Month: November 2014

Just like how Scott Walker has gotten away with corruption, Darren Wilson gets away with murder

By any reasonable standard, Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker should be behind bars and not in public office now. Walker has, among other things, illegally solicited $700,000 from an iron ore mining company to a right-wing political organization and has had public employees campaign for him on government time. Despite that, the justice system in Wisconsin and at the federal level has protected Walker, even allowing his right-wing cronies to argue that corruption is a form of free speech, an absolutely absurd claim.

Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson, earlier tonight, quite literally got away with murdering Michael Brown, Jr., an 18-year-old black teenager. That’s because a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the shooting occurred, decided not to press any charges whatsoever (not even for manslaughter) against Wilson. In fact, the St. Louis County, Missouri Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, basically gave Darren Wilson’s side of the story to explain why the grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson.

The reason I’m trying to compare Walker and Wilson is this: If you’re a white man in a position of power in this country, you’re going to get considerably more favorable treatment from the justice system than anyone else. I think that’s wrong, and there needs to be real reform of the justice system in this country.

Did Harry Reid throw Chuck Schumer under the bus?

POLITICO published this article about the backroom dealings that resulted in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a staunch supporter of protecting consumers from Wall Street grid being appointed to a leadership position in the U.S. Senate as the Strategic Policy Adviser of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), which is run by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Wall Street’s favorite Democratic Senator.

Having read the article it sounds like soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) threw Schumer, who, despite being the #3 Democrat in the U.S. Senate, has long been viewed as Reid’s inevitable successor, under the bus by putting Warren into a leadership position:

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has long been viewed as the heir apparent to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, with such strong support among moderates that a group of them privately urged him to mount a coup for party leader after the midterm election meltdown.

Schumer didn’t take on Reid — he’s too loyal — but he is being forced to face a new power center inside the caucus, populists such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

When Reid was in talks with Warren about a job in Senate leadership earlier this month, Schumer suggested tapping moderate Sen. Mark Warner, too, to balance out her progressive politics — or perhaps making her a “liaison to liberal groups,” a narrower job than what Reid had proposed, according to sources familiar with the private talks.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said no to both of Schumer’s suggestions, later taking the job as a policy adviser to Schumer’s messaging operation.

Warren’s rise in Senate leadership – and her popularity among grassroots liberals – represents an unexpected presence in Schumer’s leadership orbit, where he has spent years cultivating a reputation as one of the masterminds of Democratic messaging.

As one Senate Democratic source put it: “The turf [Schumer] thought he knew may have shifted beneath his feet.”

Schumer and his fellow Wall Street Democrats can deny this all they want, but Reid, who is not a hero to progressives by any stretch of the imagination, may have very well ended any chance of Schumer becoming the leader of the Democrats in the United States Senate. It’s pretty clear to me that Schumer got rolled big time by Reid, and Schumer has been trying to cover his ass ever since, first by trying to get Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a fellow corporate hack, appointed to the DPCC, and then by trying to dismiss Warren and referring to her as a “liberal liaison” to the corporate media.

Elizabeth Warren is not going to be some liaison selling Chuck Schumer’s snake oil to progressive groups. She’s a bona fide progressive who could very well end up being Senate Democratic Leader someday, and, needless to say, Schumer and his fellow old boys and girls network members don’t like that one damn bit.

NARAL and Planned Parenthood send out joint press release praising Republicans who oppose reproductive rights

Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards and the national head of the women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, praised Republican U.S. Senators-elect Cory Gardner (CO), Joni Ernst (IA) and Thom Tillis (NC) in a press release issued by the reproductive rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice America, despite the fact that Gardner, Ernst, and Tillis are all strongly opposed to reproductive rights:

“If you remember one thing about election night, it should be this: Far from women’s health and rights being a losing issue, it was an issue that helped both Democrats and Republicans win. That’s a huge shift,” said Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Politicians like Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis and Joni Ernst won by moderating their positions on access to birth control and abortion. This data clearly shows that voters didn’t elect them to restrict women’s access to health care, and voters will hold them accountable to what they promised.”

Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, and Thom Tillis did absolutely nothing to moderate their far-right opposition to reproductive rights. All three of them ran away from and/or outright lied about their opposition to allowing women to control their own health care decisions and their support for extreme anti-women’s rights measures like the Personhood Amendment. That’s not being moderate, that’s being afraid to admit their real anti-woman agenda, which would, among other things, result in more unsafe, backalley abortions and women being legally unable to obtain birth control.

