not the Border Patrol I started with.”
You know what they say about money corrupting and all that jazz ...

Here's a bit of the story that accompanies it:

By 7 p.m., the Border Patrol, having questioned the first two victims, had realized there was a third victim, notifying the FBI that a kidnapping had occurred and that the girl was probably being held by a Border Patrol agent. The magnitude and horror of the crime were unusual, but the potential perpetrator wasn’t. The FBI in McAllen had gotten used to investigating assaults and misconduct among Border Patrol agents; it had become the field office’s top criminal priority. 
It took only hours to narrow down a suspect: When investigators examined the truck Manzanares used on his shift, they found blood and duct tape.

By 12:39 a.m., FBI agents knocked on his red door, Apartment 1513, and shouted, “FBI—federal agents.” At first, there was no response. Then, the agents heard a single gunshot as Manzanares took his own life. When a SWAT team broke down the door, they found the teen inside, still naked and bound, but alive.

Now it was definitely time to tell the new commissioner.

Kerlikowske had already known that the Border Patrol was troubled, of course: It had taken 1,870 days into the Obama administration before he even became the first Senate-confirmed commissioner of the Obama era, and he was well aware he didn’t have much time to right an agency that was beset by corruption problems and excessive force complaints, the unfortunate legacies of a massive hiring surge that had doubled the force’s size in just a few years after 9/11. That lying and obfuscation had often accompanied the scandals was no real surprise either.
Read the whole thing to see an agency awash in money and getting more corrupt and criminal by the day. And then ponder this story from last year:
Five Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who frequently rail against government spending voted to increase federal appropriations on border security by an undetermined billions of dollars during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s mark-up of the bipartisan senate immigration bill on Thursday, agreeing to deploy twice as many border agents to the South Western border than “will be on the ground in Afghanistan at the start of 2014.” The measure failed in a vote of 5 to 13.

The debate came during consideration of an amendment offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to triple the number of border patrol agents on the border and quadruple the technological infrastructure. The measure, which would have delayed the path to legalization for the nations 11.1 million by almost 10 years, could have required as much as $60 billion in additional government spending.

Ted Cruz is the very essence of the Republican Party. The federal government has a blank check for police and military --- and nothing else. It must focus its power on foreigners and people of color, of course. Nice white people who toe the line must be "free." When you strip away all the Randian bullshit and paeans to freedom and liberty this is what they want.

Men with guns

by digby

I don't know what's wrong with this police officer but something is. This is completely unprofessional.

The footage began with an apparent conversation between the two men and then showed MacLeod's reaction when Valdes told him "God bless you." MacLeod, who seemed to be letting Valdes go with a ticket, came back up to the motorcyclist and got in his face as he shouted.

"You want to be a sarcastic bitch? I'll be fucking a bigger bitch," MacLeod said. "You're fucking with the wrong dude, bro. I've been here longer than you've fucking been alive. I've put up with more shit that you can ever think of. So if you want to test me again, you'll be finding Dade County Jail real fucking hunky dory tonight."

In the video, Valdes told MacLeod he just wanted to go to work.

"Then don't be a fucking little wise-ass 20-year-old punk," MacLeod said.

A decent cop would have ignored the comment.  Or maybe said "thank you". Or even rolled his eyes. But losing his cool over that? That's a bad cop. He should not be on the street.

On the other hand, my husband was topped the other day for rolling through a stop sign. The cop was amazingly professional, very cool, all business even let us off with a warning saying that he knew my husband wasn't "going to do it again ... right?" (He was Santa Monica PD.) This was in stark contrast to an LAPD stop I had a couple of years ago when the officer was abusive towards me, yelling and screaming because my tail light wasn't working. You just never know ...

The job has tons of benefits and they deserve all of them. Cops are just people and they have a very stressful job. But when they get like this they need to be relieved of duty. It's that simple. You can't have people in authority with weapons who have a short fuse like that.


Deprogramming the Prosperity Gospel

by Tom Sullivan

Just because you don't hear the term "free-market fundamentalism" much these days doesn't mean the faith has gone away. More on that in a minute.

Der Spiegel looks at The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails. The wizards of finance are not the choir boys that prove the moral superiority of capitalism, as analyst Mike Mayo believed when he entered the business. Instead, writes Michael Sauga, Mayo found "the glittering facades of the American financial industry concealed an abyss of lies and corruption." Ironically, some the most blessed(?) beneficiaries of the corruption, global financial and political leaders, now say they want to fix capitalism, make it more inclusive:

It isn't necessary, of course, to attend the London conference on "inclusive capitalism" to realize that industrialized countries have a problem. When the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago, the West's liberal economic and social order seemed on the verge of an unstoppable march of triumph. Communism had failed, politicians worldwide were singing the praises of deregulated markets and US political scientist Francis Fukuyama was invoking the "end of history."

Today, no one talks anymore about the beneficial effects of unimpeded capital movement. Today's issue is "secular stagnation," as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers puts it. The American economy isn't growing even half as quickly as did in the 1990s. Japan has become the sick man of Asia. And Europe is sinking into a recession that has begun to slow down the German export machine and threaten prosperity.

Sauga's detailed account features several financial experts worried about the future course of a world economy seeing an explosion in private wealth from technical financing tweaks (instead of genuine growth), and a concomitant imbalance of wealth with the rest of society. There is, writes Sauga, "a dangerous malfunction in capitalism's engine room."

In this sense, the crisis of capitalism has turned into a crisis of democracy. Many feel that their countries are no longer being governed by parliaments and legislatures, but by bank lobbyists, which apply the logic of suicide bombers to secure their privileges: Either they are rescued or they drag the entire sector to its death.

But you don't need a financial analyst to know that fixing this mess will require a movement akin to the one that broke up the trusts a century ago. Some hoped Barack Obama, arriving in Washington as the financial crash broke, might have the political capital and the stomach for leading such a movement to bring the banks to heel. We know how that worked out. Still, while a movement may need a leader, a leader also needs a movement.

Lack of accountability and "too big to fail" have meant that top firms are back earning what they did (or more) before the crash, while other "zombie banks" that received bailouts instead of funerals remain too weak to lend money, and now survive only by more speculation:

What distinguishes the current situation from the wild years before the financial crisis is that speculators were once driven by greed but have since turned into speculators motivated by need.

Much of the Der Spiegel account looks at the possibilities for returning the capitalist system to health. Yet, the power of organized wealth, especially as it has the ear of politicians and the ability to, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren repeats, rig the system to its own advantage, will not easily give up its power and deep faith in its own rightousness.

