Friday, August 22, 2014

Sometimes Bipartisanship Leads To A Plot Against The People Of This Country By The Beltway Political Elites


This diagram shows the ideological spectrum of the Members who supported the Grayson amendment on police demilitarization

George Bush demanded-- hysterically-- that Congress pass the TARP giveaway to banksters that came close to wrecking the economy. But it can't only be pinned on Bush; both Establishment Beltway parties were complicit in that catastrophic vote. Boehner voted for it and he was rewarded with the Speakership. Three Republicans were elected U.S. Senators: Blunt (MO), Kirk (IL) and Boozman (AR) and Mary Fallin was elected governor of Oklahoma. I bet virtually none of their constituents know they backed TARP. (Ironically 2 Democrats who voted against it-- cousins Tom and Mark Udall were elected to the Senate from New Mexico and Colorado.)Other Republicans were rewarded with other goodies for doing the wrong thing. Fred Upton (R-MI) was named chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was rewarded with the chairmanship of the House Banking Committee. Hal Rogers (R-KY) walked away with the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. Dave Camp (R-MI) was made chair of the Ways and Means Committee. John Kline (R-MN) was given the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Buck McKeon (R-CA) was given the chair of the House Armed Service Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) pay off was the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And two other big backers of Bush's legislation, Steve Israel (D-NY) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) became the heads, respectively, of the DCCC and the NRCC. (Sessions later was given the chair of the House Rules Committee). You see that pattern? Republican voters may have hated TARP but the congressmembers who voted for it and passed it were given control of the party caucus. It's the way DC works. And on the Democratic side, another crook, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was eventually made head of the DNC and promised a "pathway" to the Speakership. Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Crowley… virtually the entire Democratic House leadership-- with the exception of Xavier Becerra (D-CA)-- voted for it too.

Who says Congress isn't bipartisan enough? More recently, as we've been writing (here, here, and here) Boehner and Pelosi both instructed their caucuses to vote against Grayson's amendment to put a stop to the militarization of local police forces. Grayson had lined up the 2 Blue Dogs-- Barrow and Matheson-- plus the 19 Republicans he needed to pass the amendment, certain his own party would back his attempt "to prohibit use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons." Military Industrial Complex whores Steny Hoyer ($992,040) and Pete Visclosky ($1,025,000) persuaded the increasingly persuadable Pelosi that Grayson's amendment was "a blunt instrument."

Writing this week for, Dr. Gabriela Lemus, executive director of Progressive Congress explained behaving as a nation at war with itself has been traumatizing for much of the country since the 1980s' so-called War on Drugs.
The confluence of the drug wars and the war on terror and its impact on local law enforcement has been a disaster. The devolving wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have meant finding alternative uses for surplus weapons or-- as I refer to it-- new toys for the boys. The 1033 Program, as it’s referred to, is named for a section of the National Defense Authorization Act-- a program first implemented in the early 1990s. It allows the Department of Defense to reissue billions of dollars of military equipment and sell it to domestic law enforcement forces particularly to elite units like SWAT Teams that have traditionally needed to fight the advanced weapons available to the narco-traffickers. Here’s the problem, if they have them, they will use them…

Even military veterans who went to Iraq and Afghanistan say that police in Ferguson were excessively armed. SUNY Plattsburgh professor Tom Nolan, a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, wrote in an OpEd in DefenseOne this past June that police forces are increasingly militarizing and communities of color are hearing the message-- “You are the enemy.” As we have recently witnessed, this is a recipe for disaster.

Peaceful protesters are now angry protesters targeted with pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets. Journalists are now targets of the police and arrested for trying to do their jobs and cover the news. Michael Brown’s death and the evolving situation in Ferguson is a warning to us all. Our democracy is in peril lest we not pay heed.

We are witnessing a local law enforcement running amok and instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents, it has been employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens. Sadly, Ferguson is not alone-- there have been other incidents in New York, Los Angeles, and many others that haven’t gotten the attention of the media.

Law enforcement will continue to receive military equipment unless Congress puts a stop to it.  Yet, there is no agreement there either.  In the wake of this chaos, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., distributed a letter to his congressional colleagues saying he plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act,” which would further monitor, limit or eliminate sales of military equipment. On the same day, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin praised an announcement from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Logistics Agency to fully and permanently restore the DOD surplus equipment programs to benefit counties, school districts and rural fire departments.

How will it end?  Not well if cooler heads do not prevail. The militarization of our domestic law enforcement can only lead to more violence and the potential violation of human and civil rights with impunity.

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"You Snotty Little Bastard!… You Can't Handle The Truth!"


Is the tragedy of Ferguson serving as a national teaching moment? Maybe… at least for people open to learning. Nate Silver made a point the other day, for example, of how most police don't live in the cities they serve-- especially not white police serving in minority areas. In Ferguson, for example, "more than two-thirds of the civilian population is black. Only 11 percent of the police force is… Black and Hispanic officers are considerably more likely to reside in the cities they police than white ones." And Ferguson is anything but an outlier.
On average, among the 75 U.S. cities with the largest police forces, 60 percent of police officers reside outside the city limits. But the share varies radically from city to city… [O]nly 23 percent do so in Los Angeles. Just 12 percent of Washington police live in the District-- and only 7 percent of officers in Miami live within city limits.
Maybe that accounts for why so many minority residents feel the police are a heavily armed foreign occupying force, less interested in serving and protecting and more interested in oppressing and threatening. Then there are the questions of empathy and of accountability. Yishai Schwartz, writing for the New Republic, pokes around something that has plagued people trying to exercise their rights to assemble and protest for-- at least-- my entire life: an overwhelmingly ill-trained police force convinced they are above the law… and lawmakers who back up that notion despite a Constitution that does not. Schwatz's point was that the murderer in the Ferguson police uniform will never be convicted of anything. "In this case," he writes, "a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the details of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table."
In general, we presume innocence. But when we know that a killing has occurred and can definitively identify who committed the act, traditional common law demanded that our presumptions shift. We are supposed to presume guilt, and it is the shooter who must prove that his actions were justified. Unless the shooter is a policeman. And unless the victim is a black male. And unless the shooting happens in a state with self-defense laws like Missouri.

