Thursday Reads: The American Dream

The American Dream - post-war abundance

The American Dream – post-war abundance

Good Morning!!

What is the American Dream? Is it prosperity for everyone? Is it access to nature and a clean environment? Is it a good job, a house, a family? Is it a good education and the chance to be upwardly mobile? Is it a better future for your children and grandchildren? Is whatever it once was dead? Is it even worth talking about?

This morning there’s a Washington Post op-ed in which Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio describe their vision of “How to revive the American Dream.”

In this land of big dreams, there was never a dream bigger or more important than the one so deeply rooted in our values that it became known as the American Dream. Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life. America wasn’t perfect, but we invested in our kids and put in place policies to build a strong middle class.

We don’t do that anymore, and the result is clear: The rich get richer, while everyone else falls behind. The game is rigged, and the people who rigged it want it to stay that way. They claim that if we act to improve the economic well-being of hard-working Americans — whether by increasing the minimum wage, reining in lawbreakers on Wall Street or doing practically anything else — we will threaten economic growth.

They are wrong.

That thinking is backward. A growing body of research — including work done by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute — shows clearly that an increasing disparity between rich and poor, cronyism and an economic system that works only for those at the top are bad for the middle class and bad for our economy.

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Warren and de Blasio are correct that the dream went terribly wrong after Ronald Reagan became president.

When the economy works for everyone, consumers have money to spend at businesses, and when businesses have more customers, they build more factories, hire more workers and sell more products — and the economy grows. For decades, our economy was built around this core understanding. We made big investments in the things that would create opportunities for everyone: public schools and universities; roads and bridges and power grids; research that spurred new industries, technologies — and jobs — here in the United States. We supported strong unions that pushed for better wages and working conditions, seeing those unions improve lives both for their members and for workers everywhere.

And it worked. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as gross domestic product went up, wages increased more or less across the board. As the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. That was how the United States built a great middle class.

Then in the early 1980s, a new theory swept the country. Its disciples claimed that if government policies took care of the rich and powerful, wealth would trickle down for everyone else. Trickle-down believers cut taxes sharply for those at the top and pushed for “deregulation” that hobbled the cops on Wall Street and let the most powerful corporations far too often do as they pleased.

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All very true. But how do we return to fairness and prosperity for everyone, not just the wealthy few? Warren and de Blasio offer a familiar list of government policies that could turn things around–read them at the link–but they don’t explain how to accomplish these goals in the age of Citizens United, a Republican-controlled congress, and a Supreme Court that favors the rights of corporations over those of individuals. How do we get past the hopelessness and inertia and get Americans to get out and vote for candidates who will stand up for the bottom 99%? How do we even find those candidates?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m basically an optimist and I always have hope for change. But how do we get there from here?

I do think there are some positives signs.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to convince some folks that she’s really a separate person from her husband–a more liberal candidate than he was in the 1990s. In fact Bill Clinton might be more liberal now too. Despite what the Villagers preach, people can change and grow and develop new ideas an opinions. Imagine that Chris Cillizza!

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One journalist who seems to be catching on is Charles Pierce. Here’s what he had to say yesterday: One Of These Is Not Like The Others: Two Clintons, No Waiting.

For all the noise about e-mails and honoraria, and all the passive-aggressive nostalgia for the Great Penis Chase of the 1990’s, something very interesting has been going on with Rodham Clinton’s campaign since she announced its official launch….

All during her husband’s administration, HRC was considered to be the more progressive of the two. She supported the accommodations he made to get re-elected, some of which were pretty damned ghastly. She also was one of the most vocal in defense of that administration against the organized ratfking that sought to destroy it. (The only mistake she made, as Calvin Trillin pointed out at the time was that she referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” rather than a creepy little cabal.) I once had a long conversation with a former Clinton lawyer. He told me that, if there were 1000 people in a room, and 999 thought Bill Clinton was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and one of them thought he was the spawn of Satan, Clinton would seek out that one person and spend the rest of the night and all the following day trying to change that person’s mind. That is not something anyone ever has said about Ms. Rodham Clinton. The edges of her triangulations are all sharp ones.

All of this is to point out that not only is the whole “two for the price of one” trope beloved of people whose politics came of age in the 1990’s outdated and inadequate, but so is the political strategy of the first Clinton Administration. Clinton herself seems to be acknowledging this political reality. She started talking on economics like Elizabeth Warren. Her speech on criminal justice reform was aimed at excesses many of which have roots in her husband’s law-and-order compromises in the mid-1990’s. (So, it should be noted, do many of the Patriot Act’s more controversial provisions.) For the moment, I choose to believe this is not merely a bow to political expedience, but something genuine and, if progressives are smart, infinitely exploitable.

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Most of them will never get it, but maybe, just maybe Hillary can get her message out to the people who count–voters–and get them fired up enough to go to the polls in November 2016.

I also think it’s a good sign that Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president. No, he has no chance in hell of getting the nomination, but he might be able to get the media to publicize some of his ideas. He could also be a foil for Hillary, giving her an opportunity to draw attention to her more innovative and liberal ideas. Some of the latest news about Bernie’s efforts:

Reuters: Why socialist Bernie Sanders may just shake up the 2016 presidential race, by Robert Borosage.

Sanders is a funhouse mirror image of Clinton. She has universal name recognition (by her first name), unlimited funds, national campaign experience and a powerhouse political operation. He has scant name recognition, paltry funds, no national campaign experience and hasn’t begun to build a campaign staff. With a net-worth ranking among the lowest in the Senate, Sanders can be an authentic populist — the real deal. As one supporter said, he is the candidate of the “12-hour filibuster and the $12 haircut.”

Sanders’s announcement was treated with respect by a press corps eager for any kind of race on the Democratic side. Pundits dismiss his chances in part because Clinton is expected to raise a billion dollars or more for her campaign. Sanders hopes to raise $50 million.

But Sanders is likely to do far more than exceed low expectations. His candidacy could have a dramatic effect in building an already growing populist movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.

As Sanders made clear in his announcement, his focus will be on the central challenges facing this country: an economy that does not work for the vast majority of its citizens and a politics corrupted by big money and entrenched interests.

Sanders refuses to take part in politicians’ usual, incessant pursuit of large donations. So he is a political rarity: Someone free to speak forcefully to the often insidious connection between the two.

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Will people pay attention? I think it’s possible. So does David Horsey of the LA Times: Bernie Sanders’ ‘socialism’ may have mainstream appeal.

Finally, conservatives have a real socialist to go crazy about. Instead of concocting dark fairytales about how Barack Obama, a very conventional liberal Democrat, is a secret Marxist who wants to destroy the American way of life, they can shriek about Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who has never shied away from the socialist label.

Sanders is now the first person to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton, though, is not his real adversary, Sanders says. He refuses to make disparaging comments about Clinton and insists he has never run an attack ad in any campaign and will not do so against her. Sanders wants to take on the billionaires, not Hillary.

