Friday, October 24, 2014

Will Iowa Voters Care That Joni Ernst Snubbed The Des Moines Register Endorsement Interview?


The NRA spent $2,365,568 on behalf of Ernst and their NRA Institute for Legislative Action spent nearly $600,000 more. She's their kind of gal.

In 2012 the Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Obama still took the state's 6 electoral votes 822,544 (52%) to 730,617 (46%). In fact, almost 6,000 more Iowans voted for Obama against Romney than voted for him against McCain. Maybe Romney would have only scored 40% without the Register endorsement, which claimed to be enthralled by his "fresh economic vision." The Register also endorsed Herbert Hoover, Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie and Thomas Dewey when each of them ran against FDR-- and Nixon twice, including right after Watergate.

The Senate race in Iowa this year, for the seat liberal lion Tom Harkin is giving up, should have been wrapped up long ago. Joni Ernst is one of the worst-- if not the worst-- Republicans this cycle. She's a crackpot extremist and has had trouble coming off as anything other than a crackpot extremist. The problem is her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley, has managed to step all over a fine record-- one that should be propelling him into the Senate-- with a bunch of foolish rookie mistakes that are making Iowans uncomfortable. The race is down to the wire with the polling average showing Ernst up by a couple of points. Yesterday he may have had a little lucky though. Ernst ducked out of her editorial board endorsement interview with The Register.

She's still whining because a Register columnist, Rekha Basu, has refused to print Ernst press releases and instead does her own independent analysis of Ernst's extremist agenda, like in this column a few days ago.
As a state senator last year, Joni Ernst voted against expanding Medicaid eligibility to include a family of four with an income below $32,000 a year. She lost. That same session, the Red Oak Republican now seeking election to the U.S. Senate, voted not to raise the state's earned income tax credit for the working poor. That would apply to an unmarried person without children making below $14,600 a year.

To complete the trifecta, she rejects increasing the state's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage. But Ernst, a supporter of low taxes, went farther. She voted against giving tax credits to farmers who donate to food banks for the hungry.
Ernst went ape-shit when the column came out and yesterday she said she wouldn't meet with the paper's editorial board because of it, although she didn't deny that there was anything false or misleading in it. Basu had a good laugh on her Facebook page: "Is Ernst that sensitive to the kinds of criticisms that invariably will come in such a high profile U.S. Senate race? Is she afraid of the scrutiny? Sure, it's stressful, but all the other candidates for Congress are doing it to get their messages out, including Steven King, the target of frequent editorial criticism. Would Ernst similarly thumb her nose at the press while serving in the Senate?"

The publisher of The Register kicked her ass as well:
We were disappointed by the Ernst camp’s decision to not spend an hour with the editorial board and share her vision for our state and the rest of the country. This has been an incredibly nasty, competitive race where both sides have spent millions and aired tens of thousands of TV spots. Undecided voters I talk to want Sen. Ernst to break through the rhetoric and cacophony of campaign ads about hogs, Obamacare and balanced budgets. It’s a time for sharing specifics. It’s a chance to have a serious conversation about vision, priorities, the economy, national security, foreign relations and Social Security. I’m not angry she snubbed the Des Moines Register editorial board, which is in final deliberations about our Senate endorsement. It truly isn’t about us. We wanted to discuss the future of the state and allow Joni Ernst to share insights and specific responses to the concerns and questions of Iowans and voters. It’s unfortunate that cannot happen.
The race in Iowa is pivotal for control of the Senate. According to Harry Enten at the FiveThirtyEight blog, "If Republicans win it, then they can afford to lose Georgia and Kansas and win the majority without pulling off an unexpected victory in New Hampshire or North Carolina." And they find Ernst, who admits her support for the highly unpopular Personhood Amendment was not a mistake and, that given the chance, she would ban all abortions and block access to birth control, has a better than even chance-- 66% in fact-- to win a week from Tuesday.

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Conservatives Have Never Wanted Poor People To Have The Right To Vote-- And They Still Don't


Yesterday we looked at the pitiless attitude of Republicans towards the non-rich. Conservatives have always been quite militant in trying to make sure the non-rich were excluded from voting. Conservatives tried from the founding of the Republic right up to the current day, with Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips telling right-wing radio listeners that the founders of the country originally put "certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote... One of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owner." And it's not just a lunatic fringe hate-monger like Phillips. It's also lunatic fringe hate-mongers inside Congress, like Paul Broun (R-GA) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

And like we said, this tendency didn't just start with the Tea Party and the GOP. Many Americans were horrified Monday when the Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying it was unacceptable to allow his successors to be chosen in open elections, in part because doing so would risk giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics. His blunt remarks reflect a widely held view among the Hong Kong elite that the general public cannot be trusted to govern the city well. Do you think its any different from the view American conservatives hold?

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, only white male Protestant property owners over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. Only 6% of the population were allowed to vote when George Washington ran for president. When progressives tried expanding the right to vote, conservatives insisted it was an issue for the states not the federal government. The last state to remove property ownership as a voting requirement for white males was North Carolina (in 1856). All through the 1800s, conservatives cracked down on attempts to allow freed slaves, indigenous people, women, native born Americans of Chinese ancestry to vote. American Indians weren't granted citizenship and voting rights until 1919-- and even then it was only to Indians who had served in the military. The next year (1920) the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote passed.

And the current Supreme Court isn't the first to be harboring a pack of far-right racists misfits in fancy robes. In the 1920s the Supreme Court specifically excluded Americans whose ancestors had come from Japan and India from voting! It wasn't until 1952 that the McCarran-Walter Act gave all Americans of Asian ancestry the right to vote. Conservative-controlled states continue to put up road blocks to allowing anyone who is not white and well off the chance to vote. They use methods from unconstitutional poll taxes and difficult to get ID requirements to just restricting voting hours to times when working people can't get off work and putting fewer voting machines in poor urban neighborhoods.

Wednesday, writing for The Atlantic, Peter Beinart asked the question that has divided progressives and conservatives forever: Should the poor be allowed to vote?. He went right to Romney's 47% dichotomy, vilifying almost half the citizens of our country as victims who "believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
In distinguishing between Americans whose economic independence permits them to make reasoned political choices and those who because of their poverty cannot, Romney was channeling a hoary American tradition. In 1776, John Adams argued that men (let alone women) “who are wholly destitute of Property” were “too dependent upon other Men to have a Will of their own.” In 1800, only three states allowed property-less white men to vote. For most of the 20th century, southern states imposed “poll taxes” that effectively barred not only African Americans from voting but some poor whites as well.
Beinart wrote that "In 2012, Florida House candidate Ted Yoho remarked, 'I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote.' Anti-democracy fanatic Steve King (R-IA) said pretty much the same thing in 2011. Beinart says they're outside the mainstream of Republican thought. But they're not; they may be outside the mainstream of what most Republican politicians are willing to talk about... at least in public. "But," he wrote, "they support policies that do just that. When GOP legislatures make it harder to vote-- either by restricting early voting, limiting the hours that polls remain open, requiring voter identification or disenfranchising ex-felons-- the press usually focuses on the disproportionate impact on racial minorities and Democrats. But the most profound impact may be on the poor... Obviously, the United States is not Hong Kong."

Glad to hear it.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Don't We Have A Doctor Leading The Charge Against Ebola?


The ugly faces of the Texas Ebola problem

Republicans are still trying to make Ebola a campaign issue.

Yesterday we saw how Republicans have used fear mongering to imply Democratic women candidates are not up to the job of fighting Ebola (or ISIS)-- despite the courageous work women, from nurses to CIA agents, are actually doing on the front lines in both battles. Now Republican lawmakers have been caterwauling that Obama appointed a bureaucrat as Ebola Czar instead of a doctor, seemingly unaware-- or worse, deceitful-- that every single Republican-- including fake moderates like Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)-- blocked the president's nomination for Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, a physician from Florida. He was nominated in November, 2013 and, at the insistence of the NRA, Rand Paul put a block on his nomination. (He called assault weapons a health care issue and the gun nuts flipped out.)