In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensive research shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americans-- and especially young black men-- have committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.

But these cultural biases are only part of the story of why a conviction will be near-impossible. The central reason is a recent trend in many states' criminal laws. Throughout history, claims of self-defense and compelling police activity have served as justifications for the use of deadly force. Most people intuitively understand that self-preservation is a basic right and that police must sometimes use violence to protect society and apprehend criminals. But generally, we expect situations of justified violence and legal killing to be the rare exception, and most people would probably imagine that policemen and citizens raising claims of justifiable homicide must meet a substantive burden of proof. But today, in states like Missouri, these justifications barely require any evidence at all.

…Within reason, legal protections for, and presumptions in favor of, policemen acting in the line of duty make sense. Society has chosen to give these men and women guns, after all. And if we expect these officers to put their lives on the line, we owe them some measure of trust and due deference. But trust cannot become a license to kill. We have a word for a situation where killing is the default, where violence is so expected that the burden is no longer on a killer to prove his actions are justified. That word is war. It has no place in suburban St. Louis.
And these underlying attitudes that give individual police officers license to shoot first and think later? Look no further than the conservative ideology that has poisoned the American Dream from the very first day when conservatives stampeded to support the British against the American revolutionaries. The same third of Americans who are knee-jerk Republicans today, were knee-jerk royalists in the late 1700s. They hated everything America stood for-- and they still do. Look no further than Republican Party spokesmodel Steve King (R-IA), one of the House Members who sets the GOP's policy on racism and bigotry inside Congress. King is a tenacious hatemonger steeped in ugly 19th Century racism. Predictably, he's become Congress' cheerleader-in-chief for murderer Darren Wilson. But… some of his best friends are Negroes. Maybe one of them should tell him that the entire Republican House Conference is a "Congressional White Caucus."
I've watched them pit us against each other for a long time. And by the way, it also should be said that someone like Lacy Clay, who's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus-- there is no 'Congressional White Caucus.' It is a self-segregated caucus and it is a caucus that they drive an agenda that's based on race. And they're always looking to place the race card. They're always looking to divide people down that line. And I have friends in that caucus. I get along with them personally, but their agenda is to play the race card. And we have a President who had a perfect opportunity to eliminate a lot of this friction in this country, and instead, he and his attorney general have been in a place where they've created friction rather than eliminated it.
Not every policeman thinks he's above the law. But I bet most do. They're the thugs from high school who went the sanctioned uniform route. The story of Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw's series of on-duty sexual assaults isn't unrelated to the murderous police officer in Ferguson. The police chief there called his rampage "disturbing."
Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 27, a three-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday outside Gold’s Gym, 2301 W Memorial Road, on complaints of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure. He was being held in the Oklahoma County jail in lieu of $5 million bail.

…Holtzclaw is accused of stopping women-- some as they walked through neighborhoods-- and threatening them with arrest, Citty said. Police said Holtzclaw forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, and in at least one instance, had intercourse with a woman, Citty said.

Holtzclaw, an Enid native, worked the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at the Springlake Division, which predominately patrols the northeast part of Oklahoma City. Police said most incidents happened at the location of the stops, but some victims were taken to remote locations.

…Holtzclaw was one of four Oklahoma City police officers named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in the May 1, 2013, death of Clifton Armstrong, 38. The lawsuit was filed in January.
Velencia Maiden alleges that officers used excessive force in arresting her son. She also contends the police department inadequately investigates such complaints, fails to adequately train its officers on the use of force and allows a permissive atmosphere in which illegal and unconstitutional behavior toward citizens is tolerated and accepted. Maiden is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
The pig mentality behind the Ferguson murder and the Oklahoma City rapes:

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Paul Ryan Vows That The GOP Suicide Mission Will Not Take Place Until AFTER November (When Its Too Late For Voters)


You probably saw the whole McConnell kerfuffle this week when he admitted the Republicans plan to shut down the government if they keep control of the House and win control of the Senate in November. Republicans with pretensions to national office and some aura of being part of the mainstream, were having coronaries. Paul Ryan, for example, when speaking to audiences that aren't all Republican, vowed that there would be no government shutdown-- at least not before the election. He hints strongly, though, that after the election, House Republicans will be on the same ruinous page as McConnell and Ted Cruz.
In his book, Ryan calls the 2013 shutdown a "suicide mission" for the House GOP, and on Wednesday he told CQ Roll Call he agreed that Republicans were easy to blame for the events that transpired.

But House Republicans won’t repeat that mistake this September, Ryan predicted: “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down … it will be patently obvious … that they are playing politics with this, and trying to trigger a shutdown so they can blame us, but we’re really blameless in this particular situation.”

