September 25, 2016

Campaign issues we had thught about yet

Huffington Post - Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said that the human race will need to colonize other worlds in order to survive.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked the former New Mexico governor about something he said in 2011, when he seemed to dismiss the growing threat of climate change.

“In billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future,” Johnson, who opposes environmental regulation, said at the time.

Moring Line

Based on the average of recent polls:

Nationally, Hillary Clinton is one point ahead of Trump, a statistical tie. This is 3 points above her worst result. Her current average is 44% . Her election range has been 38-46%

Clinton is leading with 159 of the needed 270 electoral votes, down from her best of 275.. This is 59% as many certain electoral votes as she once had. Another 158 electoral votes are possibly Democratic. Only 48 electoral votes are definitely in the Trump column. Another 177 are possible.

In the Senate the Democrats stand to gain two seats. The Democrats have a slight lead in two more and the GOP in one. Thyre is one tie. The Dems need to win four seats (plus a Democratic Veep) to control the Senate.

In governorships, Democrats should pick up 1 this year. Democrats have already gained another, . Democrats are each leaning ahead in 2 race and Repubicans in one

Trump's new justice choice thinks child labor laws, Medicare and Society Security are unconstitutional

Think Progress - Last May, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a list of 11 sitting judges who, he says, fit the ideological mold of the kind of people he will appoint to the Supreme Court if elected president. The list ran the conservative gamut from judges who cut their teeth questioning judicial power to judges who want to revive long-discredited doctrines once used to tear down the minimum wage and other basic labor laws.

On Friday, Trump added 10 names to his list of potential justices. The new list is notable in that it includes a number of fairly obscure judges, including a few who currently serve as trial judges. It also includes people of color, something his first list did not.

The first name on the new list, however, is Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). ...

Lee’s conservatism is rooted in a hard-line understanding of the Constitution that was popular among judges in the early twentieth century but is now widely viewed as wrong and immoral. As a candidate for the senate in 2010, Lee laid out many of the consequences of his vision . . . .Among other things, Lee believes that federal child labor laws, Medicare and Social Security are all unconstitutional.

Aside from the Second Amednment, Trump doesn't like the Constitution that much

Word; Trump is no populist

Jim Hightower - Candidate Trump grandiosely says he'll lift up the middle class, but his proposed economic policies would do the opposite by expanding the GOP's old anti-labor agenda: giving massive new tax cuts to corporations and the rich, slashing public spending on programs that working families rely on, and embracing the laissez-faire ideological claptrap that Tea Party Republicans mindlessly repeat in their ceaseless efforts to drive down wages.

On the minimum wage, he's taken more positions than you'll find in the "Kama Sutra." First, he said $7.25 an hour was already too much; then he called for abolishing the wage floor entirely; then he mused that he might be open to an increase (but certainly not the $15-an-hour living wage that worker activists are fighting for). Even Trump's "rock-solid" opposition to NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and other trade scams now looks to be a political bait-and-switch fraud, as indicated by his choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his VP and top policy "partner." Pence is a notorious free-trade fanatic who pushed zealously to pass all eight trade deals that came before him while in Congress, and he's been lobbying hard this year for passage of the TPP.

Now, consider whom he's vilifying, mocking and bullying at his rallies and in his tweets. Overwhelmingly, they are terrorized migrants, Mexican immigrants he labels "rapists," black protestors experiencing police brutality, disabled individuals, and so on. This pampered son of privilege wants America's hard-hit, angry working people to elect him because he demonstrates the "courage" to be politically incorrect by kicking the poor, the powerless, and the marginalized. Since he's willing to do that, how long will it take him to throw those workers into the ditch, too?

Some might see Trump as a brilliant, can-do corporate chieftain (though his multiple bankruptcies among other business disasters make that assessment doubtful). Or they might be tempted to cast a protest vote to throw the political class into disarray. But people should consider the consequences and not fool themselves into thinking Trump's a populist who'll be on our side. In his heart, mind, and whole being, the central political truth about Trump is that he's foremost a Trumpist -- of, by and for himself.

September 24, 2016

Whatever happened to foreign aid and other alternatives to war?