Brad Bannon, writing for US News and World Report pointed out the Republican hypocrisy. "Republicans, shamefully criticizing President Barack Obama’s response to the problem, are like someone who drills a hole in the bottom of a ship and then blames the captain for sinking it."
Sadly we don’t have one because the GOP has blocked a vote on the president’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post. Murthy has the ideal background for the job: Currently he is a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the best hospitals in the nation. He is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Murphy has a medical degree and an MBA from Yale University and an undergraduate degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard.

Why would GOP senators have blocked a vote on the nomination of a doctor with medical credentials such as Murthy’s? The answer, of course, is the iron grip the National Rifle Association has on the Republican Party. The NRA objects to Murthy’s nomination because he believes that guns are a public health hazard. And it’s pretty obvious to everybody except the NRA die-hards that guns are a clear and present danger since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were 335,609 gun deaths in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. If that’s not an epidemic, nothing is... [T]he GOP would rather take on the president than Ebola and would rather use the health crisis as a partisan battering ram than work with Obama to deal with this grave health crisis. Republicans are using Ebola as a political football, and it’s time for a bye week.
Texas crackpot senator Ted Cruz-- whose state is the epicenter of the American Ebola crisis-- claims, quite falsely, that Murthy "we don’t have [a surgeon general] because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist. We expect this from someone like Ted Cruz, but why are professed "centrists" like Susan Collins following him (over the cliff)? Republicans in the House don't even seem aware that Republicans are blocking the confirmation of the president's surgeon general nominee. Take Tea Party spokesmodel, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who went whining to Fox that the surgeon general should be heading Ebola response. He seems to be missing one vital piece of information-- and Fox isn't about to enlighten him.

Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Wednesday questioned President Obama's decision to appoint what he considers a political operative to lead the country's Ebola response, instead of the acting-United States surgeon general.

"I want a doctor telling me how to deal with this," Chaffetz said on Fox News'America's Newsroom."

Obama on Friday named Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Biden, to the Ebola post.

"You have somebody who's got a medical history, background, expertise, who understands the bureaucracy," Chaffetz said. "Why aren't we empowering that person? I don't understand why the Obama administration is doing it this way, but they chose somebody who's political and not somebody who is actually a doctor."

Chaffetz said Klain is already "off to a bad start," considering that on Monday he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he could not testify at an upcoming hearing.

"It seemed like a simple request, but he refused," Chaffetz said.

"What does that say about this position that he's filling? If he doesn't feel comfortable answering very basic questions from Congress, is he really ready to be up on the job when it's happening in real time, right now?"

Chaffetz also put blame on the president for eliminating a bio-defense special assistant position that was present in the previous two administrations.

"It's bigger and broader than just Ebola," he said. "There are other types of things that can be infectious diseases or bio-attacks on the homeland. And yet, President Obama got rid of that position."
Yep, Republicans want to fight Obama-- and women-- not Ebola... and not any other legitimate threats to the well-being of America or Americans. It's in their obstructionist, selfish DNA. That's why they're Republicans.

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You're now strolling along George Carlin Way


by Ken

The great George Carlin (1931=2008), was not just a Manhattan kid, but specifically a Morningside Heights kid, having grown up in the neighborhood -- perched on the first of the series of elevations rising along the Hudson River in the northern part of the island's western flank -- known for Columbia University and a host of other educational as well as cultural and religious institutions. And now a stretch of the very street he grew up on has taken on a new name.

With Morningside Park, behind us, to the east and Riverside Church rising majestically to the west, this stretch of West 121st Street is now officially George Carlin Way. DNAinfo New York's Emily frost reports (links onsite):
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Comedians, celebrities, relatives and fans of legendary comedian George Carlin gathered Wednesday to commemorate him with a new street sign at the corner of Morningside Drive and West 121st Street.

Gilbert Gottfried, Judah Friedlander, Robert Klein, Rain Pryor, Rick Overton, and Lizz Winstead were among the celebrity comedians who showed up to honor Carlin. His daughter and only child, Kelly Carlin, officiated the ceremony for "George Carlin Way," with speakers alternating between joke and tears.

It was a moment three years in the making, said comedian Kevin Bartini, who made it his mission to get a secondary street sign with Carlin's name placed on 121st Street, where the outspoken comedian grew up.
At the dedication City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the area, observed: "You really can't understand the life of George Carlin without understanding Morningside Heights. It was a grittier, hardscrabble neighborhood back then," meaning the 1940s and '50s.

Tricky logistical issues had to be solved, Kevin Bartini explained.
The street is also the home of Corpus Christi School, which Carlin attended and which was often his target, Bartini said. The school opposed putting a sign right outside its doors, on Carlin's block between Broadway and Amsterdam, he said. The school did not respond to a request for comment.

Eventually, a compromise was reached where the sign was moved east between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue, away from the school, he said.

Kelly Carlin thought the move was fitting and described Bartini's efforts as a "great moment of civic action."
"As we know," Kelly recalled, "my father and the church had a couple of philosophical differences." But, she pointed out as the crowd looked out over Morningside Park, "Dad loved trees." Reflecting on life with her father, she recalled --
eating pancakes for dinner with her father and lauding him for passing on to her a "genuine adoration of fart jokes."

"He was committed to our family, but he was driven by his craft," she said.
And there were lots of reminiscences from assembled colleague-friends-relations:
Carlin's widow, comedian Sally Wade, said her late husband loved being a New Yorker and that this sign was "the best tribute he could have short of a drink named after him."

Nothing was sacred to Carlin, added comedian Colin Quinn.

"It was not just society; George Carlin harangued all of us," he said, adding that Carlin ironically was "a priest to all the damaged Catholic people."

Patrick Carlin, the comedian's older brother, told stories of growing up in the neighborhood and of his family.

George shared his mother's irreverence, Patrick said, describing her as "a girl who gave a box of horse s--t to a girl who didn't invite her to a birthday party."

He too felt the spot overlooking the park was perfect for George's sign, in spite of the struggle to get it placed right in front of their childhood apartment.

"George used to smoke dope right over there," Patrick said, gesturing to the park, noting George would be happy with the spot.

George Carlin's comedy community provided a salute carefully calibrated to their much-loved pal's sensibilities.

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Trick Or Treat From The Republican Party-- A Tale Of Two Cities


This is a real Dear Abby-like exchange from a wealthy lady (not Susan Collins, who you can watch debating Shenna Bellows the other night in the video above) and Slate columnist Emily Yoffe (Prudence)
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,

In the urban neighborhood where I used to live, families who were not from the immediate area would come in fairly large groups to trick-or-treat on our streets, which were safe, well-lit, and full of people overstocked with candy. It was delightful to see the little mermaids, spider-men, ghosts, and the occasional axe murderer excitedly run up and down our front steps, having the time of their lives. So we’d spend an extra $20 to make sure we had enough candy for kids who weren’t as fortunate as ours. There you are, 99, on the impoverished side of Greenwich or Beverly Hills, with the other struggling lawyers, doctors, and business owners. Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.

It sort of reminded me of New Jersey's well-fed, crooked Governor Chris Christie's whining this week about how oppressed he is with all this talk about raising the minimum wage. Same exact mentality. Christie's a slob with not an ounce of empathy for people less well-off than himself. Susan Collins, Chris Christie, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers... Essentially when it comes to what kind of a country we want, there is no difference at all. Theirs is a vision imbued with the conservative values of selfishness and greed. Perhaps instead of worrying about the people sending their kids to trick or treat in rich peoples' neighborhoods or people who are trying to raise families on a minimum wage with decreasing purchasing power, they would feel more comfortable-- more in their element-- reading about the new Gulfstream G650. Unless you want it before 2017, it only costs $64.5 million. If you need it pronto, just give them $70 million and they'll move you to the front of the line-- sort of the way South Dakota ex-Governor Mike Rounds sold visas to wealthy foreigners before he realized it might prevent him from winning a Senate election. After all, the plane will take you and 10 of your pals or cronies direct to Tokyo from NYC or to London from L.A. or from Dubai from Dallas without having to stop for fuel.
As the new flagship business jet from Gulfstream, the G650 is, to say the least, truly top flight. The designers intent was to create a hallmark aircraft, one for the history books, by leveraging aeronautic science, next-generation materials, cutting-edge engine developments and impeccable interior design to take elite passengers farther with more comfort than ever before.