Ryan’s confidence that his conference will cooperate in passing a stop-gap spending bill free of controversial policy riders-- "until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking," said Ryan-- contradicts Democrats’ cries over the past few days that the GOP is spoiling for another shutdown that could cost them the election in November.

How insane is the Republican Party becoming? This George W. Bush quote-- in response to a question about John McCain in the 2008 election-- comes via The Right Perspective: "I probably won’t even vote for the guy," Bush told the group, according to two people present. "I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me."

Ryan, on the other hand, said he is so enthusiastic about the plutocrat that has been rejected several times by the American people that he would gladly drive Romney's bus in he chose to run (for president) again in 2016. "A lot of the things [Romney] said in the campaign, projections he made ... were true," he said. Ryan also added that he favors limiting the mortgage interest deduction to loans up to $500,000, something unlikely to go over well with the Republican base… to put it mildly.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wall Street-- All Is Forgiven?


What better vehicle to declare Wall Street banksters no longer villains than the Wall Street Journal? And that's exactly what Patrick O'Conner did this morning. "As political villains go," he wrote, "Wall Street seems to be enjoying something of a reprieve." He claims "its image is on the mend" and that only about a third of Americans view Wall Street negatively.
No industry was more battered on the airwaves in 2012 than the financial-services sector. Candidates, parties and outside groups aired a total of more than 280,000 political ads that mentioned Wall Street, “Big Banks,” corporate “bailouts” or some other reference to the industry, according to a tally by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising for campaigns and outside groups. Even when presidential ads are stripped out, the total spots eclipsed 200,000 airings.

That’s not the case this year. By mid-August, roughly 15,000 ads aired that referred to Wall Street or the financial-services industry, according to CMAG numbers, a sliver of the 2012 tally. The theme has only surfaced in 28 races, including a handful of governors’ races.

The 2008 financial crisis generated plenty of animus for big financial institutions, particularly those that received a piece of the roughly $430 billion the Treasury Department doled out as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The parties seized on different messages, but disdain for Wall Street was a bipartisan crusade in the last two election cycles… The share of Americans who view the industry positively also edged up seven percentage points, to 21% from 14%.

That rehabilitation might be welcome news to the politicians who rely on big financial sector companies to fuel their fundraising. So far, banks, insurance companies and other financial-services firms are the top donors to the parties, candidates and outside groups, dishing out more than $281 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more money than the combination of lawyers, organized labor and the health-care sector donated.

…[Elizabeth Wilner:] “Political advertisers have practical reasons for letting up on some of their most generous donors. But since they’re hardly above whacking Wall Street if they perceive it as a way to win, the drop-off suggests that, at least for now, they don’t see it that way.”
So far this cycle, the Finance Sector has given $148,543,210 to candidates for Congress, $89,724,597 to Republicans and $58,739,217 to Democrats. Of this cycle's 15 politicians who have taken the most from the banksters, only one, Ro Khanna, is a non-incumbent. All 5 Democrats taking huge legalistic bribes from Wall Street are as crooked as their Republican counterparts and all 5 are conservative stooges for Big Business with the kind of clout Wall Street is eager to invest in.
John Boehner (R-OH)- Speaker- $2,664,676
Eric Cantor (R-VA)- oops- $1,848,125
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)- Chair Financial Services Committee- $1,428,259
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- Chair, Banking Committee- $1,225,756
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- Majority Leader- $1,003,136
Joe Crowley (New Dem-NY)- Ways and Means Committee- $956,722
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)- Financial Services Committee- $918,800
Scott Garrett (R-NJ)- Chair, subcommittee on Capital Markets- $912,363
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)- Chair, subcommittee on Revenue Measures $821,450
Ed Royce (R-CA)- Financial Services Committee- $821,218
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)- Financial Services Committee $801,750
Steve Stivers (R-OH)- Financial Services Committee- $799,309
Steve Israel (Blue Dog-NY)- DCCC Chair, Appropriations Committee- $769,050
Pete Roskam (R-IL)- Ways and Means Committee- $702,149
Ro Khanna (CA)- bankster dream candidate to take out Mike Honda- $678,890
This morning Yves Smith reminded her readers that the settlements the Feds have been making with the banksters are about headlines, not about accountability, let alone Justice.
Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash. As we’ve reminded readers often, it’s critical to keep your eye on the real money, since the rest of the total is almost without exception things the bank would have done anyhow (or even better, giving banks credit for costs actually borne by others, like modifying mortgages that the bank merely services, meaning the bank gets a credit for a writedown imposed on an investor).
Tuesday the NY Times was barking up a similar tree. "Once again last month," reported William Cohan, "we were treated to the sorry spectacle of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. holding a news conference to proclaim that a “too big to fail” bank had been brought to justice for its reprehensible behavior in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. All things considered, it was fine theater with the obvious caveat that nothing even remotely close to justice had been served."
That Mr. Holder prefers large settlements to prosecutions is no surprise to anyone familiar with the so-called Holder Doctrine, which stems from his now-famous June 1999 memorandum-- when he was deputy attorney general-- that included the thought that big financial settlements may be preferable to criminal convictions because a criminal conviction often carries severe unintended consequences, like loss of jobs and the inability to continue as a going concern. (See Andersen, Arthur, for instance.)

That Mr. Holder, as attorney general, is following through on an idea that he proposed as a subordinate 15 years ago does not make his behavior any less infuriating. The fact is that by settling with the big Wall Street banks for billions of dollars-- money that comes out of their shareholders’ pockets-- Mr. Holder is allowing them to avoid the sunshine that Louis Brandeis wrote 100 years ago was the best disinfectant. Instead of shining the bright light on wrongdoing that took place at the Wall Street banks, Mr. Holder’s settlements allow them to cover it up permanently.

