Saturday, June 18, 2016

What does it mean that Wasserman-Schultz is no longer in charge at the DNC?

Brandon Davis, new general elections Chief of Staff at the DNC, replaces Debbi Wasserman-Schultz in the day to day operations, while she retains the title of Chair.   So, was she "ousted?"
Photo supplied by Brandon Davis to DailyKos.

Over 100,000 people signed petitions calling for DWS to be replaced as chair of the Democratic National  Committee.   And Bernie Sanders made her removal one of his major requests of Hillary Clinton in their discussions about ending his campaign.

Why?   Many people, including me, felt that everything about the primary conditions (from scheduling of debates to superdelegates) favored Clinton and put a challenger at a disadvantage.   Others felt that she has not been effective as a party leader.   Others cite her close ties to big money interests, especially the disgraceful pay-day lending industry.   She may have been good for a Clinton coronation;   but that's not what transpired in the campaign.

Wasserman-Schultz definitely does not -- and cannot -- represent the more progressive party that Bernie Sanders' has brought about.   Just consider for a moment that she has taken big campaign contributions from pay-day lenders, then opposed the bill that woukl have imposed rather mild restrictions on that type of loan, which sometimes add up to 300% interest rates and trap people into ever-increasing loans to pay off prior loans.  [Last week, after it became a hot issue in her re-election campaign to keep her seat in the House, she reversed her stand and said she opposed that bill.   Too little, too late, Debbi.]

So what does it mean that she retains the title but is removed from running the show?  Actually, this is the usual protocol once the nominee has been chosen.    Howard Dean explains that it's exactly what occurred when he was DNC chair and Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee.    Dean retained the title but turned over the reins of day to day operations to someone chosen by the Obama campaign.  As explained by "kos" of DailyKos:  "It wasn't an antagonistic moveIt simply meant that the presidential campaign and the DNC had to be in sync, and the best way to manage that is to have people from the same team in charge."

As to retaining the title, DNC Chair is an elected position, voted on by the DNC after the election.   If the nominee becomes president, their choice is usually ratified.  If not, it's up to the members.    So what has happened with DWS, on the surface, is standard procedure in the nominee picking a chief of staff to run the general election campaign for both the candidate and the party.

On the other hand, by most accounts, Wasserman-Schultz has not been an effective chair, and she has antagonized large numbers of Democrats, not just the Sanders supporters. As to choosing who leads the campaign, it was Clinton's choice -- just as it was Obama's choice in 2008 -- and she could have asked DWS to do it.   She didn't.   Further, Clinton's choice of a labor union political director is a nod to the more progressive tenor of the campaign.  So, if DWS's being sidelined also allows people who wanted her out to feel vindicated, so be it.

Beyond all that, Brandon Davis, 38, seems to be an excellent choice.   He is the national political director for one of the largest unions, the Service Employees International Union.  He has also been political director for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).   He is considered to be a talented, rising star within the party, with particular understanding, because of his own background, of urban poverty and racial issues.  Described by "kos," who has known him and his work for years, he is "fantastic . . . smart, energetic, passionate, and [amazingly] competent."


Friday, June 17, 2016

Comments invited

Dear Readers,
Several months back, I turned off the Comments tab because I was getting a rash of spam comments that had nothing to do with the content of my blog.   They weren't negative -- just generic, often incoherent, responses trolling for return views of their blogs.

I have turned the Comments tab back on and invite responses, now that I have a way to screen out the spam.   Just click on the "No Comment" at the bottom of a page;  a window will open for you to write a comment;   then click on "Select profile."    There will be several choices, and I don't know what they all mean.   I'd suggest using either:   OpenID, or Name/URL, or Anonymous.   Let's see what works.


News of the day

So much is happening in the news -- here are a few things:

1.  Hillary Clinton has received a major endorsement by the important AFL-CIO labor union.  She also has been endorsed by former Republican National Security big-wig, Richard Armitage.

