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Monday, August 03, 2015

"I can't read. I like to watch TV"

by digby

Chance the Gardner goes to New Hampshire:

That's one of your top-tier candidates the billionaires auditioned this week-end. Here's another one:

They both have people writing them million dollar checks.


Those wacky zealots and their crazy ways

by digby

Brian Beutler very astutely sussed out a growing problem for the GOP around these Planned Parenthood videos. I thought they might be able to ACORN this, but it turns out that everybody's a little less prone to panic over wingnut hoaxes than they used to be. And unfortunately for the Republicans, the activists are believing their own hype:

The emotional power of the Planned Parenthood videos lies in the images they evoke, but their political power stems from broad, intense conservative opposition to abortion generally—not to fetal tissue research per se. If these conservatives were foremost concerned with the ethics of fetal tissue donation, they could propose banning it outright, or at least tissue obtained from legal abortions. Instead, they are proposing to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. This non sequitur gives away the plot, and all of the cross-ideological sympathy they might have had at the outset.

If the videos genuinely exposed a criminal organ harvesting operation, eliminating its federal funding would be an on-point response. In reality, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood is completely unresponsive to the full content of the videos. In an admirably clear-eyed analysis of the Planned Parenthood controversy, Robert Tracinski of The Federalist (which has otherwise been a reliable outpost of rote anti-Planned Parenthood disinformation) admits, “The case wasn’t about what it seemed to be about based on the selected excerpts we had been offered.” The most plausible rationale for this is that conservatives, who have a permanent axe to grind with Planned Parenthood, are using deception to threaten its viability, and make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions as a consequence.

By attempting to capitalize on the videos in an unscrupulous way, conservatives have unleashed political forces Republicans can’t control. Anti-abortion zealots are now demanding that Republicans in Congress refuse to appropriate money for government operations unless Planned Parenthood’s funding is abolished—a new test of Republican pro-life bona fides. To force Congress’ hand, they’re admonishing Republican presidential candidates that the anti-abortion vote will only follow those who support the shutdown effort. The purpose of Erick Erickson’s above tweet, alerting the candidates to his question days in advance, is to eclipse the instinctual aversion many of them will have to promoting a government shutdown, and get as many of them on the same page as possible.

The House and Senate Republican conferences are famously undisciplined majority-party tacticians. And though you might expect party leaders to put down an insurgency like this at all costs, so that a government shutdown doesn’t become a central theme of the presidential election, there are mounting reasons to doubt that they can avoid it. Republican victories in the 2014 midterm election, one year after they shut down the government in an unthinking showcase of resistance to Obamacare, convinced party activists that maximalist confrontation carries little political risk. And with little to lose, most Republican presidential candidates will advocate precisely that strategy.

That's right. Another government shutdown is likely. And not just for this reason.

Oh, and by the way by all accounts, the Koch billionaires just loved Ted Cruz. You know, the guy who wants to shut down the government every single year.

Keeping the door to that smoke filled room closed up tight

by digby

Think Progress has just published the list of "rules" the Koch's demanded of the press before they allowed them to cover their very transparent and open little event this week-end. It's not pretty. They might as well have tugged on their forelocks and bowed and scraped to their betters.

Journalism ethics experts are appalled:

Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said in a email that she found the agreement “outrageous — on the part of the media organizations, that is. The organizers can ask for whatever they want and think they can get. I don’t like it, but it is up to the news organizations to draw the line and to refuse to attend under these circumstances.”

As “the restrictions could stop journalists from reporting what’s right before their eyes,” she added, they reflect “a profound contempt for the role of an independent press, and by extension, the public.”

“The idea that reporting something like a donor’s attendance would be forbidden unless the donor agrees sounds like the European right to privacy on steroids,” Kirtley quipped. “When I think back to how hard the news media fought to avoid restrictions on combat reporting, I really despair. At least in the case of combat reporting, there was a plausible argument that national security was at stake. What’s at stake here is press independence.”

Actually, elite journalists often fail to tell the public what they know in order to maintain their access to important people. Sometimes they are nice enough to hint around in their articles at what's really going on but they are mostly very happy to keep whatever it is to themselves if it means they will get some more information --- which they will also not share.

Huffington Post Senior Media Reporter Michael Calderone noted in a Sunday column that restrictions like these could prevent an important part of the story coming out: “The problem is that the ground rules could restrict journalists from reporting what’s right in front of their eyes. If, say, Rupert Murdoch, or even a lesser-known billionaire, walked by, they couldn’t report the person’s attendance without permission. So it’s possible journalists end up reporting largely what the event sponsors want, such as fiery speeches and candidate remarks criticizing Democrats, but less on the power brokers attending who play key behind-the-scenes roles in the 2016 election.”

Other media ethics experts were even more critical of the attendees for agreeing to such strict conditions. Robert Drechsel, a professor and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an email, “Given how serious an issue secrecy and anonymity have become in the context of the flow of dollars to influence election outcomes, I find it especially remarkable that any media organizations would agree to in effect become complicit in facilitating such secrecy and anonymity.”

Dreschel added that, while it was understandable why journalists would want to attend, the agreement to follow these rules sets a bad precedent. “When the Kochs are attempting to give themselves more of a positive public face, why would the media be willing to assist in such image-building by agreeing to conditions on access?” he asked.

So they can get more access? Isn't that the most important commodity in the whole world these days? Access to billionaires? The public's right to know pales in comparison to rubbing shoulders with the most important people on earth. Who knows where it might lead?

