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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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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.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

And they wonder why people are afraid

by digby

They aren't afraid of ISIS or Ebola.  They're afraid because these are the people at the head of the two major political parties in America:

Good God ...

QOTD: Dianne Feinstein

by digby

"My view of ISIS is, I think people do not see the evil and the vicious side of it"
That's so true. We only see the good side of ISIS. Their fashion sense is impeccable, for instance. Seriously, what in the world is she talking about?

And then, to drive home the point she added this:
I don't see -- think they see the beheadings of children --
Candy Crowley pointed out that they do see beheadings of journalists. But no, the beheadings of children haven't been shown on TV as yet. I honestly don't think we would need to see them, however, to know that ISIS is very terrible indeed.

I wondered where the head of the Intelligence Committee might be getting information about child beheading. Interestingly, Snopes was on this and discussed a recent email chain letter to that effect:

Claims that ISIS beheaded children have circulated separately from the Sean Malone forward, but are often appended with a graphic and inaccurate image. That picture, depicting a young, decapitated female child, was taken in Syria in 2013. [It's unknown how that happened...]

Several concerned users took to the Facebook page of Crisis Response International to ask about the Sean Malone forward, and the person or persons who manage the CRI page have been fielding queries about whether the original message was possibly misconstrued or sent in haste. On 17 September 2014, CRI said:
That email was an urgent prayer alert sent to close friends over a month ago that somehow got leaked out. The reports of beheadings were what we were hearing from local pastors and other sources. The information was never meant to be blasted out publicly but for prayer as ISIS closed in our teams.

... We know of 5 children that were beheaded and this is from a city official on the ground.
An update later the same evening read:
Again this text was sent to a handful of people and was leaked. These were the reports that we were getting at that time and are now being confirmed. It wasn't intended for public information but perhaps it was by divine intervention. In our opinion one child beheaded is an all out outrage. We have other reports as well that we are in the process of confirming. We have done our best to post info on this page on our website and in emails about this issue.
The undated message about systemic beheadings of children in Queragosh lends itself to eternal forwarding, but as many have pointed out, much of the information is secondhand. There is little doubt Christians are being displaced and even persecuted in cities including Queragosh, but no reports of any incidents matching the claim of "systematic" beheadings have been confirmed.
They had an earlier piece in August about this and came away with an "undetermined". And lord knows, as nice as Feinstein thinks we all assume ISIS is, I don't think anyone would be surprised at any atrocities they might have committed. It's just a little odd for a Senator to drop that into the conversation and then let it go. It's not as if what we know about ISIS isn't bad enough for us all to recognize how evil they are. Why do these politicians insist on making it even more lurid than it is?

Anyway, the conversation deteriorated from there. Get a load of this gobbledygook:

CROWLEY: They're online beheading journalists and others, right?

FEINSTEIN: I saw this, but essentially, I mean, for anyone that has any kind of value of a just system, ISIS doesn't make that case.

ISIS is essentially a fighting force of 30,000 to 50,000 people, sophisticated with commanders, with some heavy weapons, and they are on a march now, and they are going to slay everything in their way.

CROWLEY: In the propaganda wars it does seem that ISIS is quite sophisticated.

So let me - I do want to talk to you about that and how to fight that but I first want to ask you about these lone-wolves which basically show many of these attacks have been. And by definition, there's no known tie to a terrorist -- direct tie to a terrorist organization of any sort. They're kind of one person cells at this point.

What is the defense against that, Senator?

FEINSTEIN: Well, the only defense is intelligence and that is that you have to ferret it out. You have to be able to watch it and you have to be able to disrupt them. Now, this is hard to do because it takes technical means and Americans don't necessarily like technical means.

CROWLEY: Right or spying is the definition of technical means.

FEINSTEIN: Yes. Well, that's right. And this in the United States, this falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI, not the CIA, and I've been briefed by Director Comey. And I believe the FBI is making every effort to stay on top of this lone-wolf phenomenon. I think the White House is cognizant of it and is working very hard to see that we have the ability to be able to find them and stop them.

CROWLEY: In the Muslim community, the peaceful Muslim community they would tell you in the U.S. that they feel some of the outreach that's being done by the feds, by the homeland - by the Homeland Security Department and others feels like what the U.S. really wants is for the Muslim community to become their spies within their community in the U.S. and that is off-putting when they do feel targeted obviously because of their religion.

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me --

CROWLEY: How do you bridge that?

FEINSTEIN: Let me say this. The Muslim community is a part of America, and as such, it has all of the protections of any community in America.