2.  Bernie Sanders did a live-stream address to his supporters last night.   He did not concede nor say he was ending his campaign.   But he emphasized that his campaign is about continuing the progressive movement to influence the platform and to change some of the rules about delegates selection.    He says he will be doing everything he can to help Clinton defeat Donald Trump and "defeat him badly."

3.  Donald Trump and the RNC continue to escalate their non-unity.   Trump is demonstrating that he wants total control, telling RNC leaders to get on board "or be quiet."    The prospects for defeating him, and defeating him badly, just get better every day.

4.  The DNC has appointed a new high-level person to be in charge of day-to-day operations of the DNC.   Not clear exactly what this means yet, but it definitely seems a reduction in the power of Debbi Wasserman-Schultz.   Bernie Sanders had asked that she be removed from office.   This may be a compromise that will quietly take away her power.   Stay tuned.   This is important.

5.  John McCain first said that Barack Obama is directly responsible for the shooting in Orlando -- because he pulled our troops out of Iraq, which then led to the rise of ISIS, which the shooter pledged his allegiance to.   McCain then walked back this absurd stretch, saying that he wasn't blaming Obama personally but his policies.   Still . . . it was George Bush's minions who set this in motion by disbanding the Iraq army after our invasion.  This left all those military officers without jobs.    They were a major force in forming ISIS.

6.  Is there any connection to #5 and the timing (less than 24 hours later) of the announcement that George W. Bush will be doing a fund-raising event for John McCain?   I gleefully note that McCain is in a pretty tight race for re-election.    With Donald Trump at the head of the ticket, might we hope that Arizona might be one of the senaate seats that goes Democratic?

7.   Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) actually accomplished something with his 15 hour filibuster on gun control.   He forced the Republican leadership to agree to hold a vote on two issues:  anyone on the terrorist, no-fly watch-list will not be allowed to buy a gun;   and universal background checks will be extended to include sales at gun shows and online.   This does not guarantee that Republicans will vote for these measures.   But until now, they have refused to even allow a vote.   This forces them either to vote for the measures or face voters in November having voted no -- when 80+% of voters support sensible restrictions.   Murphy emphasized that these are just the beginning, but they are steps that he believes have a chance of being adopted.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dem senators' effective use of filibuster gets action on beginning steps to rational gun control

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CN), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-MA) and some thirty other Democrats, carried out a surprise filibuster on the senate floor to hold up action on any bills until the senate took action on two issues on gun control that should be uncontroversial.

They kept talking for 15 hours, well into the night, and only stopped when they had received assurances that the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders had talked and agree to hold a vote on the two measures that would close gun-buying loopholes.   One would bar people on terrorists watchlists from buying guns.   The other would tighten controls over online and private gun sales that can so easily evade background checks.

Sen. Murphy and others emphasize that these first steps are sane and sensible and should be non-controversial;   but even they have been stymied by the NRA-controlled conservatives senators. 


Clinton leads Trump by 12% in latest poll

A poll just released by Bloomberg Politics shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 49% to 37%.   He has a 27% unfavorable rating among Republicans, while she has a 15% unfavorable rating among Democrats.

Polls this far from the election don't have a lot of reliability.   But looking at the trends do.   Just a week ago, they were essentially tied within the margin of error.   It's hard not to conclude from these numbers that this has been a bad week for Trump.

More specifically, CBS News polled for approval ratings of the responses by Obama, Clinton, and Trump to the Orlando shooting:
                      Approve    Disapprove 
  Obama            44%             34%
  Clinton            36%             34%
  Trump             25%             51%


"Would you vote for a woman for president? 1937-2016

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight web site has supplied this data about the history of how American voters have felt about voting for a woman for president.   When the very first Gallup Poll asked the question in 1937, 64% said No and only 33% said they would vote for a woman who was qualified in every other respect.

