Saturday, February 28, 2015

How Radical Is Radical? Meet Deranged Alabama Confederate Mo Brooks

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Chad Pergram is one of the more hard-working Beltway reporters. He's Fox's congressional correspondent, he's reliable, dependable and takes his job seriously. And, as far as I know, he's the only national reporter who regularly talks with Confederate sociopath Mo Brooks (R-AL). Sometimes OI think it's worth following Pergram on twitter just to keep from missing any of Brooks' crackpottery. A former Jeff Sessions staffer, there's every reason in the world to assume that Brooks' sympathies are very strongly with the KKK. He's certainly among the top 20 of right right Members of Congress and counts the last government shutdown as part of his glory days-- even though many of his contstituents, where the federal government is the #1 employer, were left without paychecks for almost 2 weeks. Although the shutdown was an economic and financial disaster, Brooks was one the radicals who voted against reopening the government. And now-- surprise, surprise--he's frothing at the lips to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. Yesterday he was one of the 52 Republican anarchists to vote to shut down the Department, probably figuring if terrorists attack, they'll target New York or Washington, not Huntsville or Scottsboro.

Brooks is fanatically anti-Choice, is one of the most anti-immigrant Republicans in Washington, opposes stem cell research, which is already saving thousands of American lives annually, loudly denies Climate Change... and his abiding dream is to privatize Social Security and voucherize Medicare. Last year, he said he would like to see 8 million immigrants sent back to the countries they came from. "As your congressman on the House floor," he told a local TV reporter who asked him about his radical anti-immigrant stands, "I will do anything short of shooting them. Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done because illegal aliens need to quit taking jobs from American citizens."

A virulent racist, Brooks opposes allowing immigrants to serve in the American military, questioning their loyalty. and last August, on the Laura Ingraham Show he accused President Obama of waging a war against white people. In 2014, the Democrats did't bother running a candidate against him.

Thursday Pergram caught up with him on Capitol Hill and Brooks was foaming at the mouth about the Senate Republicans giving in and not shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. He told Pergram that the Republican leaders remind him "of the Iraqi Army in Mosul stripping off uniforms/abandoning...posts as the Islamic State approaches." And if you don't think Rep. King had Brooks in mind when he tweeted this a few days ago, you've lost the thread:


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National Security Watch: Congress just manages to eke out an extra week to take another stab at doing its job

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by Ken

Feel free to "Read more" if you like. Myself, I just clicked through to get the link for you, to the piece headlined "Congress averts Homeland Security shutdown with one-week extension." I'd just as soon not dwell on the combination of savagery and imbecility we now have passing itself off as a "government."

I just have one small thought to toss in in response to this national disgrace. It seems to me that the people who have made the funding of DHS undoable are part of the chorus of red-blooded patriots who bray and screech at every opportunity about all the limp-wristed America-haters whose inability or unwillingness to act like real manlymen causes the world, and in particular the villains of the world, to treat America with contempt. You know, wimps like our Kenyan Muslim president, the one who doesn't love America.

(This is, of course, the gutless weak President Obama, not to be confused with the blood-thirsty, massively dictator who is the most executively overreaching tyrant since the heyday of Caesar Augustus, Ivan the Terrible, and Hitler. We'll be sure to let you know when we're talking about that President Obama.)

So my small thought for today is: What might the rest of the world, including all those dastardly villains, think of an America that is overrun, and even run, by grotesque buffoons like these?

Buffoons who preach the gospel of "National Security" but whose ranks are filled with war wimps who love preaching war but who themselves never served in the military and pulled every string they could get their grubby mitts on to make sure that no blood relation of theirs ever did. Gutless piles of puke who, although themselves from families of immigrants, bray and screech about immigrants who in reality do the nationi's grunt jobs at near-slave wages but are imagined to be savage hordes penetrating our borders to deliver the country unto godless Commies, or godless Ebola, or godless Islam -- whichever demon their tiny brains are salivating over at the moment. Mental defectives who routinely come up empty when it comes to the things that really do affect our actual nationial security.

Yes, I bet the rest of the world -- both would-be enemies and would-be friends -- is mightily impressed to learn that that 20-day extension of DHS funding, a goal that apparently represented the very height of their ambitions, proved just impossibly out of reach.

That's all. You can go back to whatever you were doing.


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Staten Island-- Foolin' Around

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In 2012, when Michael Grimm was reelected to Congress by beating weak Democratic centrist Mark Murphy-- 94,102 (53%) to 82,401 (46%)-- most of the votes (for each candidate) came from Staten Island, not from the Brooklyn portions of the 11th CD. Of 176,503 total votes cast districtwide, 130,295 came from State Island. Only 46,208 Brooklynites voted, and even though Murphy won in Brooklyn (albeit barely) it was inconsequential. Although the Brooklyn part of the district includes a traditional progressive heartland between Sheepshead Bay, Midwood and Gravesend, the most conservative parts of Brooklyn are also included, particularly Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights (like Staten Island across the Verrazano, Mafia territory). Brooklyn votes can help but the election for Congress for NY-11 is decided on Staten Island. But Democrats keep nominating Brooklynites. And losing.

After Staten Island Assemblymember Michael Cusick announced he wouldn't run against odd-on fave District Attorney Daniel Donovan, the Democrats figured they'd find someone to take up the slot on the ballot. The DCCC seems to have lost all interest once McMahon and Cusick decided not to run. Thursday evening the local Democrats picked Brooklyn City Councilman Vincent Gentile. He represents much of the Brooklyn western part of the district, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bath Beach (as well as Bensonhurst which isn't part of the district). From 1996 to 2002 he was a state Senator whose district included parts of Staten Island. Its not likely anyone from Staten Island cares or even remembers, although Gentile has been playing that up. The special election is May 5.
Emphasizing his campaign slogan “A Fresh Start,” Mr. Gentile mocked the Staten Island Republican establishment, which has controlled the seat for 31 of the last 33 years. The pol alluded to former Congresswoman Susan Molinari’s abrupt 1997 resignation to take a job as a television journalist, former Congressman Vito Fossella‘s decision not to run for re-election in 2008 after a drunk driving arrest revealed he had a secret family in the D.C. suburbs and Mr. Grimm stepping down last month after he pleaded guilty to a federal tax evasion charge.