Scientology, Randism, New Age mysticism, or the Prosperity Gospel, cults have a way of morphing and adapting. Internal contradictions are ignored, explained away, or synthesized into fresh doctrines to support the faith. Keeping the free-market faith — patching it, preserving it, defending it — is easier than giving it up cold turkey. Even the losers in the comment threads hold to it as fervently as any fringe evangelical or most committed member of the Comintern.

Which means, perhaps, that any efforts to reform capitalism are premature. A key feature of the kind of self-reinforcing faith one sees among many cults, and maybe characteristic of our culture, is the way money becomes the measure of all things, especially God's grace — making a priesthood of the rich. Before any balance can be restored, before "inclusion" can take place, breaking that spell may be a prerequisite. It suggests that any efforts at re-regulating gilded capitalism may first have to wait until after the deprogramming.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Could a person really be this dumb?

by digby

How is it even possible?

Officials have confirmed that an offensive Halloween display at a Fort Campbell residence has been removed.

A ClarksvilleNow.com reader sent a photo of the display, which shows what appears to be a black family hanging from a tree in a yard on Litwin St.

The child in the display has a knife in its back and one of the figures holds a sign that is not legible in the photo.

Fort Campbell Public Affairs said they are aware of the display and have since had it taken down from the yard.

Brendalyn Carpenter with Public Affairs said they received a report of a Halloween decoration that was “offensive in nature” and contacted authorities to investigate. The occupant was informed of the concerns made by the community and removed the display.

Carpenter said it was her understanding that the display was not intended to be offensive, but authorities deemed it could be interpreted as such. She said the occupant did extend an apology about the decorations.

I suspect it is possible this person didn't know he or she was doing anything wrong. It's too obviously outrageous. Which means he or she must really be this dumb.

It happened on a military base. You don't suppose they ever issued this person a gun or anything do you? Or a driver's license? He's obviously a danger to everyone around him simply by virtue of his empty headedness.

Update:  According to Raw Story some people are claiming this is based on a movie called "Sinister" which is about a white family that's been killed.  The black garbage bags for faces was just an oversight.  It might even be true.  In which case these people are definitely dumber than dirt.

Oh those darned kids

by digby

This is sort of funny since I wrote a post just yesterday on this subject without this latest information:

Democrats have lost ground with millennials compared to past election cycles — a development that suggests the country’s youngest voters are open to both parties, according to a new Harvard Institute of Politics poll.

The nationwide poll of more than 2,000 adults ages 18 to 29, conducted Sept. 26 to Oct. 9, found significant political divisions across racial lines, no significant gender gap in the age group, and a slight Republican advantage among definite voters going into the 2014 midterm election.

“A lesson here, for us, is that young people, millennials, are no longer the political outliers that they once were,” said John Della Volpe, the Harvard Institute of Politics polling director, on a conference call with reporters. “In contrast to where we were four years ago, the youth vote is very much up for grabs politically.”

The 2014 poll shows that 51 percent of millennials considered most likely to vote would rather see a Republican Congress — 4 points higher than those who prefer Democrats. That’s a 16-point jump from 2010, when that group preferred Democrats by 12 percent.

These are midterm voters so it doesn't represent the whole electorate. But it's interesting nonetheless.

The point of my post yesterday is that you have to look at who they voted for when they came of age and it's not always as obvious as people think. The conclusion of that piece quoted an expert saying this:

New college students are liberal – just not as liberal as freshmen were four years ago. This new class is about as liberal as young people were early in the Carter and Clinton administrations. People who turned 18 during the Carter administration ended up being somewhat more Republican than average; those who came of age during Clinton's were somewhat more Democratic. How today's college freshmen will vote likely depends on the state of the economy over the next four years.

Are the new college freshmen just a blip in a sea of student liberalism?

The polling says "probably not". Before the election, American University/GfK polled high school (13-17 year-olds) and college students. The margin between Obama and Mitt Romney for high school students was 21pt less than among all college students. (Note: there's no discernible difference between the voting patterns of 18-29 year-olds with at least some college education and those without.)

The huge fall isn't exactly surprising. The Roosevelt generation is liberal because people became politically aware when Roosevelt was viewed as a success. The Gipper generation is conservative for the same reason with regard to Reagan. Conversely, the younger Bush is mostly viewed as a failure, and as such, most young people revolted.

Obama's presidency, meanwhile, is only seen as a moderate success – as illustrated by a rather close re-election margin in the popular vote. Given past history, it's expected to be seen as somewhere between good and average, as far as presidencies go. We would expect, therefore, that people who come of age during this presidency to be about as Democratic as the nation, or slightly more so.

And that's exactly what seems to be happening.

Indeed, the generation of the next few years isn't likely to be either conservative or overwhelmingly liberal; it's probably going to be moderate. The UCLA survey found that the fastest growing group are people who describe themselves as "middle of the road". On social issues, like gay marriage, they lean lean to left; on fiscal issues, like healthcare, they lean more to the right than the majority of current 18-29 year-olds.

Overall, I doubt we're looking at a pipeline of new liberals. Far more than most young voters today, the next generation is likely to be up for grabs.

The hints of this have been out there for a while. The Democrats would be very foolish to take this generation for granted. They seem to think they have them all sewn up but they don't.

Readying for the riot

by digby

Remember how everyone was shocked by the militarization of the police during the Ferguson protests? Well it looks like the police were properly chastised by our outrage and in anticipation of a Grand Jury decision they've taken a whole new approach. Not:

Anticipating a furore, the St Louis County Police department has been reportedly stockpiling riot gear. The department has spent $173,000 since August on tear gas, plastic handcuffs, smoke grenades and canisters, rubber bullets, beanbag bullets and pepper balls. They have also invested in new helmets, batons and shields.

Well, they haven't invested in any new sound cannons or taser tanks so I guess it's all good.

Of course the police have to prepare for unrest. I don't think anyone believes they shouldn't do that. But I'd be a lot more impressed if the stories were about the various police departments reviewing their tactics and taking a different approach rather than loading up on more riot gear. How much more of that stuff do they need anyway?


Brain damage or death. Your choice.

by digby

I wrote about this Missouri taser incident at the time but I came across this Fox News update today while I was looking for something else. It would be darkly funny if it weren't so tragic:

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence teenager injured after being hit with a police taser is out of a coma, but is having trouble remembering a few things. We’re now getting a better picture of what may have happened before the officer reacted.

After the incident that sent Bryce Masters to the hospital in critical condition, police applied for search warrants for his car and phone.