Nobody gives the 73-year-old Sanders a chance of stopping the Clinton political juggernaut, but some think he could make it veer to the left. If the Vermonter gets traction in debates and primaries with his unabashedly progressive positions, Clinton might be forced to match at least some of his rhetoric. Would that be a bad thing for Democrats? Not if enough beleaguered middle class voters get a chance to consider what Sanders’ version of “socialism” entails and like what they see.

Go to the LA Times link to read Horsey’s list of Sanders’ ideas that could interest voters.

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Sam Stein at Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Raises $3 Million In Four Days.

With the help of a crew of former aides to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign has raised $3 million in four days for his presidential campaign — a dramatic indication that he won’t be confined simply to a long-shot role in the Democratic primary.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that he has retained the services of the firm Revolution Messaging to run digital ads and online fundraising. The staffers with the firm who will be working on Sanders’ campaign include Revolution Messaging’s founder, Scott Goodstein, who ran the 2008 Obama campaign’s social media and mobile programs; Arun Chaudhary, who was the first official White House videographer; Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director on Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Walker Hamilton, who was a lead programmer for that campaign.

“Like a lot of Obama supporters, we were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing — even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests. A candidate who could inspire a movement,” said Goodstein. “Bernie Sanders is that candidate.”

Due to his long-standing criticism of the influence of big-money interests on government, Sanders has strong online and grassroots appeal, which he hopes to leverage to raise the money needed to fund a presidential campaign. And so far, the strategy looks savvy. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43. According to a campaign adviser, 99.4 percent of the donations have been $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website BernieSanders.com.

Not bad.

What do you think? What does the American Dream represent for you?

As always, this is an open thread. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: NYT and WaPo Join With Fox News and Koch Brothers to Destroy Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

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Good Morning!!

It appears that The New York Times and The Washington Post are determined to help the Koch brothers elect Scott Walker to the presidency in 2016. Dakinikat alerted me to this story by Dylan Byers at Politico:

New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News strike deals for anti-Clinton research.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton’s actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Naturally, Byers article is accompanied by an unflattering photo of Hillary.

Fox News’ use of Schweizer’s book has surprised no one. The bulk of the network’s programming is conservative, and the book’s publisher, HarperCollins, is owned by News Corporation. But the Times and Post’s decision to partner with a partisan researcher has raised a few eyebrows. Some Times reporters view the agreement as unusual, sources there said. Still others defended the agreement, noting that it was no different from using a campaign’s opposition research to inform one’s reporting — so long as that research is fact-checked and vetted. A spokesperson for the Times did not provide comment by press time.

In an article about the book on Monday, the Times said “Clinton Cash” was “potentially more unsettling” than other conservative books about Clinton “both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Anyone who calls either the Times or the Post “liberal” these days is either lying or ignorant. It both papers are morphing into something resembling The Daily Mail.

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Peter Schweizer

The author of the new “book,” Peter Schweizer is nothing but propagandist, as Media Matters demonstrates:

Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer’s Long History Of Errors, Retractions, And Questionable Sourcing.

Media should be cautious with Republican activist and strategist Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash. Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that “do not check out,” sources that “do not exist,” and a basic failure to practice “Journalism 101.”

Read a compendium of evidence at the Media Matters link.

Echidne of the Snakes asks whether the Times and Post deals with Schweizer are ethical.

The Ethics of Journalism 101: Is it OK for NYT and WaPo to use Pre-Publication Opposition Research on Hillary Clinton?

I see three potentially serious problems with these exclusive arrangements.

First, depending on what newspapers are supposed to have as their objective*, getting opposition research on only one candidate can bias the reporting in the papers.  If conservative muckrakers are more diligent than liberal ones, the American people (how I love to be able to write that!) will be mislead, assuming that the Republican candidates might also have all sorts of skeletons in their mahogany cupboards.

Second, assuming that those at the newspapers know how to judge the research of Schweizer’s book may be a form ofhubris.  Or at least we should not just be told that there will be experts looking at all the stuff.

Third, and this links to my second point, using a book BEFORE it is published means that the newspapers won’t have access to the expert criticisms which follow the publication of a book.  It’s as if the book is allowed to hold the stage all alone, when the correct approach would be to wait to see what experts in the field might have to say about it.

It’s also important to note that Peter Schweizer writes for Breitbart. And Breitbart is crowing about the mainstream publicity their author is getting.

Scott Walker

As the NYT reported yesterday, David Koch has apparently picked Scott Walker as his preferred candidate for the Republican nomination. You have to wonder if Koch is completely detached from reality though.

From the New York Observer, David Koch: Scott Walker Would Defeat Hillary Clinton ‘by a Major Margin.’

Fuel mogul and conservative activist David Koch today declared to reporters that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would easily beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a general election—shortly after the co-owner of Koch Industries heard a private speech by the midwestern Republican at the Union League Club in Manhattan.

After meeting with Mr. Walker and a group of GOP donors called the Empire Club, Mr. Koch told the Observer that he believed the governor would trounce the former first lady if a sufficient number of Republicans get involved in the race.

“I think so, no question about it. You know, if enough Republicans have a thing to say, why, he’ll defeat her by a major margin,” he said, effusively praising Mr. Walker’s performance. “I thought he had a great message. Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best. He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion.”

Mr. Koch said the Republican candidates should focus their primary season fire on Ms. Clinton to reduce her appeal among voters, arguing that she will most likely be the Democratic nominee.

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Will it work? Hillary commented on the strategy in Keene, New Hampshire yesterday.

ABC News: Hillary Clinton Says Republicans ‘Talking Only About Me.’

During her first visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton brushed off accusations about the Clinton Foundation‘s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, dismissing the reports made in a new book as simply being a “distraction” from the issues of her campaign.

“Well, we’re back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I’m ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory,” Clinton remarked at the end of a roundtable discussion at a local business here this afternoon, when asked by reporters about a new book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

It seems the Koch brothers are opening controlling the choice of the Republican nominee. Today they announced they will give Jeb Bush a chance to be their pick instead of current favorite Scott Walker. From Mike Allen at Politico:

Koch brothers will offer audition to Jeb Bush.

In [a] surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.

But those four — plus Jeb – will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.

Jindal is apparently not high on the Kochs’ list. He must be deeply disappointed after he has destroyed Louisiana with Koch-backed policies in his efforts to please the the powerful brothers.

For a change of pace from the mainstream Hillary hate and GOP love, I’ll end this post with Charles Pierce’s latest assessment of Scott Walker’s chances.

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Watching Scotty Blow, Cont’d: Governor Of His Own Fugue State.

Because it’s fking April, and because it’s fking 2015, and because I have something of a fking life, I decided to take in the Republican floor exercises up there in New Hampshire through the kind auspices of CSPAN. I was especially interested in the evening show provided by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. I had to wait for John Sununu, Sr. to go through an introduction that lasted longer than the Good Friday ritual. (Sununu may still be talking. CSPAN cut away to listen to Walker.) But Walker was worth the wait. We heard about how he’s going to ride his Harley to Bike Week in Laconia this year. We heard the bit about buying the shirt at Kohl’s. We heard “go big and go bold.” We heard about the death threats. And we heard a lot of stunning misdirection about how rosy things are with the Wisconsin economy. (I was especially taken with how he boasted that he had turned his state into a right-to-work paradise, Walker having denied up and down throughout the last campaign that he had any such plans.) And there is no question. Scott Walker is the best Governor of Wisconsin that New Hampshire ever has had.