...This business jet seems purpose-built for long-haul flights, and the spacious, elegant cabin is as much a testament to passenger comfort as it is to the concept of a flying presidential suite. At 8 feet 6 inches wide, with 6 feet 5 inches of headroom and running almost 47 feet long (enough space for 16 large panoramic windows), the aircraft’s cabin is palatial, with its only competition commercial-size aircraft refitted as private jets.

Uncanny attention to cabin detail takes a luxurious flight experience that is already dialed up to 10 to an 11-plus. Standard recliners enter an almost overstuffed level of comfort; pop-up tables and media screens glide out of armrests and side compartments with no effort; baggage and at-seat stowage solutions are smart and convenient. An ingenious downloadable cabin-control app puts everything from window shades and mood lighting to temperature control and entertainment options at your fingertips. Working on board takes on a whole new meaning on the G650. Multilink high-speed data systems, multichannel satellite communications and wireless LANs help you stay productive and connected in flight.
The guy who directed Lord of the Rings bought himself one. Any of your neighbors? I wonder how many rides their overlords give Republican suck-ups like Christie and Collins-- who make sure that these can be bought and then charged to the taxpayers as business expenses. Of course! Contact Scott Neal, Gulfstream senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, 912-965-6023. Tell him hi from DownWithTyranny.

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No, Conservative Democrat Patrick Murphy Has No Significant Opposition-- But He Wants Your Contributions Anyway


Crooked father and crooked son,  Patrick and Tom Murphy

Many Democrats found the presence of torturer and in unindicted war criminal Allen West (R-FL) so outrageous that they were willing to contribute to the $4,480,428 campaign lifelong Republican Patrick Murphy ran against him. Murphy, decided to run against West as a Democrat instead of taking him on in the GOP primary. His wealthy Republican father started a PAC, American Sunrise, to funnel money into his son's campaign. In one of the closest races in the country, Murphy won 166,257 to 164,353, even as Romney was beating Obama on the same day 52-48%. Democrats were happy to be rid of West, of course, but many soon discovered they had simply replaced a loud-mouthed reactionary Republican with a sneaky and corrupt conservative Republican (who still calls himself a Democrat-- or at least a "New Democrat"). Murphy has been-- with Blue Dogs Kyrsten Sinema, Cheri Bustos and Pete Gallego and fellow New Dems Sean Patrick Maloney and Joe Garcia-- the worst freshmen Democrats in terms of betraying progressive values by voting with the GOP most frequently.

This cycle, the public polling shows Murphy-- who has eyes on a Senate seat-- beating his underfunded Republican opponent, Carl Domino quite handily. Murphy, a Wall Street whore, has raised $4,607,882 to Domino's $1,020,504. As of the September 30 FEC filing deadline, Murphy had $881,896 cash-on-hand to Domino's measly $84,590. On top of that, a right-wing PAC, the National Association of Realtors has spent $809,606 bolstering Murphy with ads. Their biggest expenditure, though, was $1,887,550 for Mitch McConnell and nearly all the money they are spending this cycle is for extremely right-wing Republicans. Suddenly, though, the DCCC, is signaling they or their "independent" House Majority PAC may come to Murphy's "rescue." They must have some private polling that shows Domino gaining.

In any case, a very shady Steve Israel-connected Blue Dog 501(c)(4) "social welfare organization," which does nothing but politics and funnel money to favored crooked operatives, spent $149,882 attacking Domino this week. Previously their Independent Expenditure Committee had spent money attacking opponents of Blue Dogs John Barrow ($167,600) and Ron Barber ($147,864). They ran positive ads bolstering conservative Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL), John Carney (New Dem-DE), Charlie Dent (R-PA), who has no opponent, Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX), Richard Hanna (R-NY), who also has no opponent, Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ) and Ron Barber (Blue Dog-AZ). They announced they will also be running ads in support of Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV) and Brad Schneider (New Dem-IL).

This is how Center Forward, which dances to the tune of corporate America and Wall Street banksters, describes itself:
America is neither right nor left. Republican nor Democrat. Red nor blue. The mainstream values and principles that will move us forward come from where they always have-- the center. The center is where we leave our political labels and baggage at the door, to find commonsense solutions to America’s great challenges.

Center Forward brings together members of Congress, not-for profits, academic experts, trade associations, corporations and unions to find common ground. Our mission: to give centrist allies the information they need to craft common sense solutions, and provide those allies the support they need to turn those ideas into results.

...Center Forward has its roots with the Blue Dog Democrats, which have always played a critical role in maintaining fiscal responsibility, supporting pro-growth business policies and leading meaningful reform. After the extreme polarization in the 2010 elections the Blue Dog Research Forum was founded to give centrist Democrats and Republicans an opportunity to come together to tackle our country’s biggest problems. Founded by former members and staff of moderate Members of Congress who experienced firsthand how the legislative process became marred by the excessive polarization existing in politics, the organization serves a venue in which good ideas may be elevated, studied, discussed and developed.
One Democratic insider told me this morning that Murphy is in no problem and will win reelection handily and that the reason conservative Democrats are spending money in the district is to run up his numbers so that he will be more viable as an opponent to Marco Rubio in 2016 or-- if Rubio runs for vice president and not for his Senate seat-- the likely Republican candidate, Allen West.

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Grassroots Democrats Doing The Job The DCCC Refuses To-- In Michigan


This week Blue America has been concentrating on our ads in Maine exposing Susan Collins (as of yesterday over 180,000 impressions in Maine with more than 20,000 Mainers watching the ad) and our advertising in southwest Michigan exposing Fred Upton, which counted over 90,000 voting age viewers in the district and close to 10,000 MI-10 eligible voters watching it. And that was just yesterday!

Thanks to Steve Israel's bungling, all the Michigan House seats the DCCC had targeted have been abandoned and left to the Republicans-- even while Gary Peters is cleaning up statewide against unqualified GOP lunatic Terri Lynn Land by wide margins. Luckily for Paul Clements, as it turns out, the most winnable seat in Michigan, Upton's, was studiously ignored by Israel, even after polling showed how vulnerable Upton was. Pelosi, who many say has been asleep at the wheel for some time now, should have fired Israel back then; but she didn't-- and Clements has run a far more vigorous and successful campaign than any of Israel's now-abandoned recruits. As a result, even Beltway pundits are now trying to find out where MI-06 is on a map.

No one is writing about Israel's Michigan CIA agent, Bobby McKenzie, Israel's Guantánamo gulag ex-commandante, Jerry Cannon, former state Rep. and EMILY's List priority Pam Byrnes or ex-congressional staffer Eric Schertzing, the bungled opportunity the Democrats had to win MI-08 when Mike Rogers decided to retire. Instead, all the attention is on the race Paul Clements is running against Upton with ZERO help from the DCCC. (In fact, Israel is still calling outside groups and trying to bully them into not supporting Clements against his pal Upton, as he did several days ago with the League of Conservation Voters.)

This week, Alex Brown at the National Journal assessed how deep the shit is that Upton-- who, thanks to DCCC protection, has never faced a real race before-- has now found himself in.
Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is facing the most credible Democratic opponent of his career, and a late infusion of outside money has energized Democrats on the ground. Still, there's been little polling or non-anecdotal indicators to prove the race is winnable. But even if Upton prevails this year, his opponents hope to at least put him in the conversation of future Democratic targets-- and lay the groundwork for a better-financed 2016 campaign in a presidential year that offers a strong climate for Democrats.

And if, as some have speculated, Upton calls it quits in 2016 when term limits end his Energy and Commerce tenure, Democratic efforts this cycle could leave them well-positioned to contest what stands to be be a wide-open race.

Western Michigan University professor Paul Clements is the 13th Democrat to test Upton's electoral mettle, and, his backers say, the best. A newcomer to federal politics, he has more than doubled the fundraising of any previous Upton challenger. Veterans of previous Democratic campaigns in the district call Clements's operation the first "professional" challenge they've seen.