Court documents describe the officers’ account of some of the things that happened during the traffic stop. The 17-year-old was in a medically induced coma over the weekend because doctors say his heart stopped after being tased.

An attorney representing the Masters’ family says the teenager has an infection, but is improving. He does say that Masters is suffering from some memory loss.

Investigators say Masters wouldn’t cooperate with the officer, and the officer used his taser. Police say they found drug paraphernalia in Masters’ car.

In court documents, police officer Tim Runnels states he smelled the odor of marijuana coming from inside Masters’ car when the teen rolled down the window, but would not roll it all the way down telling the officer, “why? I can hear you.”

Officer Runnels states he told him to get out of the car several times with Masters replying, “why, am I under arrest?”

According to court documents, Masters braced himself in the car so the officer could not get him out and was tased inside the car. Masters ended up on the ground, handcuffed.

Officer Runnels states Masters did not comply with his command to move to the side of the road, so he grabbed Masters from behind and carried him to the side of the road where, according to an affidavit, Masters began to suffer from some sort of medical emergency. What the affidavit does not say is if Officer Runnels provided medical aid to Masters before the ambulance arrived.

That is something the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into during its investigation, to see if Masters’ civil rights were violated.

The Masters’ family also asked the Justice Department to get involved. Documents also state that Masters was videotaping the incident on his cell phone. That phone is in the custody of the Independence Police Department.

"Some sort of medical emergency?" Actually the kid's heart stopped beating, he sustained brain damage and is in rehab. A little infection and "some memory loss" is the least of it.

But even more important is this notion implicit in that report that the police contend that he somehow deserved to be put into a coma because he refused to cooperate. That's truly outrageous.

Apparently, white teens in Missouri who fail to properly deal with authorities deserve to get brain damage. Black teens deserve to get shot dead on the spot. Either way, the lesson is that your civil rights end the minute you come in contact with a police officer. Which is just plain weird.

The story of his tasering is here, with witness accounts that tell a very different story than the ones the cops are telling.

“He pulled him out of the car, handcuffed him then drug him around the car then let him fall and it looked like he hit his face on the concrete, you could see blood coming out of his mouth and the cop put his foot on his back and moved it back and forth like he was putting a cigarette out and asked him ‘are you ready to get up now?’ You could tell the kid was going into convulsions. He turned him over and his head was dangling like this and he had blood coming out,” said Baker.

He almost tortured that kid to death.

Blue America vs Sheldon Adelson

by digby

So Sheldon Adelson came into my congressional district in the last couple of weeks and spewed some anti-Muslim vomit all over the race to succeed Henry Waxman.  I'm not sure what he hoped to achieve but I doubt he will succeed in painting Ted Lieu as a terrorist symp.

Blue America doesn't have Adelson billions.  But we do what we can.  So we took out a full page ad in the LA Times today, highlighting the fact that the Westside of LA is lucky to have such a staunch liberal leader to send to congress. I don't think Adelson can beat this record with a bunch of bigoted swill:

If you happen to be in or near the district you can help get out the vote by going here.

We'd like to run another get out the vote ad on the day before the election if we can. If you can help us do that you can contribute here.

I can't not say this; nor can Rick Weiland

by Gaius Publius

I can't not say this, because it's news and it pertains.

Earlier this month I wrote about how, while progressives are constantly hectored (blackmailed) by Democratic leaders to never let Democrats lose a house of Congress — those same "Democratic" leaders had themselves surrendered the House and are a skosh away from surrendering the Senate ... because they won't back strong progressive candidates, preferring corp-sponsored losers who play ball with their own big-money friends instead.

In other words, corporate-supported Democratic leaders are already Tea Partying progressives. How about them apples?

And now comes Rick Weiland, Democratic and progressive candidate for the U.S. Senate in the battleground state of South Dakota, to say the same thing.

Shorter Rick Weiland:
"Would you believe? I'm being 'Tea Partied' by non-progressive Senate Democratic leaders. They're tanking my candidacy in favor of a right-leaning 'independent' who happens to be Harry Reid's friend."
Can I say his assertions are true? No. Can I say he says they are? Absolutely — it's news and it pertains. Read the story and decide for yourself; from the Argus Leader:
Weiland accuses own party of sabotaging his campaign
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland accused his own political party of trying to undermine his campaign in a striking news conference Monday.

Weiland said the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's ads attacking Republican incumbent Mike Rounds have backfired and hurt him.

"You put negative on a candidate and you put your disclosure at the bottom that says 'Paid for by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee,' the Democratic candidate's going to get blamed for that," Weiland said.

But Weiland went a step further and said this wasn't just an inadvertent side effect of the negative ads. He said it was deliberate — an attempt to sabotage him and boost independent Larry Pressler.

"My national party — that I'm a member of — (was) trying to drive votes to Larry Pressler and trying to drive up my negatives," Weiland said.

A spokesman for the DSCC declined to comment on Weiland's charges. ...
And the mitigation:
National political analyst Larry Sabato was skeptical of Weiland's claims.

"Unless (Weiland) has evidence he didn't present, it's quite a stretch, if not a wild charge," said Sabato, president of the University of Virginia's Center For Politics.

While it's true that the DSCC "would welcome a victory by either Pressler or Weiland," Sabato said, "I don't think that was the DSCC's intention to have the ads backfire on (Weiland)."
Even though Pressler previously served in the Senate and reportedly has a personal relationship with Sen. Reid (see same article), my suspicion is that Sabato is right — given the chance that Weiland could win, Reid et al had to make a show of caring; the rest may have been a "happy" accident. Still, it's been clear for some time, by his previous and total lack of support, that Harry Reid would not welcome Weiland into the Senate.

Still, as of the latest polling, Pressler's numbers are now falling, and Rounds, the Republican, is the beneficiary. If Reid loses the Senate, will his non-support of Weiland, when it could have counted, be held against him in the mainstream press? Will they even notice that Reid likely tanked himself? I'll go with No on that one.

But this isn't over. You can help Rick Weiland by donating here. And if you're a South Dakota resident, by all means volunteer. After all, Auburn doesn't beat Alabama by crying in their helmets in the fourth quarter. They play to the whistle.

Howie Klein has more (scroll down to the UPDATE). Quoting Weiland (my emphasis):
"For every one of the 18 months since I became a candidate for the United States Senate, and the 6 months since I was formally selected to be the candidate of the party you are supposed to represent, I have been asking you for positive assistance with my campaign. Instead of that assistance you have said I am not your choice, tried to dry up my funds by saying I cannot win, refused to have your DSCC even endorse me, and now you have come into my state with ugly, negative attacks against Mike Rounds, ads that you and every knowledgeable political strategist in America knows hurt me and help Larry Pressler, the longtime Republican who has apparently won your support for his so called independent campaign by whispering that if elected he might vote to help you [Harry Reid] keep your job as Majority Leader.

