Housekeeping Note

Posting will be down the next few days while I am out of town (more on Saturday), but I do have some brief items which will be posted. This includes SciFi Weekend. An abbreviated post will probably be done on Monday.

Despite Their Gestures, Democratic Candidates Continue To Take Corporate Money

Democratic candidates  increasingly feel like they must swear off corporate contributions, but Zaid Jilani at The Intercept shows that this might just be a cheap gesture. He writes:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-Calif., became the latest lawmaker to swear off all donations from corporate political action committees, telling a radio host in mid-April that she made the move after being asked about it at a town hall by a constituent.

Harris joins five other senators who have vowed not to take corporate PAC contributions: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. …

Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise — comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.

Michael J. Malbin, a campaign finance researcher at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, pointed out to The Intercept that Harris has received only a small amount of her total campaign funding from PACs. “However, she also received many of her itemized contributions from individuals whose income is derived from their work as corporate executives,” he said.

Benjamin Page, a long-time researcher of political decision-making at Northwestern University, agreed. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol, and I suppose we should give it some credit.  But far more money comes from wealthy individuals,” he wrote in an email. “That is much more important, and I believe it tends to corrupt both the Republican and the Democratic party.”

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, tracked and categorized PAC donations between 2013 and 2018. The data reveals that most of the senators who’ve sworn off corporate PAC money received more from large individual donors — donors giving $200 or more, who can be regular people but also corporate executives and lobbyists — than from PACs in that time period.

  • Cory Booker: 10.37 percent of Booker’s campaign funding has come from PACs, 76.40 percent of which is from business PACs. By contrast, 72.12 percent of Booker’s campaign funding is from large individual donors.
  • Maria Cantwell: Just 0.62 percent of Cantwell’s campaign funding has come from PACs of any kind. In contrast, 73.61 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand:6.95 percent of Gillibrand’s campaign funding has come from PACs. Of this proportion, 65.73 percent is from business PACs. Meanwhile, 62.15 percent of her fundraising has come from large individual donors.
  • Kamala Harris: 4.89 percent of Harris’s campaign fundraising has been through PACs; 41.07 percent of this total has been from business PACs. By contrast, 64.99 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors. (Though the OpenSecrets analysis covered a five-year period, in Harris’s case, it only goes back to 2015, when she first ran for U.S. Senate.)
  • Bernie Sanders:1.73 percent of Sanders’s funding has come from PACs. Of that, 7.27 percent is from business PACs. 17.70 percent of his funding has come from large individual contributors.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Just 1.4 percent of Warren’s campaign money has come from PACs. Of that, 12.91 percent is from business PACs. Large individual donors made up 29.72 percent of her campaign funding.

These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs — it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small? If not, then politicians — and the voters they’re looking to win over — need to look closer at how big money is corrupting Washington.

There are further examples of how corporate influence is not diminished by this gesture, with Kirsten Gillibrand being just one example:

UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS Boston professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson is one of America’s leading academics who studies the influence of money in politics; he is the brain behind “the investment theory of party competition,” which says that politicians are essentially driven by donors, their true political base.

He doesn’t think much of senators disavowing corporate PAC money. “It’s an absolutely cheap gesture that means nothing, that’s why they do it,” Ferguson said in an interview. He pointed out that corporations can also run their money through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and that these senators haven’t disavowed the comittee’s backing.

A close look at Gillibrand’s and Booker’s top donors makes clear just how little it matters when senators swear off corporate PAC money. Gillibrand’s 11th-largest donor is Morgan Stanley, which did not give a penny of its money to Gillibrand through a PAC. Instead, Morgan Stanley employees donated $40,425 to her campaign committee as individuals. Of the $814,463 that she has received from the securities and investment industry, just $70,500 came from PACs.

Gillibrand was one of the Democratic senators who voted down an amendment that would have broken up Wall Street’s largest banks in May 2010. Jeff Connaughton, an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., who co-wrote the amendment, noted dryly in his book that an Obama administration Treasury official later boasted that if the administration had supported the amendment, it would have passed, but because they didn’t, it didn’t. Speaking about the amendment four years later, Warren noted that it “had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks.”