The Koch confab is basically a return to the old smoke-filled rooms. They vetted which candidates to display for the Big Money Boyz to choose between --- Walker, Rubio, Bush and Cruz. (And Fiorina...just because.) The billionaires will then "vote" by the size of their checks.

And the press agreed not to report on who was there or what they said without getting permission from the Kochs.

Maybe we'll get lucky and one of the waiters or bartenders in attendance will have recorded some of it their phones.

Update: This looks promising.

Booing the bully boy

by digby

Poor Christie. To think people actually used to believe he could be president:

It was not a good day at the races Sunday for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

The Republican presidential candidate was on hand for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, where he presented a trophy to first-place finisher American Pharoah's handlers. While the crowd of more than 60,000 cheered for the Triple Crown winner, the governor elicited "long," "loud," "sustained" booing, according to NJ.com.

The record-setting crowd booed yet again when Christie's name was brought up in the American Pharoah team's victory speech, according to the news site.
They just can't stand the guy. In New Jersey. His home. And if they don't like him there, where else could they possibly like him?

And anyway, if people want to vote for an asshole for president, Lord knows they have a whole bunch of them to choose from, starting with the King of Jerks, Donald Trump. John Kasich is a total creep, Carly Fiorina is known to be a nasty piece of work and Mike Huckabee can make Christie look like a blubbering baby all with a creepy grin on his face. Christie's just another in a crowded field of Republican blowhards these days.

"A different 'culture'"

by digby

I know that I am racist in a million different ways.  I'm a white woman of a certain age who grew up in America.  It's inevitable that my attitudes were shaped by my own privilege and that my racism is so deeply a part of my personality that I can't see it.

This person, however, has more of it and much closer to the surface than that. He shouldn't have been a cop:
I asked him if he agreed with Randolph that the neighborhood’s main problem was the absence of jobs. “There’s a lack of jobs everywhere,” he replied, brusquely. “But there’s also lack of initiative to get a job. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” He acknowledged that the jobs available in Ferguson often paid poorly, but added, “That’s how I started. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Good values, Wilson insisted, needed to be learned at home. He spoke of a black single mother, in Ferguson, who was physically disabled and blind. She had several teen-age children, who “ran wild,” shooting guns, dealing drugs, and breaking into cars.

Several times, Wilson recalled, he responded to calls about gunfire in the woman’s neighborhood and saw “people running either from or to that house.” Wilson would give chase. “It’s midnight, and you’re running through back yards.” If he caught the kids, he checked them for weapons, then questioned them. He recounted a typical exchange: “ ‘Why you running?’ ‘Because I’m afraid of getting caught.’ ‘Well, what are you afraid of getting caught for?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Well, there’s a reason you ran, and there’s a reason you don’t want to get caught. What’s going on?’ ” Wilson said that he rarely got answers—and that any contraband had already been thrown away. Once, he arrested some of the woman’s kids, for damaging property, but usually he let them go. In his telling, there was no reaching the blind woman’s kids: “They ran all over the mom. They didn’t respect her, so why would they respect me?” He added, “They’re so wrapped up in a different culture than—what I’m trying to say is, the right culture, the better one to pick from.”

This sounded like racial code language. I pressed him: what did he mean by “a different culture”? Wilson struggled to respond. He said that he meant “pre-gang culture, where you are just running in the streets—not worried about working in the morning, just worried about your immediate gratification.” He added, “It is the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities.”

That's from a fascinating New Yorker article about the man who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri last year.

It is racial code language. There is just no other way to see it.

When I was working in the film business we used to package films together to sell to territories around the world. I would routinely be told upfront that buyers in other countries did not want to even look at what they called "urban films." This was, obviously, code for films about black people. (And yes, they called them "urban" even if they were historical or were about Africa.) Everyone was terribly polite about all this, saying it was nothing to do with black people, it was simply a "culture" difference. It's always something ...

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating. It doesn't answer the ultimate question of what happened that day. He doesn't share what was was going on in his mind. But it's obvious that his attitudes informed his thinking. This is what this country needs to deal with.


Looks like they can't stand Rand

by digby

I wrote about what appears to be the flame-out of the Rand Paul campaign for Salon today.  Apparently, his followers have noticed that he's a hypocrite. It's sad:

One of the big mysteries of the Koch brothers’ lavish gala this past weekend is the fact that Rand Paul was not in attendance. You’d think that the Kochs would at least insist that Paul come to the fete to do a dramatic reading of John Galt’s “Atlas Shrugged” speech for the billionaires in attendance, but he didn’t show. Some reports suggest that he was invited, but declined. Perhaps his feelings are hurt that they also invited Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and even Carly Fiorina, when he believes that he should have been anointed by all the rich men in the world by acclamation. He is, after all, the One True Libertarian of the bunch.

Or is he? Paul has been spending so much time in recent days talking about the horrors of Planned Parenthood, you’d think he was a Catholic priest or a member of Ralph Reed’s Bible study group. In fact, both of the Pauls, father and son, have always played fast and loose with their libertarian principles when it comes to reproductive health; the only individual property right they don’t recognize is a woman’s ownership of her own body. Since the followers of the Pauls tend to be those who find such concerns irrelevant to their own freedom — being that they are mostly young, white males — that may make some sense from a practical standpoint. Rand has to build a coalition with someone, so why not the religious right, since their main concern in life is keeping women in their place, and the Paulites seem to find this to be a position they can work with.