And one of America's goals has been to integrate an immigrant community into our society and see that they have opportunity, that they're able to be productive, that they're able to live without any kind of harassment. And there are very few countries in the world that actually do that, United States does it.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, because I know that you lost two deputy sheriffs in Sacramento...


CROWLEY: ...over the weekend.

But we've also seen, and that does not seem, that seems like to be street crime as opposed to anything that's related to terrorism, but do you feel, looking at what we've seen on the internet, some of the appeals from ISIS, that folks in police uniforms, that folks in soldiers' uniforms, whether they're in Canada or the U.S. are now under an even bigger threat than their jobs would lead to you believe?

FEINSTEIN: I believe that to be true. I believe word has gone out into these communities that a strike target would be somebody in uniform, whether it is police or whether it's military. And I think you're correct in that assessment.

CROWLEY: And what's to be done about that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, what's to be done about it is, I think the police and military have to be on guard. I think this is very difficult. I think halls of government have to be on guard the way the parliament in Canada was penetrated.

In Canada, you had an armed sergeant-at-arms who took action and killed the perpetrator and I think we need to think in some new ways. I don't particularly want to discuss it on television, but one thing's for sure, we are going to protect our institutions of government.
Except, except ... an armed man just penetrated the White House the other day and he wasn't a jihadist. Is she saying we need to let the government spy on all of us to stop any kind of threat there might be?
She claims you have to "ferret out" all these lone wolves by letting loose all of our technological abilities (aka spying) because ... why? If it isn't part of a larger plan that threatens us existentially then why is it necessary to give up our constitutional rights for that any more than it's necessary to give up our rights to stop "lone wolves" from shooting up schools? Or is she saying that we do have to accede to ever more government spying in general?

I suppose she does have a point although it's clear she had no idea she was making it. Why should the shooting of a soldier in Canada by some mentally ill lone nut who glommed onto jihad as his delusion be considered an act of war requiring us to let the government do "whatever it takes" to stop it, while we insist on keeping the constitution intact when dealing with any other killing by a mentally ill lone nut whose delusions run to something else?  A lone nut with a gun is a lone nut with a gun no matter what his motives and just because he aims his weapon at a uniform doesn't change that.

Are we prepared to let the government spy on all of us so that they can stop killing before it happens? Senator Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, seems to think we should be.

*And no, I don't know why Crowley thought it made sense to talk about police shootings and the Canadian parliament shooting as the same thing because soldiers and cops both wear uniforms.  WTH???

Who says bipartisanship is dead? Why the White House may be hoping for a GOP victory.

by digby

This story by Dan Froomkin leads one to all kinds of ugly thoughts. It's about the White House slow-walking the Torture Report until after a new congress in installed in January. It appears they are hoping the Republicans will be in charge:

Human-rights lawyer Scott Horton, who interviewed a wide range of intelligence and administration officials for his upcoming book, “Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy,” told The Intercept that the White House and the CIA are hoping a Republican Senate will, in their words, “put an end to this nonsense.”

Stalling for time until after the midterm elections and the start of a Republican-majority session is the “battle plan,” Horton said. “I can tell you that Brennan has told people in the CIA that that’s his prescription for doing it.”

Republicans are widely expected to win control of the Senate Nov. 4.

Victoria Bassetti, a former Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, wrote this week that the administration is playing “stall ball” and that Senate staffers expect Republicans would “spike release of the report” should they take over the chamber.

Asked if the White House is slow-walking the negotiations on purpose, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan replied:

The President has been clear that he wants this process completed as expeditiously as possible and he’s also been clear that it must be done consistent with our national security. The redactions to date were the result of an extensive and unprecedented interagency process, headed up by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to protect sensitive classified information. We are continuing a constructive dialogue with the Committee.

She notably did not rule out the possibility that negotiations will extend beyond the 113th Congress.

The report, which Senate Democratic staffers worked on for five years, is over 6,000 pages long and is said to disclose new details about both the CIA’s brutal and systemic abuse of detainees and the pattern of deceit CIA officials used to hide what they had done.
They will spike it. The Republicans on the committee have already refused to endorse it and want it suppressed. And apparently, so does the White House.

This is torture we're talking about.

"They yearned to believe" 

by digby

Thomas Frank has written another in his series of controversial essays for Salon today in which he compares President Obama with President Carter. (Oh boy ...) It did remind me of my only Republican vote for Jerry Ford in 1976. (I was very young and really didn't like what I saw as a moralizing, conservative preacher type in Carter and settled for the boring functionary with the cool wife and kids.)