Clements's prowess has garnered interest both inside the district and out, but anyone who wasn't paying attention before certainly raised their eyebrows this month when an outside super PAC announced plans to pump nearly $2 million into efforts to oust Upton. The group, Mayday PAC, aims to target politicians beholden to moneyed interests. On Oct. 9, it named Upton among its handful of targets for the 2014 cycle.

The late swarm of money has excited local Democrats-- who say the race was competitive even before the cash infusion-- and left consultants wondering whether a district long excluded from any toss-up rankings could really oust its powerful incumbent without much warning.

...[L]ocal Democrats say his days as a little-contested, taken-for-granted incumbent are over. "Paul has a built a historic campaign here," said Clements spokesman Connor Farrell. "Any outside observer that looks purely based on data should see that this is a competitive race." But the campaign would not release any polling to back up its claims of a close contest, and no public polling has been conducted on the contest either, an indication of the district's longtime noncompetitive status.

Mayday PAC also sees a tight race. "We are only investing in races where we believe there's a path to victory," said spokeswoman Allison Bryan. "We've done internal polling that shows Fred Upton is vulnerable." Mayday PAC also declined to make those numbers public.

Still, Bryan said even making the race close could be considered a success. Mayday PAC is investing in only a handful of races this cycle, with the aim of making a statement and preparing a full-fledged operation two years from now. "The best way to describe it is setting us up for what we want to do in 2016," she said, asserting that efforts to damage Upton now-- even if he keeps his seat-- could pay dividends later.

The group says its sole purpose is to oust politicians too close to special interest money, and it calls Upton the "worst of the worst." Its backers say they recognize the irony of spending big money to get money out of politics, but they hope groups like theirs won't be necessary if they can elect enough politicians who support campaign finance reform.

Mayday PAC founder Mark McKinnon said earlier this month his group plans to "give Fred Upton the fight of his political life" and "perhaps we can be a giant killer."

That enthusiasm hasn't been shared by national Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted four other Michigan GOP-held seats this cycle (they've since pulled out of all four races), but has not put its weight behind Clements's campaign.

The 6th is "the most Democratic seat in Michigan that's held by a Republican," said Mark Miller, the Michigan Democratic Party's district chair. "Why the DCCC has been unwilling to invest in this district is perplexing."

The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district as a +1 Republican seat.

"[Clements has] raised money without a lot of institutional support from the Democratic Party," said John Curran, who managed Democrat Don Cooney's 2010 campaign against Upton. "It's always been considered this Republican bastion.… Our activists, donors, and candidates feel left out in the statewide and national picture."

The financial picture isn't too great for Democrats in the district, either. One national-level Democratic operative noted that while Upton still has $1.6 million in the bank, Clements has already spent almost all of the $700,000 he's raised this cycle, leaving a heavy burden on any outside group looking to make a late money surge. The operative also said the district's split-ticket voting tendencies didn't necessarily spell vulnerability for a political institution like Upton.

A source familiar with Democratic polling of the district said Upton held a substantial 54 percent-to-35 percent lead in June, before the Mayday PAC investment. Most analysts consider incumbents polling above 50 percent to be in relatively safe position.

"On both sides of the political spectrum, they put the money where they hope to have the most impact," said Victor Fitz, who chairs the Michigan GOP's efforts in the district. "If the [DCCC is] not putting it in the 6th District, you can read something from that."

Upton's campaign says they've never taken the race for granted, and the Mayday PAC money infusion doesn't change their calculus. "From Fred's perspective, there's two ways you can run—unopposed or full speed ahead," said campaign manager Tom Wilbur.

"Most of of us on the ground look at this with a smile on our face," Fitz said. "I don't see any traction in this at all. [Mayday PAC] can spend their money, but I don't think it's going to have much of an impact."

While Upton maintains the super PAC attacks haven't changed his strategy-- or made him any more vulnerable-- his opponents see a candidate on the defensive. Mayday's first ad targeted the incumbent on Medicare drug prices and failing to protect patients with preexisting conditions. Days later, an Upton ad lamented the "lies" opponents were spreading and touting his efforts to help seniors on Medicare and patients with preexisting conditions. It's an unusual tack for a Republican who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Obamacare.

Wilbur acknowledged the ad was a response to the Mayday PAC attacks. "When the Mayday folks start spreading lies, it's important that we start spreading the truth," he said. That's a far cry from the campaign's apolitical, feel-good first ad from two weeks before.

Clements' allies see it as something more. "We think that he's responding," Mayday PAC's Bryan said. "He's obviously threatened by what we're doing." Added Curran, who ran the 2010 campaign against Upton: "His latest ad is a pretty strong deviation from what we've seen from him so far."

Another Democratic operative in the district agreed. "He's absolutely defensive on it," the operative said.

And while Upton finds himself unexpectedly defending certain tenets of Obama's signature law, Democratic message discipline on the other side has been strong. To a person, Clements' supporters characterize Upton as a good moderate who lost his way in Washington as big-money oil and insurance groups financed his rise through the House GOP ranks and pushed him to the right each step of the way.

Upton's camp argues that as chair, he's given precedence to bills that have bipartisan sponsors. They also point to his role in the bipartisan "Gang of 12"--a group of legislators who tried and failed to break Capitol Hill's impasse over the federal debt in 2011.

Whether or not Clements can upset the near three-decade incumbent, his backers says he's opened some eyes. Curran contrasted this cycle with previous Democratic campaigns, including his own work on Cooney's 2010 campaign as a 20-year-old who "didn't really know what I was doing." Typically, he said, "we've been scrambling in April or May of the election year to get someone on the ballot."

When Clements launched his bid in early 2013, "a lot of people laughed at him," Curran said. But the early start gave him time to fundraise, and while he hasn't matched the cash numbers of his well-connected opponent, he's come far closer than any previous challenger. Even if the Mayday PAC money isn't enough to put him over the top, Democrats in the district say the race has ensured the the 6th won't be left behind in the next cycle.
If you'd like to help us keep our ad up until election day, please consider contributing what you can on this special page for Independent Expenditures.

UPDATE: More Trouble For The Corrupt Upton

The American Democracy Legal Fund has requested the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate whether Upton violated federal law and House rules by improperly threatening with retribution those who contributed to a super PAC that supports his challenger in the upcoming election.

Upton thug Gary Andres, who is being paid with taxpayer money, threatened the CEOs who contributed to the MayDay PAC with harsher regulatory treatment from the House Energy and Commerce Committee if they don't back Upton. Steve Israel and his DCCC are still working overtime to protect Upton, who the L.A. Times called the most dangerous man in the United States when it comes to destroying the country's environment. Who's side is Steve Israel on? Good question!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Presidents Come And Go-- But The CIA Bureaucracy And Its Priorites Are Timeless


Earlier this evening Ken did a proper Ben Bradlee remembrance. Chris Hayes did one for MSNBC viewers (above) last night right after we heard about Bradlee's passing. I was living overseas for the entire Nixon era-- sometimes in places where American news was scarce (like Afghanistan, India and Ceylon) and sometimes where it was less scarce (like in Holland and Finland) but Bradlee during the Watergate scandal was such a towering figure of journalism that even I heard of him. He was part of the reason Americans held the media in such high esteem relative to other institutions. Ken referred to the Pew Research Journalism study this week that measured trust in news sources. Actually, it measured distrust. Obviously the most distrusted sources are fake news propaganda operations for the Republican Party-- Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and Glenn Beck. Almost 40% of Americans know Limbaugh's drug-induced ravings aren't worth listening to. (More than 1 in 4 conservatives agree that news from Limbaugh isn't worth trusting.) Conservatives don't trust the Washington Post either, but normal people generally do. Overall (so including crackpot wing nuts), the Post is distrusted by 14% of Americans, but only 6% of liberals say they don't trust the Post as a news source, similar to the NY Times and PBS.

