Later On

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Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Cuomo seems more and more despicable—has he no shame at all?

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The headline to Justin Elliott’s story in ProPublica pretty much sums it up: “Cuomo’s Office Denies Using Private Email Accounts. But it Does.” Details of why and who and what at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2014 at 12:29 pm

It’s hard to have confidence in Hillary Clinton

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At least it is for me. She voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq, and in her new book she makes a poor case for why. Read this article by Jeff Gerth in Pacific Standard. From the article:

. . . Clinton continues to misstate parts of her record on Iraq, while failing to address some of the tough choices she took as America’s chief diplomat.

Here’s a refresher on the details, drawn from interviews and government records and reports on Iraq. Clinton’s office and the book’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment. . .

Lying about her statements and actions and refusing to face questions: not something I want in a president—or any official responsible to the public. Later in the article:

She also wrote that she “made the best decision I could with the information I had.”

In our 2007 book about Clinton, co-author Don Van Natta Jr. and I showed that she had never read what arguably was the most authoritative information available: the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. After book excerpts appeared, Clinton was asked in the first presidential debate with Barack Obama whether she regretted not reading the estimate. “I feel like I was totally briefed,” she said.

Evasiveness in response to direct questions constitutes a BIG warning sign.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2014 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Findings from the latest Pew Poll

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Explained in the Washington Post with charts. Some highlights:

  • Conservatives dislike Democrats more than liberals dislike Republicans
  • Conservatives are more likely to say that the opposition’s policies are a threat to America
  • Conservatives surround themselves with people who share their views
  • The conservative echo chamber encompasses media too
  • Compromise is not a conservative value

The article concludes:

A few weeks ago, Tom Mann wrote the following in The Atlantic:

Republicans have become a radical insurgency—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.

With the release of today’s Pew study, that overwhelming evidence becomes even stronger.

It’s worth reading the article. The charts are interesting and the commentary helpful. For example, in the comment on the last chart (“compromise is not a conservative value”), the article notes:

This may be the most telling chart in the Pew report. You’d expect partisans on either end of the ideological spectrum to be less fond of compromise than those in the middle. But as it turns out, compromise is basically a liberal value – 82 percent of consistent liberals prefer politicians who make compromises. Less than a third of consistent conservatives say the same.

It’s important to note that when it comes to the actual practice of compromise, both liberals and conservatives have a hard time grasping what the word actually means. But liberals are much more into the notion of compromise as a political ideal. Conservatives, on the other hands, have a stated preference for candidates who “stick to their positions.”

A party that is ideologically predisposed against compromise is going to have a very hard time governing, particularly within a divided government. You can see this reflected in the Tea Party’s repeated enthusiasm for shutting the entire government down instead of passing pieces of legislation they disagree with. [And that's the same attitude that brought us the Civil War, when the South took up treason as a cause. - LG]

Kevin Drum has a good post how how this conservative cocoon is built and maintained: Fox News. Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Media, Politics

Gov. Cuomo pulls an Obama: Promises transparency, promotes secrecy

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And Cuomo, like Obama, is a Democrat. Democrats increasingly resemble Republicans in their policies and mendacity. Justin Elliott reports in ProPublica:

dopting a tactic that has been used by officials ranging from Sarah Palin to staffers of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are sending emails from private accounts to conduct official business.

I know because I got one myself. And three other people who interact with the governor’s office on policy or media matters told me they have too. None of the others wanted to be named.

The tactic appears to be another item in the toolbox of an administration that, despite Cuomo’s early vows of unprecedented transparency, has become known for an obsession with secrecy. Emailing from private accounts can help officials hide communications and discussions that are supposed to be available to the public.

“Government business should never be conducted through private email accounts. Not only does it make it difficult to retrieve what is a government record, but it just invites the suspicion that a government employee is attempting to evade accountability by supervisors and the public,” said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a frequent requester of records under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Emailing from private accounts also may violate state policy. State employees are not to “use a personal email account to conduct State business unless explicitly authorized,” according to a policy bearing the governor’s name published by the Office of Information Technology Services.

The Cuomo administration declined to comment on whether any employees are authorized to use private accounts.

Back when he was running for governor, Cuomo pledged, “We must use technology to bring more sunlight to the operation of government.” . . .

Continue reading. Apparently Cuomo is no more trustworthy than Obama—which is to say, not to be trusted.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2014 at 10:47 am

Posted in Democrats, Government, Law

Bridgegate metastasizes to New York

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It’s going beyond New Jersey. Zach Fink reports in Salon:

It hasn’t been a great few weeks for New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He got in a public spat with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for closing down an anti-corruption commission, his budget was roundly criticized by many in his own party, and a new poll shows him losing serious ground to his Republican opponent if he gets a challenge on the left.