And that helps no one. The American people are deprived of knowing precisely how bad things got inside these banks in the years leading up to the financial crisis, and the banks, knowing they will be saved the humiliation caused by the public airing of a trove of emails and documents, will no doubt soon be repeating their callous and indifferent behavior.

Instead of the truth, we get from the Justice Department a heavily negotiated and sanitized “statement of facts” about what supposedly went wrong. In the case of JPMorgan, the statement of facts was 21 pages but contained little of substance beyond the fact that an unidentified whistle-blower at the bank tried to alert her superiors to her belief that shoddy mortgages were being packaged and sold as securities. Her warnings went unheeded and the mortgages were packaged and sold all the same.

The explicit details of the bank’s wrongdoing were contained in a civil complaint that Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, had drafted and threatened to file publicly if JPMorgan didn’t settle. Fearing disclosure of the contents of the complaint, JPMorgan caved to Mr. Holder’s demands. The bottom line was JPMorgan paid the $13 billion, in cash and in-kind, and the American people were deprived of finding out exactly what the bank did wrong.
Funny that wasn't mentioned in today's Wall Street Journal article about how people don't hate the banksters as much any more and how crooked politicians (see list above) can breath easy and take bribes without worrying about blowback from enraged constituents defeating them at the polls. How many years ago was 60 Minutes talking about cases with prosecutorial merit. (Part 2 is up top.)

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From the "Is There Life After ----?" File: Former NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn


Former Speaker Christine Quinn back on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, looking relaxed and apparently sounding so too. "Life is good," she said.

"The former City Council speaker and failed Democratic mayoral candidate said she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore."
-- from "Christine Quinn: 'Life is good',"
AM New York's Emily Ngo

by Ken

Probably there was a day when, pretty much en masse, her phone number was lost by erstwhile gladhanders throughout the five boroughs of NYC. And when she makes calls now to anyone but friends and relatives, she's probably not shocked when they aren't returned lickety-split. Nevertheless, all in all, there may be compensations to suddenly stepping -- or being pushed --- out of the limelight.

Since the City Council speakership is a relatively recent position, there isn't much in the way of history or precedents for its exes. And now with the advent of term limits, the process has been almost comically speeded up, so that the fall from power may not be that much more precipitous that the rise to it.

Not that the job carries immense power. Mostly it's exercising the option to make the mayor's life either easier or harder. But there's enough power -- what with stuff like heavy influence over committee assignments and chairmanships (which inevitably includes influence over the flow of money) as well as the legislative agenda that: (a) people covet the job, even knowing it can't be a long-term deal, and (b) other people covet access to the holder of the job.

Plus, at least in theory, there's the city-wide visibility to thrust the speaker into the thick of contention for higher office, meaning of course the mayoralty. Again, there isn't much precedent to fall back on, but there aren't a lot of other jobs toward which the Council speakership seems a likely stepping stone. And indeed, for a good part of the administration of "Mayor Mike" Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn's name topped most lists of possible successors in the event that Mayor Mike was ever pried out of City Hall. For the mayor that meant an impossibly difficult balancing act between remaining safely within the orbit of the mayor's benevolence and yet establishing herself as Not Mayor Mike.

In the end, as we know, that all didn't work out so well. And while this may just be me, I'm imagining that after the frenzy of those last few years, it must have come as more a relief than anything to escape back to the real world. I don't recall even heareing her name mentioned before yesterday, and for her, dramatic as the fall from the heights may have been, this may not be such a bad thing.

Where has Quinn been? According to AM New York's Emily Ngo, she said "she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore." Mind you, I didn't see her brief public appearance yesterday, and I'm probably reading a certain amount into what I read about it, but it struck me that Quinn seemed, well, relaxed, which certainly wouldn't describe most of her time as speaker, in particular the last couple of years.
AM New York
Christine Quinn: 'Life is good'

By EMILY NGO August 19, 2014

Christine Quinn returned to the political spotlight Tuesday for the first time since her last City Council meeting in December, saying, "Life is good."

She led a news conference on the steps of City Hall about the newly formed Women's Equality Party and later said she was doing so at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's request.

The former City Council speaker and failed Democratic mayoral candidate said she has passed the last several months enjoying time with her wife, Kim Catullo, and resting at the New Jersey shore.

"It feels great to be back. I got to see a bunch of friends I haven't seen in a while," Quinn said. "It's great to be here with such an important issue and to support such great candidates."
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Hollis Hills) greeted her mid-news conference with a "Welcome home!"

Quinn said she has stayed busy serving some nonprofit organizations boards, joking that she loves "torturing those poor executive directors. I think they all regret having ever asked me to be on the board. ... Life is good."

Prompted by reporters, she weighed in on recent local political news. She called successor, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, "brave" for going public with her HPV concerns and added that Mark-Viverito is compelling more women to get screened.

Quinn said she reimbursed taxpayers for political and personal use of her city-issued car and driver when she was in office. She would not say whether she believes Mayor Bill de Blasio should do so. De Blasio has faced criticism for sticking the city with his subway and out-of-town travel bills when he travels for business or with an NYPD-mandated escort.

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Latest Right Wing Excuse For Their Contemptible Racism: Unsubstantiated Claims That The Murderer Has An "Orbital Blowout Fracture of the Eye Socket"


Does this guy look like a racist to you?