“The last three Republican members of Congress this leadership gave us all disappeared into the wind. All gone, right? All gone. One left us flat, and the other two resigned in disgrace-- one of them now a convict and awaiting sentence,” he said, to laughter and applause from the assembled Democrats. “Now this same cohort of leaders with this embarrassing and abysmal record want to tell the good people of the 11th Congressional District who they have next in the queue to carry the title of Congress member. And to them and to you, I say, ‘Haven’t they embarrassed us enough?'”

He added: “You know the old saying, ‘three strikes, you’re out?’ Well, on May 5, they’re out, and we’re coming up to the plate.”

Mr. Gentile gave a possible preview of the campaign trail rhetoric he will deploy against Mr. Donovan, contrasting the district attorney’s lack of a lawmaking background with his own long tenure in the State Senate and City Council.

“I’m the only one in this race with experience as a legislator. My opponent has none, and I’m going into my 18th year as a legislator,” he said. “So just as you wouldn’t expect a candlestick-maker to become a dentist, or the shopkeeper to become an astronaut, you wouldn’t expect a D.A. with no legislative experience to become a legislator. Especially when you have an experienced legislator applying for the same job.”

The councilman also hit Mr. Donovan for his handling of the Eric Garner case. Mr. Donovan was unable to convince a grand jury to indict a wgute police officer in the death of Garner, a black Staten Island man, last year.

“Once the grand jury acted, this district attorney did not come out in public and face the people of Staten Island and try to explain to the people of Staten Island. He put out a press release,” said Mr. Gentile, calling for the release of transcripts of the grand jury proceedings. “And when there was disruption in the streets, chaos was breaking loose, our district attorney was nowhere to be seen. And that’s not leadership. That’s not leadership. And that is more reflective on the kind of leader he would be in Congress, and the kind of follower he would be in Congress.”

Mr. Donovan’s camp declined to comment on Mr. Gentile’s attacks. The district is predominantly white, and home to many police officers, and most political insiders doubt the Garner grand jury decision will negatively impact Mr. Donovan in the race.

Mr. Gentile ended his speech with an appeal to not allow borough loyalties to decide the race. Despite multiple attempts, no Brooklynite has ever won a race to represent the district, where more than two-thirds of the votes are in Staten Island.

“I know firsthand that we Staten Islanders and we Brooklynites are all from the same neck of the woods,” Mr. Gentile said.

Mr. Grimm dealt a humiliating defeat to former Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia last year, even though the Democratic challenger out-raised and out-spent the indicted Republican incumbent.
Gentile has been a De Blasio supporter but he certainly isn't some kind of a progressive icon. As a lame-duck state senator he voted against the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act causing a shit storm in the gay community where it is widely assumed he is a closet case and has been accused of having had at least one same sex affair and of sexually harassing a young gay male on his staff. In recent years he's been more supportive of LGBT equality.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

This is no time to go soft on those marauding union terrorists Gov. Scott "The Lying Scumbag" Walker beat into submission

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by Ken

Let me say at the outset that I am a singularly poor predictor of those game-changing moments When Right-Wing Scumbag Liars Go Too Far. With alarming frequency one of these hell-clowns says or does something that seems to me so irretrievably blatant that even the stupidest, most blinkered followers can't help but be shaken by, and nothing happens. Contrarily, on occasions when one of them goes A Lie Too Far, it's over something that in my mind should hardly have registered a blip on the Right-Wing Scale of Outrage.

Take the Katrinafication of New Orleans. Was I shocked and sickened by those images of fellow citizens abandoned to their fate by the savage imbeciles of the right-wing power trust? Especially as highlighted by those pictures of the monster Chimpy the Prez and the monster Young Johnny McCranky playing with birthday cake? Well, of course? Who wouldn't be? I'll tell you who I thought wouldn't be offended: the American public. After all, what was there in those pictures that was different from what that public had been seeing and hearing for ages? The "otherness" of those victims would normally have rendered them safely outside Real Americans' zone of concern. Didn't we learn just recently, in the wake of the hooha of all those police shootings of unarmed persons of color that Real Americans not only don't object but are happy to see their brave cops ridding us of their kind one by one?

Even now, don't ask me to explain why many of those Real Americans were jolted out of their complacent unreality by those images. In the same way, I don't know what NJ Gov. Kris "NJ Fats" Krispy said or did to cause the air to rush out of his campaign blimp. Yeah, his imbecilic blithering in London about the vaccination question was horrible, but compared with the horrors that lying scumbag had been routinely perpetrating on a daily basis, it seemed to me hardly worth a second thought. But clearly something happened. I'm not sorry it did, but I can't tell you what it is/was.

Looking at it again from the opposite direction, there were people who thought the starkly unprincipled stonewalling of questions it was simply too politically inconvenient for him to answer would set in motion a death spiral for the political ambitions of WI Gov. Scott "I Lie for the Hell of It" Walker. Yet here he is, the newest-crowned "front runner" for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

So now, do I think he's gone A Lie Too Far in his grotesque equating with Islamic terrorists those Wisconsin public-employee union members who, as targets of his no-holds-barred war of extermination on them, took to the streets to protest, about as American an exercise as you can imagine of the rights of free speech and assembly? Well, sure, I think it ought to open people's eyes to the kind of dishonest, demagogic, authoritarian tool of the plutocracy he has been, without apology, though perhaps with a fair amount of camouflage, since he entered political life. But does that mean I think it will have any impact with the throngs who apparently see him as their new Great White Hope?