But another unwelcome development for the governor flew mostly under the radar, and has national implications. While the George Washington bridge scandal focused exclusively on the role of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the bridge is controlled by a joint New York-New Jersey bi-state authority – and last week Cuomo’s hand-picked Executive Director of the Port Authority, Patrick Foye, was issued a subpoena by the New Jersey legislative committee investigating the flap.

Investigators believe there are omissions in the carefully crafted timeline put forth by the Cuomo Administration about what they knew about the lane closures, and how they responded. ”Lots of questions need to be asked to fill in the blanks,” the committee’s Co-Chair John Wisniewski told Salon.

In a worst-case scenario, Cuomo’s version of events could . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 May 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in Democrats, Government

Sen. Patrick Leahy loves Senatorial privileges more than he loves the country

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It’s pretty evident that Sen. Leahy puts the country’s welfare very much second to Senatorial privilege. The NY Times editorial:

The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her.

The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why, exploiting an archaic Senate tradition to make sure Mr. Obama can’t fill that vacancy.

That tradition, known as the blue slip, gives senators the ability to block any judicial nomination in their state, no explanation necessary, before it even reaches the stage of a committee hearing — never mind the Senate floor. There’s no formal rule enshrining this tradition, and the committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, could end it tomorrow. But he has inexplicably clung to the practice, preventing worthy nominees from being confirmed and allowing petty Republican politics to reduce Mr. Obama’s influence on the bench.

If a home-state senator won’t return a blue piece of paper agreeing to a judicial nomination, Mr. Leahy won’t give the nominee a committee hearing or a vote. It’s a form of senatorial courtesy that goes back to 1917 or so, giving senators an anti-democratic power never contemplated in the Constitution.

As with the filibuster, members of both parties have abused the privilege, but only when it suits them. When Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, was the chairman of the committee during the presidency of George W. Bush, he would allow nominations to proceed over the objections of both home-state senators, as long as the president “consulted” with them first.

Senator Leahy has not the done the same for President Obama and his nominees, thus undercutting the important Senate rules change in November that prevented a minority of senators from blocking any executive nomination. Blue slips, or the lack thereof, have held up 11 judicial nominees; there are also 30 vacancies with no nominees because it is clear that a Republican senator would object.

The administration has been reduced to nominating a few unpalatable judges in the hopes of cutting deals. Texas has nine court vacancies, but its two senators won’t work with the White House on any nominees.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Mr. Leahy claims that the Senate will always defer to home-state senators. But, if he were to eliminate the practice, he would force senators to raise their objections publicly.

Now they hide behind a procedure that allows them to block able nominees because they want one of their cronies to get the job, or don’t want liberals or minorities on the bench or are afraid that any appearance of collaboration would rile the Tea Party.

Senators with real complaints should state them on the floor and hope to persuade a majority. At the moment, unfortunately, Republicans believe they have a serious chance of regaining the Senate in November, and they seem to have no interest in approving any of Mr. Obama’s judicial nominations through the end of his term. That’s an abuse of the system, and Mr. Leahy is running out of time to stop it.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Bad Democrats

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Ian Millhiser reports at ThinkProgress:

Debo Adegbile, who previously served as the acting head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys. He’s also a leading expert on voting rights who twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court — the first time successfully. He was, in other words, an ideal candidate to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — the division which, among other things, oversees the federal government’s voting rights work in an era where conservative state lawmakers are currently waging a widespread campaign to prevent demographic groups that tend to vote for Democrats from casting a ballot.And yet, the Senate just voted his nomination down, thanks to seven Democrats. TheDemocrats who opposed Adegbile’s confirmation are Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Walsh (D-MT).

Although most of these senators have yet to offer an explanation for their votes — and the Senate offices ThinkProgress contacted shortly after the vote were not especially forthcoming — it is likely that their votes were motivated by a campaign to disqualify Adegbile because of a high profile case the NAACP LDF participated in during his time with that organization.

In 2008, a federal appeals court unanimously held — with two Reagan appointees on the panel — that procedures used during a convicted cop killer named Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing violated the Constitution. Specifically, the panel of predominantly Republican judges concluded that the trial judge gave the jury a confusing form that could have been read to require a death sentence unless every single juror agreed to a life sentence. The NAACP LDF filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.

At least one of the Democrats who opposed Adegbile, Sen. Casey, cited his work to overturn this unconstitutional death sentence as the reason for his opposition.

As MSNBC’s Adam Serwer points out, the Senate was not always so critical of lawyers who help bad people fight potentially unconstitutional death sentences. Indeed, as an attorney in private practice, Chief Justice John Roberts “devoted 25 pro bono hours” to representing a mass murderer recently executed in Florida.