I have to admit, I had never heard of Republican blogger Jim Hoft-- better known as "Gateway Pundit"-- until Media Matters dubbed him the Dumbest Man on the Internet. In 2010 they pointed out that his unique incompetence had been responsible for "almost every inane story that bubbles up in the conservative blogosphere."

"[E]ither willfully dishonest or staggeringly inept," Hoft "has proven that he has absolutely no vetting process for the sources he cites, and apparently has a hard time with basic reading comprehension." And, no one should be surprised that he's been at it again in regard to the tragedy in Ferguson. His latest clain even seeped into the DWT comment section. Republican KKK types want to believe the kind of wild stories Hoft propagates and this is the kind of thing that spreads from him to Drudge to Limbaugh to Fox to brothers-in-law and water coolers across the country. Charles Johnson, a former rightist who knows exactly how they operate, debunked Hoft's widely trumpeted "reporting." He was immediately suspicious about Hoft's anonymous sources for a struggle between murderer Darren Wilson and the unarmed 18 year old he pumped 6 bullets into.

Before being hustled out of town, Wilson had none of the symptoms of the orbital blowout fracture right-wingers are now claiming. "Also," notes Johnson, "no ambulance was called for Wilson, and no first aid was administered by other officers, which seems odd if he had indeed suffered this type of serious injury-- or any injury at all."
And there’s more evidence that Hoft is trying to pull a fast one again; here is the original image posted at the AAPOS site, showing a CT scan of a blowout fracture (on the left), compared to the image posted at Gateway Pundit by Hoft (on the right):

Notice the difference? In the version posted by Jim Hoft, the text at bottom right that says “UNIV OF IOWA” has been crudely erased. Caught you, Jim.

Was Hoft trying to mislead his readers into thinking this was the actual X-ray (or CT scan) of Darren Wilson? His text does not make it clear it wasn’t Wilson’s CT scan-- and the words “UNIV OF IOWA” have been blacked out, quite deliberately.

If Hoft’s intent was to mislead, it worked. All over Twitter and right wing blogs, the wingnuts are raving about “Darren Wilson’s X-ray” that shows a fractured eye socket-- but this is just a generic example image of an unknown person’s CT scan.

Time will tell if Wilson is going to claim he had this type of injury, but nobody should take Jim Hoft’s word for it.

And one more point while I’m at it; Hoft writes:
This comes from a source within the Prosecuting Attorney’s office and confirmed by the St. Louis County Police.
If that’s true, it’s highly disturbing that the St. Louis prosecutor’s office and the St. Louis County police department are leaking information to a far right hateblogger known for his unrelenting dishonesty, who uses a white supremacist hate group as a source.
Even other right-wing bloggers are questioning Hoft's veracity-- or at least his ability to get the story right.

Ferguson Republican Party meet-up

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Days Before The Florida Primary, A Judge Forced Prosecutor To Name "Co-conspirator A"-- No One Batted An Eye When It Turned Out To Be David Rivera


Conservative Culture of Corruption (congressional chapter)

A wonderful new word for conservative parasites popped into the colloquial dictionary last year: affluenza. I can't think of a better term to describe the self-entitlement that defines garden variety American conservativism/white supremacy. According to yesterday's New York Daily News, Frederick Couch, "father of the infamous affluenza-afflicted teen, who ducked jail time for a deadly drunken driving accident because his family said he was too rich to tell right from wrong, was busted Tuesday for pretending to be a cop."

People like this are attracted to power almost as much as they are to money. And we find more and more of them turning up in politics. We have, for example 4 conservative governor who have either been indicted or are under serious investigation and likely to be indicted-- all of whom harbor pretensions to be president: Chris Christie (R-NJ), Scott Walker (R-WI), Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Rick Perry (R-TX). Florida Governor Rick Scott isn't running for president but his criminality is in a league of its own. Crooked congressmen are even more common!

Many people have their fingers crossed that Staten Island Mafioso, Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm, will win reelection in November from the inside of a prison cell. His has a long criminal career but is currently under indictment on the first 20 charges. He's still serving in the John Boehner's House of Representatives.

Now we're hearing the the hammer is finally coming down on crooked Miami Republican David Rivera, a former congressman who was defeated in 2012 and claims to be running again this cycle-- although his only FEC disclosure shows $139,873 in debt and a loan to himself of $11,000. According to the bane of Rivera's existence, Miami Herald ace investigative reporter Marc Caputo, one of the gangsters in Rivera's mob, Ana Allliegro had finally pleased guilty-- and ratted out Rivera, who was officially named as a target of a federal investigation on Tuesday. At the court appearance, he "was identified by a prosecutor who confirmed the Republican politician was 'Co-conspirator A' in an $81,000 campaign-finance scheme to prop up a little-known candidate who used the illegal cash to trash a rival of Rivera’s."
“Why do we keep not naming the co-conspirator?” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill. “We’re past that time.” Mulvihill pointed out that U.S. Justic Department policy forbids prosecutors from naming unindicted co-conspirators.

Rivera’s ties to the case have been reported by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for years, but he had denied wrongdoing. Heading into the Tuesday GOP primary for Congressional District 26, Rivera had also denied being the target of any investigation.

But Judge Scola wanted Mulvihill to leave no doubt and directed him to name names.

