Sunday, May 27, 2018

Ireland Votes Pro-Choice... In A Landslide


The vote to repeal the harsh 8th Amendment to Ireland's Constitution-- which banned all abortion, even when rape was the cause of the pregnancy-- was expected a to be close, especially after American anti-Choice fanatics funneled campaign funds into the election. But it wasn't close. Ireland voted overwhelmingly to join the rest of the EU, just as they had voted to allow same sex marriage in 2015. And not unexpectedly, it was younger voters who led the way, nearly 80% of voters under 34 voting against the abortion ban. The only age cohort voting "No" was those over 65. The Irish Times reported a landslide based on exit polls Friday. As the votes were counted officially Saturday, reports all sounded like this:
It's official: Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow, Yes, Yes, Yes.
Nationally the final vote was 3,367,556 (66.4%) to 2,159,655 (33.6%).

By late Saturday afternoon it was clear that just a single constituency was voting "No", Donegal in the far north. Central Dublin led the way with a 76.51% to 23.49% vote for "Yes" (pro-Choice). Except for tiny, rural, backward Donegal, the best the "No" vote could do was around 40% in places like Tipperary, Offaly and Limerick. Anti-Choice proponents expected to win in rural parts of the country. They didn't. All 10 Dublin constituencies were counted by early evening on Saturday. Mind-blowing results:

Click to view the Dublin results

For decades, Irish women with an unviable or unwanted pregnancy have faced an impossible choice. A choice between a lonely-- and for many, prohibitively expensive-- journey to a foreign country to seek a safe abortion; an attempt to do it themselves, risking death or criminal prosecution; or simply succumbing to a state that forces them to carry their pregnancy to term, regardless of whether they conceived through rape, or fatal foetal abnormalities mean their baby will die at birth.

No more. Friday’s referendum-- expected to be close-- in the end delivered a decisive majority in favour of repealing the Irish constitution’s eighth amendment, which since 1983 has recognised an equal right to life for both mothers and their unborn children, effectively prohibiting abortion in almost all cases.

The result, described by Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, as “the culmination of a quiet revolution in Ireland,” is extraordinary on two counts. First, in its decisiveness: watching thousands of young people flock home to vote by boat, train and plane, many thought this vote would be a tale of two Irelands-- older and younger; rural and urban; the past and the future.

That the resounding victory was not purely a result of generational displacement hints at an Ireland more unified than many believed. Exit polls suggest that even among the over-65s, a very significant minority voted for repeal. Alongside Ireland’s popular vote for equal marriage, it reveals just how much social attitudes have transformed as a result of people with longstanding views changing their minds.

The result was also extraordinary for what it represents: not just an embrace of women’s reproductive rights, but a sweeping away of one of the last vestiges of church influence on the state. Decades of scandal-- from the Catholic church’s role in running the Magdalene laundries where thousands of unwed, pregnant women were imprisoned and abused, to the child sex abuse scandals that have racked it-- have eroded its moral legitimacy and left it vulnerable to charges of the most extreme hypocrisy. An institution that looked the other way when women in its protection were raped, and children in its care were sexually abused, cannot expect to command the moral obedience of a nation.

The Irish parliament is now set to legalise abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, bringing Ireland into line with most of Europe, with abortion available up to 24 weeks on much more restricted grounds.

This will profoundly improve the lives of Irish women. But the result will also be felt beyond Ireland’s borders: most strongly and immediately in Northern Ireland, where the only way women can secure safe and legal abortion is to travel to the British mainland. The MP Stella Creasy is planning to force a parliamentary vote on the issue, but liberalisation is strongly opposed by the anti-abortion DUP, on whose votes the government relies at Westminster. The DUP cannot claim to speak for Northern Ireland, where there is a clear majority in favour of liberalisation. It would be unforgivable for Theresa May to trade away the rights of British women in exchange for the DUP’s parliamentary support.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

I haven't used a clip for The Midnight Meme Of The Day in a long time but I loved this parody of Simon And Garfunkel's classic "The Sound Of Silence." Satire is satire and parody is parody, but both can mirror the truth when done right. So I give you "Confounds The Science." Enjoy. It's the weekend.

Oh, and, send this clip to a Republican (if you have the misfortune of knowing one).

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Koch Brothers Involving Themselves In Democratic Politics Again


As we saw a few days ago, the Koch brothers are starting to interfere with Democratic candidates for election. Ironically, the first person in line for their filthy money was DCCC chair Ben Ray Lujan. Also ironically, no one has asked him to step down. Why would they; it's the Democratic Party. And now the top Koch front group, Americans for Prosperity, is handing out more cash to Democrats

They've cooked up a new ad campaign, beginning Memorial Day weekend-- radio, print, digital and direct mail-- targeting Republican and Democrats in Congress who voted for the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package in March. There is a companion plan to support candidates who voted against it. 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted for it and 90 Republican and 77 Democrats who opposed it so there are plenty of targets. The selections were very strategic.

A Koch spokesman, Bill Riggs: "It’s time to take a hard look at what lawmakers say, and what they actually do when it comes to reining in overspending. The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in March showed a complete disregard for fiscal responsibility. Both parties are responsible for putting the country on an unsustainable fiscal path, which is why AFP is committed to holding both parties accountable."

Very few of the Republicans they chose to target (like Kentucky's Hal Rogers, Bob Aderholt of Alabama and Idaho's Mike Simpson are in any danger of losing and most Republicans they're rewarding need the support for crucial races-- Dave Brat (VA), Glen Grothman (WI), Jim Renacci (OH), Steve Pearce (NM), Jason Lewis (MN), Tom Garrett (VA), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Rod Blum (IA) and Mike Coffman (CO). On the other hand, some of the Democrats being targeted can be seriously hurt, particularly Matt Cartwright (PA), Beto O'Rourke (TX) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL). Example" Hal Rogers' opponent this cycle, Ken Stepp, has raised $524 compared to Rogers' $539,915. The Koch brothers opposition is a joke.