But are conservatives savvier than liberals when it come sot the Post's truth worthiness? I'm spending a lot of time catching up on the contemporary American history I missed while I was living abroad-- basically, while Nixon was president-- by pouring over Rick Perlstein's new book, The Invisible Bridge, which tells the story of America and how it went from Nixon's downfall to Reagan's rise. And Bradlee, he reminds us, wasn't only about standing up for Woodward and Bernstein while they brought down Nixon. The roots of public skepticism about the Post as a dependable news source goes back a ways-- right to the heroic figures of Bradlee and publisher Katherline Graham.

Perlstein wrote about the apparent change of heart at the Post immediately after Nixon was forced for resign. "The longing for conservative innocence Ronald Reagan was selling ," he wrote, "was strong, for thiose with eyes to see in all sorts of quarters. Three panels, in the House and the Senate and under the auspices of Vice President Rockefeller, were hard at work behind closed doors investigating epic abuses of public trust by the nation's intelligence agencies. Lillian Hellman, the left-wing playwright, lectured Columbia University graduates in a commencement speech reprinted in the New York Times: 'You who are graduating today, far more than those who graduated in the sixties, have very possibly lived through the most shocking period in American history... you know that government agencies-- the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and God knows what yet hasn't come to light-- have spied on innocent people who did nothing more than express their democratic right to say what they thought. You have read that the CIA has not only had a hand in upsetting foreign governments it did not like, it has very possibly been involved in murder, or plots to murder. Murder. We didn't think of ourselves that way once upon a time.'" Today, four decades later, the CIA is trying to infiltrate its own agents into Congress and to destroy the career of the senator, Mark Udall, who has tried the most aggressively to hold them accountable for their criminal behavior. Bradlee was one of the major American editors who chose to not cover, at least not seriously or vigorously, the deprecations of the CIA.
[T]he Columbia University Board of Trustees, which oversaw the selection of Pulitzer Prizes, snubbed its advisory board's selection of Seymour Hersh's blockbuster CIA exposé. Its other selections were anodyne, they "seemed to go out of their way," Time observed, "to find relatively noncontroversial subjects." The press, newly emboldened, after talking down a president, was supposed to be the headquarters of the new suspicious circles-- The New Muckrakers, according to the title of a book by the Washington Post's Leonard Downie Jr. Its back cover boomed: "There is a new kind of American reporter. He does more than record news. He makes history." The book quoted Downie's colleague Bob Woodward: "It's almost a perverse pleasure. I like going out and finding something that is going wrong." But it felt to some like there had been enough of all that.

As a historian later reflected, Hersh's "early determination to carry the Watergate mentality into the post-Watergate era made his colleagues uncomfortable and even angry"-- even, or especially, at the Washington Post, which seemed to be shrinking back from its reputation for making history, as if in guilt. The Post's publisher, Katherine Graham, told the Magazine Publishers Association that reporters were becoming "too much a party to events... To see a conspiracy and cover-up in everything is as myopic as to believe that no conspiracies or coverups exist." Their editor Ben Bradlee worried that "these tendencies to develop a social, messianic role for the media, when added to the already feverish drive for the sensationalist story and the scoop, [will] lead to further dispositions that should concern us." And the post's intelligence beat reporter immediately hit his Times counterpart's CIA scoops for a "dearth of hard facts"-- even though, in subsequent months, every one of its claims had been vindicated and more. Late in March, Leslie Gelb of the Times reflected in the New Republic on the reasons for the rest of the media's reluctance to pick up on the CIA story: a history of coziness between the press and the clandestine service "going back to the days of the OSS"; a culture of "long established social relationships"; and even more significantly, a discomfort that the "Stain of Watergate" was "spreading out to the past, to the pre-Nixon years, and to the future. The dream of being able to make Nixon vanish and keep everything else was coming into jeopardy."

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Ben Bradlee (1921-2014)


Jason Robards Jr. as Ben Bradlee in All the President's Men (1976)

"He took The Post, then affluent and filled with underutilized potential, and made it a formidable national newspaper worthy of a head-to-head competition with the [New York] Times. He did it in a way that made the paper itself a joyous place to work. The paper reflected his personality. He was exuberant, competitive and combative if challenged. He made The Post a magnet for young reporters looking for a chance to play in a very high-stakes game."
-- David Halberstam, about Ben Bradlee, from "an
interview" quoted in Robert G. Kaiser's WaPo obit

by Ken

I don't know that I would have thought to write about Ben Bradlee, the longtime top editor of the Washington Post, who died yesterday at his home ("of natural causes") at age 93, if Howie hadn't sent me a link in case I planned to. Once I started thinking about it, it occurred to me that there must be something to say about an editor who presided over a major newspaper for a long period of time (26 years, for the record) and is remembered for, you know, his practice of journalism.

Okay, there's also the fact that he got played by Jason Robards Jr., in one of his classiest performances, in the film version of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's All the President's Men. (Of course nobody made out better in the movie than Woodward, who turned into Robert Redford. Bernstein had to settle for Dustin Hoffman -- a great actor, but you know . . . .)


That Bradlee's tenure at the Post is remembered almost entirely for his journalistic record is partly a tribute to Ben B, but much more a reminder of what's happened to both journalism generally and newspapers in particular in the decades since he handed over the reins of the paper's editorial operation in 1991 to Leonard Downie Jr., his managing editor since 1984. By then, his longtime boss, Katharine Graham, had turned the publisher's chair over to her son Donald. Here's what Robert G. Kaiser has to say in his WaPo obit about Bradlee's relationship with Katharine Graham, which he describes as having been "critical."
She allowed him to spend money, ultimately many millions of dollars, to build a great newspaper. At key moments — particularly the 1971 decision to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers and later during Watergate — she stood squarely behind him, defying the advice of her attorneys and business advisers and her powerful Washington friends.

Mr. Bradlee “was just what Kay needed — somebody who built her confidence and worked hard at it,” said the late Philip L. Geyelin, who was editor of The Post’s editorial page from 1968 to 1979. “He made her comfortable. He called her up and told her dirty jokes and told her the latest skinny. It was a wonderful relationship. I can’t remember any time they had any quarrel. She was nuts about him.”

Mrs. Graham had said as much herself. In one of the end-of-year letters she and Mr. Bradlee came to exchange annually — warm, intimate notes of mutual appreciation — she wrote: “Over the years, I have been spoiled by you and I hope most of the time, it’s been reciprocated, in sharing the best, most productive, rewarding working combo that I’ve had or even know of. And best of all, it’s been fun.”

She also teased him sometimes and criticized his erratic management of the newsroom, including impetuous hiring decisions that sometimes turned out badly. One year, she sent him a list of 15 names, his hiring “mistakes,” as she called them, and asked how he could avoid such errors in the future. But mostly she sang his praises, as in her end-of-1974 letter to Mr. Bradlee: “The things [about you] that people don’t know — that I know — are style, generosity, class and decency, as well as understanding of other people’s weaknesses.”

When Mrs. Graham died in July 2001, Mr. Bradlee spoke at her funeral. “She was a spectacular dame, and I loved her very much,” he said, looking down on the vast crowd from the lectern at the east end of Washington National Cathedral. Walking back to his pew, Mr. Bradlee took a slight detour to pass her coffin and give it an affectionate pat.
Leonard Downie remained executive editor till 2008, and a lot of his tenure too is remembered for journalism, but by the end the economic realities of running a paper like the Post were already taking a heavy toll on the operations of the newsroom. Though a lot of questions can be asked about his successors, it's almost unfair to compare their performance, which has been so much concerned with survival -- both their own and the paper's.

The Post has had to contend not just with the catastrophic decline of readership and advertising common to latter-day newspapers generally, but with its relationship to the federal government in a hometown that is so heavily a company town, which also means -- for the hometown paper of the Village -- its positioning in the rightward-lurching political cosmos. Uncharitable observers might utter the word "pandering." (The aforementioned link that Howie passed along was to a Pew Research survey, "Distrust of News Sources," which found the Post registering distrust levels of 26 precent among respondents of "mostly conservative" views and 39 percent among those of "consistently conservative" views -- as against, for example, significantly higher New York Times distrust figures of 33 and 50 percent.)

Now, granted that Ben Bradlee's stewardship of the paper's news operations was a major factor in its prosperity during most of his tenure, it's also true that he didn't have to figure out how to run his operation when that prosperity became past-tense.


