Monday Reads: Sing! Sing! Sing! Sweet Fat Lady!


Good Afternoon!

We’re beginning to make that transition from primary season to the lull before the General Election.  I thought I’d celebrate the shift with some reads that signal the shift or should signal the shift.   I’ve really been struck by the number of people that really don’t understand how parties choose their candidates and seem to be following the overall results on a state by state basis even when that state basically doesn’t add much to the delegate count.  The other thing that’s rather astounding is the number of people that seem to think that a party sponsored election for delegates is akin to a normal election. This is when I really feel the irony of the situation.

We have two outsider populist candidates running for election within a party system. Neither of them has been either active or genuine members of that party.  Their followers are apoplectic by the scent of cigars in the backrooms and conventions of the state and national parties. I’m being somewhat cynical in that I think both of these candidates had to realize at some point that the parties were not going to be all that accommodating to them running amok.  Their voters, however, appear to be completely stumped and angered because it’s pretty much the kind of behavior that has driven them straight to the arms of populist charlatans.

So by now, you’ve figured out that it’s Bernie and Trump and their voters with the lack of knowledge and understanding of primary and party dynamics.  Let me get started by saying that I’ve always supported a national set of primaries with openness to any party that can get to some kind of threshold TBD.  I have felt that they should be regulated by the Feds to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that they should be in keeping with the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.  So this viewpoint is not in the interest of the duopoly that is our two party system,  It’s also not in keeping with the philosophy of the party that loves “local control” and “states’ rights”.

Irony is not lost on me when I read that Trump is talking about suing the State of Louisiana over the tricks that the Cruz campaign pulledyogi-art1 at the party convention.  His voters tend to hate big gubermint, yet it’s federal control of primary elections that would eliminate these back channel deals. The problem in Louisiana is basically the delegates won by Marco Rubio. Rubio suspended his campaign. He has delegates that were basically elected but they now have a dead candidate. They’ve essentially become free agents as zombie delegates.

Following a report that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may win more delegates in Louisiana’s primary than Donald Trump, even though Trump won the state, the Republican presidential frontrunner threatened to file a lawsuit on Sunday.

Trump complained about the “rotten political system” during a Sunday interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The Republican tabulation system is a broken system. It’s not fair,” he said.

“I won Louisiana and now I hear he’s trying to steal delegates,” Trump added, referring to Cruz. “What’s going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace. I have so many more votes and so many more delegates.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Republican in Louisiana expect the five unbound delegates that had been awarded to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to back Cruz now that the Florida senator is out of the race. Cruz’s supporters have also secured key positions on convention committees, which could help the Texas senator at a contested convention, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Jason Doré, the executive director of the Louisiana Republican primary, told the Times-Picayune that the party is “really confident in the rules” and is prepared for a lawsuit from Trump.

Doré said that any disagreement over Rubio’s delegates is “is between Mr. Trump and those guys,” and added that the delegates have not yet made any final decision.

Zombie delegates may also wind up being very important should Trump not achieve the proper amount prior to the Republican National Convention.   If Trump can’t win on the first ballot, then Zombie delegates can go anywhere.

“Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd took on the issue Sunday of why Donald Trump needs to score a first-ballot win at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

The reason?

Delegates who may support Trump on the first ballot, but could abandon him after that.

Here’s the transript from the show:


Donald Trump is in a race to 1,237. It’s a number now we’re all getting used to and familiar with. And he can’t afford to miss hitting that magic number. And here’s why. Because there’s already an effort underway to stop him on a second ballot at the convention in Cleveland. Right now, Trump has 752 delegates and a 282 delegate lead over Ted Cruz.

In order to hit the magic 1,237 majority number and earn that glide path the nomination, Trump has to win 54 percent of the remaining delegates. And he has some favorable contests coming up, like his home state of New York, which has 95 delegates up for grabs, and a winner-take-all state of New Jersey, where maybe his buddy Chris Christie can help him win those 51 delegates.

But, the race is already on to create sort of delegate double agents. If Trump fails to win that majority on the first ballot these are people who will promise to dump Trump on the second ballot. And then there’s an effort underway to mobilize zombie delegates. These are delegates who are pledged to candidates who have dropped out of the race.

They could switch their vote over to someone else in the race, maybe even on the first ballot. Maybe it’s Cruz, maybe it’s Trump. So to discuss all of this, I’m joined by our resident zombie expert, Ben Ginsberg, Republican delegate guru, who served, of course, as lead counsel to the Bush/Cheney campaign of 2000 and he was Mitt Romney’s lawyer in 2012. So the zombie apocalypse will hit Cleveland.

So we have free-agent delegates, we have zombie delegates. I want to talk about the free-agent delegates first, because we have Donald Trump this morning already angry about this. Louisiana, he wins the primary big, he should get a lion’s share of the delegates. The Cruz campaign claims they actually are going to have more delegates out of Louisiana, a state they lost, than Trump. How did they do it? Explain.


The way they managed to do it is that 44 of the 56 states and territories give the candidates no role in choosing who the delegates will pick.


Who the individuals are.


Who the individuals are. And so a well-organized campaign will go into all these state conventions and state executive committee meetings and manage to get supporters of theirs. They’ll be bound on the first ballot to the winner of their state primary, but not for any of the procedural rules issues, and not for the second ballot.


All right. So they’re the double agents. Now, let’s talk about zombie delegates. These are the people, and I want to put up a graphic here. There are a group of unbound delegates. We know there were always going to be over about a hundred, we’ve done the math here, over about a hundred of them, 169 of them come from states that have chosen not to hold a contest, Colorado chief among them. And then there’s another 175 of the zombie delegates. These are people, mostly Marco Rubio delegates out of Virginia and Minnesota, but there a handful of Carson, maybe one or two Jeb Bush’s. What is their role in all of this?

So basically, this is a problem with free delegates, zombie delegates and double agents.   I learned about all of this from Ginsberg and Todd on Sunday.

Bernie’s issues are different.  He’s way behind but his campaign has decided to try to hype up his supporters, continue fundraising, and fat-lady2whine about the delegate math set up by the Democratic Party.  We’ve been seeing the Deadenders for Bernie for some time now.   It’s been basically over since the Steel Magnolias of the South Sung.  But, we’ve been seeing all kinds of attempts by the campaign to spin a different tune.   Sanders–who was once berating superdelegates–has been actively courting them.  However, that’s backfiring according to Reuters. It seems that we have more instances of BernieBro Bullying.

Interviews with 10 of the 505 super delegates supporting Clinton Reuters has reached show that nine of them have been approached by people purporting to back Sanders, and nearly all were displeased by the tone of the outreach.

Isabel Framer of Ohio, a superdelegate for Clinton, for example, got a voice mail last week urging her to vote for Sanders “in accordance with the will of the people.”

On the voice mail, heard by Reuters, the anonymous male caller says: “I think it’s crap that you get to vote whichever way you want… I’ll be watching your vote.”

“I’m not easily frightened,” Framer told Reuters. “I’m not going to change a vote over threats.”

Akilah Ensley, a North Carolina superdelegate, said she started hearing more often from Sanders supporters after her name appeared on a Wikipedia list noting her support for Clinton. “Some of them were nice, and some were rather abrasive,” she said, adding “attacking my decisions is probably not the best way” to change her mind.

Luis Heredia, an Arizona superdelegate for Clinton, said he has received over 30 phone calls, emails and instant messages from Sanders supporters. “The majority of them are more angry, and the tone is more demanding,” Heredia said.

