Friday / October 9, 2015


(See “NEVER Believe There Isn’t Enough Money To Meet Peoples’ Needs”, below.)

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Stop Calling The TPP A Trade Deal— It’s Not About Trade And It’s A Treaty Not A Deal

By Dave Johnson
Bill Moyers And Company (3/27/15)

This is a message to activists trying to fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Stop calling the TPP a “trade” agreement. TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, not a trade agreement. Trade is a good thing; TPP is not. Every time you use the word trade in association with the TPP, you are helping the other side.

Trade is a propaganda word. It short-circuits thinking. People hear trade and the brain stops working. People think, “Of course, trade is good.” And that ends the discussion.

Calling TPP a trade agreement lets the pro-TPP people argue that TPP is about trade instead of what it is really about. It diverts attention from the real problem. It enables advocates to say things like, “95 percent of the world lives outside the US” as if that has anything to do with TPP. It lets them say, “We know that exports support American jobs” to sell a corporate rights agreement. It enables them to say nonsense like this about a corporate rights agreement designed to send American jobs to Vietnam so a few “investors” can pocket the wage difference: “Exports of US goods and services supported an estimated 9.8 million American jobs, including 25 percent of all manufacturing jobs … and those export-supported jobs pay 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average wage.”

Trade is good. Opening up the border so you can get bananas and they can get fertilizer is trade because they have a climate that lets them grow bananas and youalready have a fertilizer plant. Enabling companies to move $30/hour jobs to countries with $.60/hour wages so a few billionaires can pocket the difference is not trade.

Calling TPP a trade agreement lets TPP supporters say people opposed to TPP are “anti-trade.”

TPP Is a Corporate/Investor Rights Agreement

TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, and that is the problem.

TPP extends patents, copyrights and other monopolies so investors can collect “rents.”

TPP elevates corporations and corporate profits to and above the level of governments. TPP lets corporations sue governments for laws and regulations that cause them to be less profitable. Enabling tobacco companies to sue governments because anti-smoking campaigns limit profits has nothing to do with trade. Enabling corporations to sue states that try to regulate fracking has nothing to do with trade.

While giving corporations a special channel to sue governments, labor, environmental, consumer and other “stakeholder” organizations do not get a channel for enforcement. This helps enable corporations to break unions, force wages down and pollute without cost. This increases the power of corporations over governments – and us.

Who Says?

Paul Krugman, “This Is Not A Trade Agreement”:

One thing that should be totally obvious, however, is that it’s off-point and insulting to offer an off-the-shelf lecture on how trade is good because of comparative advantage, and protectionists are dumb. For this is not a trade agreement. It’s about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharmaceutical companies and firms that want to sue governments.

Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in “No, the TPP Won’t Be Good for the Middle Class”:

…TPP (like nearly all trade agreements the US signs) is not a ‘free trade agreement’ — instead it’s a treaty that will specify just who will be protected from international competition and who will not. And the strongest and most comprehensive protections offered are by far those for US corporate interests. Finally, there are international economic agreements that the United States could be negotiating to help the American middle class. They would look nothing like the TPP.

Jim Hightower, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about free trade. It’s a corporate coup d’etat – against us!”:

TPP is a ‘trade deal’ that mostly does not deal with trade. In fact, of the 29 chapters in this document, only five cover traditional trade matters!

The other two dozen chapters amount to a devilish ‘partnership’ for corporate protectionism. They create sweeping new ‘rights’ and escape hatches to protect multinational corporations from accountability to our governments… and to us.

On, “Economist Jeffrey Sachs Says NO to the TPP and the TAFTA Trade Treaties”:

Without touching on the unpopular Fast-Track mechanism necessary to pass these two treaties, Sachs laid out five reasons why, on the substance, they should not be passed or ratified:

1. They are not trade treaties, but agreements aimed at protecting investors.

Josh Barro, “But What Does the Trade Deal Mean if You’re Not a Cheesemaker?”:

Much of the controversy is because the TPP isn’t really (just) a trade agreement. (There’s a reason I called it an ‘economic agreement’ at the top.) A lot of it is about labor, environmental standards, intellectual property and access to markets for services like banking and accounting. And in contrast with the tariff cuts, there’s a lot more reason to worry that some of the agreement’s non-trade provisions would hurt the world economy even as they benefited specific industries.

Techdirt, “If You Really Think TPP Is About ‘Trade’ Then Your Analysis Is Already Wrong”:

Instead, trade agreements have become a sort of secret playground for big corporations to abuse the process and force favorable regulations to be put in place around the globe.

… If you make the facile assumption that the TPP is actually about free trade, then you might be confused about all the hubbub about it. If you actually take the time to understand that much of what’s in there has nothing to do with free trade and, in fact, may be the opposite of free trade, you realize why there’s so much concern.

Timothy B. Lee at Vox, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is great for elites. Is it good for anyone else?”:

In the past, debates about trade deals have mostly been about trade. … In contrast, debates over the TPP mostly haven’t focused on its trade provisions.

[. . .] As the opportunities for trade liberalization have dwindled, the nature of trade agreements has shifted. They’re no longer just about removing barriers to trade. They’ve become a mechanism for setting global economic rules more generally.

