While the question of whether Donald Trump and company conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election is serious, it is not the most pressing problem. The fact that all the intelligence agencies and the FBI agree that Russian interference in our elections is continuing. The severity of the issue became even more evident …
In remarks on foreign policy before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, potential 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush attempted to distance himself from his brother President George W. Bush and his father, Pres. George H. W. Bush, insisting that he is “his own man.”
He pretty much stumbled and fumbled, even with the telepromter, and, quite obviously isn’t ready for prime time on foreign policy.
One way he unmistakably resembles his father and brother is in his apparent discomfort with a prepared text. He appeared far more at ease answering questions than delivering his speech, which he read quickly, without the authority he has often shown when discussing domestic issues.
Still, his responses were not mistake-free: When he sought to attack President Obama, he inflated the number of Islamic State fighters, saying in his remarks that there were 200,000. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush later clarified that he had meant to say 20,000. At another point, he pronounced Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group based in Nigeria, as “Boku Haram.”
Mr. Bush said his formative experience on foreign policy had come not from watching his brother or father serve as commander in chief, but as a 20-something working and starting a family in Venezuela, and then as the governor of a state actively involved in foreign trade.
He recalled how many times he had visited Israel (five) and noted that he had “forced” himself to visit Asia four times each year.
Despite explaining how his biography differed – he recalled the high price of Pampers in Caracas – Mr. Bush is benefiting from the former presidents Bush.
As bad as his appearance was, the real problem is that someone forgot to tell his staff that it might not be a good idea to release the list of foreign policy advisers that Jeb has decided to be on his team.
The list represents the full spectrum of views within the Republican foreign policy establishment – from relative moderates, including former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, to staunch neoconservatives such as Iraq war architect Paul D. Wolfowitz. [..]
Among Bush’s announced advisers are several viewed as staunch defenders of the CIA, including former director Michael V. Hayden, who came under heavy criticism in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report about the agency’s interrogation techniques.
Just as telling were those missing from the official list.
Although former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is at least as close personally to the Bush family as anyone on the list – and has consulted with the former Florida governor – the absence of her name suggests that he is sensitive about being seen as a carbon copy of his brother.
Click on image to enlarge
The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree or that far from his older bother.
The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected. This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.
However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).
Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany. Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!
Get out your check books, folks, the Supreme Court opened the bank for the deposits of big money to flood the US political system.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.
The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.
The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.
Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.
Power Surge for Donors
By Nicholas Confessor, The New York Times
The ruling opens the door for each party’s establishment to reclaim some power from the super PACs and other independent spending groups that are now playing an outsize role in campaigns. Experts said the decision would permit party leaders to form joint fund-raising committees and solicit multimillion dollar checks on behalf of candidates. The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, for example, could in theory approach a donor seeking to help Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, and solicit as much as $2.3 million – $5,200 for each Democratic candidate in every House race, plus a contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
A donor could also, in theory, give $5,000 per year to every political action committee currently registered with the Federal Election Committee. That would total more than $13 million, versus the $74,600 allowed under the existing aggregate cap.
The bidding is now open.
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to issue another big decision on campaign finance, one that could further open the floodgates to unfettered and anonymous contributions, just as the Citizens United case did four years ago. [..]
Already, three times as much money has been raised for this year’s elections as four years ago, when the Citizens United decision was announced. “This is the era of the empowered ‘one percenter’. They’re taking action and they’re becoming the new, headline players in this political system,” Kroll tells Moyers. Kim Barker adds, “People want influence. It’s a question of whether we’re going to allow it to happen, especially if we’re going to allow it to happen and nobody even knows who the influencers are.”
Transcript can be read here
Great deal of right wing criticism of President Barack Obama is motivated by the fact that he is part African American. Many of the new voting laws being passed in Republican controlled states are racially motivated. Much of the rhetoric regarding the social safety net is openly couched with terms like “Welfare Queens,” and “lazy, dependent and entitled.” Racism in America is alive and well and flourishing.
Ian Haney López, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley and senior fellow at Demos, writes an account of the history of subtle racists language and how it is used today:
In Dog Whistle Politics, Demos’ new Senior Fellow Ian Haney López offers a sweeping account of how politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services. White voters, convinced by powerful interests that minorities are their true enemies, fail to see the connection between the political agendas they support and the surging wealth inequality that takes an increasing toll on their lives. The tactic continues at full force, with the Republican Party using racial provocations to drum up enthusiasm for weakening unions and public pensions, defunding public schools, and opposing health care reform.
