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SEPTEMBER 22, 2014
The Wisdom of the Crowd
BY HENDRIK HERTZBERG
CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY JONNO RATTMAN
“Don’t follow leaders,” the bard of Hibbing once advised. “Watch the parking meters,” he added—whatever that meant.
At Sunday’s vast and beautiful climate march, on Central Park West somewhere in the Sixties, I ran into Bill McKibben, a longtime acquaintance (he got his start as a New Yorker writer back in the nineteen-eighties). He was strolling at the edge of the crowd, unmolested, with his wife and colleague, Sue Halpern. We had a brief conversation about how the march was going (very well indeed), then he and Halpern strolled on—again unmolested, and mostly unrecognized.
If anyone can be called a leader, even the leader, of the People’s Climate March (and of the movement it represents, for that matter), McKibben’s the one. He dreamed the march up in the first place; he is its intellectual father, he wrote its manifesto, and he was its principal organizer. He is at once its Thomas Paine and its Bayard Rustin. Yet there he was, taking a walk down Central Park West like everybody else.
This was remarkable, and it was emblematic of what made this march feel different from other big marches I’ve been on for other big causes—for civil rights, against wars in Vietnam and Iraq, for nuclear disarmament, against nuclear power, for or against what have you. At those marches, most of them, leaders were a big deal, a major drawing card. The V.I.P.s spent most of their time in special tents to which admission required special credentials, and when they ventured out they were generally accompanied by phalanxes of aides and hangers-on. Not this time. There was a smattering of relevant celebrities, to be sure—the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Mayor of New York, Al Gore—but as far as I know there were no special tents, no special credentials, and no phalanxes.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Tue Sep 23, 2014, 07:31 AM (0 replies)
Don’t be fooled by new GOP enthusiasm for over-the-counter birth control
By Paul Waldman September 8 at 12:14 PM
The hot new trend among Republican candidates is a surprising one, to say the least. As of now there are four GOP Senate contenders who have endorsed making birth control pills available over the counter.
All four — Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Mike McFadden in Minnesota — oppose abortion rights, and all four oppose the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance policies pay for preventative care, including birth control, with no deductibles or co-pays. Yet these conservative Republicans are touting their deep commitment to easily available birth control. It’s likely that more Republicans will now be asked their position on OTC birth control, and some will embrace it to counter Dem criticism that they’re soldiers in a “war on women.”
The new-found embrace of OTC birth control pills might seem odd, even bizarre. But it makes more sense if you think about it as a fundamentally elitist position. The truth is that conservatives have long been much more concerned with restricting the reproductive choices available to poor and middle class women, while leaving wealthy women free to do pretty much as they please. And allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter is perfectly in line with that history.
Let’s be clear that making birth control pills available over the counter would be a good thing — but only if insurance continued to pay for it. The cost of the pill can be as much as $600 a year, which is out of reach for many women. And we know that insurance companies seldom reimburse customers for OTC medications. The price of the medication might come down over time if it were sold over the counter, but in the meantime millions of women are dependent on their insurance plans to be able to afford it. By opposing the ACA, all these GOP candidates are putting themselves on record in opposition to requiring insurance companies to pay for any birth control in policies women themselves have bought. And that’s not to mention other forms of contraception, like IUDs, that require a doctor’s care and come with a significant up-front cost.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Tue Sep 9, 2014, 08:51 AM (3 replies)
Former President Bill Clinton tells Democrats to back Crist with big turnout
Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is now running as a Democrat in this year’s governor’s race, stands alongside former President Bill Clinton at Crist's campaign rally in downtown Miami. Clinton and Crist didn’t talk about jobs or the economy as much as Scott, but Clinton made sure to talk about issues that Gov. Rick Scott shies away from: expanding Medicaid and approving a minimum-wage increase — bread and butter Democratic issues
DEMOCRATIC DUO: Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who is now running as a Democrat in this year’s governor’s race, stands alongside former President Bill Clinton at Crist's campaign rally in downtown Miami. Clinton and Crist didn’t talk about jobs or the economy as much as Scott, but Clinton made sure to talk about issues that Gov. Rick Scott shies away from: expanding Medicaid and approving a minimum-wage increase — bread and butter Democratic issues ANGEL VALENTIN / GETTY IMAGES
BY MARC CAPUTO
Bill Clinton sounded worried.
