Archive for the ‘Election’ Category
Another reason people support Bernie: Obama Celebrates Nine Years of Doing Nothing About Money in Politics
In too many areas establishiment politicians do nothing when facing the problem of the adverse effects of oligarchy in the US. Obama has carefully hired Wall Street protectors as Wall Street regulators, and the outright fraud practiced by Wall Street—proven fraud, that led to criminal actions and large fines and settlements—did not put a single person in prison: there was zero accountability of those responsible for what happened. And Obaa similarly talked about the importance of the issue of money in politics, but then never took a single small step to solve the problem. Jon Schwarz writes in The Intercept:
President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, on Wednesday, nine years to the day after he kicked off his first presidential campaign there, and, just like in 2007, spoke passionately about his desire to reduce the influence of big money in politics.
In 2007, Obama said, “The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests [have] turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. … They think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back.”
On Wednesday, Obama told the Illinois legislature, “We have to reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics that makes people feel like the system is rigged.”
This time, of course, Obama is president and could actually do something about it. There are many actions he could take on his own, without approval from Congress or the courts. In particular, he could issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose any “dark money” contributions to politically active nonprofits.
Obama did mention dark money in his speech, saying that it “drowns out ordinary voices.”
He also mentioned the general concept of taking presidential action on his own, but only for comedic value: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers. … If I did I would have already done them through executive action! That was just a joke, guys.”
Activists have delivered over 1 million signatures to the White House demanding that Obama sign an executive order on dark money. A similar petition set up via the White House website’s system passed the 100,000 signatory threshold requiring the Obama administration to respond.
The White House recently posted a desultory answer to the petition that quotes Obama as saying that “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics” — but doesn’t acknowledge the petition’s demand that Obama, not “we,” take specific action. Kurt Walters, campaign manager at Rootstrikers and one of the petition’s organizers, called the response “offensive to the millions of Americans demanding an end to secret money influencing elections.”
In retrospect, Obama’s speech nine years ago was full of foreshadowing. “I understand the skepticism,” he said. “After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises. … But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.”
This is the sort of thing that drives liberals to Bernie Sanders: Bernie wants to attack the problem, Hillary seems to want to push it around her plate but do nothing about it, much like Obama.
At NPR Jessica Taylor takes a look. From her analysis:
. . . A 34 percent plurality of voters said whether a candidate is honest and trustworthy mattered most to them — and among those voters, Sanders thumped Clinton 91 percent to 5 percent. . .
That one hit home.
Asking questions of the candidates can be done right, it’s just that the press won’t (can’t?) do it. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:
Presidential candidates these days are accustomed to mainstream reporters quizzing them on process and politics, with a typical media scrum filled with questions about the latest polls, repeated demands for a response to the most recent attack from rival campaigns, and sometimes even vapid inquiries about workout routines or favorite foods.
So a group of Quakers has been trying to fill the substance vacuum — by training hundreds of activists to stalk the candidates in early primary states and ask them tough questions on issues ranging from immigrant detention to nuclear weapons to the role of money in politics.
The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that works to promote social justice, trained over 1,100 activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. Students, veterans, climate activists, and others learned how to formulate the right question, approach a candidate at an event, and record the interaction so it can be shared through social media.
They’ve asked over 250 questions so far, many of them available on their website as “Bird Dog Reports“.
“It might be at a cafe like this,” explains Arnie Alpert, co-director of the effort in New Hampshire, as we sit together in a booth at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester. “We find out a candidate will be there and we have a volunteer and he says, ‘I’ll go and have coffee.’”
Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie have all been confronted by staff and volunteers associated with the project. Several of the questions have gone viral online, with some making news: Iraq war veteran Will Hopkins, a volunteer with the AFSC group and the director of NH Peace Action, was able to ask Clinton a question about the influence of military contractors at a town hall that was broadcast on NBC’s Today Show.
For all the talk about this election revolving around national security and government spending, the AFSC group is the only one dedicated to asking candidates about President Barack Obama’s planned $1 trillion nuclear arms program, bloated military programs such as the Pentagon’s F-35, and how to diminish the influence of lobbying by military contractors. Activists trained with the group have also asked about fracking, ethanol subsidies, and other issues they say are clouded by the pervasive role of money in politics.
Sometimes the benefit is getting the candidate on record. Other times, Alpert says, there is an educational component, because the candidates are forced to think about policy matters that are all too often ignored on the trail.
He recalls the very first campaign event in the state hosted by Lindsey Graham. Every reporter asked horserace questions or encouraged Graham to say something about Hillary Clinton. Alpert says he used the opportunity to talk about private prisons and immigration, specifically federal laws concerning the so called “detention quota.”
Activists have pointed to federal rules that stipulate that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement fill a daily quota of 34,000 beds in detention facilities, a policy that experts say has driven up the number of immigrants held in detention facilities. Private prison companies, which operate immigrant detention facilities, have lobbied to maintain the quota.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Wow, I thought I knew everything about immigration but I didn’t know about the detention quota!’” Alpert’s eyes light up as he tells the story, adding that Graham seemed to appreciate the exchange of ideas.