"Based on this record of non-support for me, and of actions which assist one of my opponents, I am today formally requesting that you either begin airing positive advertising about my fight against big money, and for the ordinary citizens who our party is supposed to be pledged to support, or else you get out of our state. I do not want phony help that actually helps Larry Pressler by attacking Mike Rounds over what appears to everyone to be my name because it says paid for by the national political party of which I am a member."

"I am also today requesting that the South Dakota Democratic Party join me in repudiating these tactics and requesting that you and the National Democratic Party assist all South Dakota Democrats in our fight for a higher minimum wage, protection and expansion of Medicare and Social Security, equal rights for all citizens, and in helping us to help like-minded voters get to the polls on November 4."
People like Reid say the Senate is so important. Then they do stuff like this. What to believe, their admonitions to progressives, or their unnoticed actions?


If they only had a president

by digby

My Salon piece today is about the slick new House majority leader Kevin McCrthy and how he's leading the press corps around by the nose:

[I]t’s not surprising that over the weekend the entire village began to kvell in unison at the news that McCarthy was lecturing Republicans about the need to “govern” lest they be locked out of the presidency again in 2016. If there is one thing the political establishment loves more than anything it’s a party leader scolding his own party, especially when they perceive it to be a call for a more genteel, centrist approach that doesn’t challenge the status quo in any measurable way.

Now in this case, there might be good reason to hope that Kevin McCarthy was putting some of his extremist colleagues on notice that their more outlandish shenanigans were not going to be tolerated any longer. No more government shutdowns, no more indiscriminate budget slashing, no more ludicrous investigations into Benghazi! or the IRS. Now is the time for the Republicans to show they are indeed the grown-ups in the room and start working across the aisle with Democrats to get things done for the good of the nation. Unfortunately, McCarthy doesn’t live in Republican Bizarro world and neither do we so the chances of that happening are about as good as the chance that Jerry Brown is going down to defeat next week. No, McCarthy is doing something a little bit different and if you parse his words carefully you’ll see what it is.

Read on. His plan is to show what might be ... if only.


For People

by Tom Sullivan

In the flood of campaign email and glimpsed web pages yesterday, someone commented on a campaign using the slogan (IIRC), "For Education. For People." Education has become a near ubiquitous Democratic theme this year.

But what was eye-catching was the stark simplicity of "For People." And the fact that somebody thought being for people is a snappy message for contrasting a Democrat with the opposition. "For People" sounds so bland, yet asks a stinging question. If your opponents are are not for people, what are they for?

I like it. In an age when one major party believes money is speech and corporations are people, you have to wonder. In an economic system striving to turn people into commodities and every human interaction into a transaction, what is the economy for? In a surveillance state that treats citizens as future suspects, what is freedom for? In an election where red states view voters as unindicted felons, what is democracy for?

Republicans themselves must be asking what they are really for, given the rebranding campaign released a month ago:

The party of Cruz and Ryan and Gohmert wants you to know Republicans really are normal people. No, really.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The No Labels Dream

by digby

According to Jim Newell,  the centrist bucket of lukewarm spit known as No Labels is putting money into Cory Gardner's campaign to unseat Mark Udall because Udall has been running a negative campaign.  This in spite of the fact that Cory Gardner is either a moron who voted for "Personhood" for blastocysts without knowing that it is an extremist policy designed to ban all abortion and many forms of birth control --- or he's a lying creep who believes that we should ban all abortion and many forms of birth control.  (Either that, or No Labels are also a bunch of lying creeps who are happy to ban abortion and many forms of birth control as a way of finding "common ground" with right wing extremists.) Whatever. Cory Gardner is an unreconstructed wingnut who has changed his spots so that he can get elected to the Senate in a swing state.  Nothing new about that.  But let's not pretend he isn't doing what we all know he's doing.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at one of his campaign ads, shall we?

I guess that's considered a positive ad in No Labels terms.

No Labels is a centrist outfit that believes the best of all possible worlds is a GOP congress and a mealy mouthed Democratic president who will sign every piece of shitty conservative legislation out there on behalf of the wealthy elites of this country.  (Barring that, they're happy to have a GOP congress and a GOP president --- it's just not quite a neat because they can't pat themselves on the back for their bipartisanship.) We may be about to see whether President Obama will fulfill their dream for them.  God help us if he does.


A very select club petitions one of its own members to do the right thing

by digby

Hey, remember when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? I know, those were heady times.
Check out what his fellow Peace Prize Winners are asking of him today:

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize asked President Barack Obama late Sunday to make sure that a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of harsh interrogation tactics is released so the U.S. can put an end to a practice condemned by many as torture.

The release of the report, which is the most detailed account of the CIA’s interrogation practices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be an opportunity for the U.S. and the world to come to terms with interrogation techniques that went too far, the laureates said in an open letter and petition. The release of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has stalled as the Obama Administration the CIA, and lawmakers clashed over how much of it should be redacted.

American leaders have “eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend” by engaging in and justifying torture, the peace prize winners said. The letter was published on TheCommunity.com, a project spearheaded by Peace Prize winner and international peacemaker José Ramos-Horta.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is among the laureates behind the letter, which also calls for the closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Honestly, if they deep six the report (or redact it so heavily that it's meaningless) I think President Obama has no choice but to give back his prize. There's a lot of actions he's taken as president that people could claim disqualify him for the prize anyway. Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations. But one can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters. (That, in fact, s one reason why it was ludicrous to give him the prize in the first place --- he runs the most powerful killing machine on the planet.)

But however you see his performance as Commander in Chief, There can be no debate about torture. It's a war crime.It should be prosecuted. But even if they cannot do that, covering it up is to be complicit.
Telling people they can't do something they have a right to do just makes them want to do it. #vote

by digby

I heard rumors that O'Keefe and company are in North Carolina hoping to get some black faces on camera so they can raise a little money from their racist supporters. But it's not likely to work. People are on to their tricks.

And anyway, the problem with all these vote suppression tactics is that it's having the opposite effect. It turns out that people don't like being told they cannot do what they have every right to do and so they get involved in ways they might otherwise not have done. Imagine that:

This fall, two immigrant-support organizations in Charlotte are joining forces to reach out to a thousand Latino and Asian voters in North Carolina's largest city to cast votes in this November's midterm elections.