… We expect the laws that govern our economic lives will be made in a transparent, representative, and accountable fashion. The TPP negotiation process is none of these — it’s secretive, it’s dominated by powerful insiders, and it provides little opportunity for public input.

Former IMF chief economist [Simon Johnson] on the problems with TPP:

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a notorious, secretly negotiated trade deal; from leaks we know that it continues ‘Investor State Resolution’ clauses that allow foreign companies to sue to overturn national labor and environmental laws. Johnson’s analysis stresses that trade agreements can be good for countries, but they aren’tnecessarily good — and when they’re negotiated in secret, they rarely go well.

Stop calling TPP a trade agreement. It is a corporate/investor rights agreement.

Link to Story

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With $7 Trillion Hidden By The Selfish Elites, NEVER Believe There Isn’t Enough Money To Meet Peoples Needs

By Tom Ashcroft

On Point (10/8/15)

Trillions of dollars are now stashed in protected tax havens around the world, leaving societies’ bills to those at home. We’ll dig in.

If you’re rich and you don’t want to pay taxes, here’s a way to go. Drop that billion in a secret bank account abroad. It’s illegal, but there are plenty of people who will help you do it. And there are a lot of people who do it. My guest today, Gabriel Zucman, says there are now $7 trillion in personal wealth stashed in tax havens abroad. Seven trillion dollars. That is eight percent of the world’s private financial wealth, not counting yachts and jewels. And who pays the bills that those tax avoiders don’t?  Well, you and me. This hour On Point, the shocking scale of global tax evasion today – on trillions.



Link to Story and 47-Minute Audio

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House Republicans’ Leadership Plot Thickens: McCarthy’s Exit Came After Personal Threat Over Affair Allegations

Image result for rep. kevin mccarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has dropped his bid to become House Speaker. (

“Why not resign like Bob Livingston?”

(Editor’s Note: Yikes, what a nest of vipers! — Mark L. Taylor)

By Michael Calderone

Huffington Post (10/8/15)

In the hours before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly withdrew his candidacy to be the next speaker of the House, he was sent an email from a conservative activist threatening to expose an alleged affair with a colleague. The subject line: “Kevin, why not resign like Bob Livingston?”

The email, sent just after 8 a.m. on Thursday, came from Steve Baer, a Chicago-based GOP donor known for mass-emailing conservative figures and Republican lawmakers. It was addressed to McCarthy and numerous others, including the personal account of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who conservative media sites have suggested is tied romantically to McCarthy.

McCarthy has brushed off the affair allegation. After announcing that he would not seek the speaker’s post on Thursday, he was asked about Wednesday’s cryptic letter from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), which asked that “any candidate for speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public.”

“No. No. Come on,” said McCarthy. His decision to withdraw, he said, was to ensure that fellow GOP members didn’t have a tough vote. “For us to unite, we probably need a fresh face,” he said.

But the existence of the Baer email, passed to The Huffington Post by a source, shows that there were personal threats being made prior to McCarthy’s abrupt announcement.

In the email, Baer linked to a Washington Examiner story published earlier Thursday with the headline: “Specter of sex scandal injected into GOP leadership race.” The article referenced Jones’ letter in the context of Speaker-elect Bob Livingston abruptly resigning in 1998 following a sex scandal.

National security risk?

Baer urged McCarthy to spare his family and congressional colleagues the ordeal of the allegations being raised, and suggested that concealing an affair would be a national security risk because of the possibility of extortion.

Few news organizations have touched the affair allegations, beyond the Drudge Report and conservative media. Charles Johnson, the conservative provocateur behind GotNews.comreported them back in January. (Johnson, who is currently banned from Twitter, took a victory lap Thursday on Facebook.)

The rumors gained more traction in the last week in conservative circles, perhaps partly due to Baer’s multiple emails over that time, sent to a string of high-powered Republicans.

RedState editor-in-chief and radio host Erick Erickson wrote Thursday that someone sent links to blog posts about the alleged affair a few days ago to 91 people, including members of Congress and “highly influential conservatives outside Congress.” Erickson added that “there’s no evidence of the rumor being true.”

Erickson didn’t name the email sender, but The Huffington Post has confirmed it was Baer.

In Thursday’s post, Erickson wrote that a comment by Ellmers in The Hill, in the context of the rumors, further hyped the rumor mill:

Even some natural leadership allies such as Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) expressed doubts about promoting McCarthy to Speaker, a job second in line to the presidency.

“He has not spoken to me personally for my vote, and Jason Chaffetz has, so that’s where I am right now. At this point I will be casting a vote for Jason Chaffetz,” said Ellmers, who is facing a GOP primary challenger. “I can’t vote for someone who doesn’t ask for my vote.

“I’m apparently not high on his priority list,” she added.

Major media outlets often are reluctant to amplify such claims and famously ignored rumors of John Edwards’ infidelity during the 2008 election. While cable news was all over McCarthy’s decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race on Thursday afternoon, no hosts or guests on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News explicitly referenced the rumors.

Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin seemed to allude to them during an MSNBC  appearance, noting “there’s a lot of speculation” that McCarthy’s decision had “more to do with things outside of his professional life.”


Conservative columnist Matt Lewis, one of the few prominent political writers to directly address the rumors Thursday afternoon, explained his reasoning to The Huffington Post.

