Monday, June 30, 2014

Politics And Race In Those 10 Worst Counties To Live In In America


This morning, Taegan Goddard took a look at the much-talked-about NY Times piece from a few days ago, Where Are The Hardest Places To Live In The U.S.? Clay County, Kentucky was the hardest and the Times compared Clay to Los Alamos County by showing specific contrasts: "Only 7.4 percent of Clay County residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 63.2 percent do in Los Alamos. The median household income in Los Alamos County is $106,426, almost five times what the median Clay County household earns. In Clay County, 12.7 percent of residents are unemployed, and 11.7 percent are on disability; the corresponding figures in Los Alamos County are 3.5 percent and 0.3 percent. Los Alamos County’s obesity rate is 22.8 percent, while Clay County’s is 45.5 percent. And Los Alamos County residents live 11 years longer, on average-- 82.4 years vs. 71.4 years in Clay County. Clay and Los Alamos Counties are part of the same country. But they are truly different worlds."

The rankings were accomplished "looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.”
The 10 lowest counties in the country, by this ranking, include a cluster of six in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin), along with four others in various parts of the rural South: Humphreys County, Miss.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Jefferson County, Ga.; and Lee County, Ark.

As [Annie] Lowrey writes, this combination of problems is an overwhelmingly rural phenomenon. Not a single major urban county ranks in the bottom 20 percent or so on this scale.
Can you guess where the political sympathies of these poor desperately difficult counties lie? Perhaps Alexandra Pelosi's video for Bill Maher about Mississippi up top gave you a clue. When it comes to choosing between the party that spits on the poor and is slavishly serving the interests of the 1% and the party that at least has some commitment to making life better for the poor and downtrodden… well, let's look at the 2012 election results between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in each. (Spoiler: Romney won each white majority county and Obama won each black majority county.)
Breathitt, KY (98.69% White)- 3,318 (66%)- 1,562 (31%)
Clay, KY (93.92% White)- Romney 6,176 (84%)- Obama 1,111 (15%)
Jackson, KY (99.17% White)- Romney 4,365 (86%)- Obama 612 (12%)
Lee, KY (95.10% White)- Romney 1,977 (75%)- Obama 595 (23%)
Leslie, KY (97.18% White)- Romney 4,439 (90%)- Obama 433 (9%)
Magoffin, KY (98.6% White)- Romney 3,391 (69%)- Obama 1,433 (29%)
Humphreys, MS (74.5% Black)- Obama 3,399 (76%)- Romney 1,069 (24%)
East Carroll Parish, LA (67.29% Black)- Obama 2,244 (66%)- Romney 1,122 (33%)
Jefferson, GA (54.4% Black)- Obama 4,238 (58%)- Romney 2,992 (41%)
Lee, AR (55.3% Black)- Obama 2,107 (62%)- Romney 1,280 (37%)
That Pelosi video isn't really about Mississippi per se. It's about white people in all these poor counties. I wish I had the county breakdowns for addiction to Hate Talk Radio and Fox.

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Today it was Justice Sammy "The Hammer" Alito's big chance to bludgeon a hapless Constitution


Justice Sammy the Hammer was wielding his Sledgehammer of Doom at the Supreme Court today.

by Ken

Clearly the Cro-Magnon wing of the Roberts Court has developed a vestigial sense of shame. The two bombshell decisions saved for the final day of the Supreme Court term today (which Howie wrote about in his 2pm PT post) weren't bombshells in the sense of surprise. They were just more of the all-but-impossible-to-avoid IEDs that have become the manner of "justice" meted out these days by the High Court, now that the full counter-constitutional system is in place, with the Cro-Magnons being fed cases by the country's powerful right-wing illegal system, cases that allow the C-Ms to continue pushing their constitutional forced march back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition. The C-Ms had timed it so that they could drop their dirty bombs and immediately begin their long slither back under whatever rocks they come out from.

Veteran court-watchers had already deduced that one of today's big opinions would come from Sammy "The Hammer" Alito, but I don't know that anyone realized they both would. Once it was established that The Hammer was wielding his proverbial bludgeon over both cases, the rulings were a foregone conclusion. The only thing to watch for was just how much further the Constitution would be debased by the ruling Cro-Magnons. I guess in some marginal ways both decidsions coulda been worse, but it's bad.

By afternoon there was already lots of good coverage from our friends at ThinkProgress.

On the Hobby Lobby fiasco, our legal eagle Ian Millhiser looks at "the bait-and-switch behind the decision," beginning [links onsite]:
For many years, the Supreme Court struck a careful balance between protecting religious liberty and maintaining the rule of law in a pluralistic society. Religious people enjoy a robust right to practice their own faith and to act according to the dictates of their own conscience, but they could not wield religious liberty claims as a sword to cut away the legal rights of others. This was especially true in the business context. As the Supreme Court held in United States v. Lee, “[w]hen followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”

With Monday’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, however, this careful balance has been upended. Employers who object to birth control on religious grounds may now refuse to comply with federal rules requiring them to include contraceptive care in their health plans. The rights of the employer now trump the rights of the employee.

To achieve this outcome, Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion on behalf of a bare majority of the Court engages in a kind of legalistic bait-and-switch. It takes a law Congress enacted to serve one limited purpose, and expands that law to suit Hobby Lobby’s much more expansive purpose. . . .
Meanwhile, ThinkProgress's Jack Jenkins has an interesting take: "Why Today's Hobby Lobby Decision Actually Hurts People Of Faith" [links onsite]:
[W]hile conservatives would have the American public believe that protecting Hobby Lobby is about protecting all religious people, the reality is that today’s ruling actually hurts people of faith. In fact, a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey conducted in early June found that a substantial majority of almost every major U.S. Christian group support the idea that publicly-held corporations and privately-owned corporations should be required to provide employees with healthcare plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost. This is likely why so many progressive Christian leaders have vocally opposed Hobby Lobby in the press, why Americans United for the Separation of Church and State submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court opposing Hobby Lobby on behalf of nearly 30 religious organizations, and why both the Jewish Social Policy Action Network and the American Jewish Committee submitted their own amicus briefs decrying the corporation’s position.


Ian Millhiser notes ("Supreme Court Deals Sharp Blow To Public Sector Unions") that this is "a First Amendment decision" -- the latest effort by conservatives to use the First Amendment as their weapon in order to implement their preferred policies through the judiciary." Ian writes [links onsite]:
The purpose of the First Amendment, is to ensure a robust debate where no ideas are suppressed, so that the American electorate is best equipped to make choices at the polls. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes explained in 1919, “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.”

Harris, however, turns this principle on its head. As Justice Elena Kagan laid out at oral argument, [s]ince 1948 . . . there has been a debate in every State across this country about whether to be a right-to-work State and people have disagreed. Some States say yes, some States say no. It raises considerable heat and passion and tension, as we recently saw in Wisconsin. And — but, you know, these are public policy choices that States make.” The plaintiffs in Harris argued, in Kagan’s words, that “people have been debating the wrong question when they’ve been debating that, because, in fact, a right-to-work law is constitutionally compelled.”