I can't for the life of me see why. Still, he does seem to be attracting an unusual amount of unkind attention, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving scumbag.


POOR SCOTT WAS "MISCONSTRUED" -- AW-W-W-W!

I have to tell you, I was even more offended by the lies "Scumbag Scott" spewed to cover up his little gaffe than I was by the gaffe itself. The poor baby was "misconstrued." I realize he was kind of hemmed in. The usual dodges like "I was misquoted" or "I was taken out of context" were kind of taken out of play by, well, his own lying self. Reference his own damned tweet above. Misquoted? Not hardly. Taken out of context? Well, the toxic-gasbag provided his own context! So instead, he was "misconstrued." Puh-lease!

I've come up with two better (I think) explanations for this latest outburst of union-bashing by "Scumbag Scott," which I offer to his crisis-management team free of charge.

(1) He's that rare bird, a right-wing lying scumbag with a conscience.

It took me some disconnected-mind free associating to come up with this one, but it made sense when it hit me. Think of it as part of the "mandate" the governor hopes to win as he makes his way to the White House. Once he's ensconced in the Oval Office, I'm confident that he plans to continue his frontal assault on truth and decency. If, through some Katrina-like unforeseeable web of circumstances he should be exposed as a pathological liar, he can point back to incidences like this and say with considerable justice, "Did I ever pretend to be anything but a pathological liar? Isn't the record abundantly clear that the people who voted for me did so in full knowledge of who and what I am?"

I still kind of like this explanation, but it strikes me as awfully subtle for as unsubtle a pol as "Scumbag Scott," who doesn't usually traffic heavily in subtleties. So I've come up with another explanation.

(2) He meant exactly what he said.

One of the more potent screeches currently being screeched by the Right-Wing Noise Machine is the dastardly refusal of non-America-loving pseudo-Americans like the president of the United States to fill their conversation with hate-filled references to "Islamic terrorists." I expect that Governor Scott subscribes to this school of, er, thought. He's not the kind of guy to temporize or apologize in the face of his near-total ignorance about Islam. And along those lines, just as it's important to publicly call out "Islamic terrorists" for the tools of Satan they are, isn't it also important to call out other anti-American tools of Satan like, you know, union terrorists?

The truth is that unions were an indispensable part of the rise of the American middle class. But when did "Scumbag Scott" and the Right-Wing Noise Machine start giving a darn about the truth? American wants lies. Admitedly, they have to be just the right kind(s) of lies, but if anyone's prepared to gratify that wish, it's "Scumbag Scott."
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Chicago-- Historian Rick Perlstein Speaks Up For His City

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History is being made in Chicago.

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about how a hydra-headed protest movement against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s agenda of privatization, austerity, and authoritarian governance was changing the face of politics in the Windy City. Now, it’s close to achieving a miracle: ending Rahm Emanuel’s political career once and for all.

In the first round of Chicago’s mayoral election on February 24th, Rahm Emanuel came a shocking five points shy of the 50 percent he needed to win reelection outright-- performing three points shy of the final pre-election polls. Chicagoans, it seems have had it up to here with Rahm’s crusade to build a new, more durable Chicago machine-- this one, though, headquartered in places like Wall Street (where Emanuel worked as an investment banker), Abu Dhabi (the oil kingdom whose “sovereign wealth fund” owns a third of Chicago’s parking meter concession), and Philadelphia (home of the services corporation Aramark, which after being awarded the janitorial franchise left Chicago’s public schools crawling with vermin, and responded by firing a quarter of their workforce.)

It happened despite a Karl Rove-style campaign funded by $30 million in donations from corporate interests in return for favors from the city. It was a people-powered miracle. But we’re only halfway there.

On April 7-- in less than six weeks!-- Rahm faces off against the second place finisher, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who is another people-powered miracle: a true reformer, compassionate, smart, and qualified. As an alderman he fought so hard against the machine that Mayor Richard M. Daley made kicking him off the city council a top political priority. The same thing happened when he served in Springfield as a state senator. Now, as a county commissioner, he helped balance Cook County’s mess of a budget while lowering taxers. Me, I love the guy. I’m backing his campaign to the hilt. I hope you will too. We really, really need you on this one. In the first round, Mayor 1% outspent Garcia by an almost twelve to one margin. And still he couldn’t get enough votes to win. Imagine how well he could do if the financial gap was closed a bit?

Here’s the deal. All Blue America donors to Chuy’s campaign will be entered in a random drawing. One lucky winner with get a very collectible, RIAA-certified quadruple platinum for the Barenaked Ladies album, Stunt. Twenty other randomly chosen winners will get a personally signed copy of one of my books, either Nixonland, or my latest, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. (Winners will be chosen Monday so you have between now and then to donate to Chuy's campaign.)

And, of course, the satisfaction of helping deal a historic setback to everything that is awful in Democratic Party politics right now, in the person of the man who (1) was Bill Clinton’s point man in passing the North American Free Trade Act; (2) made $18 million in two and a half years as an influence peddler on Wall Street; (3) as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as a House member from Chicago (even though he grew up in the suburbs) presided over a crusade to kneecap the campaigns of progressive populists (4) as White House chief of staff, tried to convince President Obama not to pursue the Affordable Care Act; and as mayor-- well, hell, I could run these numbers clean up to thirty or forty.

He needs to go. We have a genuine chance to make it happen. Act now or forever hold your peace!!

In solidarity,

Rick Perlstein,
Digby
John Amato
Howie Klein

Bonus: Ever hear this version?




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New Jersey Christiecrats and Pipelines-- Perfect Together?

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In the 1980s, a New Jersey tourism commercial featuring then Governor Tom Kean, Sr. made Kean famous for the tag line, “New Jersey and you-- perfect together.”