Ben Bradlee as Ben Bradlee, in 1995

Obviously within the Post the assignment of the Bradlee obit was a a big deal, even given the revolution that has been taking place since its sale to Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos. Of course one also presumes that the choice of Robert Kaiser wasn't spur-of-the-moment; given the subject's age, one assumes that a basic obit text has been in place for, well, quite a while. Certainly Kaiser qualifies as a company guy -- there's hardly anyone around with truer-blue WaPo credentials. Prior to his retirement early this year, he worked at the Post for more than 50 years, the last 16 as associate editor and senior correspondent, following his tenure (1991-98) as Leonard Downie Jr.'s managing editor following his accession to the top job.

Kaiser is also a respected writer in his own right, and There are observations I'm still mulling writing about in his somewhat crotchety but often interesting review, in the current (November 5) issue of the New York Review of Books, of Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan and John Dean's The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, titled "Our Conservative, Criminal Politicians" (available free to subscribers only).

As Kaiser's comments on Bradlee's relationship with Kay Graham show, he's hardly uncritical. Noting that Bradlee's "strengths sometimes became weaknesses," he recalls the Janet Cooke debacle:
The editor who could inspire his troops to do some of the best journalism ever published in America also fell for an artful hoax by a young reporter, Janet Cooke. Cooke invented an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy and wrote a moving story about him. After the story won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, Cooke was exposed as an impostor who invented not only Jimmy but also her own life story.

When they realized that Cooke had concocted an imaginary résumé, Mr. Bradlee and his editors interrogated her and extracted a confession. Mr. Bradlee quickly returned the Pulitzer, then encouraged The Post’s ombudsman, Bill Green, to investigate and report how the incident could have happened. This was the biggest assignment ever given to the in-house reader’s representative. Mr. Bradlee had created the position in 1970, making The Post the first major paper to employ an independent, in-house critic.

Green produced a detailed, embarrassing report about a newsroom where the urge for journalistic impact overrode several experienced reporters’ doubts about Jimmy’s existence. “Bradlee was really hurt” by the Cooke affair, recalled Peter Silberman, who served under Mr. Bradlee as a senior editor.
Kaiser notes too that "Mr. Bradlee had a notoriously short attention span."
He rarely dug into the details of an issue himself, leaving that to the people he had hired. He managed The Post newsroom with a combination of viscera and intellect, often judging people by his personal reaction to them. He or she “makes me laugh” was perhaps Mr. Bradlee’s greatest compliment. He never enjoyed the minutiae of management and spent as little time on administrative work as he could get away with.


But Kaiser goes on to credit Bradlee with "cop[ing] successfully with many crises." And the obit begins with him crediting him with having "guided The Post's transformation into one of the world's leading newspapers."
From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.

The most compelling story of Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.

But Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them.

The Post’s circulation nearly doubled while Mr. Bradlee was in charge of the newsroom — first as managing editor and then as executive editor — as did the size of its newsroom staff. And he gave the paper ambition.

Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.

During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more, including the Public Service award for the Watergate coverage. . . .
Kaiser concludes with the quote I've put at the top of this post from David Halberstam, whose journalistic career of course is mostly associated with the New York Times but who "devoted much of his book The Powers That Be to Mr. Bradlee's Washington Post. (The quote, which Kaiser describes as a "valedictory" is credited to "an interview" -- presumably one conducted by the author, presumably for this obit. Bear in mind that Halberstam died in 2007.)

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Republican Clowns Want You To Think Women Don't Have What It Takes To Protect America


Yesterday and again earlier today, we looked around the Republican Party war against women. Some interesting reporting from Toby Harden at Real Clear Politics, The CIA's Real Drone Queens, leads one to conclude there certainly is not discrimination against women in the CIA workplace-- and that the basis of the relentless Republican attacks against women's capacity is completely misplaced and just plain wrong, based on nothing but Bronze Age prejudices. Who's knew?
The CIA is now almost 50% female. Its director is a man but the next three posts below him are filled by women. They are instrumental in waging the CIA’s anti-terrorist war, playing a disproportionate role in some of the most lethal and morally ambiguous tasks of an organisation that has long been regarded as a bastion of outdated machismo.

More enlightened employment practices have contributed to this. But could it be, as some senior intelligence officers argue, that the true-life drone queens are simply better than men at stalking terrorists and deciding when and how they should die?

“It's a reality,” said Bruce Riedel, who spent 29 years in the CIA and later became an adviser to Obama. “Girl power. That’s what they call it within the CIA.” Women, he posited, tend to be better “at seeing connections than most of their male counterparts” when they are dealing with data.

“I’ve seen it, particularly on issues where there’s a tremendous need for precision in remembering enormous amounts of very detailed information. It seems there’s an advantage in having female chromosomes.”

Cindy Storer, formerly one of the CIA’s senior al-Qaeda analysts, was part of a “band of sisters”-- in the words of General Michael Hayden, the director from 2006-9-- who contributed to bin Laden’s demise. Bin Laden first came to her attention in 1992, when her job was to monitor jihadist veterans of the Afghan war with the Soviets.

“My role was to say, holy crap, this is a terrorist group and this is how they’re structured, this is what they do and this is where they are.” Storer believes that the success of female CIA officers could be down to “brain science.”

“Men tend to be linear thinkers-- it’s the hunter-gatherer thing, right? Women tend to be all over the place and can hold a whole bunch of different stuff in their minds at the same time. Some people will say that women tend to be more patient and tenacious . . . The men I worked with, I did see a difference, with women being more comfortable with ambiguity. A lot of the men wanted things to be in neat boxes.”

...Storer said she and her compatriots had sometimes been denigrated for adding a feminine touch to their austere workplaces. “After 9/11 . . . we still made birthday cakes for each other. It’s not like you stop being a woman.”

Avril Haines, 43, is the CIA’s deputy director. She studied judo in Japan, worked as a car mechanic in Chicago and once hosted erotica readings at a Baltimore cafe. As Obama’s top foreign policy lawyer, she would often be summoned in the middle of the night to help decide whether a terrorist on Obama’s “kill list” should be killed by a drone strike.

Now Haines can sometimes be seen at Starbucks, buying an iced latte. Waiting outside is a black armoured Jeep bristling with aerials and manned by security officers wearing earpieces. If need be, Haines can make secure phone calls from the vehicle and watch video of drone strikes.

Under Obama, 349 drone strikes in Pakistan have killed almost 4,000 people, an estimated quarter of them innocent civilians. It is five years since Obama’s visit to CIA headquarters to meet the real “drone queens” for the first time. Several have risen to more senior positions in the CIA’s killing apparatus.

The next time Obama authorises a strike in Pakistan, the odds are that it will be a woman who gives the green light moments before death is delivered from a drone stationed several miles away.

Now juxtapose what we just read with Heidi Przybyla's report for Bloomberg about how Republican Party hacks are manufacturing fears of women being too incompetent to deal with terrorism. The Republicans are trying to paint Democratic women, particularly Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kay Hagan, Michelle Nunn and Jeanne Shaheen as unable to deal with the fears the right wing media has been using to terrorize low-info voters, stuff like ISIL and Ebola particularly.
At least 60 terrorism-- or national security-related ads have aired in congressional contests in such states as Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. They’re running with the most intensity since President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, when the airwaves were full of ads depicting Democrat John Kerry as weak on national security, data provided by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group show.

Of the top five Democratic targets, four are women.

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At The Root Of The Republican Party War Against Women-- Primitive Southern Baptists


Yesterday, inspired by George Will's latest kvetching about the anti-women record of his boy Cory Gardner (R-CO), we took another look at the Republican Party War on Women. Ken sent me a fascinating article by Thomas Powers in the New York Review of Books, Texas: The Southern Baptists in Power and rather than update yesterday's post, let me share a couple of paragraphs that pertain to American women's Southern Baptist problem. We'll start with the 1980 evangelical conference in Dallas when Reagan won their hearts by declaring, "I know you can’t endorse me, but I want you to know that I endorse you."
Reagan and his advisers sensed that Texas Baptists were at the heart of a major change brewing in America. Talk about red states and the Tea Party suggests something new in the world but Reagan was joining the Baptists to reject pretty much everything "modern" to emerge in American culture and society over the last two centuries. The three that most disturbed the Bible Belt South were the end of slavery, the "theory" of evolution that cast doubt on the literal truth of the Bible, and the emancipation of women.