The purpose of the First Amendment, according to the plaintiffs in Harris, is not to foster democracy, it is to render democracy irrelevant. This is a radical rethinking of our Constitution. And it was just embraced by five justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ian also cautions: "[T]he case hints that the Court will deal additional blows to public sector unions in the future. Alito labels a seminal Supreme Court opinion allowing unions to collect reimbursements from nonmembers 'questionable on several grounds.' "


In "One Good Thing The Supreme Court Did For Gay Rights Today," Zack writes [links onsite]:
It remains unclear what consequences the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision might have for LGBT equality, but the Supreme Court did take one other action Monday that is actually a small win for gay rights. Before issuing the day’s two big decisions, the Court refused to grant cert to a case challenging California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors, leaving the ban in place. . . .


June 30, 2014

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — By a 5–4 vote on Monday, the United States Supreme Court settled a dispute that Justice Samuel Alito said was “at its core about the rights of women versus the rights of people.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito wrote, “It is the duty of this Court, whenever it sees that the rights of people are being threatened, to do our best to safeguard those rights. In this case, it is clear that people’s rights were being threatened by women.”

Acknowledging that some women “might argue that they, too, have some claim to being people,” Justice Alito wrote, “That is an interesting question for another day.”

While the Court’s decision caused an uproar across the country, it received a big thumbs-up from one of the Justices who voted with the majority, Antonin Scalia.

“This has been a crappy year or so around here, what with all that gay-marriage stuff, but at least we finished strong,” he said.

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How Susan Collins (R-ME) And Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Wrote Those 2 Supreme Court Decisions Today


This morning's two Supreme Court decisions-- one that allows employers claiming to have religious objections to discriminate against women's health needs and one that says public service unions can't compel members to pay dues-- were both decided late in the afternoon on January 30, 2006 when 19 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans against the Democratic filibuster against New Jersey corporate whore Sam Alito. Almost all of them-- from Lieberman to Blanche Lincoln to Max Baucus and Ben Nelson-- are gone from the Senate now, but these 7 Alito-enablers are still calling themselves Senate Democrats:
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Tom Carper (DE)
Tim Johnson (SD)
Mary Landrieu (LA)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Mark Pryor (AR)
Jay Rockefeller (WV)
Among those with the foresight and understanding to vote to make sure Alito would never become a Supreme Court judge-- and do what he did today (yes, he authored both the opinions-- were Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Harry Reid (D-NV), as well as Joe Biden (D-DE), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and… Barack Obama (D-IL). Every Republican voted for Alito, including fake moderate Susan Collins (R-ME). It's worth noting that two actual moderates, Vermont's Jim Jeffords (who had just switched from Republican to Independent) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) opposed Alito on the final confirmation vote, unlike Susan Collins.

That's what you can expect when you vote for Republicans and conservative Democrats: garbage in the judiciary like Alito. A new poll showed that a majority of Americans oppose letting employers, based on their religious views, exclude certain contraceptives from workers’ insurance coverage. That only 35% of Americans agreed with the Hobby Lobby arguments didn't slow down Alito and his right wing brethren on the Court.

Maine progressive Democrat Shenna Bellows is very much not Susan Collins, nor anything like her. She would not have enabled these two awful Supreme Court rulings by voting to confirm Sam Alito and today she spoke out forcefully against both of them. "The working people of this country earn higher wages and better benefits when they bargain collectively," she said in regard to Harris v. Quinn. "The labor movement brought Americans out of an era when pay was abysmal, health care coverage was often nonexistent and child labor laws were weak. Today we're facing challenges just as serious: weakening pensions, a badly out-of-date minimum wage, a Social Security system under constant political attack and endless fights over wage and labor standards that shouldn't be controversial. Organized labor raises the living standards of millions of Americans, helping them pay their bills and take care of their families. Today's ruling strikes another blow against the support system those families rely on. Every public sector union worker today wondering who will stand with with them in the next Congress should know I'll have their back. They need allies to fight with them against the Court's steady erosion of their power, and I can't wait to join them as Maine's next senator."

Progressive thought leaders Shenna Bellows and Marianne Williamson

Before we get to what Shenna had to say about Hobby Lobby, I want to mention that I was at an event for her last week and ran into Marianne Williamson there, another stalwart progressive who recently ran for Congress and lost, in part, because a conservative Democrat, Wendy Greuel, smeared her as being "more anti-Choice than Texas." This morning I asked Marianne about her reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. Her perspective-- the reason why Blue America backed her-- is unique, thought-provoking and very much outside-the-box.
The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision claims to show respect for people's religious views, but in fact it shows no respect for anyone or anything except some supreme right of our new business overlords to make whatever decisions they damn well please.

The current majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is a bunch of political hacks, there not to show respect for the Constitution so much as to pave the way for unprecedented corporate rule in the United States.

The danger here is to something even more important than a woman's right to have her birth control paid for by insurance. The danger is that this court is taking away basic hope from its most important place of residence: the mind of the U.S. citizen. No longer can we say with any seriousness at all that no matter what, we will always be able to take an issue to the Supreme Court in order to gauge its alignment with our Constitutional rights. With the make-up of this Court, that very idea has become almost a joke. And the problem is no longer simmering. It is starting to boil.
This is from the Shenna Bellows press release that went out this morning after the decision was handed down:
"Neither your boss nor the government should interfere in your personal decisions about whether or when to use birth control. Today's horrible Supreme Court decision disregards women's health and opens the door to religious discrimination by employers. We need leadership in Congress who will stand up for reproductive freedom without exceptions."

In 2012, Republican Susan Collins voted in favor of this very outcome when she voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed companies to deny reproductive health care coverage to their employees based on a moral preference.

Sen. Collins also supports a large religious exemption loophole in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which recently passed the Senate. Bellows opposes the loophole and recently proposed a national Human Rights Act, modeled after Maine's, that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT Americans with no exceptions. You can read about that proposal and Bellows' leadership on LGBT issues in her widely read Huffington post article.

"Religious exemptions-- whether in health care law or anti-discrimination legislation-- are nothing more than an excuse to allow certain people to impose their own moral standards on others and deny freedoms to those who work for them," Bellows said. "Employers' personal beliefs have no place blocking freedoms guaranteed to Americans in the US Constitution."
If you want to make sure there are no more Justices like Sam Alito writing these kinds of horrifying decisions, help replace Susan Collins with Shenna Bellows. This isn't about when an FEC quarter ends; it's about when we take control back of our country from corporate interests.

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What Makes People Vote? What Makes Them Stay Away From The Polls?


Friday we were looking at the grave danger the corrupt, conservative Democrats have put the party and the country in by recruiting grotesque candidates in their own image. The vast majority of congressional Democrats voted for Tom Massie's amendment to curb NSA domestic spying but corrupt, conservative Democratic leaders-- primarily Steny Hoyer (K Street-MD), Steve Israel (Blue Dog-NY) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)-- crossed the aisle to vote with the worst of the Republican authoritarians. The same day, most Democrats voted for Barbara Lee's amendment to prevent funding of another war in Iraq. But, again, Hoyer, Israel and Wasserman Schultz crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans against their own caucus and against what most grassroots Democrats passionately want. And these three have been determining the outcome of the 2014 election cycle, by replaying-- precisely-- the same disasters they helped engineer in 2010. It's all about discouraging grassroots Democrats to even bother turning out. That's how the DCCC lost the House majority and along with a net of 63 seats.