Kean’s idiosyncratic pronunciation of “perfect together” made it a catch phrase, even a punch line in jokes, during his administration and beyond. Thirty years later, it still strikes a chord here. And it aptly sums up the relationship between Christiecrats and pipelines.

Longtime DWT readers will remember the Christiecrats, the nominal Democrats from South Jersey controlled by corrupt South Jersey machine boss George Norcorss III. The Christiecrats earned their name in 2011 when they voted with the Republicans in the legislature to gut pensions and benefits for state employees, giving Gov. Chris Christie a victory that raised his standing with anti-labor Republicans around the country.

One of those Christiecrats was George Norcross’ younger brother Donald, who was then a state senator. The younger Norcross replaced corrupt Democrat Rob Andrews in New Jersey’s First Congressional District after the November election. (The seat had been vacant for ten months after Andrews resigned in February, 2014 in order to avoid an ethics investigation.)

Having been virtually “installed” in Congress by his older brother’s machine, Little Brother Donnie cast his first major Congressional vote in favor of finishing the Keystone XL pipeline. He was one of 31 “Democrats” who voted with House Republicans.

Before the start of his first full term, with less than two months in Congress under his belt, his Progressive Punch score was a pathetic 40.

That was exactly what New Jersey environmentalists expected of Norcross. They considered him the Legislature’s worst Democrat in Trenton on environmental issues. But with his departure for Congress, that mantle now falls on another Christiecrat: Jeff Van Drew, who is by far the most conservative Democrat in the New Jersey Senate on all issues. Consider his record:
In 2010, Van Drew sponsored a bill to allow residents to carry handguns.

In 2011, he appeared with Steve Lonegan (who was there in his capacity as State Director of Americans for Prosperity) to rally support for a bill to repeal cap and trade, and expressed his support for nuclear power and fossil fuels. Also in 2011, Van Drew sponsored a bill to abolish the seven-day waiting period before shelter animals could be killed. And of course, he was one of those Christiecrats who voted to cut public workers’ pensions and benefits.

In 2013, he broke with the Democratic leadership on gun control and marriage equality.
Van Drew’s conservative voting record has made him popular in his Republican-leaning First Legislative District, which lies entirely within the Democratic-leaning Second Congressional District; and his success in LD 1 has made some conservative South Jersey Democrats think he might be able to beat Republican Frank LoBiondo in the state's CD 2. (That idea goes back at least as far as this Daily Kos post from 2005, when Van Drew was still an Assemblyman.)

In view of his record, it’s not surprising Van Drew is a prominent proponent of a plan to run a dangerous and unnecessary gas pipeline through the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve in order to keep an outmoded electric generating station running. And like a true Christiecrat, he’s allied with Christie on this issue.

The coal-fired B. L. England power plant, sometimes called the Beesley’s Point plant, was built in the 1960s. It couldn’t be built under today’s regulations. It was slated to be closed for environmental reasons at the end of 2013, but the Christie administration gave it a two-year extension. After that, it will have to be either converted to natural gas or shut down.

For the last few years, the plant has operated only during peak demand periods. But with a steady supply of natural gas, it could operate full-time.

Rockland Capital Energy Investments, which owns B. L. England through its subsidiary, RC Cape May Holdings, is one of the two firms that want to build a new gas pipeline to supply the plant. The other is South Jersey Gas, the utility that would supply gas to B. L. England. And both firms have Christie connections.

Rockland’s attorney on the pipeline application is David Samson. You may recall that Christie appointed Samson, one of his principal campaign fundraisers, chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Samson resigned that post after the Bridgegate mess. And Rockland president and co-founder Joseph Lambert is another Christie connection. Lambert contributed $3,400 (the legal maximum) to Christie’s 2009 campaign.

The South Jersey Gas connection is Christie’s former director of intergovernmental affairs, Christina Genovese Renna, who resigned after being subpoenaed about Bridgegate. She’s married to Michael J. Renna, the president and COO of South Jersey Industries, the parent company of South Jersey Gas.

The proposed pipeline would violate regulations adopted under the Pinelands Protection Act, requiring a variance from the 15-member Pinelands Commission. Seven commissioners are gubernatorial appointees who must be confirmed by the state Senate; seven represent the seven counties the Pinelands Preserve straddles; and one is appointed by the US Secretary of the Interior. The executive director and all other top staff are appointed by the governor.

In January 2014, the Commission rejected the pipeline proposal in a 7-7 tie vote, and Christie-- and the Christiecrats-- have been fuming ever since.

It would have been an 8-7 defeat if Commissioner Ed Lloyd, a professor of Environmental Law at Columbia University, had been allowed to vote. Christie’s minions had told Lloyd that the State Ethics Commission ordered to recuse himself because his relationship with environmental groups constituted a conflict of interest. But in fact, there was no such order.

No doubt Lloyd, a gubernatorial appointee since 2002, won’t be re-appointed when his current term expires. Some of the Commissioners who voted against the pipeline have already been replaced-- and not only by Christie. For example, Cumberland County Christiecrats replaced their long-time Commissioner, a local environmental activist, with a realtor.

Christie is now close to getting Robert Barr, the president of the Ocean City Democratic Club, president of the Ocean City Community Association and a former Van Drew aide, appointed to the Pinelands Commission. Despite those credentials, Barr has less than solid support in his home town, where he’s seen as little more than Van Drew’s political alter ego. But he has the solid backing of Senate President Steve Sweeney and the entire Norcross machine.

Gubernatorial nominees to the Commission have to be confirmed by the state Senate, and the 13-member Judiciary Committee had already rejected the Barr nomination twice. Then on February 24, Sweeney saw his chance to get Barr approved.