Since then, as this graph shows, it has been a steady uphill climb, with the Yes votes coming into a majority in the late 1950s.   In 1964 when Sen. Margaret Chase Smith entered the Republican primary race for president, it was treated as a joke by party leaders.   There have been a few more serious runs by women since then, but no one has come close to getting the nomination until nowHere's the graph based on Gallop Poll data and supplied by FiveThirtyEight:

Some questions:
1.  What took us so long?   England, Spain, Russia and others had women as their rulers hundreds of years ago.   In the last century, Israel had Golda Meir.   England had Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher together as the two heads of government.  Thatcher was so tough she felt it justified her admonishing Ronald Reagan "Don't go wobbly on me now, Ronnie" about some important joint decision.  India had Indira Ghandi.   Germany has Angela Merkel.   Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru -- not afraid to let a woman have the reins of power.

2.  Conservatives have had a hate-affair with the Clintons for 25 years.   But there seems to be a special animosity toward Hillary.   Think about Trump's comments about her "yelling" and her "shrill voice" -- certainly shared by many of his supporters.  Is this code for a lingering resistance to a woman president?   Are we less open to women leaders than these other countries?   And, if so, why?


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Shooter born in Queens, just a few miles from birthplace of Donald Trump

Donald Trump lies.    But, of course, that isn't news.   In the wake of the Orlando massacre by a homophobic man, who planned the attack after becoming angry over seeing two men kiss, Trump has tried to bend this tragedy to serve his political madness.

In a speech on Monday, he called Omar Maleen "an immigrant, a refugee, and a foreign menace . . .  who was "born in Afghan."   All of it is false, and it is a heinous indictment of innocent people -- just as Maleen used an AK-15 to shoot over a hundred innocent people.

Here is a map showing where Oman Maleen was born (blue marker)  -- and where Donald Trump was born (red marker), just a few miles apart in Queens, Long Island, U.S.A.

What's the matter, Donald?   Is this killer just a little too close to you for comfort, so you have to lie?


Meryl Streep as Donald Trump

photo by Roy Rochlin via Getty Images
Meryl Streep proves once again that she can play any role, even if it means transforming her physical appearance and mannerisms into unrecognizable form.   Here she gives us The Donald himself for a skit she performed at the New York Public Theater benefit for Free Shakespeare in the Park.

No, the evil in this man does not come through in this picture;   but there was plenty of scorn and ridicule in the skit.    Let's throw everything into defeating him:   facts, debate, exposure of his ignorance and his dishonest business practices, unsuitable temperament, as well as scorn and ridicule.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Irresponsible, rabble-rousing "Madman in Chief"

"Madman in chief."   That's the headline on the home page of Huffington Post last night after another day of dangerous vitriol from Donald Trump.  He has sunk to new lows of enflaming hatred, taking advantage of this unthinkable human loss. 

I'm not going to repeat the mix of hatred, vitriol, and lies, nor the exploitation of fear and rage, that he spews out.  Once again, he reminded everyone that he had been right about the danger and hinted that, because Obama refuses to do anything, he must secretly favor the Islamic terrorists -- and should resign.

Dear God, please save us from demagogues who see themselves as our saviors.

Let him so over-play this hand that a tsunami of backlash drowns him out.   He reached a new low last night with his proposal that neighbors who don't report suspicious behavior should themselves be punished.   Trump's America is beginning to sound a lot like Nazi Germany and the Cold War, East German Stassi police state.


Trump rhetoric fuels bullies in schools across US

According to an article in The Guardian reported by Rory Carroll, Donald Trump's xenophobic rhetoric and bullying persona are permeating the school playgrounds around the country.

Even in the liberal haven of Berkeley, CA at a school named for civil rights icon Rosa Parks, a teacher told of over-hearing taunts such as:   "You'll get deported."    "You weren't born here."  "You were born in a Taco Bell."   The teacher said, "They may not know what it means, but they know it's powerful language."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes and hate speech, did an online survey of 2,000 K-12 teachers.   They found, at all levels of elementary, middle, and high schools, that racist taunts and toxic political rhetoric is cropping up everywhere, with no special concentration in any state or region.