“Typically in nonpresidential years, Republicans vote better than Democrats do,” the former president said Friday night at a Miami campaign rally for Charlie Crist. “And we’re not going to let that happen, are we?”
The crowd of several hundred shouted back a loud no.
Clinton’s concern cropped up time and again in his 25-minute speech designed to vouch for the Democratic bonafides of Crist and fire up the faithful so that Florida Democrats can win their first governor’s race since 1994.
This year, Democrats are trying in the most-unorthodox of ways — with a former Republican governor who was an independent before becoming a Democrat. Crist faces the weakest incumbent in years, Gov. Rick Scott, whose poll numbers have been poor since the political newcomer barely won office in 2010.
But after a $24 million ad campaign — most of it negative and trained on Crist — the race is close. A Tampa Bay Times poll this week found Scott ahead by 5 percentage points, but a SurveyUSA poll last week indicated Crist was up by 2 percentage points.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Sat Sep 6, 2014, 08:51 AM (13 replies)
Obama Shouldn’t Bomb ISIS in Syria
We have no strategy for intervening there, and no reason to think it will work.
By Fred Kaplan
President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the State Dining Room of the White House on Aug. 7, 2014.
Photo by Mike Theiler/Getty Images
Let’s hope that President Obama does not bomb ISIS inside Syria—unless, maybe, the airstrikes are coordinated with some other country’s troops on the ground. That’s what happened in northern Iraq last week, when U.S. airstrikes paved the way for a mix of Iraqi special forces, Shiite militias, and Kurdish peshmerga fighters to push ISIS away from the Mosul Dam. But that’s not likely to happen in Syria.
It’s not likely to happen for two reasons, both lamentable. First, there are no ground forces inside Syria that can both repel ISIS and serve as palatable American allies. Second, the Obama administration and the neighboring Middle Eastern countries appear to have no strategy of what an intervention in Syria might look like or of what Syrian politics should look like in its aftermath.
That is a particular shame, since the United States and just about every country in the region could form a very potent alliance against ISIS. They all hate and fear the al-Qaida offshoot that calls itself the Islamic State. They all share an interest in seeing the group pummeled. But in many of these countries, domestic politics or conflicting interests on other matters impede such an alliance from forming.
A strange alliance—which could include the United States, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia—is at least conceptually feasible in Iraq, assuming its new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, forms a government that seems inclusive and responsive to Shiite and Sunni leaders. If Abadi manages this feat (and the bloody sectarian violence in recent days dampens its prospects), this hypothetical alliance—which includes Sunni and Shiite nations, among others—would be fighting not just against ISIS but also for a stable and potentially amenable Iraq.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Mon Sep 1, 2014, 04:56 PM (0 replies)
September 01, 2014
Citizens United Case Helped Elect More Republicans
Washington Post: "The 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in a new era of political spending gave Republicans a measurable advantage on Election Day, according to a new study."
"The advantage isn't large, but it is statistically significant: The researchers found the ruling, in Citizens United v. FEC, was associated with a six percentage-point increase in the likelihood that a Republican candidate would win a state legislative race."
"And in six of the most affected states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee -- the probability that a Republican would be elected to a state legislative seat increased by 10 percentage points or more. In five other states -- Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- Republican candidates were seven percentage points more likely to win."
Posted by flpoljunkie | Mon Sep 1, 2014, 12:41 PM (2 replies)
The DNC Knows Everything About You
Learning from the Obama presidential campaigns, the Democrats are rolling out a sophisticated national ground game they hope will get ‘souls to the polls.’
With fewer than 75 days left until Election Day, Democrats across the country are feverishly moving from planning to implementing a vast, multilayered turnout operation that they hope will make the 2014 mid-term elections look more like a victorious Obama presidential year and less like the sort of mid-term wipeout that cost them the House majority in 2010.
It won’t be easy. Of the 21 Senate seats Democrats are defending, six are Red states that Mitt Romney easily carried in 2012. Even in Democratic and swing states, President Obama’s dismal approval ratings are a drag on any Democrat in a competitive race.