The Latin American Coalition (LAC) and the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC) are two organizations supporting the booming populations of Latino and Southeast Asian immigrants in Charlotte. They share an office in central Charlotte and first crossed paths through the national New Americans Campaign, through which they have worked together to support immigrants through the naturalization process and to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

This fall, LAC and SEAC are coming together again in a home-grown effort to mobilize a thousand registered Asian and Latino voters of the 9,000 Asian and 17,000 Latino* registered voters in Charlotte. Targeting two precincts in southwest Charlotte with the highest numbers of registered Latino and Asian voters, LAC and SEAC plan to reach out through door knocks, mailers, robo-calls, and live calls in the weeks leading up to the election.

With a goal of making 12 touches per voter, the project is the most intensive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign that either group has undertaken. It will test and build the organizing capacity of each organization as they look to 2016 and beyond.

The campaign also experiments with mail-in absentee ballots as a way to increase turnout among immigrants. LAC and SEAC's joint teams of Latino, Asian, and other canvassers are knocking on the doors of Latino and Asian households, encouraging people to mail in their vote by absentee ballot this year. It's a method of voting that's been growing across the country in recent years and makes voting easier for voters, particularly those who can't take time off from work to go to the polls. Oregon and Washington state actually conduct all of their voting by mail. In North Carolina, any registered voter can request an absentee ballot by sending in a request form. These must be submitted by Oct. 28, a week before Election Day. Ballots must then be returned to the voter's county board of elections by 5 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Gosh, all these African Americans and latinos and Asians all seem to be getting involved in politics. It looks like trying to suppress their vote is having a galvanizing effect.

Here's a little ditty about Vote Suppression that'll get stuck in your head all evening:

If you haven't donated to any Blue America candidates as yet, here's the page. All the money at this stage will go toward getting out the vote. We'd love to see some of these folks defy the odds and with your help it's entirely possible that a few of them might just pull it off. Stay tuned.

Talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-g-generation

by digby

As I watch cynical Republicans accuse Democrats of hating old people because they supported cuts to Social Security I keep thinking about the fact that so many people seem to believe that's not a big deal because old people are all Republicans.  Setting aside the fact that at this point it's only old white people who are voting Republican, it seems like a good time to remind everyone that Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program in American history and remains the Democratic Party's signature achievement. Before social security millions of elderly people lived in dire straits , often literally in the poorhouse, even before the depression. The end of the agrarian way of life that featured intergenerational support on the farm meant more of the elderly were in cities. Companies wouldn't hire them, even if they were able to work. They were barely hanging on:
Mrs. M.A. Zoller of Beaumont, Texas, begged for someone to help her 82-year-old mother, who, she wrote, was diabetic, "out of funds completely," and had "no place to go unless it be to the poorhouse."

And over the hill to the poorhouse many older people went. Financed by local taxes, poorhouses were the shelters for all of a region's indigent, and in the early 20th century, most counties had one. The best of the poorhouses provided a meager standard of living. The worst doubled as insane asylums and orphanages. "I was three miles from town but felt like I was 3,000 miles from friends and country," wrote Ed Sweeney in his 1927 memoir, "Poorhouse Sweeney." "I have ate off trays that looked like they had spent the rainy season laying on a city dump."

Germany, Sweden, France and England, among other countries, already had legislated publicly funded old-age insurance before Americans took up the debate. Proponents in the U.S. wondered why men and women who had been diligent, thrifty workers should suffer hunger and insecurity in their old age. In a letter to an editor, a postal worker pointed out that horses owned by the federal government lived out their old age on full rations. "For the purpose of drawing a pension," he declared, "it would have been better if I had been born a horse than a human being."

Opponents argued that sensible people would provide for themselves, and that universal old-age insurance would set the country on the slippery slope to socialism. Children, not the state, were obliged to care for the old, they said; without that responsibility, family ties would loosen. And if employees were guaranteed lifetime support, wouldn't they feel less incentive to work hard?

Even after the Social Security Act became law, it was vigorously challenged in America's courts.

"The hope behind this statute," wrote Justice Benjamin Cardozo for the bare 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court in 1937, "is to save men and women from the rigors of the poorhouse, as well as from the haunting fear that such a lot awaits them when journey's end is near."
It's scary even with social security. I can't imagine what it was like without it.

Anyway, the elderly, for all their prejudices and simple pain-in-the-assedness are a constituency that has the Democratic Party to thank for the fact that they are not consigned to poverty. And the Democratic Party traditionally reminded them of that every election day. Unfortunately, their recent experience tells them that the Democratic Party is more than willing to cut their benefits and that's just a shame. Certainly the Republicans are shameless enough to exploit it.

And as for their voting habits, they are not a cohort that always votes Republican. It's idiotic for younger Democrats to make that assumption and write off this group of people who are very dedicated voters:
The generational math is different than you might think.

One of my favorite bits of trivia points to the bigger picture: "From which age group did Bill Clinton win the highest percentage of votes in 1992?"


Indeed, if you came of age during the Franklin D Roosevelt administration, you are more Democratic than the nation as a whole. If you could first vote during the administrations of Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush, you're more Republican. Turn 18 while Barack Obama held the White House and, again, you're more Democratic. That's right: the 18-29 year-olds of today are about as Democratic as their oldest grandparents and great-grandparents.

I'm in the Nixon group up there. And we are very, very Democratic as group. There is a boatload of us --- we're the second half of the baby boom. We are also scared to death about our financial future since we just lost our shirts in the financial crisis and many of us lost our homes and our houses and we don't feel we have enough time to get it back.

This is a natural Democratic constituency. And even the vanguard boomers who tend to vote more Republican aren't nearly as Republican as the group coming up who came of age during the Reagan years.

And anyway, old people deserve to live in dignity even if they are Republicans. After all, if we're lucky, we'll all be old someday. It's kind of startling to recognize that you're there (or on the precipice) and see that the Democratic party is willing to use you as a pawn in a Grand Bargain in Washington that seems to serve no one but Wall Street and the wealthy.

And ponder this:

Many might think that these Roosevelt-generation voters are going to be replaced by more liberal Obama-era voters, but polling casts that theory into doubt. Just because today's college students are liberal doesn't mean tomorrow's will lean left, too.

UCLA has been polling freshman college students for over 40 years on their political beliefs, and has found that young people are hardly automatic Democrats.

On the eve of the 2008 election (pdf), the most college freshmen in 35 years – 30.3% of men and 37.4% of women – described themselves as liberal or left. Combined, that matches the 33% percentage of 18-29 year-olds who described themselves as liberals in 2012. In other words, the new college students of 2008 were representative of a new generation of liberals.