Ian Millhiser also reports on how one of the Senators immediately proclaimed her support for voting rights:

A fundraising email sent by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) this afternoon claims that “[i]f there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on, it’s that every American deserves the right to vote. It’s one of our most basic rights – but right now it’s under attack.”

Heitkamp is correct. Indeed, one of the ways that voting rights are currently under attack is that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voted on Wednesday to block Debo Adegbile, the attorney who twice defended the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, from being confirmed to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The vote wrapped up shortly after noon today. A copy of Heitkamp’s email obtained by ThinkProgress is timestamped “Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM,” which means that Heitkamp waited about one hour after she opposed one of the nation’s leading voting rights advocates to send out an email trying to fundraise off of her support for legislation seeking to “restore voting rights for all Americans.” Ironically, the reason why this legislation is necessary is because five conservative justices rejected Mr. Adegbile’s arguments seeking to preserve a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

A screenshot of Heitkamp’s email is [at the link - LG].

Although the email does not contain an explicit fundraising ask, people who sign the “petition” touted in Heitkamp’s email are directed to an ActBlue page fundraising for Heitkamp, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). Coons, like Heitkamp, also opposed Adegbile’s nomination.

It should be noted that Heitkamp’s likely did not oppose Adegbile because of his advocacy on behalf of voting rights. Rather, the primary reason offered by senators who opposed this nomination is that Adegbile played a role in convincing a unanimous panel of federal appeals court judges to strike down an unconstitutional death sentence.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2014 at 11:32 am

Well said on Elizabeth Warren and what she represents (and drives)

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Well worth reading. It makes me feel hope.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2014 at 1:18 pm

I don’t understand the 16 Senate Democrats who want a war with Iran

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Because slapping on additional sanctions at this juncture of the negotiations is an unconcealed effort to kill the negotiations (which allow UN inspections, offer trade with the country, and so on). Indeed, the outcome seems, so far as I can tell, better than we had hoped for. It’s a real, major breakthrough agreement—with verification.

So why would the 16 Senate Democrats try to kill it? Because they prefer to have a war with Iran. Never mind our most recent unprovoked war of aggression, Iraq: hundreds of thousands kill, the professional military almost broken by repeated tours of duty, no planning for the occupation and withdrawal—none, zero, bupkis, zip, nada. We got there, said, “Now what do we do?” and presiding over the collapse of a nation and an increase in the number of willing volunteers for terrorism: those with family or friends killed, whether by us or by others: we broke it, we own it. Exactly the words with which Colin Powell warned George W. Bush.

So the Senate Democrats want more of that? And not to mention the horrendous pure cost of the war: around $2 trillion, all told, which makes it strange that Republicans would want it—except, of course, that it’s something President Obama wants, so the Republicans have no choice but to oppose: it’s a complete bind for them. If they don’t oppose, they face likely defeat at the hands of an even crazier candidate in the primary. (Take a look at some who came to Congress via exactly this route.) So the GOP no longer has choices. The choices are Obama’s to make, and that forces opposition—to the degree if he speaks out in favor of a proposal from the Republicans, the Republicans will immediately disown and oppose their own measure. This actually happens.

So with all that in mind, 16 Senate Democrats are trying to kill a diplomatic solution in favor of waging war. Because we have such a great track record at that sort of war, they must think.

I don’t get it.

UPDATE: By the way, an interesting column on Iran.

UPDATE 2: James Fallows has a must-read call to action.

UPDATE 3: Wow. Israel certainly seems to want the US to go to war with Iran.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2014 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats, Iran

The guy who wrote the Patriot Act: “Feinstein’s bill is a joke.”

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I will be so glad when Dianne Feinstein reaches the end of this term. Although every now and then she takes a good position, in general she has done an increasingly shoddy job as Senator. Brendan Sasso and Bob Cusack report in The Hill:

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. doesn’t mince his words.

The Wisconsin Republican says the House and Senate Intelligence committees have become “cheerleaders” for the National Security Agency.

“Instead of putting the brakes on overreaches, they’ve been stepping on the gas,” he said of the committees, which are led by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In an interview with The Hill, Sensenbrenner — who has offered legislation to rein in the NSA — called rival legislation “a joke.”

He said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be prosecuted for “lying” to Congress on the nation’s surveillance programs.

Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act, wants to limit the NSA’s surveillance powers in the wake of leaks by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

“There is no limit — apparently, according to the NSA — on what they can collect. And that has got to be stopped,” he said.

The 18-term lawmaker claims Congress fell down on the job of overseeing the NSA.

He said the failure in oversight occurred after Congress reauthorized the Patriot Act in 2006, just as he was stepping down as Judiciary Committee chairman.

The NSA then won secret approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to use a provision of the Patriot Act to collect records on all U.S. phone calls.

