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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Great. Let's treat the doctors and nurses caring for Ebola patients like criminals.

by digby

This is just absurd:

(Editor’s note: Kaci Hickox, a nurse with degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington and the Johns Hopkins University, has been caring for Ebola patients while on assignment with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone. Upon her return to the U.S. on Friday, she was placed in quarantine at a New Jersey hospital. She has tested negative in a preliminary test for Ebola, but the hospital says she will remain under mandatory quarantine for 21 days and will be monitored by public health officials.)

I am a nurse who has just returned to the U.S. after working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone - an Ebola-affected country. I have been quarantined in New Jersey. This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me.

I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.
I arrived at the Newark Liberty International Airport around 1 p.m. on Friday, after a grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone. I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a “hello.”

I told him that I have traveled from Sierra Leone and he replied, a little less enthusiastically: “No problem. They are probably going to ask you a few questions.”

He put on gloves and a mask and called someone. Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.

One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal. 
Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting. 
I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.

Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.
I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.

Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.

The female officer looked smug. “You have a fever now,” she said.

I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.

I was left alone in the room for another three hours. At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.

Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong.

I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.

At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don't have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”

My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.

I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?

I recalled my last night at the Ebola management center in Sierra Leone. I was called in at midnight because a 10-year-old girl was having seizures. I coaxed crushed tablets of Tylenol and an anti-seizure medicine into her mouth as her body jolted in the bed.
It was the hardest night of my life. I watched a young girl die in a tent, away from her family.

With few resources and no treatment for Ebola, we tried to offer our patients dignity and humanity in the face of their immense suffering.
Yeah well, you should have stayed there lady because we don't want you here, amirite? We don't have time for dignity and humanity, we have an irrational panic to stoke.

What in the hell is wrong with us? They couldn't have handled that situation with a little human decency? They had to treat her like a criminal and make her sit there as if she'd done something horrible by volunteering to go to Africa to help with an epidemic? An epidemic that really will go global in a big way if trained people don't go there to try to stop it?

God we are a primitive country. We've got idiots on TV screaming about a religion of 1.6 billion people being the toxic cause of violence even as our All American, non-religious school-kids are taking the deadly weapons their parents give them as presents to shoot their schoolmates and themselves. And we have the most sophisticated city on earth acting like a bunch of authoritarian creeps toward people who are doing serious work to stop the spread of an outbreak of a deadly disease --- for PR purposes.

This is just ... depressing. Irrationality all around.

They just hate to bring up Monica --- but they have no choice

by digby

The Wall Street Journal wants you to know that they are not concerned at all about Bill Clinton's sex life. They're just worried for poor Hillary Clinton that the Monica Lewinsky scandal will remind voters of that awful time of partisan polarization back in the 1990s. Unlike today, when everyone's getting along just famously.

What this means for the the poor "Mrs Clinton" (Apparently she doesn't get to keep her titles of Secretary or Senator ...) won't be allowed to mention her new granddaughter because that will make everyone think of Bill and Monica and then she'll lose.

And anyway, we need someone who can bridge the partisan divide and that obviously can only be a Republican.

Monica Lewinsky isn’t going away.

The ex-White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton nearly sank his presidency has emerged from seclusion and is tweeting, writing and delivering speeches. On Monday, she joined Twitter (@MonicaLewinsky) and put out her first 140-character message: “#HereWeGo.” A day later she had nearly 64,000 followers.

So, there’s an audience for what Ms. Lewinsky has to say.

Is this trouble for the Clintons? Could it complicate Hillary Clinton‘s likely presidential bid?

Yes — though not for reasons you might think.

It’s doubtful Ms. Lewinsky has salacious new stories to share about her dalliance with the ex-president in the mid-1990s. The Starr report covered that ground in unsparing detail.

But there’s another consideration. Ms. Lewinsky’s reappearance is a reminder of a deeply polarizing period in American politics. And that does Mrs. Clinton no favors as she girds for a possible campaign.

Polls already suggest Mrs. Clinton isn’t a unifying figure who can bridge the partisan divide that has bedeviled President Barack Obama.
Family will be a major theme in a Clinton presidential bid. She is advancing policy ideas aimed at fortifying families who are struggling in a tough economy.

With Ms. Lewinsky back on the scene, voters are inevitably reminded of the drama and stresses in Mrs. Clinton’s own family.

In a speech she gave in Philadelphia this week, Ms. Lewinsky mentioned her affair with the 42nd president: “I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of way.”

Elections, as they say, are about the future. Mrs. Clinton has no wish to be reminded of this painful part of her past.

Getting out the vote is stealing elections

by digby

Everyone understands that all Democratic close election wins are going to be attributed to vote fraud, right? They already think anyone for whom they don't vote cannot possibly be legitimate. Now they have a ready explanation as to why:

I don't know why offering people bar-b-que and smokes should be considered voter fraud. Unless this person believes that only Democrats eat bar-b-que and smoke cigarettes. (Yes, we know who he was talking about...) Voting is voting and people vote for all kinds of reasons. It's not like they will be writing in "bar-b-que and smokes" for governor. They'll still be voting.  And plenty of them could be white people who like bar-b-que and smokes --- and Ted Nugent, amirite?

I think you can see where we're going here. Any effort for Democrats to get out the vote is, by definition, stealing the election.

Here's what they want. They want to ban absentee ballots and early voting. They want to initiate onerous registration, (in person, at the registrars office with several forms of ID and a witness statement, notarized, attesting to your eligibility.) They want you to be forced to walk or drive only yourself to the polling place, present these various forms of ID to several different people and then submit your ballot to partisan poll watchers who will determine if your signature looks kosher to them. Only then will your ballot be counted.

None of this will be applicable to elderly white people who will be allowed to vote anywhere they choose as long as they can name the evening line-up of Fox News (or stipulate they love to watch that nice Irish boy who looks just like their grandson ...)

When I was a kid I remember that the small town I lived in for a while used to have a picnic on election day. You could bring in your proof of voting and get free hot dogs and potato salad for the whole family. I guess the whole town was stealing elections in those days. Silly small town Americans ... they thought they were encouraging civic involvement and being patriotic.

This is freedom?

by digby

I'm always amazed at how narrowly people define freedom in this country. If you can carry a gun you're free. But if you have any objections to submitting to common behaviors like this just so you can put food on the table you are a whiner who just STHU. It's about the "tricks" employers use to investigate you in ways that circumvent discrimination laws (and common respect for privacy and basic human decency.) This is just one of them:
The car you drive and what's in plain view answer questions that the employer never asked you. I learned most of these car tests from a major health care IT provider. They'll look at type of car you drive and its condition. They'll compare that to your previous income. If you're driving a beat up clunker, but your resume says you were clearing six figures, something's not adding up. Sure, maybe you're frugal—but if other things are inconsistent, the car raises more questions. They might even ask you why you drive such an old car.

They'll look at the interior. Do you have fast food containers all over the place? How you keep your car tells them how keep your cubicle and could preview your work habits. If you've got an electric razor in the car, you don't take the time for proper hygiene. If you smoke, your car screams that habit. Even if you've cleaned the ashtray, that yellow film gets everywhere.