The goal of "the Christian Right" as it waded into American politics was not vanilla concern with good government, but something gem-hard and Bible-based. The word "inerrant" is unfamiliar to most Americans, who take a softer view of religion than Southern Baptists. Dressing up for church, helping the poor, praying for peace, the sweet hope of marriage vows, the solace of ashes to ashes and dust to dust at the graveside-- that seems to cover it for most Americans. Southern Baptists have an iron spine forged in a hotter fire: they believe salvation is what the universe is all about; the way to be saved is spelled out in the Bible; you can trust the Bible because everything in it is true, and that includes the story of Eden-- woman’s role in man’s fall.

At the SBC’s annual meeting in Kansas City in 1984 the fundamentalists pushed through a resolution barring the ordination of women "because the man was first in creation and the woman was first in the Edenic fall." With this measure the fundamentalists closed a perfect loop. Women were not allowed to be "over" men, which means they cannot teach men where religion is concerned, which means they cannot be ordained and serve as pastors, which means they cannot challenge the interpretation of the biblical verses that confine them to a secondary status. Driving the resolution was a fear held in common with their fundamentalist brothers in the Muslim and Jewish worlds-- fear of the loss of control of women.

The war over women, heating up through the 1970s as the Equal Rights Amendment moved state-by-state toward ratification, brought conservative Baptists into national politics, something they had traditionally avoided. [Author Robert] Wuthnow cites a crucial moment in November 1977 when two contending groups of politically active women met in Houston to battle for and against the ERA. The conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly had been accusing liberals of "trying to cram the Equal Rights Amendment down our throats with federal money." She called it "a grab for power" and vowed to defeat the ERA-- something that appeared almost impossible in 1977, when ratification by only a few additional states was needed to add the amendment to the Constitution.

In Houston the liberals were full of confidence and open to everything, not just the ERA. At the Pro-Life Rally in Houston where Schlafly was a keynote speaker she felt an instant change in public mood: the left went too far, she argued, and "sealed its own doom by deliberately hanging around its neck the albatross of abortion, lesbianism, pornography and federal control." Schlafly proved right; the percentage of American women backing the ERA fell from 67 in 1976 to 48 two years later, when Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler were organizing their coup in the Southern Baptist Convention. Citing polls as he goes, Wuthnow charts the rise of the Republican right in Texas, eroding and then erasing support for the rights of women and minorities on a host of issues. Sometimes the right stumbled, as Clayton Williams did with a throwaway remark about rape during his campaign for governor against Ann Richards in 1990-- "As long as it is inevitable you might as well lie back and enjoy it." Williams lost but noted later that his campaign had a lasting effect-- "I made it OK for Bubba to vote Republican."
Running on a Southern Baptist platform, George W. Bush, with the support of Bubba, beat Richards in 1994 and helped turn Texas as red as a Communist flag. Powers reminds us that, more than almost any other state in the Union, "Texas is a state of dramatic inequalities-- between white and black, between Anglo and Latino, between rich and poor, between men and women. White male non-Hispanics with money run the show and have a history of vigorous action to retain control... Texans fought a civil war to keep their slaves, then excluded African-Americans from the vote with physical violence, poll taxes, intimidating literacy tests, and a legally sanctioned, whites-only Democratic primary. Voter ID laws enacted in recent years have the same transparent purpose-- to intimidate and exclude. Votes for women were resisted for decades and efforts by the state to discourage, limit, or ban abortion have been unrelenting and appear close to success."

Powers wraps it up that Wuthnow, in his book, Rough Country: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State, is quite clear about what's roiling Texas in particular and the Bible Belt-- or Old Confederacy-- in general: "questions of political and social control. In the South, he finds, the new Republican Party wants exactly what the old Democratic Party wanted for a hundred years-- power to control people of color, Latinos, women, tax policy, who judges the law, who issues the regulations, who maps voting districts, and, oh yes, whether it’s okay to put a Nativity scene on the State House lawn."

UPDATE: A Few Words From Ken On Primitive Religions

One of the thoughts that has been percolating in my head from Tom Powers's piece is:

You take your Southern Baptists and your Catholics and your Mormons-- three gangs that through history were united only in their consuming hatred for one another-- and they now form a sort of United Front for Primitivism. Whether their religions are being used for justification or pretext, they have merged religion and politics in the interest of upholding the Ancient Verities of sexism, racism, and any other kind of social "other"-ism.

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If Ted Cruz Is A Reactionary And Obama And Clinton Are Conservatives, Do We Ever Get A Liberal?


Obama comes in a progressivism package but his record is conservative-- not reactionary like Ted Cruz or John McCain or Mitt Romney... conservative... like Hillary Clinton. Maybe not as bad as her, at least in terms of obsequiousness to Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex, but pretty bad. When they were both in the Senate together, her overall voting record was slightly better-- more progressive-- than his. But both were part of the DC conservative consensus. Neither is anything like the Elizabeth Warren Eugene Robinson wrote about yesterday.
The Massachusetts Democrat has become the brightest ideological and rhetorical light in a party whose prospects are dimmed by-- to use a word Jimmy Carter never uttered-- malaise. Her weekend swing through Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa to rally the faithful displayed something no other potential contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, including Hillary Clinton, seems able to present: a message.

“We can go through the list over and over, but at the end of every line is this: Republicans believe this country should work for those who are rich, those who are powerful, those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers,” she said Friday in Englewood, Colo. “I will tell you we can whimper about it, we can whine about it or we can fight back. I’m here with [Sen.] Mark Udall so we can fight back.”

Warren was making her second visit to the state in two months because Udall’s re-election race against Republican Cory Gardner is what Dan Rather used to call “tight as a tick.” If Democrats are to keep their majority in the Senate, the party’s base must break with form and turn out in large numbers for a midterm election. Voters won’t do this unless somebody gives them a reason.

Warren may be that somebody. Her grand theme is economic inequality and her critique, both populist and progressive, includes a searing indictment of Wall Street. Liberals eat it up.

“The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it,” she said Saturday at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. The line drew a huge ovation-- as did mention of legislation she has sponsored to allow students to refinance their student loans.

Later, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.-- a rare Democratic incumbent who is expected to cruise to re-election next month-- gave a heartfelt, if less-than-original, assessment of Warren’s performance: “She’s a rock star.”
Yes she is. Bernie Sanders' content is too. But he hasn't caught fire the way she has. Neither have other progressive stars like Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Alan Grayson (D-FL). Perhaps they will in time. But right now it looks like there is nothing that's going to stop the Democratic Party from nominating another confused conservative for president.

If you listen to a lot of Fox News or Hate Talk Radio-- or don't tune in to politics until 2 weeks before elections-- you may be wondering why I think Obama is a conservative. But we've been explaining that regularly since 2007. But don't just take my word for it. Remember Bruce Bartlett, the supply-side economics nut who worked for both Reagan and Poppy Bush? Lately he's been yammering on and on about how George W. Bush's neo-liberal corporate economics weren't really conservative at all. In 2006, he wrote Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. He's written that Bill Clinton's economic policies were more conservative than Bush's and now he's calling attention to the inherent conservatism apparent in Obama's record as president. This week, in an essay at the American Conservative, entitled Obama Is A Republican, he makes the case that Obama has more in common with Nixon than with Saul Alinsky.

He points out that in 2008 one in five conservatives voted for Obama over McCain and that big name Republican insiders like Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff; Charles Fried, Reagan’s solicitor general; Ken Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Reagan; Jeffrey Hart, longtime senior editor of National Review; Colin Powell, Reagan’s national security adviser and secretary of state for George W. Bush; and Scott McClellan, Bush’s press secretary backed him. He writes that Obama "has governed as a moderate conservative."
One of Obama’s first decisions after the election was to keep national-security policy essentially on automatic pilot from the Bush administration. He signaled this by announcing on November 25, 2008, that he planned to keep Robert M. Gates on as secretary of defense. Arguably, Gates had more to do with determining Republican policy on foreign and defense policy between the two Bush presidents than any other individual, serving successively as deputy national security adviser in the White House, director of Central Intelligence, and secretary of defense.