The court authorized the sweeping data collection even though the provision, Section 215, only allows the NSA to collect records that are “relevant” to terrorism.

“I don’t think the oversight was vigorously done by the Judiciary Committee,” Sensenbrenner said. “When I was running the Judiciary Committee, it was being vigorously done.”

Sensenbrenner, along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has introduced the USA Freedom Act to end the bulk collection of phone records, limit the NSA’s power and tighten oversight.

But Rogers and Feinstein are fighting to protect the NSA’s authority, especially its sweeping phone record collection program. Feinstein has introduced a bill that would make certain reforms to promote transparency but would endorse the phone data collection.

“The Feinstein bill is a joke,” Sensenbrenner said.

He said that her view is essentially “if you like your NSA, you can keep it.”

Brian Weiss, a spokesman for Feinstein, declined to respond to Sensenbrenner’s salvo…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2013 at 9:46 am

Elizabeth Warren seems to be doing good things

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I am so glad that we have Elizabeth Warren for a Senator. David Dayen shows why:

If asked, Americans of all political persuasions will say overwhelmingly that they prefer “tougher rules” for Wall Street. But what does that actually mean?

You can frame this conventionally: supporting regulators, punishing rules violators, mopping up 2008-style disasters to limit the damage and attempting to prevent such chaos from happening again. But by “tougher rules,” maybe Americans are really signaling a vague but persistent dissatisfaction with an economy that has become dominated by the financial sector. And you can see within that how transforming banking back to its traditional purpose — as a conduit for putting capital in the hands of worthwhile business ventures and driving shared prosperity — would be one antidote to an unequal society full of financial titan gatekeepers, who confiscate a giant share of the money flowing through the system.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren — in many ways the avatar of a new populist insurgency within the Democratic Party that seeks to combine financial reform and economic restoration — will speak later today in Washington at the launch of a new report that marks a key new phase in this movement. Released by Americans for Financial Reform and the Roosevelt Institute – and called “An Unfinished Mission: Making Wall Street Work for Us” — the report is a revelation, because it finally invites fundamental discussions about these issues. Its 11 chapters from some of the leading thinkers on financial reform do look back at the successes and failures of the signal financial reform law of this generation, the Dodd-Frank Act. But the report also weaves in a story about how we can reorient finance as a complement to the real economy, rather than its overriding force. Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the co-editor of the report, tells Salon, “The financial sector is still eating up a lot of GDP [gross domestic product], and it’s not clear what we’re getting out of it. We want to get the conversation at that level.”

This report fills in the details, creating definable action items and goals that could serve as a marker for legislative and regulatory action, as well as primaries in the next several election cycles.

The roots of this conversation go back decades, if not hundreds of years. One of the report’s authors, John Parsons of MIT, notes that the debate over whether to force derivative trades — the bets on top of bets that helped accelerate and magnify the financial crisis — into central and transparent clearinghouses dates back to the Minneapolis Grain Exchange of 1896. The concept of a fiduciary standard, which states that anyone offering advice on investment strategies should act in the interests of their individual clients rather than trying to enrich themselves, was initially settled in the Investment Advisors Act of 1940.  Even Ben Bernanke last week drew parallels between the 2008 crisis and the Panic of 1907, which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

In the past few decades, Wall Street has devised financial “innovations” with the primary purpose of outpacing regulatory reach, surmounting decades-old reforms. This frees non-bank financial firms from oversight by the watchdogs, and allows them to accumulate risk in search of greater profits. For example, Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform looks at shadow banking, the lending markets that “convert illiquid, risky, long-term assets into ‘safe,’ liquid short-term securities.” This creates an illusion of safety and puts massive amounts of money outside the New Deal-era regulatory apparatus, where the firms involved don’t have requirements to carry capital to guard against inevitable losses, for example. In 2008, the breakdown of parts of the shadow banking system made it impossible for large financial actors to access short-term funding, turning a downturn into a crisis.

While shadow banking does not have access to the public safety net (things like bank deposit insurance, or access to Federal Reserve liquidity programs), in reality it is hooked into mega-banks inside the safety net. AIG was bailed out because its counterparties were corporations like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, determined to be too big to fail. So you have the worst of all possible worlds; a giant alternative banking system not subject to any of the rules that limit risk, vulnerable to old-style bank runs, but able to get government relief if their gambles turn sour. You get privatized profits and socialized losses. You also create more fragility in the system, because shadow banking involves multiple links from borrower to lender, and as Stanley told Salon, “Each link in the chain is another opportunity to lie about what’s inside the loan.”