What we didn’t hear, of course, was that, back in America’s Dairyland, they may never get out of the death spiral into which Walker has shown the actual state he allegedly actually governs. His new budget is so draconian that even some of the Republicans in his pet legislature are starting to get nervous. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a newspaper of wild ambivalence regarding Walker and his prospective candidacy,dropped a dungbomb on him that demonstrated that, while Scott Walker may have bought a shirt at Kohl’s, he isn’t qualified to run a cash register there.
Go to the Esquire link to read the rest and get the Koch Brothers and the mainstream media’s Clinton Derangement out of your mouth.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!

Tuesday Reads: The Latest Passenger in the GOP Clown Car

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Good Morning!!

The 2016 primaries are nearly a year away, and yet it’s beginning to feel as if the campaign has already begun. As Pat J said yesterday, following Bette Davis, “fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” At least we finally have something to be excited about.

Today big media has slowed down its attacks on Hillary in order to drool over newly announced candidate Marco Rubio.

Here’s the Washington Post’s adoring introduction to the new media darling, written by Mary Jordan.

A man in a hurry.’Wait your turn’ is not in Marco Rubio’s DNA.The 43-year-old GOP candidate is used to moving up fast.

You can see it in his bouncing leg, his restless energy, his rapid-fire answers. Marco Rubio wants things now, now, now.

He has just left the Senate floor, where he ripped President Obama’s Israel policy, and now, seated in his grand Capitol Hill office, he dives headlong into explaining why, at just 43, he is ready to run for president.

“I have never understood that ‘wait your turn,’ ” logic, the Florida Republican says. “The presidency is not like a bakery, where you take a number and wait for it to be called. You’re either compelled to run for it because you believe it’s the best place to serve your country” or you stay out of the race.

Never mind that his mentor, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, 62, is gearing up to run, too. Or that he has not even finished his first term as senator. Or that the GOP has a long tradition of picking older presidential nominees who have paid their dues.

Rubio is a man in a hurry, whose dizzying political ascent — he has never lost a race — is a testament to his quickness to spot openings and go for them. “If you told me seven or eight years ago I would be in the Senate, I wouldn’t believe it,” Rubio says. “Sometimes opportunities come up that you could never have anticipated.”

More Rubio love at the link. Be sure to have your barf bag close at hand.

Should Rubio actually get the GOP nod, voters will likely see a lot of this embarrassing video of the young “man in a hurry” giving the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2013.

And here’s The New York Times’ glowing profile of the first term Senator, written by Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin.

Stressing Youth, Marco Rubio Joins 2016 Field.

MIAMI — Senator Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, on Monday declared that it was time for his generation to lead the country, portraying himself as the youthful future of a Republican Party that has struggled to connect with an increasingly diverse electorate.

Formally declaring his candidacy for president, Mr. Rubio entered a contest so far dominated by two aging American political dynasties — the Bushes and the Clintons — and warned Republicans and Democrats alike that it was time to start fresh.

“The time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century,” he said.

“Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America,” Mr. Rubio told hundreds of supporters who crowded the lobby of the Freedom Tower, a historic building where many Cuban émigrés were processed on their arrival in the United States. “But we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.”

Ironically, Rubio and his party actually do want to go back to the past–way back to the 19th Century. A Rubio presidency would mean rolling back women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration reform, and handing Wall Street the keys to the White House. But never mind that. He’s a fresh face with surface charm.

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It certainly sounds like Rubio has been studying then Senator Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2008. But Rubio says he’s way more experienced than Obama was then.

Kasie Hunt writes at MSNBC:

MIAMI –Presidential candidate Marco Rubio says that he has more experience than President Barack Obama did when he won the White House in 2008, even though both launched presidential campaigns as first term senators.

“There are some significant differences between his biography and mine,” Rubio told msnbc in an interview early Tuesday morning before flying to Washington to attend a congressional hearing on Iran. “We both served in the state legislatures, he as a back-bencher in the minority, me as the Speaker of House in the third-largest state in the country.”

He pointed out he will have served six full years in the Senate if he’s elected in 2016; President Obama had served four years when he was elected in 2008.

Okay . . . . Not all that impressive though; and Obama was a hell of a lot more well known around the country in 2008 than Rubio is now. As Matthew Yglesias wrote at Vox yesterday, that’s really the problem with the entire GOP field–most normal Americans don’t know who they are. On the other hand it would be difficult to find an average vote who doesn’t know quite a bit about Hillary Clinton.

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There were a few dissenting voices on Rubio at smaller media outlets. At The New Republic, Brian Beutler has a devastating piece on Rubio.

Marco Rubio Is the Most Disingenuous Republican Running for President. He’s not a reformer. He’s a fraud.

Senator Marco Rubio…was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

Well, we all know that isn’t going to become Republican policy, and Rubio has already demonstrated that he won’t stand up for policies the party leaders dislike.

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.

More good insights at the link.

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Here’s Jonathan Chait on Rubio:

The presidential election is still a year and a half away, but Rubio’s campaign has already gone through three distinct stages. In the immediate wake of their 2012 debacle, Republican elites glommed onto Rubio as the cure for their demographic disease. Days after the election, Republican Über-pundit Charles Krauthammerostentantiously laid his hands upon the young, telegenic senator as the party’s new avatar. “Marco Rubio. So hot right now,” tweeted John Boehner’s press secretary. By the end of 2013, Rubio had crashed and burned. A conservative revolt forced him to repudiate the immigration reform plan he had carefully built. He desperately glommed on to the anti-Obamacare shutdown, alienating party elites without winning over the activists. But now Rubio has rebuilt his campaign and is showing signs of life, by repositioning himself to the right and eliminating his vulnerabilities.

The first and most dramatic such move was Rubio’s renunciation of immigration reform. Having championed a bipartisan plan for comprehensive reform, Rubio now insists that border security must come first. Fervent restrictionists may not fully trust his sincerity, but Rubio’s maneuver follows almost exactly the same script of apostasy and penance than John McCain used in 2008 to neutralize the issue.

The bigger shift has come on economic policy. Last year, Rubio positioned himself as a “reform conservative” who aspired to aim tax cuts at middle-class families rather than the rich. Instead, when he unveiled the plan, it consisted of a massive, debt-financed tax cut that would give its greatest benefit to the rich, not just in absolute terms, but also as a percentage of their income. Even that plan proved to be too stingy for Republican plutocrats, so Rubio revised his plan to make it far friendlier to the rich. The newest version took his old plan and added complete elimination of all taxes on inherited estates, capital gains, and interest income. Grover Norquist, guardian of the party’s anti-tax absolutism, cooed his approval.

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Rubio might be a bigger flip-flopper than Mitt Romney. But of course the corporate media fails to notice anything except the surface.