Google graph of mentions of "foreign aid"

We are now winding down fifteen years of military policy failure in the Mid East and still hardly anyone in power discusses any alternatives. For example, as the Google Ngram chart above shows, In the wake of World War II, we helped struggling countries with foreign aid, a term one hardly hears any more. 

What if the huge sums spent on military failure in the Mid East had been used instead in foreign aid?  What effect would that have had on ISIS or the Orlando attack? 

A major part of of our foreign policy failure today is an inordinate reliance on military solutions that don't work. It's well past time to come up with other answers. 

For example, Deutsche Welle reported:
In a newly published report, the IMF said years of conflict have destroyed the economies of several countries in the Middle East. The organization said it could take years for countries to regain their footing.

The Washington-based lender said conflicts had sparked recessions, driven up inflation and rendered institutions powerless from Libya to Yemen.

Ongoing wars have seen Syria's GDP in 2015 account for less than half of what it did in 2010, while Yemen has lost as much as 35 percent of its GDP this year, the report said. In Iraq and Afghanistan, inflation reached more than 30 percent in the mid-2000s, while in Yemen and Libya it peaked at more than 15 percent in 2011.

In addition, conflicts have also had economic consequences for neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey, leading to an influx of refugees and weaker security.
And as Andrew Bacevich wrote in the Nation last May:
Imagine the opposing candidates in a presidential campaign each refusing to accept war as the new normal. Imagine them actually taking stock of the broader fight that’s been ongoing for decades now. Imagine them offering alternatives to armed conflicts that just drag on and on. Now that would be a milestone. 

Coaching poor new parents works

Talk Poverty - LNationwide, more than 1 out of every 5 infants and toddlers lives in poverty. For children of color, the numbers are even worse: 30% of Hispanic children, and nearly 40% of African American children under the age of four live in poverty.

This has serious consequences, both for the individual children and for the country as a whole. The infant and toddler years are a critical time period for child development, and they can shape a person’s outcomes for the rest of their lives....

Home visiting programs, which connect families with trained professionals who help create healthy and safe home environments, are proven to directly address many of the harmful impacts of poverty before the effects take hold. The benefits are dramatic—families who voluntarily participate in these programs have improved child and maternal health, increased school readiness, prevented child abuse and neglect, and reduced participation in the juvenile justice system.

Here’s how it works:

When parents bring their baby home from the hospital, they don’t come with a handbook. Home visiting aims to be the next best thing, by connecting parents and families with professionals—who may be nurses, social workers, or other trained parent educators—in their own homes through regular visits. Home visitors partner with parents to develop strong parenting skills, ensure child and family safety, and access other community resources and social services.

The services families receive during a home visit can vary depending on the specific needs of the family. A home visitor may work with a new mom to help her understand the importance of breastfeeding, or how praising a child can reinforce positive behavior. They may screen for signs of child abuse and neglect or domestic violence, and refer families to other health and social services. Home visitors will also help parents to set goals for the future—they might work together to develop a plan to go back to school, look for a job, or identify safe and reliable child care. The results are impressive

Home visiting programs have been proven to benefit everything from child and maternal health, to increasing school readiness, to reducing child abuse and neglect. In 2014, 70% of federal home visiting program grantees saw reductions in the rate of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use among enrolled mothers.  Similarly, 79% of grantees saw an increase in the household income of families participating in home visiting, and 76% saw an increase the rate at which women and families are screened for domestic violence.

Students join the national anthem no stand movement

Intercept - Since NFL 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in August to protest oppression of people of color, many Americans, particularly professional athletes and students, have followed suit. But their constitutional right to engage in such gestures of dissent is not always being respected.

Threats from school administrators and teachers have put free speech advocates like the ACLU on high alert. At Lely High School, a public school in Naples, Florida, the principal told students that they would be removed from athletic events if they refused to stand during the national anthem — though he said the quote was misunderstood when the ACLU of Florida reached out.

“The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that public schools may not constitutionally force students to salute the flag,” Lee Rowland, a First Amendment attorney who works with the ACLU, told The Intercept. “That ruling is crystal clear about a student’s right not to be compelled into patriotism by their government, and it is over 70 years old.”

The ruling that Rowland references came after many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States began to refuse to salute the flag in solidarity with their brethren in Nazi Germany who were being arrested for refusing to salute that country’s fascist flag.