About three minutes later, Mulvihill made the first of six direct mentions of Rivera, who is suspected of also helping Alliegro leave the United States for Nicaragua when she was supposed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

…The extraordinary scene that played out in federal court-- and the steady drip of information showing the prosecution’s arsenal of evidence-- underscores the strength of the case the government is trying to build against Rivera. At least five people, including Alliegro, could testify about Rivera’s alleged involvement.

…In the Sternad-Alliegro case, the prosecution indicated that Rivera was the mastermind. Mulvihill said that, after Alliegro met with Rivera, she then approached Sternad, an unknown Democrat running against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary for the seat extending from Kendall to Key West.

Sternad, a hotel night-desk clerk, was raising five kids and was so financially strapped that he was on food stamps and took the bus to work.

Alliegro “told him that she had connections to provide the financing for his campaign. Since, as I told you, he was an extremely poor man, he agreed to accept it, took it as a lifesaver,” Mulvihill said.

Sternad used the money to rent a car, pay his cellphone bill, phone voters with pre-recorded calls and produce mailers, at least one of which attacked Garcia, who went on to beat Sternad and then Rivera.

During the primary campaign, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald noted Sternad’s suspicious campaign activities and pointed out his incomplete campaign-finance reports. Campaign vendors, three of whom had been used by Rivera in previous campaigns, told the Herald that Rivera was behind Sternad’s candidacy.

Alliegro helped Sternad fill out his campaign finance reports, where he lied about the source of the illegal campaign cash, claiming the expenditures were from personal loans from his own account.

Sternad was later indicted for his role in the conspiracy and was recently given a seven-month prison sentence.

Alliegro faced similar charges. She pleaded guilty to four counts of making a false statement, conspiring and making illegal campaign contributions.

“She always said she would not invoke the Fifth Amendment, and that she would tell the truth,” said one of Alliegro’s defense attorneys, Richard Klugh. “And she intends to do that if called upon.”

She faces a maximum five years in prison, though that penalty would likely be lower if she cooperates in the case against Rivera. Her sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 10. The informal plea deal announced in court indicates Alliegro, who has been incarcerated for nearly six months, could spend as little as six more months under house arrest.

Had Alliegro fought the case, she could have faced far more time behind bars.
Rivera spent his entire political career as Marco Rubio's consiglieri and the two of them own a notorious Tallahassee party house together. The Florida Republican Party will do anything to make this go away as soon as possible in such a way that Rubio is kept out of it.

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The Party Of Greed And Selfishness Could Make A Come Back… Someday


Don't worry about the GOP. It has not been captured completely by neo-Nazis and Klansmen. Former Bush-Cheney Regime functionary David Frum wants to reassure everyone that "[t]he large donors who supported George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney continue to hold sway within their party." Populism on the right, he asserts, has not taken over his beloved party of greed and selfishness. But the reassurance rings hollow when he starts getting into why the GOP will find itself increasingly unable to win presidential elections and gravely inhibited in its ability to govern effectively if it nevertheless somehow were to win.

He muses aloud about how long it will take the right-wing pup-tent party of Greed and Selfishness to overcome the three plagues it has brought on itself. "First, Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population-- a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. Second, the Republican donor class has grown more ideologically extreme, encouraging congressional Republicans to embrace ever more radical tactics. Third, the party’s internal processes have rigidified, in ways that dangerously inhibit its ability to adapt to changing circumstances." Frum goes on to, inadvertently, explain exactly why the Republican Party is, at its core-- the core at which he worships-- all about Greed and all about Selfishness while all the Tea Party hatred and bigotry are merely frills.
What boomers mean when they call themselves conservative is that they have begun to demand massive cutbacks to spending programs that do not directly benefit them. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Not surprisingly, then, boomers say they want no change at all to the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have begun to qualify for. They will even countenance tax increases on high earners to maintain those benefits. But compared with older Americans in the late 1980s, today’s aging boomers express less support for such fiscally liberal statements as “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Boomers’ conservatism is founded on their apprehension that there’s not enough to go around-- and on their conviction that what little resources there are should accrue to them… [B]oomer conservatives fear that government in the age of Obama will serve somebody else’s interests at the expense of their own.

Republicans have responded to boomers’ fears by reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans-- and only older Americans. In 2005, Bush proposed bold reforms to Social Security, including privatization. But since 2008, the GOP has rejected changes to retirement programs that might in any way impinge on current beneficiaries. The various budget plans Republicans produced in the run-up to the 2012 election all exempted Americans over age 55 from any changes to either Social Security or Medicare.

…[G]enerational tension thrusts the Republican Party into an awkward spot. The elderly and disabled consume 41 percent of all federal spending. Any project to reduce federal spending while exempting such a huge budget category would require either drastic additional defense cuts or a desperate political struggle to concentrate all cuts on the comparatively meager federal programs for working-aged Americans and the young. The former necessity explains why the once internationalist Republican Party so willingly accepted the defense sequester of 2011. The latter explains why budgetary politics in the Obama years has grown so polarized: the GOP’s largest voting constituency has convinced itself that it cannot afford any compromise at all.

“Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” So wrote the venture capitalist Tom Perkins in the Wall Street Journal in January 2014. By no means has Perkins been the only wealthy person to hear the tread of Brown Shirts on the march in the Obama years. In 2010, the financier Stephen Schwarzman equated Obama’s attempt to raise taxes on hedge funds with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and in March 2014, Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, warned that liberal arguments about income inequality reminded him of Nazi pro-p-aganda. Although Schwarzman and Langone later apologized for their choices of words, the hyperbole revealed how threatened the nation’s richest citizens feel by the political tendencies of postcrisis America. As the party of opposition to Obama, the GOP has benefited from the resulting surge of funds from the frightened wealthy-- but that support has come at a heavy price.