There are two ways to look at this problem. One is seen in the way Dodd-Frank tried, with varying success, to bring New Deal-era structures to the broader financial sector, pulling systemically important activities like insurance and hedge funds under a regulatory regime. Unfortunately, the maddening complexity of financial innovations generates uncertainty over what really falls under the rules, giving Wall Street and compliant regulators the opportunity to take advantage of loopholes. Orderly liquidation authority, the new measures for regulators to wind down large financial institutions, is so full of holes, argues Stephen Lubben of Seton Hall University, that it could quickly devolve into “a bailout in all but name.” Regulators have not even begun to reckon with large elements of the system, like money market funds or the overnight “repo” markets, which made significant contributions to the financial crisis. “Many of the conditions that helped cause the 2008 crisis persist,” writes Jennifer Taub of Vermont Law School in one of the report’s chapters.

The other way to deal with financial innovations is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2013 at 10:44 am

Excellent example of “twisting the truth”

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I’ve always wondered about the phrase “to twist the truth.” How do you do that? What does a twisted truth look like?

David Weigel shows us.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2013 at 11:46 am

Senate Majority Whip: FISA Court Is ‘Fixed’ and ‘Loaded’

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Conor Friedersdorf writes for the Atlantic Wire:

The Obama Administration says the FISA court adequately safeguards Americans’ civil liberties. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who holds the second-highest Democratic leadership position in the Senate, disagrees.

“These FISA courts — there should be a real court proceeding,” he said on Sunday. “In this case, it’s fixed in a way. It’s loaded. There’s only one case coming before the FISA court: the government’s case. Let’s have an advocate, or someone, standing up for civil liberties, to speak up for the privacy of Americans when they make each of these decisions, and let’s release some of the transcripts, redacted, carefully redacted, so that people understand the debate that’s going on in these FISA courts.” When you’ve got a senior lawmaker calling a secret court “fixed in a way,” implying that it doesn’t conduct “real” proceedings, and affirming that its judges aren’t hearing information that would be relevant to their decisions, that’s alarming.

Unless, of course, what you want is a rubber stamp for the surveillance state.

Durbin said in the same interview that Congress should rein in the NSA’s data hoovering. “I really believe that . . .”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2013 at 4:01 pm

Greenwald Derangement Syndrome

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Barry Eisler points out some oddities in reports about Glenn Greenwald:

I just read an article by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazinethat was so silly and self-indulgent I wasn’t going to comment on it.  What’s the point of comparing Greenwald to Ralph Nader (or to anyone else, really)?  What’s the point of discussing Greenwald at all, compared to the importance of his reporting?  Can you really try to castigate Greenwald for arguing that in various ways Obama is worse than Bush, when so many Constitutional law experts are arguing that indeed, Obama is worse than Nixon?  Is Chait ignorant of the mountain of evidence behind this argument, or of the other people making it?  Why does he refer to but fail to address the actual evidence in the supporting piece he links to, instead treating the argument itself as ipso facto evidence of sanctimony?  What does it mean that liberals might break with Greenwald because he believes “even if Obama is the lesser of two evils, he’s the more effective of two evils” (oh no, the cool kids will stop inviting him to play dates… and is this more a reflection on Greenwald, or on liberals)?  And most glaring of all, did Chait really complain that “For Greenwald… the evils of liberals loom far larger than the evils of conservatives,” when he’s talking about a guy who’s written no fewer than three books (and God knows how many blog posts) on the failings of conservatives — with titles like How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President [Bush] Run Amok; and A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency; and Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics?

My initial reaction was just to shake my head at how someone could put his name on something so sloppily argued, and to briefly wonder why anyone would publish it.  But then, as sometimes happens when I’ve rolled my eyes and am about to click on a (hopefully) better link, something struck me that I thought was worth calling out.

That something is a remarkable case of psychological projection — the “defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world.”  In an odd cri de coeur, Chait declares:

I won’t pretend to be neutral here — I’ve tangled with Greenwald numerous times.  So, for instance, he called me a “McCain worshiper,” and it is true that I have written some highly favorable things about John McCain.  I’ve also written some highly critical things.  I pointed out to Greenwald that, when I have called McCain, among other things, a “dangerous sociopath,” it would at least complicate the picture in such a way as to preclude me from being called a “worshiper.”  But no, Greenwald dug in deeper, assembling all the evidence he could muster for his side and ignoring all the evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

I’m glad Chait thought to include that paragraph.  If he hadn’t, I would have wondered what had caused him to write such a bizarre and illogical piece.  Now I get it — at some point, Greenwald hurt his feelings.  But what most fascinates me about the paragraph in question is that Chait included it in the very piece in which he accused Greenwald of focusing more on the evils of liberals than of conservatives — without even pausing to explain, or even acknowledge, all those books (and posts) of Greenwald’s that would seem pretty clearly not just to mitigate the claim, but to outright belie it.