Lacy Johnson, an Indiana superdelegate backing Clinton, meanwhile, said he had received a mix of messages, including one that he said threatened: “we will make you pay.”

Andres Ramirez, a political consultant in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a superdelegate supporting Clinton, said in the past campaigns would typically try to soft-sell their candidates rather than use pressure tactics.

“The way this has gone down, in my experience, has never happened before,” said.

Sanders continues to attack the party which probably isn’t the best approach when wooing party insiders.

 “Bernie’s campaign is focused on reaching out to all voters and earning delegates at primaries and caucuses,” he said in a statement, stressing that the Sanders campaign was not coordinating with supporters to contact superdelegates.

However, the unofficial push could complicate the U.S. Senator from Vermont’s efforts to woo the critical bloc in the coming months.

The effort has at times taken an angry tone, some of the messages reviewed by Reuters showed, reflecting the anti-establishment tinge of the 2016 presidential race where many voters are unhappy with Washington insiders.

Some 85 percent of the 4,763 delegate votes to the Democratic National Convention that will decide who will face a Republican rival in the November election are determined by the results of states’ nominating contests. But the remaining 15 percent are held by superdelegates, who get to vote however they like – meaning they could hold the key to a tight contest.

Superdelegates are made up of party leaders and elected Senators, members of Congress, and governors. The Democratic party adopted the system in the early 1980s as a way of giving party leaders more control over the nominating process, though they have yet to play a decisive role in a nomination.

“The idea there is that you’ve got people who have a long view … who have, arguably, the best interests of the party at heart,” said Terri Fine, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida.

fat-lady-singing-warningBernie’s folks continue to see all states and all primary efforts as equal.  The Michigan win may have been meaningful, but this weekend’s Western Caucuses were not.  I’ve had to continually remind my Bernie friends that the Washington Caucus gave the state win to Howard Dean AFTER he’d lost the election.  But, hope and not math, springs eternal with these folks who still keep pouring money down the Bernie Drain.  It is going to give us about a week of insufferable Bernie worship.

Hillary’s popular vote lead was almost identical before and after Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii voted.

According to the website RealClearPolitics, 15.3 million Democratic primary voters had cast their ballots prior to Saturday. Of those voters, 8.9 million had voted for Hillary, and 6.4 million had voted for Bernie. This amounts to a margin of 58% vs. 42% — a blowout margin by most electoral standards.

Saturday’s voters preferred Bernie by a large margin, but these were small states. As of Sunday, official reports only showed about 60 thousand total votes in the three states, while the higher estimates of party officials still indicated fewer than 300 thousand total votes. This means that the overall popular vote remains basically unchanged: Hillary has roughly 9 million votes, while Bernie still has roughly 6 and a half million. Translated into percentages, the total effect of Bernie’s “landslide” victories was that Hillary is still winning 58% to 42%. Only if you add a decimal point does Bernie’s Western sweep even change the percentages.

The Donald has a huge woman voter problem that he may be sharing with Sanders now.  Sanders may be catching up to Trump quickly because he gave his wife a rude, public brush off with a condescending wave and a few brusque words.  Twitter was agog yesterday feeling the Bern bullying his wife. No woman whose been a wife could miss it.

There’s an awkward video of Bernie Sanders and Bernie’s interaction with his wife Jane Sanders that’s making the rounds, and it’s not a good look for Bernie. Senator Sanders was speaking in Madison, Wisconsin, when the “snub” against Jane happened. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke at a campaign stop on Saturday, March 26, with Bernie being exuberant over his recent victory — however, during that celebration, Sanders made a move against Jane that isn’t going down well over the Interwebs.

Additionally, Bernie is spending a ton of money on those huge rallies.fat-lady-sings

Bernie Sanders’ revolution may be growing directly from the grass roots, but he’s paying top dollar for the places where it’s coming together.

In February, the Sanders campaign, flush with cash from its small-donor network, spent $1.6 million on site rentals, ticketing and “sound/stage/lighting,” pursuing ever-larger venues for his followers to gather in, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

And the spending this month may well exceed February. On Friday, for instance, the Sanders campaign is staging a pep rally for the Washington state caucuses at Safeco Field in Seattle, the Mariners’ baseball stadium that holds up to 54,000 people.

It’s a sign that the Sanders campaign plans to keep spending big as it works to compete with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton across the board.

Meanwhile, the Beltway Press has moved on.  This is from The Hill today:  Who will be the 2016 running mates?  Bernie may be holding huge vanity rallies but his name is missing from this piece.

Now that GOP front-runner Donald Trump has released the names of some of his foreign policy advisers, it’s only a matter of time before pundits, reporters and voters start demanding to know whom he intends to pick as his vice presidential running mate.

When politely asked now, Trump responds, “I need to win the nomination first. After that, I’ll think about it.”

To the untrained eye, this seems like a reasonable answer; however, no insider I know believes The Donald hasn’t already begun to create a short list of possible candidates.

Ditto Hillary Clinton. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has been around the block too many times not to have several running mates in mind, even if it still is March.

Here are some more examples of folks telling Bernie to listen to that singing lady.  From the LATIMES: As California primary nears, state Democrats are uniting behind Clinton and against a common enemy: Trumpimages (8)

Most of Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ supporters in California say they expect that come November, Hillary Clinton will be elected president — and, by and large, they’re OK with that.

While both Democratic camps prepare for a final battle in the state’s June 7 primary, the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times statewide poll found that just over half of Sanders’ supporters said they expected Clinton to be the next president. About a third of Sanders’ backers said they expected the Vermont senator to emerge the winner, and 12% said they thought Donald Trump would prevail.

Close to 8 in 10 Sanders supporters said in the survey that they would vote for Clinton in a race against Trump, although many said they would do so reluctantly.

Those findings show the reality underlying the still-heated rhetoric of the Democratic primaries: By contrast with the civil war that divides Republicans,Democrats in the country’s largest state have begun to coalesce behind their front-runner.

Harshaw_Bruennhilde[1]Meanwhile, Bernie is dying for more debates.  The Clinton Campaign is beginning to pushback. They have little to gain if Bernie continues to attack her while each debate brings no new information to the table.

Hillary Clinton’s chief campaign strategist laid into Bernie Sanders’ camp on Monday for its insistence upon a debate before the April 19 primary in New York, remarking that the Vermont senator has reneged on his promise to avoid running a negative campaign and therefore does not get to dictate the terms of any future debates.

Appearing on CNN, Joel Benenson was asked about comments from the Sanders campaign over the weekend calling for another debate before the New York primary, though he said he did not see that as the most notable story out of the weekend. Instead, he referred to a Washington Post story in which Sanders’ campaign discussed possible efforts to sharpen rhetoric against the former secretary of state. “They’re talking about running harsher negatives now,” Benenson said, responding that he was not distracting from the issue but explaining the campaign’s stance.

“Because I think the real question is what kind of campaign is Sen. Sanders going to run going forward,” Benenson remarked. “He pumped $4 million in the weekend before March 15, and he lost all five states on March 15. They spent about $4 million running negative ads.”

“This is a man who said he’d never run a negative ad ever. He’s now running them, they’re now planning to run more,” he continued. “Let’s see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions.”

CNN’s Kate Bolduan then inquired why the campaign would not agree to debate in New York despite agreeing in January to more debates. Benenson responded, “Because we agreed to debates up to a certain point. We’re now out campaigning in these states.”

“What’s the risk?” Bolduan asked.