Sweeney knew that Sen. Ray Lesniak, who is an outspoken opponent of the pipeline project (and who is considering running for governor against Sweeney in the 2017 Democratic primary), was going to be away, so Sweeney used his prerogative as Senate President to put the Barr nomination on the agenda-- and to appoint Jeff Van Drew as a temporary member of the Judiciary Committee. (Strange as it sounds, under New Jersey rules, the Senate President can appoint a temporary substitute member to a committee when it suits his purposes, like a coach sending in another player, as long as he’s replacing an absent member, even when’s there’s already a quorum present.)

Worse, Sweeney also worked the room, actively lobbying regular committee members to approve the Barr nomination during the discussion.

Four Democrats-- Chair Nicholas Scutari, Vice Chair Nia Gill, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Brian Stack-- voted no, as did Ranking Republican Christopher Bateman.

The other four Republicans and the other two Democrats (Paul Sarlo and Nellie Pou) voted to confirm Barr-- as did, of course, Van Drew. Democrat Bob Smith abstained.

Thus newspapers reported the vote a 7-5-1.

But after the vote, Stack changed his vote from no to yes, and the official tally is now 8-4-1. (That’s another quirky New Jersey rule: Members are allowed to change their votes after the fact-- for appearance’s sake?-- as long as that doesn’t change the outcome!)

Both Smith and Stack had been skeptical. The fact that Smith could be persuaded to abstain, and that Stack could be persuaded to switch sides after the vote, is grim evidence of the way Sweeney abuses his power.

This pipeline isn’t a strictly partisan issue. Far from it, as the committee vote shows. In fact, four former governors who seldom agree on anything-- Democrats Brendan Byrne and Jim Florio and Republicans Tom Kean, Sr. and Christie Todd Whitman-- signed a joint letter to the Pinelands Commission opposing the project.

South Jersey Gas customers should also oppose the pipeline, because the utility plans to raise its rates (with the blessing of the Christie-controlled Board of Public Utilities) to finance the project if it’s approved.

And because the Pinelands sit above the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to much of South Jersey, everyone in the area should oppose it.

If Barr is confirmed, the Commission will almost certainly vote to approve the pipeline. The full Senate will probably vote on Barr’s nomination at its next regular meeting on March 5.

Is it possible that Barr will be rejected? Yes, anything is possible, but it isn’t likely.

Environmental groups will do their part. But without a groundswell of public opposition, Barr will probably be confirmed, and the Pinelands will be wide open for reckless development.

And how likely is that groundswell in a state that keeps electing clowns like Christie and the Christiecrats?

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GOP Flagellates Itself With CPAC Again

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Sen. Ernst and CPAC were ready for each other

Republican politicians-- with great trepidation-- are putting themselves through CPAC again. Awesome for fringe crackpots like Sharon Angle, Sarah Palin and Louie Gohmert and scammers like Brent Bozell and Donald Trump; less alluring for anyone trying to maintain any semblance of mainstream credibility. Some may even be concerned that one of the sponsors of the the annual conclave, which kicked off yesterday, is a blatantly racist organization with ugly fascist ties. I'm not certain if Todd Akin, who is exploring a primary against Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, is there... but CPAC was made for kooks like him. “Roy," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday, "has burned a lot of bridges with a lot of conservatives in the state." As for a professional clown like Trump... could there be a better stage? It may bring into question the whole Republican enterprise as something worth taking seriously, but Trump, for some reason, is a speaker.
In recent days, Trump said, he has hired staffers in key primary states, retained an election attorney and delayed signing on for another season as host of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice because of his political projects.

“Everybody feels I’m doing this just to have fun or because it’s good for the brand,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Well, it’s not fun. I’m not doing this for enjoyment. I’m doing this because the country is in serious trouble.”

The moves are the most significant steps yet by Trump, 68, toward a bona fide presidential bid, which he considered briefly and flamboyantly in 2011 before deciding against a run.

Louie Gohmert had a lovely time at CPAC
The looming question, however, is whether he can convince Republicans that he is more than a celebrity bomb-thrower and instead is sincere in his consideration of a campaign. Trump is slated to appear ahead of former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservatives near Washington.

Trump in recent years has served largely as a provocateur on the sidelines of Republican politics, flirting with “birtherism” and making other remarks casting doubt on President Obama’s credentials and love of country. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney frequently shared the stage with Trump in often awkward appearances during the 2012 campaign, providing ample fodder for Democratic attack ads.

...“I am more serious about this than I’ve ever been before,” Trump said in the interview. “I made the deal with Chuck and Corey and some more we’ll be announcing soon because I’m serious and I want to focus on making America great again. I don’t need to be out there raising money.”

...“I am more serious about this than I’ve ever been before,” Trump said in the interview. “I made the deal with Chuck and Corey and some more we’ll be announcing soon because I’m serious and I want to focus on making America great again. I don’t need to be out there raising money.”
Amazing that Republicans would allow themselves to get hoodwinked by the two-bit hustler again! That's how desperate and out of touch with reality they are! Jeb Bush, of course, is also being featured at CPAC today-- right after Trump. He probably has the most to lose and the headlines are already written-- he packed that hall with his supporters, bused in from K Street, to make it less embarrassing for him when teabaggers staged a protest by walking out on him.
As political events go, it’s hard to find one more ill-suited for Jeb Bush than the Conservative Political Action Conference.

That’s why he’s bringing in supporters-- some of them old George W. Bush White House hands-- to cheer him on. He’s also looking to exploit CPAC’s speaking format. The former Florida governor is eschewing the traditional speech-making opportunity in favor of taking questions from Fox News host Sean Hannity, calculating that it will give him a better chance of making his case on the contentious issues on which he is most at odds with attendees.

It’s a cautious, tactical approach to the annual confab this week at Maryland’s National Harbor, a strategy carefully chosen for a venue that’s littered with potential land mines for Bush.