On the eve of the 2012 election, the percentages of liberals among first-year college men and women dropped by 4pt and 5pt, to 26.4% and 32.4%, respectively. The liberal percentage is about 10pt higher than it was during the Reagan administration (pdf), but it's a major liberal decline – nearly on par with what occurred between the 1976 and 1980 elections.

New college students are liberal – just not as liberal as freshmen were four years ago. This new class is about as liberal as young people were early in the Carter and Clinton administrations. People who turned 18 during the Carter administration ended up being somewhat more Republican than average; those who came of age during Clinton's were somewhat more Democratic. How today's college freshmen will vote likely depends on the state of the economy over the next four years.

Are the new college freshmen just a blip in a sea of student liberalism?

The polling says "probably not". Before the election, American University/GfK polled high school (13-17 year-olds) and college students. The margin between Obama and Mitt Romney for high school students was 21pt less than among all college students. (Note: there's no discernible difference between the voting patterns of 18-29 year-olds with at least some college education and those without.)

The huge fall isn't exactly surprising. The Roosevelt generation is liberal because people became politically aware when Roosevelt was viewed as a success. The Gipper generation is conservative for the same reason with regard to Reagan. Conversely, the younger Bush is mostly viewed as a failure, and as such, most young people revolted.

Obama's presidency, meanwhile, is only seen as a moderate success – as illustrated by a rather close re-election margin in the popular vote. Given past history, it's expected to be seen as somewhere between good and average, as far as presidencies go. We would expect, therefore, that people who come of age during this presidency to be about as Democratic as the nation, or slightly more so.

And that's exactly what seems to be happening.

Indeed, the generation of the next few years isn't likely to be either conservative or overwhelmingly liberal; it's probably going to be moderate. The UCLA survey found that the fastest growing group are people who describe themselves as "middle of the road". On social issues, like gay marriage, they lean lean to left; on fiscal issues, like healthcare, they lean more to the right than the majority of current 18-29 year-olds.

Overall, I doubt we're looking at a pipeline of new liberals. Far more than most young voters today, the next generation is likely to be up for grabs.

This is why relying on age demographics to magically change everything is a foolish mistake. As Perlstein reminds us in The Invisible Bridge, everyone assumed in the 1970s that the "Now generation" was destined to drag the Democratic Party to the left. One could say that in terms of the culture war that did happen at least to some extent. But on matters of war and peace and economic ideology I think it's fair to ask how that assumption has worked out for us.

See no sugar

by Gaius Publius

Fans of Hullabaloo know that healthy eating is all the rage around here. We're especially no fan of sugar, the devil's sweetener — though personally I'd send "modified food starch" and all its cousins to an even lower ring of the Inverse Paradise. But that's me; I'm from a corn state.

It seems John Oliver, the best political comedian on television, agrees. Here's Oliver on sugar, a delightful and educational watch. Enjoy:

Why is sugar profitable?
"Sugar activates the brain in a special way. It's very reminiscent of drugs like ... cocaine."
Sounds tempting, if you're a predatory food-providing sort. So how prevalent is sugar?
"We have no idea how prevalent sugar is in everything we eat. Look at Clamato juice, the original tomato cocktail ... with clam. One serving has 11 grams of sugar in it. So they clearly thought, 'Look, let's improve the taste by adding sugar,' instead of thinking, 'Let's improve the taste by removing the clam.'"
Be sure to notice what happens to the over-sugared rat at 3:25 in the clip. The effects of a "North American diet"? You decide.

By the way, if you're curious why sugar buys so much sweetened legislation in Congress, look no further than our own Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Do click; it's a fun bipartisan read.


The most influential hitman in American politics

by digby

Did you know that the man who brought the infamous case of Citizens United vs the FEC to the Supreme Court is now teamed up with Michelle Malkin and they're making a movie together?  Well they are. And it's a doozy.  it's about how liberal billionaire potheads have turned Colorado into a dystopian hellhole by stopping drilling and getting everyone stoned.  Seriously.

Anyway, I thought it was good time to revisit the story of David Bossie the conservative activist who runs Citizens United and has had a more profound effect on American politics than almost any other wingnut.  I wrote about him for Salon today:
You have to wonder how many people in America, even those who are well informed, make the connection between the notorious Supreme Court decision that unleashed unprecedented campaign spending and the slimy political assassination outfit called Citizens United that brought the case? It’s not that people of low character have never succeeded in winning Supreme Court cases before. But it’s difficult to find a group with less integrity than this one.

You may recall that the case itself was about a film called “Hillary: the Movie,” which was produced by Citizens United in anticipation of the 2008 election and which the FEC ruled was not a movie at all but rather a 90-minute campaign commercial that was “susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her.” This designation as an advertisement ran afoul of elements of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation and Theodore Olson, Citizens United’s attorney, filed a case against the FEC claiming its First Amendment rights had been violated. And the rest is history.

What many people may not know, however, is the history of Citizens United. It goes all the way back to the 1980s when it was created by the notorious hatchet man from Arkansas, Floyd Brown of Willie Horton fame. In 1992, in anticipation of a flood of juicy opportunities for character assassination of fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton, he brought on David Bossie, a young and ambitious GOP operative. Their joint effort was a massive and instant success with the media, which used it as a major “source” for years. As early as 1994 some media critics were concerned about the group’s allure among the press corps. Trudy Lieberman wrote an exposé of the group called “Churning Whitewater” for the Columbia Journalism Review, although nobody in the mainstream media seemed particularly concerned.

It was a shocking expose actually, which I only read years later after the scandal mongering was in full effect. In just a few years Bossie would be very publicly fired for doctoring tapes and transcripts as the "chief investigator" for Congressman Dan Burton. You'd think that would be the end of it. But he was so popular among the DC press corps and had the benefit of all that wingnut welfare so he made a very quick comeback.

Anyway, read the whole thing to get a taste of just how influential a garden variety character assassin can become in American politics. Somebody ought to make a movie about it.



by tristero

George Packer, writing about Laura Poitras,
How much was the U.S. government hounding critics for political, rather than legal, reasons? To what extent was the government’s capacity for surveillance matched by its will to abuse it? In the cloistered world of expatriate Berlin, a sense of proportion was hard to maintain. Secrecy became self-perpetuating and, for some of Poitras’s friends, self-important. Cut off from daily life in America, encrypted to the hilt, and surrounded by Europeans who were willing to believe the worst, Poitras was, in many ways, making a film about her own strange social world—an atmosphere that seemed likely to constrict the free flow of ideas. 
That is truly elegant writing. Very few people have the talent to compose sentences like this, let alone string them together with such seaming little effort, let alone pivot so gracefully to a more all-embracing idea. Indeed, Packer's prose is very convincing.