The most "evil" managers tell me they can ask your car questions companies don't ask during a job interview. The bumper stickers are the obvious give away. Answers about your politics, religion and age are all there. Less obvious are things like the magazines inside the car or a car seat. Employers shouldn't ask about your familial status. If you've got a car seat or other child related items, they know the answer.

Is it evil for them to look in your car? Absolutely. Do some companies do it anyway? Absolutely. They put themselves at risk for a discrimination suit. Most applicants aren't thinking the employer's looking at the car. You can't claim religious discrimination if it didn't come up in the interview. You also can't prove they looked in your car.

How do they know which car is yours? When you're doing the interview, an administrative assistant goes out and looks at the car. They'll keep a watch out for where you park or just look at the visitor parking. The really sneaky assistants give you a parking pass to put on your car. You think it's just a parking pass, but it's also a way of saying "Hey, I'm the person interviewing so check me out!"

This is the corporate world for you. Where you're "free" to accede to your employer's every demand for conformity to the most banal stereotypes and shallow psychological tropes --- as interpreted by corporate clones with less insight into human nature than your average zucchini.

The advice, by the way, is to be sure to leave nothing of yourself inside you car because you're being watched. You probably should borrow or rent a nicer one if you drive an old car. (And here I thought these sorts of superficial attitudes were only applicable to the entertainment business ...)


The new "blame America first crowd"

by digby

Can you see what's wrong with this picture?

A former aide to President Ronald Reagan is calling for southern states to secede from the union and form a new conservative nation called "Reagan" where citizens wouldn't be forced to compromise on "traditional values" like marriage.

Right Wing Watch on Wednesday flagged conservative author Douglas MacKinnon's interview with evangelical radio host Janet Mefferd, in which he hocked his new book, "The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country … Now." Cautioning that all his secession talk was purely "academic," MacKinnon suggested that South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida break away from the United States and form a new republic named "Reagan."

"You have to remember that all 11 states from the South, including ultimately Texas, seceded legally," MacKinnon told Mefferd. "They left the union peacefully, they left the union legally, and then President Lincoln … part of the problem there was that the North realized very quickly that it could not survive economically without the power of the South."

After making the legal case for secession — and branding the Civil War "illegal" to boot — MacKinnon argued that the leaders Americans are electing today do not represent traditional values, particularly when it comes to marriage.

Yes, a member of the so-called "Party of Lincoln" saying the North started the war because it knew it couldn't survive economically without the South is funny enough. But what amuses me about these scenarios is the fact that Ronald Reagan was the biggest flag-waving American patriot around. As were pretty much all Republicans not ten years ago. "These colors don't run" blah, blah, blah. And today they seem to hate it, mostly because they hate so many Americans.

It's fine with me if they hate America. Everyone has the right to do that if they choose. But it would be nice if they could be the tiniest bit consistent about this. When the left complains about American policy it is accused of being UnAmerican and called traitors to their country by these same people. And yet when they don't like American policies they can call for secession and maintain their reputations as All American patriots at the same time.

In fact from now on I'm going to refer to every right winger who is mad about abortion rights or marriage equality or high taxes the "blame America first crowd" because they have earned that title as honestly as any lefty who complains about America's foreign policy or criminal justice inequities.


"Summoning the demon"

by Tom Sullivan

Technology has a momentum all its own. It has a tendency to take us places before we consider whether they are places we need to or ought to go.

From the realms of my fuzzy memory: Twenty years ago I caught a noon broadcast by Paul Harvey on my car radio. A wealthy California couple had been killed when their small plane crashed. The childless couple had been trying to have a baby through in vitro fertilization. Their efforts remained frozen in a refrigerator at the fertility clinic. As the news reached the public, selfless local women were coming forward and volunteering to carry to term the heirs to the couple's millions.

I laughed all the way home about technology getting out ahead of our ethics.

Yesterday at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk offered a darker tale about the development of artificial intelligence:

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

The classic formulation of that warning comes from a one-page, short story by Fredric Brown, titled "Answer," from Angels and Spaceships (1954). After finally networking computers from ninety-six billion planets, the lead scientist puts the first question to the new supercomputer: "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of single relay. "Yes, now there is a God."

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

Around the coffee urn at the NSA, they must think, "How cool is that?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Actually, it's pretty clear who is to blame for gun violence

by digby

Dan Carter is a state representative from Newtown Ct:

NAA is Newtown Action Alliance, an anti-gun group, and GAGV is Connecticut against Gun Violence. Of course they are equally to blame with the NRA for all these gun deaths. After all, if they would just agree to the reasonable solution to have more people carrying guns the shooting today would have ended differently. Sure, there probably would have been more deaths what with all the kids opening fire at the same time but it would have been different.  And it's because of gun-grabbers that this didn't happen.


Jebbie's out of touch

by digby

It's a little early for a Mistah Toldyah moment so I'm guessing Jeb's either tired, dumb or has no intention of running for president:

No stranger to taking on his party's most conservative voters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is now calling out the bastion of conservative media.

CNN's Peter Hamby reported that during a speech Thursday night at a South Carolina fundraiser, Bush "singled out Fox News" while expressing "annoyance with the polarizing fights and constant negativity of the political news media."

Bush reportedly said that he only watches Fox "for a few minutes a day before switching over to SportsCenter."

You cannot win the GOP nomination by dissing Fox News. In South Carolina. You just can't.

The elephant in the room is very confused

by digby


Hmmm. What are the odds that all these killers are also "Islamic"?

Why, if I didn't know better I'd think that people are getting killed every day for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with religion at all.

And yes, this is a terrible day ...


A short history of the Grand Bargain and why it's still biting us in the ass #2014 #ads

by digby

In the early delirious days of 2009, when liberals everywhere were streaming tears of joy at the end of the Bush reign and the beginning of a new era under President Obama, there were a few skunks at the garden party who noticed some bad news buried in all that hope and change. Before the inauguration the president-elect invited a number of Village luminaries to chat about his vision for his presidency. They were all awestruck by the wonderfulness of it all, particularly the idea of resolution to the thorniest budget disagreements and the health care crisis. It was big, it was sweeping and it transcended all that pesky partisanship that was ruining everything.

Here's how it came up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on January 10th, 10 days before the inauguration:

I asked the president-elect, "At the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your campaign some kind of grand bargain? That you have tax reform, healthcare reform, entitlement reform including Social Security and Medicare, where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?"

"Yes," Obama said.

"And when will that get done?" I asked.

"Well, right now, I’m focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you described is exactly what we’re going to have to do. What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government? What are we getting for it? And how do we make the system more efficient?"

"And eventually sacrifice from everyone?" I asked.

"Everybody’s going to have give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin the game," Obama said.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post picked up the term Grand Bargain and elaborated on those plans on January 15th, 5 days before the inauguration:

Obama regularly offers three telltale notions that will define his presidency -- if events allow him to define it himself: "sacrifice," "grand bargain" and "sustainability."

To listen to Obama and his budget director Peter Orszag is to hear a tale of long-term fiscal woe. The government may have to spend and cut taxes in a big way now, but in the long run, the federal budget is unsustainable.