“I think that the new media errs sometimes in being overzealous and imprudent and the old media errs in being stodgy and not fulfilling its responsibly to viewers and readers,” Lewis said. “It was stunning what happened today and people are looking for answers to something that seems unexplainable. And the truth is that insiders and media elites all over DC are talking about these rumors — and some fairly prominent people are blogging about it. So I do think there’s a responsibility to be prudent in the way we present the story, but that needs to be balanced with the responsibility we have to our readers.”

Baer did not return a request for comment from The Huffington Post. He is a mysterious figure, even in conservative circles. A 2013 National Review story described him as the “most successful email harasser” and noted he blasts out emails to influential conservatives like Erickson, Charles and David Koch, Grover Norquist, and Republican members of Congress.

Link to Story

Posted in 2015-10-09, Newsletter | Comments Off on House Republicans’ Leadership Plot Thickens: McCarthy’s Exit Came After Personal Threat Over Affair Allegations

The Doctors Without Borders Bombing Is A Symptom Of Foreign Occupation

Protesters in congressional hearing room during testimony on American bombing of established Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Both medical staff and patients died in the US bombing. (

The bombing should be a moment to reflect on the 14 years of US intervention. And what do we have to show for it?

By Medea Benjaman

The Guardian (10/8/15)

The [US] Kunduz [hospital] bombing is a symptom of the underlying disease of foreign occupation. The prescription requires that President Obama keep to the timeline of withdrawing US troops by the end of 2016. The US military presence will not create long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. On the contrary: as long as US troops are there, militants will fight to oust them.

On Tuesday, with protesters covered in fake ‘blood’ in the background, General John Campbell told the US Senate Armed Services committee that US forces had attacked the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital, also known as Doctors Without Borders, by accident. The Pentagon, he said, was carrying out its own investigation that would be “thorough, objective and transparent.”

But MSF isn’t buying it. The group says that the official stories from the US military and the Afghan government changed four times in four days, from “collateral damage” to accidental bombing to charges that Taliban fighters were using the hospital as a base of operations, a claim the aid group strongly disputed. The group is calling for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, a body created in 1991 specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law but never before used. Dr Joanne Liu, president of MSF, says “the tool exists, and it is time it is activated.”

Only an independent investigation can uncover the facts we need to demand accountability and new safeguards to ensure this type of tragedy doesn’t happen again. The Pentagon balks at the idea of an outside investigation, and Republican lawmakers at the hearing ridiculed the notion of an international body like the United Nations taking on the task. International pressure will be key to getting the US military to submit to an impartial and transparent probe.

But more is needed. The US government must be pressured to provide for the long-term healthcare needs of the wounded survivors and must compensate the families of the deceased. A new hospital must be built to replace the facility that was the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan, treating 22,000 and performing more than 5,900 surgical procedures in 2014.

The bombing should also be a moment to reflect on the 14 years of US intervention. This intervention has cost the lives of 2,350 US servicemen, plus the lives of thousands of Afghans and servicemen from our Nato partners. It has cost US taxpayers over a trillion dollars, money that could have made an enormous difference funding vital domestic needs.

We’re spending $14 million per hour in Afghanistan since 9/11

And what do we have to show for it? Despite 14 years of US involvement at an estimated cost of $33,000 for every man, women and child in Afghanistan (or $14m per hour since 9/11, according to one study), Afghanistan remains mired in poverty, corruption and political strife. Despite the massive amount of effortspent on women’s empowerment, Afghanistan remains a deeply misogynist culture where only 17% of women can read and write. Despite the massive effort to train and equip the Afghan army, Afghan soldiers have not been able rout the Taliban.


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The Surreal Reasons Girls Are Disappearing In El Salvador. The Lucky Ones Mingrate North #15Girls


Gang lawlessness has become so rampant in El Salvador, many of the prisons are run by the gangs. The gangs got their start in the United States among refugees from the U.S. sponsored Central American wars. When the gangsters were deported the gangs spread throughout the poor neighborhoods in El Salavador. Truly, this is a tragedy that is stamped “Made in the USA”. — Mark L. Taylor)


By Kelly McEvers & Jasmine Garsd

NPR (10/6/15)

It’s our first morning in El Salvador’s capital. We’re eating breakfast and we get a call from a local reporter we know.

There’s a crime scene, he says. A girl. You should come. We take a taxi to what looks like a major intersection in San Salvador. When we get there, we look around. And then we see her, slumped on a street corner.

The girl is dead. She’s 15 years old and her name is Marcela. Witnesses tell us she was executed by a gang member.

We can’t see her face. All we can see is her plaid pants and gray T-shirt. Her family is across the street in a pickup truck. We can’t tell you their names because it would put them in danger.

Marcela’s mother is too upset to talk. So, we talk to her grandmother. She says Marcela left the house that morning with her sister. The two worked in downtown San Salvador, the capitol of El Salvador, making tortillas.

The grandmother tells us that Marcela’s boyfriend was a bus driver in a gang-controlled neighborhood. First, he got threats. “Help the gang or we’ll kill you.” Then he disappeared.

Then Marcela started getting threats. And now this: Marcela’s body, lying on the ground, while people drive to work.