During the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and then through the long recovery that began in 2009, Republicans offered an economic message of fiscal and monetary austerity. Their donors feared that low interest rates and quantitative easing would generate inflation, so Republicans opposed those policies. Their donors feared that today’s big deficits would be repaid out of future higher taxes, so Republicans had to oppose stimulus spending on roads, bridges, and airports. They voted against extending unemployment benefits, emergency aid to states, and even the payroll tax holiday-- all measures Republicans have supported in the past.

As a Democrat presided over the slow recovery from a catastrophic slump, Republicans proved unable to capitalize on his struggles and find common cause with the jobless. During the 2012 election, Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe-- his private comment that almost half the country had sunk into hopeless dependency on the government-- proved so damaging because it was no gaffe at all. Wealthy Republicans had been talking that way all through the Obama years. The dependency idea formed the central theme of a speech that Representative Paul Ryan gave a year before he became Romney’s running mate, in which he argued that the United States was nearing a perilous “tipping point” that would be followed by “long-term economic decline as the number of makers diminishes and the number of takers grows.” The American Enterprise Institute even released a campaign-season cartoon video warning in Dr. Seuss–style verse that the grasping demands of the takers “took from the makers their makering pride.”

During the campaign, the radicalization of Republican donors propelled the party to advocate policies that were more extreme than anything seen since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign: draconian cuts in benefits for everybody except retirees and near retirees, plus big tax cuts for high earners. So radical was the Romney-Ryan budget plan that when a Democratic super PAC told a focus group what it entailed, the New York Times reported, “The respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
Frum's delusions end with a grand one, namely that "a multiethnic, socially tolerant conservatism is waiting to take form." Just not this cycle. Or next.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marianne Williamson-- Reparations!


What do candidates do after they lose their race? Many disappear, at least for a while. Or if not disappear, they lower their profile significantly. I remember, though, on the night that election fraud cost Donna Edwards her first race, I spoke with her about how she needed to start running the next day. She did and she two years later she became the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress. Her own party had written her off for a subservient corporate shill and Hoyer and Pelosi had both campaigned against her but if that upset her-- and how could it not-- it didn't slow her down for one second. The second time around wasn't even close. She kicked his corrupt butt 59-37%, even beating him in his home base, Prince George's County, 55-41%.

More often than not-- other than in a wave election-- it takes more than one cycle to win a congressional seat. And not just Donna Edwards. For example, it also took Grayson two tries; same with Jerry McNerney and Joe Garcia. Juan Vargas ran 3 primaries against Bob Filner before Filner finally left the seat too run for mayor and handed it to Vargas.

One of my favorite candidates this cycle was Marianne Williamson who I doubt will run for Congress again-- at least not any time soon. In fact, she just wrote a beautiful endorsement of Ted Lieu, the state Senator who beat her and the two of them are co-hosting an event in Los Angeles for Alan Grayson in a couple of weeks. Much like values-driven progressives Marcy Winograd and Norman Solomon their candidacies were incidental to their work and their vision. Marcy and Norman are working away, not in congress nor in electoral politics, but still organizing around the same issues and principles that drove them to run for office. This week, Marianne took on the thorny blistering hot racial issues around Ferguson that most Democrats are too scared to talk about.
What is happening today in Ferguson, Missouri, had it roots hundreds of years ago, and nothing less than pulling out those roots will heal the situation today. America needs to reconcile with our racial history-- seeking genuine atonement and making meaningful amends. Until such time, tortured race relations will continue to plague us with more and more tragic results.

It's interesting that we even use the phrase "race relations," given how little we register that this is even about a relationship. The relationship between blacks and whites as groups in America is psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, to say the least, and until this is dealt with on the level of the cause and not just effects, we will continue to play out over and over again the cycle of violence at its core.

It's difficult to deal emotionally with the history of slavery in America, which is why many whites have chosen not to. Yet it's imperative that we do, because until we see clearly the line of development leading from slavery to the Civil War to the Ku Klux Klan to the civil rights movement to "benign neglect" to the "prison-industrial complex," America will continue to misunderstand the real problem. This is not just about how many bullets were shot into Michael Brown. The shots that matter most here are way, way too many to count.

…Slavery ended but the racism that gave rise to it did not, only burrowing more deeply into the fabric of Southern society after the Civil War… Many in the South, not surprisingly, then turned their rage at having lost the war against the people whom they saw as its cause. The last thing certain Southerners were ready to do was concede true equality of social status to blacks. And thus began an era of white supremacy in the American South, which was almost as ugly as slavery itself.

If slavery marked Phase 1 of America's black-white relationship, then the reign of white supremacy after the Civil War marked Phase 2…. "Benign neglect" [Phase 3] is a phrase first articulated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was Urban Affairs Advisor to President Richard Nixon, arguing that the drama of the Civil Rights movement should be followed by a period of more or less quiet in the relationship between blacks and whites. It was not necessarily a proactively racist sentiment on Moynihan's part, or even on Nixon's. But it was an abandonment of a healing process nevertheless, and in that sense at least a passive betrayal of the relationship. To say to a formerly enslaved population, "Be glad! You're not slaves anymore, and you're not going to be routinely lynched or kept from voting!"-- while good, indeed very good -- was still not restitution. And nothing short of restitution will constitute a real amends and redeem the soul of America. It wasn't enough that slaves in America were freed. The question remains: What were they freed to?