“There’s no risk. She’s done very well in the debates. The debates have been very good, but Sen. Sanders doesn’t get to decide when we debate, particularly when he’s running a very negative campaign against us. Let’s see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we’ll talk about debates,” Benenson said.

It seems that everyone but the Bernie Bros is getting tired of Bernie the Bully.  Listen to the chorus of singing fat ladies instead of the songs of angry men for a change!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Friday Reads Scandal and Conspiracy Theory Rag Edition

Good Afternoon!BadGirls-Gwaltney-182x300

Outrageous and untrue conspiracy theories have followed wherever Hillary Clinton has ventured.  This week appears to be one major attack of the killer gossip for nearly all our usual suspects.  For once, Hillary is not the center of any of them.  I’m just going to go with all of this even though my better wisdom beings tell me that it’s a lot of idle chatter.

So who doesn’t like a good scandal every once and a while?

The National Enquirer which is well known for breaking the seal on famous extra marital adventures of pols like John Edwards started following the adventures of lying–and possibly cheating–Ted. Yesterday’s headlines spun stories of five women who could actually hold their noses long enough to have sex with this really sorry excuse for a human being.  The most self-righteous “family values” pols are frequently the biggest hypocrites when it comes to adventurous sex lives.  So, while Cruz is so vile it’s hard to believe he could get one woman let alone a number of them, I’m going to go with the story here.  Now, the author of this is like 1 degree of separation from a Trump crony but still, the intrepid Enquirer usually brings home the bacon and Ted Cruz is a pig among men.  How much money does it take to get a lady to bed this dud?

“Private detectives are digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had,” claimed a Washington insider.

“The leaked details are an attempt to destroy what’s left of his White House campaign!”

The ENQUIRER reports that Cruz’s claimed mistresses include a foxy political consultant and a high-placed D.C. attorney!

There are also whispers of other intimate late-night sessions Ted has had in Washington — and even a wild sex worker makes the cut!

7531628154_58bc3b9b8e_o1.jpg.scaled600There’s actually names and pix!

Despite being partially-obscured, three of the five women alleged to have been involved with Cruz have already been identified: Katrina Pierson, Sarah Isgur Flores and Amanda Carpenter. This story was already in the works at Breitbart, as Allum Bokhari had it back in February but was not permitted to run with it. The current timing strikes me as intriguing given the fact that Donald Trump already warned the Cruz campaign that there would be reprisals for their advertised attack on his wife Melania.

It also looks as if the Rubio campaign had the dirt on Cruz, but sat on it in order to keep him viable against Donald Trump.

So, what would this kind of story be without a link to a right wing conspiracy site?  Uh, you can go there if you want because it’s rather interesting actually.

Interestingly Sarah Isgur Flores, in addition to being a well known political operative, was also the campaign manager for Carly Fiorina.  And that little factoid brings an earlier discovery into question; where the Super-PAC for Ted Cruz (Keep the Promise) actually sent the Super-PAC for Carly Fiorina (Carly for America “CfA”) $500,000 (link).

7486498168_1583b63829_o1.jpg.scaled1000Alabama’s governor has also be caught up in a sex scandal.  More-Pious-than-Thou Republican Governor Robert Bentley’s wife has filed for divorce over the release of a some what juicy but not as juicy as Anthony Wiener’s sexting audio tape.  Ah, a Republican, their dick, and their mistress!  What could be more apropos during the election season!

A day after shocking audio tapes revealed Gov. Robert Bentley made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to his chief political advisor, questions over the future of the Alabama governor remain.

In the wake of accusations by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier, who Bentley fired Tuesday, the governor apologized for comments made to advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason but denied having a physical affair with the married mother and his former communications director.

On Tuesday, Bentley announced the firing of ALEA chief Collier, who said he learned of his dismissal on social media. Collier later announced he had seen and heard evidence of an affair between the married governor and Mason. Collier’s statements were the first on-the-record comments regarding the governor’s relationship with his advisor. Rumors of the affair began circulating shortly after Dianne, Gov. Bentley’s wife of 50 years, filed for divorce in the summer of 2015.

Bentley held a Wednesday press conference to deny a sexual relationship with Mason but apologized for what he described as “inappropriate comments.”

“I am truly sorry and I accept full responsibility,” Bentley said, adding, however, he had broken no laws.

Donald Trump continues his absolute scandalous behavior with women.  He can’t stop saying sexist and misogynist things.  His Twitter _Les_Pulp_-_MP_unashamedaccount is a trifecta of terror against women.  He’s said horrid things about Hillary Clinton already.  It can only get worse as the election wears on and wears on all of us.

The altercation underscores the striking nastiness of the GOP primary race and the uncomfortable gender politics surrounding Trump, who has a long history of making incendiary remarks about women and their appearance. Trump has shown little reluctance in attacking his female rivals — or some of his rivals’ spouses — in ways that strike many as sexist or demeaning, and many fear that the insults are a harbinger of the gutter rhetoric to come if he faces Clinton in November.

Trump has called Clinton “very shrill,” belittles her for a lack of stamina and energy, and late last year jabbed her and husband, Bill Clinton, for the latter’s marital indiscretions while he was president. In another instance, Trump said Hillary Clinton “got schlonged” in her 2008 primary fight against then-Sen. Barack Obama.

“I have some very real concerns should he become the nominee. I think it would be catastrophic for our party,” said GOP strategist Katie Packer, who leads the Our Principles PAC, an anti-Trump super PAC. “Half of the reason why I’m fighting so hard to stop Donald Trump is because I think he’s a walking, talking stereotype of a sexist misogynistic pig.”

Polling shows Trump sliding among women in recent months, hurting the GOP’s already shaky position with that demographic. Trump’s favorability numbers have decreased 10 points among women nationwide since November, to 23 percent, while his unfavorable number among women has jumped to 75 percent from 64 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken this month.

7719d9b4a7d8994f0f3b4b049043c197Ben Carson continues to amaze his with statements that seem to come from a parallel universe. He’s taking credit now for Trump “seeming more presidential”.  I’m not sure what’s the bigger lie. Is it his characterization of his role or Trump?

Ben Carson says he’s rubbing off on Donald Trump and has convinced him — at least in flashes — to act more presidential.

“I’ve had talks about being presidential, about toning it down a bit, appealing to a broader group of people,” Carson said in a phone interview on Friday morning. “You did notice that he wasn’t nearly as caustic in the last debate. People appreciated that. It’s a matter of cultivating and capitalizing on that.”

But Carson acknowledged he couldn’t hold back Trump’s instincts forever. Trump provoked another food fight this week when he accused Ted Cruz of disseminating a racy magazine photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, and threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Heidi. He went further, retweeting a supporter’s unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, prompting Cruz to lash out and call Trump a “sniveling coward.”

Carson said the moment is part of a broader craving by the public for gladiatorial combat among politicians.

“You know, when I was in the race, that was what I complained about constantly, the fact that it was getting into personalities,” he said. “We have all these serious things. Nobody wanted to hear that. We want to hear juicy stuff … Maybe it’s just human nature.”

This is the same pious dude that’s under suspicion of a quid pro quo for throwing his support behind STrump.  STrump also appears to have plagiarized an Op Ed of Carson.  I guess cheating is all in the Republican Family.

After Ben Carson on Monday said that he discussed with Donald Trump a possible role in his administration, Carson on Wednesday said that the two “did not discuss any quid pro quo.”

CNN’s Erin Burnett asked Carson on Wednesday about his discussions with Trump and what kind of role he would expect in the administration if Trump were elected president.