If you were standing at the U.S.-Mexico border two summers ago during the so-called “surge” of unaccompanied minors trying to come to the U.S., you would have seen thousands of young girls from El Salvador.

If you had asked them why they came, they would have told you the answer is simple: gangs. Back in the 1980s, during El Salvador’s civil war, many people migrated from El Salvador to the U.S. On the streets of cities like Los Angeles, they formed gangs.

Then, many of them were deported back to El Salvador. And they brought the gangs with them. Now, El Salvador’s two main gangs — Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 — control much of the country. There is so much violence in El Salvador that someone dies there, on average, every hour.

Much of the killing is over turf or revenge. And sometimes people are just caught in the middle. Many times, those caught in the middle are girls.

We went to El Salvador to talk to these girls, to understand why they would want to make the perilous journey to the U.S., why they would ever want to leave home.

This is the story of four of those girls. In most cases, we’re not using last names; to bring any attention to them would make them a target of the gangs. …

Read the Rest and Link to 11+-Minute Audio

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Arrogant Ignorance: Ben Carson Doesn’t Know The Debt Limit And Budget Are Two Different things

Image result for ben carson

By Laura ClawsonFollow

Daily Kos (10/8/15)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson reacts to a question from the press after speaking at the Commonwealth Club at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, California, September 8, 2015.

Ben Carson is in second place in the Republican presidential primary, and the big question is which is more frightening: his ignorance, or the ideas he does have. Ideas he has include not allowing a Muslim to be president and cutting the entire federal budget by three to four percent across the board. Scary. But then you get to things he seems simply not to know, as when interviewer Kai Ryssdal asked him “Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?” And Carson’s answer sure sounded like he doesn’t know that the debt limit and the budget are two different things:

Carson: Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.

Ryssdal: To be clear, it’s increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You’d let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.

Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, “Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we’re not raising any spending limits, period.”

Ryssdal: I’m gonna try one more time, sir. This is debt that’s already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?

Carson: What I’m saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You’re always gonna ask the same question every year. And we’re just gonna keep going down that pathway. That’s one of the things I think that the people are tired of.

They’re talking here about the debt limit increase that needs to happen because the United States runs out of borrowing authority next month, and Carson’s answer is to cut. If he seemed to understand that the debt limit is the authority to borrow money that Congress has already allocated in an existing law, the obvious question would be what exactly he thinks can be cut in less than a month that would make enough of a difference to avoid hitting the debt limit. But it really seems like he doesn’t get that there are two concepts operating here. Or maybe he just thinks that he, Ben Carson, is the kind of miracle worker who would make things happen that no one else had considered possible. There is no possibility here that is not a frightening statement about a man who a significant number of Republican voters want to see in the White House.

Posted in 2015-10-09, Newsletter | Comments Off on Arrogant Ignorance: Ben Carson Doesn’t Know The Debt Limit And Budget Are Two Different things

“Daily Show” Host Trevor Noah Loses It Over Ben Carson’s Comments On Mass Shootings




By Andy McDonald

Huffington Post (10/8/15)

On Wednesday’s “Daily Show,” Trevor Noah blew up on presidential candidate Ben Carson over his comments regarding mass shootings.

Carson essentially put the responsibility on the part of the victims, saying that, in the event of a gunman holding us all hostage, we should all charge at him.

The thought — the incredibly stupid thought — being that the gunman can’t possibly get us all. Right? RIGHT?? [super awkward laughing]

So, when it comes to mass shootings, Carson believes in a common purpose for the collective good. You mean, like … socialism??

We’re agreed then. Ben Carson is a Socialist.

Noah then did what is actually a very solid Ben Carson impression.

Link to Story and 5-Minute Video

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Dang! Leader Of Christian Group Adjusts Incorrect Doomsday Prediction — ‘Soon’

While the world did not end, McCann said it would be obliterated “soon”.

By Adam Gabbatt

The Guardian (10/8/15)

The leader of a Christian group who claimed that the world would end on Wednesday has admitted his prediction was “incorrect”.

Chris McCann, head of the eBible fellowship, warned that the planet would be destroyed “with fire” on 7 October. This did not happen.

“Since it is now 8 October it is now obvious that we were incorrect regarding the world’s ending on the 7th,” McCann said.

McCann originally told the Guardian that by Thursday the world would be “gone forever: annihilated”. McCann based his claim on an earlier prediction by Christian radio host Harold Camping, who said the world would end on 21 May 2011. Camping’s forecast also turned out to be incorrect.

As the clock struck 12 in timezones around the globe, turning Wednesday into Thursday, it became apparent that the planet had not been destroyed. McCann, who is based in Philadelphia, said on Thursday it was “surprising” that the world was still in existence.

Prior to 7 October he said there was a “strong likelihood” the world would be rent asunder, but did admit there was a chance he could be incorrect.

“Well, a strong likelihood means that something was pretty well set to happen (in this case according to the biblical evidence),” he said. “Yet there is a possibility it may not happen.

“So it was surprising that it did not occur. But the comforting thing is that God’s will is always perfect.”

In 2011 Camping used his radio station, Family Radio, to notify people that the world would end. When that turned out to be incorrect, he revised his prediction to October 2011. That also turned out to be incorrect, and Camping retired from public life soon after. He died in 2013, at the age of 93.