This is pretty weird behavior.  How could it happen?  I don’t know Chait, but I doubt he could be that unintelligent.  Or that uninformed.  So I think what happened instead is that he’s so blinded by personal animus he wasn’t able to see the evidence completely neutering what he was trying to argue.  Even more interesting is that the blindness is profound enough to prevent him from seeing that he is doing the very same thing — cherry-picking to make an argument — that he accuses Greenwald of doing to him, and that he apparently found so hurtful when it happened.

I want to add in Chait’s defense that in my experience, one of the animating themes of all Greenwald’s writing is a loathing of hypocrisy.  So it stands to reason that Greenwald might find a little extra ire for “liberals” who opposed Bush’s authoritarian programs but are now excusing and justifying the same or worse as perpetrated by Obama.  As in, when Dick Cheney argues that unaccountable surveillance is good, at least he’s being consistent.  When liberals who were against such things before make Chenyesque arguments now that Obama is in the White House, something else seems to be going on, and deeply held principle isn’t it.  So yes, Greenwald does have a tendency to point out — correctly and usefully — liberal hypocrisy on these issues.  But is this really what Chait means with his notion that “the evils of liberals loom far larger” for Greenwald?  Pointing out glaring hypocrisy seems a pretty slim reed on which to hang such a charge (and again, look at the title of one of those books —  Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics!  Greenwald seems evenhanded even with his charges of hypocrisy).

That’s about as charitable an explanation as I can come up with for the shortcomings in Chait’s article.  Maybe he can offer something better.

The reason the projection, and the sloppiness and cherry-picking to which the projection blinds Chait, is significant is because of what’s behind it.  Look, arguments on the Internet can get pretty rough sometimes, and people’s feelings can get hurt.  But it’s important for everyone, and especially for journalists, to try to set those feelings aside and be as dispassionate and principled as possible.  It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone reasonably dispassionate about Greenwald would be more focused on him than on the massive, illegal NSA spying operation he’s recently been breaking so much news on.  How could a journalist worth a damn care more about the former than about the latter?  Only if he were unhealthily personally engaged, I would imagine.  Chait seems to sense as much, opening his article by saying, “The debate over domestic surveillance is not a debate about what we think about Glenn Greenwald.  But…”  Yes, but!  Because then Chait goes on to write an entire article that consists of nothing but his feelings about Greenwald.  If only that tiny voice of reason he was hearing could have spoken up a little louder.  Or if Chait’s ears weren’t too stopped up to hear it.

I have to add, I loved that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2013 at 7:13 am

The Two Political Parties Are Remarkably Far Apart on Basic Issues

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David Morris writes at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, with this article carried by AlterNet:

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13.

In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically.

Democrats believe that governments should not only secure our borders but also advance our personal security.  As reflected in recently enacted state laws, that belief translates into policies extending health care access to as many as possible, raising the minimum wage and expanding unemployment insurance. Republicans vigorously oppose this use of government.  They insist we should not be compelled to be our brothers’ keeper. Of the 13 states that so far have refused the federal government’s offer to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding health care coverage to millions of their residents, for example, Republicans dominate 12.  All six of the states that are leaning that way are Republican controlled.

What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict liberty.  They assert that government-created health exchanges interfere with the right of insurance companies to manage their own affairs while the requirement that everyone have health insurance constitutes an act of tyranny.  Minimum wage laws interfere with the economic liberty of business and the freedom of the marketplace.

Republicans argue that taxes, especially those that tax the rich at higher rates than the poor, interfere with our liberty to pursue happiness by amassing unrestrained wealth.   In the last legislative session Democrat-controlled California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota raised the income tax rate on millionaires while in the last two legislative sessions, Republican-controlled Kansas reduced such rates by 75 percent and legislators in Kansas as well as in North Carolina and Nebraska are openly pushing for the complete elimination of the income tax.

It is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily.

When it comes to personal liberty, however, Republicans believe in big government. As former Republican Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum observed, “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”  Even if their wants or passions do not harm others.

This legislative session Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota joined 9 other states and the District of Columbia in extending the freedom to marry to include those of the same sex. Meanwhile, of the 25 states with constitutional prohibitions on same sex marriage, 22 are completely controlled by Republicans.  None are Democrat dominant.

Of the 17 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, 10 are Democratic and only two are Republican. (The rest are not controlled by a single party.) As if to put an exclamation point on this difference, the same day last November that voters in Washington and Colorado approved the legalization of marijuana, voters in Arkansas handily defeated a proposal to allow the drug to be used for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

Gun control is an issue that for Republicans and Democrats affects both liberty and security. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2013 at 7:31 pm

If you pay people not to lie, they don’t lie as much

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A very interesting article by Cass Sunstein reporting on the differences in responses to survey questions when you pay people to give answers they consider correct: the Democrats and Republicans become much closer than when survey responders are simply asked the questions with no payments involved.