And so it is becoming clear that for all the former Beltway excitement over Paul’s alleged magical ability to transform the Republican Party from it’s aggressively hawkish global ambitions and theocratic, authoritarian domestic aspirations into an isolationist, tolerant, pluralistic party, he just can’t seem to make any headway. He can’t raise much money and nobody, it turns out, is very interested in his ideas.

Thus, the true believers are depressed. One of them wrote a piece for Politico about what’s gone wrong, titled, “Why I’m tired of defending Rand Paul.” The piece was written by Jonathan Bydlak, someone who’s been with the Paul family for years, serving as director of fundraising on Ron’s 2008 campaign; a loyal lieutenant who truly believes that Rand Paul could be president. But unfortunately for Bydlak, it turns out that Rand Paul also believes that, which means that these days he’s acting like just another Republican.

read on ...


Poseur for president

by Tom Sullivan

During one sequence in Buster Keaton's comedy The General, the hapless train engineer Johnnie Gray (Keaton) finds himself caught in a battle between Union forces and Confederate Army friendlies. Finding a sword, Johnnie discovers that when he brandishes it (the way officers do) Confederate soldiers mistake him for someone actually in charge.

That also works for Donald Trump: posture as if you are a leader and people will think you are. He's just better at it than his fellow poseurs.

Washington Monthly's Nancy LeTourneau believes Trump is what you get when you follow Republican rhetoric "to its logical (?) conclusion":

What is it that Trump is suggesting he would do on the issues the Republicans are so concerned about. When it comes to Obamacare, he’d “repeal it and replace it with something terrific.” Sounds good, huh?

And when it comes to the 11 million undocumented workers in this country, just round ‘em up and get rid of them. If you think that Mexican immigrants are nothing more than rapists and murderers, that sounds good too, doesn’t it? But don’t bother fretting your pretty little head about how to go about doing that. Donald will “manage” it.

As I said, this is the “logical” conclusion of the path Republicans have taken. Climate change…deny it. Iran nuclear deal…oppose it. Terrorism…talk tough, but don’t get into specifics. Their own party leaders are admitting that their agenda is being set by a conservative media that “doesn’t give a damn about governing.

Governing requires compromise, and compromise is for wusses like Alexander Hamilton, the subject of a new musical:

Ron Chernow, whose biography of Hamilton inspired the musical, said that compromise was the timeliest theme in the musical. “What Lin is showing is that it’s very easy when you’re in the political opposition to take extreme ideological positions, but when you’re dealing with real power, you have to engage in messy realities and compromises to move forward,” Mr. Chernow said.

Trump supporters such as last week's New Hampshire focus group don't want leaders who school them in messy realities. They want to feel "strength and power." They want a wise-cracking, Daddy Warbucks action figure, someone to step in, talk tough, and solve problems with a punch or a roundhouse kick. They don't just want to vote for Trump; they want to be him.

LeTourneau writes, "They have an idealized view of America where white men are in charge, authority is unquestioned, and the world bows to our dominance. The fact that things are more complicated than that pisses them off." Trump is the big, swinging d*ck who can fix anything with a wave of his, uh, hand.

Daddy Donald is just the ticket, a more manly version of these kiddie-show problem solvers:

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Today's Trump: Why they love him edition

by digby

There's this:

Oh yeah, he's his own man yadda, yadda, yadda. As if it matters.

But baby, this is gold with the base:

CHUCK TODD: And, again, I know we're going to get into a lot more issues with you in a couple weeks. But I want to ask you about Black Lives Matter. The latest shooting of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man. Do you see this as a crisis in America?

DONALD TRUMP: It's a massive crisis. It's a double crisis. What's happening and people. You know, I look at things. And I see it on television. And some horrible mistakes are made. At the same time, we have to give power back to the police because crime is rampant. And I'm a big person that believes in very big-- you know, we need police.

And we need protection. Look, I look at some of the cities. You look at Baltimore. You look at so many different places in this country. Chicago. Certain areas of Chicago. They need strong police protection. And those police can do the job. But their jobs are being taken away from them. At the same time, you've got these other problems. And there's no question about it. They are problems. There is turmoil in our country.

CHUCK TODD: Do you understand why African Americans don't trust the police right now?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I can certainly see it when I see what's going on. But at the same time, we have to give power back to the police because we have to have law and order. Hundreds of killings are in Baltimore. Hundreds of killings are in Chicago. And New York is not doing so great in terms of that front. And so many other cities.

We have to give strength and power back to the police. And you're always going to have mistakes made. And you're always going to have bad apples. But you can't let that stop the fact that police have to regain some control of this tremendous crime wave and killing wave that's happening in this country.

That's what I'm talkin' about. Silent majority. Law and order. He is tapped directly into the racist, right wing id. He's Nixon with privilege and without the brains.

Fools for Scandal redux

by digby

There have books written about the New York Times' vendetta against Bill and Hillary Clinton but apparently nobody in Washington or New York ever read them. It's not as if it's anything new. Neither is the paper's willingness to swallow whole every story they're handed by congressional wingnuts and conservative career bureaucrats. They cannot seem to help themselves. Nonetheless, it's taken an excessively long time for the political establishment and other members of the media to admit/notice this phenomenon.

Margaret Sullivan, the paper's public editor, took another look at the latest example of journalistic malpractice:

With this most recent event as a catalyst, and reader concerns in mind, I talked to Times editors about their approach to covering Candidate Clinton. One top-ranking editor, Matt Purdy, agreed that she gets a great deal of scrutiny, but for good reason: “We are dealing with a situation unique in American history: A leading candidate for president is not just a former senator and secretary of state, but she’s also the wife of a former president and the two of them, along with their daughter, have a large global philanthropy.” There’s a lot to explore, he said, and The Times owes it to its readers to do so.