The eBible Fellowship believed that Camping’s 21 May 2011 was actually “judgment day”. The fellowship thus claimed the world would end 1,600 days from that date: hence 7 October 2015.

McCann said “one of the big pieces of evidence” in his prediction was that 7 October 2015 was the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, or Sukkot. (Most online sources say Sukkot ended on 5 October.)

“Once the last day of the feast passed it soon became apparent that we were incorrect about the world’s conclusion on [7 October],” McCann said.

While the world did not end, McCann said on Thursday it would be obliterated “soon”.

“I also know that God knows exactly when that end will come,” he said. “So we’ll keep studying the Bible to see what we can learn.”

Link to Story

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Dept. Of Much Needed Humor: Who Woulda’ Thunk It? George W. Bush Enjoying New Status As The Smarter Bush

By Borowitz

The New Yorker (10/7/15)

After years of being subjected to unfair ridicule, former President George W. Bush is now enjoying his newfound status as the smarter of the two Bush brothers to have achieved elected office.

Speaking to reporters at his home in Dallas, Bush said he was deriving “quiet satisfaction” from a new poll showing that ninety-one per cent of the American people now consider him the smarter Bush.

“I know that no one’s saying I’m a genius,” he said, modestly. “But I look pretty good when I’m graded on a curve.”

Bush pointed with particular pride to the fact that seventy-four per cent of those polled said that, of the two Bush brothers, he had a “far superior command of the English language.”

“When I was President, I got a lot of grief from people who didn’t think my English was too good,” he said. “I think now they’re realizing it could have been worser.”

The former President said that he hoped the American people’s view of him as the smarter Bush would soon be shared by his parents, George and Barbara Bush.

“At Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad would never let me carve the turkey because they thought I’d screw it up somehow,” he said. “Something tells me I’ll be carving that turkey this year.”

Link to Story

Posted in 2015-10-09, Newsletter | Comments Off on Dept. Of Much Needed Humor: Who Woulda’ Thunk It? George W. Bush Enjoying New Status As The Smarter Bush

Thursday / October 8, 2015

(See “In Rural America, A Startling Prospect”, below.)

Posted in 2015-10-08 | Tagged | Comments Off on Thursday / October 8, 2015

In Rural America, A Startling Prospect: Voters Obama Lost Look To Sanders

“This is something new. Barring anything happening in the Democratic debate, like Bernie stumbling badly, I don’t see anything changing the momentum. I think he wins.” — Mike Manypenny

By David Weigel
The Washington Post (10/5/15)

Shelley Brannon, 62, can sum up the Obama presidency with three words. Well, three words and an exclamation.

“He screwed us,” said Brannon, a coal miner from Wise County, Va., as he sat outside a rally for the United Mine Workers of America. “Man, he screwed us.”

He shook his head under a camouflage hat that matched his camouflage UMWA T-shirt, and he described his fantasy of dumping nuclear waste in the yards of environmentalists, “if they think coal’s so bad.” He mulled over the mistake he says the UMWA made in 2008, when it endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then he explained why he would probably be voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the next Democratic primary.

“For one thing, he knows what union is, and he respects it,” Brannon said. “That’s all we need is respect. He’s just a likeable fellow, trustworthy. I don’t think she has the same respect for the union, and she really shot herself in the foot over, you know, all that secretive stuff.”

Sanders’ challenge and opportunity

West Virginia has rejected the Obama-era Democratic Party more dramatically than any other state outside the South, with Appalachian counties that voted for Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale turning blood red over the past eight years. But if you think it’s in places like this where the insurgent Sanders campaign faces its most formidable test, here’s what he thinks: It is also one of his greatest opportunities.

The Vermont socialist believes that white, working-class voters — the sort of people Obama once self-defeatingly said “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them” — are just one honest argument away from coming back.

“We have millions of working-class people who are voting for Republican candidates whose views are diametrically opposite to what voters want,” Sanders said in an interview. “How many think it’s a great idea that we have trade policies that lead to plants in West Virginia being shut down? How many think there should be massive cuts in Pell grants or in Social Security? In my opinion, not too many people.”

Sally Wood and Donna Worley wait for the bus after attending the United Mine Workers of America rally at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, W.Va. on Friday, where Bernie Sanders was on the minds of many. (Jared Wickerham/For the Washington Post)
This state, one of the last to vote in the 2016 primary race, is supposed to be Clinton country. Seven years ago, in the 2008 primary, West Virginia Democrats gave Clinton a landslide victory over Obama. She won 69 percent of the white vote and did even better with voters who lacked a college education. A Democrat who improved a few points on Obama’s 39 percent of the national white vote in the 2012 general election would stroll into the White House.

Satan’s corporate thieves

Sanders, who has won elections only in a white, rural state, thinks his brand of bold democratic socialism can sell. He has never campaigned here, yet at Friday’s rally in Morgantown, miner after miner said they basically agreed with the former mayor of Burlington more than they agreed with Clinton. Several were aware that Sanders had walked picket lines, something that resonated as they packed a hotel ballroom to demand that Washington fully fund UMWA pensions. When the room quieted, a man recited a prayer against greed. “Lord, we know that Satan has those corporate thieves,” he said, “and they’re still trying to rob us.” Then a singer-songwriter started in:

It’s a long way to Wall Street from 12th and Main and the back roads of my home town.