According to low voter turnout "is usually attributed to political disengagement and the belief that voting for one candidate/party or another will do little to alter public policy." Leaders like Hoyer, Israel and Wasserman Schultz consistently have done just that by blurring the distinctions between a working class party and the party of Big Business. Most developed democracies boast turnout rates both of 70% while the U.S. is lucky to average 60% during presidential elections and 40% for midterms.

Steve Israel warns his motley array of wretched conservative recruits to not talk about controversial issues. It's his losing "mystery meat" strategy. In 2012, while Israel was failing to win back the House, Elizabeth Warren ousted GOP incumbent Scott Brown, Wall Street's favorite-- and most heavily rewarded-- politician. She didn't do that with a mystery strategy or by laying low and not speaking her mind. And you know what happened? Well you know she won, of course-- and that she won big, 1,696,346 (54%) to 1,458,048 (46%). But what may have slipped by you is that it was the biggest election turnout in the history of Massachusetts, 73%. That's what happens when you give voters a real choice. Democrats and independents flocked to the polls in record numbers to defeat a likable "moderate" Republican with the most outspokenly progressive Democrat anywhere in the country. And while Big Business in general and Wall Street in particular led the way in showering Scott Brown with an unprecedented $28,159,602 for his reelection bid, ordinary Americans chipped in $42,506,349. Her average contribution was less than $50.

One poll showed that "only half of young people who voted for President Obama in 2012 say there is a chance they'll vote Democrat in 2014. If you want to know why the DCCC is unable to persuade voters to come to the polls to prevent another electoral debacle, go no further than the conservative candidates Israel and his Blue Dog/New Dem cronies have recruited. There is virtually no reason for a values-driven Democrat to bother getting off his or her couch and driving to the polling station for candidates who are anti-Choice, anti-gay, pro-NRA, in favor of cutting Social Security benefits or gung ho about more wars and more domestic spying. And, although Israel has instructed his candidates to keep their mouthes shut on these topics, the overwhelming majority of the weak collection of losers he has recruited for the 2014 cycle and are part of his Red-to-Blue program can be described as supporting one or more of these positions. Many have already admitted being New Dems and/or Blue Dogs and ordinary voters have begun figuring out that that means candidates are from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and will consistently vote against their interests.

The easiest of the Israel candidates to talk about-- one with a clear, well-defined record-- is Jennifer Garrison. She ran for the state legislature on a virulently anti-gay platform… literally. In 2004, her GOP opponent, Rep. Nancy Hollister, was the only Republican to vote with the Democrats against an anti-gay marriage bill. During the campaign, Garrison attacked her for putting Ohio's children in jeopardy with her pro-LGBT stand. She sent out a mailing that read, "If you believe marriage is between one man and one woman, there’s something you should know about Nancy Hollister… DOMA was enacted precisely to protect Ohioans from having to accept 'marriages' or 'unions' entered into in other states. Despite the value of DOMA, Nancy Hollister voted against it. Jennifer Garrison believes marriage is between one man and one woman and will fight to protect our values." Garrison won and two years later was able to kill the Democrats' attempt to include LGBT children in anti-bullying legislation. Who would even think of recruiting someone like Garrison? Obvioulsy, someone like Steve Israel, whose own homophobic voting record is, according to ProgressivePunch an abysmal 28.57 over the course of his whole congressional career. And Garrison isn't just bad on LGBT issues. She's violently anti-Choice, to the point that NARAL sent out a letter to women in Ohio stating flatly that "Representative Garrison does not share our values." NARAL may oppose her but the NRA loves her-- and so do the fracking interests. In fact, she makes a living by persuading her neighbors to allow fracking on their property.

Garrison typifies the kind of garbage candidates the DCCC under Steve Israel has come to stand for. When they beg you for money to help with equality or help with the environment, virtually ALL the money they raise goes to candidates like Garrison. Among the other candidates, all part of his Red-to-Blue program, with positions at odds with basic Democratic Party values are Patrick Henry Hays (AR), James Lee Witt (AR), Pete Aguilar (CA), Gwen Graham (FL), Ann Callis (IL), Joe Bock (IN), Jerry Cannon (MI), John Lewis (MT), Brad Ashford (NE), Kathleen Rice (NY), Domenic Recchia (NY), George Sinner (ND), Kevin Strouse (PA), Suzanne Patrick (VA), Glen Gainer (WV) and Nick Casey (WV). Many of the other just refuse to take a stand on anything and offer no opportunity for voters to figure out why they should vote for them. Offering a pig in a poke may be better than offering Jennifer Garrison, but it isn't going to get a 73% turn-out the way Elizabeth Warren did.

And alternative to what the DCCC is serving up? How about real progressives, like Elizabeth Warren, campaigning on issues that serve the interests of working families-- like these candidates, most of whom Steve Israel and the DCCC are overtly hostile to. There is only one reason-- in most cases-- to vote for any of Steve Israel's candidates: a Democrat is a lesser evil than a Republican. The progressive candidates the DCCC ignores are offering a positive vision people like Israel, Wasserman Schultz and Hoyer find abhorrent and a danger to their personal political power.

The DCCC never mentions Jennifer Garrison's record when they plead with you for contributions

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Maine Senate: Mod Fraud Declawed? Bellows Fire And Our Match


A generous Blue America supporter who matched contributions to Maine US Senate Democratic nominee Shenna Bellows in this year’s first quarter, is back again to match the first $1,000 contributed to Bellows through the our ActBlue page between now and Monday night at midnight.

This supporter says "with Bellows’ fire making Collins’ sweat, the least I can do is offer another match," and goes on to highlight the following evidence of Collins’ sweat and Bellows’ fire:

Mainstream media-labeled "moderate" Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has "evolved" more in the last 12 weeks than in her prior 18 years in the Senate, on:
        Marriage equality
        CIA torture disclosures,

and faking compromises more energetically than usual on

         Minimum wage
Collins repositioning on the above issues is too little and too late, and is so transparently linked to obtaining re-election endorsements that it goes beyond "transactional" into the realm of "mercenary."

That linkage clarifies that Collins is sweating under heat and light generated by the energetic Progressive and "Civil Libertarian" campaign of Democratic nominee Shenna Bellows. In Maine they are calling this the "Shenna Effect."

Collins says she is simply following the logic of her own "moderate" compass-- the same one that, for 18 years, caused her to evolve:

         from “moderately” enabling Bob Dole to obstruct President Bill Clinton,
         all the way to “moderately” enabling Mitch McConnell to obstruct President Barack Obama
-- both of whom won Maine’s Presidential votes.

Collins’ moderation (and Collins’ popularity) never matched that of now-retired Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. The last two Democratic challengers to Collins, the “Mod Fraud,” got clawed-- but Shenna Bellows has made a good start to de-clawing Collins, and exposing her as a "Paper Tiger."