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Is Beyoncé In The Illuminati? Don't Ask The Republican Running For Congress In Northwest Illinois


Who even talks about the Illuminati but right-wing nut cases these days... and people on lunatic fringe websites? Illinois Republicans... meet your candidate in the 17th district-- Rockford, down along the Iowa border past Dubuque and Davenport to Burlington and over to Peoria, Kewanee and Galesburg, and as far south as Carlson and Swan lakes. Chicago Republicans have already nominated Art Jones, an actual Nazi, as their candidate in IL-03, famous for writing that "the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews. It's the blackest lie in history." He's proud to admit he's affiliated with the Nazi Party and says he votes for the Republican candidate "90% of the time." He has a very Trumpist anti-immigrant platform. Anyway, as if that wasn't enough, the Illinois GOP now has a conspiracy theory loon as crazy as Jones running on the other side of the state, Bill Fawell. So who is Republican Bill Fawell? He won the GOP nomination to oppose Cheri Bustos, a right-wing Democrat when the two other Republicans in the primary, Mark Kleine and Jon Schuh, withdrew. Kleine had raised (self-financed) $508,150 before withdrawing. Fawell hasn't raised the $5,000 that would trigger an FEC report.
Fawell, a real estate broker, pushed conspiracy theories in blogs and his 2012 book, New American Revolution.

In his book, Fawell pushed a conspiracy theory that 7 World Trade Center collapsed as part of a controlled demolition and the attacks were a plot to destroy documents.

"Go to YouTube and punch in 'Building #7' It's the third building that went down with the twin towers on 9/11," Fawell wrote. "Nothing hit this building, not a thing, and it fell entirely upon its own. If it looks like a standard commercial implosion demolition, it's because that is exactly what it is."

"It's interesting to note that the clandestine branch of the CIA was housed on the top floor," he added. "No personnel were lost, but any and all documents were destroyed, just like a giant shredder. The Pentagon was hit in a wing being remodeled (but few people), that held a mountain of paperwork regarding 1 trillion dollars which the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was having trouble accounting for. That mountain of paperwork became a pile of ash."

In a February 2013 post on the blog of a political action committee he established in 2012 called Elect a New Congress, Fawell said that Beyonce's husband, rapper Jay-Z, "has a long history of serving up the godless Illuminati" and shared a YouTube video that speculated that Beyonce's upcoming halftime performance at the Super Bowl would have Illuminati symbolism.

The Illuminati is a secret society that serves as the basis for a popular conspiracy theory that alleges that many of the world's leaders and celebrities are masterminding world events.

In the same blog post, Fawell said that the previous Super Bowl's halftime show, performed by Madonna, was satanic and influenced by the Illuminati. He also called Madonna a "narcissist skank with the crooked teeth."

In an interview with CNN, Fawell stood by his blog posts and the theories he espoused on them. He said that Jay-Z and Beyonce expressed their support for the Illuminati in their videos, and that singer Taylor Swift had as well.
There is no Illuminati now, except on Hate Talk Radio, but there was one, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power-- the Bavarian Illuminati founded in 1776. They were a boogey man to conservatives and were banned over and over again. It attracted progressives of the day but disappeared the 1780s. You can be sure anyone ranting and raving about the Illuminati today is mentally ill, as well as an extreme right-winger.
The internet is awash with theories about the Illuminati, a mysterious group that conspiracy theorists believe is seeking a 'New World Order' that would impose a totalitarian world government. Among the alleged members of the secret society are not just politicians and religious leaders, but actors and pop stars.

Echoing the anti-communist witch-hunts and black-listings of 1950s Hollywood, one of the core beliefs of Illuminati watchers is that the entire entertainment industry has been infiltrated and that Illuminati members are using the media to brainwash the masses.

So who are the Illuminati and who has the group apparently recruited from Tinseltown?

...In a recent interview with the BBC, David Bramwell, "a man who has dedicated himself to documenting the origins of the myth", claims the modern-day Illuminati legend was influenced not by Weishaupt but rather by LSD, the 1960s counter-culture, and specifically a text called Principia Discordia.

...One of the main proponents of this new ideology was a writer called Robert Anton Wilson who wanted to bring chaos back into society by "disseminating misinformation through all portals-- through counter culture, through the mainstream media," claims Bramwell.

He did this by sending fake letters to the men's magazine Playboy, where he worked, attributing cover-ups and conspiracy theories, such as the JFK assassination, to a secret elite organisation called the Illuminati.

...[T]he idea of a powerful modern Illuminati conspiring to rule the world remained a niche belief upheld by a handful of cranks until the 1990s. The spread of the internet changed all that, giving conspiracy theorists a global platform to expound their beliefs and present their evidence to a massive audience.

Theories about how the New World Order operates run from the faintly credible-- in light of the Davos summit, a cabal of politicians and business leaders getting together to decide global policies doesn't seem impossible-- to the outright bizarre.

Earlier this year, Canada’s respected former defence minister, Paul Hellyer, came out and claimed not only that the Illuminati is real, but that it does indeed control the world.

Speaking on the Lazarus Effect podcast, Hellyer said he believed the world’s elite has suppressed technology brought to Earth by aliens, which could reverse the effects of climate change and end our reliance on fossil fuels.

When asked why, he said many members of the Illuminati have stakes in oil and were therefore heavily invested in how well the industry did.

...At the other end of the believability spectrum is former TV presenter David Icke's claim that the world's leaders are actually super-intelligent lizards in human guise who control our reality from the Moon. Those who remember Icke from his days on Grandstand may be surprised to know his theories about our reptilian overlords-- who have included the Rothschilds, Bob Hope and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother-- have amassed a faithful following on the internet.