This was contrasted with how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have raised money:

A better path to limiting the influence of big money is for senators to simply develop a small donor base that supplants large donors of any sort, Ferguson said. “Let them say they won’t take money over, you know, a particular limit — $500, $750, whatever you like,” he suggested.

Page agreed. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations, if possible, as was done by Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Barack Obama,” he wrote to us.

In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.

It’s easy to imagine lawmakers getting swayed by a pool of donors from a big bank or fracking company who give them $2,000 donations; it’s less easy to imagine that if the politicians build a donor base of people throwing in relatively small amounts, that they’d fall under pernicious influence.

(The Onion had an amusing article on this topic in 2016, with the headline: “Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign.”)

Distorted Right Wing Attacks On Michelle Wolf–What She Really Said (Including Full Transcript)

Donald Trump has a long history of insulting anyone who displeases him, including the handicapped, immigrants, Muslims, and gold star families. He has quite frequently attacked the appearance of women. However, Trump cannot take it when he is the target of mere jokes. For the second straight year he was unwilling to attend the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Conservatives who have often defended Trump’s attacks on others, responded by attacking Michelle Wolf. Frequently the attacks were not for her actual jokes but were based upon distorting what she actually said.

A satiric roast at a dinner such as this would be expected to be far harder on its targets than would be expected in normal political discourse. Comedians are expected to push the boundaries, cross lines, and make people feel uncomfortable. Jokes about Trump are naturally going to include lines about prostitutes and grabby pussy, because this is what Donald Trump, not Michele Wolf, brought to Washington.

Wolf’s actual jokes were far less offensive than many of the things we hear from Trump and his allies. As Wolf’s actual act was tamer than they are, the right attacked by distorting what she actually said. It was reminiscent of past attacks from the right on others such as David Letterman.

The main line of the attacks was to falsely claim that Wolf attacked Sarah Sanders’ looks. This falsehood was often spread by taking a line out of context, making it appear she was joking about Sanders’ eye as opposed to joking about her lying. Her full joke regarding this was, “I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” Even quoted out of context, “smoky eye” is hardly a terrible attack.

Wolf did briefly mention Mitch McConnell’s neck and Christ Christie’s weight, but I haven’t seen complaints about these, and these are common laugh lines for the late night comics. The only woman whose looks were mocked by Wolf were her own, when she referred to her own frizzy hair and small tits.

Wolf was interviewed by NPR and defended what she said:

I think people have a lot of preconceived notions about Sarah’s looks and I think a lot of what’s happening is they’re projecting onto this joke. … I think it’s clear that the joke wasn’t about Sarah’s looks, but I don’t think — to me it’s so obvious that I don’t even really need to defend it. I think if you listen to the joke you’ll understand that it’s about the fact that she lies and if it’s taken another way I think you should go back and listen to it again. …

If there [are] two people that I actually made fun of their looks on Saturday it was Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie and no one is jumping to their defense. I made fun of Mitch McConnell’s neck and I did a small jab at Chris Christie’s weight and no one is jumping to their defense.

Late night comedians did come to her defense, including Stephen Colbert reliving his old conservative character:

“She is filthy and she is mean — which is what we love about her. Because those are wonderful qualities for comedians, and terrible qualities for free-world leaders.” — SETH MEYERS, comparing Michelle Wolf with President Trump

“Michelle should have had the decency not to comment on women’s appearances in any way, shape or form. She’s a comedian, for God’s sake, not the president.” — TREVOR NOAH

“This is the correspondents’ dinner, celebrating the freedom of speech; you can’t just say whatever you want!” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“I am so proud, right down to the breastbone, that the press is defending her despite the fact that her boss joked about throwing reporters in jail. That’s the kind of comedy the press likes!” — STEPHEN COLBERT, on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

The best defense of much of the criticism I’ve heard about the speech is to hear what she actually said. The video is above, and full transcript follows:

(more…)

Warning Will Robinson: Axios Says “A new Clinton wave is coming this spring”

Sounding as ominous as a warning of an impending swarm of locusts, Axios writes today, “A new Clinton wave is coming this spring.” They go on to say, “The Clinton family has made sporadic and often subdued appearances in the 18 months (538 days) since Hillary Clinton lost her presidential election. But we’re about to see a lot more of them this spring.”