It is no coincidence that Democrats who depended on Tea Partiers to push Snowe into retirement then lost Snowe’s seat to the Independent Angus King in a 3-way race. Moving a seat from the Republican to the Democratic column entails heavy lifting of the type that Shenna Bellows is doing now.

At this rate, before the November election, Collins may evolve on many more major issues, to preserve an appearance of moderation on:
         Bellows’ signature civil-libertarianism, which is encouraging many Maine Libertarians to consider casting their first-ever votes for a Democrat, and
         Healthcare, on which Collins has so far evolved even less that Mitch McConnell from the failed arguments in their joint lawsuit to invalidate the Affordable Care Act including its Medicaid expansion.
…but Collins has a history of swerving back into the Republican embrace after being re-elected.

For real progress, Maine and the nation both need to see Shenna Bellows keep shining light and heat on Collins’:
         unprincipled positioning,
         favors owed and repaid to big money contributors, and
         enabling of Mitch McConnell, along with endangered Maine Republican Tea Party (39% 3-way election mandate) Governor Paul LePage, and other Republicans, such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, whom Maine voters have seen through and voted against.
Shenna Bellows is already having an "effect" on the US Senate by pressuring Collins. If we provide the financial resources to continue expanding her exceptionally principled, energetic and well-organized campaign, and to complement her retail campaigning with advertisements in Maine’s low cost television and radio market, then Shenna Bellows can:
         bring us even closer to a solidly Blue (and regionally cooperating) New England,
         send a message that voters will penalize “moderate” enabling of CIA and NSA abuses, and
         shake up the Senate and the nation in the manner of Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Again, help activate the $1,000 match by contributing whatever you can right here on our ActBlue page. And, remember, there's no contribution that's too small. In grassroots campaigns like this, they all add up.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Finally, Independent Kurdistan- Re-Re-Drawing The Map Of The Middle East


You may have read this weekend that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Israel has had "discreet" intelligence relations with the Kurds for 5 decades and has more recently been selling oil to Israel directly (via a pipeline through Turkey to a Kurdish tanker in the Mediterannean).
Baghdad has threatened legal action against anyone who buys the Kurdish cargoes, and the US and several European countries have warned firms not to accept them.

Israel, however, does not have any contracts with Baghdad, so it would face limited consequences for buying or transshipping oil from Ceyhan [in Turkey]. It also has maintained quiet ties with Kurdish leaders, viewing a future Kurdish state as a useful ally on the periphery of the Arab world.

"The KRG is coy about dealing with Israel because of the controversy and the emotion that Israel brings about in the Muslim world," said Shwan Zulal, a Kurdish energy analyst. "But if Israel is willing to be supportive, and other countries are not, the Kurds will deal with them."

There could soon be even more oil flowing through Ceyhan. The KRG seized control of Kirkuk earlier this month amid the chaos caused by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's offensive in Iraq. Oil fields in Kirkuk account for half of Iraq's exports, and Kurdish leaders are talking about diverting their new-found supplies through the northern pipeline.
Netanyahu said the Kurds are "a nation of fighters and have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence." He's hardly the first to think so but not many people in the West talk about it since it sends Turkey in paroxysms of paranoia and because the U.S. still has some kind of amorphous delusion it can will the fictional country known as Iraq to stay together, something Kerry himself questioned years ago.
[President Shimon] Peres told Obama he believes Iraq will not survive as a unified state without "massive military intervention," a course he doesn't recommend, adding that the Kurds have established a de-facto independent democracy of their own, backed by Turkey. In his talk with Kerry, [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman said that "Iraq is collapsing before our eyes, and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is a done deal."
A little background might help. This whole part of the world was part of the Ottoman Empire until that long-crumbling entity was dealt a coup de grâce after it picked the wrong side in World War I. The Treaty of Sèvres and the Treaty of Lausanne, dictated by the British, Italians and French left the Anatolian heartland to the Turks but helped create independent countries now known as Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Lebanon, the Kingdom of Hejaz (the forerunner of Saudi Arabia), Israel, Yemen, Jordan, Cyprus, Egypt, Sudan and Libya. And then there was Kurdistan.

The Kurdish people were split in two by the Persian and Ottoman (Turkish) empires. Kurdistan almost became was the reality of an independent nation state after World War I but with the ending of the Empire and the ascension of Kemal Atatürk, the Kurds' hopes were dashed. Most of "Kurdistan" became part of modern Turkey, with other areas encompassed by Iran, Iraq and Syria. The Kurds tried again after World War II, with even less success. In 1992, though, after the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Kurds were given a substantial degree of autonomy, although Turkey was adamant that they not be granted independence, fearing it would rally the millions of disgruntled Kurds in eastern Anatolia.

More recently, the Kurds in Syria have seized effective governmental control during that country's civil war and with the big moves made by ISIS this month, they have all but declared independence in Iraq, their relationship with the U.S. being the only thing that's kep them from doing so. Although the two biggest Syrian cities that would be part of Kurdistan-- Al-Hasakah and Qamishli-- each has less than 200,000 inhabitants, Kermanshah in Iran has over 800,000 inhabitants and Turkish Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan both have several large cities-- Erbil (about 1.3 million) and Sulaymaniyah (1.2 million), Dohuk (900,000), and Kirkuk (851,000) in Iraq and Diyarbakır (843,460), Urfa (526,247), Van (370,190), and Batman (348,963) in Turkey. Between 15and 18% of the Turkish population-- around 12 million people-- are Kurds, although Kurdish sources say the number of Kurds in Turkey is over 20 million). There are 7 million Kurds in Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan has 4,691,000 people, although there are significant numbers of Kurds living in Baghdad and Mosul as well. Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria and make up over 10% of the country's population-- over 2 million people. Other countries with large Kurdish diasporas include Russian, Germany, Israel, France, Sweden, Lebanon, Jordan, Holland and Belgium.

What's changed facts on the ground now is that Kurdish military forces have repelled the same ISIS forces that the Iraqi military fled from. They've established a de facto independent country that Turkey has been signaling it might accept.
Turkey's ruling party has indicated that it is ready to accept an independent Kurdish state in what is currently northern Iraq following the charge of Islamist militants through the country's northern regions.

"In the past an independent Kurdish state was a reason for war [for Turkey] but no one has the right to say this now," Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for the ruling AK party, told the Financial Times.

"In Turkey, even the word 'Kurdistan' makes people nervous, but their name is Kurdistan," he added.

"If Iraq is divided and it is inevitable, they are our brothers . . . Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq is not good and it looks like it is going to be divided."

A Kurdish state is viewed in Ankara as a possible buffer against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) which has shown the threat the group poses to regional security following the capture of Mosul and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

More than 80 Turkish citizens - specifically diplomats, special forces and truck drivers - are being held hostage in Mosul, Iraq's second city, and Turkey shares borders with both Iraq (300km long) and Syria (approximately 900km long) where Isis is waging violent insurgencies.

Celik blamed both Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the US for the instability in neighbouring Iraq.