That's where sacrifice kicks in. There will be signs of it in Obama's first budget, in his efforts to contain health-care costs and, down the road, in his call for entitlement reform and limits on carbon emissions. His camp is selling the idea that if he wants authority for new initiatives and new spending, Obama will have to prove his willingness to cut some programs and reform others.

The "grand bargain" they are talking about is a mix and match of boldness and prudence. It involves expansive government where necessary, balanced by tough management, unpopular cuts -- and, yes, eventually some tax increases. Everyone, they say, will have to give up something.

Only such a balance, they argue, will win broad support for what Obama wants to do, and thus make his reforms "sustainable," the other magic word -- meaning that even Republicans, when they eventually get back to power, will choose not to reverse them.

Since the world was reeling in the wake of the financial crisis this seemed like a very odd discussion to be having at that moment. Unemployment was growing by the millions and they were talking about cutting spending and "sacrifice?" It was very disorienting, to say the least. Within days of taking office it was declared that the White House would host a so-called Fiscal Responsibility Summit:

Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices--particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare - should be made on his watch. "We've kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road," he said.

This plan to "make the difficult choices" on Social Security and Medicare was on the table from the very beginning as part of an overarching plan to "fix" the deficit and end all this needless bickering over the budget and taxes and "entitlements" once and for all. And once they got all that old business of the table the president would be able to do whatever he wanted. O rsomething like that.

We know what happened. The White House passed one element of its Grand Bargain which was health care reform. And that so inflamed the Republicans that it spelled the end of any hopes for his plans to "reform" entitlements and the tax code despite the fact that these were supposed to be the enticements offered to the right in the Grand Bargain. The president did everything he could to make good on his offer, putting Social Security cuts on the menu over and over again in budget negotiations and being rebuffed time and again by the Tea Partiers who came into office on the anti-Obamacare wave. They simply would not take yes for an answer.

There were some ominous signs of how all this was going to play politically as far back as 2010 when Republican PACs blanketed the nation with scary ads about the administration slashing Medicare. This one is a good example:

The truth was that there were some cuts to Medicare providers in the health care reforms. But after all the Palinesque demagoguery about death panels that fine point wasn't particularly salient.

And yes, the irony was thick. The party that had opposed Medicare from the moment it was conceived and which had long wanted to privatize the whole system was wringing its hands about cuts? Well, consistency isn't their strong suit. And they won a huge landslide at least partially due to a big turnout among elderly voters who'd been scared to death by this barrage of ads.

This did not stop the administration and many Democrats from continuing their Grand Bargain crusade. The President had convened the Simpson-Bowles commission to tie it all together for one big budget agreement and it twisted everyone in the capitol up in knots. The liberals and the conservatives on the commission couldn't bring themselves to sign on so the two Chairmen decided to release the report anyway and everyone pretended that it was some sort of official document. It included cuts to defense (which the president rejected) and cuts to the "entitlements" and all sorts of tax "reforms" (which, since this plan was supposed to reduce the deficit, inexplicably were "revenue neutral.")

This remained a baseline for budget negotiations going forward culminating in austerity budgets in 2011 and 2012 (you all remember "the sequester", right?) which crippled needed domestic programs. But even as the Democratic leadership and the White House nearly begged them to accept the cuts to Social Security and veterans benefits that their nifty accounting trick known as the Chained-CPI would bring, those Tea Partiers refused.

Dumb as foxes they were. Who could have ever predicted this?

Cutting federal health and retirement spending has long been at the top of the GOP agenda. But with Republicans in striking distance of winning the Senate, they are suddenly blasting the idea of trimming Social Security benefits.

The latest attack came in Georgia, where the National Republican Campaign Committee posted an ad last week accusing Rep. John Barrow (D) of “leaving Georgia seniors behind” by supporting “a plan that would raise the retirement age to 69 while cutting Social Security benefits.”

Crossroads GPS, the conservative nonprofit group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, has run similar ads against North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D), Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). Crossroads accused Hagan of supporting a “controversial plan” that “raises the retirement age.”

Pryor’s opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, meanwhile, is one of at least three Republican candidates in competitive Senate races who have released cheery ads promising to protect Social Security. In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner (R) appears in a new ad with his “Grandma Betty” and vows to “honor every penny we promised today’s seniors” — a pledge that seems to conflict with demands by Republican congressional leaders for a less-generous inflation formula to calculate seniors’ cost-of-living increases.

Older voters typically dominate the electorate in non-presidential years, so the resort to Social Security as an issue in the Nov. 4 midterms is hardly surprising. But what has drawn attention – and charges of hypocrisy – is the decision by Republican groups to attack Democrats for supporting conservative ideas in a proposed “grand bargain” on the budget drafted by Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Republican senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming.
Here's one of them:

This was, of course, predicted by every single critic of the Grand Bargain over the years. And needless to say, it was predicted by the last mid-term which offered up similar accusations about Medicare.

It was always bizarre that a Democratic president would believe that an epic economic downturn was a good time to worry about deficits and try to strike a bargain to cut the Party's signature
domestic economic achievement --- an achievement  which had lifted massive numbers of people out of poverty. It was conceived as a "go to China" moment in which only a Democrat could cut Social Security without being demagogued by Democrats. Apparently it didn't occur to these visionaries that the Republicans were increasingly dependent on the elderly for votes and would be happy to demagogue the Democrats instead.  Certainly no one should have depended on their honesty and integrity.

There have been few more misguided initiatives than the relentless pursuit of a Grand Bargain during the president's first term. And the Party continues to pay a price for that mistake. Fortunately for the Democrats no bargain was actually struck and a light is now shining on the inequities in the funding stream for the programs and a new approach is slowly being accepted as the new agenda: raise the cap on social security taxes and raise benefits.

If the Party puts that in its platform and really gets behind it, it might even win back the support of the elderly. And then the GOP will have a real problem on its hands.

Is Mitt Romney a criminal "ballot harvester"?

by digby

I wrote about this Arizona idiocy the other day in Salon.  Wonkette catches the Republicans doing exactly the same thing ("ballot harvesting") as the Democrats:

The real difference is that the people who will be voting and collecting the ballots at the Romney event are Real Americans and thus above reproach.  That fellow in the white t-shirt looks an awful lot like an "illegal" to me. And when you look like and "illegal" you can't be handling ballots. Obviously.

When the 2nd Amendment nullifies the 1st

by digby

I've been writing for quite a while about how the gun proliferation movement was essentially nullifying everyone elses freedoms. You might recall the final graph of this piece of mine at Salon which got a whole lot of comments:

All of this is allegedly being done to protect our freedoms. But it’s only the “freedom” of the person wearing a firearm that matters. Those parents who want their kids to feel safe in a public park aren’t free to tell a man waving a gun around to leave them alone, are they? Patrons and employees of Starbucks aren’t free to express their opinion of open carry laws when one of these demonstrations are taking place in the store. Those Jack in the Box employees aren’t free to refuse service to armed customers. Sure, they are all theoretically free to do those things. It’s their constitutional right just like it’s the constitutional right of these people to carry a gun. But in the real world, sane people do not confront armed men and women. They don’t argue with them over politics. They certainly do not put their kids in harm’s way in order to make a point. So when it comes right down to it, when you are in the presence of one of these armed citizens, you don’t really have any rights at all.