There’s a new world order and times have changed, so they let these deals go down.

Sanders’s campaign theory may be that there’s a larger electorate hiding in plain sight. Over the summer, as he gained in polls, Sanders was criticized for bringing seemingly every issue back to the sediment of economics and class. Black Lives Matter activist Marissa Johnson dubbed it “class reductionism.” Clinton allies had trouble seeing how his support could grow beyond white liberals.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has endorsed Clinton, said Sanders has a weakness in West Virginia greater even than the socialist label: coal. Although the economics-first focus makes sense, Manchin said, Sanders’s support for every major Obama initiative on the environment makes his candidacy a “nonstarter” here.

“His environmental stance?” Manchin asked. “Oh, my, it would be awful.”

Rick Wells, Gary McGwire and James Richardson attend the United Mine Workers of America rally at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, W.Va., on Friday.

But Sanders believes that such naysayers are missing the weight of his cardinal argument — for greater economic fairness — and voters’ willingness to look past the other issues where they disagree.

He has won elections in Vermont, a white, rural, gun-owning state, as a socialist. The social-issue “distractions” bemoaned by red-state Democrats have seemed to bounce right off his armor. (He has taken mixed positions on gun control, supporting a ban on assault rifles, for instance, but opposing the Brady Bill.) In the end, is the white guy who voted for him in Vermont any different than the white guy in West Virginia or Kentucky or Ohio who was told to blame liberals for his problems?

Agreeing to agree

“What I’ve found in Vermont and around the country is that we go to people and say, ‘Look, we do have differences,’ ” Sanders said. “ ‘I believe in gay marriage. I’m not going to change your view if you don’t. I believe climate change is absolutely real, and some of you do not. But how many of you think we should give hundreds and billions in tax breaks to the richest 1 percent?’ ”

Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has made a similar argument — that his party can win, with no changes to its message, if more evangelical voters are inspired to come out. Bolstering Sanders’s case are his strong numbers in independent polls. A national Quinnipiac survey last month found him polling marginally better against leading Republican candidates than Clinton did. A Marquette University poll last week indicated that Sanders is running just as strong as Clinton in Wisconsin, home to some of the white voters who have abandoned the Democrats in off years.

Something similar may be happening in West Virginia. In Morgantown, home to West Virginia University, a 62-year old activist named Andy Cockburn went to an early organizing meeting for Clinton and found only 10 other people. In July, more than 100 people packed a bar basement and started organizing for Sanders. Railing against oligarchies and “the 1 percent” means one thing in New York or San Francisco. It means more in West Virginia, where coal magnate Don Blankenship is standing trial and Patriot Coal Corp. is trying to spend most of a $22 million settlement for miners on its own lawyers. On Friday night, at the Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson dinner in the state capital, Charleston, Bill Clinton echoed his wife and condemned Patriot.

But Sanders is the candidate with consistency on corporate greed — a fact that has helped him slow down some labor endorsements for Clinton. According to the New York Times, the International Association of Fire Fighters hit the pause button on its expected endorsement after too many local leaders blanched. On Saturday, Sanders lost the endorsement of the National Education Association but only after a similar protest made Clinton work for it.

The UMWA has never endorsed Clinton. In 2008, it went for the doomed campaign of John Edwards, switching to Obama only after he had basically sewn up the nomination. In 2012 it made no endorsement, in an avowed protest of the administration’s environmental regulations. This year, the union, with 32,354 of its 71,160 members based in West Virginia, is not yet close to a decision.

The coal question

“What we’re going to do is base our decision on our future here,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts said in an interview — “whether we’re going to have health care, have pensions, have jobs for people in Appalachia.”

That question could vex Sanders just as much as Clinton. In his energy talking points, Sanders notes that he “introduced the gold standard for climate-change legislation with Sen. Barbara Boxer to tax carbon and methane emissions,” a résumé item that would be about as welcome in West Virginia as a University of Maryland Terps jersey. Asked what he would say to a coal miner who blames Environmental Protection Agency regulations for the loss of his job, Sanders said he could only be straight with him.

“What we have to say is, ‘Look, through no fault of your own, you’re working in an industry which is helping to cause climate change and in fact having a negative impact on the country and world,’ ” Sanders said. “What the government does have is an obligation to say: ‘We’ll protect you financially as we transition away from fossil fuel. We are going to create jobs in your community, extended unemployment benefits. If you lose your job to a trade deal, you get benefits for two years. You get job training.’ I would take that same approach to energy jobs that are lost because of the threat of climate change.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) speaks with members of the United Mine Workers of America after their rally at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, W.Va., on Friday. Manchin questions whether Bernie Sanders’s positions on coal and climate change could win over voters in this part of the country. Nothing about Sanders’s pitch is easy, but this piece is especially rough.

State Rep. Mike Caputo (D), a miner and a union member, said his brothers need jobs, not pity. In an interview at the UMWA office in Fairmont, he asked: “You can train a guy to be a truck driver, but what’s he going to haul? Coal miners don’t want unemployment. They want work.”