Fortunately for Rubio, much of the political media has covered his ideas as though they represent an important break from his party’s past. “Rubio appears to be hoping his plan will appeal to Republican voters concerned about rising economic inequality and tired of getting beaten up in the general election over plans that Democrats say would hand massive tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the middle class,” reports Politico.

This is not remotely accurate. Rubio’s original plan would have cut taxes by $2.4 trillion over a decade, making it quite similar to George W. Bush’s regressive, debt-financed tax-cut plan. It is true that Rubio would only cut the top tax rate to 35 percent, not as low as the fondest supply-side dreams would have it. But 35 percent would restore the Bush-era tax rate for the highest income earners. What’s more, Rubio’s elimination of the estate, interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes would go far beyond the Bush administration’s most plutocratic dreams. It is also true that Rubio plans to cut taxes for some middle-class families. But obviously that lost revenue has trade-offs, which he has failed to specify. The massive revenue hit would require very large cuts to existing programs. Given his party’s propensity to aim the bulk of its tax-cutting at the programs that direct their biggest benefits to Americans of modest incomes, there is no plausible way to imagine Rubio’s plan would do anything but engineer a massive upward redistribution of resources.

Read the rest at New York Magazine.

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Here’s Chait on Hillary Clinton:  Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election.

Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate.

Of course, not everybody who follows politics professionally believes this. Many pundits feel the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections has disappeared, or never existed. “The 2016 campaign is starting on level ground,” argues David Brooks, echoing a similar analysis by John Judis. But the evidence for this is quite slim, and a closer look suggests instead that something serious would have to change in order to prevent a Clinton victory. Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite…

Check out Chait’s reasoning at the link.

So . . . What else is happening? Please posts your thoughts on this post and your links to recommended reads in the comment thread.

 


Friday Afternoon Open Thread: Run Hillary Run!

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Good Afternoon Politics Junkies!!

The big day is almost here. Yes, this weekend, Hillary Clinton will open her 2016 campaign for President.

The Guardian, Exclusive: Hillary Clinton to launch 2016 campaign on Sunday en route to Iowa.

The former secretary of state is scheduled to declare her second run for president on Twitter at noon eastern time on Sunday, the source told the Guardian, followed by a video and email announcement, then a series of conference calls mapping out a blitzkrieg tour beginning in Iowa and looking ahead to more early primary states.

Clinton’s Sunday schedule is booked beginning with takeoff from New York to Iowa, where speculation has centered for weeks that Clinton was focusing attention for an April campaign launch. Her scheduled calls are with advisers in other key battleground states.

Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the contours of Clinton’s campaign kickoff schedule. Another source close to the Clinton campaign confirmed Clinton would be in Iowa in the coming days….

Clinton has been quietly building a ground operation in Iowa, with a number of staff hires in Iowa including Matt Paul, a longtime aide to secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, to run Clinton’s operation, as well as veteran Iowa operative Brenda Kole as political director and DNC deputy communications director Lily Adams.

It’s the top story on Memeorandum and Google News this afternoon.  We’ll have to brace ourselves for the negativity coming from the media, but at least we know for sure now that she’s running. More links:

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CNN: Hillary Clinton to announce 2016 bid Sunday with video.

Hillary Clinton is planning to launch her presidential candidacy on Sunday through a video message on social media, a person close to her campaign-in-waiting tells CNN, followed immediately by traveling to early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire to start making her case to voters….

Clinton has already filmed her campaign video, a person close to the campaign said, which outlines the central themes of her second bid for the White House. The message is intended to send a signal to Democrats that she intends to aggressively fight for the party’s presidential nomination.

A new epilogue of her book, “Hard Choices,” an excerpt of which was released Friday to the Huffington Post, offers a glimpse into why she is embarking on another presidential campaign. She writes about her new granddaughter, Charlotte, and calls for equal opportunity for her generation.

“Becoming a grandmother has made me think deeply about the responsibility we all share as stewards of the world we inherit and will one day pass on,” Clinton, 68, writes in the epilogue. “Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up.”

The decision will sweep aside more than a year of speculation about her political aspirations and allow her to start making her case to voters. Advisers say she knows that Democratic activists are not interested in a coronation and she intends to campaign as though she has a tough primary challenge.

Central to Clinton’s second presidential run will be reintroducing the former first lady — on her own terms — to the American people. Democrats close to Clinton have started to call her the most unknown famous person in the world. Their argument is that people know of Clinton — she has near 100% name recognition in most polls — but they don’t know her story.

That sounds interesting.

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Of course The New York Times is already ragging on Hillary.  You can go read it if you want, but I’m trying to stay positive just for today. Here’s Laura Clausen at DailyKos on the Times story.

New York Times worried that Marco Rubio called shotgun and Hillary Clinton ignored him

What is it about Hillary Clinton that makes political reporters show their stupid side? As Clinton prepares to announce a presidential run on Sunday, the New York Times‘ Amy Chozick and Maggie Haberman step up with the kind of coverage we can expect for the next 19 months:

Many factors played into the timing of Mrs. Clinton’s announcement. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whom Mrs. Clinton’s advisers are watching closely as a potential opponent, staked a claim on Monday as his announcement date. Mrs. Clinton’s announcement on Sunday will certainly draw attention from Mr. Rubio’s entry into the race and could well eclipse it.And while the move could invite criticism as unsportsmanlike, her campaign is betting that Democrats will applaud the show of force against a Republican. (Others involved insisted the date was selected before Mr. Rubio scheduled his event, but said that the juxtaposition was an added bonus.)

Unsportsmanlike? Trust a woman—or a Clinton—to hit below the belt, I guess. Although let’s say Clinton did look at Rubio and think “Him. He, of all the Republicans, is the one whose announcement I need to bigfoot. I can let Rand Paul and Ted Cruz announce without interference, and I don’t need to wait for Scott Walker or Jeb Bush. No, Rubio is the guy I must mess with.” Even if she said that, we’re talking less about a dirty hit that could injure someone or at least leave him cupping his balls and gasping for the breath he needs to scream and more about, say, beating him to the car door after he called shotgun.

There could be a Republican presidential announcement a week for months, but Clinton is supposed to avoid all of them lest she appear unsportsmanlike?

WTF?!

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The Washington Post: How Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign machine will kick into gear.

Clinton plans to launch her campaign via social media and with a video on Sunday articulating her rationale for seeking the White House. She’ll then travel to the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa early next week for campaign events, these people said. She is expected to hold mostly small discussion events with voters designed to help the former secretary of state connect with ordinary Americans and listen to their concerns, forgoing the large rallies and traditional announcement speeches of some of her Republican rivals.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Clinton’s fundraising machine is revving up. Her top bundlers are plotting aggressive outreach to thousands of Democratic donors over the weekend and into next week urging them to immediately send checks and make donations online as soon as the Clinton campaign’s Web site goes live.

Democratic strategists, advisers and fundraisers described Clinton’s plans only on the condition of anonymity because she and her team have not yet finalized all aspects of her campaign rollout. Her official spokespeople declined to comment.