What Cecile Richards said about Gardner, Ernst, and Tillis (doesn’t that sound like a shady law firm to you?) amounts to Richards giving political cover to Republicans by allowing them to lie about their medieval views on women’s issues and get away with it. What Richards said in that press release would make her mother roll over in her grave.

Corporate media launches racist attack against Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges because she pointed at black guy

KSTP-TV, the Hubbard Broadcasting-owned ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ran a racist smear piece against Minneapolis, Minnesota Mayor Betsy Hodges on one of their local newscasts earlier this week because she was filmed pointing at Navell Gordon, a black community activist affiliated with a group called Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, during a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort in Minneapolis for the this year’s November elections.

KSTP has been the subject of frequent criticism since they ran that racist piece, in fact, the Twitter hashtag #pointergate has been trending non-stop on Twitter since not long after KSTP aired and published the piece. KSTP deserves to be criticized over this, in my opinion. This smear attack against Hodges is clearly racist, since KSTP wouldn’t have aired such a piece if the person she was pointing at was a white person like me.

KSTP responded to the criticism over their racist piece by claiming that they aired and published the piece because the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) asked them to do so. Given that most police officers in this country are more interested in hunting down black people than actually protecting and serving their communities these days, it’s even worse that KSTP admitted to being a public relations shop for the police department of Minnesota’s largest city.

It’s bad enough that there are tons of right-wing Republican politicians who launch Willie Horton-style attacks against Democratic candidates for public office. It’s even worse that the corporate media is doing the Willie Horton-style attacks against Democratic elected officials themselves. These kind of pieces by the corporate media do nothing but stir up racial tensions in this country.

Betsy Hodges is not a gangbanger, and for KSTP to effectively claim that she is amounts to nothing more than a racist attack against her. It’s about damn time that the corporate media got called out on their race-baiting and right-wing bias in a big way!

U.S. Supreme Court is once again in a position to take health insurance away from millions of Americans

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has a 5-4 conservative majority on most cases before it, has taken up a case that could effectively kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has provided me and millions of other Americans with health insurance, in most of the country.

The case involves four words in the law regarding federal subsides that help people like me afford health insurance off of the ACA exchanges:

The Supreme Court, moving back into the abiding controversy over the Affordable Care Act, agreed early Friday afternoon to decide how far the federal government can extend its program of subsidies to buyers of health insurance.  At issue is whether the program of tax credits applies only in the consumer marketplaces set up by sixteen states, and not at federally operated sites in thirty-four states.

Rather than waiting until Monday to announce its action, which would be the usual mode at this time in the Court year, the Justices released the order granting review of King v. Burwell not long after finishing their closed-door private Conference.

By adding the case to its decision docket at this point, without waiting for further action in lower federal courts, as the Obama administration had asked, the Court ensured that it would rule on the case during the current Term.  If it decides to limit the subsidies to the state-run “exchanges,” it is widely understood that that outcome would crash the ACA’s carefully balanced economic arrangements.

[…]

Since the health care exchanges have been in operation, nearly five million individuals have received federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance on an exchange run by the federal government. The average subsidy had been about $4,700 per person.   The fate of those subsidies apparently will now depend upon how the Court interprets four words in the Affordable Care Act.  In setting up the subsidy scheme, Congress said it would apply to exchanges “established by the State.”

(emphasis mine)

Should SCOTUS, using a narrow interpretation of the law, declare that those who receive health insurance off of the federal health care exchange, established by the ACA in states that don’t have their own health care exchanges, are ineligible for federal subsidies, this would render the ACA effectively dead in, at worst, the 37 states that have either a federal-run marketplace, a federal-supported marketplace, or a state-federal partnership marketplace, leaving millions of Americans in those states unable to afford health insurance and legally forced to repay any federal subsidies that they’ve received to pay for health insurance off of the ACA exchanges. More than likely, there are at least four justices (if I were to guess, it would be the four conservative associate justices, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy) who would vote to strike down health insurance subsidies for those who receive health insurance off of the federal exchanges and effectively take away health insurance from millions of Americans, since it takes at least four justices deciding to hear a case for SCOTUS to hear that case and those were the four justices who sided against the ACA in a 2012 constitutional challenge to the law.

Should SCOTUS, using a broad interpretation of the law, declare that federal health care exchanges established by the ACA in states that do have their own health care exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies, this would preserve the ACA in all states and allow millions of Americans to keep their health insurance. More than likely, there are at least four justices (if I were to guess, it would be the four liberal associate justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer) who would vote to preserve health insurance subsidies for those who receive health insurance off of the federal health care exchange.