You can see why they think that’s freedom. It is. For them. The rest of us just have to be very polite, keep our voices down and back away very slowly, saying, “Yes sir, whatever you say, sir,” and let them have their way.

Check out this piece by Harold Meyerson at the American Prospect in which he talks about the video game critic Anita Sarkeesian having to cancel a speech because of gun laws:

The day before her speech, university administrators received an e-mail warning that a shooting massacre would take place should Sarkeesian go ahead with her speech. “This will be the deadliest shooting in American history,” the message read, “and I’m giving you a chance to stop it.” The e-mail’s author signed with the name Marc Lepine, who, the Times explained, was “a person who killed 14 women in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989 before taking his own life.”

When administrators told Sarkeesian that Utah law explicitly forbade them from having the campus police stop people with guns from attending her talk, Sarkeesian had little choice but to cancel.

But my interest here isn’t in gamer culture, but rather in the almost incomprehensibly idiotic Utah gun law that keeps police from barring gun-toters from attending events where a gun massacre has been threatened.

I don't think there even has to be a direct threat for speech to be chilled by this. Those Moms against Guns rallies where people show up and lurk around with their AR-15s were plenty intimidating without having to say a word. Telling someone who is armed to leave your place of business is an inherently more dicey proposition than one who is unarmed. In fact, dealing with people who are carrying guns is entirely different than dealing with one who is not. That's great for the person with a gun. Not so good for everyone else. But that's the point.

As Meyerson says:

The problem with the kind of Second Amendment absolutism stoked by the NRA and made into law by legislators and judges is that gun rights taken to extremes inherently imperil other rights. The raisons d’être of guns not used for hunting are self-defense and intimidation. A society where guns are unregulated and the threat of gun violence cannot be legally checked is a society where intimidation becomes the norm and freedom of speech can be easily abridged.

The Constitution is not frictionless machine in which all the parts move harmoniously together. Some of the rights it guarantees collide with other rights it guarantees. The elevation of the Second Amendment into a super-right has now diminished others—including those that the founders quite deliberately put first.

That's the idea.


What’s a plutocrat to do?

by Tom Sullivan

"We're not a democracy, we're a republic," friends on the right will cheerfully correct when a Democrat refers to this country as a democracy. It's true -- a true fact, if you hew to the right -- but that's not why they're so adamant about it. For some reason, Republicans just like the sound of republic better.

But they also don't really like the idea of democracy itself. It's a plutocrat thing, Paul Krugman writes, quoting Leung Chun-ying, the leader of Hong Kong, on why full democracy there would be a bad idea: “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.” Plutocrats worldwide (and their sycophants) really hate the idea of having to share power with people they consider inferiors. Recall Mitt Romney's 47% and the makers-takers narrative? Krugman does too:

For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

"So what’s a plutocrat to do?" Krugman asks. Since they can't come straight out and say only the wealthy should have the franchise, they resort to propaganda about voter fraud, etc.

As I wrote at my home blog, they find the whole notion of government of, by, and for the people very, very inefficient.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, there were an estimated half million Tories in this country. Royalists by temperament, loyal to the King and England, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, men dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal.

After the Treaty of Paris, you know where they went? Nowhere. A few moved back to England, or to Florida or to Canada. But most stayed right here.

Take a look around. Their progeny are still with us among the one percent and their vassals. Spouting adolescent tripe from Ayn Rand, kissing up, kicking down, chasing their masters’ carriages or haughtily looking down their noses at people they consider inferiors.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A beating for turnstile jumping

by digby

Because we just can't have that. This one got a little messy:

A video surfaced Thursday showing an undercover New York City police officer kicking a fellow officer in the head, apparently mistaking him for a suspect.

The news website DNAinfo New York published the video of a January confrontation that started with two transit cops and a man who allegedly tried to skip a fare at a subway station in Coney Island.

The suspect appeared in to physically struggle as they tackled him to the ground and attempted to cuff his hands.

Almost immediately, several uniformed officers streamed from the subway entrance, with what DNAinfo described as an undercover cop tagging along.

The plainclothes officer appeared to mistake one of his fellow officers on the floor for the suspect and kicked him in the head. A loud thump is heard on the tape.

"He kicked the cop," a nearby bystander could be heard saying on the video.

The officer appeared to have realized his mistake soon after. He rubbed the head of his colleague and then grabbed hold of the suspect and punched him.

Well that's good. It would have been a dereliction of duty not to get that extra punch in.

You can see the video at the link. I especially love that fact that the plainclothes cop has a handgun just casually tucked into the back of his pants while he's rolling around in a pile of people without knowing who is the perp and who are the cops. Looks like excellent professional policing there.

He knows good propaganda when he sees it

by digby

There was a name for this back in the good old days: Useful Idiot

An ad from Republican Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton about his military experience and national security issues uses footage from an ISIS propaganda video as B-roll.

Cotton’s ad, “Decisions,” which came out on Oct. 13, highlights the “tough decisions” Cotton would have to make as a senator about ISIS, the militant group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq, and cites Cotton’s work as an Army Ranger.

The ad about ISIS uses footage directly from the group — a 55-minute long ISIS video, “Flames of War,” which was professionally made and features graphic content that includes a mass execution of a group of men who fall into a ditch.

“In the Middle East, radical terrorists are on the march, destabilizing our allies, beheading Americans, and crucifying Christians,” says Cotton in the ad. “President Obama admits he underestimated them. We need a senator who will hold the president accountable and make America safer. I made tough decisions as an Army Ranger in Iraq. I’ll make them again as your senator.”

Well that's certainly helpful to the cause. The question is, which one? It's hard to see how it hurts the cause of ISIS, that's for sure. They must be pleased as punch to have their handiwork on American television. After all, they went to a lot of trouble to produce it with slick production values. The least we can do is give it some airtime.

This is why people have no respect for rich people

by digby

They don't even try to hide their selfishness:

Dear Prudence,

I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets—mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?

—Halloween for the 99 Percent

Dear 99,

You ARE a terrible person and if there is such a thing as karma you will get yours.

Prudence basically said the same thing but she was nicer about it.

Have you heard of "ballot harvesting"? You will.

by digby

My piece at Salon this morning is about another hysterical "vote fraud" pseudo-scandal, this time from Arizona. I recount some of Arizona's Greatest Vote Suppression hits first and then:
Operation Eagle Eye may have faded but the vote suppression activities continue in Arizona just as they continue all over the nation. And like everywhere else, the modern approach is to hysterically accuse Democrats of committing “voter fraud” and creating an illusion that perfectly legal election practices constitute corruption of our electoral system. As everyone undoubtedly knows by now, this specious misdirection has led to onerous Voter ID laws throughout the nation which are making it very difficult for some people to vote.

But now that they’ve achieved this victory, it’s time to move on to the next step. And if the hysterical reaction from the conservative press is any example, a ridiculous story out of Arizona this week may clue us in to one of the next steps.