One more from The Daily Beast: Hillary to Launch Campaign This Weekend With ‘Insane’ Fundraising Push.

After the announcement comes the deluge.

Hillary Clinton will announce her presidential campaign this Sunday, sources in the Clinton operation tell The Daily Beast.

After that, the nascent campaign will embark on a fundraising push that the Clinton camp says will dwarf anything seen in the history of presidential politics.

“They are going to raise in one week what some Republican presidential candidates are going to raise the entire cycle,” said one Clinton aide.

On Saturday afternoon, Ready for Hillary, the super PAC that has been a Clinton campaign-in-waiting in the years since Clinton left the State Department, will host what is likely a final fundraising push at SouthwestNY, a sleek Tex-Mex restaurant steps from the rebuilt World Trade Center.

From then on, Ready for Hillary will encourage its 3.6 million supporters to give to Clinton’s real campaign while the super PAC quietly dissolves.

Of course the “liberals” and very concerned about Hillary and her insistence on running for President. I’d guess these are the same people who were screaming “Why won’t the witch just quit” back in 2008.

Ready

Brian Beutler at The New Republic: Why Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Frightens Democrats.

Hillary Clinton, who reportedly will announce her candidacy this weekend, is such a prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination that she more or less cleared the field simply by behaving like someone who was going to run. That’s as much a testament to her political talent as it is to her nominal association with the boom times of the late 1990s. But it’s also the source of genuine anxiety among liberals, who worry she’ll enter the general election rusty and untested unless someone formidable dares to challenge her in the primary.

This sounds like a reasonable point, until you apply the logic to all other major political races, where favored candidates labor tirelessly to avoid primary campaigns, whenever possible. No losing Senate candidate has ever looked back and wished he’d endured a primary to loosen him up, and no winning Senate candidate ever has ever attributed his victory to the months he spent doing battle with members of his own party. Senate Republicans attribute the two recent election cycles they spent in the minority to undisciplined activists backing primary challengers, and attribute their recent victory to hobbling those activists.

In Hillary Clinton’s case, though, there’s still a good argument that the Democratic Party could use a contested primary this cycle: not to toughen Clinton’s calluses, but to build some redundancy into the presidential campaign. It may even be the case that some of these Democrats with rattled nerves are less anxious about Clinton’s prowess against Republicans than about the fact that all of the party’s hopes now rest on her shoulders. Her campaign has become a single point of failure for Democratic politics. If she wins in 2016, she won’t ride into office with big congressional supermajorities poised to pass progressive legislation. But if she loses, it will be absolutely devastating for liberalism.

If you’re faithful to the odds, then most of this anxiety is misplaced. Clinton may have slipped in the polls by virtue of an email scandal and her return to the partisan trenches more generally. But she’s still more popular and better known than all of the Republicans she might face in the general, her name evokes economic prosperity, rather than global financial calamity, the economy is growing right now, and Democrats enjoy structural advantages in presidential elections, generally.

Maybe these unnamed very concerned Democrats should just get over it and try to get a fellow Democrat elected. Or maybe they should run themselves. But that would take courage and commitment. Why they’d probably have to use let reporters print their names!

Finally, the Wall Street Journal, that liberal stronghold /s, tells us that “some Democrats” think Hillary is too conservative. Do any of these people listen to what she says?

Liberal Democrats Try to Push Hillary Clinton Left. This one is behind a paywall, so I can only give you the first few lines; but we can all guess what these fake liberals had to say to the WSJ.

WASHINGTON—Hillary Clinton was once seen as a liberal voice pulling her husband and party to the left. Today, on the brink of her announcement that she is running for president, some Democrats think she isn’t liberal enough.

What troubles them are her ties to Wall Street and Bill Clinton’s centrist economic record. They don’t like that she appears more comfortable with bipartisan compromise than populist calls to fight banks and…

My guess is this whining is coming from Move On and the rest of the morons who want to see Elizabeth Warren run, even though she has no chance.

What do you think? What have you heard and read about Hillary’s plans?


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads

Boston in Spring 2012

Boston Common in Spring 2012

Good Afternoon!!

It’s not quite as nice here yet as it was when that photo of Boston Common in the Spring of 2012 was taken, but we’re making progress. Yesterday it got up to 70 degrees! All that snow we got in January and February is almost gone, although there are still piles of it here and there. Spring rains will soon wash the rest of it away, and it will be only a memory. I can’t wait for trees to start budding and tulips and daffodils to start popping their heads up.

So what’s happening in the news? Today I found myself focusing on more lightweight stories. I hope you don’t mind. I just loved this article at Slate that pokes fun at the “gluten free” fad that has gotten manufacturers putting labels on things that never contained gluten to begin with. No offense intended to anyone here who actually has celiac disease.

Finally, We Can Enjoy Our Greatest Works of Art Without Gluten.

Gluten is by now firmly cemented as our most infamous nutritional bête noir, even ifmost people can’t actually explain it. But even the staunchest gluten-free evangelists have, up til this point, missed another carb-contaminated industry: art. Luckily, a Gluten Free Museum has been created on Tumblr for those who just can’t stomach the idea of gluten in their favorite works of art.

In photos that span the worlds of high art, television, film and even advertising, Gluten Free Museum rids cultural artifacts of their carbs.

Here are a couple of examples: That nasty gluten on the left and gluten-free on the right. Check out the links to see more gluten vs. gluten-free images.

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Years ago, millions of people thought they had hypoglycermia. Now it’s gluten intolerance.

Speaking of questionable health issues, singer Joni Mitchell has been in the hospital for three days with a disease that doctors say isn’t real.

Hollywood LAist: The Story Behind Joni Mitchell’s Mysterious (And Possibly Fictional) Condition.

It’s still not clear what caused Joni Mitchell to faint in her Bel Air home earlier this week, sending her to the hospital. But the legendary 71-year-old singer has said in the past that she suffers from a rare and mysterious condition called Morgellons, something that has been a subject of debate on whether it’s a real illness or not.

Scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are skeptical that Morgellons is an actual medical condition and believe it’s more of a psychological problem. The people who believe it’s a real illness say that it has some scary symptoms, including fibers (or even “specks, dots, granules, or worms“) coming out of the skin causing tingling sensations that sometimes leads to lesions and scars, fatigue and problems with short-term memory, according to the New York Times.

In a 2010 interview with the L.A. Times,Mitchell said she has this “weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space.” She added, “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer — a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.”

I think I heard something about this on that weird radio show Coast to Coast AM. They also discuss things like alien implants, bigfoot, and ghosts. It’s kind of fun to listen to in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep.

Joni Mitchell

From Vox: Joni Mitchell suffers from a disease most doctors think isn’t real.

The 71-year-old singer-songwriter has often complained of her battle with Morgellons, a medical mystery that has stumped the scientific community for years.

“I couldn’t wear clothing. I couldn’t leave my house for several years,” she described in her 2014 book Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words. “Sometimes it got so I’d have to crawl across the floor. My legs would cramp up, just like a polio spasm. It hit all of the places where I had polio.” (It’s unclear if Morgellons was related to her recent hospitalization, but she has certainly brought attention to the issue over the years.)