 "They didn't bring peace, stability, unity, they just left chaos, widows, orphans. They created a Shia bloc to the south of our country."

The spokesman admits that an independent Kurdish state was not Turkey's "number one choice" but they would live with it if northern Iraqi Kurds broke away from Baghdad.

"The Turks don't want to encourage independence and caution against hasty moves, but if it happens they will live with it," one foreign diplomat told the Financial Times.

"As they see it, if it happens the Kurds will be in their sphere of influence and under their control."

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey no longer harbours ambitions of independence. This is believed to have eased Turkish fears surrounding the formation of a greater Kurdistan and possible erosion of its territorial integrity.

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TV Watch: "Rizzoli and Isles" (finally) says "Goodbye" to Det. Barry Foster -- and actor Lee Thompson Young


Lee Thompson Young: Tuesday's episode was called "Goodbye."

by Ken

I'm glad I didn't read joyceeng61's June 17 "Looking Forward" piece, "Rizzoli and Isles Boss on Writing Out Lee Thompson Young: 'It Was Very Daunting,' " before seeing the show's first two episodes of the new season these past two Tuesdays. And if you haven't seen them yet, you may not want to continue reading this until you have. Now that I have seen those episodes, and felt I needed to say something (something approving) about the way the show finally dealt with the suicide last August of cast member Lee Thompson Young, who played Barry Foster, the partner of Det. Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon), I'm really glad to have found the piece.

In it, joyceeng61 talks to the show's new showrunner, Without a Trace veteran Jan Nash, who inherited the problem of What to Do About Lee when she took over from former showrunner (and show creator) Janet Tamaro in November.
The final episodes of Season 4 were devoid of Young, but his character, Det. Barry Frost, hadn't been written out yet. Instead, he was said to be on vacation visiting his mom.

"It was very daunting knowing what was before me and what I had to do," Nash says. "From the moment that I was approached about this show and started watching the episodes ... and [after] I met with Angie [Harmon] and Sasha [Alexander], I knew that doing it in a compelling and respectful way was the most important thing to them for the season."
The loss of Lee Thompson Young must have been as traumatic for his show family as the loss of Barry Foster was for his fictional family.
Killing off Frost was the only option to honor Young, Nash feels, as any other alternative would ring false. But she was well aware that she had to approach it with great care.

"We had to deal with it in a real and concrete way. We couldn't just say Barry Frost went on vacation and occasionally talk about how much fun he was having or give him a new job in a new city," she says. "That would feel icky. We realized that we had to have the character die so we could deal with that loss the same way the people on the show had dealt with Lee's loss. What comes with that is we had to make sure we were not being exploitive and we were honoring his memory appropriately ... and I think we all feel as a collective that we, to the best of our abilities, accomplished that."
Ms. Nash, I thought you and your team did a pretty darned good job of dealing with this awful situation. And the plot motif of everyone around Jane trying to persuade her that what she needed was to cry, which is obviously highly un-Jane-like behavior . . . well, the way that was worked out was, I thought, at once unexpected and lovely and memorable.

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Was The DCCC Pestering You With Spam All Weekend?


As you know, tomorrow (June 30) marks the end of the FEC's arbitrary reporting quarter. Candidates are hysterical and following DCCC suggestions to burn their lists with a constant barrage of requests for contributions. If you're ever signed a DCCC online petition you've probably had dozens of content-free requests since Friday, including multiple pleas from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel, neither of whom seems to have thought it was relevant to tell Democrats that each had just voted with the Republicans against Tom Massie's amendment to end unconstitutional domestic spying by the NSA and, again, with most Republicans, against Barbara Lee's amendment to prevent another war in Iraq.

One of my friends, formerly a very major Democratic donor, Michael Wolkowitz, feels like almost everyone I've talked to about this barrage of e-mails. He sent this response to the DCCC when they consistently refused to remove his name from their spam files:
"Sorry!" does not come even close to making up for your incompetence, lack of integrity, and dishonesty. I have tried multiple times to unsubscribe from your list and the lists of the candidates you share it with. Self-evidently, it does not work. I am not giving money to you or any individual candidates for the House this year. Sadly, electronic mail is free so I cannot tell you to stop wasting your money. I will, sometime soon, use my small Huffington Post bully pulpit to talk about how sneaky and soulless your committee is. Please please stop sending me mail.
When I asked Michael if I could use his e-mail today, I said I could leave his name out for the sake on anonymity. I loved his response: "If you think it would be a plus feel free to name me. I am sick of the assault by the committees that don’t actually deserve to use the word Democratic, I am sick of the corporatist dominance of that party, I am sick of that party’s vast majority on Capitol Hill blanket support of the Department of War because they are so risk averse they would never dare be perceived as anything but hawks, I am sick of their risk aversion to ever taking a stand on an issue that either:  a) is not pre-guaranteed to pass AND b) not hurt them in a general election, c) and get 60 votes in the Senate. These motherfuckers won’t even get a highway appropriations bill passed let alone allow debate on climate change, immigration, the poor starving yearning to breathe free who happen to be U.S. citizens. I think you can write my next thirty paragraphs for me so I will leave it there. I feel like I have wasted a whole lot of money time effort energy and emotion over the last 10-15 years trying my best to work “within the system.” I am back to where I was after Humphrey was nominated. Outside, trying to look away instead of In. fuck ‘em."

One of the worst of the freshmen, New Dem Patrick Murphy, has been among the most abusive of the e-mail fanatics this weekend. I just got another one from his annoying finance director, Mandi Karp: "Did you see this? Patrick's is THE race in Florida. We need to make sure that we have the strongest showing yet at this FEC deadline. Give now and your gift will be DOUBLE MATCHED - but only until midnight!" That's followed by a false claim from Debbie Wasserman Schultz that Murphy is Boehner's top target. He isn't. JUst moments atom he followed the Mandi e-mail up with a "personal" one: "Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, but Mandi and I were going through our database of our biggest supporters and making sure that they were in before our biggest Federal Elections Commission (FEC) deadline of the year on Monday. If you've already given and our emails were wrong, I apologize for bothering you, but if you haven’t, I would be humbled if you would consider making a contribution before our June 30th deadline."

So far Murphy has raised $2,814,416 this cycle, only 6% from small donors-- most of the rest from special interests who admire Murphy's conservative politics. A crowded field of 4th-rate Republican opponents fighting it out among themselves haven't raised enough to make any of them real competition:
Carl Domino- $578,305 ($429,527 with a check he wrote to himself)
Brian Lara- $113,997 ($100,087 with a check he wrote to himself)
Alan Schlesinger- $99,789 ($75,000 with a check he wrote to himself)
Ellen Andel- $51,233 (every cent of which she has already spent)
Beverly Hires- $36,770 ($36,000 with a check she wrote to herself)
Calvin Turnquest- $21,751
Frank Lynch- $10,000 (100% which he self-financed)
Nick Wukoson- zero
This is not shaping up to be a competitive race and certainly not one that Boehner is targeting. Wasserman Schultz, as usual, is lying-- in her eagerness to see her fellow slimy New Dem get in position to run for higher office. Paying attention to e-mail from her and Israel, or from any of the Blue Dogs or New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party grappling to take control of the House Democratic caucus, will do two things: guarantee another catastrophic election year for the Democrats and help cement conservative power inside the caucus.

