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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

Republicans Find Yet Another Ingenious Way to Suppress Democratic Votes

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The GOP hates fair elections because in those elections some voters cast ballots for Democrats, and the GOP above all wants to win and is willing to use any means necessary. Kevin Drum points out the latest maneuver now that the GOP has a strong political force on the bench of the Supreme Court:

The number of ways that Republicans invent to reduce the voting power of the Democratic Party is truly impressive. Here’s the latest:

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

A ruling that districts must be based on equal numbers of voters would move political power away from cities, with their many immigrants and children, and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas.

….The Supreme Court over the past nearly 25 years has turned away at least three similar challenges, and many election law experts expressed surprise that the justices agreed to hear this one. But since Chief Justice John G. Roberts has led the court, it has been active in other voting cases.

Over the past few decades we’ve seen pack-n-crack, photo ID laws, old fashioned gerrymandering, mid-decade gerrymandering, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, reductions in early voting, the crippling of campaign finance law, illegal purges of voter rolls, and now this: a change in the way people are counted that would favor Republican-leaning districts.

From a purely academic view, you really have to be impressed by the GOP’s relentless creativity in finding ever more ways to trim the votes of groups who lean Democratic. They’ve done a great job. Sure, it’s been a violent and cynical assault on our country’s notions of fairness in the voting booth, but that’s for eggheads to worry about. After all, it worked. Right? Maybe its made a difference of only a point or two in presidential elections and fewer than a dozen districts in congressional elections, but in a closely balanced electorate that counts for a lot. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 May 2015 at 10:54 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

Why Jeb Can’t Answer the Damn Question

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Martin Longman writes in the Washington Monthly:

Hopefully, if the phone rings at 3am in the White House, Jeb Bush won’t have to give four different answers to whatever questions he gets before he can arrive at one that people won’t reject as ridiculous.

Now, there is a very simple IF>THEN logic to why Jeb was reluctant to say that he wouldn’t have authorized the invasion of Iraq if he had known that Saddam was armed with soggy spit shooters. That works like this:

IF we invaded Iraq based on the faulty assumption that Saddam Hussein was armed with dangerous weapons
THEN everyone who died as a result, died for a mistake.

Jeb understandably did not want to go there, but that’s really putting a whitewash on what actually happened.

When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq, he hadn’t even received the intelligence on Saddam’s weapons yet.

May 05, 2002

Two months ago, a group of Republican and Democratic Senators went to the White House to meet with Condoleezza Rice, the President’s National Security Adviser. Bush was not scheduled to attend but poked his head in anyway — and soon turned the discussion to Iraq. The President has strong feelings about Saddam Hussein (you might too if the man had tried to assassinate your father, which Saddam attempted to do when former President George Bush visited Kuwait in 1993) and did not try to hide them. He showed little interest in debating what to do about Saddam. Instead, he became notably animated, according to one person in the room, used a vulgar epithet to refer to Saddam and concluded with four words that left no one in doubt about Bush’s intentions: “We’re taking him out.”

This is the sanitized version. What Bush said was, “F*ck Saddam, we’re taking him out.” To date this, two months before May 5th, 2002 was approximately March 5th, 2002. Let’s march forward a little in time.

I’m going to rely on a bit of Bob Woodward’s reporting here, which I do with obvious reservations. But the basics have been corroborated by many other reporters: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2015 at 8:50 am

Armaments manufacturers push for more wars

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After the Great War (aka WW I), there was much talk and writing of how manufacturers of armaments and ammo had profited from the war, and strong suspicion that they had pushed for the war in order to increase their profits.

Nowadays, the push from armaments manufacturers—the military-industrial complex—is much more overt and brazen: they want war because that will make money for them. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security — a new group led by former government officials with ties to the military contractors — is expandinginto South Carolina as the organization seeks to press presidential candidates to adopt more hawkish positions.

As we reported earlier this month, APPS was launched this year to encourage candidates to embrace “American engagement” abroad on a range of issues the group presents as dangerous threats to national security. The group is led by former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Many of the people on its board work for major military and homeland security corporations.

On Wednesday, APPS announced a new chapter in South Carolina and its intent to sponsor a candidate forum next month.