“First of all, we did not discuss any quid pro quo. There seems to be a great desire by many people to try and make it seem that way,” Carson said in response. “But we did agree that we’re both extremely interested in saving America — particularly for the next generations, and that we will continue to work together in the process of doing that.”

During a Monday interview with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg, Carson said he would be involved in an “advisory capacity” when Malzberg asked if he would be part of Trump’s administration. When pressed for details, Carson said he could not share more since nothing was final.

Burnett also asked Carson about a report showing that Trump appeared to plagiarize parts of an op-ed written by Carson. The retired neurosurgeon seemed unfazed by the potential plagiarism.

“I would say that many of the people who worked for me previously are now working for Donald Trump, so that doesn’t surprise me at all,” Carson said. “Let me put it this way: it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Well, at least it gets our minds off Benghazi!!!! and Email!!!!

So, let’s look at a scandal here of the Bernmeister.  He’s not to be left off our hypocrite of the day list.judashour-front

Dozens of veterans died while waiting for medical care at Phoenix Veterans Health Administration facilities, a scandal CNN broke in the spring of 2014. The imbroglio spread with reports of secret waiting lists at other VA hospitals, possibly leading to dozens more preventable deaths.

He held one-sixth of the hearings on oversight that his House of Representatives counterpart held. Republicans griped that they had made multiple requests for more oversight hearings, but received no response. A news host even challenged Sanders as the scandal erupted, saying he sounded more like a lawyer for the VA than the man responsible for overseeing it.

“We feel that he did not live up to his responsibilities as SVAC chairman to provide oversight into this. He keeps hiding behind the mantle [of the title]. And yes, he did pass the $15 billion piece of legislation, but that’s… akin to closing the barn door after the chickens have escaped,” said Matthew Miller, the chief policy officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

By the time the scandal broke, Sanders had been chairman for more than a year. While the House VA committee held 42 hearings on VA oversight, the Senate VA committee chaired by Sanders held only about seven hearings on the matter.

“The House needed a partner in the Senate to help flesh out the problems at the VA, and unfortunately Bernie Sanders was not that partner. Jeff Miller and his committee were the ones who pursued this and ultimately uncovered [the VA scandal]… only when the VA scandal broke was when [Sanders] ultimately decided to do oversight hearings,” said Dan Caldwell, the vice president for political and legislative action of Concerned Veterans for America.

Ah, Saint Bernie!  We know ye far too well!

Well, that’s something completely different from me!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads


Good Morning!!

A series of terrorist bombings took place in Brussels, Belgium early this morning just days after the capture of Salah Abdeslam, the last surviving member of the group that perpetrated the attacks in Paris last November. This is a breaking story.

NPR: Terrorist Bombings Strike Brussels: What We Know.

At least 26 people are dead and more than 100 wounded, after explosions struck Brussels during the Tuesday morning rush hour, Belgian officials say. Two blasts hit the international airport; another struck a metro station. Belgium has issued a Level 4 alert, denoting “serious and imminent attack.”

“What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said at a midday news conference Tuesday. He added that there were many dead and many injured.

Citing Minister of Social Affairs and Health Maggie De Block, Belgian media say 11 people died in the airport attack. Transit and other officials say 15 people died at the metro station. Those same sources say there were 81 injured at the airport and 55 hurt in an attack on a train near the Maelbeek station.

French President Francois Hollande says, “terrorists struck Brussels, but it was Europe that was targeted — and all the world that is concerned.”

Obviously, the number of dead and injured could go up as authorities learn more. See live tweets with photos at the link.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 22: Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. At least 13 people are though to have been killed after Brussels airport was hit by two explosions whilst a Metro station was also targeted. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – MARCH 22: Passengers are evacuated from Zaventem Bruxelles International Airport after a terrorist attack on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. At least 13 people are though to have been killed after Brussels airport was hit by two explosions whilst a Metro station was also targeted. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

Slate is posting updates on a live blog.

Three explosions rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning, killing more than two dozen people and injuring an untold number of others, according to local authorities and reports from the ground. While the cause of the blasts—two at the city’s airport and then one in its subway system about an hour later—remain unknown, officials are treating them as acts of terrorism. The carnage comes only days after Belgium police arrested Salah Abdeslam, the man believed to be the sole remaining survivor of the 10 men who carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris this past November that killed 130 people.

The latest update says “several of the apparent attackers may still at large.”

Metro train after Brussels attack

Metro train after Brussels attack

CNN reports: Brussels eyewitness: ‘A lot of people were on the floor.’

Jef Versele, from the Belgian city of Ghent, was making his way to check-in for a flight to Rome at Brussels Airport Tuesday morning when he heard a loud noise emanating from several floors below him.

“At first I was not aware that it was a bomb,” he told CNN. “I had the idea that an accident had happened in a food court or something like that.”

The explosion set off a panic, with people screaming and running through the terminal, before it was followed by a second explosion, “which was in my eyes much more powerful than the first one.”

The second blast, which blew out windows at the airport and brought ceiling panels down, left people collapsed on the floor and triggered even greater panic.

“It was quite a mess,” he told CNN.

He said although he was two floors above the source of the explosions — at least one of which was a suicide bombing, according to Belgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw — many people around him were injured by the blast. He said there about 50 to 60 injured on his level of the airport, while the scenes on the lower levels were worse.

“A lot of people were on the floor. They were injured,” Versele said. “I think I was lucky, I was very lucky. I think I have a guardian angel somewhere.”

More eyewitness accounts at the link. Brussels is now on lockdown, according to the Boston Globe, which is also posting live updates.

U.S. President Barack Obama tours Old Havana with his family at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 20, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama tours Old Havana with his family at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba, in Havana March 20, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Obama is still in Cuba with his family, but he has been briefed on the attacks in Brussels. The Washington Post: Obama to address the Cuban nation in historic Havana visit.

President Obama will address the Cuban people directly Tuesday, delivering a speech that will be televised live on state television.

The address in Havana’s newly renovated Gran Teatro, before an audience of invited guests of the U.S. and Cuban government, is the keystone event in Obama’s two-and-a-half-day visit to the island. His top advisers said it represented his best chance to outline his vision of the future to ordinary citizens here, and to Cuban Americans at home.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Monday the speech was “important because it’s the one chance to step back and to speak to the Cuban people, and all of the Cuban people,” including “Cubans in the United States.”

One of Obama’s overarching goals in fostering a diplomatic thaw with America’s longtime adversary, Rhodes said, was “reconciliation of the Cuban American community to Cubans here on the island.”

Still, even the speech’s setting spoke to the ongoing challenge the United States faces when it comes to engaging in a public dialogue in Cuba. American officials had originally hoped to do the address in an open-air setting, which would have allowed more ordinary citizens to attend. Instead, the national theater accommodates roughly 1,000 people, and the two governments evenly divided the tickets.

And even as the president seeks to highlight how his approach to Latin America has paid dividends, a series of blasts at Brussels’s airport and a metro station Tuesday served as a powerful reminder that terrorism overseas continues to threaten global stability. The apparently coordinated strikes have killed at least 26 people.

Back in the USA, Arizona is holding a presidential primary today and there will be caucuses in Idaho and Utah. (In Idaho, the Republicans have already voted.) On the Democratic side, Arizona, with 75 delegates, is the biggest prize.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Arizona March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

NBC News: Clinton, Sanders in Primary Showdown for Arizona’s Latino Vote.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Guadalupe Arreola can’t vote in the Arizona primary Tuesday because she is undocumented, so she has spent the last few weeks encouraging Latinos who can to vote for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. On Sunday, she hosted a phone bank at her house. More than 50 people showed up.