The post notes that, “This family has been on the national stage for 26 years — all or most of the lifetime of anyone under 50.” Yet the nightmare never ends, even if “plenty of top Democrats we talk to would prefer new energy and faces to Clinton nostalgia/redemption.”

They report that:

Longtime Clinton supporters last week received an invitation offering access to the family (the green invitation features photos of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea) at a Clinton Foundation benefit on May 24 in New York, at prices ranging from $2,500 (“Friend”) for cocktail party and dinner, up to $100,000 (“Chair”) for “Leadership.”

There have already been reports that Hillary Clinton plans to reenter politics. Axios warns:

Hillary Clinton this morning will lead the first meeting of her Onward Together political group, on New York’s Upper East Side. She and Howard Dean will welcome 11 partner organizations for a day of sessions “about harnessing the energy and activism post-election.” In the afternoon, the groups have the chance to meet with 150 donors. Last year, OT had 33,000 donors and gave over $1 million to partner groups. The group says that figure will be higher for midterms this year.

Remember when Howard Dean claimed to be a peace candidate, before he became a lobbyist for the health care industry, opposing Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a single payer health plan, and before he started working with ultra-hawk Hillary Clinton?

In addition to Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean pretending they are not has-beens, Bill will have a novel which was written with James Patterson coming out on June 4.

They call Chelsey a “prolific tweeter.” She has been tweeting those who talk about Amy Chozick’s new book, Chasing Hillary. That is the book with inside information, such as Hillary Clinton complaining to her campaign staff, “I Am Getting Pretty Tired of Hearing About How Nobody Likes Me.”

Skimming the book I found other huge revelations, such as how her friends talked about her: “Even Hillary’s close girlfriends describe her as mercurial. Each morning, aides would announce Hillary’s mood as if it were the weather. Crabby with a chance of outburst . . .” Amy Chozick is no T.H. White.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery Season 2; Two Star Trek Movies Planned; The Return of Westworld, A Handmaid’s Tale, and The 100

Star Trek: Discovery season two has gone into production and CBS has released the video below with some glimpses, including brief views involving the Enterprise. Unfortunately we do not see very much. There is a picture of the uniforms, with some updating.  There is no good view of the bridge and only a quick glimpse of Anson Mount as Captain Pike.

It also appears that Paramount is proceeding with two Star Trek movies. One would be the Quentin Tarantino movie, rumored to be based upon either an episode of the original show or Star Trek The Next Generation.  This would not take place in the Kelvin timeline from the J.J. Abrams’ movies.

The other movie would be a continuation in the Kelvin timeline as a follow up in the J.J. Abrams series. This reportedly would involve Captain Kirk meeting his father, again played by Chris Helmsworth. As George Kirk was killed in the first Abrams movie, it is not known if this will involve time travel. I’m hoping that Kirk prevents Nero from killing his father, and then repairs the entire time line. The movie will be directed by S.J. Clarkson, making her the first female to direct a Star Trek movie. Clarkson has worked on television series including Orange Is The New Black, Dexter, and Jessica Jones.

I only have time for an abbreviated version of SciFi Weekend today, as will likely also be the case next week. Three genre series did return which I will briefly note, and will probably discuss all three series in more depth later in the season.

Westworld is back with the story again being told in more than one timeline.  Much of the episode appears to be taking place just after the events of the first season finale. As would be expected in the season premiere, there were many questions raised. I’ll just mention a few thoughts today, but there was far more worthy of discussion in the episode.

It appears that Delos has been harvesting the DNA of its guests, along with all the other information they record. It looks like something Mark Zuckerberg might have come up with. Are clones next? As opposed to the movie, in which the robots were more clearly the villains, the first season often had us rooting for the hosts. I wonder if, even after all the killings, the show will remain ambiguous as to who to support.

In a scene taking place two weeks after the massacre of the first season finale, we see dead hosts floating in water and Bernard saying, “I killed them. All of them.” He did not definitely say who he killed. He is most likely referring to the dead hosts, but could he be talking about the guests? Presumably much of the season will deal with how we get to that scene.

Maeve is still searching for her daughter. I can’t help but wonder what will happen, assuming she does find her. Will the daughter know her, or see any connection between them? As Maeve has not played that role for a year, will the daughter have a new mother?

Hulu released two episodes of A Handmaid’s Tale. The first deals with Offred, showing what happened after she was taken away in the truck in the first season finale. Her story progressed from there, with the eventual revelation of where she is  playing well into the changes in society.