...As well as being king and queen of the charts, Beyonce and Jay Z are frequently depicted as lords of the New World Order. Beyonce's immense fame and popularity have long made her a favourite target for conspiracy theorists. Illuminati 'experts' seized upon her half-time performance at the 2013 Super Bowl as an example of her "devil-worshipping" choreography, even accusing her on-stage alter ego Sasha Fierce of being a "demonic entity."

Her recent performance at this year’s Coachella music festival sent conspiracy theorist tongues wagging again.

...[F]ormer MI6 agent John Coleman... claimed the Beatles' overwhelming transatlantic success was engineered by the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, a London-based social research group - or, as theorists would have it, a nefarious organisation dedicated to eroding the bedrock of US society.

To that end, argues the former special agent, the institute's Illuminati connections used the Fab Four to further its plan to promote "rock music and drugs" with the aim of "undermining and eventually destroying the family unit."

...When Prince died suddenly of an accidental overdose in April, a small but vocal corner of the internet accused the Illuminati of killing the singer-songwriter, who was famous for fiercely protecting his copyrights and artistic freedom from industry interference.

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Why Young People Are Protesting in Gaza-- Guest Post By Reese Erlich


On my most recent reporting trip to Gaza, I stayed with a family living just a short walk from the Israeli border. At dusk we watched a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean and could forget the ongoing conflict for just a few minutes.

Living conditions for the family have gotten much worse since my visit. They have electricity four hours a day, medicine is in short supply, and they have to get all their water delivered by truck. Overall unemployment in Gaza is 27 percent, with youth unemployment at a staggering 60 percent, according to the World Bank.

That high unemployment presents the biggest problem, said one of my hosts, family member Jihad Mosalami, an English professor. “People can’t survive,” he told me in a phone interview.

Many of Mosalami’s students were among the tens of thousands who have gathered to demonstrate at the fence separating Gaza and Israel of the past several weeks. “A few went to the fence to throw stones,” he said. “Others went to the fence to pray.”

It didn't matter to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, who shot tear gas and live ammunition at the gathering Palestinians.

“It was like hell,” said Mosalami.

From March 30 to May 15, Israeli security forces killed over 100 Palestinians and wounded more than 10,000, according to the Palestinian health officials. No Israeli soldiers were killed or even seriously injured during this same period.

Palestinians organized the “Great March of Return,” to protest the Israeli military blockade of Gaza. Israeli soldiers control all food, medicine, building supplies, and other goods that enter or exit Gaza. The Israeli military frequently holds up essential goods to pressure Hamas, the ruling party of the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli authorities claimed they were protecting their border from hordes of Palestinians, some armed, intent on crashing through the fence. In reality, no one got though the double fence or the large “no man’s land” buffer zone created by Israel. The soldiers shot civilians to intimidate them-- not out of self-defense.

But these tactics backfired. Palestinians won the political battle by gaining renewed sympathy for their struggle around the world.

The young generation of Palestinians discovered they “can make a difference, not least of which is bringing global attention to their cause,” Brian Barber told me. He’s professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C. The protests gave young Palestinians “their first taste of vibrant collective action... as their parents had with the first intifada.”

Why would young people risk their lives to protest the occupation? Let's take a look at some of the underlying political issues.

What’s the Right of Return?

Sixty-eight percent of people living in Gaza are registered with the U.N. as refugees, either expelled from Israel in 1948 or their descendants. I’ve interviewed Palestinians who still have the keys to their 1948 houses. Under international law, these refugees have the right to return to their towns and villages, according to James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

There are 5 million Palestinians worldwide. As a practical matter, many would not want to return to Israel. Their homes and villages may no longer exist. And many Palestinians “don’t want to live as a minority in Israel,” Zogby told me.

If Israel recognizes a fully independent, viable, and contiguous Palestinian state, many refugees would return there. Years ago the Palestine Liberation Organization proposed that a limited number of Palestinians should be allowed to return to their villages in Israel while the vast majority would have the right to return to a newly independent Palestinian state.

But Palestinians won’t make any compromises on such a critical issue except in the context of an overall peace settlement. (As of press time, neither the United States nor Israel have shown any interest in peace talks.)

One state or two?

For many years the left and progressives supported the concept of one state in which all Palestinians would be free to return to Israel as equal citizens. The democratic state would champion one person, one vote with no discrimination based on ethnicity or religion.

Eighty-one percent of Israeli Jews reject the idea of a one-state solution, according to a 2017 poll, because the return of millions of Palestinians would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The one-state plan has little support even among progressive Israelis opposed to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

By the 1980s, the Palestine Liberation Organization began to propose a two-state solution in which the Palestinians and Israelis would have their own states living in peace. Negotiations would determine borders based on Israel’s pre-1967 territory. Different parts of Jerusalem could serve as capitals for both countries. The two-state solution served as the basis for the 1993 Oslo peace accord.

Successive Israeli governments never implemented the Oslo agreement, however. They continued to build Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and unilaterally built a wall dividing Israel and the West Bank that doesn't follow the 1967 border line.

In March a Palestinian poll showed 48 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza supported two states and 50 percent opposed. But only 28 percent supported one state.

"I'm not an activist or politician," said my friend Mosalami, "but I do believe the majority of Palestinians will accept two states. It's the practical solution."

But doesn’t Hamas reject two states?

Actually, Hamas is willing to accept the two-state solution. Soon after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, its leaders faced reality. Having one state was not possible and most Palestinians favored two states.

“We accepted that our state should be on the 1967 borders, but Israel rejected that,” then top Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told me. He confirmed that position with former President Jimmy Carter. I re-confirmed that view with two different Hamas ministers during a 2011 trip to Gaza.