Mr. Haney López joined Bill Myers to discuss the Dog Whistle Politics of Race
The transcript can be read here
Haney López is an expert in how racism has evolved in America since the civil rights era. Over the past 50 years, politicians have mastered the use of dog whistles – code words that turn Americans against each other while turning the country over to plutocrats. This political tactic, says Haney López, is “the dark magic” by which middle-class voters have been seduced to vote against their own economic interests.
“It comes out of a desire to win votes. And in that sense… It’s racism as a strategy. It’s cold, it’s calculating, it’s considered,” Haney López tells Bill, “it’s the decision to achieve one’s own ends, here winning votes, by stirring racial animosity.”
You can tell it’s an election year, all the hypocrisy comes out of the closet:
After spending weeks subjecting the public to unfounded and widely debunked claims that Obamacare contains a hidden “bailout” for private insurers, Republicans have undertaken a complete reversal, and are attacking Democrats for cutting corporate welfare for insurance companies by too much.
Specifically, they’re attacking the Affordable Care Act’s reduction in overpayments to carriers who participate in Medicare Advantage, reflected in lower payment rates for program providers, which were officially announced late last week. [..]
When confronted, they retreat from pretending to oppose the cuts on the merits, to claiming the real problem is that Democrats used the savings from the cuts to fund Obamacare. But this is a non sequitur. A diversion. The attacks specifically express outrage on behalf of seniors who, Republicans claim, will lose doctors or get stuck with higher premiums specifically as a result of the ACA’s Medicare Advantage cuts.
But remember, Republicans actually support the cuts. All of these supposedly horrible things would happen under their plan, too, regardless of how the savings are spent. So right away it’s clear that the attacks are straightforwardly deceitful.
While some the beltway deficit scolds mourn the death of “entitlement reforms,” the The National Republican Campaign Committee has begun attacking Democrats for supporting Simpson-Bowles:
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink’s attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.
On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles.
What digby said:
I have never understood why Democrats who have to run for office are so wedded to the idea that they will be rewarded for being “the adults in the room” and doing the “hard stuff” like cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits but they do. You’d think they’d remember what happened to them in 2010 when the Republicans ran against the Medicare cuts in the health care reforms by portraying them as monsters turning old people into Soylent Green. But they didn’t.
The president may have decided to keep his proposal to cut benefits from his new budget, but it’s quite clear from the talking points that they still very much want to get “credit” for being willing to do it.
Supporting cuts the social safety net, especially in the state of Florida, is not going to fly very well with elderly voters. And, yes, they do vote. So why aren’t Democrats giving the people what they want, an expansion of Social Security and open Medicare to all?
Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations are people and protected under the First Amendment, the flood gates of private money from billionaires to shape the future of politics everywhere from Washington, DC to state and local local elections. Two of the biggest sources of this money are the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have a combined wealth of $34 billion. The brothers are the founders of Americans for Prosperity that financed the ironically named, Tea Party. They initially denied their involvement but you can run but you can’t hide from some intrepid journalists determined to keeping the public informed.
As a matter of fact, they get quite upset about it when their attempts to manipulate the political stage are exposed, often sending nasty letters. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been one of the most intrepid journalists who has dug into the vast network of Koch-funded groups and initiatives to show their influence on conservative politics, undeterred by nasty letters.
The Koch Party
By The Editorial Board of The New York Times
Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform.
As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform. [..]
In 2012, as The Washington Post reported, the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told The Post, “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.” [..]
The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine.
The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.
Koch World 2014
By Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico
If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond.
The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.
It’s the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference – not to mention the 2016 presidential field.
The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it’s mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.
That’s changing. This year, the Kochs’ close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.
The shift is best illustrated in the expansion of three pieces of the Koch political network expected to be showcased or represented at the three-day meeting in Palm Springs, whose evolving roles were described to POLITICO by several sources.
The Koch’s agenda to influence politics needs more than sunshine, it needs bleach.
It has been four years since the Supreme Court handed down it ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission holding that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.