Back in 2013, the Republican-dominated Arizona Legislature passed a draconian vote suppression law which, among other things, would have made it illegal for anyone to collect an early voting ballot from another person and deliver it to the registrar’s office. This had been considered a crucial method of getting out the vote in the recall of resident kook Russell Pearce and was understood to be a threat to Republicans in the state. As it happened there was enough of an outcry that the Legislature repealed the measure this past February.

Nevertheless, in the muddled minds of Republicans this is now understood to be a method of “ballot box stuffing,” which is how they characterized an incident that was reported from Maricopa County.

Read on for the details. You won't believe it.

Make a note of the term "ballot harvesting." I have a feeling this isn't the last time we'll hear of it.
In fact, they are the Real America, the rest of us are foreigners

by digby


I cannot count the ways in which this (from 2013) is idiotic:
Plans by a heritage group, the Virginia Flaggers, to erect a large Confederate flag on a major road outside Richmond has drawn considerable fire from critics who say it's a symbol of hate.

That's not true, says Barry Isenhour, a member of the group, who says it's really about honouring the Confederate soldiers who gave their lives. For him, the war was not primarily about slavery but standing up to being over-taxed, and he says many southerners abhorred slavery.

"They fought for the family and fought for the state. We are tired of people saying they did something wrong. They were freedom-loving Americans who stood up to the tyranny of the North. They seceded from the US government not from the American idea."
Here's an All-American idea for you: you lost.

Somebody should ask him about this:
"The flag wasn't a major symbol until the Civil Rights movement began to take shape in the 1950s," says Bill Ferris, founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, "it was a battle flag relegated to history but the Ku Klux Klan and others who resisted desegregation turned to the flag as a symbol."
Imagine that.

Hope and change Rand Paul style

by digby

So Rand Paul is going to give a big foreign policy speech tonight which is being characterized as being "to the left" of the liberals in the Democratic Party, which is very interesting. One can only wonder who his constituency for such a thing might be. It certainly makes you wonder which Republicans he plans to convince to vote for him.

He will, of course, attack Obama for many things, some of which will undoubtedly be right. (The foreign policy consensus in both parties is certainly ripe for criticism.) He is going to quote Malala and sound very attractively dovish. But here's what it comes own to:

“Here’s how I see the most important principles that should drive America’s foreign policy,” Paul will tell the crowd. “First, the use of force is and always has been an indispensable part of defending our country… A second principle is that Congress… must authorize the decision to intervene… A third principle is the belief that peace and security require a commitment to diplomacy and leadership,” and last, “we are only as strong as our economy.”

Paul then attempts to outline when, exactly, he believes force is justified: “War is necessary when America is attacked or threatened, when vital American interests are attacked and threatened, and when we have exhausted all other measures short of war.”

Granted, that's probably more dovish than you're going to hear from Rick Perry who sounds like he'd ready to round up Muslims all over the world and put them in FEMA camps. But revolutionary? Not exactly. That's got so much daylight in it that the National Security State apparatus can drive a B-52 through it.

Seriously, what about this statement in any way represents a change from Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Obama or any other post WWII president?

War is necessary when America is attacked or threatened, when vital American interests are attacked and threatened, and when we have exhausted all other measures short of war

I'm sure there will be a few lefties who'll be taken with this. But I'm much more interested in what the Republicans will say. Should be a fascinating primary.

Koch allies court NC stoners

by Tom Sullivan

Last night a colleague forwarded an email she received from an NC friend:

I was watching the Good Wife on Hulu Plus last night, and this ad with a couple of attractive young people talking about how cool it is that Sean Haugh wants to legalize marijuana. When it came up a few minutes later, I realized it couldn't be for real, and I searched it on the internet, and yes, it's the Kochs trying to pull votes away from Kay Hagan.

It is one of a series of 10 commercials that "came as a complete surprise" to Haugh. Whatever you are hearing from pollsters about the senate race in North Carolina, yes, Thom Tillis' backers are just that desperate. Matt Phillippi at PoliticsNC:

Like many Americans I got rid of cable several years ago and now get a lot of my TV from streaming internet services. I was watching Hulu last night, and saw not one, but two different ad spots supporting Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. This is odd in itself, because political campaigns rarely advertise there (with the exception of the President in 2012). The ads looked very homespun, and only really got my attention because the message of the first one was “Get Haugh, Get High” with young people holding up pictures of marijuana while wearing tie-dyes and Bob Marley T-Shirts, which seemed a little outlandish even for a Libertarian candidate. The second ad positioned Haugh as the anti-war candidate, and labeled Hagan as a “War Monger” literally labeled, right over her picture. That was when I read the ‘paid for’ tags on the bottom of the ad.

The ads were paid for by the American Futures Fund, a 501(c)4 organization started in 2008 by several members of Mitt Romney’s first presidential primary campaign staff. The organization claims to promote “Conservative, free-market ideals.” In reality the organization spends the majority of its money attacking Democratic candidates. According to Opensecrets.org, during the 2013-2014 cycle, AFF has spent 84% of its money attacking Democratic candidates and 16% supporting Republicans (scroll down on that link for a nice graph illustrating this).

Hagan laughed when I told her on Saturday that Thom Tillis was her best campaigner. Tillis' backers apparently think so too if they are down to this Hail Mary play in an attempt to draw votes away from Hagan.

Early voting gets under way in North Carolina this morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Film About Money 

by tristero

A friend of mine, James Schamus, spent his summer vacation making two hilarious, brilliant, and deeply unsettling films about the bizarre subject of modern money. They are not to be missed:

That Film About Money, Episode 6 of We The Economy 

The Second Part of That Film About Money, Episode 7 of We The Economy 

Much about our very weird country is revealed in the process. Enjoy (if that's the word)!
Emperor Keith and his very odd trades

by digby

This certainly stinks to high heaven
At the same time that he was running the United States' biggest intelligence-gathering organization, former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander owned and sold shares in commodities linked to China and Russia, two countries that the NSA was spying on heavily.

At the time, Alexander was a three-star general whose financial portfolio otherwise consisted almost entirely of run-of-the-mill mutual funds and a handful of technology stocks. Why he was engaged in commodities trades, including trades in one market that experts describe as being run by an opaque "cartel" that can befuddle even experienced professionals, remains unclear. When contacted, Alexander had no comment about his financial transactions, which are documented in recently released financial disclosure forms that he was required to file while in government. The NSA also had no comment.

I don't know what went on, but this certainly looks odd:

On Jan. 7, 2008, Alexander sold previously purchased shares in the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, a Canadian firm that mines potash, a mineral typically used in fertilizer. The potash market is largely controlled by companies in Canada, as well as in Belarus and Russia. And China was, and is, one of the biggest consumers of the substance, using it to expand the country's agricultural sector and produce higher crop yields.

"It's a market that's really odd, involving collusion, where companies essentially coordinate on prices and output," said Craig Pirrong, a finance professor and commodities expert at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business.
"Strange things happen in the potash market. It's a closed market. Whenever you have Russians and Chinese being big players, a lot of stuff goes on in the shadows."

"Strange things happen in the potash market. It's a closed market. Whenever you have Russians and Chinese being big players, a lot of stuff goes on in the shadows."