Hamas doesn't emphasize that position because there are no peace talks on the horizon. Hamas leaders want Israel or the United States to put forward a viable two-state option, and then it will respond.

But isn’t Hamas a terrorist organization? How could Israel trust them in negotiations?

Hamas is a political party with an armed militia that functions as Gaza’s security force. It considers itself a national liberation movement fighting occupation forces through armed struggle. Hamas has intentionally killed civilians, including bombing buses and restaurants.

Using terrorist tactics, however, does not make one a terrorist organization. Jewish militias fighting the British and Arabs in 1948 and 1949 used terrorist tactics. They murdered and tortured Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin, forcing residents to flee. They blew up the King David Hotel, killing over ninety Jews, Arabs, and British soldiers.

Some of the Jewish militia tactics parallel recent events in Gaza. Yuri Avnery, today one of the Israel’s major peace movement leaders, described how he participated in a 1948 Tel Aviv march organized by the Irgun, a militia later incorporated into the IDF.

Civilian Irgun youth marched down a street “where the offices of the British administration were located,” Avnery wrote. “There we sang the national anthem, ‘Hatikvah’, while some adult members set fire to the offices.”

I oppose the use of terrorism whatever the justification. But Hamas is fundamentally different from Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, who use terror to ethnically cleanse groups they oppose—Christians, Jews, Shia Muslims, and others. Those organizations refuse to participate in elections and use religion as the excuse to give themselves absolute power.

Hamas promotes a conservative religious agenda but it is not the Islamic State. I would not vote for Hamas if I lived in Palestine. But Hamas is a legitimate party whose views are part of the Middle East political reality.

Labeling Hamas a terrorist organization gives Israel, and the United States, an excuse to never hold peace talks. The Israeli government labelled the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists until Israel agreed to the Oslo peace talks. Then they became peace partners.

Earlier this month Hamas offered Israel a “hudna” or ceasefire. Hamas sources told the website Al Monitor if Israel lifted the siege of Gaza, Hamas would enter into negotiations with Israel for a long-term ceasefire.

Should Israeli leaders trust Hamas? No. And Palestinian leaders shouldn’t trust the Israeli government. But there is a common need to begin serious discussions to establish a viable Palestinian state. Each side can advance partial measures and verify their implementation before moving ahead.

My Gaza friend Jihad Mosalami said, “They have to negotiate and reach a deal. People in Gaza want a decent life.”

He acknowledged that the current leadership in Washington and Tel Aviv won’t start talks anytime soon.

“We won’t have war forever,” he said with just a hint of optimism. “The war will end and there can be peace.”

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Will Rohrabacher's Crazy Homophobia Cost Him His Orange County Seat In Congress?


Should congressmen who get high and play dress-up be barred from buying homes in Orange Co?

I can remember when I was a kid growing up on Long Island, there were fights in the suburbs-- Nassau County-- about selling houses to black families. Half the people who lived in some of these towns were there because of "white flight" and they brought their ugly bigotry and racism with them. Trump is ginning that up again-- and on Long Island! But here in California, Trump's top lackey-- and Putin's-- is Orange County lunatic Dana Rohrabacher and he's got gays in his sites. Thursday, Jeff Collins, writing for the Orange County Register, reported that last week Rohrabacher told a group of realtors that homeowners should be able to refuse to sell their property to gays and lesbians.
“Every homeowner should be able to make a decision not to sell their home to someone (if) they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” Rohrabacher told an Orange County Association of Realtors delegation at a May 16 meeting in Washington, D.C., according to Wayne Woodyard, a former Orange County Realtor president who was at the event.

On Thursday, Rohrabacher confirmed the accuracy of the sentiment, and added that homeowners should have the right to “choose who they do business with.”

“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” Rohrabacher said.

“A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

The statement ignited a protest by a Realtor gay-rights group, prompting the National Association of Realtors to withdraw its recommendation that members send campaign contributions to Rohrabacher.

“It was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President’s Circle,” an association statement said, referring to its list of recommended candidates. Rohrabacher’s stance, the 1.3-million-member trade group said, is contrary to NAR’s code of ethics, which bans discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“We certainly hope that Congress will... support the elimination of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The about-face occurred as the 15-term coastal Orange County Republican is locked in his toughest re-election campaign.

He’s facing 15 challengers, including eight Democrats as well as onetime political ally Scott Baugh, former Orange County GOP chairman.

“It certainly can’t do me any good to have people take me off their endorsement list,” said Rohrabacher, who represents California’s 48th District in coastal Orange County. “It’s sad to see (the association’s) priority is standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody’s private lifestyle.”

Harley Rouda, a Democrat who is challenging Rohrabacher and a son of a former Realtor association president, called Rohrabacher’s statements “outlandish and unacceptable,” saying everyone should have the same rights to buy and sell a home.

“What Dana Rohrabacher fails to understand is discrimination is discrimination,” Rouda said. “It shows how backward his thinking is.”

Previously Rohrabacher had been designated as a “Realtor Champion,” eligible for support from top Realtor donors.

The Realtors Political Action Committee, the trade group’s campaign finance arm, also donated $5,000 to Rohrabacher’s re-election campaign in December and January, campaign finance reports show. Rohrabacher also received donations from numerous agents, real estate developers and Realtor groups.

The backlash occurred after Orange County Realtors met last week with Rohrabacher during NAR’s mid-year lobbying conference in Washington and asked him to support H.R. 1447, among other issues.

The measure expands the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968 to add anti-discrimination protections based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The existing law already forbids home sellers, landlords and lenders from discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Rohrabacher’s remarks sparked outrage among gay and lesbian Realtors after Woodyard posted them on Facebook. The founder of a real estate gay-rights group then wrote to NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall requesting the association revoke its support of Rohrabacher.