His brand of moderate conservatism is an awkward fit with CPAC’s ideologically strident audience. His political lineage is a sore spot for many attendees, particularly the younger and more libertarian-oriented. Then there’s Bush immigration reform efforts and support for Common Core education standards: Both are deal-breakers.

“He needs to talk in a way that shows he understands this is a different Republican Party. … That’s what I think his challenge is,” said Grover Norquist, a prominent anti-tax activist who will also be speaking at the event. “Somehow, he’s got to show that he’s up to speed.”

Bush-- who last served in elected office in 2007-- begins with the most basic of challenges: articulating his vision to an audience that may be unfamiliar with his record. Unlike the sitting incumbents pursuing the Republican presidential nomination, the Florida Republican doesn’t have the luxury of pointing to a current governing record as evidence of his conservative credentials.

“It’s more of a challenge to lay out an agenda, because he’s been out of office longer than the others,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a prominent group that is heavily funded by the conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch.

Unlike conservative favorites like Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul who have mastered the art of tea party oratory, Bush’s speaking style is more subdued and less geared toward firing up a crowd. In response, his advisers have taken steps to pack the room with supporters-- a Bush adviser said the campaign would be coordinating transportation for Washington, D.C.-area boosters who’d expressed interest in attending his Friday afternoon presentation.

...Bush’s CPAC strategy, however, isn’t without risks. In not giving a speech in a high-profile conservative arena, he is ceding the stage to other candidates whose addresses will be crafted for the purpose of exciting the CPAC faithful. Increasingly viewed as the front-runner thanks to his prolific fundraising and high name ID, Bush may even find himself under attack from his potential rivals. While his opponents are unlikely to call out the former governor by name, their advisers say, they plan to highlight their strident opposition to Common Core.

There are other potential potholes. On Saturday, the closing day of the conference, activists will cast their votes in a straw poll that, in recent years, has favored conservative hopefuls such as Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Jeff Frazee, a spokesman for Young Americans for Liberty, whose followers largely back Paul, said the group was encouraging its members to participate in the straw poll. A Bush aide, meanwhile, said the campaign wasn’t undertaking any formal effort to get supporters to the straw poll.
Many other Republicans are just washing their hands of the whole thing and staying away or keeping a low profile. Republican Senate incumbents from swing states have nothing to gain from this particular circus and many, like Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), two of the most rabidly right-wing members of Congress, are avoiding it. Illinois moderate Mark Kirk always ignores the event anyway and Rob Portman (R-OH) is just scheduled for a non-controversial panel discussion. Aside from the presidential candidates, most of the speaking time will be ceded to the radicals and extremists like Joni Ernst (R-IA) Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Tom Cotton (R-AR). So far my favorite overall moment was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker comparing Wisconsin working families' struggle for economic justice to ISIS terrorists. These people have no sense of shame-- none whatsoever.





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Thursday, February 26, 2015

News Watch: This may be the best promo I've ever seen

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"In Season 2 he's changing everything up. . . .
Maybe he'll add a pony . . . a crime-solving pony.
"

Says John, "We were really just assuming the show was going to be basically the same." The good news: He gets to keep his glasses.

by Ken

This promo was actually first posted about seven weeks ago, and we're already three weeks into the season it was promo-ing. But it's still maybe the best promo I've ever seen for anything. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it delights me as richly as it did the first time.

At the end of the promo John expresses speaks rather forlornly about his hopes for this "one more year." After Episode 2 of the new season aired, HBO announced that Last Week Tonight will be around not just for the season-in-progress but for two more, of 35 shows apiece, in 2016 and 2017. Let's hand it to the HBO programming people for getting this call triumphantly right. The Last Week Tonight team has consistently managed to make the show among the funniest and the most informative broadcasts we've had.

Of course John was a pretty thoroughly known quantity by the time the show debuted, thanks to his years remarkable work on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Joh Stewart, including his well-deserved stint as substitute host during Jon's leave. What wasn't known was just what sort of show he and his people would be putting together at their new address.

The format they came up with is simple but durable; it just depends on the huge amount of work and wit it takes to stuff it with content. First there's a roundup of relatively short items plucked from the week's strange-but-true events. Then the latter two-thirds or so of the show is given over to a really extensive look at a single subject.

I would think that even the most casual observer can see how much research and screening and writing and rewriting and materials collection that half-hour broadcast entails. Still, the point seemed to be lost on Charlie Rose, as I discovered when, in order to see John, I broke my standard no-Charlie-Rose rule (which can be stated roughly, in case the point needs clarifying: "No Charlie Rose!"). Charlie, apparently genuinely surprised to hear John say that no, there's no way he could do LWT on a = nightly basis -- like, you know, The Daily Show. Of course it's possible that our Charlie, for all his seemingly sincere aura of fandom, had never actually watched either The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight. The fact remains that he seemed sincerely confounded by the idea that the way the shows are produced is different in any way except the number of times a week each is produced.

The big challenge for the LWT team, obviously, is the "big" segment of each show: finding subjects that lend themselves to their kind of treatment at 18-or-so-minute length, and then putting together a segment that fills those 18 minutes at peak news and comedy value. I think it's pretty extraordinary how many such subjects they've imagined and executed so successfully, coming up with an astounding array of information, most of which is genuinely shocking -- and side-splitting, often at the same time. One obvious result is that each episode of LWT has enduring rather than merely topical value.

I can't think of a better example than the "Tobacco" segment from this season's Episode 2.


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What Happened To Community?

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Sometimes I have so many Tupperware containers piled up on the countertops that there's no room for anything else. That's because my wonderful neighbors keep bringing me meals while I'm flat out going through chemotherapy and its toxic side effects. I don't know what I'd do without them. Starve? Los Feliz, where I live, is a pretty upscale neighborhood, but evolving into a kind of gated-estate one that prohibits folks from dropping by-- and leaving healthy soup in a Tupperware container.