Ian Vandewalker, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, explains the consequences he ruling has made of unlimited spending by corporations and unions, leading to an explosion of outside money in elections.
Certainly, big donors seem to believe their donations can buy influence. Thanks to Citizens United, outside spending skyrocketed in 2012 to more than $1 billion, including $400 million from dark money groups that don’t disclose their donors.
Legislators targeted by the outside negative ads are concerned. Some have used the specter of massive outside spending to argue that they need more direct contributions for their re-election campaigns in order to ‘weaken’ the influence of outside money. Eight states have increased the dollar amounts that donors can give directly to candidates, and similar legislation has advanced in several others. Alabama eliminated its $500 limit on corporate donations, allowing corporations to give unlimited amounts of money directly to candidates. Limits in other states, like Florida, are now several times higher.
Now the same justices whose Citizens United ruling created the outside expenditure quandary are arguing that it necessitates weakening limits on direct contributions. In oral argument for McCutcheon v. FEC, a case challenging limits on the total amount individuals can donate directly to all federal candidates, the court’s conservative justices seem to contradict the reasoning they used to justify their 2010 decision. Justice Scalia said there is no real distinction between the gratitude a candidate would feel toward a contributor on the one hand and a major independent spender on the other. He added, “The thing is, you can’t give [unlimited contributions] to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but you can start your own PAC… . I’m not sure that that’s a benefit to our political system.”
There is movement toward removing big money from politics, as John Nichols of The Nation notes, and putting democracy back in the hands of the voters. There has been a movement to amend the constitution that is gaining ground:
Sixteen American states have formally demanded that Congress to recognize that the Constitution must be amended in order to re-establish the basic American premise that “money is property and not speech, and [that] the Congress of the United States, state legislatures and local legislative bodies should have the authority to regulate political contributions and expenditures…” [..]
Support for an amendment now stretches from coast to coast, with backing (in the form of legislative resolutions or statewide referendum results) from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. The District of Columbia is also supportive of the move to amend, as are roughly 500 municipalities, from Liberty, Maine, to Los Angeles, California – where 77 percent of voters backed a May, 2013, referendum instructing elected representatives to seek an amendment establishing that “there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings.” [..]
The groundbreaking work by national groups such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and Move to Amend, in conjunction with grassroots coalitions that are now active from northern Alaska to the tip of the Florida Keys, is far more dramatic than most of the initiatives you’ll see from the Democratic or Republican parties-which don’t do much but fund-raise-and various and sundry groupings on the right and left. [..]
Free Speech for People highlights the fact that dozens of Republican legislators have backed calls for an amendment to overturn not just the Citizens United ruling but other barriers to the regulation of money in politics. With backing from third-party and independent legislators, as well, the passage of the state resolutions highlights what the group refers to as “a growing trans-partisan movement…calling for the US Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) to be overturned, through one or more amendments to the US Constitution.”
In the wake of last week’s off-off year elections, Bill Moyers sat down with Washington correspondent for The Nation, John Nichols, and professor of communications at the University of Illinois, Robert McChesney, to discuss how big money and big media conglomerates are raking in a fortune, influencing elections and undermining democracy
This past Tuesday, special interests pumped big money into promoting or tearing down candidates and ballot initiatives in elections across the country. It was a reprise on a small scale of the $7 billion we saw going into presidential, congressional and judicial races in 2012. To sway the vote, wealthy individuals and corporations bought campaign ads, boosting revenues at a handful of media conglomerates who have a near-monopoly on the airwaves. [..]
“Democracy means rule of the people: one person, one vote,” McChesney says. “Dollarocracy means the rule of the dollars: one dollar, one vote. Those with lots of dollars have lots of power. Those with no dollars have no power.” Nichols tells Moyers: “Dollarocracy has the ability to animate dead ideas. You can take an idea that’s a bad idea, buried by the voters. Dollarocracy can dig it up and that zombie idea will walk among us.”
An Election About GOP Extremism, Unions, Wages and Dollarocracy
by John Nichols, The Nation
Two states will elect governors Tuesday and one of those governors could emerge as a 2016 presidential contender. The nation’s largest city will elect a mayor, as will hundreds of other communities. A minimum-wage hike is on the ballot. So is marijuana legalization. So is the labeling of genetically-modified foods. And Seattle might elect a city council member who promises to open the fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Forget the silly dodge that says local and state elections don’t tell us anything. They provide measures of how national developments – like the federal government shutdown – are playing politically. They give us a sense of whether the “war on women” is widening the gender gap. They tell us what issues are in play and the extent to which the political debate is evolving.