Jonathan Hoffman, a former border security official in the George W. Bush administration, will serve as the executive director of the South Carolina chapter. Hoffman previously ran for Congress and worked as a consultant to the Chertoff Group, the homeland security-focused consulting firm founded by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

The South Carolina chapter will be advised by a local board that includes former Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., now an adviser to a lobbying group representing the shoe industry and Van D. Hipp Jr., the chair of a lobbying firm that represents drone-maker General Atomics as well as General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Leidos and Raytheon.

The group continues to expand. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2015 at 8:28 am

James Fallows on the questions to be asked of presidential candidates

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Excellent Atlantic blog post by James Fallows:

First some operating principles, then a little history lesson. The principles:

1) No one ever again—not a news person nor a civilian, not an American nor one from anyplace else—should waste another second asking, “Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?” Reasons:

a) It’s too easy. Similarly: “Knowing what we know now, would you have bought a ticket on Malaysia Air flight 370?” The only people who might say Yes on the Iraq question would be those with family ties (poor Jeb Bush); those who are inept or out of practice in handling potentially tricky questions (surprisingly, again poor Bush); or those who are such Cheney-Bolton-Wolfowitz-style bitter enders that they survey the landscape of “what we know now”—the cost and death and damage, the generation’s worth of chaos unleashed in the Middle East, and of course the absence of WMDs—and still say, Heck of a job.

b) It doesn’t tell you anything. Leaders don’t make decisions on the basis of “what we know now” retrospectively. They have to weigh evidence based on “what we knew then,” in real time.

Which brings us to:

2) The questions reporters and citizens should ask instead. There are two of them.

   a) Based on “what we knew then,” how did you assess the evidence, possible benefits, and possible risks of invading Iraq? What were your views as of early 2003? This is a straightforward-rather-than-tricky, for-the-record query. It’s a prelude to the much more important question:

b) Regardless of whether you feel you were right or wrong, prescient or misled, how exactly will the experience of Iraq—yours in weighing evidence, the country’s in going to war—shape your decisions about the future, unforeseeable choices about committing American force?

Question 2(b) is the essential question, on this topic, for candidates aspiring to become president. In assessing answers to this question:

—Minus points to any candidate who tries to bluff through with the tired “I don’t do hypotheticals” cliché. That might apply if you’re a military commander declining to say exactly when and where you’ll attack. But if you want to be president you need to explain the mindset with which you’ll approach still-undefined (that is, hypothetical) challenges.

—Plus points to any candidate who wrestles honestly with the question of what he (or she) has learned from being wrong (or right) about Iraq.

* * *

Now, the little history lesson. I am reinforcing a point already made in different ways by Peter Beinart for the Atlantic, Steve Benen for the Maddow Show blog, Greg Sargent in the WaPo, and Paul Krugman in the NY Times. But it is so very important, and in so much danger of being swamped by the current “Knowing what we know…” bomfog, that I feel I have to weigh in.

  • The “knowing what we know” question presumes that the Bush Administration and the U.S. public were in the role of impartial jurors, or good-faith strategic decision-makers, who while carefully weighing the evidence were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat.
  • That view is entirely false.
  • The war was going to happen. The WMD claims were the result of the need to find a case for the war, rather than the other way around. Paul Krugman is exactly right when he says:

“The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that.”

This is blunter than I usually sound. Why am I putting it this way? I laid out as many details as I could in my book Blind Into Baghdad, and in an Atlantic article with the same name and one called “Bush’s Lost Year.” But here is a summary of things I saw first hand:

•  I was in Washington on the morning of September 11, 2001. When the telephones started working again that afternoon, I called my children and parents, and my then-editors at the Atlantic, Michael Kelly and Cullen Murphy. After that, the very next call I made was to a friend who was working inside the Pentagon when it was hit, and had already been mobilized into a team planning the U.S.-strategic response. “We don’t know exactly where the attack came from,” he told me that afternoon. “But I can tell you where the response will be: in Iraq.” I wrote about this in the Atlantic not longer afterwards, and in my book. My friend was being honest in expressing his own preferences: He viewed Saddam Hussein as the basic source of instability in the region. But he made clear that even if he personally had felt otherwise, Iraq was where things were already headed.