Since 2013, a Times reporter has been assigned to cover the Clintons as a full-time beat. Other candidates were spared that particular blessing, and at times the whole thing has seemed excessive. For Mrs. Clinton, it has meant that her every move is tracked, often to a fault. Separately, readers objected last April to the way The Times, touting an “exclusive agreement” with the author, reported on aspects of a highly critical book, “Clinton Cash.” And some observers make the case that there’s no substance to the story line about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email system as secretary of state. (I disagree; it is both a significant and telling story.)

Mr. Purdy and the executive editor, Dean Baquet, insist that this scrutiny is necessary and that it is being done fairly. Because Mrs. Clinton stirs such strong emotions, they say, there are bound to be unending complaints from both her supporters and detractors.

But I agree with this sentiment from a reader, Evan Hannay, who is troubled by some of the Clinton coverage: “Hillary deserves tough questions when they are warranted. But it is undeniable that she is already facing significantly tougher coverage than any other potential candidate.” He thinks The Times should make “a promise to readers going forward that Hillary is not going to be treated unfairly as she so often is by the media.”

Last Thursday, I handed Mr. Baquet a printed copy of Mr. Hannay’s email and asked him to address it.

To that end, he told me that he has urged reporters and editors to focus anew on issues stories. And he pledged fairness.

He went on to point out that back in 2012 they did a big story that laid out the facts about Benghazi (which also happened to exonerate Clinton) so it's not as if they have totally abdicated their duty. So that's good. I'm glad they were able to find it in themselves to actually provide true information to their readers. They seem quite proud. Let's hope they are able to continue.

I haven't hear that they plan to stop running whatever lies Trey Gowdy's phony committee feeds them so I wouldn't hold my breath.

The primary revolution

by digby

Go read this piece by Rick Perlstein about how the political press is covering the presidential contest completely bass-ackwards. They don't seem to recognize that something very, very revolutionary is happening with Big Money just blatantly taking over the process. If anything they've become quietly complicit:

To see how consequential the handing over of this kind of power to nonentities like these is, consider the candidates’ liabilities with another constituency once considered relevant in presidential campaigns: voters. Chris Christie’s home state approval rating, alongside his opening of a nearly billion-dollar hole in New Jersey’s budget, is 35 percent. While Christie has only flirted with federal law enforcement, Rick Perry has been indicted. Scott Walker’s approval rating among the people who know him best (besides David Koch) is 41 percent, and only 40 percent of Wisconsinites believe the state is heading in the right direction. Bobby Jindal’s latest approval rating in the Pelican State is 27 percent. Senator Lindsey Graham announced his presidency by all but promising he’d take the country to war; Jeb Bush by telling Americans they need to work more. Rick Santorum not so long ago made political history: he lost his Senate seat by 19 points, an unprecedented feat for a two-term incumbent.

That political facts this blunt are no longer disqualifying for presidential candidates is a sort of revolution. If the winnowing of front-runners from also-rans has traditionally been a financial process (when the money dries up, so do the campaigns) Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas and Macau began tearing up that paradigm in 2012 by shoveling money to Newt Gingrich; $20 million total, including $5 million dispensed on March 23, three days after Gingrich won 8 percent in Illinois’s primary to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent, keeping Gingrich officially in the race more than a week after the RNC declared Romney the presumptive nominee.

Now, four previously unheard of super-PACS supporting Ted Cruz, who has no support among the GOP’s “establishment,” raised $31 million “with virtually no warning over the course of several days beginning Monday.” The New York Times reported this shortly after reporting that “[t]he leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reigning in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending.”

The Koch Brothers, you can learn if you take a deep enough dive into the relatively obscure precincts of campaign coverage, are battling to take over a major functions of the Republicans National Committee.

And all this, admittedly, gets reported, in bits and pieces. But all this noise doesn’t amount to an ongoing story by which citizens can understand what is actually going on. Not just concerning who might be our next president, but what it all means for the republic. And not just concerning the candidates, but the behind-the-scenes string-pullers whose names, really, should be almost as familiar to us as Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, and, God forbid, Dr. Carson.

Instead, we get the same old hackneyed horse race—like, did you know that Rick Santorum is in trouble? Only one voter showed up at his June 8 event in Hamlin, Iowa. The Des Moines Register reported that. Politico made sure that tout Washington knew it. Though neither mentioned that Santorum is still doing just fine with the one voter the matters: Foster Friess, the Wyoming financier who gave his super-PAC $6.7 million in 2012, and promises something similar this year. “He has the best chance of winning,” Friess said. “I can’t imagine why anybody would not vote for him.’’ Which, considering only 2 percent of New Hampshirites and Iowans agree with him, is kind of crazy. And you’d think having people like that picking the people who govern us would all be rather newsworthy.

I've been writing about this too for a long time. The fact that the press is just now reckoning with the fact that the right wing is extreme tells us how long it takes for them to see political reality. By they time they figure this out, it could very well be too late. After all, it was their embrace of the right over many years that brought us Citizens' United in the first place.

Kindergarten teachers deserve to be beaten

by digby

This is what the Republicans define as "presidential" these days.  They hate foreigners and hippies and uppity black people, of course. But that's not all:

Jake Tapper: “At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?"

Chris Christie: "The National Teachers Union"

At least he didn't compare them to ISIS as Scott Walker did.