The second episode also spent a lot of time with Alexis Bledel’s character Emily. This included both her backstory as a college professor and her life after being exiled to the Colonies. They are now beyond the book, but the first two episodes showed that this world provides a lot of material to continue with. However, considering how bleak it is, I hope that rather than continuing this for several seasons, they offer some hopeful signs for change in this society.

The fifth season premiere of The 100 primarily dealt with how Clarke spent the last six years, leading up to the point seen in last year’s season finale. We saw a little with the group in space. The most surprising portion came at the end with Octavia in the bunker. That story will be told in greater detail next week. TV Guide did speak with Jason Rothenberg about this:

“Obviously we saved that for the end as a big holy sh– moment to tee you up for the story we’re telling in [Episode 2],” Rothenberg tells TV Guide. “It was really important to me for that environment, for that fighting pit that we see in [the premiere], to feel believable and to tell a story in the next episode that explains how we got there.”

Next week’s episode will be focused entirely on how Octavia went from winning the Conclave into becoming this Mad Max monarch, and while Rothenberg doesn’t want to give too much away about that journey, he does reveal that Octavia’s intentions were never anything but to keep her people safe. “We realize ultimately that Octavia needs to find ways to keep her kru, her new people, Wonkru, together. And she kind of forges this clan in her own image, in a sense,” he teases.

What is The 100 if not a tale of people doing terrible things with good intentions? But as the show has reminded us time and time again, good intentions don’t always mean these actions are just. And after six years of peace, discovering this culture of violence that Octavia has created in the bunker will come as a huge shock to Bellamy and Clarke when they eventually reunite.

“It will be mind-blowing, to say the least, because it’s not at all what they expect. Bellamy will definitely understand some of it based on his knowledge of his sister and what they read together as children and things of that nature,” the showrunner says. “But certainly, they have no idea what to expect when they open that bunker. They don’t know if anybody is going to be alive, let alone strong. And so it could have felt like opening the doors of a concentration camp where everyone was wasting away and barely hanging out, but instead there’s a powerful fighting force down there.”

While Bellamy and Clarke will be understandably horrified to learn of the fighting pit, the fierce warriors Octavia has cultivated in the bunker will prove to be quite useful now that there’s another war on-hand. But whether that justifies what Octavia did to create these warriors will be the question that plagues both Octavia’s friends and family, but also the fans this season.

“It’s fairly remarkable that she was able to keep that, to create that, to forge that steel in the fire of what they lived through down there,” Rothenberg says. “So ultimately that’s all due to Octavia. And the question for people will be, ‘Do we like her or do we hate her or fear her?’ But I think ultimately, we have to respect that she did it, she made it happen. And they will too.”

Why Don’t We Hear Messages Like This From The Party Of The Resistance?

The Democratic Party has struggled to come up with a response to Donald Trump on Syria. While some disagree, they cannot come up with a unified opposition to the air strikes or intervention, so they limit their opposition to complaining that Trump failed to get Congressional approval. This is no surprise considering that their last presidential candidate had advocated far greater military interventionism than Trump, and previously attacked Obama for not pursing greater intervention based upon an extremely irrational argument.

While anti-war voices are rare, here is an example of a conservative who is making far more sense than most of the Democrats:

The U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal, and the same would be true of any occupying force provided by U.S. clients. Instead of looking for a substitute occupation force or maintaining one of our own, the U.S. should accept that controlling any part of Syria is not worth the costs and risks that go along with it. The U.S. has no business fighting in Syria, and it has no authority to keep its forces there, so a complete withdrawal from Syria is the only appropriate and legal course of action open to the U.S.

Unfortunately this is from a conservative blogger (Daniel Larison), and not someone who represents the policy of either political party. He wrote this in concluding a post on how Trump’s idea of having other countries replace US troops is not working.

Shouldn’t we be hearing more like this from the party which is supposedly the opposition party in Congress? We hear virtually noting from the party which claims to be “the resistance.” Instead the “opposition party” is being led by cowards who prefer to keep any real opposition voices from running.

Nancy Pelosi Defends Party’s Intervention In Primaries As Progressives Protest

The tape released this week of a Democratic Party leader trying to get a progressive to drop out of a Congressional primary has raised far more attention to the issue. The tape was initially posted by The Intercept and I also posted it here yesterday.