Somehow Sunstein overlooks what seems to me a staggeringly obvious question: Were the improvements in accuracy upon being promised payment the same for both Democrats and Republicans? or was there a significant difference in the amount of improvement when you compare Democrats and Republicans?

I sort of get a headache and the blind staggers when someone who is reputedly intelligent overlooks such an obvious question, especially since the data are right at hand. One explanation—the simplest—is that Sunstein is not nearly so smart as he’s presumed to be: the evidence here is clear.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2013 at 9:21 am

“Since it’s not working, don’t fix it”

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An interesting approach: the US military has a very serious problem with rapists being tacitly encouraged by a culture that ensures punishment of rapists, if any punished is meted out, is generally mild, and punishment of those raped is often severe. So Carl Levin decides that the current system is working fine?

Elspeth Reeve writes at the Atlantic Wire:

Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin has killed a proposal that would have taken away military commanders’ control in decidint whether to prosecute sexual assault cases and given it to an independent prosecutor. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand championed the reform as a way to increase reporting and prosecution of sexual assault in the military — noting that reporting of sexual assaults went up by 80 percent in Israel when its military adopted a similar rule. But in a Senate hearing earlier this month, several military commanders insisted that no major changes were necessary. Levin apparently agreed, eliminating the bipartisan proposal, which had 27 co-sponsors, from the Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday night, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and Alastair Jamieson report. Levin will likely opt for a weaker proposal, from Sen. Claire McCaskill, that prevents commanders from overturning a court martial conviction.

In the Senate hearing, Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt testified that senators should “allow a commander to command by allowing them to enforce the standards they set.” Marine Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary said, “Whether it’s an enemy on the battlefield or sexual assault in the barracks, good order and discipline is just as important.” While they wanted the responsibility to set those standards, they would not take responsibility for a military culture that failed to meet those standards an estimated 26,000 times last year. Levin sided with military commanders’ argument that if they just keep doing the same thing, something will change.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:12 am

Why Democrats Can’t be Trusted to Control Wall Street

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Interesting post by Robert Reich:

Who needs Republicans when Wall Street has the Democrats? With the help of congressional Democrats, the Street is rolling back financial reforms enacted after its near meltdown.

According to the New York Times, a bill that’s already moved through the House Financial Services Committee, allowing more of the very kind of derivatives trading (bets on bets) that got the Street into trouble, was drafted by Citigroup — whose recommended language was copied nearly word for word in 70 lines of the 85-line bill.

Where were House Democrats? Right behind it. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, a major recipient of the Street’s political largesse, co-sponsored it. Most of the Democrats on the Committee, also receiving generous donations from the big banks, voted for it. Rep. Jim Himes, another proponent of the bill and a former banker at Goldman Sachs, now leads the Democrat’s fund-raising effort in the House.

Bob Rubin – co-chair of Goldman before he joined the Clinton White House, and chair of Citigroup’s management committee after he left it – is still influential in the Party, and his protégés are all over the Obama administration. I like Bob personally but I battled his Street-centric views the whole time I served, and soon after I left the administration he persuaded Clinton to support a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

Jack Lew, Obama’s current Treasury Secretary, was . . .

Continue reading.

I think it’s quite obvious that Obama turned the Executive Branch over to financial industry to use as they will. And of course a comfortable majority of Congress is bought and paid for.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 May 2013 at 11:43 am

Conservative v. Liberal mindset

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Kevin Drum has an extremely interesting post in which explores possible explanations for the differences in how conservatives and liberals approach things.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2013 at 10:56 am

Posted in Democrats, GOP

Michael O’Malley as a presidential candidate

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Michael O’Malley is an ambitious politician who is generally liberal in his policies. He went from mayor of Baltimore to governor of Maryland, and in Washington Monthly Haley Edwards takes a look at his movement toward the presidential race:

Jay Baker/Office of Governor Martin O’Malley)

The governor is hungry.

Brown paper bag in hand, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley strides into a conference room on the fourth floor of an old government building in downtown Annapolis. “I brought lunch,” he whispers to no one in particular and, stooping slightly in the way that people do when they enter a meeting late, takes a seat. For a moment, he is quiet.

He’d spent the morning in discussion with various members of the state legislature, which is in session just a few steps away at the statehouse on the hill. Up there, laws are being shaped and votes cast, mostly in the governor’s favor, but it’s down here, in this windowless room, packed with staff from three of Maryland’s state agencies and his own executive team, that O’Malley’s political impact is deepest. In 2000, as a young mayor of Baltimore, he pioneered this type of meeting—biweekly, multi-agency, data-driven performance reviews—and thirteen years later they’re still the cornerstone of his legacy as a politician.