On the same day he sold the potash company shares, Alexander also sold shares in the Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., a state-owned company headquartered in Beijing and currently the world's second-largest producer of aluminum. U.S. government investigators have indicated that the company, known as Chinalco, has received insider information about its American competitors from computer hackers working for the Chinese military. That hacker group has been under NSA surveillance for years, and the Justice Department in May indicted five of its members.

The government raised no red flags and he doesn't appear to have made a bunch of money. But read the whole article to see just how bizarre these trades were.

U.S. officials have long insisted that the information that intelligence agencies steal from foreign corporations and governments is only used to make political and strategic decisions and isn't shared with U.S. companies. But whether that spying could benefit individual U.S. officials who are privy to the secrets being collected, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure officials don't personally benefit from insider knowledge, haven't been widely discussed...

Alexander has a history of conflict of interest problems. He wants to patent an "invention" based upon knowledge gleaned from his time at the NSA. The taxpayers apparently aren't entitled to anything except the knowledge that people like Keith Alexander have had access to all their personal information. And then there's this one from just this week:

In an employment deal that prompted an internal investigation at the NSA and inquiries from Capitol Hill, Alexander arranged for the agency's chief technology officer, Patrick Dowd, to work part time for a new cybersecurity consulting firm that Alexander started this year after leaving the NSA and retiring from the Army with a fourth star. Experts said the public-private setup was highly unusual and possibly unprecedented.

Reuters revealed the arrangement last week, and on Tuesday, Oct. 21, with pressure building from lawmakers to investigate, Alexander said that he was severing the relationship with Dowd. "While we understand we did everything right, I think there's still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company," Alexander told Reuters when explaining why he scuttled the deal. Alexander's company, IronNet Cybersecurity, is based in Washington, and he has said he might charge clients as much as $1 million per month for his expertise and insights into cybersecurity.

A little reminder about Alexander:

“We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander—with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets,” says one former senior CIA official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “We would sit back literally in awe of what he was able to get from Congress, from the White House, and at the expense of everybody else.”

Now why do you suppose that was?

Remember, this was the guy who was running around accusing journalists of "selling secrets" because they were paid by the newspapers that printed the stories they wrote. Yes, he really said that. 

Exceptionally hysterical

by digby

US vs Canada:

How embarrassing ....

QOTD: Larry Klayman

by digby

This one really takes the cake:

Does anyone doubt that former Alabama Gov. George Wallace was a racist, after he banned blacks from attending the state’s university in the 1960s? So too can anyone refute that Obama’s not even temporarily banning West Africans from entering the United States is also as least de facto racism, as this high risk caper puts whites and others at risk at the expense of not even temporarily “inconveniencing” his fellow Africans. Wallace and Obama are both despicable and both to be condemned to the trash heap of history for their actions.

Just ... wow. I like how the alleged caper puts white and others at risk. What others do you suppose he's talking about? I guess that dumb old Obama didn't think about that did he?

Can you have a democracy when the government spies on the press?

by digby

Steve Coll of the New Yorker (and dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of journalism) writes about the threat to the freedom of the press posed by government incursion on our privacy through technology. He's moved to do it by his viewing of Laura Poitras' "Citizen Four" about the Edward Snowden story, in which it's revealed just how thoroughly the government has infiltrated all of our communications systems:

In fashioning balanced practices for reporters, it is critical to ask how often and in what ways governments—ours and others—systematically target journalists’ communications in intelligence collection. For all his varied revelations about surveillance, this is an area where Snowden’s files have been less than definitive. It seems safe to assume the worst, but, as for the American government’s practices, there are large gaps in our understanding. White House executive orders, the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act might all be grounds for targeting journalists for certain kinds of collection. Yet the government has never disclosed its policies, or the history of its actual practices following the September 11th attacks. (For a chilling sense of how vulnerable a journalist’s data would be if targeted by sophisticated surveillance, read “Dragnet Nation,” by Julia Angwin, an investigative reporter, formerly at the Wall Street Journal and now at ProPublica.)

In September, the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press and more than two dozen media organizations asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal body, to look into these questions and report their findings publicly. “National security surveillance programs must not be used to circumvent important substantive and procedural protections belonging to journalists and their source,” their letter said. “Sufficient details about these programs must be disclosed to the public so that journalists and sources are better informed about the collection and use of their communications.”

From a working journalist’s perspective, the Edward Snowdens of this world come around about as often as Halley’s Comet. It is not possible to report effectively and routinely while operating as though every communication must be segregated in a compartment within a compartment. The question of what constitutes best practices is a work in progress, as is the protection of personal privacy more broadly.
Thank you.

Maybe you don't think that it's important that journalists get these stories in which case you probably think it's just fine that the government is not only spying on them it is intimidating them with threats of legal action. (Indeed, this administration has taken these threats to unprecedented levels --- even as the Attorney General continues to say that they are not ...) But if you are a journalist and you defend this behavior it's very hard to see why you chose that career. This really doesn't strike me as that complicated of a question.

Coll sounds eminently reasonable to me. Why are so many other reporters so complacent about this?  Or worse, why are they actively hostile to people who are trying to tell these difficult stories simply because they are offended by their "tone" or their personalities? How can we possibly believe what they tell us?

A platform for cranks

by digby

Yes, I'm talking about George Will and Fox News:

As of this writing, the number of patients diagnosed with Ebola in the United States can be counted on one hand, and the number who have died on one finger. The dozens of people who were in close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was the index case in this country, have had their quarantine lifted, not having contracted the illness despite breathing the same air as he had. There is no evidence that airborne Ebola exists anywhere outside of fear-mongering headlines. Yet despite this, Will was happy to insinuate otherwise on a network that gets upward of 2 millions viewers every day.

Later in the same segment, Will went on to say “We’re getting used to people declaring scientific debates closed over and settled. They rarely are.” But there is no “debate” in this case. There is no indication that Ebola is spreading through the air, and no controversy within the infectious-disease community about it doing so. Will’s reckless implications to the contrary, in order for there to be a scientific debate there has to be some kind of disagreement about the evidence at hand, not merely the idle speculation of a pundit using up his airtime.

This kind of irresponsible running of the mouth is precisely how medical conspiracies start. Someone with the air of authority is given a platform with which they undermine the integrity of people who have dedicated their lives to public health, and their idiotic or downright dangerous ideas take hold and spread.

It's always possible that Ebola could mutate into something it currently is not. But there's no evidence of that happening and Will's reckless bow-tied fearmongering just interferes with the epidemiologists' ability to contain the virus that does exist. They absolutely must be able to trace contacts and that requires delivering calm and deliberate information to the public.

He used to be sensible on the subject of science. (You'll recall that he's also a famous climate change denier.) Why he once even declared that evolution is "a fact." It's hard to know what's happened to Will lately but perhaps it's something in the water at Fox News. He's become much more of a crackpot since he joined them. And that's saying something.