But it is utter bullshit.

Packer's talking about the film that eventually became Citizenfour, Poitras's amazing, not-to-be-missed movie on Edward Snowden. But Poitras, even in the early stages, was never making a film about "her own strange social world." Back then, she was doing what everyone creative does (including Packer himself), simply exploring the material she had access to and playing with it, trying to find a structure. Yet Packer, describing this common practice, invites us to dismiss her entire milieu - not just Assange or Appelbaum - as a claque of weirdos, of little interest to The Serious Amongst Us. The further implication is that Poitras and her work are also not that Serious, either.

But given the fact that Poitras herself had been detained some 40 times, many people around the world, not merely those easily misled "Europeans," are, for very good reasons, quite "willing to believe the worst"about the US government and its obsessive pursuit of the chimera of Total Information Awareness.

As for the "atmosphere" in Poitras's circle being "likely to constrict the free flow of ideas…" well, just  think about that for a few seconds. If you do it's obvious that the vastly more likely constrictor of the free flow of ideas is the most powerful surveillance technology in the world being used to monitor every single electronic communication, not the feeble effort of an expat community trying to evade the spying.

But hold on. I think I'm being unfair to poor Mr. Packer. According to Frankfurter, a bullshitter...
...does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
In reading over the article again (and thinking about his work in general), I think Packer does care about describing reality correctly. The problem is that reality for him is mediated by aesthetics and he often confuses being glib for the truth. He clearly loves the sound of his sentences, the graceful flow of their grammar and syntax, their rhythm. Packer's genuine ability to write like a mofo hypnotizes many readers into believing what he says. It surely has the same effect on him. He simply can't resist his talent.

So, speaking technically, Packer is not a bullshitter. He doesn't have enough self-awareness to be. He really thinks that because what he writes is so well-crafted, therefore his opinions actually depict reality. 

But a well-articulated sentence is not necessarily a substantive one. Look at how he describes Snowden's speaking style (as if it mattered in the slightest):
...he keeps speaking in the hyper-rational, oddly formal sentences of a computer techie.
This is such a precise description, it conjures up an entire image of the man. The problem is that that is not how I hear how Snowden actually speaks. To me, he sounds like someone who knows exactly what he is talking about, and like someone who, despite enormous pressure, is keeping it together.

More seriously, Packer tries to cast aspersions on Snowden's motives, as if Snowden's character was somehow as important as the wholesale invasion of privacy of the entire world by the US government.

Also, Packer's attempt to drive a wedge between Binney and Snowden is quite misleading. While Binney did once say Snowden was "transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor," (in re "hacking into China"), that was in June, 2013, before anyone, including Binney, knew very much. However,  by June of 2014 Binney said:
In the debate on Snowden as either patriot or traitor, Binney opts for the former: “I would put him as a patriot, yes. He is trying to stand up for the Constitution. That’s what we all did and our government attacked us for doing that. So, in my view, the government is the criminal here.”
Exactly. Packer's attempts to twist the story from the real "criminal" to the messenger don't withstand even a mere blogger's scrutiny.

Poitras's film was never about Snowden's personal life, which she made very, very clear (for example, by not interviewing his girlfriend). It was also not about the leaks themselves, either. It is, for me, the documentation of an astonishing historical moment that focuses on the behavior of the people at the center of it - Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald. They behaved then with remarkable poise and responsibility (and they continue to do so). They acted as if they knew full well that they were quite unimportant, that the only story that mattered was the American government's mind-bogglingly wholesale destruction of personal privacy.

That is not an especially glib or original insight on my part. But I think it happens to be real.

UPDATE: More on Packer and Snowden.


You can't say poll tax

by Tom Sullivan

The 1981 recording of Lee Atwater explaining the Southern Strategy finally made it onto the Net a couple of years ago. You know the one. It's the interview where he says:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. ... “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It's the decades-old racial strategy that RNC chief Ken Mehlman apologized for to the NAACP in 2005. For what that was worth.

Jeffrey Toobin muses this morning in the New Yorker about recent court rulings on photo ID laws and what voting rights activists might do to counteract them. He includes quotes from federal district court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' opinion — struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — that the Texas photo ID statute, SB 14, “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax” with an "impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans." But reading the words this time recalled the Atwater quote.

Maybe it was the photos Dante Atkins shared from a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center last week. Afterwards, newly minted citizens crowded the Democrats' voter registration tent. At the Republican table nearby? Crickets.

Just as in the heyday of "forced busing" debates, Republicans have gone abstract. The dog whistles are pitched so high, many among their base don't recognize them for what they are. They insist that photo ID laws are not discriminatory (as Ramos ruled), and they get quite testy if you suggest it. If photo ID laws hurt "a bunch of college kids" or "a bunch of lazy blacks" more than older, white Republicans, "so be it." That is, as Atwater said, a byproduct.

So poll taxes are back, targeted not just at blacks and Hispanics, but at other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Only in 2014 you can't say "poll tax." That backfires. So now it's "election integrity," "ballot security," "restoring confidence," etc. A hell of a lot more abstract than "poll tax."

Monday, October 27, 2014

A time for choosing blah, blah, blah

by digby

The wingnuts are all kvelling over the 50th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's televised speech for barry Goldwater back in 1964 which launched his political career.

You can watch it if you want to:

I think what strikes me about it is the fact that the modern conservative movement has changed so little over all these years. This is their schtick, it's always been their schtick and that's that.
Mitch gets punchy

by digby

What in the world is this about?

Apparently they decided Mitch needed to soften up his image.  Or something.

Just think, that ad cost money.  And it's costing a lot more to put on the air.

Americans have to start being honest with themselves

by digby

You've probably already read the shocking story in the New York Times about the thousands of Nazis the United States protected and hid all the way up until the 1990s.  If not, go read it. I only mention it here to point out that this was done even as the United States was seen as a beacon of freedom and justice to the world. As we were telling ourselves how moral and upright our role in WWII had made us. We did great things --- we handled the Nuremberg trials with great dignity and spent vast sums to help rebuild Europe and Japan. But we also protected and hid Nazis for cynical reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with freedom and justice.

America is a very contradictory nation and always has been. We're the slave holders who simultaneously declared that "all men are created equal" after all. We stole land and committed genocide even as we created a great immigrant nation with immigrants and refugees from all over the world. As Americans it's really important that we recognize all this about ourselves.