“So that’s the carrot at the end of the stick that you hope the community colleges are going to close in after?” O’Malley asks, breaking his short silence. He leans forward in his chair, his elbows on the table and the contents of his lunch—a dry deli sandwich, a bag of potato chips—lined up in front of him like a control panel.

“That’s right, sir,” a man in the back of the room says. They’re referring to an incentive to get students to use Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s online Workforce Dashboard. It was designed to help colleges, businesses, and job seekers get a snapshot of employment opportunities in the state, but also to allow the state to gather better data on who’s looking for jobs, where, and with what skills, to improve both monitoring and outreach efforts. As of now, not enough people are using the Dashboard to make it a valuable tool.

“I know everyone’s got budget constraints, but why don’t we all talk about how to market this more?” the governor asks, and as is typical in these meetings, the attention turns to an array of charts, maps, and digital reams of Excel spreadsheets, each illustrating the nuts and bolts of the program, the population it’s serving, and the various outputs and inputs and outcomes over the past few months. The idea is to use data like a scalpel to dissect how a government program works, to pinpoint where, exactly, it’s breaking down, and then to use these collaborative meetings to solve the problem at hand.

“We gotta get those numbers up,” O’Malley says, gesturing to one graph in particular and taking a bite of the sandwich. In addition to the Department of Labor, the Departments of Business and Economic Development (DBEV) and Veterans Affairs are also present. “What about DBEV? Can you guys help with this?” he asks, still chewing.

And with that, the governor launches a spirited question-and-answer session—he compares it to a cross-examination—that lasts for the better part of forty-five minutes, his voice sometimes muffled by mouthfuls of bread. As the meeting unspools, the topics shift, from the jobs Web site to foreclosure rates to reducing recidivism among recently released convicts.

Nearly an hour later, the governor stops for some air. He attends meetings like this only about once every couple months, usually delegating the day-to-day management to his executive staff, but it’s clear he enjoys the role. He leans back in his chair and wipes the smudges of his lunch off his iPad with his green-striped tie. “Sorry, Sam,” he says, chuckling and turning to one of his staffers, who usually heads up these meetings. “The witness is yours!”

O’Malley is not the kind of person who’s afraid to take over a meeting. “I’m an operations guy,” he tells me afterward, partly by way of explanation. “I’ve always liked digging into the numbers, figuring out what’s going on and doing the kind of analysis that the other guys won’t do.” In the hallway after the meeting, two staffers corroborate the point. He seems so much more relaxed in meetings like that, they say, when he’s not “doing all the politician stuff.”

In truth, O’Malley, who is fifty and handsome in a Kennedy sort of way, has made a career out of all the politician stuff, chomping his way up the political food chain like a man hungry for more than a deli sandwich. After serving as a Baltimore city councilman in the 1990s, he was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1999 and then governor of Maryland seven years later, where he’ll remain until 2015. Because of term limits, he can’t run again. Every pundit in America has predicted he’s going to run for president in 2016, and O’Malley has done everything he can to encourage that speculation, short of outright admitting it’s true.

As governor, he’s pushed a series of bills that are all but guaranteed to impress Democratic primary and caucus voters three years from now, on topics ranging from guns (against), gay marriage (for), the death penalty (against), medical marijuana (for), and implementing Dream Act-like policies at Maryland’s colleges and universities. Just as Bill Clinton did in the 1980s, when he too was a relative unknown, O’Malley has also sought positions in recent years that have allowed him to sidle into the national limelight. In both 2011 and 2012, he served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and he’s since stayed on as the finance chairman, which will allow him to continue to meet top donors. During the election last year, he was a regular fixture on the talk show circuit, often playing the role of President Barack Obama’s personal attack dog. In one interview with ABC’s This Week last summer, O’Malley managed to mention former Governor Mitt Romney’s “Swiss bank accounts” and “offshore” tax havens seventeen times in three minutes flat.

With that iron message discipline, plus his standing as one of the Democrats’ most successful governors (with thirty statehouses in GOP hands, the Dems’ roster is slim), O’Malley won a coveted primetime speaking slot for the second time (he spoke in 2004, too) at the Democratic National Convention last September. He whiffed it—again, just as Clinton did in 1988—but spent the remaining time juggling a packed schedule of schmooze, addressing swing state delegates by day and jamming with his Irish rock band, O’Malley’s March, by night. In recent years, the governor has also made public forays into Iowa and New Hampshire and launched a political action committee, the O’Say Can You See PAC, to raise money that he will be at liberty to distribute, one of his critics groused, “like favor-doing fairy dust,” to fellow Democrats before the midterm races in 2014. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2013 at 10:09 am

Posted in Democrats, Politics


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