“There are people who still don’t know Bernie Sanders, and I want to raise awareness of who he is,” said Arreola, whose daughter Erika Andiola is Sanders’ Latino media spokeswoman.

Martin Hernandez said he likes Clinton’s stance on a number of issues important to Latinos, including healthcare and immigration. An organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, hesaid he especially likes that that she seems to understands the needs of Latino workers.

“I want somebody in the presidency who is going to help workers, especially those in our immigrant community,” he said. “They are the ones who face the most abuse. Many of them are underpaid and their rights are violated by their employers.”

Arreola and Hernandez represent the split that exists among Latino Democrats in Arizona on whether Sanders or Clinton should be the Democratic nominee for president. Both candidates have the backing of prominent Latino leaders, some of whom have appeared in television and radio ads being broadcasted across the state.

I’m not sure if NBC is just trying to make the primary look close or not. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Clinton is leading Sanders in Arizona 53-23, but FiveThirtyEight says there hasn’t been enough polling for them to project a winner. From everything I’ve heard, I think Hillary will win Arizona, and Sanders could win the Iowa and Utah caucuses.

Horrifying photo of Donald Trump at a rally in Salt Lake City.

Horrifying photo of Donald Trump at a rally in Salt Lake City.

However, there’s a wild card in Utah, according to Al Giordano (from privately distributed newsletter). He says that more and more Mormon women are voting Democratic, and it’s possible they could caucus for Clinton. Mormons absolutely hateand fear Donald Trump, so Giordano argues that it’s even possible that Utah could turn blue in November if Trump is the GOP nominee.

From McKay Coppins (who is a Mormon) at Buzzfeed: Mormon Voters Really Don’t Like Donald Trump — Here’s Why.

So far in 2016, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have proven to be one of the most stubbornly anti-Trump constituencies in the Republican Party — a dynamic that will likely manifest itself in Utah’s presidential caucuses next week.

National polling data focused on Mormon voters is hard to come by, but the election results speak for themselves. Even as Trump has steamrollered his way through the GOP primaries, he has repeatedly been trounced in places with large LDS populations.

In Wyoming, the third-most-heavily Mormon state in the country, Trump was able to muster just 70 votes in the low-turnout Republican caucuses there — losing to Ted Cruz by a whopping 59 points.

In Idaho, the country’s second most Mormon state, Trump lost the primary by 18 points.

And in the Mormon mecca of Utah, the most recent primary poll has Trump in third place — more than 40 points behind Cruz and 18 points behind Kasich.

The pattern holds at the county level as well. As New York Times data journalist Nate Cohn illustrated, the larger the proportion of Mormons in a given county, the worse Trump has generally performed in the primary contest there.

Much more at the link.

Mitt Romney will caucus for Ted Cruz in Utah.

Mitt Romney will caucus for Ted Cruz in Utah.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: Why Utah hates Donald Trump (Hint: it’s not just about Mormonism).

Donald Trump is getting crushed in Utah.

First, the state’s adopted son, Mitt Romney, went gunning for Trump for weeks on end, and eventually revealed that he was backing Ted Cruz in the upcoming caucuses. Utah is adjacent to Idaho and Wyoming, where Trump has seen two of his biggest losses so far, both to Cruz. In a poll from Y2 Analytics released over the weekend, Trump comes in third, 42 points behind Cruz. (If Cruz wins more than half of the votes in the state, he gets all of the state’s 40 delegates.)

What’s even more remarkable, though, is that another poll suggested that Trump would lose to either Democrat in Utah in the general election. Utah is, of course, one of the reddest states — if not the reddest state — in the country. “Any matchup in which Democrats are competitive in the state of Utah is shocking,” Brigham Young University’s Christopher Karpowitz said to the Deseret News about that result.

Why? Mormon voters, of course; but polling (see lots of graphics at the link) show that people of any religion who are regular church-goers are more likely to be anti-Trump.

What may be prompting the stiff resistance to Trump, then, isn’t just that Utah is home to a lot of Mormons — it’s that those Mormons are more religious and that religious voters are more likely to view Trump with hostility.

The good news for Trump is that most of the states with the largest groups of regular churchgoers have already voted. Most are in the Bible Belt, as you might expect — a region where Trump did very well. Political beliefs are more complicated than they might appear at first glance. Sort of like religious ones.

It’s an interesting wild card, and something to keep an eye on. I’d certainly expect Jewish voters to be frightened by Trump’s strong-man campaign.

So . . . lots of things happening around the world today. What stories are you following? Dakinikat will post a live blog this evening for us to discuss primary and caucus results.

Tuesday Reads: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The World of Peace and Harmony, Prinsa S., Kathmandu, Nepal Age:13

The World of Peace and Harmony, Prinsa S., Kathmandu, Nepal

Good Morning!!

Today the Republicans will caucus in Nevada, and Donald Trump will probably win. The Republican leadership is slowly moving through the stages of grief as they come to terms with the likelihood that the clowniest clown in the clown car will be at the top of their ticket in November.

Politico: GOP wakes up to Trump nightmare.

Establishment Republicans are reckoning with something they thought would never happen: That it might soon be too late to stop Donald Trump.

With the controversial businessman the clear front-runner heading into Nevada and next week’s Super Tuesday contests, there’s an emerging consensus that the odds of dislodging him are growing longer by the day. Whispered fears that Trump could become the Republican nominee have given way to a din of resigned conventional wisdom – with top party officials and strategists openly wondering what the path to defeating him will be….

”World Peace from Nagasaki Megami Bridge: Tamako and Maria” by 47 children of 175 members of Club Kids Peace in Tomachi Elementary School.

”World Peace from Nagasaki Megami Bridge: Tamako and Maria” by 47 children of 175 members of Club Kids Peace in Tomachi Elementary School.

Lately they are telling themselves that if only the weaker candidates would drop out maybe Rubio or Cruz could win.

The biggest hurdle confronting the mogul’s four rivals is that they continue to divide support among themselves. In each of the three contests that have been held so for, the anti-Trump field has fractured, making it impossible for any single contender to surpass him. A similar dynamic could play out again in Nevada, with Trump failing to win a majority of support but still earning more than his opponents.

While the field has winnowed somewhat in recent days, the compressed nature of this year’s Republican primary calendar means there is precious little time for the anti-Trump field to consolidate. Should Trump notch his third consecutive win on Tuesday, some foresee him steamrolling through Super Tuesday a week later, when a quarter of the party’s delegates are awarded. A batch of newly released polls show him with sizable leads in several of those states, including Massachusetts and Georgia.

“Either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would have a shot at the nomination, but I don’t see how they can stop Donald Trump while both of them are splitting votes,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican Party and American Conservative Union chairman who had supported Jeb Bush. “I don’t see either senator, both of whom have strong-willed backers, dropping out any time soon. Maybe after March 15, but will that be too late to stop Trump?”

It should be funny to see the GOP panicking, but I dread having to watch the repulsive spectacle that the presidential election would be if Trump were one of the candidates. The primary race has already been way beyond disgusting.

If We Could Just Join Hands

If We Could Just Join Hands

Washington Post: GOP candidates make intense 11th-hour arguments in Nevada.

Front-runner Donald Trump delivered a broadside against competitor Ted Cruz, telling thousands in Las Vegas he thinks the Texas senator “is sick.”

“There’s something wrong with this guy,” said Trump.