Sufferers of Morgellons report itching, biting, and crawling sensations. “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin,” Mitchell has said. “They cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.”

They say their skin feels like it’s erupting from underneath, infested by insects, worms, or mysterious fibers. Like Mitchell, they say their symptoms are debilitating: they point to lesions that won’t heal, and say the biting and stinging that afflicts them every day leaves them fatigued and depressed, even affecting their memory.

It sounds awful, whatever it is.

Joni

For the past decade, researchers have searched for a biological cause or single underlying factor that might explain the suffering. But they have mostly concluded that Morgellons is “a psychosis or mass-shared delusion.”

In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, published in the journal PLOS, researchers from the CDC collected detailed epidemiological information, medical histories, and skin samples from 115 Morgellons sufferers in Northern California.

“No parasites or mycobacteria were detected,” they reported. The researchers also couldn’t find any environmental explanation for patients’ suffering.

The fiber-like strands on sufferers were mostly just cotton debris, probably lint from clothing. Their skin damage seemed to be caused by nothing more than sun exposure. While some patients had sores, these appeared to have arisen from chronic picking and scratching.

Interestingly, a large number of people in the study had a psychiatric or addictive condition, including depression and drug use. Among half of the participants in the study used drugs, but it wasn’t clear whether the drugs caused the symptoms or whether they were being used to deal with the disease.

I don’t know what to think. They used to say chronic fatigue syndrome was imaginary, and now it seems to be an accepted diagnosis. I just hope Joni feels better soon.

Via Raw Story

Via Raw Story

Comedian Jon Fugelsang came up with the perfect response to anti-gay “christian” fanatics.

From Raw Story: John Fugelsang zings conservative radio host: ‘If you don’t like gay people, take it up with the manufacturer.’

John Fugelsang clashed with conservative radio host Heidi Harris on Friday when Harris questioned the need for sexual orientation to be covered under anti-discrimination statutes.

“Being gay is what sets a person apart from straight people,” Fugelsang told Harris on MSNBC’s Ed Show. “If you don’t like gay people, take it up with the manufacturer, because God keeps creating them around the world.” . . . .

Harris argued that in the workplace, only a person’s behavior could set them apart, proving that non-discrimination statutes like one that was voted down by North Dakota legislators on Thursday were unnecessary.

“Why are we protecting a certain group of people because of their behavior?” Harris asked at one point, causing Fugelsang to facepalm. “Not only that, but how do you prove someone didn’t get hired because they were gay? You can’t prove that any more than you can prove somebody didn’t get hired because of their age or their sex.” . . . .

“You might not realize this, but sometimes straight people are mean to gay people,” Fugelsang said to her. “That’s why gay people have needed more protection.”

I posted something about that North Dakota law yesterday in a comment, but I’m going to post it again here. I really like the way newspapers are started to highlight the horrible lawmakers who support discrimination. In this case it was The Fargo Forum.

Talking Points Memo: Newspaper Front Page Shames North Dakota Lawmakers Over Anti-Gay Vote.

Fargo-based The Forum’s provocative front page was published amid national outrage over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics argued would allow business owners with religious objections to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Legislators in the Hoosier State later agreed to alter the law to specify that it cannot be used to defend discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation failed to passThursday in the North Dakota House by a vote of two to one, according to local TV station WDAY.

View the front page below.

Fargo Forum2

Good for The Forum! That makes me proud to call Fargo my birthplace. I want to see North Dakota and Indiana go back to being states with sane governments where Democratic Senators can be sent to Washington. Just a short time ago, North Dakota had two Democratic Senators.

Can you believe that a so-called “news” site (The Blaze”) raised $800,000 for that pizza place in Indiana that say they’d never cater a same-sex wedding?

From GayStarNews: Now nearly $800,000 richer, Indiana pizzeria co-owner is ‘sad, very sad’ for gays.

Flush with nearly $800,000 in donations from supporters, the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, aren’t through talking about gay people.

‘God has blessed us for standing up for what we believe, and not denying Him,’ Crystal O’Connor tells Fox News.

She also said her family ‘doesn’t hate gays’ but simply would not deliver pizzas to a gay wedding because of their religious beliefs….

Memories Pizza was so besieged by phone calls and online comments that they temporarily shut their doors. This resulted in a Go Fund Me campaign that as of Friday afternoon was closing in on $800,000.

Of the LGBTI community her family has offended O’Connor says: ‘All we can do is pray for them, and truly, we’re not really angry at them. We’re sad for them. Very sad.

‘We have to accept them, and we just ask they accept us.’

What a pathetic excuse for a human being she is. I don’t know who she’s praying to all the time, but she’s certainly not following Jesus’ teachings.

Now for some positive political news.

From The New York Daily News: Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign signs lease for Brooklyn Heights headquarters.

The former Secretary of State’s team signed a lease Wednesday to house its headquarters in a Brooklyn Heights office building, a move indicating Clinton will launch her second presidential campaign within two weeks.

The Federal Election Commission gives candidates 15 days to create a campaign committee after “campaign activity” — which includes leasing office space.

Sources said Friday that Clinton’s camp has leased two floors, totaling about 80,000 square feet, at One Pierrepont Plaza.

The offices are near a dozen subway lines. The building touts itself as “Modern Offices. Brooklyn Cool.”

But the location, just across the East River from downtown Manhattan, is about as corporate as Brooklyn gets.

It is located in a building where Morgan Stanley and employees of the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney, currently Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, have offices.

That sounds promising.

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And from The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern, Robert De Niro is backing Hillary.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the pleasure of sitting down with De Niro and his Tribeca partner Jane Rosenthal to discuss the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, which this year boasts a very formidable lineup including live events, star-studded film premieres, and talks featuring the likes of George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, the Monty Python crew, and a 25th anniversary Goodfellasdiscussion with the cast moderated by The Daily Show’’s Jon Stewart. Our talk eventually veered to his prophetic 2006 Hardball appearance, and whether or not he’ll be endorsing Hillary Clintonfor president in 2016.

“Hopefully it will be her, yes,” said De Niro. “I think that she’s paid her dues. There are going to be no surprises, and she has earned the right to be president and the head of the country at this point. It’s that simple. And she’s a woman, which is very important because her take on things may be what we need right now.”

“She’s smart, has run things before, and knows how government works and how to get things done,” added Rosenthal. “She’s watched it from the sidelines, and the frontlines.”

Now it’s your turn. What stories have caught your interest today?


Tuesday Reads: Zimmerman Speaks, Cruz Announces, and Hillary Clinton Prepares to Run

the-piano-lesson

Good Morning!!

Get your barf bags ready before you read the new “interview” with George Zimmerman. I put that word in quotes, because the so-called “interview” was with Zimmerman’s divorce lawyer Howard Iken, not an objective journalist who might have asked uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing, but you can do so at the Ayo and Iken website. You can also watch the video if you can stomach it. I did read a couple of press reports:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, George Zimmerman: President Obama amped up racial tension against me.