That kind of neighborhood, apparently, is disappearing in America's big cities. According to Alan Pyke's report in ThinkProgress yesterday, American cities are becoming more and more economically segregated. He focused on Austin. "Amid record high economic inequality," he wrote, "America’s wealthy aren’t just buying rare caviar and Hammacher Schlemmer hoverboats. They’re also purchasing physical separation from the rest of us, a new paper from University of Toronto researchers argues, resulting in higher and higher levels of residential segregation in American cities-- especially densely-populated large and mid-size metro areas where there are relatively few blue-collar jobs... Lists of the most unaffordable places to live in America, based on median rent and income, are generally topped by the largest cities in the country. But the residential segregation rankings look somewhat different. San Francisco, which typifies the housing affordability crisis and often tops lists like this one, ranks right in the middle of the pack here. Four of the 10 most economically segregated metro areas are in Texas. Midsize culturally liberal college towns like Austin, TX and Columbus, OH top the list, outdoing bustling metros like Houston, Los Angeles, and New York, where the cost of living is higher. Those cities are still relatively segregated compared to the country, ranking in the top 10 metro areas out of the 359 that the researchers examined."
The new work looks to advance previous research into economic segregation that was based primarily on income. The researchers combined measures of segregation by income with ones tied to educational level and to the type of job a person has, and created an index of overall economic segregation in hundreds of U.S. metro areas. The resulting rankings and comparisons yield a variety of conclusions, some surprising and some expected, but key among them is this: “the behavior and location choices of more advantaged groups” are driving the rise in economic segregation at least as much as the isolation and ghettoization of poorer families.

The segregation effects pop up along other divisions besides wealth, too. The researchers found that occupation and education-- which are correlated to a person’s earning power, certainly, but represent a more complex distinction than breaking the population down purely by income-- also exhibit the same self-isolating residential patterns. People with higher educational credentials tend to cluster, especially in densely populated metro areas, and members of the “creative class” tend to self-segregate into concentrated neighborhoods while people who work in service industries aren’t able to do the same and end up scattered.

Residential segregation is therefore driven primarily by the choices that wealthier, higher-earning people make about where it would be cool to live-- and as the Washington Post notes, the pattern amounts to “the well-off choosing to live in places where everyone else is well-off, too.”

The larger the share of blue-collar jobs in a local economy, however, the less intense both educational and occupational segregation are. Where it is possible to make a comfortable living from lower-skill jobs, neighborhoods are more diverse. The researchers note that residential segregation wasn’t always so intense, and point out that it has spiraling effects in a democracy: Previously, “the people who cut the lawns, cooked and served the meals, and fixed the plumbing [for the wealthy] used to live nearby–close enough to vote for the same councilors, judges, aldermen, and members of the board of education. That is less and less the case today.”

Economic segregation is harmful to those born into the resulting high-poverty neighborhoods. Growing up in poverty damages the brain in the same ways that severe trauma or going without sleep do. Even a child born into a family of means will have a harder time rising up the economic ladder if that family lives in a poor zip code. And everyone else in the country suffers too, as economic segregation and concentrated poverty create harder-to-see macroeconomic costs for the whole nation to bear.
This is an existential problem for American democracy itself, and it isn't one I see getting fixed or heading back into a manageable direction-- certainly not in cities like New York and San Francisco, where it's getting even worse. Former liberal bastions turning into... what?



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Warren Comes Out Against TPP's NAFTA-Style "Trade Court"​

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Without "Fast Track" Legislation, TPP can't pass.

by Gaius Publius

I've been writing, along with many others, in opposition to NAFTA-style "free trade" agreements in general and the upcoming TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) in specific. For one thing, these agreements have little to do with "trade" and more to do with unrestricted capital flow — they ensure that capital can flow anywhere it wants, seeking any profit it can, with no restrictions whatsoever, including from local or national governments. (For my recent thoughts on trade agreements, see here.)

The primary enforcement tool of "free trade" agreements like NAFTA is "investor-state dispute resolution tribunals" — in essence, courts outside the judicial system of any country, in which corporations ("investors") can sue "states" — countries, provinces and cities — for "unfairly" restricting the opportunity to make money. An example of "unfair" restriction — "buy American" programs, since they disadvantage foreign "investors." Another — tobacco packaging laws that encourage giving up smoking, since they preference local lungs over foreign profit. Another — removing dangerous additives from gasoline, since ... well, you get the idea. It's all about the dollars with these people.

In all of these cases, an affected "foreign" company — or the foreign affiliate of a domestic company — can sue for the future profit it "lost" if the restrictions were not in place. Future profit. The decisions of these "tribunals" — courts — cannot be appealed under the terms of these treaties.

A Dream for the Rich; a Nightmare for the Rest of Us

It should be obvious that TPP is a One-Percent dream and a nightmare for everyone else. Now Elizabeth Warren weighs in. From the Washington Post (my emphasis):
The Trans-Pacific Partnership clause everyone should oppose

by Elizabeth Warren

The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty
Also the sovereignty of every nation that signs it. Only the international super-rich would benefit. (See what I mean about world-wide wealth-captured government being the great evil of our time?) You would think this would get at least some right-wing voter attention, right? After all, this really is the "one-world government" they've been so frightened of since None Dare Call It Treason hit the stands.

Warren first goes where I went, looking at the power of these corporate lawsuits:
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages. 
Then she looks at the tribunals themselves. Who are the "judges"?
If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
These tribunals ("courts") are only open to corporations; not, for example, citizens, countries or labor unions. Thus:
[I]f a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.
It's a rigged game, these agreements, all the way through. "Investor-state dispute tribunals" are a part of most trade agreements, bilateral (between just two countries) as well as broader ones. Warren writes:
Recent cases include a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned. U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.
We covered the Philip Morris case here; it's ugly (also funny, since John Oliver is our source; do click if you get a chance).