Update: And then there's this ...

KARL: Would President Trump authorize waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques, even torture?

TRUMP: I would be inclined to be very strong. When people are chopping off other people's heads and then we're worried about waterboarding and we can't, because I have no doubt that that works. I have absolutely no doubt.

KARL: You'd bring back waterboarding?

TRUMP: ...you mention waterboarding, which was such a big subject. I haven't heard that term in a year now, because when you see the other side chopping off heads, waterboarding doesn't sound very severe.

This is what we have on offer from the right these days. I hope liberals don't get too smug about this. Wingnut insanity is being normalized. That is not a good thing.

Your betters get together to save the little people from themselves

by digby

The Koch pageant is in full effect:
Koch, speaking on a low stage in front of an elaborately manicured lawn at the St. Regis Monarch Beach luxury resort, warned about 450 assembled donors and a slew of Republican elected officials – including Sens. Cory Gardner, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse and Dan Sullivan – of a “life or death struggle for our country.”

“One of the things I ask you to think about over this weekend is will you stand together with us to help save our country. It can’t be done without you and many, many others,” said Koch, who seldom speaks in the presence of reporters.
This address was to a group of multi- millionaires and billionaires who have come together to decide on which of the candidates to spend the almost 1 billion the Kochs plan to raise to buy themselves the presidency--- er...."save our country."


Clinton's tax release: No whining

by Tom Sullivan

Tax records released this week show that since leaving the White House the Clintons have done pretty well for themselves. Jonathan Allen explains at Vox, comparing Hillary's finances to Jeb!'s:

Friday's disclosures make clear that Clinton has made a lot more money than Bush. She's paid $57.5 million in taxes since 2007, well more than the $38 million Bush made between 1981 and 2013. In 2013, the most lucrative year for which he has provided information, Bush made $7.36 million. That year, the Clintons pulled in $27.47 million.

They also earned $28.3 million in 2014, paying an effective tax rate that year of 45.8 percent in federal, state and local taxes — partly due to the tax joys of living in New York. Their biggest source of income in recent years has been paid speeches, a fact reinforced by Friday's first-time disclosure of $22.3 million in earnings from lecture-circuit stops in 2013.

For his part, Jeb! has been paying "roughly 36 percent" in a state with no income tax, and to my recollection has not been gauche enough to whine about it, or else he just learned from his father's "read my lips" #fail. Jeb! has in fact refused to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge.

Republicans will no doubt mine Hillary Clinton's tax records for anything they can make seem suspicious, or fuss over what they claim is missing in her email releases. But what's really missing is the whining over what she pays. Clinton wants people in her tier to pay more. She wants to close the carried interest loophole and push for implementing "the Buffett Rule, which makes sure millionaires don’t pay lower rates than their secretaries." Those making over $1 million per year would pay at least 30 percent of their incomes in tax. Plus, in her attack on "quarterly capitalism," Clinton wants to change how capital gains are taxed. Vox continues:

"We hear very different principles from the Republican candidates running for president. They want to give me another tax cut I don’t need instead of putting middle class families first," Clinton said in a statement accompanying her release. "Families like mine that reap rewards from our economy have a responsibility to pay our fair share."

None of what Clinton wants to do with the tax code is particularly radical. But Republicans, most of whom have signed a pledge to never raise new taxes, have given her a lot of room to contrast with them.

If she does, Clinton will have to do it in a more accessible way than she has so far if she expects Average Joe to stop genuflecting before the grousing rich. Unlike Clinton, the 1% always have some mighty fine whine about what they pay in taxes. No tax rate short of Somalia’s will stop them from whining about it. They won’t be satisfied until We the People are paying them for making a profit.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

Death by Cocoa Puff: That Sugar Film ***

By Dennis Hartley

Coconut fudge really blows down those blues. On the downside, it also leads to metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, a fatty liver, and type II diabetes. Well, the coconut fudge itself is not The Devil, per se, but rather a toothsome delivery system for the actual culprit. And ye may not recognize him; for his name is legion, and they are many: Agave nectar, barley malt syrup, cane juice crystals, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, lactose, molasses, sorghum or (my favorite) treacle. Yes, the correct answer is: “Sugar”.

So, if you don’t want to die from metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, a fatty liver, or type II diabetes, the answer is obvious, right? As Marlene Dietrich wryly advises the corpulent Orson Welles in Touch of Evil: “You should lay off those candy bars.” While a good place to start, that’s not necessarily The Answer. That is, if you believe everything that Damon Gameau has to say in his documentary, That Sugar Film.

As Morgan Spurlock did for his 2004 fast food expose, Super Size Me, Gameau donates his (living) body to science, in the interest of public health. Also like his predecessor, Gameau is a (usually) health-conscious individual who sets out to attempt what some might consider an act of nutritional suicide, and to document his experiment for posterity.

Spoiler alert…he lives to tell his tale (but you knew that). Whereas Spurlock scarfed (and barfed) nothing but McDonald’s fare for a month, Gameau super-sizes his study, ingesting the equivalency of 40 teaspoons of sugar daily for two months. While that seems excessive (and undoubtedly is, from a health perspective), Gameau was simply only replicating the daily teenage average consumption of sugar in his native Australia.

The twist is that Gameau did lay off those candy bars. And cookies, and cake, and ice cream. So how did he get all that sugar in his system? He ate healthy…as in “healthy” foods like low-fat yogurt, granola, and Jamba Juice smoothies (he conducted part of his experiment grazing in the U.S.). These are foods laden with “hidden” sugars that many of us (much less teenagers) shovel down our gullets daily. That’s a scary enough thought to process, but by the time Gameau shares that 80% of our processed foods contain sugar, it’s downright depressing (I immediately consoled myself with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s).