In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin‘s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Obama….

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far over-stretched, over-reached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, whom he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman told his attorney that he doesn’t feel guilty about killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking to his father’s home after buying skittles and iced tea at a local convenience store.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both him and Trayvon to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

Talking Points Memo: George Zimmerman Compares Himself To Anne Frank, Says Obama Victimized Him.

“I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous,” Zimmerman said. “Had I have had a fraction of a thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us would’ve survived then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders.”

His lawyer, Howard Iken, asked him whether he was the same man he was five years ago.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up significantly. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

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Apparently “God” actually wanted Trayvon dead and Zimmerman just happened to be the medium for “God’s” handiwork. Because, you know, “God” is a racist who hates black teenagers….

Don’t put away that barf bag just yet. The next topic is Ted Cruz’ announcement yesterday that he’s running for president. Cruz made the big announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. You can read the full transcript at Time Magazine. Cruze praised the “christian” college profusely, but please note that Cruz himself chose to get his education at Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz led off the speech with a lengthy and sentimental description of his and his wife’s family history. Then he launched into his dream for the future of America.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”

Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

Piano player and still life

That’s not too specific, but I’m pretty sure that by “liberty” Cruz means taking away freedom of choice from women, taking away health care from millions of Americans, blocking immigration reform, and increasing income inequality through tax cuts and removal of government regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of workers.

Cruz went on to provide some specifics:

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Yes, you’ll just have to imagine that, because you won’t get it with a Republican president.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

So taxes would get paid on the honor system? And with a flat tax, the burden would fall mostly on lower wage earners. Again, it’s about “freedom” for the rich and the rest of us can pay for it.

Woman at the piano matisse

Women  and LGBT people can forget about their freedom under a Ted Cruz presidency.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

There’s much more of Cruz’s “freedom” talk at the link.

Some reactions to the speech:

Think Progress: Ted Cruz Just Laid Out The Most Anti-Woman Agenda Yet.

FactCheck.org: FactChecking Ted Cruz

The Week: The Obama-like rhetoric, record, and divisiveness of Ted Cruz.

Mediaite: Jon Stewart Mocks Ted Cruz’s Televangelist-Like Big Speech.

SFGate: The Ten Best Things About Ted Cruz Running for President.

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On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting close to announcing her own run for president. Yesterday she had a private meeting with President Obama.

From Politico: Hillary Clinton meets Barack Obama at the White House.

Clinton was in Washington for an event about the future of urban policy hosted by the Center for American Progress in the morning and the presentation of the Toner Award at a dinner in the evening.

In between, the all-but-declared Democratic presidential candidate swung by to see her old boss in the building she’s hoping to move into.

The White House wouldn’t comment about whether a meeting was going to happen earlier in the day, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed afterward that it had happened — though he provided few details.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit,” Earnest said. “This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.”

I wonder if they talked about Clinton’s announcement and what Obama would do to back her up?

Music lesson

Also at Politico, Gabriel DeBenedetti wrote that Clinton and other Democrats are thrilled that Ted Cruz will be running for the GOP nomination.

Ted Cruz: Hillary Clinton’s wrecking ball.

Democrats from both inside and outside the Clinton camp have groused for months that the all-but-certain candidate was moving too slowly in formulating and projecting a rationale for running for the White House outside of her gender and the dreaded “it’s my time” argument. She was relying too much on a platform of inevitability, they said — the same platform that doomed her bid in 2008. But those closest to the former secretary of state have counseled patience, arguing that a core element of Clinton’s plan was to get out of the way and let the dueling wings of the Republican Party savage each other while she floats above it all.

Cruz, they say, is Hillary’s wrecking ball.

People close to Clinton smiled at the sight of the first-term senator wandering alone on stage at Liberty University, implicitly threatening a civil war with the “mushy” establishment of his party that he loves to decry — while at the exact same time Clinton sat comfortably alongside heavyweights from her own party’s progressive and labor elements, who have thus far entirely declined to challenge her.

Meanwhile the clamoring of some liberal groups to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling, was entirely unheard in downtown Washington as Clinton spent her morning discussing domestic policy at the headquarters of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by her allies. The presumptive Democratic front-runner sat near a pair of union bosses and current and former urban mayors, making sure to throw in some love for liberal hero Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, as she previewed pieces of her likely domestic policy platform.

She touched all corners of the Democratic Party in the morning performance before meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House and speaking at an award ceremony for political reporters in the evening, dogged only by barbs from her Republican critics.

So for Clinton, Monday was smooth sailing. For Republicans, her camp figures, it signaled the beginning of a wild and messy primary contest that will let Clinton appear to be the adult in the room before she takes on a bloodied GOP nominee.

Could the GOP clown car be even more packed with loonies in 2016 than it was in 2012?

What are you hearing? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great day.

NOTE: The paintings of piano players by Matisse are meant as a tribute to our fearless leader Dakinikat and her new moneymaking enterprise.


Lazy Saturday Afternoon Reads: Pi Day Edition

7-art-of-π

Good Afternoon!!

I’m no mathematician, but when something happens only once in a lifetime, I figure could be worth paying attention to. From MassLive: Pi Day 2015: 3.141592653 comes around for 1st time in 100 years.

Pi Day is a holiday, not a federal one, mind you, that celebrates pi, the mathematical constant that’s calculated by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter.

This year, Pi Day (named for the first three numbers of the mathematical constant and first officially celebrated in 1988 in San Francisco) has special significance – at 53 seconds after 9:26 a.m. and p.m. (9:26:53), the date and the time will represent the first 10 digits of pi – 3.141592653 (some argue that 9:26:54 is a more accurate time, since the 11th digit is 5, so the 3 should be rounded up.)

So what is Pi anyway?

The concept of pi – essential in calculations ranging from classical geometry to the most advanced physics and cosmology – dates to Egyptian pyramid builders of the 26th century BC. The constant was first represented by the Greek letter in 1706.

Pi was calculated out to 2,576,980,377,524 decimal places on April 29, 2009 at theCenter for Computational Sciences at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. It took more than 29 hours and 13.5 terabytes of computer capacity.

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According to the article, lots of colleges mark the day, and M.I.T. even times their acceptance letters to go out on Pi Day. And get this: Albert Einstein was born on March 14.

I’ll let a real math whiz explain why Pi is important. From The New Yorker:

Why Pi Matters, by Steven Strogatz.

Why do mathematicians care so much about pi? Is it some kind of weird circle fixation? Hardly. The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach. Even young children get this. The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi.

Pi touches infinity in other ways. For example, there are astonishing formulas in which an endless procession of smaller and smaller numbers adds up to pi. One of the earliest such infinite series to be discovered says that pi equals four times the sum 1 – + – + – + ⋯. The appearance of this formula alone is cause for celebration. It connects all odd numbers to pi, thereby also linking number theory to circles and geometry. In this way, pi joins two seemingly separate mathematical universes, like a cosmic wormhole.