“When a supposed champion of the Realtor Party outright states that housing discrimination should be lawful, I hope you agree there should be cause for concern,” wrote Jeff Berger, a Florida agent and founder of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. “Ignoring the congressman’s comments belies the decades of serious work and progress NAR has made in the area of fair housing.”

Rohrabacher denied he’s trying to shore up his conservative flank in the face of opposition from Baugh. Indeed, he said, his stance likely will “alienate a certain number of gays who think I’m anti-gay, which isn’t the case.”

Rohrabacher added he vehemently opposes housing discrimination based on race, religion or a person’s sex.

But, he said, “there are some fundamentalist Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle. I support their rights.” He also said he believes the Realtor association’s stance is “way out of sync” with its own industry.

Rohrabacher distinguished race-based discrimination from choosing not to do business with someone because of their lifestyle or political beliefs.

Homeowners, for example, shouldn’t be allowed to deny a sale to an interracial couple, he said.

But Democrats or Republicans should be able to refuse a home sale to people with opposing political views.

Would Rohrabacher, who uses a medical marijuana cream to ease his arthritis and supports relaxed penalties for cannabis use, be OK if a home seller refused to do business with him based on that lifestyle choice?

“Yes,” Rohrabacher said. “Absolutely.”
Ted Lieu is the DCCC regional vice chair for the West Coast, including, obviously, California. Since Rohrabacher refuses to do town hall meetings in his own district, Ted went down to Orange County and did one for the folks who live down there. "Dana Rohrabacher," he told me today, "thinks it is fine for gays and lesbians to be denied a house-- let's work to make sure Dana is denied a seat in the House."

Eric Bauman is the chairman of the California Democratic Party. He's watching all the Orange County congressional races very carefully. This morning he told me "It's pathetic that Putin’s favorite member of Congress thinks his best path to re-election is to attack LGBTQ people where it hurts most-- in their homes and jobs. This sorry excuse for a congressman is happy to help cover up Trump’s exploitation of women, bashing of immigrants and cavorting with foreign regimes, especially because he has no record to run on after decades in the House. So he has no choice but to turn to the classic fascist agenda and scapegoat LGBTQ and other at-risk people. Well I have a suggestion for you Dana, you'd better get out your surfboard and prepare for a long trip, we are going to send you to hang 10, and it won't be in DC, perhaps Moscow or... Stalingrad."

Goal ThermometerDuWayne Gregory is the progressive Democrat running for the congressional seat in Nassau and Suffolk counties in southern and central Long Island (NY-02), a seat currently held by old time reactionary Peter King. DuWayne recognizes  just what Rohrabacher is up to, "Congressman Rohrabacher is an illustration of how the Trump era has empowered people to speak and promote hatred," he told me this morning. "As a father of a son who is gay, I want my son to be able to live a life free of fear and hatred. A society where he won’t be the victim of a hate crime. A society where he can work for an employer that won’t discriminate against him, because of his sexual orientation. A society where he can purchase a home and raise his own family. A society where he can pursue his dreams just like every other American citizen. That’s why I am running for Congress, because my congressman, Peter King, has just as bad a record on LGBTQ issues as his colleague in discrimination Rohrabacher. We can do better and we must do better by electing people to Congress that understand the true values of our country."

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The Democratic Party-- Which Way?


Last month, Justice Democrats commissioned an important report, The Future of the Party-- A Progressive Vision For A Populist Democrat Party by Sean McElwee. You should read the whole thing at that link. The short version: "The Democratic Party is at a crossroads as the 2018 election approaches."
Generic ballot polling, historical trends, and recent special elections suggest that Democrats will perform well in November, likely enough to take back the House of Representatives.

But which Democratic Party will take the House?

Will it be a Democratic Party ready to combat plutocracy, white supremacy, and militarism, or a Democratic Party ready to be complicit in continuing the policies that have harmed so many Americans? While pundits debate the future of the party, the Democratic Party’s base is united around policies that would create a fair economy for all, racial justice, and gender equality. Still, many in the party leadership and wealthy donor class express concerns that such policies will endanger the party.
The report shows that a pivot toward the "center" is poison with the Democratic primary electorate, that marginal voters and nonvoters support key progressive policies and could form a durable base for the Democratic Party and that many Democratic incumbents are failing their constituents by opposing progressive policies with broad-based support.

These are the key findings:
The Democratic base is ready for multi-racial populism.

• Democratic primary voters want aggressive government action: More than 90 percent of Democratic primary voters support a tax on millionaires and increased regulation on banks. Eighty-six percent of Democratic primary voters support a government guarantee of health care. Eighty percent support the government taking actions to reduce inequality.

• Democratic primary voters increasingly reject racism:

Eighty-five percent of Democratic primary voters support a path to citizenship, and nearly 1 in 5 believe that it should not involve any penalties. For the first time since it’s been polled, a majority of white Democrats are more likely to blame discrimination than “willpower” for racial inequality.

It's time for a new nonvoter revolution.

• Nonvoters preferred Clinton to Trump 53/44.Full turnout would have lead to a Democratic Presidential victory in 2016.
• Nonvoters and marginal voters are more supportive of progressive policies. For example, 68 percent of nonvoters support increased regulation of big banks, compared to 52 percent of consistent voters.

Democrats can win elections without rejecting their base.

• The general public supports key, over-the-horizon Democratic priorities, from marijuana legalization and ending mandatory minimums to a $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care.
• Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage are popular in purple states across the country.

Democrats are not representing the progressivism of their constituents.

• Many Democrats reject policies supported by the general public in their states and districts.

• Ninety-two percent of Democrats in the House represent districts where modeled support for repealing the Hyde Amendment is greater than 55 percent, but only 70 percent of House Democrats support repealing the Hyde Amendment. 
• Sixty-seven percent of Democrats in the Senate represent states where modeled support for Medicare for All is greater than 55 percent, but only 33 percent of Senate Democrats support Medicare for All.