“The voters by and large want to talk about the issues. So what we’re doing through this training is helping make it possible for voters who want to talk about issues that matter to get into these forums and actually do that,” Alpert says.
Alpert traces the strategy back to anti-nuclear weapons campaigns organized by the AFSC in the 1980s, when volunteers used to work to educate candidates about nonproliferation. In 2004, the effort gained steam as AFSC was able to encourage Howard Dean to start talking about the dangers of free trade policies by constantly showing up at his campaign events to talk about the issue. In 2008, volunteers peppered candidates of both parties with questions about foreign policy, with John McCain memorably responding to a question about how many years U.S. forces should remain in Iraq by saying “maybe 100”
To get a better sense of how the process works, I traveled to New Ipswich, where a group of military veterans were in the process of being trained by the AFSC to talk to candidates. . .
His post corrects a couple of misunderstandings I had had—e.g., he provides reasons for her turnabout on the bankruptcy bill.
It occurs to me that one characteristic we want in the Democratic candidate, should s/he become president, is a kind of political sustainability: the ability to move proposals and policies into the structure of government. I think, absent a complete political revolution in which Congress completely changes hands, which does not seem likely, that Hillary can provide that. I do think Bernie Sanders is doing a good job of pushing her policy positions to the left by demonstrating clearly just how much support there is for a more progressive Democratic party. So in the event that Hillary wins the nomination, I can vote for her with more hope than I had before Bernie appeared on the scene.
David Dayen reports in The Intercept:
Former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder is prominently featured in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad running in South Carolina. “If you want to make sure Republicans don’t take us backward, help Hillary move us forward,” Holder says.
Meanwhile, in his post-public service life as a partner with white-collar defense firm Covington & Burling, Holder is upholding his Justice Department’s tradition of negotiating lower fines for corporate offenses, albeit from the other side of the negotiating table.
The Associated Press reports that Holder, whose Justice Department prosecuted no major executive for the fraud that led to the 2008 financial crisis, is representing South African telecommunications conglomerate MTN in a $3.9 billion dispute with the country of Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria did not deactivate 5.2 million unregistered cell phone SIM cards after the Nigerian Communications Commission ordered them to do so by August 2015. Extremist groups operating in Nigeria use the cards for communications in kidnappings and attacks.
The commission initially imposed a $5.2 billion fine, which MTN challenged in court and got reduced to $3.9 billion. Now, Holder “is leading MTN’s legal team” in attempting to get the fine further reduced or eliminated, according to the commission’s spokesman, Tony Ojobo. The Federal High Court in Lagos has given MTN and the commission until March 18 to negotiate a settlement. Holder is negotiating directly with Nigerian officials, the AP reported.
During his Justice Department leadership, Holder specialized in negotiating settlements with corporations. The Justice Department issued a record numberof deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, allowing corporations charged with misconduct to buy their way out of trouble without jail time or clawed-back bonuses.
Covington & Burling defends corporate clients all over the world, including telecom, pharmaceutical, and financial interests. They openly promote getting bank clients off the hook in their marketing materials.
Holder defended corporations at the firm before becoming attorney general, and immediately returned there at the end of his tenure, calling it “home for me.” A year earlier, he purchased a condo that sits 300 feet from Covington & Burling’s new headquarters in Washington. The firm even held open a corner office in that new building for Holder while he was a sitting attorney general, while he negotiated settlements with Covington & Burling clients.
But Holder bristles at the suggestion that there might be a connection between his current employer and his conduct at Justice.
Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division at DOJ under Holder, also returned to Covington & Burling after government work. In all, six former Justice Department officials now work at the firm.
The game is indeed rigged. And note the sort of people supporting Hillary. No wonder they fear Bernie.
Kevin Drum gets down into the nitty-gritty of evaluating costs of proposed plans. And it’s quite interesting, showing how two people looking at the same plan can differ greatly in their estimation of costs—and thus in answering two key questions, “Is it worth it? and is it fiscally sustainable?”
Kevin Drum posts in his Mother Jones blog:
Watching Donald Trump make excuses for yet another business failure is edifying.Here’s Trump on why he lost in Iowa:
I think we could’ve used a better ground game, a term I wasn’t even familiar with….But people told me my ground game was fine. And I think by most standards it was.
Hey, “people” told him his ground game was fine! And it was. By most standards. Anyway, Iowa doesn’t really matter. And Ted Cruz cheated. And the grass was wet. And the sun was in his eyes.
This is Trump all over. He hops from one failure to another, always with a handy excuse. Football is a lousy business. Eastern Airlines ripped me off. The Plaza would have done great if the economy hadn’t turned down. Atlantic City was overbuilt. I never really had anything to do with Trump University.
This is the same guy who thinks that running America will be child’s play. It’s so easy. Just watch. But he’s such a lousy manager that he never bothered to learn what a “ground game” is—which is roughly the equivalent of understanding about food costs if you run a restaurant.
I wouldn’t hire Donald Trump to run a lemonade stand, let alone the United States of America. I don’t think I could stand the pity party. He needs to take his daddy issues to a shrink, not the Oval Office.