Nancy Pelosi has further angered progressives by speaking out in support of this practice. The Washington Post reports:

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) defended her party’s electoral operation on Thursday, after a candidate in a contested Colorado primary released audio tape of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) urging him to quit the race.

“I don’t know that a person can tape a person without the person’s consent and then release it to the press,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference. “In terms of candidates and campaigns I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election.”

…The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has thrown its weight in the race behind Jason Crow, an attorney and veteran running a more center-left campaign than Tillemann, who supports universal Medicare and other planks of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) campaign platform. In the December conversation, Hoyer told Tillemann that “a decision was made early on by the Colorado delegation” to back Crow, and that it would continue to do so.

“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual and very interesting,” said Hoyer, according to the tape. “But it was clear that it was our policy and our hope that, early on, try to come to an agreement on a candidate that we thought could win the general, and to give that candidate all the help we could give them.”

While Nancy Pelosi rationalize this as “the realities of life,” as I pointed out yesterday, this long-standing strategy has been a disaster for Democrats. The claim that more conservative candidates are more electable has not held up. The Democratic leadership has a terrible record of choosing more “electable” candidates. They lost control of both houses of Congress and around 1000 state seats in state legislatures in a decade based upon this misconception. The ultimate example of how the party’s strategy conflicts with reality came when they violated the party’s by-laws to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, the one candidate who could not even beat a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump.

While we have known that this has been an issue for some time, including in a Texas Congressional race this year, having the taped evidence has also led to the loudest protests I have heard so far from progressives within the Democratic Party. USA Today reports:

Progressive groups that support Tillemann are going ballistic over what they say is yet another example of establishment Democrats meddling in primary elections.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee says it’s raising money for three candidates, including Tillemann, that the DCCC has pressured to drop out.

“There is a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and Steny Hoyer and his corporate cronies already lost,” said Stephanie Taylor, PCCC’s co-founder.

Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain called for Hoyer to resign or “be removed” from House leadership.

“We saw what happens when Democratic Party leaders put their fingers on the scale in primaries in 2006 through 2016, when we lost nearly 1,000 elected offices up and down the ballot,” he said.

Democratic Leader Caught On Tape Trying To Force Progressive Candidate Out Of Congressional Race

The Democratic leadership, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have shown they are not our allies as they repeatedly attack the left, have purged progressives from the DNC, and attack more liberal and progressive candidates who are often more in tune with the voters. The Intercept secretly recorded Steny Hoyer, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, trying to pressure a progressive candidate, Levi Tillemann, to drop out of a race. They described Tillemann as “an author, inventor, and former official with the Obama administration’s Energy Department.” From their account:

He focused his campaign on clean elections, combatting climate change, “Medicare for All,” free community college, and confronting economic inequality and monopoly power. Another candidate for the nomination, Jason Crow, a corporate lawyer at the powerhouse Colorado firm Holland & Hart and an Army veteran, meanwhile, appeared to have the backing of the Democratic establishment, though it wasn’t explicit. In November, it became clearer, as Crow was named by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to the party’s “Red to Blue” list, which the committee specifies is not an endorsement but does carry symbolic weight.

With Hoyer in Denver, Tillemann met the minority whip at the Hilton Denver Downtown to make the case that the party should stay neutral in the primary and that he had a more plausible path to victory than the same centrism that Coffman had already beaten repeatedly.

Hoyer, however, had his own message he wanted to convey: Tillemann should drop out.

In a frank and wide-ranging conversation, Hoyer laid down the law for Tillemann. The decision, Tillemann was told, had been made long ago. It wasn’t personal, Hoyer insisted, and there was nothing uniquely unfair being done to Tillemann, he explained: This is how the party does it everywhere.

Tillemann had heard the argument before from D.C. insiders and local Democratic bigwigs, all of whom had discouraged him from challenging the establishment favorite. The only difference was that for this conversation, the candidate had his phone set to record.

The secretly taped audio recording, released here for the first time, reveals how senior Democratic officials have worked to crush competitive primaries and steer political resources, money, and other support to hand-picked candidates in key races across the country, long before the party publicly announces a preference. The invisible assistance boosts the preferred candidate in fundraising and endorsements, and then that fundraising success and those endorsements are used to justify national party support. Meanwhile, opponents of the party’s unspoken pick are driven into paranoia, wondering if they are merely imagining that unseen hands are working against them.