Another early indication of Obama’s hawkishness was naming his rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state. During the campaign, Clinton ran well to his right on foreign policy, so much so that she earned the grudging endorsement of prominent neoconservatives such as Bill Kristol and David Brooks.

...After Obama named Clinton secretary of state, there was “a deep sigh” of relief among Republicans throughout Washington, according to reporting by the Daily Beast’s John Batchelor. He noted that not a single Republican voiced any public criticism of her appointment.

...With the economy collapsing, the first major issue confronting Obama in 2009 was some sort of economic stimulus. Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, whose academic work at the University of California, Berkeley, frequently focused on the Great Depression, estimated that the stimulus needed to be in the range of $1.8 trillion, according to Noam Scheiber’s book The Escape Artists.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was enacted in February 2009 with a gross cost of $816 billion. Although this legislation was passed without a single Republican vote, it is foolish to assume that the election of McCain would have resulted in savings of $816 billion. There is no doubt that he would have put forward a stimulus plan of roughly the same order of magnitude, but tilted more toward Republican priorities.

A Republican stimulus would undoubtedly have had more tax cuts and less spending, even though every serious study has shown that tax cuts are the least effective method of economic stimulus in a recession. Even so, tax cuts made up 35 percent of the budgetary cost of the stimulus bill-- $291 billion-- despite an estimate from Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that tax cuts barely raised the gross domestic product $1 for every $1 of tax cut. By contrast, $1 of government purchases raised GDP $1.55 for every $1 spent. Obama also extended the Bush tax cuts for two years in 2010.

It’s worth remembering as well that Bush did not exactly bequeath Obama a good fiscal hand. Fiscal year 2009 began on October 1, 2008, and one third of it was baked in the cake the day Obama took the oath of office. On January 7, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office projected significant deficits without considering any Obama initiatives. It estimated a deficit of $1.186 trillion for 2009 with no change in policy. The Office of Management and Budget estimated in November of that year that Bush-era policies, such as Medicare Part D, were responsible for more than half of projected deficits over the next decade.

Republicans give no credit to Obama for the significant deficit reduction that has occurred on his watch—just as they ignore the fact that Bush inherited an projected budget surplus of $5.6 trillion over the following decade, which he turned into an actual deficit of $6.1 trillion, according to a CBO study-- but the improvement is real.

Republicans would have us believe that their tight-fisted approach to spending is what brought down the deficit. But in fact, Obama has been very conservative, fiscally, since day one, to the consternation of his own party. According to reporting by the Washington Post and New York Times, Obama actually endorsed much deeper cuts in spending and the deficit than did the Republicans during the 2011 budget negotiations, but Republicans walked away.

Obama’s economic conservatism extends to monetary policy as well. His Federal Reserve appointments have all been moderate to conservative, well within the economic mainstream. He even reappointed Republican Ben Bernanke as chairman in 2009. Many liberals have faulted Obama for not appointing board members willing to be more aggressive in using monetary policy to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment.

Obama’s other economic appointments, such as Larry Summers at the National Economic Council and Tim Geithner at Treasury, were also moderate to conservative. Summers served on the Council of Economic Advisers staff in Reagan’s White House. Geithner joined the Treasury during the Reagan administration and served throughout the George H.W. Bush administration.

...Contrary to rants that Obama’s 2010 health reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is the most socialistic legislation in American history, the reality is that it is virtually textbook Republican health policy, with a pedigree from the Heritage Foundation and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, among others.

It’s important to remember that historically the left-Democratic approach to healthcare reform was always based on a fully government-run system such as Medicare or Medicaid. During debate on health reform in 2009, this approach was called “single payer,” with the government being the single payer. One benefit of this approach is cost control: the government could use its monopsony buying power to force down prices just as Walmart does with its suppliers.

Conservatives wanted to avoid too much government control and were adamantly opposed to single-payer. But they recognized that certain problems required more than a pure free-market solution. One problem in particular is covering people with pre-existing conditions, one of the most popular provisions in ACA. The difficulty is that people may wait until they get sick before buying insurance and then expect full coverage for their conditions. Obviously, this free-rider problem would bankrupt the health-insurance system unless there was a fix.

The conservative solution was the individual mandate-- forcing people to buy private health insurance, with subsidies for the poor. This approach was first put forward by Heritage Foundation economist Stuart Butler in a 1989 paper, “A Framework for Reform,” published in a Heritage Foundation book, A National Health System for America. In it, Butler said the number one element of a conservative health system was this: “Every resident of the U.S. must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health costs.” He went on to say:
Under this arrangement, all households would be required to protect themselves from major medical costs by purchasing health insurance or enrolling in a prepaid health plan. The degree of financial protection can be debated, but the principle of mandatory family protection is central to a universal health care system in America.
...In 2004, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) endorsed an individual mandate in a speech to the National Press Club. “I believe higher-income Americans today do have a societal and personal responsibility to cover in some way themselves and their children,” he said. Even libertarian Ron Bailey, writing in Reason, conceded the necessity of a mandate in a November 2004 article titled, “Mandatory Health Insurance Now!” Said Bailey: “Why shouldn’t we require people who now get health care at the expense of the rest of us pay for their coverage themselves? … Mandatory health insurance would not be unlike the laws that require drivers to purchase auto insurance or pay into state-run risk pools.”

Other Rightward Policies

Below are a few other issues on which Obama has consistently tilted rightward:

Drugs: Although it has become blindingly obvious that throwing people in jail for marijuana use is insane policy and a number of states have moved to decriminalize its use, Obama continued the harsh anti-drug policy of previous administrations, and his Department of Justice continues to treat marijuana as a dangerous drug. As Time put it in 2012: “The Obama Administration is cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers just as harshly as the Administration of George W. Bush did.”

National-security leaks: At least since Nixon, a hallmark of Republican administrations has been an obsession with leaks of unauthorized information, and pushing the envelope on government snooping. By all accounts, Obama’s penchant for secrecy and withholding information from the press is on a par with the worst Republican offenders. Journalist Dan Froomkin charges that Obama has essentially institutionalized George W. Bush’s policies. Nixon operative Roger Stone thinks Obama has actually gone beyond what his old boss tried to do.

Race: I think almost everyone, including me, thought the election of our first black president would lead to new efforts to improve the dismal economic condition of African-Americans. In fact, Obama has seldom touched on the issue of race, and when he has he has emphasized the conservative themes of responsibility and self-help. Even when Republicans have suppressed minority voting, in a grotesque campaign to fight nonexistent voter fraud, Obama has said and done nothing.

Gay marriage: Simply stating public support for gay marriage would seem to have been a no-brainer for Obama, but it took him two long years to speak out on the subject and only after being pressured to do so.

Corporate profits: Despite Republican harping about Obama being anti-business, corporate profits and the stock market have risen to record levels during his administration. Even those progressives who defend Obama against critics on the left concede that he has bent over backward to protect corporate profits. As Theda Skocpol and Lawrence Jacobs put it: “In practice, [Obama] helped Wall Street avert financial catastrophe and furthered measures to support businesses and cater to mainstream public opinion...  He has always done so through specific policies that protect and further opportunities for businesses to make profits.”

I think Cornell West nailed it when he recently charged that Obama has never been a real progressive in the first place. “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit,” West said. “We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency.”

I don’t expect any conservatives to recognize the truth of Obama’s fundamental conservatism for at least a couple of decades-- perhaps only after a real progressive presidency. In any case, today they are too invested in painting him as the devil incarnate in order to frighten grassroots Republicans into voting to keep Obama from confiscating all their guns, throwing them into FEMA re-education camps, and other nonsense that is believed by many Republicans. But just as they eventually came to appreciate Bill Clinton’s core conservatism, Republicans will someday see that Obama was no less conservative.
Whoopdie-doo. I voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. I hope I get the chance to vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

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