But as the cliché goes, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, and Democrats are focusing an unprecedented amount of resources on turning their voters out on November 4th. The data-driven, Obama campaign-inspired approach is designed to not only persuade likely voters to pick the Democrat in their elections, but also to vastly expand the pool of Democratic votes in those elections by finding, registering and turning out people who would probably vote for a Democrat, if they bothered to vote at all.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is calling their $60 million turnout operation “the Bannock Street Project.” The Democratic National Committee calls theirs the Voter Expansion Project. DuBose Porter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia where the DSCC and DNC are both invested and where Democrats must win to keep their Senate majority, has his own term for getting out the vote in 2014.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Fri Aug 22, 2014, 10:30 AM (5 replies)
Obama’s Next Move
The president just described ISIS as a threat to civilization. Now he must back up those words with action.
By Fred Kaplan
President Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Aug. 20, 2014.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
With his speech on Wednesday condemning ISIS in newly stark, determined language, President Obama now needs to step up his military campaign in equally dramatic fashion.
That does not—and should not—mean sending American ground troops or taking steps that give even the whiff of an American-led war.
If the jihadists of ISIS are as dangerous as Obama says they are (and the evidence suggests they are), then it’s time to plow through diplomatic niceties and pursue the common interests of nations with which we otherwise might not get along. Yes, it’s politically awkward, to say the least, for Obama to make common cause, even on this one issue, with Assad (a monster whom he once said “must go”) and the mullahs of Tehran (most of whom regard America as the “great Satan”). But in World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill joined with Stalin to defeat Hitler—and, if they hadn’t, Hitler would have won.
The fighters of ISIS aren’t ragtag hooligans, but they’re not Hitler’s Panzer Corps, they’re not Saddam’s Republican Guards, they’re not even the Taliban. The fight isn’t a cakewalk, but it doesn’t have to be a huge struggle, if the Western politicians can get over their complexes about working with certain bad people in order to defeat even worse people.
more at above link...
Posted by flpoljunkie | Fri Aug 22, 2014, 10:17 AM (2 replies)
Why Rick Perry Will Be Convicted
by James Moore
If the court of public opinion has an impact on a jury's decisions, Texas Governor Rick Perry may have a chance of beating his indictments. While poorly informed Democrats like Obama advisor David Axelrod call the indictments "sketchy," Perry's advisors have him concentrating on defending his constitutional authority to exercise the line item budget veto.
Except that's not what this case is about.
Perry is accused of using his veto authority to coerce a publicly elected official into leaving office. And when the veto threat, and later the actual exercise of the veto didn't work, he may have tried a bit of bribery, which is why he is facing criminal charges.
Not because he exercised his constitutional veto authority.
Some of the media appear to have adopted the Perry narrative that he wanted to get rid of an irresponsible Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg because she had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Lehmberg, whose blood alcohol level was about three times above legal limits, was recorded on video as drunk and belligerent during booking. Perry is arguing he eliminated the $7.5 million dollar budget that Lehmberg managed for the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) because she was no longer responsible enough to run the operation.
But the governor probably had another motive.
The PIU had been investigating the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute (CPRIT), a $3 billion dollar taxpayer funded project that awarded research and investment grants to startups targeting cancer cures. The entire scientific review team, including Nobel Laureate scientists, resigned because they said millions were handed out through political favoritism. Investigations by Texas newspapers indicated much of the money was ending up in projects proposed by campaign donors and supporters of Governor Perry. In fact, one of the executives of CPRIT was indicted in the PIU investigation for awarding an $11 million dollar grant to a company without the proposal undergoing any type of review.
Perry might have been the next target.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Tue Aug 19, 2014, 02:49 PM (15 replies)
'Thank God for the Saudis': ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback
U.S lawmakers encouraged officials in Riyadh to arm Syrian rebels. Now that strategy may have created a monster in the Middle East.
JUN 23 2014, 11:40 AM ET
ISIS fighters at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul (Reuters)
“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference.
McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces.
But shortly after McCain’s Munich comments, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah relieved Bandar of his Syrian covert-action portfolio, which was then transferred to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. By mid-April, just two weeks after President Obama met with King Abdullah on March 28, Bandar had also been removed from his position as head of Saudi intelligence—according to official government statements, at “his own request.” Sources close to the royal court told me that, in fact, the king fired Bandar over his handling of the kingdom’s Syria policy and other simmering tensions, after initially refusing to accept Bandar’s offers to resign. (Bandar retains his title as secretary-general of the king’s National Security Council.)
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the “moderate” armed opposition in the country, receives a lot of attention. But two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the latter of which is now amassing territory in Iraq and threatening to further destabilize the entire region. And that success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Posted by flpoljunkie | Tue Aug 19, 2014, 02:09 PM (2 replies)