Willie Horton will never die

by digby

My Salon piece today is about the re-emergence of the GOP "law and order" campaign in this election cycle:
Every election season brings at least a few think pieces about the notorious Willie Horton ad and what it meant to American politics. This is a good thing to the extent that it reminds people of just how racist the whole “law and order” campaign that animated U.S. politics from the time of the civil rights movement on really is. In fact, take a look at it again just to remind yourself of the bad old days:

Infamous GOP strategist Lee Atwater saw that ad and declared he was going to make Willie Horton Michael Dukakis’ running mate. This was a perfect example of his contention that Republicans would need to make their pitch a lot more abstract than just running around screaming the N-word. The law and order campaigns did that by pointing at the “killer, killer, killer” — with a black face.
Read on...

If you haven't seen this year's version, here it is:

I discuss the history of various racist appeals over the years and how certain current politicians (Ted Cruz for instance) laud the leaders of the past who used them.

After I filed that piece I came across this, which may explain why the fear campaigns include these moldy old racist tropes. It's a survey of what people are afraid of. The list is fairly mundane, but this was interesting:

Turning to the crime section of the Chapman Survey on American Fears, the team discovered findings that not only surprised them, but also those who work in fields pertaining to crime.

"What we found when we asked a series of questions pertaining to fears of various crimes is that a majority of Americans not only fear crimes such as, child abduction, gang violence, sexual assaults and others; but they also believe these crimes (and others) have increased over the past 20 years," said Dr. Edward Day who led this portion of the research and analysis. "When we looked at statistical data from police and FBI records, it showed crime has actually decreased in America in the past 20 years. Criminologists often get angry responses when we try to tell people the crime rate has gone down."

Despite evidence to the contrary, Americans do not feel like the United States is becoming a safer place. The Chapman Survey on American Fears asked how they think prevalence of several crimes today compare with 20 years ago. In all cases, the clear majority of respondents were pessimistic; and in all cases Americans believe crime has at least remained steady. Crimes specifically asked about were: child abduction, gang violence, human trafficking, mass riots, pedophilia, school shootings, serial killing and sexual assault.
This irrationality distorts our politics in a way that favors the conservatives who are more than happy to pimp the "law and order" trope and tickle the racist lizard brains of their followers. As you can see, they're doing it in this race already. Combined with the terrorism fear fest they're aiming at women which I discussed yesterday the GOP strategy is pretty clear: same as it ever was --- "they're comin' tah git yah!"


Taking a break to cash in their winnings

by digby

Bowl me over with a feather:
Sensing a GOP majority in the Senate is within reach, conservative groups have put down their bombs and are working together with establishment actors to make that happen — even backing formerly sworn enemies in some races.

In New Hampshire, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has launched a ground effort to help elect Republican Scott Brown, who has drawn the ire of conservatives for backing stricter gun control in some cases. In North Carolina, TPP and others are actively supporting Republican Thom Tillis, who was far from being the conservative pick in his primary. He faces Sen. Kay Hagan (D).
The Tea Party Express (TPE) is now actively backing Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) — little liked among Tea Partyers — and former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R), for Senate.

At the very least, Tea Partyers are showing a willingness to “hold their nose and vote,” as FreedomWorks Executive Vice President Adam Brandon put it, because of the understanding that a Republican-controlled Senate with some impurities is better than nothing at all.

“Our members have told us that right now, having a Republican-controlled Senate and firing [Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are their top priority,” Jenny Beth Martin, TPP president, told The Hill.

It’s a stunning reversal from early on in the cycle, when establishment actors were gearing up for what was expected to be a fierce fight with Tea Partyers in a number of primaries nationwide. But despite promising a fierce battle, an establishment bloodbath never materialized, and Tea Party groups failed to knock off a single incumbent senator this cycle.

While some establishment Republicans have privately declared victory over the Tea Party, some right wing activists say the willingness to work with these groups and candidates doesn’t suggest Tea Partyers have been cowed by those defeats. As TPE founder Sal Russo put it, Tea Partyers are simply waking up to the fact that electoral politics requires a willingness to accept impurities within the Republican Party.
Bless their hearts.

I cut the opening sentence in that piece because it was exactly backwards:
Tea Partyers have learned to play nice after a cycle of knockdown, drag-out fights with the Republican establishment that have gotten them nowhere.

So untrue. They have achieved more than they could have ever dreamed back in 2010 when they began their crusade. Now they want to consolidate power. Does the political establishment (as exemplified by The Hill) believe that this means the conservative movement has "learned its lesson" and now it will be willing to "work across the aisle" like Tipnronnie? I'm afraid they do. And that's just silly. If they take control of the Senate they are going to expect total obstruction. They haven't changed their goals.

I wish the Villagers could accept the fact that these people actually believe what say they believe. (As do liberals, by the way.) If they've temporarily tempered their tactics for strategic reasons it doesn't mean they are turning into moderates. They still want the same things. And they aren't going to be happy if they don't get it.Right now that's fairly easy to deliver: obstruction. But that's not going to be enough forever.

It's going to be interesting to see if this alleged pragmatism will continue to the presidential cycle. I'd be surprised if it does. More likely they will want a true believer like Ted Cruz but you never know. Maybe the long awaited Christie Comeback is in the cards after all ... Stay tuned.

Update: Oh, and by the way one has to wonder what their patrons the Koch Brothers are thinking about all this. I suspect they are good with it. Their goal was to take over the Republican Party to achieve their agenda. I think they're probably pretty happy with how that's going.


“Constitutionally abhorrent”

by Tom Sullivan

“Super seals” are not the navy's newest secret weapon, but they are double super-secret:

For your “I can’t believe this stuff happens in America” files:

Calling their conduct “constitutionally abhorrent,” a federal judge recently chided government prosecutors for working in secret to keep millions of dollars in cash and assets seized from a Las Vegas gambler and his family in a decadelong bookmaking investigation.

In his 31-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach cast light on the little-known court process that allowed the government to file civil forfeiture actions against Glen Cobb, his 82-year-old parents and his stepdaughter under “super seal” with no notice to anyone — not even the family it targeted.

The documents remain sealed in the court's vault and not logged into any public database — secret from both the public and affected parties:

“This is unacceptable,” Ferenbach wrote in court papers only recently made public. “Relying on various sealed and super-sealed filings, the government asks the court to rule against private citizens, allow the deprivation of their property and deny them a process to redress possible violations of their constitutional rights through a secret government action that provides no notice or opportunity to be heard.

“Saying that this would offend the Constitution is an understatement. It is constitutionally abhorrent.”

Civil-asset forfeiture laws sanction "official thievery," as Digby put it, "yet another symptom of a justice system that is corrupt and unaccountable." I first ran across the practice on 60 Minutes in the early 1990s, and can't believe it still continues. (Maybe it's the secrecy?) Victims face a "Kafkaesque world" of litigation, attorneys fees, bankruptcy, and blacklisting. The icing on the cake? Hiding the seizures from the public via a "super seal."

Welcome to the land of the free, y'all. Star chambers and stripes forever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Just leak it already

by digby

I'm hearing lots of pathetic spinning about Laura Poitras' documentary an James Risens' new book as people try to dance on the head of a pin to exonerate the Obama administration's full capitulation to the security state. But this puts the lie to that spin if nothing else does:
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is personally negotiating how much of the Senate's so-called torture report, a probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, will be redacted, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

McDonough's leading role in the redaction discussion has raised eyebrows in the Senate, given that his position comes with a broad array of urgent responsibilities and that the Obama White House has a team of qualified national security advisers.