The effects of these 60 days of sugary self-abuse on Gameau’s overall health prove similar to Spurlock’s physiological (and psychological) deterioration following his fast food diet: weight gain, an alarming proliferation of fatty tissue in his liver, lethargy, mood swings, and pre-diabetic symptoms (all confirmed by attendant doctors and psychologists). Perhaps the most startling revelation is that Gameau’s daily caloric intake remained nearly identical to his pre-experiment numbers; the difference being that his normal diet consists of healthy fats and proteins (it’s those empty calories that kill you!).

But is any of this really news to anybody? After all, everyone from concerned nutritionists to tyrannical Socialist first ladies have been touting the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, nuts, veggies and lean protein to the ‘murcan public for some time now. Yet diabetes remains at epidemic levels, and heart disease is still America’s #1 killer. So I suppose most of us must have our heads too firmly implanted in the stuffed-crust pizza.

And know that I am just as guilty as the next rube. I know ice cream is “bad” for me…but it tastes so fucking good! I know I shouldn’t eat sugary cold cereal for breakfast every morning…but I’m too goddam lazy to cook. But that’s a “PP” (personal problem), so what about society at large? The problem, Gameau posits, may go deeper than behavioral issues of self-control, or kicking sugar addiction. He digs into sociopolitical factors, including a parallel study between sugar-related health crises in two economically depressed backwaters; an Aboriginal settlement in Australia and a town in Appalachia.

And then there’s the other “P” word. Profits. The sugar industry (for obvious reasons) has a keen interest in keeping consumers hooked on the sweet stuff, and Gameau delves into some of the more insidious manipulations they routinely engage in, from buying off scientists to pass off puff pieces as “official studies” to the (inevitable) lobbying tactics.

While visually “busy” and distractingly frenetic at times (the film is edited and color-timed like a Katy Perry video) I think the substantive message will be absorbed by viewers. It’s possible that Gameau infused his film with broad theatricality (e.g. hammy cameos by Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry) to soften the blow. I mean, who really wants to be told they’re digging their grave with an ice cream scoop, or that jolly old Captain Crunch is in reality the Antichrist, in a tri-corner hat? Hey, I know…who wants Trident?

(In limited release and available on VOD).

-Dennis Hartley

Ugly Americans

by digby

It's impossible to catalog all the reasons the world might hate Americans, but for my money, this should be at the top of the list:

American tourists -- wealthy ones, given the high costs involved -- account for the majority of lions killed for sport in Africa. A 2011 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that between 1999 and 2008, Americans brought home lion "trophies" -- heads, pelts and whatnot -- representing 64 percent of all African lions killed for sport during that period. And that number is rising: "Of these trophies, the number imported into the U.S. in 2008 was larger than any other year in the decade studied and more than twice the number in 1999," the report found.

We worship guns and we worship violence and we worship killing. And we insist on taking our blood sacrifice rituals all over the world.

The rich aristocrats are also members of the extremist right

by digby

Here are some very sobering numbers:
Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.

The vast majority of the $388 million backing presidential candidates this year is being channeled to groups that can accept unlimited contributions in support of candidates from almost any source. The speed with which such “super PACs” can raise money — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build enormous campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor.

A New York Times analysis of Federal Election Commission reports and Internal Revenue Service records shows that the fund-raising arms race has made most of the presidential hopefuls deeply dependent on a small pool of the richest Americans. The concentration of donors is greatest on the Republican side, according to the Times analysis, where consultants and lawyers have pushed more aggressively to exploit the looser fund-raising rules that have fueled the rise of super PACs. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.

130 families out of more than 300 million people are financing the GOP campaigns so far.

I've been wondering why in the hell that nutball Ted Cruz was invited to the Koch-fest this week-end and I guess we now know the reason --- very, very wealthy people love this nutball:

I urge you to go and look at all the graphics of the donations. It's frightening. These hugely wealthy people are giving gigantic sums to Republican candidates. And not just any Republican candidates, true freakshow candidates like Ted Cruz.

We don't know how all this money is going to eventually affect races. It's possible that it reaches a saturation point and simply ends up turning a bunch of consultants into multi-millionaires. Maybe it's just their version of economic stimulus.

But if it does have a substantial effect, it seems to me quite dangerous that these extremely wealthy aristocrats are willing to write such big checks to these far right weirdos. They are no different than the big money guy who's actually running: Donald Trump. It shows they are extremists --- extremists who have been given even more power to do something crazy than they've ever had before.

When we talk about the far right base of the Republican party, it includes all these billionaires. They aren't "grown-ups".  That should make us all very nervous.

Trump makes headway among the elites

by digby

Great. Now David Frum is on the anti-immigrant bandwagon making Trump's illogical, idiotic argument about immigrant criminals. Because, you know, if it weren't for all those immigrants ... we'd still be awash in homegrown violence the likes of which one only exists in countries like Somalia. This is facile, xenophobic,nonsense. And it's the most degrading, dehumanizing, dare I say fascist, argument against foreigners there is. It has a very long and notorious pedigree.

By the way, Frum is an immigrant.  And Billmon makes an excellent point:

There are crimes and then there are crimes. Considering that Frum is the author of the "axis o' evil" speech (not to mention this crime against intellectual integrity) Maybe he should be a little bit more circumspect.