This is one point that we often grapple with at DWT: "Democratic Politicians Falsely Believe Voters Are Less Progressive."
Politicians from both parties dramatically overestimate the conservatism of the voters they represent.

Academic research suggests that Democratic politicians may vote more conservatively because they fundamentally misunderstand the electorate. Political scientists David Broockman and Christopher Skovron surveyed 3,765 politicians and compared their views to modeled support for policies in their districts. They find that politicians from both parties dramatically overestimate the conservatism of the voters they represent. Another study examined party leaders, who often determine which candidates will end up running and who will gain the party’s backing. They find that Democratic Party leaders were far more likely than Republicans to favor centrist candidates and that leaders in both parties overestimated the conservatism of the electorate. In another study, political scientists Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Matto Mildenberger, and Leah Stokes surveyed senior congressional aides as well as public opinion polling and find that these staffers “had a more conservative picture of their constituents’ opinions than the constituents actually expressed in polls.”

However, there is hope; research from political scientists Daniel Butler and David Nickerson suggests that when politicians are given accurate polling about their constituents, they move to align their policies with constituents.

Examining policies such as the minimum wage and racial justice, as well as tax policy, we find that Democrats are wrong to target the mushy middle. In fact, there is durable and consistent support for even over-the-horizon progressive policies across the country. Voters reject mandatory minimums, which have inflamed mass incarceration. Voters also reject the Hyde Amendment, an unnecessary limitation on a woman’s right to choose. Voters are more than ready for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action on climate change and new investment in infrastructure.

Data from the 2016 American National Election Studies further confirm that Democrats can run unabashedly pro-choice and pro-climate campaigns. ANES asks respondents to place themselves on a scale from 1-7, with 1 being “Some people think the federal government needs to regulate business to protect the environment. They think that efforts to protect the environment will also create jobs” and 7 being “Others think that the federal government should not regulate business to protect the environment. They think this regulation will not do much to help the environment and will cost us jobs.” Fifty-eight percent placed themselves on the 1-3 side, 20 percent at 4, and only 22 percent on 5-7. According to the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies 2016 survey, 58 percent of adults agree with the statement, “Always allow a woman to obtain an abortion as a matter of choice.”

"Since Democrats in DC decided that the way to win is to pretend to be Republicans, we have lost over a thousand legislative seats nationally" said Levi Tillemann (CO-06). "Voters want someone with real principles who they know will fight for them, not for corporations, millionaires, and DC insiders. Our campaign for medicare for all, requiring millionaires and billionaires to invest in America (not just their stock portfolios), and moving to 100% renewable energy by 2035 is resonating because people know it's what I actually believe and people know it's what's best for the country."

Yesterday, John Herrick, writing for the Colorado Independent noted that Diana DeGette is facing progressive primary challenger Saira Rao who wants to shape the future of the Democratic Party. Saira told him that "Blue isn’t working. We’ve got to go true blue." A former Hillary voter, she's broken with the corporate establishment side of the party and "says corporations are buying votes from Democrats through campaign contributions. As part of her campaign, Rao has pledged to not take any money from corporations. And so far, she has narrowly outraised DeGette this year pulling in $255,000 to Degette’s $240,000."
DeGette says one of her proudest accomplishments while serving as a representative is the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which increased funding for disease research. Congress passed the bill and it was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2016. This legislation helped DeGette earn the Jacob K. Javits Prize for Bipartisan Leadership.

But liberals seem uninspired by consensus making. Rao points out that Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sanders of Vermont claim the law eased regulations and was essentially a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. One of DeGette’s top donors this year is AbbVie, a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company. ...Rao’s supporters also criticized DeGette for having voted for Hillary Clinton as a superdelegate at the Democratic National Convention when Sanders won the Colorado caucus.
These comments from some the Blue America-endorsed candidates about the Democratic Party came from a post asserting that the Democratic Party would be doing better if they had some discernible economic policies that voters identified with them. Alan Grayson was the first up to bat: "Polls show that voters-- not just Democrats, voters-- overwhelmingly favor a minimum wage increase, paid sick leave, universal healthcare, Social Security and Medicare increases, lower taxes on working people, etc. You have to wonder how long Democratic 'leaders' are going to continue to wear the hair shirt." Last night he added "Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do the voters. A vacuous Democratic Party is a loser Democratic Party. The voters are shouting, 'please-- stand for something!'"

"I feel like I’m being completely unoriginal" Paul Clements (MI-06) told me, "but still it should be said: people don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for. I’ve heard it time and again at house parties and Democratic events around the district. I’ve given my stump speech so many times: (besides Trump) economic inequality is the issue, money in politics the cause, yes fix taxes and raise the minimum wage but we need to fix the basics: health care for all, education, and criminal justice. Then I fudge a fourth one, calling it a forward looking economic policy, and include renewable energy, energy efficient technologies, agricultural research, and major infrastructure investments. Then, oh, of course, we have to deal with climate change or all of this is off the table. The details matter, but you can probably pretty much fill them in. I know that these planks and more are in the last Democratic Party platform, but, seriously, so what? The Democratic Party does not have a clear agenda and people don’t know what it stands for. I think the agenda should address the basics. It should speak to economic inequality. But at least there should be a vision, there should be a program, so in house parties and such we don’t have to do all the work."