Still, on Thursday, at his farm in Grafton, Democratic former state legislator Mike Manypenny was firm that enthusiasm for Sanders is big and getting bigger. Manypenny, one of the many casualties of a 2014 Republican sweep, is running for Congress on the theory that the progressive politics he shares with Sanders — a living wage, the return of Glass-Steagall’s repealed restrictions on banks — are the way to break the conservative grip on voters’ imaginations.

“The problem last year was that everybody focused on getting the vote out from the historic Democratic voters,” he explained. “Those are the seniors — I don’t need to tell you that each year you lose a little more of them. This is something new. Barring anything happening in the Democratic debate, like Bernie stumbling badly, I don’t see anything changing the momentum. I think he wins.”

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Posted in 2015-10-08, Newsletter | Comments Off on In Rural America, A Startling Prospect: Voters Obama Lost Look To Sanders

GOP Assembly Bill To Split WI’s Government Accountability Board Into Two Partisan Agencies

By Patrick Marley
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (10/7/15)

Assembly Republicans unveiled bills Wednesday to double political contribution limits, rewrite campaign financing rules and split the state’s elections and ethics board into two agencies and fill them with partisan appointees.

The state Government Accountability Board that now has those duties consists of six former judges. The new agencies would be split evenly between Democratic and Republican appointees.

The move came as the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth prepares to head back to court Wednesday to try to make public records of an investigation of the group conducted by the state accountability board. That investigation — halted in July by the state Supreme Court — has been the impetus behind the GOP effort to dismantle the accountability board.

The accountability board formed in 2008, after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to create it in 2007. Just two lawmakers, both Democrats, dissented from the bipartisan legislation that formed the accountability board and dissolved the Elections Board and Ethics Board. Those boards had been widely criticized as ineffective.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) called the accountability board a “failed experiment” that must be reined in.

“We created it with the best of intentions, but now it’s time to make a change,” he said at a Capitol news conference.

Afterward, the director of the accountability board, Kevin Kennedy, noted the measure would transfer the control of elections from nonpartisan officials to partisan ones, as is the case in every other state.

“What this is about is control,” he told reporters.

In recent years, Republicans have contended the accountability board is beholden to a staff that tilts its decisions to Democrats. The accountability board is made up of six former judges, and they deny that partisanship plays any role in their decisions.

Fueling the effort to overhaul the accountability board has been the probe of the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups that worked with Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign in recall elections in 2011 and 2012. The accountability board assisted with the investigation, which was headed by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. Chisholm is a Democrat and Schmitz is a Republican.

The state Supreme Court terminated the investigation on a 4-2 vote, ruling candidates and issue groups have wide latitude to work together. Schmitz has asked the court to reconsider its decision and has signaled he may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) supports the legislation, said Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck.

Walker has also signaled support for it.

“I support the concept of a bipartisan approach going forward, particularly when you incorporate people like our clerks at the local level who actually run our elections,” Walker told Senate Republicans on Tuesday.

Some Republicans have said they want more details about the proposal.

“We have to be very careful to make sure we’re making things better, not worse,” said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).

Knudson has said his legislation would break the accountability board into two — one overseeing elections and one overseeing campaign finance, ethics and lobbying. Each board would consist of six people — three selected by Democrats and three selected by Republicans.

Gerald Nichol, the chairman of the accountability board, said in a letter last week and in comments to reporters Wednesday that restructuring the agency 13 months before the high-turnout presidential election was not a good idea. In his letter, he noted the board is still implementing its new voter ID law and is preparing to upgrade its voter registration database.

GOP lawmakers hope to pass the measure this fall. It would give the state about six months to set up the two new commissions. They would take over the duties of the accountability board on June 30 — about four months before the Nov. 8 election.

The bill would create an elections commission made up of six people, including two election clerks. Republican legislative leaders would appoint two members and Democratic legislative leaders would appoint two.

The Democrats and Republicans would also nominate a pool of candidates made up of municipal and county clerks. The governor would select from each of those pools to appoint the final two members of the board.

The result would be an agency made up equally of Democratic and Republican members.

The legislation would also create a new ethics board consisting of six people. Republican legislative leaders would appoint two members and Democratic legislative leaders would appoint two members.

Leaders from each party would also nominate a pool of others to sit on the board and the governor would make his selection from those pools. Again, that would create a board equally balanced with Democrats and Republicans.

Campaign finance

GOP lawmakers also introduced a campaign finance bill that would double how much donors can give to candidates. For instance, an individual could now give $20,000 to a candidate for governor every four years, up from the current limit of $10,000.

Vos noted the current limits have been in place for decades and have not kept up with inflation.

The bill would also rewrite campaign finance laws that are out of step with a host of state and federal court rulings that have loosened campaign finance restrictions. In one change, it would codify the state Supreme Court’s ruling this summer that issue groups and candidates can work together.

Later Wednesday, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and accountability board will be in court in Waukesha County. The group’s lawsuit contends the accountability board overreached its authority in helping with the investigation of the group and Walker’s campaign.

The group has received accountability board records through discovery in the lawsuit, but much of the material is to remain confidential. The club is seeking to have the confidentiality requirement lifted.

Many of the documents remain under seal in the lawsuit, but details have become available over the years about the probe through leaks, news stories and filings in an array of lawsuits.

The case is being heard by Waukesha County Circuit Judge Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr. said. He is a former Republican district attorney in Oconto County and son of former GOP Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus.