The study's author said that:  Marginalized students are feeling very frightened, especially Muslims and Mexicans. Many teachers use the word terrified.”  The children are "echoing Donald Trump's rhetoric. . . .   Bad behavior has been normalized."

More than half of the teachers reported an increase in "uncivil political discourse," and more than a third have observed "an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-inmigrant sentiment."   One North Carolina teacher reported Latino students carrying their birth certificates and social security cards to school, fearful that they might be picked up for deportation.   One student anxiously asked every day:   "Is the wall here yet?”

In high school students, chanting "Trump, Trump, Trump" has become a way of expressing hatred.    Joe Enriquez Henry, head of the Iowa chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said: “Those in the white community with a racist slant are now jumping on the bandwagon using the name Trump and the phrase Make America Great Again to tell people of color, especially Latinos, you are not welcome here.”

The study's author said that Trump seems a perfect candidate for seventh-grade boys.  "They like his loudness, rudeness and brashness."   With some, it seems to be just a "shiny new object. It’s his celebrity.”   But there is real concern about the impact on the Latino children, being constantly told that they don't belong.   All the talk about "Build a wall" to keep them out implants the idea that "they have a toxic identity that needs to be walled off."

And all of these observations were before the tragic shooting in Orlando and the subsequent intensification of anti-Muslim, xenophobic rantings coming from Trump and other conservatives.   It will only increase now.   And it will not be lost on the children.

Let's hope this backfires on Trump and on all the spineless Republicans who have climbed on his bandwagon and now wish they hadn't.    The fear is that it will go the other way, that it will become a firestorm instead of a backfire.   Especially if there are more terrorist attacks.  ISIS would rejoice over a Trump election.   What great recruiting propaganda for them;   what a vindication of their claim that 'America hates Islam.'


Monday, June 13, 2016

9th U.S. Appeals Court says "no inherent right" to carry a concealed gun in public

In a 7 to 4 decision. the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that two California counties did not violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when they denied some applicants the right to carry a concealed weapon.

To meet their requirement for a concealed carry license, they would have to show "good cause" that they face a specific danger, such as documented threats or working in some risky occupations.

This is a huge victory for gun control advocates.   Even if this is appealed by those who brought the suit, it would go to an evenly divided Supreme Court, which would likely leave the Appeals Court ruling intact.   Furthermore, other Appeals Courts have also issued similar rulings;  and, in 2013, the Court declined to issue an opinion about concealed carry in a previous case.   SCOTUS usually does not take a case when appeals court verdicts are in agreement.

[This SCOTUS decision occurred -- and this blog was written -- before Saturday night's tragic massacre in Orlando.   The decision would have had no effect on the shooting -- but a ban on assault weapons might have.]

One of Jimmy Carter's most notable successes

There were the Camp David accords, the Nobel Peace Prize, and many other successes during his presidency.   But most people agree that former president Jimmy Carter's greatest period has been the 35 years of his post-presidency.

This week, Carter proudly announced that only two cases of the dreaded Guinea Worm exist in the world;  and if we get through this year without any new cases, this scourge can be considered eliminated.   What an achievement for the Carter Center:   from 3,000,000 cases in 1980 to two cases today!!

There is no cure and no treatment except the patient extraction of the worms by hand when they begin to emerge from sores.   But there is a very simple preventive measure, requiring nothing but filtration of drinking water to remove the larvae from which the worms grow.

It would be simple for our educated society with mass communications and organized public health programs.   But in rural Africa it required educating people in over 30,000 individual villages and supplying the filters.    This is one of many things the Carter Center has done.   President Carter says his wish is to outlive this disease.    Even at 91 and with recent treatment for cancer (now in remission), it looks like he might get that wish.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Massacre in Orlando -- anti-gay? or anti-American?