• Four days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush held a meeting of his advisors at Camp David. Soon after that meeting, rumors emerged of what is by now settled historical fact: that Paul Wolfowitz, with the apparent backing of Donald Rumsfeld, spoke strongly for invading Iraq along with, or instead of, fighting in Afghanistan. (For an academic paper involving the meeting, see this.) The principals voted against moving against Iraq immediately. But from that point on it was a matter of how and when the Iraq front would open up, not whether.

• Anyone who was paying attention to military or political trends knew for certain by the end of 2001 that the administration and the military were gearing up to invade Iraq. If you want a timeline, again I refer you to my book — or to this review of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, which describes Bush’s meetings with General Tommy Franks in December, 2001, to draw up invasion plans. By late 2001 forces, weapons, and emphasis were already being diverted from Afghanistan in preparation for the Iraq war, even though there had not yet been any national “debate” over launching that war.

• Want some proof that we, at the Atlantic, took seriously the fact that the Iraq decision had already been made? By late February, 2002, our editors were basing our coverage plans on the certainty of the coming war. That month I started doing interviews for the article that ran in the November, 2002 issue of the print magazine but which we actually put owe put online in August. It was called “The Fifty-First State” and its premise was: The U.S. is going to war, it will “win” in the short term, but God knows what it will then unleash.

• All this was a year before the invasion, seven months before Condoleezza Rice’s scare interview (“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”), also seven months before Rumsfeld’s “trained ape” quote (“There’s no debate in the world as to whether they have these weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that”), and six months before Dick Cheney’s big VFW scare speech (“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction”). It was long before the United States supposedly “decided” to go to war.

In the late summer of 2002, the public began hearing about the mounting WMD menace as the reason we had to invade Iraq. But that was not the reason. Plans for the invasion had already been underway for months. The war was already coming; the “reason” for war just had to catch up. . .

Continue reading.

It’s amazing that a small group can so deliberately lie to create a war that killed and maimed thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and suffer no consequences whatsoever for their actions.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 May 2015 at 1:18 pm

Matt Welch of Reason has some choice words for GOP authoritarians

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Matt Welch writes:

Another day, another round of embarrassing authoritarian nonsense from would-be Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the honey-throated apocalyptic who Ed Krayewski writes about below, made the following “joke” on Saturday:

If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinking about that? — I’m not going to call a judge, I’m going to call a drone and we will kill you.

Previously in Graham joke-ology, John McCain’s mini-me said that the “first thing” he would do as president is refuse to “let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts.” Tee-hee!

Speaking of longshot candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apparently thinks this is a winning message in the Live Free or Die State:

Christie will say [in prepared remarks Monday] that Americans “shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin – while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”

“When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their own narrow agenda. They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie is set to declare.

While savoring that phrase civil liberties extremists, please do note that John Ashcroft was going around giving that same speech back in the summer of 2003, just lying his face off in the process.

The most cheery aspect to this sub-Zell Miller crankery is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2015 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

How Money Runs Our Politics

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Elizabeth Drew writes in the NY Review of Books:

With each election come innovations in ways that the very rich donate and the candidates collect and spend increasingly large amounts of money on campaigns. And with each decision on campaign financing the current Supreme Court’s conservative majority, with Chief Justice John Roberts in the lead, removes some restrictions on money in politics. We are now at the point where, practically speaking, there are no limits on how much money an individual, a corporation, or a labor union can give to a candidate for federal office (though the unions can hardly compete).

Today a presidential candidate has to have two things and maybe three before making a serious run: at least one billionaire willing to spend limitless amounts on his or her campaign and a “Super PAC”—a supposedly independent political action committee that accepts large donations that have to be disclosed. The third useful asset is an organization that under the tax code is supposedly “operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” The relevant section of the tax code, 501(c)(4), would appear to be intended for the Sierra Club and the like, not political money. But the IRS rules give the political groups the same protection.

The contributions to these last groups have come to be called “dark money” because the donors can remain secret. The very wealthy can contribute to such dark money groups in the knowledge that people won’t know who is trying to buy a candidate.