.... Students at private schools do not enjoy the same constitutional protections.  The Diocese in Camden, New Jersey, which oversees six local private Catholic schools, will punish student athletes who do not stand during the national anthem by suspending them for two games. In a letter, the organization wrote, “The best approach is helping our young people understand that blood was sacrificed so that we all can enjoy the gifts of our faith and our country. However, let me be clear. We are not public institutions and free speech in all of its demonstrations, including protests is not a guaranteed right.”

No Fortune 100 CEO has given to Trump

Wall Street Journal - No chief executive at the nation’s 100 largest companies had donated to Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through August, a sharp reversal from 2012, when nearly a third of the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney

Attorney General admits marijuana is not a gateway drug

Merry Jane - One of the most popular arguments against the legalization of marijuana is that pot is a “gateway” drug with the potential to turn the great American populous into a nation of dope fiends. But the country’s leading law enforcement official denounced this common misconception by admitting that the consumption of marijuana does not lead to the use of harder drugs.

As part of what President Obama has declared National Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, U.S Attorney General Loretta Lynch appeared at town hall meeting this morning in Richmond, Kentucky to discuss the dangers of opioid abuse with a group of teens.

In her opening statement, Lynch was adamant that the leading culprit behind Kentucky’s heroin epidemic was the use of prescription drugs.

September 23, 2016

Presidenial debates ignore climate change

Sierra Club - 1.5 -- That’s the percentage of Presidential debate questions during the primaries this year which were dedicated to climate change, ,,, a topic which the New York Times recently called “the most important story in the world.”

Trump's plane subsidized by Secret Service

Alternet - A new filing by the Trump campaign for the Federal Election Committee reveals the Donald Trump campaign has received $1.6 million in taxpayer money to fly U.S. Secret Service agents on a plane owned by—you guessed it—Donald Trump.

According to Politico, the agency always reimburses presidential candidates and other officials for the cost of traveling with the candidates. The difference is although the Secret Service has reimbursed the Clinton campaign some $2.6 million, Trump owns the plane he travels on through TAG Air Inc. As Politico notes, “the government is effectively paying him.”

It was also revealed last week that the Trump campaign has spent some $8.2 million on Trump-owned businesses throughout the campaign. The candidate, who famously said he “could be the first presidential candidate to "run and make money on it” is proving that sentiment true. I

How the public views a Trump regime

The Hill - A majority of voters say Donald Trump would allow the U.S. to default on its debt and that he would misuse the power of the presidency to punish his political opponents.

And nearly half of voters — 46 percent — say Trump would use a nuclear weapon to attack ISIS or another foreign enemy.

Those are the findings of a new poll conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of the Lincoln Leadership Initiative, a new group helmed by prominent Republican critics of Trump who are advocating for the GOP to dump the nominee and return to its “foundational values.”

The poll also found that a majority of voters believe that as president, Trump would create a database to track Muslims and order military strikes against the families of terrorists.

Sixty-five percent said that there would be race riots in major cities during a Trump administration, and 44 percent believe Trump would authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Those views are also held by a significant number of voters who are Trump supporters.

Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 48 percent say he’ll create a database to track Muslims; 36 percent say there will be race riots; 33 percent say the government would default on its debt; and 32 percent say Trump would punish his political opponents and authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Only 22 percent of Trump supporters believe he will start a nuclear war.

Federal judge allows Nestle to keep taking water out of national forest

Eco Watch - In a major setback for environmental groups, a federal judge in California has tossed out allegations that the U.S. Forest Service allowed Nestlé's bottled water operation to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired back in 1988.

A federal court has ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service for allowing the Nestlé' to continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons water from the San Bernardino National Forest.

The decision regards a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service in October 2015 by the Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff Project. The groups alleged that the agency was allowing Nestlé Waters North America to pipe water from public lands on a permit that had long expired.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote in a Sept. 20 order that since the Forest Service received a request to renew the permit in May 1987, the effort was considered a "timely and sufficient application for renewal," thus keeping the original permit valid.

Bernal rejected the plaintiffs's argument that the Forest Service's failure to act on the May 1987 request renders the permit invalid.