The largest mass shooting in U.S. history took the lives of 50 people and wounded more than 50 others on Saturday night in a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL.   The shooter, who was killed by police officers, was identified as an American citizen born in the U.S., the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan, and a Muslim.  He apparently acted alone;  and, as of late Sunday afternoon, the FBI said that it had no evidence of any link to ISIS or any other organized terrorist group.

The man's parents have said that he was very angry but suggested that his anger was anti-gay and had nothing to do with his religion.   None of this has not stopped Donald Trump's supporters and other right wing zealots from claiming that this proves Trump was right about "radical Islam" and his call to ban Muslims from entering this country.   Of course, such a ban would have done nothing to prevent this attack, which was carried out by one lone man who was born in the U.S.

Trump's instincts were not presidential.   His first tweet was typical for this narcissist:
"Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart!"
It's all about him, even in his "humble" message of saying that it's action, not congratulations, that he wants.   But nothing about the victims.   No concern for the nation.   No waiting to get the facts before he spouts off.

President Obama spoke to the nation to try to calm fears, urge people to wait for the facts, and to again call for action on sensible gun control.   Hillary offered condolences to the victims' families and cautioned against over-reaction until we get the facts.

I'm going to heed this advice and not speculate about the rumors that are flying about.   Let's wait until we know more.

For now, it is enough that we know this is not part of a larger, organized attack.   It is a time for sorrow and support of the victim's families and for the gay community at large.


"Republicans for Hillary" -- an idea whose time has come?

Mitt Romney hosted a big powwow retreat in a Utah resort for top Republican donors and strategists this weekend, and there was a lot of hand-wringing.   They can't come up with a third party candidate that is willing to commit political suicide.   Romney still says no -- but he also still says he cannot support Donald Trump, who would spark "trickle-down racism" and "trickle-down misogyny."

A lot of other top Republicans are disturbed by Trump's crassness, his political unreliablity, and his inability to win in November.   Even Mitch McConnell did not completely close the door on withdrawing his endorsement.  But frankly the Trump voters couldn't care less what Mitch McConnell does or says.

What will matter though is who will give money for a Trump campaign so they can mount a strategy that Paul Ryan is desperately trying to cobble together.   As I understand it, this would emphasize the Republican agenda that Congress will pass -- but they must have a Republican president to sign the legislation.    That seems to me a fool's errand, because it depends on Donald Trump becoming a mere figure-head doing others' bidding.   Donald Trump as Paul Ryan's puppet?   Lots of luck with that.

As to funding, the Kochs have already said no; they'll support down-ticket Republicans but nothing for Trump.   Given that this gathering was largely comprised of the defunct #NeverTrump movement as its core, most of the others felt pretty much the same.   They're not the only donors -- Sheldon Adelson has already pledged to support Trump.   But even he can't or won't do it alone.   Hillary Clinton begins the general election campaign with some $200,000,000 more than the Trump campaign.

The big news that came from this weekend powwow was made by the woman that TIME magazine once named on a short list of "Women Who Might Be President.Meg Whitman is a former CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, and then of eBay, before she ran unsuccessfully for governor of California and then co-chaired Romney's 2012 finance committee.

Whitman told the assembled group that she's leaning toward supporting Hillary Clinton.  She hasn't made a final decision, because she wants to see who will be the VP nominee.   But in addition to that, two people who had been in these discussions told a reporter that the group took an informal poll during lunch -- and that those in the room split evenly between those who plan to support Trump and those who will support Clinton.

Think of that for a moment.  Just weeks before the presidential nominating conventions, a group of Republican leaders is split evenly over whether to support the Republican nominee or the Democratic nominee.   Now, admittedly, these are anti-Trump Republicans;  but, even so, that's pretty remarkable.

Wow !   This is truly a historic election.