If I were to guess, the swing vote on whether or not to save the ACA would be…you guessed it, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the swing vote on the 2012 constitutional challenge to the ACA.

An Autopsy of the Democratic Party

Since being re-elected in 2012, President Barack Obama has declared war on Social Security by threatening to cut benefits, has presided over a Bush-Obama surveillance state that has violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people, refused to issue an executive order on immigration, and has spent more time trying to compromise with far-right Republicans that are completely unwilling to compromise with anybody.

Then throw in Democratic U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial candidates who have run awful campaigns, antagonized progressives, and have flatly refused to fight for anything, and we now have a Democratic Party that is, for all intents and purposes, effectively dead. Republicans are going to gain upwards of two dozen seats in the U.S. House, take control of the U.S. Senate, and score a net gain of state governorships. Even in states like Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland, which are usually thought of as Democratic strongholds, Republican candidates won gubernatorial races in each of those states.

Although reasons for Democratic losses vary widely by race to race, the #1 reason why the Democratic Party has been handed massive defeats tonight is the party leadership effectively treating progressives as if they don’t exist, even though they are the core of support for the party. Democratic governors, U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators, and candidates for those offices have, among other things supported fracking, pension theft, free trade agreements, privatizing public education, the Keystone XL pipeline, tax breaks for businesses, and Republican witchhunts against Democrats, as well as opposed environmental regulations, common-sense gun control measures like background checks, and even health insurance for millions of Americans. In many states/areas of the country, progressive ideals like raising the minimum wage, protecting reproductive rights, legalizing marijuana, and expanding Medicaid got significantly more votes in many parts of the country than most or all Democratic candidates did in those states/areas, indicating that there are people who are politically left-wing but, for whatever reason, vote for Republican candidates.

Pat Quinn, who lost re-election in the Illinois gubernatorial race, is probably the single-best example of someone who has alienated nearly every political ally and lost re-election because of it. In the past four years, Quinn gave out special tax breaks to two of the largest corporations in Illinois (Sears and CME Group), gerrymandered Illinois’s congressional and state legislative districts, opened up Illinois to fracking, and enacted a pension theft scheme that was partially struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. Additionally, Quinn picking Paul Vallas, a supporter of Michelle Rhee’s anti-public education ideology, further alienated progressives, making his problems with Illinois progressives even worse. Because of all of that, Illinois will have a far-right Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who wants to run Illinois like his venture capital company that did more to destroy jobs than create jobs, screw the poor in every way possible, and destroy the public education system in Illinois.

However, Democrats alienating progressives wasn’t the only reason why Democrats lost big time in this year’s midterm elections. The gutlessness of many Democratic candidates was one reason why Democrats lost big time. One of the best examples of this is Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic opponent to presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During her Senate campaign, Grimes largely distanced herself from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whose Kentucky state health insurance exchange is known as Kynect. Grimes could have centered her campaign around McConnell wanting to repeal the ACA (which would result in the repeal of Kynect) if she wanted to. Instead, she tried to make the race a referendum on McConnell, and it didn’t work. Another reason why some Democrats lost their races was the candidates themselves running flat-footed or even completely out-of-touch campaigns. Bruce Braley and Mark Udall are two examples of this. Braley, who lost the Iowa U.S. Senate race to Republican whacko Joni Ernst, came across to Iowa voters as an elitist and focused largely on issues that aren’t top priorities among Iowa voters (although they are very important issues), such as reproductive rights and student debt. Had Braley focused his campaign on issues like the minimum wage and wind energy, he might have won the election. Udall, who lost the Colorado U.S. Senate race to Republican extremist Cory Gardner, seemed to have all sorts of trouble trying to getting Democratic voters to mail their ballots in under Colorado’s new vote-by-mail system for whatever reason and didn’t really take his Republican challenger seriously for much of the campaign, and that’s the two primary reasons why Udall lost.