This week the Supreme Court heard arguments for the ending of limits on campaign contributions for individuals, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The argument for lifting the limits is the same that were used to argue Citizens United that opened the flood gates of money from corporations, money is free speech.
Next Citizens United? McCutcheon Supreme Court Case Targets Campaign Contribution Limits
by Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post
Alabama electrical engineer and budding political donor Shaun McCutcheon broached a problem in conversation with conservative election lawyer Dan Backer, who one day earlier had led a CPAC panel on rolling back campaign finance laws in which he predicted that campaign contribution limits would soon rise.
McCutcheon had recently learned there were overall federal campaign contribution limits on what a single donor could give during a two-year election cycle. He voiced his annoyance to Backer and wondered if he could just ignore the aggregate limits — something that a few dozen donors wound up doing], whether deliberately or inadvertently, in the 2012 election. [..]
A little more than a year later, McCutcheon, now joined by the Republican National Committee, is bringing the biggest campaign finance case before the Supreme Court since the controversial 2010 Citizens United decision. If the justices rule in their next term to toss the overall limits, it would mark the first time the Supreme Court had found a federal contribution limit unconstitutional and would open the door for even more money to flood the political system.
It would also be a major victory for counter-reformers, who have racked up a string of wins rolling back campaign finance regulation ever since Justice Samuel Alito replaced the more campaign regs-friendly Sandra Day O’Connor. And it would be a major blow to the campaign finance regime crafted in the 1970s following a string of corruption scandals culminating in the abuses revealed in the Watergate investigation.
One other small point, McCutcheon is a climate denier.
This week’s guest on Moyers & Company, Yale Law School election and constitutional law professor Heather Gerken discussed the how a ruling in favor of McCutcheon will further erode campaign finance regulations and allow more cash and influence to slosh around in the system.
McCutcheon challenges aggregate caps on how much individual donors can give to candidates and political parties. The current overall cap stands at $123,200 per donor for a two-year election cycle, but McCutcheon could raise that amount to more than $3.5 million.
Gerken says if the court rules in favor of McCutcheon, one donor could write a check that might cover a politician’s entire election campaign. “We’re going to start to worry about the bad old days when politicians were beholden to an incredibly small group of wealthy donors … Right now when politicians want to raise money they have to talk to at least middle class voters. They have to talk to a pretty big number of voters to raise money for their campaigns.”
Gerken fears that a small, rich group would not only influence the outcome of elections, but policy decisions as well. “It’s not just a seat at the table on election day, it’s a seat at the table for the next four-to-six years when they’re governing,” Gerken says. “Wall Street is going to be controlling the congressional agenda, Main Street is not.”
Transcript can be read here
As suggested by Karin Kamp, at Moyers’ & Company web site, here is a list of recommended articles that explain the case.
Chief Justice Roberts: A Campaign Finance Moderate Who Gets It?
by Rick Hasen, Election Law Blog
Poor Little Rich Guys
by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
Conservative Justices Signal Dismantling Of Campaign Donation Limits
by Sahil Kapur, TPM
Mitch McConnell’s Moneyocracy
by Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post
Meet Shaun McCutcheon
by Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast
There is also a very informative video from the Washington Post that is worth watching.
Chuck Todd is one of the kinda liberals on MSNBC who opines abortion doesn’t really matter in “presidential politics.” Nate Silver is the flawless sabermetrician who carries the message beyond and above and says it probably doesn’t matter well below.
They are both full of it.
The abortion wars are about far more than abortion and extend far beyond the bedroom to cancer. Life expectancy is falling for some southern women probably because of the closure of health clinics for women.
Of course gays and transexuals figure into the mix but things get messier and messier the more you look.
But hey, looky here:
Virginia Republican Suffers Abortion Backlash From Donors
Couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow though the Democrat is no prize.
The polls are essentially tied but money talks very loud.
Women are the majority. Wish you would show it – particularly in New Jersey but one step at a time I guess.