Goal ThermometerJames Thompson is the progressive Democrat running in the Wichita-centered 4th Kansas district. His primary is August 7. And then he'll be facing right-wing Republican Ron Estes. He's all about the issues that Democrats need to speak to the voters about. Here's what he told me today:
When I was homeless and struggling to make ends meet I didn’t give a damn about the stock market, I was worried about putting food on the table and keeping a roof over the heads of myself and my baby brothers. The stock market and trade agreements are important parts of our economy, but until Democrats get back to protecting the kitchen table economy it will be hard to pull people back into the Democratic Party. Before people can care about things outside their own circle, they must feel confident in their own financial situation, which means they must have a stable job with a livable wage. That means a guaranteed jobs program and affordable healthcare and education. It means expanding Medicare and Social Security not cutting it. It means taking care of the farmers who feed us. It is the basic hierarchy of needs. Democrats as a party need to return to being FDR Democrats looking out for working people rather than corporate shills for Wall Street. We must remember that this is a government not of corporation interests, but a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We can get there, we just need to keep moving forward with electing progressives.
Sam Jammal, running in Orange County against a pack of carpetbagger multimillionaires who are trying to buy the seat, is also a progressive trying to talk with the CA-39 voters about issues. "Democrats win," he said, "if we have a positive economic message focused on lifting up the middle class. This means focusing on the cost of prescription drugs, student debt, housing affordability and creating good-paying jobs so families can enter the middle class. We won't win by just being anti-Trump. We also won't win if our campaigns are not focused on people's pocketbooks. The reality on the ground is that families are still struggling. We need to be identitied as the party that actually has a plan for lifting people up."

Kara Eastman, the progressive Democrat who won her primary against a Blue Dog last Tuesday, was victorious, in large part, because she campaigned on issues that real people are excited about. "It is time for policy makers to put people first. Common sense policies that prevent illness, ensure families can make a living wage and provide jobs should be at the core of what elected officials want to accomplish. Raising the minimum wage (which is actually supported by 74% of Americans) is one federal policy that would have a huge ripple effect in the nation. Universal healthcare (also supported by more than 60% of Americans) would also boost the economy by freeing employers from the shackles of being in the healthcare business. In addition, investing in infrastructure such as replacing lead service lines and creating green and healthy housing would create jobs while making our children healthier and safer."

Over in Maine, Jared Golden, a proud working class progressive who understands what solidarity means, is running for Democratic nomination in a June 12th primary. "If America had its priorities straight we could fix our economy. We need to fight for a fair tax plan that doesn’t give away trillions to the wealthy-elite and multinational corporations that aren’t investing in America. Take that revenue back and put it to work rebuilding American roads, rails and bridges. We need to stand with unions for better pay, and healthcare and retirement benefits. And renegotiate and reject bad trade deals that undermine wages and safety for workers. We need to stop allowing corporations and billionaires to waste so much capital on buying elections, so they can instead put that money to work on Main Street, creating jobs and paying people their real worth."

Tom Guild is running in the Oklahoma City Metro and he's warning the party establishment that progressives are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, not just corporatists. "Channeling what President Lyndon Johnson said decades ago, 'I’d rather have people inside the tent pissing out, instead of outside the tent pissing in.' If we don’t support progressive ideals and policies, too many progressives who are registered as members of the Democratic Party, will be outside the tent when the November election arrives. This lack of enthusiasm among our foot soldiers will be fatal to many of the party’s candidates. Independents who identify with the progressive movement will lose interest and opt out of the process. This seems to happen in Oklahoma and nationally in election after election. To maximize our turnout, we must chart a progressive course, support progressive proposals, and maximize the support of our progressive base. Paraphrasing President Harry Truman, if voters are forced to choose between a Republican and a Democrat pretending to be a Republican, they’ll pick the Republican every time!"

Ricardo Franco is the progressive Democrat up against Devin Nunes in California's Central Valley (CA-22). But, of course, there's also a conservative-- a very, very conservative-- establishment Democrat in the race as well. Ricardo read the Justice Democrats report and told me what he thought about it and how what it uncovers impacts his own race:
This report and recent election results throughout the country have confirmed what we hypothesized last summer: Progressive policies are what it takes to mobilize the Democratic base and swing over independents and Republicans. In my opinion this is because progressives speak directly to the issues affecting working-class Americans rather than traditional party politics.

When I started this campaign I was told I was too progressive to win. Now another Democratic candidate has adopted my platform and moved more towards the left. The centrist Democratic candidate in our race refused to even appear on television last night with another Democratic challenger and myself because they are presumably too afraid of going on the record on any issues.

Across the country we have seen progressives win elections and beat out establishment Democrats. In addition to having a winning policy, progressives are also proud of who they are and not afraid to stand for what they believe in. It's this combination of policy smarts and strong moral character that is leading progressives to victory.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Announcing a new policy, the National Football League owners and their Commissioner, Roger Goodell, have come down heavily against kneeling players who protest racial inequality and police brutality against African-Americans; all to please a racist draft-dodging con artist that they support with their campaign contributions. I suppose that, considering Goodell's past light treatment of players who beat up women, we shouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, President Bone Spurs has suggested that those players who protest police brutality and racial inequality "shouldn't be in the country." No, you stark, raving-mad Hitler wannabe, it is you who shouldn't be in the country. In a sane world, you wouldn't even belong in this century.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

FL-26-- Steve Machat Withdraws From The Race To Topple Carlos Curbelo


The DCCC & EMILY's List has their candidate and there is also a progressive running

Steve Machat is a guy I knew from the music business who, in one way or another-- attorney, publisher, manager, etc-- worked with Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Leonard Cohen, Phil Spector, ELO, Snoop Dogg, New Edition, Bobby Brown, etc. He also wrote Gods, Gangsters and Honour, a book that is basically an insider's guide to the music industry. Until a couple of weeks ago he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination too run for the very blue seat occupied by Republican Carlos Curbelo. The DCCC endorsed conservative New Dem Debbie Mucarel-Powell. He wrote to his supporters to explain why he was withdrawing from the race.
Earlier this month I was a guest speaker in Israel, addressing equality, creation and how to perpetuate culture. From there, I went on to Jordan, meeting with King Abdullah’s Ministers.