Despite the White House’s public reluctance to get involved in the widely aired spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the report, McDonough’s role suggests that the Oval Office sees the feud as a high-stakes one.

The White House confirmed McDonough’s involvement in the negotiations, but would not discuss the extent of it.

“We’re not going to get into the details of our discussions, but White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, are in regular touch with [Intelligence Committee] leadership on a variety of matters, including to discuss the committee’s review of the Bush Administration’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, in an effort to help ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

Sources involved in the discussions also said McDonough's involvement has gone beyond negotiating redactions. During the last weeks of July, the intelligence community was bracing itself for the release of the Senate investigation's executive summary, which is expected to be damning in its findings against the CIA. The report was due to be returned to the Senate panel after undergoing an extensive declassification review, and its public release seemed imminent.

Over the span of just a few days, McDonough, who makes infrequent trips down Pennsylvania Avenue, was a regular fixture, according to people with knowledge of his visits. Sources said he pleaded with key Senate figures not to go after CIA Director John Brennan in the expected furor that would follow the release of the report’s 500-page executive summary.

The White House said the purpose of the trips was to negotiate the terms of the report's release, not specifically to defend the CIA head. "The Chief of Staff's agenda was about how we could work together to meet the President’s desire to ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests, so that we can shed light on this program and make sure it is never repeated. These were not discussions about Director Brennan," Meehan said.

McDonough's personal involvement in the decisions around which parts of the torture report to redact illustrates how in the national security realm, differences between the two parties often dissolve when one takes control of the executive branch. The report itself, meanwhile, sidesteps the role of Bush administration officials in ordering or approving torture, focusing instead only on the agency, McClatchy Newspapers has reported.

This is torture we're talking about. It's not "sources and methods" or a program that the administration even alleges we need to keep going to keep the boogeyman at bay. This is about something done in the past which the administration says is wrong and should never be done in the future. (That is, of course, not exactly the case, but for the sake of argument we'll just accept that they don't think torture is ok.) An yet they have the White House Chief of Staff negotiating with the Senate over what to be released in a Senate report.

Obviously someone will have to leak this report. At this point I guess it's the only way we'll ever really know what the Senate says happened. (And that's probably a long way from knowing everything...) Back in the day the House refused to release the Pike Committee report and someone leaked it to Daniel Schorr who leaked it to the Village Voice.

There's too much secrecy in this government.  And all those who are wringing their hands over Big Mean Risen and that kooky Poitras are aiding and abetting this. Enough.


Now here's a good answer from a politician #Merkley

by digby

It's not that hard to explain why you are a progressive guys. Senator Merkley shows how it's done:

Can David Brooks see what's wrong with this picture?

by digby

How do you suppose the "conservative intellectuals" rationalize this to themselves?

Basically, this means that the liberal equivalent of Breitbart and Limbaugh is Slate and the New Yorker. And Fox News is the conservative equivalent of the New York Times.

Also note the sad fact that the numbers who read Daily Kos, Think Progress and Mother Jones are too small to measure . Not so with nutcases like the Glenn Beck show and Breitbart.


Everyone calm down. If Nigeria can contain Ebola the US can too.

by digby

This observation from Vox seems to me to be important:
Amid the panic and fear about Ebola sweeping the US, let's be clear about one fact: as far as we know, two nurses who cared for Duncan got the virus — but no one else. Not the passengers who sat next to Duncan on his flights or touched the same surfaces as him in airports. Not the school kids and friends he met in Dallas. Not the Texas Presbyterian hospital staff who met him on his first visit, when he was misdiagnosed and sent home. Not the ambulance drivers who brought him to the hospital on his second visit, when he was vomiting with a high fever.

Most importantly, his fiance, Louise Troh, didn't catch the virus either. She shared a cramped apartment with him and several other family members while he was already contagious, and then stayed in the same contaminated space, cooped up for days in a quarantine, after Duncan was admitted to hospital.

So far, all these people have been declared virus free. And the dozens of suspected cases of Ebola across the US have turned out to be negative, except for three — Duncan and his two nurses, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham. The fact that they got sick while caring for Duncan should also remind us of the science of this virus: that fits what we know of the science of the virus, which is that people are most contagious late in the infection.

This is really important: part of what makes people so afraid of Ebola is that people infected with the disease can mistake it, in its early stages, for a normal flu, and, say, board a plane. But at that point, the disease just isn't very contagious yet.

Ok, all the data aren't in and maybe somewhere somebody was infected in that chain from Duncan. Time will tell.

But this should give everyone pause --- and comfort:
Ebola-free Nigeria hailed as 'success story' in battling outbreak

It was an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare: one of the world’s deadliest contagious diseases loose in one of the world’s most densely populated and sometimes chaotic megacities — Lagos, Nigeria.

With its teeming slums, bogus pastors selling miracle cures, six-hour traffic jams and street vendors hawking goods at car windows, some feared an apocalyptic urban outbreak and the spread of Ebola into Nigeria’s highly mobile population of 170 million, which could entrench the disease in West Africa for years.

But in an extraordinary success story, Nigeria contained the Ebola outbreak and was declared free of the virus by the World Health Organization on Monday, after 42 days without a new case (double the incubation period for Ebola). Nigeria confirmed 19 cases, according to the WHO, seven of them fatal. That survival rate of 63% is more than double the 30% average in other West African countries

The top-down effort took political determination, the redeployment of doctors and facilities from Nigeria’s polio-eradication campaign, a vast contact-tracing operation involving members of the State Security Service, tens of thousands of text messages sent out to educate people on prevention, and some hefty donations from wealthy Nigerians.
They had 19 cases. We've had 3. They believe they've managed to track down all the cases in this particular outbreak which is key. And I'd venture to say that our education on the virus has been equal to Nigeria's even if our media has been running around like a bunch of hysterics scaring the hell out of people. If they can do it it seems likely the US can too. Duh.

The weight and counter-weights at the far end of both parties

by digby

I've always seen partisan politics in America as a tug of war where the weight of the truest believers, the activists, the hard core ideological members of the two main parties weight the ends of the political rope. When they are not equally engaged and pulling equally hard, one side has a built in advantage.

Anyway, Pew has another poll about polarization that I'll delve into in more detail over the next few days. But this is interesting for starters:

Overall, the study finds that consistent conservatives:

Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.

Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.

Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.

Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:

Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.

Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.

Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.

Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

And yet the news media persists in presenting conservatism as "mainstream" and liberalism as "fringe." You can make a case that both are fringe but I don't think you can make a case that conservatism if mainstream when they rely on openly partisan, often crackpot media for their information and only talk to each other.

Now it's true that liberals tend to "unfriend" people on Facebook, and are somewhat intolerant of conservative views. I think that's human on both sides. But the information flow really seems to be different between the two and I think that requires those who talk about trends and factions to be specific.

An, by the way, there are a lot of reasons why the hard core conservatives are more successful in party politics than the hard core liberals (even though, according to Pew's definition there are actually more of the latter) but one of the reasons has to be this:

They vote in primaries more often than we do. Liberals could bring a lot more weight to bear in this whole thing if they just bothered to do that.


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