For his part, Cruz spent significant time Monday seeking to explain the ouster of his spokesman for tweeting a story that falsely accused White House hopeful Marco Rubio of insulting the Bible. And when the candidates weren’t directing their fire at each other, they used scattered appearances on the eve of Tuesday’s caucuses to assail Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

So raucous was this day that Trump stopped short at one point in his talk to bemoan the very delegate-selection he was in Nevada to tap.

“Forget the word caucus,” he told a crowd of some 5,000. “Just go out and vote, OK?” At another point, he said, “What the hell is caucus?”

This is the kind of idiocy that we have to look forward to this fall.

Prize-winning poster by middle school student Daniel Mendoza

Prize-winning poster by middle school student Daniel Mendoza

Ted Cruz tried to steal some of Trump’s thunder by promising to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants. The Dallas Morning News:

Ted Cruz said…that he would use federal immigration officers to round up and deport all 12 million people in the country illegally — a markedly tougher stance that he has struck in the past.

“Yes, we should deport them,” Cruz told Fox host Bill O’Reilly. “That’s what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws, that apprehends them and deports them.”

The toughening stance comes after a disappointing, if narrow, third place finish in South Carolina on Saturday, with immigration hardliner Donald Trump strengthening his grip on the race.

“There’s no change here,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said late Monday by email. “Cruz has been very clear: people who are here illegally should be deported. That is the law today. Period. They broke the law, they face the consequence. ICE exists for that purpose and they should continue to do their job. And on top of that any law enforcement that encounters those here illegally should follow the law and deport them.”

Marco Rubio is still the GOP “establishment’s” chosen candidate, but it’s difficult to see how he has much chance against Trump.


Here’s Paul Waldman at The Week: Donald Trump is about to do terrible things to Marco Rubio.

As bullies go, Donald Trump is unusually skilled.

When Trump decides to go after you, he considers carefully both your weak points and the audience for his attack. So when he decided to pummel Jeb Bush — apparently for his own amusement, as much as out of any real political concerns — he hit upon the idea that Bush was “low energy,” something Bush had a hard time countering without sounding like a whiny grade-schooler saying, “Am not!” More than anything else it was a dominance display, a way of showing voters he could push Jeb around and there was nothing Jeb could do about it. With a primary electorate primed by years of watching their candidates fetishize manliness and aggression, the attack touched a nerve.

And now with the Republican race effectively narrowed to three candidates, the one Trump hasn’t bothered to go after too often — Marco Rubio — must prepare for the mockery and rumor-mongering that will surely be coming his way from the frontrunner. Whether he can withstand it could go a long way toward determining how this race turns out.

Until now, Trump has been relatively soft on Rubio. But with the increasing possibility that Rubio could be the greatest threat to Trump winning the nomination, he’s almost certain to go after him. If the past is any guide, Trump will throw a bunch of different attacks Rubio’s way until he happens upon one that seems to resonate; then he’ll stick with it as long as it works. Trump is already dabbling in Rubio birtherism (though he doesn’t seem quite committed to it), but eventually he’ll find a line of personal criticism with just the right note of cruelty and derision….

Rubio may have avoided Trump’s wrath up until now, but that won’t last. The only question is what brand of contempt Trump will heap on him. It might be some kind of attack based on Rubio’s ethnicity, or it might be the same kind of you’re-a-girly-man insults he used on Bush. That could be effective, since Rubio does look like he didn’t graduate high school all that long ago. He could go after Rubio’s occasionally shaky finances, which Trump surely looks on with utter contempt, since as far as he’s concerned, not being rich makes you a loser.

To be honest, the insanity is really getting to me today. I can barely stand to read about these clowns anymore, much less actually watch them spew their hateful nonsense on TV. That’s why I’ve illustrated this post with art by children and adults about world peace.

Our world our future, Tongbram Mahesh Singh

Our world our future, Tongbram Mahesh Singh

A couple more links on Nevada:

Time: What to Watch at the Nevada Caucuses.

LA Times: Four big questions await answers Tuesday in Nevada’s Republican caucuses.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders is starting to look really desperate. Yesterday, instead of campaigning in South Carolina, where the primary is this Saturday, he came to Boston and then held a rally at another university–U. Mass Amherst. The appearance in Boston was billed as a “press conference,” but Sanders didn’t take questions. He just gave a variation of his stump speech with some more mean-spirited than usual attacks on Hillary Clinton thrown in. NBC News reports:

BOSTON—Just two days after losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Nevada caucuses, Senator Bernie Sanders launched a broadside against his rival, aggressively emphasizing differences between himself and Clinton on issues of campaign finance and trade policy.

“What I intend to do over the next number of weeks is kind of contrast my record to Secretary Clinton’s” Sanders began as he addressed the press at Boston’s International Association of Ironworkers, Local 7.

Keeping true to his word, the Vermont senator — who boasts of having never run a negative campaign — dove into a litany of contrast points he sees between himself and Clinton, launching some of the most direct swipes Sanders has taken at his competitor during this campaign season.

“I am delighted that Secretary Clinton month after month seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated, that’s good,” he said.

“And in fact, she is beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used,” Sanders added, joking that he saw a TV ad and thought it was him speaking despite Clinton’s photo being pictured in the spot.

Sanders hit Clinton hardest on her use of a Super PAC— the pro-Clinton Priorities USA – and used the group to tie her to Wall Street and big donor influences.

Nothing new there–just the same tired old smears and innuendo.


The headline in The Boston Globe this morning is kind of pathetic if you know anything about where most of the delegates are going to be won.

Bernie Sanders’ path to the nomination runs squarely through Massachusetts.

The Democratic primary could be effectively decided within the next two weeks, if Hillary Clinton’s campaign gets the outcome they’re looking for. With more than 1,000 delegates up for grabs, early March will be do-or-die for Bernie Sanders’ campaign….

“On Tuesday, March 1, we’re going to make history here in Massachusetts,” Sanders told a crowd Monday at UMass Amherst. “This great state is going to lead us forward to a political revolution.”

If Sanders’ political revolution is going anywhere on Super Tuesday, it will have to be in states like Massachusetts, where he has a demographic advantage [meaning lots of white liberals]….

As of Monday night, Clinton leads Sanders in pledged delegates 52 to 51, after votes were cast in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Clinton is expected to trounce in South Carolina, where she has the strong support of black voters. Polls also show strong leads for the former secretary of state in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia—all of which vote March 1.

But even if Sanders wins in states with lots of white people–like Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado–there no way he will win enough delegates to compete with Clinton. I just don’t see a path to the nomination for him when he’s polling so badly with people of color.’

Poster by Lianwei H. Chengdu, Sichuan, China age 17

Poster by Lianwei H. Chengdu, Sichuan, China age 17

I actually think it’s time for Clinton supporters to begin showing empathy and compassion for Sanders supporters–especially the young ones who really don’t understand how politics works. They are going to have broken hearts soon, and we need to help bind their wounds and make them feel welcome in the party. I don’t think we should start telling Bernie to quit–let him go on as long as he wants and let his followers vote for him.

More stories to check out:

Pew Research Center: Majority of Public Wants Senate to Act on Obama’s Court Nominee.

New York Times: Seas are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries.

Washington Post: ‘Slaps on the wrist’ for white men who watched friend throw black man onto train tracks.

Politico: Spike Lee backs Sanders in radio ad.

Politico: Ben Carson: Obama was ‘raised white.’

Gawker: Hot Mic Captures Trump Chatting With Morning Joe Hosts: “You Had Me Almost As a Legendary Figure.”