Freeway propaganda

by digby

Across the country, motorists can purchase specialty license plates to show their support for state-approved groups or institutions, such as public universities, firefighters, veterans, and … anti-abortion activists? Twenty-nine states offer anti-abortion “Choose Life” license plates. Among them, 15 states explicitly route the proceeds to anti-abortion organizations or crisis pregnancy centers, nonprofits that advise pregnant women against abortion. CPCs have been caught lying about the physical and mental health risks of abortions, and many of them are affiliated with religious organizations.
You have to wonder why it never occurs to all these "pro-lifers" who are surrounded by so many liars, hoaxters and cheats that they might be the real marks.



Fight or flight?

by Tom Sullivan

Eric Garner: selling loose cigarettes
John Crawford: shopping at Walmart
Tamir Rice: playing in a park
Walter Scott: burned out brake light
Freddie Gray: running from police
Sandra Bland: failure to signal lane change
Sam Dubose: not displaying a front license tag

The first three were on foot. Police stopped Freddie Gray for running when he saw them. Police stopped the other three for minor traffic violations. All African American and all dead after the encounters.

In 45 years of driving while white, I recall being pulled over for something as trivial as failure to signal a lane change exactly once. How many times had Sandra Bland at age 28 been stopped for minor offenses before being dragged from her car on July 10, 2015?

In the case of Sam Dubose, a grand jury this week indicted Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing for murder over the July 19 shooting. The (ironically named) Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters called the shooting "the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.”

Watching the body-cam video, it seems that Dubose wanted to get away when the white officer asked him to step out of the car. Imagine that.

Imagine you are an African American stopped for a traffic violation as trivial as a missing front license plate and, based on recent events, consider the possibility that in moments you might die. What does raw instinct demand? Fight or flight?

Except choosing either (as if instinct is a choice) is proof for the warrior cop of something much more threatening than an expired tag. Fleeing imminent death becomes proof of malice, the way drowning once proved an accused witch innocent.

According to Deters, Sam Dubose died over "chicken crap stuff" and Tensing "never should have been a police officer." One wonders how many others fall into that category.

Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP Rowdy Roddy Piper. His film, "They Live" was a Documentary 

by  Spocko

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, WWE legend, dead at 61
    - CBCNews Saskatchewan 

One of my favorite films in the 80's was "They Live." Not just because of the science fiction aspect of it, but because of the biting satire.

On the surface it's a standard "Aliens take over Earth" story, but underneath that it showed how some in the media and government really see Americans and what they want us to do.

When our heroes put on special glasses they could see the messages that were embedded in our media, all in black and white. (Video link)

Frank: What do these things want?
Gilbert: They're free-enterprisers. The earth is just another developing planet. Their third world.

The main character, Piper, comes to town looking for work. He is directed to a camp of other men and women looking for work. His interview:

Female Interviewer: Last place of employment?
Nada: Denver, Colorado. I worked there for ten years and things just seemed to dry up. They lost fourteen banks in one week. So, well...
Female Interviewer: There's nothing available for you right now.

This movie came out in 1988, at the end of the Reagan years. Homelessness and yuppies existed side by side. It was an awkward juxtaposition for people with empathy.

During that time many people figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Even if it meant having no empathy for others. Look out for number One, especially if he looks like you!  Get that BMW and Rolex! If people have a problem getting work it was their fault, not the power structure or the system.

What kind of people would act this way? Certainly not good Christians given what that guy Jesus said in the parables in the New Testament. It was hard to believe that decent humans could act this way. Therefore they must not be themselves. So that is what the filmmakers did, made greedy, selfish people into actual ugly aliens.

Yes it's a simplistic metaphor, but the movie creator then went beyond it to include humans who weren't aliens, but who believed in the alien "values."  Let's call them "aspirational aliens." 

Drifter: What's wrong with having it good for a change? Now they're gonna let us have it good if we just help 'em. They're gonna leave us alone, let us make some money. You can have a little taste of that good life too. Now, I know you want it. Hell, everybody does.
Frank: You'd do it to your own kind.
Drifter: What's the threat? We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team.

Join the winning team! Why associate with the poor, even if they are like you. Don't be a loser!  Outsource the jobs at your company and you get a cut of the profits. Get that juicy government contract, then bitch about welfare for, "those people." Winner!

Frank: The steel mills were laying people off left and right. They finally went under. We gave the steel companies a break when they needed it. You know what they gave themselves? Raises.

One of the themes of the movie was how the aliens in the media helped the aliens in the government. The media amplified the messages of consuming goods and obeying authority. Meanwhile, the aliens literally sent our wealth away from Earth. 

Some of the people who Piper wanted to join him in the struggle against the aliens had to be forced to see the truth. (This involved a classic alley fight scene with Piper and Keith David video link

When Keith David finally sees what is happening, the scope of the alien's power and control is stunning.  

Together they do the best they can to fight the aliens and their human collaborators. They become hunted criminals in the process.  Who can they turn to for help? Who are their allies? Not the media, they had profits to make.

The media attacked the people handing out the glasses that let everyone see the truth for themselves. It's easier to write the truth tellers off as nuts. Fortunately, some in the media were still human, and helped.

The heroes' crime was trying to open people's eyes to what was hiding behind media and government fronts.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you heard a story like this lately?

Today the actor Rowdy Roddy Piper is dead, but "they" live.

We have always had greedy humans selling out fellow humans for profit, demanding everyone submit to their authority and obey, no questions asked. But we need to keep fighting them in our life and within our fiction.