Hoyer bluntly told Tillemann that it wasn’t his imagination, and that mobilizing support for one Democratic candidate over another in a primary isn’t unusual. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chair of the DCCC, has a “policy that early on, we’d try to agree on a candidate who we thought could win the general and give the candidate all the help we could give them,” Hoyer told Tillemann matter-of-factly…

In races in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska, California, and beyond, progressive candidates are finding that the DCCC has mobilized support for moderate candidates with access to early campaign cash at the expense of progressives. As we’ve reported, many first-time candidates are told by the DCCC that before they can even be considered, they have to perform the “rolodex” test to show they can raise $250,000 or more from the contact list on their phone.

In February, the DCCC made the unusual move to release opposition research, the term of art for political dirt, against activist Laura Moser, who the party viewed as too liberal to win in the 7th Congressional District of Texas, a Houston-area seat. The strategy, however, appeared to backfire. Moser placed second in the Texas Democratic primary, meaning she’ll have a shot at the nomination in the May 22 runoff…

To a certain extent, people like Elizabeth Warren and people like Bernie Sanders have been ostracized by the party, and they have been marginalized by the establishment to the extent that is possible,” says Tillemann. “But the fact of the matter is that the people are crying out for genuine leaders, and the people are crying out for a solution to inequality and systemic injustice, and to the extent that I am fighting for those solutions, then I think there will be a powerful constituency for that.”

I’m proud to be on the side of truth,” he added. “I’m proud to be on the right side of democracy, and I’m proud to be on the right side of free and fair elections.”

The recording could be heard in the video below, which also has animation added:

This practice calls into question whether there is any point in liberals and progressives to support the Democratic Party if they are ignoring small-d democratic principles to promote more conservative candidates? They appear to want either conservative businessmen or ex-CIA agents. As Jimmy Dore pointed out, out of 102 competitive Democratic Congressional primaries in 2018, “44 involve candidates with a military-intelligence or State Department background, with 11 districts having two such candidates, and one district having three.”

Putting ethics aside, it isn’t even good politics. The claim that more conservative candidates are more electable has not held up. The Democratic leadership has a terrible record of choosing more “electable” candidates. They lost control of both houses of Congress and over 1000 state seats in a decade based upon this misconception. The ultimate example came when they violated the party’s by-laws to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, the one candidate who could not even beat a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump.

(more…)

US Ranking Falls On Press Freedom Index

The threats to freedom of the press under Donald Trump have led to Reporters Without Borders dropping the rating of the United States to 45th, continuing its downward trend. The United States previously finished No. 43 in 2017 and No. 41 in 2016. Even before Trump, they note restrictions in press freedom due to the prosecution of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act which predated his presidency.

From their report on the United States:

The United States’ ranking fell from 43 to 45 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, continuing its downward trend in the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. In contrast, its northern neighbor Canada gained 4 places due to steps taken to safeguard the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Donald Trump furthers First Amendment decline

In 2017, the 45th President of the United States helped sink the country to 45th place by labeling the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempts to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routine use of the term “fake news” in retaliation for critical reporting, and calling for media outlets’ broadcasting licenses to be revoked. President Trump has routinely singled out news outlets and individual journalists for their coverage of him, and retweeted several violent memes targeting CNN.

The violent anti-press rhetoric from the White House has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protestsor simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job.

Press freedom violations in the country of the First Amendment in fact have become so frequent of late that RSF joined a coalition of more than two dozen press freedom organizations to launch the US Press Freedom Tracker in August, which documented 34 arrests of journalists in 2017, the majority while covering protests (find out more on the tracker).

However, the Trump effect has only served to amplify the disappointing press freedom climate that predated his presidency. Whistleblowers face prosecution under the Espionage Act if they leak information of public interest to the press, while there is still no federal “shield law” guaranteeing reporters’ right to protect their sources. Journalists and their devices continue to be searched at the US border, while some foreign journalists are still denied entry into the US after covering sensitive topics like Colombia’s FARC or Kurdistan.