You add all of those reasons up and more and you get the atrocious campaign of Mary Burke, the Democrat who lost the Wisconsin gubernatorial election to far-right Republican incumbent Scott Walker, who will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now. Not only did Burke alienate progressives in numerous ways (such as supporting parts of Scott Walker’s union-busting law that dealt with public employees being forced to overpay into pension and health care plans, supporting Common Core State Standards, refusing to support marijuana legalization, emphasizing “bipartisanship” with far-right Republicans at every opportunity, etc.), act like a gutless wimp for the entire campaign (such as largely refusing to call out Walker for the corruption in his administration until late in the campaign) and run a flat-footed and out-of-touch campaign (such as having an inner circle mentality throughout the campaign and running TV ads praising Ronald Reagan and trying to pass off someone working 60+ hours per week as a success story), she also had Democratic party bosses and political operatives bully any other Democrat who tried to run against her, fueling a negative perception that Burke was only interested in serving the powers to be of the Democratic Party and nobody else.

Another factor as to why 2014 has been a terrible year for Democrats is the lack of an unified party message, largely due to the Democratic Party being too big of a tent for its own good. The fact that Democrats range anywhere from left-wing to center-right on the ideological spectrum makes a unified party message of any kind practically impossible, and, when there is a unified party message, it’s in the form of calling for bipartisanship and compromise at virtually every opportunity. What most Democrats who run for public office don’t understand is that, while “bipartisanship” and “compromise” are approved of by most Americans, “bipartisanship” and “compromise” doesn’t motivate a single person to vote, and it’s virtually impossible to compromise with the far-right Republicans in this country.

In short, as a result of, among other things, Democrats alienating the progressive base of the party, Scott Walker will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now, far-right Republicans will be running state governments in Democratic-leaning states, Republicans will have an even larger majority in the U.S. House than previously, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate. The Democratic Party will only be consistently successful if and only if the party truly becomes a progressive, pro-middle class, pro-woman, pro-worker, pro-public education, pro-democracy, pro-environment, pro-peace, and pro-human rights party, the party and its candidates deliver a unified progressive message that can be used to drive progressives to the p0lls in large numbers and effectively attack Republican opponents, and Democratic elected officials and candidates actually fight to make America a better, more progressive place to live.

Republican control of the U.S. Senate would be absolutely frightening

With the possibility of Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term in the White House looming over the November 4 elections, I want to remind everybody how frightening Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate and retaining control of the U.S. House is.

Should Republicans win control of the Senate and retain control of the House, Republicans will probably pass a sweeping, Wisconsin-style far-right agenda, including legislation like:

  • Passing a nationwide right-to-work-for-less bill, allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining agreements without paying union dues for collective bargaining (if not completely banning labor unions altogether)
  • Passing restrictions on abortion, contraception, and other women’s health procedures, up to and including attempting to propose a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, contraception, and many other women’s health procedures
  • Repealing the federal Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states to implement voter suppression schemes
  • Repealing the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, allowing many forms of racial discrimination
  • Eliminating Pell grants and other programs that help people pay for college, making it harder for young people to go to college
  • Completely repealing the Affordable Care Act, taking away health insurance from millions of Americans who were recently uninsured
  • Eliminating regulations on banks and other financial institutions, making it easier for them to engage in risky practices that were the primary cause of the Great Recession
  • Allowing mining and drilling in National Parks and other federally-protected lands, destroying the value of our country’s natural wonders and hurting the tourism industry
  • Handing out tax cuts and other tax breaks to wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests, resulting in a bigger federal budget deficit and national debt (if not implementing a full-blown regressive taxation scheme by completely repealing the federal income tax and replacing it with a federal sales tax, shifting the tax burden to poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans)
  • Completely repealing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs, leaving millions of seniors without a source of income and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance
  • Eliminating all federal campaign finance restrictions, making it even easier for wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests to buy federal elections and have an even bigger undue influence over federal politicians
  • Repealing the federal minimum wage, putting millions of working Americans into poverty and driving millions more into even deeper poverty
  • Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and federal environmental regulations, allowing corporations to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink
  • Repealing federal laws mandating equal pay for equal work, allowing employers to discriminate against women by paying men more than women

Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the right-wing legislation that a fully Republican-controlled Congress could pass. Don’t think for one second that people like Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins would oppose some or most of the far-right agenda just because they represent states/constituencies that usually vote for Democratic presidential candidates. The Ted Cruz-types in the Republican Party are going to demand that they pass as much far-right legislation as possible, and the so-called “moderates” in the GOP would go along with them every time and rubber stamp everything they do.

Should Republicans win control of the Senate, they will be hell bent on turning America into a third-world country. The only thing that would stop them from doing is President Barack Obama, who would likely veto nearly everything the Republicans pass. If you don’t want Republicans passing a destructive far-right agenda, go vote against the Republican bastards on November 4.