Media Matters: 8 Things Trump And Morning Joe Hosts Discussed When Cameras Were Off.

Digby: When is MSNBC going to do something about this?

Mass Politics Profs: Warren Won’t Endorse Sanders.

AP: Gun maker seeks dismissal of lawsuit over Newtown shooting. (Thanks to the bill Sanders voted for.)

Politico: Bernie’s Spring Break Blues. “When Bernie Sanders will need college students the most, they’ll be watching Netflix and partying.”

So . . . what stories are you following today?

Friday Reads: This and That, Good and Bad, Policy and Empty Promises

Good Afternoon!

32-Harper-Lee-Split-v2We heard this morning of the passing of the great writer Harper Lee.

Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee’s death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl’s experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

Lee’s family issued a statement Friday morning saying that Lee “passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing.”

Family spokesman Hank Conner, Lee’s nephew, said:

“This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

The family says that as Lee had requested, a private funeral service will be held.

Lee’s novel is probably one of the greatest stories showing American Life ever written.  It is studied by students and beloved by all that read about Scout and see the movie adaptation.

More than a half-century after its publication, the novel continues to be studied by high school and college students. It has sold more than 30 million copies—still selling nearly a million copies per year by the 50th anniversary of its publication in 2010, according to Publishers Weekly–and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

The film adaptation of the novel, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout, opened on Christmas Day of 1962 and was an instant hit. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four, including Best Actor for Peck and Best Screenplay for Horton Foote, who wrote the screenplay for the movie based on the book. Lee became close friends with both of them.

The novel also inspired a generation of lawyers with its portrayal of the gentle, wise Atticus Finch, who defends a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Meanwhile, the Finches’ strange neighbor, Boo Radley, who strikes fear in Scout’s and Jem’s hearts, turns out not to be the monster the children expect him to be.

Though Lee denied that the novel was autobiographical, many parallels exist between “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Lee’s own childhood. Her father was also a lawyer who owned the town newspaper.  Comparisons have been made between Lee and Scout, the 9-year-old tomboy protagonist, especially in her friendship with Dill, a character widely considered to have been based on Lee’s own childhood friend, Truman Capote.

When he was a child, the author of “In Cold Blood” often stayed with his cousins, who lived next door to the Lees. Capote and Lee collaborated on the early stages of his novel and remained lifelong friends.

The interior of the Monroe County Courthouse was reconstructed on a movie set in Hollywood for the film’s pivotal courtroom scenes, and local actors bring the book to life each spring at the courthouse itself, where they stage “To Kill a Mockingbird” to sellout crowds.

BB wrote extensively about Lee’s publication last year of a novel that delves back into the lives of the Finch family .o-GREGORY-PECK-facebook

A Chicago court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit asking for Cruz to be removed from the ballot in Illinois.

A judge will hear arguments on Friday from an Illinois voter alleging that Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is not a “natural-born citizen” and should be disqualified for the party’s nomination.

Lawrence Joyce, an Illinois voter who has objected to Cruz’s placement on the Illinois primary ballot next month, will have his case heard in the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago. Joyce’s previous objection, made to the state’s Board of Elections, was dismissed on February 1. He appealed the decision and was granted a hearing for Friday before Judge Maureen Ward Kirby.

Joyce challenges Cruz’s right to be president in the wake of questions put forth by GOP rival Donald Trump about being born in Canada. Cruz maintains he is a natural-born citizen since his mother is American-born.

“What I fear is that Ted Cruz becomes the nominee, come September, Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida will go forward with his threats and probably several other Democrats will file suit to prevent Ted Cruz from being on the ballot,” Joyce, a pharmacist and attorney from Poplar Grove, Ill, told USA TODAY.

Grayson, a Democrat, has told reporters that he will file a lawsuit contesting Cruz’s citizenship if the senator from Texas wins the GOP nomination.

“What Democrats will do at that point is cherry pick which county courthouse they are going to show up in order to file these petitions,” Joyce said. “And at that point, I fear they’ll get a string of victories in the lower courts and the funding for Ted Cruz would dry up, his numbers would plummet in the polls, he may be forced to give up the nomination.”

1000509261001_1313081582001_Bio-Mini-Bio-Writers-Lee-SFThe primary and caucus tomorrow continues to be the top headline grabber.  I liked this Charlie Pierce item describing the relationship between the Trump Candidacy and the late Lee Atwater.  It’s an excellent essay into Atwater’s legacy and life.

What Atwater did was more than inject into Republican politics a modern form of strategic viciousness. With it, he injected an entirely new form of strategic unreality. From that has come the party’s inability to recognize or acknowledge the empirical. By creating an entirely new Dukakis in which his voters could believe, Atwater showed them how to build the bubble and to armor it against reality. The combination of strategic viciousness and strategic unreality has come full flower this year. We have Donald Trump, who is one ring of the circus all to himself, calling his opponents liars and Mexicans rapists, and threatening to sue Ted Cruz, who responds by telling Trump to bring it on, and that he, Cruz, would be happy to depose Trump in discovery personally. And Marco Rubio is telling people that the United States is at the edge of the abyss and that only he can restore it to its former glory. What seemed crude and nasty in 1980 has become sleek and edgeless and as common as milk now.

Both my daughters and I went to public universities where football is so central to the university’s life, fundraising, and culture that everything else seemed underfunded and small by comparison.  As a professor and a student I have experienced things that still make me shake my head. Local investigative reporter Lee Zurik dug some things up in our state’s colleges--not the flagship LSU–that will make your toes curl. This is really disheartening given the drain of funds from university’s missions due to the Jindal-caused financial crisis.

Professors laid off. Classes cut. Campus buildings falling apart, and students left wondering why.

These are not simply the risks to higher education in the future. This has been happening, in slow and painful stages, for the last eight years across the state of Louisiana.

Mary Brocato can attest to it.

“I say that I’m the Angelina Jolie of dogs,” she jokes with us at her home in northwest Louisiana, surrounded by her six dogs.  “They’re a lot of company for me.”

Brocato lived in New Orleans for 20 years before moving to Natchitoches, where she spent 12 years teaching journalism at Northwestern State University. In the past eight years, Brocato has lost both her job and her husband.

Cutbacks at Northwestern State eliminated the journalism program there; the university fired Brocato, a tenured professor, in the spring of 2011.

“The real sin or crime there was those students… who had started and who had been  in the program and got caught in the middle,” Brocato tells us. “And they could not get a degree in journalism.”

The year before Northwestern State cut journalism, chemistry, economics, physics and other programs, the school sent $3,689,522 from its operating budget to athletics. By the time Brocato left, that athletics supplement had increased by almost $300,000.

That’s roughly the same amount as her journalism department’s annual budget; Northwestern State raised its monetary support to athletics while cutting a program that cost about as much money.

“It shows where the emphasis is,” Brocato says, “that there seems to be more emphasis and more accommodation for athletics than there is for academics.  And I don’t like it. I think it’s very dishonest… because I don’t think people understand that.”

Brocato’s professorship paid her $77,600 a year. A year after they let her go, the athletics department paid Mississippi Valley State University nearly the same amount of money, $75,000, to come play them in football.

While the school cut professors and programs, administrators paid $75,000 for what’s called a “game guarantee” – essentially trying to guarantee the school a home win in football.

Such guarantees are a surprise to some of the NSU students we spoke with, on campus in Natchitoches.

“I would cry,” one tells us. “Is that like Information that everybody knows? That should be known by everyone.”