Let's listen to Piper give the inspiring words of screenplay author John Carpenter 

It's 2015 America, and I'm all out of bubblegum.


You're welcome

by digby

A great man and some puppies:

Now that is the best thing you've seen all week, guaranteed.

Challenging his "right to rise"

by digby

So Clinton said something critical about Jeb!'s "super-PAC" today and the New York Times thinks she's a real battle-ax: "stomping", "biting" and using his big Super PAC as a "verbal spear":

In a biting pre-emptive attack delivered as Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, waited backstage here at the annual convention of the National Urban League, Mrs. Clinton portrayed him as a hypocrite who had set back the cause of black Americans.

Mrs. Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, latched onto Mr. Bush’s campaign slogan and the name of his “super PAC” — “Right to Rise,” his shorthand for a conservative agenda of self-reliance and hope — and turned it into a verbal spear.

“People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care,” Mrs. Clinton said to applause from conventiongoers, a dig at Mr. Bush’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

“They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on,” she said, a jab at his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage.

“They can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education,” she said, a critique of Mr. Bush’s decision as governor to eliminate affirmative action in college admissions.

When Mr. Bush reached the lectern, declaring, “I believe in the right to rise in this country,” the scent of political gunpowder was still in the air.

It was an unexpected moment of campaign theater that seemed to presage Mrs. Clinton’s general-election strategy should she prevail in her party’s primary contest: an elbows-out, cutting approach to her Republican rival. And it was all the more striking because the Bush and Clinton families make a point of highlighting their friendly ties: Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appear on this week’s cover of Time magazine.

Aides to Mr. Bush could barely hide their disgust over Mrs. Clinton’s speech, which they spoke of, bitterly, as uncivil and uncalled-for.

On Twitter, Tim Miller, Mr. Bush’s communications director, called it a “Clintonesque move to pass over chance to unite in favor of a false cheap shot.”

Allie Brandenburger, another spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, followed up with an email saying, “The Urban League deserved better.”


It's just so darned mean of her to criticize Jeb's wonderful "conservative agenda of self-reliance and hope" like that. Why you'd think she was running against him for president or something! It's just not nice at all.  And I'll bet her husband felt like a real heel seeing her treat his good buddy George's brother so disrespectfully.  How could she embarrass him like that in front of his friends? What a bitch.

You know, if this criticism of his agenda upset Jeb this much he's obviously too delicate for presidential politics. He might want to think about dropping out and becoming one of those Christian florists who refuse to arrange flowers for gay people.

One third of all American women are like Nazis

by digby

According to Huckabee:
GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is open to the idea of using federal troops and the FBI to stop women from having abortions.

"I will not pretend there is nothing we can do to stop this," Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and an outspoken social conservative, said Thursday at a campaign stop in Jefferson, Iowa.

Huckabee addressed abortion again at his next stop in Rockwell City, Iowa, where a reporter asked him whether stopping abortion would mean using federal troops or the FBI.

"We'll see if I get to be president," Huckabee said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

"All American citizens should be protected," he added.

The Huckabee campaign did not immediately return a request for more comment on what deploying troops or using the FBI to stop women from having abortions would look like.

Huckabee has long spoken out against abortion, and last year, he suggested that the issue was worse than the Holocaust.

"If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers?" he asked.
By their mothers. Who are obviously exactly like Waffen SS.

Hey, Scott Walker thinks kindergarten teachers are like ISIS so is this really that different?

Update: Erick Erickson believes that before we bring out the troops to stand guard between every pregnant woman's legs, we can certainly try something less drastic:


Week-end auditions for the center ring

by digby

[T]he Kochs are not going to officially anoint their choice but their big checks, and those of their billionaire buds, are being closely watched for signs of who the “smart money” is betting on to come out on top. The current frontrunner Donald Trump was not invited, and according to this article is being actively blocked by the Koch network. Obviously, they think the eventual winner will be one of those four candidates (plus Carly Fiorina, for some reason.) Think about that for a moment. There are some extremely rich Republicans out there who think that Ted Cruz has what it takes to be president.
That in mind, let’s take a look at Cruz’s latest, shall we? In a blatant attempt to make Trump and Huckabee look like loser moderates, the Texas bomb thrower said the following earlier this week about the Iran nuclear non-proliferation agreement:
“If this deal is consummated, it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism. Billions of dollars under control of this administration will flow into the hands of jihadists who will use that money to murder Americans, to murder Israelis, to murder Europeans.”
If that isn’t an illustration of just how hard it is for this crop of GOP hopefuls to out-demagogue one another, I don’t know what is. Chamberlain to Hitler to radical Islamic extremist. There’s nothing left for Lindsey Graham to fulminate about except Satan.
One big money guy did call Cruz on the carpet for his hyperbole:

But the show must go on, and what kind of Big Top circus would it be without a first class ringmaster? With all the major conservative stars from every medium to choose from — from Megyn Kelly to Sean Hannity to Rich Lowry to Eric Erickson — it appears that the Kochs have gone in a different direction for their weekend soiree:
Politico’s chief White House correspondent Mike Allen has been booked to emcee part of an event set up by a group funded by the Koch brothers designed to connect Republican presidential candidates with wealthy donors, according to Politico.
Keep in mind that this is not a presidential debate for the public. It isn’t an issues forum or a town hall for voters and constituents. This is a meeting for big Republican donors to decide which candidate to give gigantic, unlimited campaign contributions thus putting their thumbs on the scale of democracy. And a highly respected establishment journalist is helping them do it. 

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