"Plantiffs do not identify, and the court cannot find, any authority holding that an agency's failure to act within a reasonable time" invalidates a special use permit, Bernal wrote.

September 22, 2016

What this election is really about

Sam Smith

Presidential elections are not just about electing a president. They are about choosing a political culture and battlefield for the next four years. They are about selecting which policies will be the strongest, which existing ones will be most endangered, and which group of Americans will have the most say or suffer the worst indignities.  

We have been taught, in no small part by a media that treats our politics as a TV entertainment contest, to obsess over the characters of the major participants while ignoring the effects either might have on our policies or which one will respond best to rational public pressure.

We are not just electing Trump or Clinton but everything that will happen as a result of their being in office, including our capacity to influence events.

It’s not necessary here to reiterate the damage a Trump presidency will do to our society. But what is far less clear is the positive effect a Clinton presidency could have, despite an impressive list of personal failings.

An essential – and undiscussed – aspect of this is that a major portion of the current political struggle is one of generations.

For example, a 2014 Gallup survey found that the percentage of Americans who were Republican didn't even reach 40% until in the over 40 age category.

Both candidates represent the end of an era, but the effort to cling to this era (or even move further back) is far stronger in the GOP. And while, in the primaries,  Clinton successfully prevented an age rebellion (led ironically by an older Bernie Sanders), she is politically conscious of what happened and has already begun to change some of her views.

For example she now supports a public option in healthcare insurance while having attempted two decades ago to pass a rotten insurance industry sweetheart measure.

While the latter may easily be seen as a good reason not to vote for her, history suggests another possibility, something I was fortunate enough to observe first hand.

In the summer of 1957, as a 19 year old Washington radio news reporter, I covered the buildup to the first modern major civil rights bill, enacted shortly after I returned to college. The debate included the longest filibuster in history and a Senator Majority named Leader Lyndon Johnson playing both sides: getting it passed and weakening it.

But what was extraordinary was that he had anything to do with it at all. As historian Robert Caro has put it:

For no less than 20 years in Congress, from 1937 to 1957, Johnson’s record was on the side of the South. He not only voted with the South on civil rights, but he was a southern strategist, but in 1957, he changes and pushes through the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction. He always had this true, deep compassion to help poor people and particularly poor people of color, but even stronger than the compassion was his ambition. But when the two aligned, when compassion and ambition finally are pointing in the same direction, then Lyndon Johnson becomes a force for racial justice, unequalled certainly since Lincoln.

Thus the first major civil rights bill in 82 years was passed thanks in no small part to a politician certainly as cynical and untrustworthy as Hillary Clinton and driven, like her, by presidential ambitions.

While I would love it if politics were simply a matter of the will and interests of the people, you can’t hang around it long without realizing that this isn’t true. Virtue is only one reason that politicians do the right thing. Their perceived place and moment in history is a much greater cause. 

As I would explain later, the two American politicians who got more good legislation passed in the least time were probably Lyndon John and Adam Clayton Powell – and you wouldn’t want either one of them near your daughter.

Hillary Clinton is now in a place in history where her interest and ours have moved far closer than in the past. She badly needs the support, for example,  of the young, and Bernie Sanders showed her how to do it. What she really believes we may never know but if you want a new agenda for a new generation of Americans, then the best way is to get her into the White House and build the pressure for change as the condition of support.

The day after her election – assuming we pull it off – the Sanders coalition, the young, black, latino, women, ecologists and union members must come together and give her an agenda upon which her success will depend. This is what happened when I returned to Washington journalism in 1964 after serving in the Coast Guard. LBJ had been in the White House for less than a year. Already a new generation was defining his and America’s agenda. And while he wrongly rejected it on Vietnam,  on other issues such as civil rights he  helped to create a truly new and greater society.

I strongly suspect something similar can happen this fall. Another new generation has grown weary of waiting and needs a government it can help define. It will not be a matter of asking Clinton to do things, but giving her few better choices other than to listen what this new generation has to say.

History can be messy and not pretty as we like. But it would be tragic, if due to apathy, anger or self-righteousness triumphing over pragmatism, we lost this chance to change America in a way it hasn’t seen in years.  Don’t think of Clinton as a candidate, but rather as a tool for us to use.