Allowing Israel, Wasserman Schultz and Hoyer to determine who will be-- and who won't be-- the funded Democratic candidates can only end in catastrophe on numerous levels. Short of assigning that function to MoveOn, PCCC, DFA or Blue America, a better-- or at least more entertaining-- method would be to let Bill Maher do it. As we first reported in January, he has a fun game going called Flip A District and the first step towards congressional change ended on Friday with the addition of Dave Reichert (WA-08) and Scott Desjarlais (TN-04). Maher now has 16 Republicans to target-- or at least have some fun abusing:
Mike Coffman (CO-06)- D+1 Andrew Romanoff
Steve Southerland (FL-02)- R+6 Gwen Graham
Ted Yoho (FL-03)- R+14 Marihelen Wheeler
Jackie Walorski (IN-06)- R+6 Joe Bock
Steve King (IA-04)- R+5 Jim Mowrer
Dan Benishek (MI-01)- R+5 Jerry Cannon
Tim Walberg (MI-07)- R+3 Pam Byrnes
Kerry Bentivolio (MI-11)- R+4 July 17 primary
John Kline (MN-02)- R+2 Mike Obermueller
Scott Garrett (NJ-05)- R+4 Roy Cho
Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (NY-11)- R+2 Domenic Recchia
Renee Ellmers (NC-02) R+10 Clay Aiken
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)- R+18 Lenda Sherrell
Blake Farenthold (TX-27)- R+13 Wesley Reed
Dave Reichert (WA-08)- R+1 Jason Ritchie
Paul Ryan (WI-01)- R+3 Rob Zerban
Ten of the 16-- Coffman, Southerland, Walorski, King, Bentivolio, Walberg, Benishek, Kline, Grimm, Ellmers-- are DCCC targets or semi-targets and I'm guessing that 4-- Southerland, Walorski, Walberg, and Benishek-- of those are on the list simply because the DCCC tampered with the process. Most of these contests are very uphill for the Democrats but the underlined one are candidates who have exactly the same chance of winning that you do. Some of the others have an ever so slightly better chance of winning than you do. And some of the best shots, like against Paul Ryan and Dave Reichert, are bing studiously ignored (or worse) by the DCCC because the Democrats running are progressives. Maher missed out of the two best shots to really flip a district away from pure unadulterated evil. One has an R+1 PVI (Fred Upton in Michigan) and one that has an EVEN PVI (Steve Israel in New York). In fact, if I could contribute to just one House candidate this cycle, it would be to the Democrat running against Upton, Paul Clements. You can contribute to Paul's campaign here-- and keep in mind, everyone on this page has been carefully vetted as a progressive worth investing in.

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Ghost of Sunday Classics: One's a peasant and one's a governor's wife, but both are adored by the locals


Desdemona receives an outpouring of love from the adoring Cypriots in Act II of Cape Town's 2013 Otello.

by Ken

Last week we listened to the opening scene of Verdi's Luisa Miller, as I tried to make my case about the kinship between Luisa and her Verdian cousin Desdemona in Otello, heroines who (to quote myself yet again) --
who are genuinely and all but universally loved because of their basic uncompromised decency and humanity, living exemplary practitioners of the Golden Rule. Naturally they are crushed -- easy pickings in a world that talks a good game about the Golden Rule but truly doesn't believe in it.

One problem in making the connection is that the music in which the relationship between our heroines and the people who love them so tends to be performed as generic, saccharine mush, and so we're not often prompted to consider the effect it would have on us if Luisa's villagers or Desdemona's adoring Cypriots really meant it. It seems to me pretty clear in the music that they do.


VERDI: Otello: Act II, Chorus of Cypriots, "Dove guardi splendono raggi"
In Act II, JAGO is just introducing the first dose of poison into the mind of OTELLO regarding the (wholly non-existent) relationship between DESDEMONA and CASSIO when DESDEMONA reappears in the garden. She is surrounded by inhabitants of the island -- women, boys, and Cypriot and Albanian sailors -- who offer her flowers and other gifts." We come in near the end of this brief lovefest between the Cypriiots and Cypress's First Lady, with OTELLO and JAGO observing.

CYPRIOTS: Wherever you look rays shine,
hearts are enflamed.
Wherever you pass, descend showers
of flowers -- here among lilies and roses,
like before a chaste altar, fathers,
children, wives come singing.
DESDEMONA [deeply touched, very sweetly]:
The heavens shine, the breeze dances,
flowers perfume the air.
Joy, love, hope
sing in my heart.
OTELLO: That song overcomes me.
If she be false, then heaven mocks itself!
JAGO [to himself]:
Beauty and love united in sweet harmony!
I shall shatter your sweet accord.
CYPRIOTS: Live happily! Live happily!
Here love reigns.
OTELLO: That song overcomes me.
[When the singing ends, DESDEMONA kisses some of the children, and some of the women kiss the hem of her gown. She bestows a purse on the sailors.]

Gwyneth Jones (s), Desdemona; James McCracken (t), Otello; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b), Jago; Ambrosian Opera Chorus, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli, cond. EMI, recorded Aug., Oct., and Nov. 1968

Leonie Rysanek (s), Desdemona; Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Tito Gobbi (b), Jago; Rome Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tullio Serafin, cond. RCA-BMG, recorded July-Aug. 1960

Kiri Te Kanawa (s), Desdemona; Luciano Pavarotti (t), Otello; Leo Nucci (b), Jago; Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, cond. Decca, recorded live in concert, April 1991


Read more »

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Imagine All The Confederate Garbage Committing Suicide If Hillary Wins In 2016


One down...

Mississippi dodged a bullet last Tuesday when Democrats turned out in strong enough numbers to save doddering Senator Thad Cochran from certain defeat at the hands of reactionary white supremacist Chris McDaniel. Cochran, who didn't even want to run, will probably retire after a respectable amount of time passes, allowing the state GOP Establishment to appoint a nebbish Chamber of Commerce-camp replacement. They are well aware that McDaniel's brand of Ted Cruz-style extremism isn't healthy for the party (not to mention the state or the nation). Mississippi is pretty red-- but probably not as forever in the pocket of the GOP as you think. In 2012 these dozen states gave Obama the smallest percentage of their votes. These are blood red hellholes:
Utah- 25%
Wyoming- 28%
Idaho- 33%
Oklahoma- 33%
West Virginia- 36%
Arkansas- 37%
Kansas- 38%
Nebraska- 38%
Alabama- 38%
Kentucky- 38%
North Dakota- 39%
Tennessee- 39%
Mississippi voters gave Obama a better showing-- 44%-- not just than these, but in 5 other states as well: Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Alaska, and Montana. When states that are headed in a purple direction are tallied up, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and Arizona are all on par politically with Mississippi. It won't happen in time for 2016 but if President Hillary does a great job, Mississippi could actually be looked at as a swing state in 2020!