Anyway, Frank's piece delves into Perlstein's Invisible Bridge, James Fallows' The Passionless Presidency and comes up with some very interesting parallels between the assumptions of then and now:
Idealists of all kinds saw what they wanted to see in Jimmy Carter in 1976. Just as Barack Obama is, famously, a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views,” so presidential candidate Jimmy Carter tried to be “all things to all people,” Perlstein writes. Carter denounced elites in a memorable way in his speech to the Democratic convention that year, but when asked where he stood on the political spectrum, according to an article Perlstein quotes from The New York Times, Carter would say things like, “I don’t like to categorize, I don’t see myself as liberal or conservative or the like”—then proceed to suggest that he was a little of both.

Nevertheless, liberals in 1976 steadfastly maintained that Carter was one of them—to the utter exasperation of the journalists who had studied Carter’s statements and positions over the years. The man from Plains, Georgia, was no progressive, the journalists argued. But in those days, nothing was capable of shaking the faith of his disciples.

That faith was something to behold. “They yearned to believe,” Perlstein writes of Carter’s fans. Among the smitten were hardened journalists like James Wolcott and Hunter S. Thompson (!) as well as the leaders of some of the big labor unions, in those days the bulwark of American liberalism.

Once the election was over, the pundits of the day amused themselves—just as they do today—by speculating that the GOP was permanently done for. Today, it’s demographic change that is supposed to be slowly crushing the right; back then there were similar theories. In 1977, a columnist for the Boston Globe added up all the constituencies that the GOP had alienated over the course of the decade and wrote that the “Grand Old Party has begun to face the unpleasant fact that it risks becoming a permanent opposition dwarfed by a much larger ruling party.” Another notion, which Perlstein describes, was the widespread belief that the rise of the Now Generation would drag the whole spectrum of opinion leftward—just like millennials are expected to do today.

As president, of course, Carter wasn’t much of a liberal at all. Although economic conditions were not good when he took over, the stimulus he proposed was far too small because, like another Democrat who comes to mind, Carter was always drawn to fiscal responsibility and “hard choices.” “He has emphasized balancing the budget as if it were more important than reducing unemployment,” wrote the columnist Joseph Kraft in 1977.

That technocratic ascetism is what bugged me about both presidential candidates and I suppose, if I'm honest, the way that people projected idealism I didn't see onto them bugged me just as much. (Obama was a genuine historical breakthrough, however, which I always appreciated and which made me feel the emotion of the moment in ways that Carter never did.) And as a card carrying member of the Now Generation, I certainly recall the assumption that this huge demographic bulge was destined to make America more liberal for the next 50 years simply because of our very existence. (And then came the 80s ...)

Frank's point is that liberals are always fooling themselves into the belief that we need "intellectual idealism that (we are told) is unmoored from ideology. We persuade ourselves that the answer to the savagery of the right—the way to trump the naked class aggression of the One Percent—is to say farewell to our own tradition and get past politics and ideology altogether. And so we focus on the person of the well-meaning, hyper-intelligent leader." And I get that. Who doesn't want a well-meaning, hyper-intelligent leader?

But this is where that hostility to ideology leads:
The final ironic lesson of the Carter presidency should be a cautionary tale for any centrist Democrat who dreams of striking a “grand bargain” with the right: No matter what conservative deeds Democrats undertake, as Rick Perlstein told me in conversation a few days ago, they will never win respect for it. It was Jimmy Carter, not the Republicans, who enacted the sweeping deregulation of transportation. It was Carter, not Reagan, who recommitted America to the Cold War and who slapped a grain embargo on the Soviet Union after that country invaded Afghanistan. (Reagan is the guy who lifted it.) And yet, in the mind of the public, Carter will stand forever as a symbol of liberalism’s fecklessness.
Perhaps Obama will escape that fate. In the short run anyway, Bill Clinton seems to have done so, so perhaps it's possible. And it's also possible that some enterprising progressive will take the bull by the horns and institute an Obama Legacy Project much as Grover Norquist did with Reagan. It worked like a charm to erase the apostasy of Reagan's second term and return him to his rightful status as the avatar of modern conservatism. Obama did win twice, after all, and is likely to have set the table for at least one more Democratic term. In that regard he's more Reaganesque than Carteresque which, depending on how the myth is created, could end up being a lodestar for liberalism no matter how tangential it is to the historical reality.  The old saw is true: history is written by the winners.