At this stage of the campaign, while some politicians are ostensibly still agonizing over whether or not to run, the would-be candidates are engaged in setting up the “independent” fundraising groups that will support them; they aren’t even bothering to call mere millionaires. And the idea that campaign contributions aren’t intended as a quid pro quo is fast crumbling.

Fortunately for the candidates, given the way the benefits of the economy are concentrated there’s an adequate supply of billionaires—people who enjoy investing in a candidate, in whom they may actually believe, and whose gratitude would be most useful if that candidate were to win. Meanwhile, the billionaire can indulge in name-dropping, in the reality or illusion of being on the inside of a campaign with the prospect of access to the candidate who ends up in the Oval Office.

With enough money behind him or her, even a preposterous candidate can at least for a while be a real factor in the nominating contest. The billionaires sometimes seemingly come out of nowhere. Few had heard of Foster Friess, who suddenly popped up in 2012 supporting Rick Santorum—a seemingly improbable prospect for winning the presidency given his retrograde social views and his reputation for having been a brash but mediocre senator. Friess, a business investor and evangelical Christian conservative, kept Santorum in the primaries for a lot longer than would have been reasonably expected. Friess himself became famous when, defending Santorum’s opposition to contraceptives, he asserted that women (“gals”) could stave off pregnancy by putting an aspirin “between their knees.” He is now supporting Santorum again for the 2016 race.

The erratic but seldom boring Newt Gingrich, never a serious candidate for the presidency, came in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire in 2012, but with the help of the billionaire Las Vegas–based casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, he swept the important South Carolina primary and seemed to truly believe that he could win the nomination.

Thus, a single exceptionally rich person can distort the nomination race, meanwhile confusing candidates into thinking that they’re more popular than they are. Of course other factors can play into the successes of the well-backed candidate: Gingrich benefited from what were seen by many as strong performances in debates.

Adelson’s prominence in 2012 as well as his generosity to congressional candidates has made him one of the most powerful people in the country. His wealth is estimated at over $35 billion, and he and his wife, Miriam, a dual citizen of Israel and the US, are fervent supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive policies. Adelson is reported to have spent at least $92 million on the 2012 election. As a casino owner, Adelson unsurprisingly also seeks a ban on Internet gambling. Lindsey Graham, said to be nearing an entrance into the 2016 Republican free-for-all, is the principal sponsor of this Adelson cause in Congress. Graham recently told The Wall Street Journal, “I may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America because of the pro-Israel funding.”

As early as March 2014, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich flew to Las Vegas to appear before a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition—the pilgrimage was to seek Adelson’s favor. Christie had to apologize to Adelson for having referred to “occupied territories.” Walker let the group know that he owns a menorah. This year a larger number of Republican candidates trooped to Las Vegas. Adelson pressured the donees to support Netanyahu’s position against the nuclear deal with Iran.

Most of the candidates for the nominations for 2016 have their pet billionaires. Hillary Clinton has more than one. Among them so far are Alice Walton of Walmart and Marc Benioff, a San Francisco businessman who supported Barack Obama. All contributed early to Clinton’s Super PAC, Ready for Hillary. For now, to give the impression that her campaign is supported by the ever-expanding idea of who the “grassroots” are, donations to Ready for Hillary are limited to $25,000. Clinton also enjoys the support of some Hollywood billionaires, such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban, an entertainment executive worth an estimated $3.4 billion who has been generous to the Clintons in the past and is another supporter of right-wing Israeli policies. The big money for Clinton is expected to go both to Priorities USA, a Super PAC that backed Obama but is now switching to support her and will spend dark money on ads, and also to another group, called Priorities USA Action, that won’t be hiding its contributors.

Clinton’s side hoped to scare off serious rivals for the Democratic nomination by letting it be known that she planned to raise a staggering $2.5 billion for her campaign. . . [that is, she planned to buy the nomination, pure and simple; does anyone believe that this amount of money does not have some serious strings attached? Perhaps the title should be “How money ruins our politics.” – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2015 at 4:00 pm

The Fraternity of Failure

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Paul Krugman has an exceptionally good NY Times column today, and the comments are worth reading as well. It begins:

Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.

The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time”is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view, and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Mr. Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

What’s going on here? My best explanation is . . .

Continue reading. By all means, read the whole thing—and some of the comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2015 at 10:32 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government


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