Confederate extremists like Chris McDaniel aren't part of Mississippi's future; he' and they are part of a dark past better left for historians, sociologists and psychologists to ponder. The news from Mississippi over the weekend has been all about McDaniel and his team of neo-fascists and racists running up and down the state screeching ominously about Negroes voting in the white party primary. They just can't get their heads around the concept. He won't concede and, like we predicted on election night, he has plenty of Sturm und Drang for the media to enjoy over the next few weeks. Always the racist scumbag, McDaniel accused Cochran of luring African-American voters to the polls with "pork and food stamps."

McDaniel claims to have already found 1,000 illegal votes! His sick camp also claims the Republican establishment in Mississippi is responsible for the suicide of Mark Mayfield, the unhinged teabagger and McDaniel's operative who had been arrested for breaking into Rose Cochran's hospital room to take pictures of the deteriorating Alzheimer's patient. McDaniel's policy director, Keith Plunkett, tweeted "A good man is gone today [because] of a campaign to destroy lives. To all 'so called' Republican leaders who joined lockstep: I WILL NOT REST!" Another lunatic fringe McDaniel operative, Pat Bruce, president of the Madison County Conservative Coalition (a local Tea Party front group), insisted that Mayfield "was the finest man I know... They killed him," she said in a raised voice full of pain. "They sent a SWAT team to his office, six officers, just to arrest him."
Bruce knows Mayfield committed suicide this morning, but she shares a broadly held rage at the way the Madison Police Department brought Mayfield into custody. After all, none of the other suspects was treated in the same manner. While a SWAT team didn't actually go to Mayfield's office, several officers in multiple cars with lights on did.
That kind of treatment, in the eyes of Mississippi's unreconstructed racists, is reserved for Blacks Democrats and never for members of the white elite. Delusional teabaggers have been quick to paint themselves as the victims-- how many years have they been brainwashed by Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck?-- of the ghastly incident against Cochran's ailing wife. Plunkett:
“Mark was as level-headed and deliberate a person as I have ever met, never prone to histrionics,” he wrote from his iPhone. “His affiliation with the TEA Party helped lend the group credibility with a wide range of conservatives, Republicans and even many Democrats in Mississippi. That’s why so many were shocked when it was alleged that he had been part of some political shenanigans. It was out of character.”

McDaniel allies have argued that the whole nursing home incident was politicized to get sympathy for Cochran in what became one of the nastiest races in memory.

“The politicization of the incident was beyond the pale,” Plunkett said. “It was an attack on a good man that is well respected. I’ve never met a person that had a bad word to say about him. It’s shocking to those in the state who knew the demeanor and quiet dedication of the real Mark Mayfield. He wasn’t the character he was being cast, and he didn’t deserve that kind of treatment.”
Mayfield has regularly contributed substantial amounts to the RNC, to the NRCC and to Republican candidates like Romney. Team McDaniel is exactly the kind of garbage heap people working in DC do not need helping to gum up the works with Ted Cruz back there. Shame about that suicide; I wonder how many more teabaggers will do likewise when McDaniel's fantasy is officially over. Valhalla awaits! No Democrats there.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wall Street-Owned New Dems Work With Singapore’s Repressive Government In Push For TPP


Singapore has long had one of the world’s most repressive governments. And things aren’t getting better anytime soon.

But Singapore's government supports "free trade," and worships at its alter. So Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is popular in Washington, D.C. and on Wall Street. He was in town recently to be congratulated for his abiding commitment to trade. He took advantage of the occasion to lecture Americans on the "need" for Congress to approve the "vital" Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The secretive TPP would be the world’s largest trade agreement-- and would ignite a worldwide race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards. It’s vociferously opposed by all major unions and environmental groups as well as organizations and individuals concerned with maintaining U.S. sovereignty, including many Democrats, or at least Democrats from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

However, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, the New Dems of New Democrat Coalition, composed of sold-out corporate shills, is furiously pushing for the TPP just as hard as Prime Minister Lee. Indeed, no issue dominates the New Dems’ boring social media accounts than “free trade.” (How boring? The New Dems have less than 500 likes on Facebook. The more grassroots-oriented Congressional Progressive Caucus, in contrast, has more than 13,000 likes. On Twitter, most of the New Dem followers are the same right-leaning institutions, lobbyists and political hacks that the New Dems retweet all day-- such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Third Way and the Progressive (sic) Policy Institute.

So, it was unsurprising to see that Prime Minister Lee granted an audience to Hawaii's most conservative federal official Colleen Hanabusa,, a New Dems’ task force chair, along with reactionary Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes. Hanabusa and Forbes, who are close partners and friends in the nature of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, mostly care about military expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, the loosening of trade rules to be provided by the TPP can only benefit the defense contractors who are enriched by military expansion-- and who, in turn, have been extraordinarily generous to a set of politicians like Hanabusa and Forbes.

Hanabusa took to Facebook to kiss his authoritarian ass and heap praise on Prime Minister Lee, including for his leadership on "international trade":
Today’s discussion with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reaffirmed the critical role the U.S. plays in ensuring stability within the Asia-Pacific, through a continuous military presence, which facilitates our economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian capabilities. 

Prime Minister Lee spoke of Singapore’s leading role in international trade and highlighted the importance that the U.S. Navy plays by maintaining freedom of navigation in the region. He also recalled the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and how the people of Singapore knew that help had come once a U.S. aircraft carrier arrived on the scene.

We must understand that as a region, our security and prosperity are increasingly tied to each other, and that a robust, long-term presence of American forces in the region has ensured peace and stability in Asia for the past sixty years. Expanding this presence over the next decade to meet 21st century security challenges is vital to U.S. and global interests. I thank Prime Minister Lee for taking the time to meet with us today.
Though many in the U.S. progressive community are heartened by efforts to slow or derail the TPP, Prime Minister Lee is confident he, the Republicans and the slimy New Dems will win:
Mr Lee also noted that talks on the TPP are still on track to wrap up this year. The comprehensive free trade pact covers a dozen nations, including Singapore and the US, which in total make up 40 per cent of the world economy and a third of global trade.

There is a "good chance" that TPP negotiations will be completed this year, Mr Lee said.

"We are almost there, and I'm encouraged by President (Barack) Obama's promise to constructively resolve the remaining issues and I think we should be able to conclude it this year."

Mr Lee had reiterated the need for US support to complete the TPP at a dialogue organised by the US think-tank Council on Foreign Relations earlier in the day.
Hanabusa is bucking for a promotion, as she’s trying to oust U.S. Senator Brian Schatz in Hawaii’s August 9 primary. Schatz, like most progressives, is concerned about the TPP. This is a race that may help determine whether the TPP is actually approved. Blue America has joined many labor and environmental groups in endorsing Schatz.

Early voting in Hawaii starts in less than a month, and Senator Brian Schatz could use help in getting out the progressive vote.