When I hear Clinton going on about how we need to tell better "stories about ourselves" I despair. She's talking about the myths of America and that's not what we need. Our vast power means we need to be honest with ourselves and strive to do better not bullshit ourselves into believing we've been perfect.

We were hiding Nazis until the 1990s.

How money wins elections

by digby

So who spends more money getting elected has an effect on the outcome of a political race? Whodduh thunk?

Oh, and by the way, there's also a lot more money floating around:

Not to worry though. Most of that is Soros money that's going to fund lefty bloggers.

QOTD: Sarah Palin

by digby

I know, I know, she's a has been loser so who cares what she thinks? But she's such a perfect representation of a particular kind of wingnut that I have to document it:

There’s no convincing scientific evidence for man-made climate change. The climate has always been changing. Climate change is to this century what eugenics was to the last century. It’s hysteria, and a lot of it’s junk science. And when it’s as discredited as eugenics, y’know a lot of people are going to look foolish and heartless.

I'm pretty sure she didn't come up with that all by herself. She heard somebody make that comparison somewhere and ran with it. But for someone from Alaska, of all places, to chalk up the massive changes that are taking place in the environment up there to "shit happens" is just depressing. And this from a woman who made her reputation as a maverick reformer who took on the oil industry.

Also too, note her lugubrious appeals to help the poor folks who need cars and trucks. As if they there's no way we can have transportation without burning massive amounts of fossil fuel. But then she evidently tools around Anchorage these days in a stretch Hummer so I suppose that's all she knows.

Lots of progress on race over the past century. For white people especially.

by digby

Dara Lind at Vox has a fascinating story today about how "race" was once understood in America. Let's just say it was a lot more complicated than it is today.  Even when I was growing up there was a ton of "ethnic" humor and stereotyping about "Eyetalians" and "Polacks" (and, of course, the usual hideous stuff that persists to this day.) The world of my father seemed to be organized around much finer differences of ethnic and racial identities to a much greater extent than they are today.

The article features an interactive map which shows how each state categorized their population at the turn of the 20th century. Here's a handy list of the various ways it was understood back then:

Lind explains:
The hierarchy of the table reflects the conventional wisdom of the time — eugenics and social Darwinism hypothesized that the Nordic races were the most evolved, that southern and eastern Europeans were less so, and that non-Europeans (who are barely worth a mention on the immigration map) were the "lowest," least-evolved peoples.

There wasn't universal agreement on what the races actually were, but the federal government appears to have used "Nordic, Celtic, Slavic and Iberic" regularly to categorize the immigrants coming into America. A medical journal article published about a decade after this map expresses concern about the "preponderance of the Iberic and Slavic races" among recent immigrants, because of "their poorer physical and mental equipment, and their radically different ideals and standards of living as compared with the Celtic and Teutonic races."

By the point that article was written, the government was beginning to respond to fears like the ones the authors expressed — by moving toward widespread restrictions on immigration. (Asian immigrants had been excluded since the 19th century, but the US government didn't put global immigration restrictions in place until the early 1920s.) Under the strict quota system set by the Immigration Act of 1924, only 164,667 immigrants would be allowed to come into the US per year — fewer than settled in the state of Pennsylvania alone in the year 1903.

It's tempting to point this out as a sign of our incredible progress as a civilization but to my way of thinking it doesn't really prove much. We have simplified our racial categories to make all those Europeans and Slavs equals which is nice. For white people. Unfortunately, all those "others" are still .... "others."

The United States of Epidemics

by digby

Via Kos comics
If you want an abusive Daddy-in-chief for president, Chris Christie's your man

by digby

I don't know if it's possible to convey just how loathesome I find Chris Christie and how horrifying it will be for me if somehow this misogynist creep becomes president. I have rarely in my life come across a politician with a personality that gets under my skin like this guy does:

After a heated weekend of sparring between a quarantined nurse and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the nurse is being discharged, the state's Department of Health said in a statement Monday morning...

While in Florida campaigning for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Christie stood by New Jersey's quarantine policy.

"I know she didn't want to be there. No one ever wants to be in the hospital, I suspect, and so I understand that," he told reporters. "But the fact is I have a much greater, bigger responsibility to the people and the public, and so I think when she has time to reflect she will understand that as well."

No, she is not a silly bimbo who didn't understand her situation and "upon reflection" will understand that Daddy Knew Best. She is a medical professional, an epidemiology specialist, who knows very well that Chris Christie is completely ignorant about protecting the public from this disease and had no business spending several days talking about her as if she was a spoiled child who needed to go to bed without her supper. He betrayed his ignorance by repeatedly saying she was "ill" and hoping that she "recovered" even tough she has tested negative and has no symptoms at all.  (It was assumed that he meant she had Ebola but looking more closely at his comments it's possible that he was saying she was having a mental breakdown. That's what gaslighting pigs like Christie commonly do...)

Judging from what I read around the internet this week-end, the right-wingers think Christie's jackboots are awesome. He can lock up nurses in FEMA camps all day long on a whim and it's fine with them. All it takes for their little authoritarian skirts to show is a little tough guy action toward a woman and they're on board.



Hypothetical support for a hypothetical

by Tom Sullivan

The headline from the Colorado Independent caught my attention more than the story (which I already knew): O’Keefe uncovers hypothetical support for hypothetical voter fraud.

The story itself is a week old. The Project Veritas filmmaker (no longer on probation), baited staffers from lefty organizations in Colorado with hypotheticals about committing voter fraud. The object? To get them to say something embarrassing enough on video to prove ... something about voter fraud:

Left out of the reel are the many accounts reported by Mother Jones of campaign folks shutting down O’Keefe’s hypothetical voting-fraud schemes or even calling the police when his team refused to disengage. Ultimately, in fact, nearly all of the fraud in the video is hypothetical.

All of it, in fact, except for O'Keefe.

The object of these propaganda efforts is to lead viewers to infer that in-person voter fraud is being committed undetected somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. The same way Bush-Cheney spokesmen repeatedly juxtaposed Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in public statements until over two-thirds of Americans falsely believed Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attacks.

One of O'Keefe's most celebrated cases of hypothetical voter fraud took place at a Washington, D.C. polling place on Primary Day in 2012. A Veritas operative presented himself as Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, but ran out of the place before signing the roll book. That is, he walked right up to the line — put his toes on the line, figuratively — but for reasons unknown would not demonstrate how easy it is for anyone to get away with committing an actual felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Go figure.

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