Both these experiences allowed a lot of soul searching on my part.

I feel that the electoral system in the US is possibly irretrievably broken, with Blue Dog Democrats voting with Trump and Corporate Democrats voting with the special interests that fund them.

Our two party system is owned and controlled by a network of corporate interest, which funds and selects politicians on our behalf, places them in government, and then the government runs us. This is totally contrary to what our Founding Fathers intended. They intended a government of the people, by the people, for the people. They did not intend a government of corporations, by corporate-funded politicians, for the benefit of corporations.

It’s not enough just to elect Democrats, we have to elect truly progressive Democrats.

In the uneven minefield that is American politics today, there is no room for two independent-minded Democrats to oppose each other in District 26. The good news is that my platform and that of Commander Demetries Grimes are very similar. We both believe in campaign finance reform, universal healthcare, banning assault weapons, meaningful gun reform, tuition-free college, and the decriminalization of marijuana-- to name but a few policy areas. We both have the same objective-- to elect an independent public servant as our next Congressperson in District 26. It is for this reason that I have decided to withdraw from the race today to give Commander Grimes a clear run to beat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the Primary, and Carlos Curbelo in the General Election. My team and I will give Demetries and his team as much support as he wishes to win the battles ahead.

I thank those who have supported me. I also thank everyone who had the courage to engage in making dialogue with me against my views. Debate is heathy. It makes us great. The subjugation of critical thinking is one of the tools used by the corporations and the super-wealthy to take over our political system. We need to revitalize critical thinking and help give back to our youth the belief that they can fulfill their dreams.

In order to do that, I am going to concentrate on my entertainment career. I am now part of the team creating a new independent major network called Gran, dedicated to new creations of music, TV, films and webisodes. In addition, I continue to work with our friend in Cuba on a festival celebrating, arts, music and culture.

I realize that I can help shape our young people’s minds to believe in dreams again; to learn that for a dream to come true you must build; and to build successfully you need to work as a team.

I pledge to do whatever I can to continue to help America build the team for a 21st century life. A life where everyone is equal. A life where it is the duty of the government to provide healthcare for all, education for all, safety for our communities, a guaranteed income with jobs for all, a community that protects Mother Earth and an energy solution based on renewable resources. A life that works to ensure that our future is better than our present. A life that provides a future for our children and a security for our seniors.

Please make sure you are registered to vote here. Information on Commander Demetries Grimes can be found here. Please join us.

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Centrists-- The Real Bad Guys


American fascist, Matt Gaetz

There really are right-wing extremists in Congress-- Jim Jordan (R-OH), Brian Babin (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Pete Olson (R-TX), David Kustoff (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Austin Scott (R-GA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Diane Black (R-TN), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-NC), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jody Hice (R-GA), John Fleming (R-LA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)... I don't want to call anyone a Nazi. But someone could.

But there really aren't any left-wing extremists in Congress. Not a one. (I wish there were.) The dozen House Democrats with the highest ProgressivePunch lifetime scores are all, basically, left-of-center moderates:
Jamie Raskin (MD)
Mark Pocan (WI)
Pramila Jayapal (WA)
Katherine Clark (MA)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Jan Schakowsky (IL)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Judy Chu (CA)
Adriano Espaillat (NY)
Ro Khanna (CA)
Keith Ellison (MN)
Most of them represent districts with constituents to the left of where they are! David Adler, writing for Wednesday's NY Times, put together an OpEd asserting that Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists, equating extremists on the right with "extremists" on the left. "The warning signs," he begins, "are flashing red: Democracy is under threat. Across Europe and North America, candidates are more authoritarian, party systems are more volatile, and citizens are more hostile to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. These trends have prompted a major debate between those who view political discontent as economic, cultural or generational in origin. But all of these explanations share one basic assumption: The threat is coming from the political extremes." OK, Europe has some left wing extremists. But not the U.S.
On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.

I examined the data from the most recent World Values Survey (2010 to 2014) and European Values Survey (2008), two of the most comprehensive studies of public opinion carried out in over 100 countries. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on a spectrum from far left to center to far right. I then plotted the proportion of each group’s support for key democratic institutions.

Respondents who put themselves at the center of the political spectrum are the least supportive of democracy, according to several survey measures. These include views of democracy as the “best political system,” and a more general rating of democratic politics. In both, those in the center have the most critical views of democracy.

Some of the most striking data reflect respondents’ views of elections. Support for “free and fair” elections drops at the center for every single country in the sample. The size of the centrist gap is striking. In the case of the United States, fewer than half of people in the political center view elections as essential.

Of course, the concept of “support for democracy” is somewhat abstract, and respondents may interpret the question in different ways. What about support for civil rights, so central to the maintenance of the liberal democratic order? In almost every case, support for civil rights wanes in the center. In the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy.

One of the strongest warning signs for democracy has been the rise of populist leaders with authoritarian tendencies. But while these leaders have become more popular, it is unclear whether citizens explicitly support more authoritarian styles of government. I find, however, evidence of substantial support for a “strong leader” who ignores his country’s legislature, particularly among centrists. In the United States, centrists’ support for a strongman-type leader far surpasses that of the right and the left.

What Does It Mean?

Across Europe and North America, support for democracy is in decline. To explain this trend, conventional wisdom points to the political extremes. Both the far left and the far right are, according to this view, willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions to achieve radical change. Moderates, by contrast, are assumed to defend liberal democracy, its principles and institutions.

The numbers indicate that this isn’t the case. As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism-- least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
Or maybe we should re-examine this whole concept, at least for the U.S. after the November midterm elections and-- more to the point-- after the 2020 presidential election.

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