Hanabusa with bagman/husband John Souza

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Looks like NJ's Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard isn't going to be toiling on a chain gang anytime soon


"Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go." You'd think by now NJ's Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard governor would be packing his toothbrush for a decade or two in the slammer, but it isn't looking that way. And "Scummy Joe" Scarborough will tell us why.

by Ken

For now, anyway, the last word apparently goes to "Scummy Joe" Scarborough, who now seems to have officially set himself up as apologist of and coddler of right-wing Imperial Thieving Fat Bastards.

MediaMatters took the trouble to document ("STUDY: New Investigation Into Gov. Christie Adminstration Virtually Ignored By Major Networks") that essentially no TV network news attention was paid, except by MSNBC, to the New York Times's carefully researched and documented story earlier in the week ("2nd Bridge Inquiry Said to Be Linked to Christie," by Matt Flegenheimer, William K. Rashbaum, and Kate Zernike) about multiple dimensions of illegality under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission to the way New Jersey's Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard of a governor swindled a couple of billion dollars out of his favorite patsy, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Okay, that's my characterization of the ITFB's alleged crimes.)

As Erik Wemple subsequently noted on his blog, "No surprises in that data set. MSNBC, after all, has provided extensive coverage of all things related to Christie and Jersey infrastructure ever since the George Washington Bridge scandal exploded in January."

However, Erik also notes:
Some of that MSNBC coverage, however, wasn’t terribly complimentary of the New York Times scoop. On his June 24 program, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough ripped the story and its placement on page A1: “This is garbage,” he said, adding that it’s a “joke of a story to put on the front page.”
Apparently Scummy Joe has higher standards when it comes to possible illegalities imputed to Republican thieving bastards. Stealing a couple of billion dollars? "A joke of a story to put on the front page."


Well, no, I don't like his politics, but I don't think the people who elected him governor twice don't know much about the politics being practiced in their name.

The money in question is money that -- and I don't think there's any question about this -- the Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard extorted out of the PANYNJ for use to do repairs to the Pulaski Skyway. It's money that magically became "available" after the ITFB unilaterally canceled the long-planned trans-Hudson tunnel, in a fog of obfuscations and outright lies (as the man ever told the truth about anything in public? ever?), despite its substantial and obvious value to large numbers of New Jerseyans, and then magically became available. Like for pilfering ITFBs.

Okay, let's have some facts. MediaMatters quotes two chunks from the NYT report:
The inquiries into securities law violations focus on a period of 2010 and 2011 when Gov. Chris Christie's administration pressed the Port Authority to pay for extensive repairs to the Skyway and related road projects, diverting money that was to be used on a new Hudson River rail tunnel that Mr. Christie canceled in October 2010.

Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move: The Pulaski Skyway, they noted, is owned and operated by the state, putting it outside the agency's purview, according to dozens of memos and emails reviewed by investigators and obtained by The New York Times.

But the Christie administration relentlessly lobbied to use the money for the Skyway, with Mr. Christie announcing publicly that the state planned to rely on Port Authority funds even before an agreement was reached. Eventually, the authority justified the Skyway repairs by casting the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, even though they are not directly connected.
Hmm, "Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move," eh? "Not directly connected," eh, the skyway and the tunnel? Well, and this is just an Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard brainstorming, what if we were to make up some cover name?
In bond documents describing the Skyway reconstruction and other repairs, the Port Authority has called the projects "Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements."

The accuracy of this characterization is now a major focus of the investigations, according to several people briefed on the matter. Under a New York State law known as the Martin Act, prosecutors can bring felony charges for intentionally deceiving bond holders, without having to prove any intent to defraud or even establish that any fraud occurred.


I know I will be castigated for referring mockingly to the Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard's all-adulthood grotesque obesity. I'm sorry, though, it's who he is -- a loathsome, greedy, self-absorbed beast of limitless ravenous appetites who has flaunted his loathsomeness, greed, self-absorption, and limitless ravenous appetites. I think he want anyone who deals with him to know that he is an imperial thieving fat bastard. Play ball with him (and you remember how, when he was trying to separate himself from the crackpot-thug high school crony David Wildstein whom he planted at the PANYNJ, he depicted is old pal as a solitary high school wacko and himself as "an athlete"), and you'll be rewarded; fuck with him and, well, you risk suffering the wrath of an Imperial Thieving Fat Bastard.

You know, sort of the way Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer revealed the ITFB administration had threatened her city's Sandy recovery money if she didn't play ball with one of his high-stakes development scams. Does anyone really believe Mayor Zimmer made this up? It fits perfectly with the ITFB adminsitration's pattern of carrot-and-stick intimidation and thuggery. And again, I don't think the ITFB's "people" were all that shy about it. Intimidation doesn't work if the people you want to keep in line don't know they're under threat. It's just that nobody dares go public, for fear of, well, incurring the consequences. And the ITFB had a near-ironclad defense: You can't prove nuttin', coppers. And he should know, having been the kind of U.S. attorney Karl Rove loved, the kind who knew which criminals to sit on and which to send on their way with a friendly athlete's pat on the rump.


Well, lucky for them. Their ITFB did a little something for them. At the same time, of course, he was bribing labor unions to whom chunks of that money would be flowing into playing ball with him. And who knows how many other ITFB cronies and seduction targets got their cuts? We do know about the merriment with which once-respected former NJ AG David Sansom, installed by the ITFB as his personal stooge-chariman of the PANYNJ, approved deals for which he got his cut as attorney for the lucky recipients.

But gosh, you say, the Pulaski Skyway needed rebuilding, and the state of New Jersey couldn't afford to do it.

Well, boo-hoo. Did you notice just recently that when the state of New Jersey couldn't afford to honor its legal obligations, and the ITFB decided that meant he could slash $904M from the state's contribution to its retirees' benefits (and another $1.57B next year!), and a bunch of unions sued, just this week --
A New Jersey judge on Wednesday refused to force Governor Chris Christie to restore almost a billion dollars in funds that he cut from the state's 2014 pension contribution.

The state's fiscal crisis trumped public workers' contractual rights, granted under the state's 2011 pension reform law, to the full contribution, according to Judge Mary Jacobson's ruling.
Public sector unions sued the Christie administration after he slashed $904 million from this year's pension contribution and directed the legislature to cut $1.57 billion from next year's budget, too.
Golly gee, wasn't it just this past fall that the state was a picture of financial health thanks to its ITFB governor's bold fiscal prudence? And now, gosh sucks, there's just no money for retired state workers. Apparently when it comes to state workers, as opposed to private-sector unions he's trying to bribe or connected cronies he's trying to enrich, boo-hoo, Your Honor, there's just no money to be found.

"Scummy Joe" Scarborough doesn't see anything wrong here. After all, he's just being a forceful leader for the people of his state. Well, no, he's being a forceful enforcer and enricher for the rich of his state, or else he wouldn't be doing it in secret through intimidation, extortion, and embezzlement. I guess "Scummy Joe" understands that the reason we have government is to help the rich become richer, and the reason we have elections is so the people can decide who they want deciding which rich people should get how much richer.

In the case of the canceled trans-Hudson tunnel, I think we can conclude that

These are, after all, economically troubled times -- after the ITFB's reelection win, that is. State government can't fill the pockets of every overprivileged supplicant.

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