Also in 2012, Northwestern State paid another football opponent, Arkansas-Monticello, $37,500. That comes to roughly $112,000 in game guarantees – for a football team that finished that season with a 4-7 record.

“That’s literally throwing money away,” says the student.

“It blows my mind,” says another co-ed.

I taught at one of these regional universities where the football team is like another extension of the local highschool.  Maintaining athletics programs at the expense of the education mission of the school is really aHarper_Lee_Victim-of-Elder_Abuse disservice to the community and the students.  However, most administrators are convinced the school has to try to support the various programs. I’ve basically seen from the viewpoint of student and professor the major coddling these students get.  It’s really time and resource intense and as a brainy little girl, I did not appreciate being frequently circled by athletes trying to “borrow” my work.

Schools aren’t the only thing still suffering from the Jindal Reign of Terror.  We face the clear possibility that the poorest among us will no longer have access to health care all over the state.  Doctor and nurse training are in jeopardy also.

Several of Louisiana’s privatized safety net hospitals, including University Medical Center in New Orleans and Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, are considering walking away from their contracts with the state under “best case” budget cut scenarios being debated in the Legislature.

The CEOs of seven hospitals told Senate Finance members Wednesday that the $137.8 million in proposed cuts would either cause steep dropoffs in their ability to deliver care to the poor, or cause them to halt operations altogether. All of the hospitals, which represent every major population center in the state, play a pivotal role in treating the poor and uninsured and are considered a centerpiece of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Medicaid expansion policy. Many of the hospitals educate hundreds of new doctors annually and place them in jobs across the state.

The threat of canceling contracts with the nine safety net hospitals could mean a major setback for Legislators looking to close the state’s $940 million budget gap through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. If the contracts are canceled, lawmakers risk leaving Baton Rouge after the special session in March to face constituents angry over health care worker layoffs and patients being told they are losing access to care.

“We’re going to have to hit the reset button,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, a Republican who represents Acadiana. “It would be devastating for my area.”

University Medical Center in New Orleans, which is facing a $44 million cut under the best-case scenario, could present the biggest crisis in the entire partnership system if it terminates its agreement. In addition to scattering indigent patients to surrounding emergency rooms that would be flooded with new people seeking care, the hospital is also leasing a brand new facility on Canal Street that represents a $1.1 billion investment for the state.

The hospital also makes millions of dollars in lease payments to the state.

Asked if UMC would be able to continue operating under the $44 million cut, UMC’s CEO, Greg Feirn, told the Senate Finance committee that the funding cut would be “devastating” to nearby university teaching programs. Losing funding would likely mean the system would cancel the contract.

“We can’t risk our balance sheet to fund what’s otherwise a state obligation,” Feirn said. “If we have significant capital investment by way of these payments, or capital expenditures in the future, why would we continue to make those with an uncertain revenue stream?”

We have Jindal, Grover Norquist, and the basic agenda of the Koch Brothers to thank for this.  Here’s the one big reason we don’t bring in funds any more to run our most basic services.  A close look at Kansas shows similar trends too.  Our spineless leges still won’t face up to the damage they’ve done and work to correct it.

Louisiana’s taxes on business are supposed to help government provide its many services.

But the state has paid out $210 million more in tax credits and rebates to corporations so far this year than it has collected in corporate income and franchise taxes, reports the Department of Revenue. That shortfall is contributing to the massive budget gap that the 25-day special legislative session is supposed to address.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is asking lawmakers to raise more money for the state treasury by approving several measures that would close or reduce corporate tax giveaways. Those measures are expected to get their first hearing on Friday before the tax-writing Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee.

No one is claiming that large numbers of corporations are violating the law to avoid paying taxes. What has happened is that state lawmakers over the years — and especially during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s two terms – have been increasingly generous in creating the tax subsidies, at the behest of corporate interests and their lobbyists in Baton Rouge.

A tax break here and a tax break there, over time they have added up, as The Advocate reported in a 2014 series of articles: Tax breaks for six major programs alone cost the state $1.08 billion in 2014, up from $207 million in 2004.

You can read more indepth about how Jindal and his cronies gave our state away in this extremely good article from two years ago. It’s the one referenced above. I wrote about it at the time.

e6e2d166cafebf44493a4755eedfad30I really meant to spent some time today on the incredible criticism of wonks and economists on the Sanders’ policy suggestions but I’m seriously to tired to do it.  I’ll just throw this latest link and we can discuss it down thread.  Those of us joining the criticism have been facing charges of being too close to industry to have any kind of integrity.

Bernie Sanders has a problem with the liberal wonkosphere — or, more precisely, the liberal wonkosphere has a problem with Bernie Sanders.

With every upward tick in Mr. Sanders’s poll numbers in the last few months, there has been a corresponding rise in a very specific type of commentary: Left-of-center policy experts and former staffers for Democratic officials have questioned his plans as unwise, unrealistic or both.

On Wednesday, it took the form of a joint letter from four people who led the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton and Obama administrations. They criticized projections by Gerald Friedman, an economist who has advised Mr. Sanders, of what the candidate’s policy proposals would achieve. Their comments were quickly echoed by the liberal economists Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman. The health care experts Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University and Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution have also been tough on Mr. Sanders’s health care plan.

Behind the critiques: Mr. Sanders’s advisers have often worked off assumptions that their policies would sharply increase economic growth, reduce health care costs and create other salutary effects, making the policies in question look more affordable and desirable than they would with more cautious assumptions.

This is the analysis that really appealed to me as I watched Christie Romer get criticized last night on twitter for not having particularly good analysis about the financial crisis and need for stimulus.  Actually, her number krunching was fine and she had suggested a much bigger stimulus.  It was the politics that silenced her and nothing else.

The wonkosphere vs. Bernie clash is not just a story of center-left versus left-left. It is also a clash between those who have been in the trenches of trying to make public policy for the last seven years versus those who can exist in a kind of theoretical world of imagining what public policy ought to be.

Suppose, for a moment, that you worked as a staff member to a Democratic member of Congress, or perhaps in the Obama administration, or in the world of academics and think tank experts advising both.

Perhaps you worked countless all-nighters on the language of the Affordable Care Act or the Dodd-Frank Act — or maybe you were at an agency trying to write the thousands of pages of regulations to institute those laws, or even an advocacy group trying to nudge all of the above to the left.

You know the compromises that were made back in 2010 and why — uniting 55 or 60 senators with wildly different political temperaments and local politics was really hard. You had to come up with a bill that could get a “Yes” vote from both a centrist like Joe Lieberman or Joe Manchin and, well, a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders.

You’re convinced that those laws — much hated by both conservatives and the industries they overhauled — made the United States a better place, helping millions more people afford health care and reining in the financial industry. You know the laws aren’t perfect — but also believe that future presidents and Congresses should build on them, much as Social Security and Medicare are now much expanded from their original charters.

Now comes a man who has had to answer only to voters in the most liberal state in the nation, who has never had the responsibility to actually pull together the disparate center-left coalition that is the Democratic Party to enact concrete legislation.

When Mr. Sanders argues for scrapping Obamacare’s intricately constructed mix of private health insurance with public subsidies for a single-payer government program, he’s essentially saying your efforts were useless, hopelessly corrupted by the health insurance industry. Same with Mr. Sanders’s call to break up the largest banks, as opposed to the current approach of just regulating them more intensively.

Then, if you criticize Mr. Sanders’s plans, or question their political feasibility, his supporters assail you as a member of a corrupt establishment.

Anyway, there’s a lot here for you to consider.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?