But there’s still more to pi. After all, other famous irrational numbers, like e (the base of natural logarithms) and the square root of two, bridge different areas of mathematics, and they, too, have never-ending, seemingly random sequences of digits.

Infinite beauty of Pi

What distinguishes pi from all other numbers is its connection to cycles. For those of us interested in the applications of mathematics to the real world, this makes pi indispensable. Whenever we think about rhythms—processes that repeat periodically, with a fixed tempo, like a pulsing heart or a planet orbiting the sun—we inevitably encounter pi. There it is in the formula for a Fourier series:

Strogatz_Fourier_60H

That series is an all-encompassing representation of any process, x(t), that repeats every T units of time. The building blocks of the formula are pi and the sine and cosine functions from trigonometry. Through the Fourier series, pi appears in the math that describes the gentle breathing of a baby and the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness that govern our bodies. When structural engineers need to design buildings to withstand earthquakes, pi always shows up in their calculations. Pi is inescapable because cycles are the temporal cousins of circles; they are to time as circles are to space. Pi is at the heart of both.

For this reason, pi is intimately associated with waves, from the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides to the electromagnetic waves that let us communicate wirelessly. At a deeper level, pi appears in both the statement of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the Schrödinger wave equation, which capture the fundamental behavior of atoms and subatomic particles. In short, pi is woven into our descriptions of the innermost workings of the universe.

Pi Day

From the Guardian: Pi Day 2015: meet the man who invented π, by Gareth Ffowc Roberts.

In 1706, William Jones – a self-taught mathematician and one of Anglesey’s most famous sons – published his seminal work, Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, roughly translated as A summary of achievements in mathematics.

It is a work of great historical interest because it is where the symbol π appears for the first time in scientific literature to denote the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Jones realised that the decimal 3.141592 … never ends and that it cannot be expressed precisely. “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference can never be expressed in numbers,” he wrote. That was why he recognised that it needed its own symbol to represent it.

It is thought that he chose π either because it is first letter of the word for periphery (περιφέρεια) or because it is the first letter of the word for perimeter (περίμετρος). (Or because of both).

The symbol π was popularised in 1737 by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83), but it wasn’t until as late as 1934 that the symbol was adopted universally. By now, π is instantly recognised by school pupils worldwide, but few know that its history can be traced back to a small village in the heart of Anglesey.

Read more about Jones at the Guardian link.

And now, sadly, we must move on from the sublime to the ridiculous, our pathetic corporate media and their sick obsession with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired of the media’s insane hatred of the Clintons, and Hillary isn’t even running yet. What is it that causes these pathetic excuses for reporters and editors to hate these two people so much? Under Bill Clinton the U.S. economy was strong and healthy, and times were good for the middle class.

Before Clinton, we went through eight years of “Reaganomics” that left us with huge economic problems and four years of Jimmy Carter malaise.  Since then the economy has been in a shambles. Since Clinton, the economy has only been good for the ultra-rich, and we’ve been mired in two wars in the Middle East, and Republicans are trying to get us involved in a third war with Iran.

What was so terrible about peace and prosperity that the media, the GOP, and the Emoprog libertarians just couldn’t tolerate and don’t want to repeat?

If you’re thinking there a huge double standard in the media coverage of the Clintons vs. Republicans who held the same positions, you’re not imagining things. Over at Media Matters, Eric Boehlert has published a series of great pieces on this disparity.

The Clintons And Another Media Guttural Roar

Offering up some advice to the political press corps as it prepares to cover the 2016 presidential campaign, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently stressed that reporters and pundits ought to take a deep breath when big stories broke; to not immediately promote stumbles and campaign missteps to be more urgent and damaging than they really are.

“We may wish certain snags were roadblocks and certain missteps collapses, because we think they should be or they’re sexier that way,” wrote Bruni.

That was in his February 28 column. Four days later Bruni abandoned his own advice.

Pouncing on the controversy surrounding which email account Hillary Clinton used while serving as secretary of state, Bruni tossed his counsel for caution to the wind and treated the email development as an instant game changer and even wondered if the revelation indicated Clinton had a political “death wish.”

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But that fits the long-running pattern of the D.C. media’s Clinton treatment: Over-eager journalists hungry for scandal can’t even abide by the advice they dispensed four days prior. Or maybe Bruni simply meant that his advice of caution was supposed to apply only to Republican candidates. Because it’s certainly not being applied to Hillary and the email kerfuffle coverage.

Instead, “The media and politicos and Twitterati immediately responded with all the measured cautious skepticism we’ve come to expect in response to any implication of a Clinton Scandal,” noted Wonkette. “That is to say, none.”

Just look how the very excitable Ron Fournier at National Journal rushed in after the email story broke and announced Clinton should probably just forget about the whole running-for-president thing. Why preemptively abandon an historic run? Because she may reveal herself to be “seedy,” “sanctimonious,” “self-important,” and “slick.” This, after Fournier denounced Bill and Hillary Clinton two weeks ago for their “stupid” and “sleazy” actions.

Why can’t these people see how ridiculously over-the-top they are when it comes to Hillary and Bill? How do they treat similar behavior by Republicans? Boehlert reported on March 10:

FLASHBACK: When Millions Of Lost Bush White House Emails (From Private Accounts) Triggered A Media Shrug.

Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many asfive million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.

PiDay2

As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.

The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The Press, Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)

By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the Press, Face The Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton’s “email” or “emails” were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts. Talk about saturation coverage.

Indeed, the commentary for the last week truly has been relentless, with the Beltway press barely pausing to catch its breath before unloading yet another round of “analysis,” most of which provides little insight but does allow journalists to vent about the Clintons.

And what about Colin Powell? And what about announced presidential candidate Jeb Bush? Boehlert wrote on March 11:

Pi pie

Two Names The Press Omits From Email Coverage: Colin Powell And Jeb Bush.

As the press demands answers regarding which private emails Clinton handed over to the State Department and which ones she withheld because she deemed them to be personal in nature, many journalists fail to include relevant information about prominent Republicans who have engaged in similar use of private email accounts while in office, specifically former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

By omitting references to Powell and Bush and how they handled private emails while in office, the press robs news consumers of key information. It’s also material that deflates the overheated suspicions of a wide-ranging Clinton cover-up.

Appearing on ABCs This Week on Sunday, Powell was asked how he responded to the State Department request last year that all former secretaries hand over emails from their time in office. Powell confirmed that he had used private email while secretary but that he didn’t hand over any emails to the State Department because his private emails were all gone.

“I don’t have any to turn over,” he explained. “I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files.”  Powell’s revelation is important because it puts into perspective the email protocol of a former secretary of state. By his own account, Powell’s emails, unlike Clinton’s, include his regular communications with foreign dignitaries. What was he emailing them in the lead-up to the war in Iraq? We’ll never know.

To date however, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have largely downplayed references to the fact that Powell’s private, secretary of state emails are all gone.

We simply have no “Fourth Estate” any longer. The media simply reports whatever fits their “narratives” from the 1980s and 2008 and ignores everything that doesn’t fit.

I know there is much more happening today. What Saturday reads would you recommend?