The US’ decline in press freedom is not simply bad news for journalists working inside the country; the downward trend has drastic consequences at the international level. “Fake news” is now a trademark excuse for media repression, in both democratic and authoritarian regimes. Democratic governments from several countries in the Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS), have adopted Trump’s favorite phrase when criticizing the work of journalists. Given that criminal defamation still remains on the books in many Caribbean countries, the spread of Trump’s anti-media rhetoric could have very serious consequences for the local press.

Norway and Sweden were ranked at the top for press freedom for the second straight year. North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China were at the bottom. The report also mentioned the impact of strongmen such as Vladimir Putin:

The Index also reflects the growing influence of “strongmen” and rival models. After stifling independent voices at home, Vladimir Putin’s Russia (148th) is extending its propaganda network by means of media outlets such as RT and Sputnik, while Xi Jinping’s China (176th) is exporting its tightly controlled news and information model in Asia. Their relentless suppression of criticism and dissent provides support to other countries near the bottom of the Index such as Vietnam (175th), Turkmenistan (178th) and Azerbaijan (163rd).

I noted last week how Edward Snowden had joined civil liberties organization in condemning restrictions on free communications in Russia. In a recent interview, Ed Schultz argued that Russia Today provides him with more independence than he had at MSNBC, which he says fired him for his support for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

Damon Linker Asks Why Clinton Supporters Cannot Accept The Truth About Her Loss

Partisan Democrats remain unable to face reality regarding why Hillary Clinton lost, blaming this on James Comey, Russia, or other things which they claim were beyond Clinton’s control. This is despite running against a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, who would probably lost by ten points against anyone other than Clinton. Their recently filed lawsuit would he laughable if not for its attack on freedom of the press. In light of this, Damon Linker asks, Why can’t liberals accept the truth about Hillary’s 2016 failure? Linker wrote:

Like traumatized soldiers after a devastating and unanticipated defeat on the battlefield, a certain kind of partisan Democrat is still struggling with President Trump’s (absurdly narrow) victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Just witness the furious reaction occasioned by a New York Times excerpt from Amy Chozick’s new book about Clinton’s defeat. Because Chozick dared to write that Clinton lost “the most winnable presidential election in modern history,” she (and others, like myself, who’ve made similar claims) inspired a tidal wave of criticism.

After summarizing the excuses made by Clinton and her supporters, Linker concluded:

…Clinton was the worst possible person to answer the angry accusations of a populist insurgency from either the protectionist right or the socialist left. She was too much a contented representative and beneficiary of the very political and economic establishments against which Trump directed his fire. She was the Davos candidate, the woman who defied the advice of her handlers to accept six-figure speaking fees from investment banks at events where she wooed rooms full of potential donors by dreaming of a world of open borders — a world in which the last remaining businesses to pay a decent wage in the Rust Belt would be given the green light to flee in pursuit of ever-higher profits.

To counter that Trump-the-corrupt-real-estate-mogul is just as much a member of the nation’s economic elite misses the political point entirely. A populist defines himself by those he attacks, and Trump attacked those in power. Who did Clinton attack? The “deplorable” voters who were tempted to vote for Trump — and she did it, of course, at a big-ticket fundraiser, before a room full of wealthy liberal donors.

Maybe, given the realities of polarization, negative partisanship, and certain fundamentals at play in 2016, no Democrat would have won against Trump in a landslide. But I’m quite sure a different Democrat — a Democrat who didn’t so badly misjudge the political moment and squander her many advantages, and who wasn’t incapable of taking a stand on behalf of those many Americans who feel they’ve been left behind by the prevailing policies of the past generation — could have won convincingly, decisively.

Until the party demonstrates a willingness to learn from its mistakes, it will run the considerable risk of repeating them.

Clinton was out-flanked on the left by Trump not only on trade. She also suffered from her far right wing views on foreign policy and interventionism.

Democrats do need to accept reality, as opposed to ignoring the mood of the electorate–as they also did in 2010 and 2014 leading to Democratic losses. Rather than accepting why they lost and correcting the problems, they engage in a sick McCarthyism, attacking those who do point out their mistakes. Rather than embrace potential new voters brought in by Bernie Sanders, they attack the left, have purged progressives from the DNC, and attack more liberal and progressive candidates who are more in tune with the voters, and probably more electable.