Yes, we should panic. (But not in the way people want you to ...)

by digby

I'm getting older so I guess I shouldn't care so much about the future anymore. In the long run, yadda, yadda, yadda. But strangely, I do. I see little kids running around every day right here in my neighborhood and on TV halfway across the world and it breaks my heart to think that we are such a limited species that we will allow catastrophe despite the fact that we know very well how to stop it and could do it easily if we just cooperated with one another. The first half of the 20th Century was a terrible lesson in how irrational human beings are capable of being in the modern world. And sadly so much of what we're seeing today shows we haven't improved much in that area:

The conventional (smart) wisdom is that we should not panic about Ebola in the United States (or Europe). That is certainly true because, even with its huge warts, US and European health-care systems are well-equipped to handle the few cases of Ebola that might pop up.

However, we should panic. We should panic at the lack of care and concern we are showing about the epidemic where it is truly ravaging; we should panic at the lack of global foresight in not containing this epidemic, now, the only time it can be fully contained; and we should panic about what this reveals about how ineffective our global decision-making infrastructure has become. Containing Ebola is a no-brainer, and not that expensive. If we fail at this, when we know exactly what to do, how are we going to tackle the really complex problems we face?

Climate Change? Resource depletion? Other pandemics?

So, I have been panicking.

Pandemics have long been among my favorite topics to teach sociology with, not because the subject is cheery, but because they contain so many of the lessons about our modern world.

But this year, it feels like a lesson in despair, about everything that’s broken.

There are dozens of textbooks for introduction to sociology, but they all have a similar chapter order. Somehow, globalization always ends up around chapter seven, the middle of the semester, when the novelty of sociology as a topic has worn off, and the class starts to drag.

But chapter seven would always be a turning point in my class: that’s when many students would sit up and realize that this, more than anything, was their generation’s core problem.

Read the whole thing. It's eye opening. And then ponder the fact that the government of the most powerful nation on earth is dysfunctional.

What I just summarized in fewer than 2,000 words or so isn’t even basic epidemiology. It is the basics of basics of basics of epidemiology, and this is something every policy maker on the planet should understand after talking for 10 minutes to an expert of their choice in their own country.

I just watched a couple of hours of Sabbath gasbags. Let's just say there's not a lot of hope on that count. Policy makers seem to be stupider than the average person on the street when it comes to this.

And media has totally missed the mark as well:

Mass media is too busy generating the wrong panic — the infinitesimal chances of Ebola in the US now, rather than how to roll it back it in West Africa.

The UN is reduced to begging and being ignored.

There is heroic NGO work. Partners in Health — which specializes in hiring and training locals — and Doctors Without Borders — experienced at moving resources quickly and operating at challenging environments — are both phenomenal organizations — and I’m donating to both what I can this year. I don’t really believe in framing “charity” as a solution at this scale, but I believe in solidarity. However, this should not come down to whether or not a few people donate — our collective institutions should collect and organize these resources, and direct this effort. While PIH and MSF can and will do a lot, this cannot be on their shoulders alone.

So I panic and despair, about what this lack of response says about us, our institutions, our humanity.

How can we make our institutions work, for us, at a global scale? That remains the core challenge of 21st century, without which we will fail at many more tests, at great suffering.

I don't know.


h/t to Emptywheel
Our exceptional country ranks number 60 among nation for political empowerment for women

by digby

The US ranks as number 23 in the world for lowest gender gap. And what's most depressing is that we rank high when it comes to education and economic opportunity. What knocks us out of the top level is our piss poor ranking for political empowerment of women: we rank at number 60 in that category.

I don't know what it is about our culture and democracy that creates a situation where half the population is still mostly represented by the other half of the population in our political system but I have a pretty good idea. (See #gamergate if you wonder what I'm talking about.)

And no, it won't be enough to have a woman president. Just as the election of the first African American didn't solve the problem of racist attitudes in America in America, neither will the election of the first woman president solve the problem of sexist attitudes. And as with the election of President Obama I have a feeling it would lay bare some ugliness that a lot of people would like to think is no longer part of our society. But maybe that's a necessary step. Regardless of a woman becoming the top leader, the real issues is female political leadership at all levels. The fact that we rank number 60 among nations in that regard is just ... shameful.



A little Orwell in the morning

by digby

It's now become a cliche to quote Orwell (a comment on our times in itself) but sometimes you just have to do it anyway. My brother and I were talking about newspapers the other day and he reminded me of this:

Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly​ reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the r​​elationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various 'party lines'. Yet in a way, horrible as all this was, it was unimportant. It concerned secondary issues--namely, the struggle for power between the Comintern and the Spanish left-wing parties, and the efforts of the Russian Government to prevent revolution in Spain.
Watch the press this coming week about the Middle East, terrorism, government spying, Ukraine and Russia etc and see if that comment doesn't come to mind.

ht RLP

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