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Posted in 2015-10-08, Newsletter | Comments Off on GOP Assembly Bill To Split WI’s Government Accountability Board Into Two Partisan Agencies

Statistics Show White Supremacy Is Far Bigger Threat To The US Than Radical Muslims

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(Daily Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2015. Open source and free to use with link to

By Keisha Hatchett

Yahoo News (10/5/15)

Despite what Donald Trump and many other politicians have told you, the major threat to America isn’t Muslim extremism. In fact, statistics show that the real danger lies with domestic extremists who aren’t of the Muslim faith.

The New York Times reported back in June that since Sept. 11, 2001, almost twice as many people have died at the hands of white supremacists and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims. Using data compiled by New America, a Washington Research center, a study found that 48 people have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim—including the mass killings in Charleston, S.C.—compared to the 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists.  However, this does not factor in yesterday’s tragic shooting or less publicized incidents like the Las Vegas couple who murdered two police officers and left a Swastika on one of the bodies.

These stats reveal a vast difference between public perception and the number of actual cases in which Muslim extremists have claimed American lives. So why aren’t more people outraged about domestic terrorists? Because then we’d have to admit that white supremacy is still a problem.

While the public hasn’t quite caught on yet, scholars say that the issue needs to be addressed. “There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. John G. Horgan, who studies terrorism at the University of Massachusetts said. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”

That’s an understatement.

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Posted in 2015-10-08, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off on Statistics Show White Supremacy Is Far Bigger Threat To The US Than Radical Muslims

Confirmed: American Academy Of Pediatrics Cuts Ties With Monsanto

By Lorraine Chow

EcoWatch (10/6/15)

EcoWatch can exclusively confirm that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has ended its corporate partnership with Monsanto following the efforts of a group with surprising clout: Mom bloggers.

It appears that the severing between the divisive biotech company and the pediatricians association was spearheaded by Mamavation founder and “food activist” Leah Segedie, who confronted the AAP’s public affairs team after learning about this “unholy alliance,” according to a Mamavation blog post which first announced news of the split.

“I reached out to the AAP behind the scenes to discuss the negative impacts a company like Monsanto could have on their image,” Segedie told EcoWatch via email. “It was a very logical decision for them. I think it may have felt like breaking up with a bad boyfriend that never calls.”

A few months after Segedie first made contact, the AAP’s public affairs team informed her that the organizations had decided to cut ties.

EcoWatch contacted the AAP and confirmed that the academy will not renew its corporate partnership with Monsanto. According to a source at the organization familiar with the decision, the AAP regularly reviews its partnerships to make sure these companies have values that “align with what the Academy believes is in the best interest of children’s health.”

Monsanto’s PR woes

However one might feel about Monsanto’s products and its practices, the company has certainly been facing a spate of terrible press. Six months ago, the World Health Organization’s cancer arm famously listed glyphosate, the toxic main ingredient in its flagship herbicide Roundup, as a possible carcinogen (Monsanto says it’s safe and demands a retraction); it was found guilty in the chemical poisoning of a French farmer (Monsanto plans to appeal); and now 19 countries of the Europe Union have decided to ban the company’s GMO-crops out of public health and environmental concerns (Monsanto says it respects these decisions but claims these nations are ignoring science).

As for why Segedie feels Monsanto and the AAP should not be aligned, she explained, “I believe the trust of mothers is paramount to the AAP. Partnering with a company that makes poisons for a living isn’t consistent with their mission, especially when that company is the maker of DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, glyphosate and GMOs.”

“They simply do not have a track record consistent with trust, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable part of our population—children,” she continued. “I’m sure mothers in Anniston, Alabama would especially agree after the $700 million lawsuit settlement from poisoning their town. For that reason, I felt a partnership with Monsanto would be damaging to their reputation and may derail their efforts to build trust with mothers in an age of social transparency.”

The source at the AAP explained to us that the decision to end ties with Monsanto, like with Coca-Cola, was part of an ongoing and regular review of the AAP’s corporate partnerships. The source added that these decisions commonly happen on both sides of these types of agreements.

Image result for Monsanto protest signs art

Furthermore, the source continued, the AAP’s board of directors and CEO have listened carefully to their members and regularly assess their partnerships with funders to make sure the company’s values align with what the Academy believes is in the best interest of children’s health.

Incidentally, the AAP recently ended its relationship with Coke following a New York Times reportthat revealed that the soda giant has given nearly $3 million to the Academy over the past six years, and paid for scientific research that played down the role of sugary drinks in obesity.

It’s unknown what influence, if any at all, Monsanto had over the AAP, but the company does belong to the President’s Circle—an exclusive group that also includes Pampers, Pfizer, Nestle and, yes, Coca-Cola—for donating at least $50,000 to the academy.

In reaction to the split, Segedie said that the AAP cutting ties with Monsanto was a wise move for the academy.

“Not only are they making a statement about the potential health impacts of glyphosate to children with this move, but they are demonstrating to moms this is a new era,” she said. “From now on, I have a feeling they will be weighing each sponsorship differently to ensure the partnership is consistent with their values instead of just swapping cash for a marketing halo.”

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Posted in 2015-10-08, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off on Confirmed: American Academy Of Pediatrics Cuts Ties With Monsanto