Your two takeaways (three if you haven't already figured out that TPP is a terrible deal): First, Warren will undoubtedly oppose "Fast Track" — the necessary TPP enabling legislation — in the Senate, and will likely join Reid and others in filibustering (my guess; no inside information here). Two, Warren is publicly opposing the deal, meaning her prominent and noticeable pulpit will have No Fast Track on it for all to see. Good all round. As she concludes:
This isn’t a partisan issue. Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution ...
Yet another feather in her cap. Let's hope it's also a notch in her belt.

"Obamatrade"?

For those who watch the other side of the aisle, here's something. There's an interesting Lou Dobbsian segment of the right that's already opposed, and strongly. They're calling it Obamatrade and they hate it for all the right reasons (for a change). This is the kind of bipartisanship we need more of.

If you live in a Republican district, feel free to lobby your representative with a clean conscience. You don't need permission to call, just an interest in pushing your person in the right direction, letting them know you're watching. Talking points at the link — or in the Warren article above. Senate phone numbers here. House phone numbers here. And thanks!

GP

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How Much Will Israel/Adelson Spend To Kill Rand Paul's Presidential Run?

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Sheldon Adelson says he won't pick the GOP presidential nominee until next year. But that doesn't mean he and Miriam are sitting around clipping coupons now. As Israel's top political enforcer for the American Republican Party, Adelson's work is never done. Even if they haven't decided who to get behind for the presidency yet, they know one Republican Israel hates even more than Obama: Rand Paul. And Adelson isn't having any of it. Note: Paul would, in all likelihood, make an abysmal president, one of the worst imaginable. But that doesn't mean he's wrong about everything. In fact, many of the things Adelson and Israel fear the most from the Kentucky Republican are among the more alluring prospects around his campaign.

He doesn't buy into the rote right-wing tyranny and suppression of civil liberties that has become part and parcel of the dominant Adelson wing of the GOP. And, whatever else you can say about Paul, his primary loyalty is to the United States and the American people, not to Israel. Adelson is determined to nip this one in the bud-- and he has the money to do it-- and growing backing for an aggressive foreign policy from the Republican base  pushed, as usual, by our corporate yellow journalists.
Nearly three-quarters of Republicans now favor sending ground troops into combat against the Islamic State, according to a CBS News poll last week. And in Iowa and South Carolina, two early nominating states, Republicans said military action against the group was, alongside economic matters, the most important issue in the 2016 election, according to an NBC survey released last week.

...[T]he hawkishness now defining the early campaign could imperil the presidential hopes of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the libertarian-leaning Republican who embraces a more restrained approach to American engagement with the world.

“The guy who’s now got the biggest challenge because of this is Rand Paul,” said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker. “The Rand Paul worldview, which I suspect will change, is just incompatible with reality.”

Though Mr. Paul will not formally announce his campaign until April, prominent Republican officials and groups are already organizing to undercut his approach. One of the party’s biggest donors, the Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has told associates that he is open to underwriting an effort to stopping Mr. Paul, should he gain traction in the primaries.




At least two Republicans, John R. Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are considering their own White House bids largely to draw attention to what they see as the need for a more muscular foreign policy.

One international affairs expert who has advised Mr. Paul and hails from a similar, more restrained school of foreign policy said the revival of terrorism as an issue would force the senator to explain his views more thoroughly.

“He’s got, to some extent, to be an educator in this process,” said the expert, Richard R. Burt, a former ambassador and State Department official under President Ronald Reagan. “He needs to talk through with primary voters the kinds of questions that need to be asked before we commit U.S. forces abroad: How we can’t just have a visceral reaction. How does this impact American interests and security?”

But Mr. Paul’s detractors are not going to make that easy.

“I think most of the Republican candidates or prospective candidates are headed in the right direction; there’s one who’s headed in the wrong direction,” said Mr. Bolton, suggesting that most Republicans would be “horrified” by Mr. Paul’s views on international affairs.

Mr. Bolton has formed three separate political groups to promote pro-interventionist Republican candidates. His newest effort, called the Foundation for American Security and Freedom, will be a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt group, meaning that it can accept donations from contributors who wish to remain anonymous.

Mr. Graham has formed a similar group, Security Through Strength, and has begun traveling to early nominating states to discuss what he calls “the threat of radical Islam” as he ponders a presidential run.

Mike Rogers, the former Michigan representative and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is not considering a presidential bid, but he is trying to influence the 2016 race by creating an organization called Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security, which he said would support candidates “who understand the importance of American engagement.” His group is scheduled to host its first forum in Iowa in May and is considering holding a large candidates’ forum in the fall.

The combined efforts of these groups, along with the shift of rank-and-file Republicans toward hawkishness, could isolate Mr. Paul. This will be most vividly apparent once debates begin this year. With Republican candidates increasingly attacking Mr. Obama for what they see as his unwillingness to project American strength, Mr. Paul’s support for the administration’s policies on such issues as negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will stand out-- and force him into some awkward situations.

...Mr. Paul and his backers have been conflicted about how to respond to the shift, and to the senator’s hawkish critics. They have courted them at times; Mr. Paul has aggressively sought out Republican Jewish Coalition donors and dropped by one of their events at a Washington steakhouse this year that Mr. Adelson attended. His team has even sought to flatter the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon, offering the site exclusives about Mr. Paul’s bill to eliminate American aid to the Palestinians (which the Free Beacon noted promptly came hours before he was to meet with Jewish donors).

But when challenged, Mr. Paul can also strike a pugilistic note. Referring to Mr. Bolton and other critics, Doug Stafford, Mr. Paul’s top political adviser, accused them of trying to promote their own political brand at Mr. Paul’s expense.

“Can you run for secretary of state?” Mr. Stafford asked. “They are going to lie about who Rand is and what he stands for. That’s what they do. We will be ready for them.”


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