Civil rights legislation, with its signature Voting Rights Act, was extremely important in integrating African-Americans into the voting pool. But of itself it did little to integrate African-Americans into America's economy. And people who are left out economically are left out, period. The era of race relations post-civil rights movement has paralleled the advancement of American society in general, in which a relatively small part of our population-- blacks, as well as whites-- has done very well, while the majority has hardly moved forward at all. "Blacks go to Harvard; blacks get rich; see, a black man became president!" is now the mantra used to justify a continuation of a policy of benign neglect. The fact that geniuses can make it in America doesn't of itself mean that social justice exists in America. Not everyone is a genius, but everyone should matter.

Yes, it is true-- and very much to be celebrated-- that blacks have opportunities in America today unheard of 50 years ago, but that of itself does not constitute full economic justice. The poor in America are all benignly neglected now. As long as 1 percent of our people control 40 percent of our wealth and 60 percent of our people live on 2.3 percent of our wealth, economic justice for the majority of Americans of any color isn't even on the short list of our national priorities.

One in five American children live in poverty today, making us the second highest child poverty rate in the advanced world. Among black children, however, the poverty rate hovers at 40 percent. A black male has a one in three lifetime probability of incarceration in the United States, lending credence to Michelle Alexander's description of America's "cradle to prison pipeline." These problems are not discreet and newly formed; they are the continuation, the legacies, of a situation that began in the 1600s and still plagues us today. It's not as though the situation finally erupted into violence on the streets of Ferguson. The situation erupts into violence in the hearts of black mothers and fathers all over America every day, as they teach their children-- particularly their sons-- how to behave in order to avoid the unequal application of criminal justice in America. For America has fallen into a terrible pattern in the area of race, as in so many others: don't heal the disease, just suppress or seek to eradicate the systems. The message communicated by most governmental action is this: "Don't keep blacks down, necessarily-- just don't lift them up. The geniuses among them will make their way. If and when they complain or act out, we have police and prisons to show 'em who's boss."

Yet heal the disease we must. And the most significant healing of any societal woe emerges from justice done. Blacks in America have been trained to ask for so little, as though God knows, we've done enough. We've done enough, white America..? What, in the name of God, have we done? We spend millions on anti-poverty programs and billions on prisons. In fact, we haven't even apologized. It's much easier for someone to forgive you when you've had the courtesy to apologize, and much easier for them to get over it if you've had the decency to fix the problem.

We need to apologize, and we need to make genuine amends. America needs to pay long overdue war reparations, and until we do, we will not move forward in any meaningful way. America needs more than forgiveness; we need genuine repentance, and restitution for our national sins.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton suggested we have a "national conversation about race," suggesting perhaps that if we talk about it enough then maybe the problem will go away. But it's difficult to have an authentic conversation when half of the people involved in the dialogue have over two hundred years of understandable rage to express. There are situations in life-- and race in America is one of them-- where talk without action does not heal a wound, but only exacerbates it. Whites and blacks have a relationship in America, but it is an unequal one. One side owes something to the other, and until the debt is paid, the relationship will remain unhealed. The very mention of actually paying something back to people we enslaved for two hundred fifty years is still not on the table, not really. And until it is, then America will not be free.

America spends over $600 billion a year on defense. Over $1 trillion has been spent on the Iraq War, seen now to have been the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history. Yet no one ever asked if we "could afford it." So it should not be considered unreasonable to suggest that America put $500 billion toward a Reparations Plan For African Americans. Not piecemeal things, like Affirmative Action. But the real deal-- in a big way-- with the emotional, economic and social magnitude it deserves. Incremental changes often add up to no fundamental change at all.

Reparations are not a radical idea; they're considered a basic tenet of social and political policy throughout the world. Why should America not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, used as slaves to build the Southern economy into a huge economic force, and then freed into a culture of further violence perpetrated against them? It's not as though all that's over now; if anything, the problem has grown within the cells and psyches of every generation since. America will continue to waste money on relatively limited fixes, until we buck up and pay this debt in a real way once and for all. Millions are indeed wasted if the billions we owe here are not paid. A Reparations Plan would provide a massive investment in educational and economic opportunities for African Americans-- rendered as payment for a long overdue debt. Until that debt is paid, the cycle of violence that began in the 1600s and continues to this day will continue to haunt our psyche and disrupt our social good. It is time for America to atone for our past in both word and deed, and to heal our weary soul.

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The economics of our drug industry can't give us drugs we need, and soon will REALLY need. Is there a workaround?


“Antibiotic resistance really has the potential to make everything about the way we live different.”
-- Kevin Outterson, a founding member of the CDC’s working group
on antimicrobial resistance, to
The New Yorker's James Surowiecki

by Ken

I think most of us are aware, in a general way, that there is a mismatch in the world of drug development between actual health needs and profitability. As, again, we're probably all aware, drug development is expensive, especially when you factor in the huge budgets required for regulatory hurdles and for marketing. Why, the subject even turned up as a plot point in last night's Royal Pains episode, with its attention to "orphan" diseases, the ones that fall beyond the economic interest of the pharmaceutical companies.

The New Yorker's James Surowiecki explains in his current (August 25) "Financial Page" piece, "Ebolanomics" (which, remember, you can actually read for yourself for free during the magazine's summer of "free"), that we shouldn't be surprised, during the current frenzy over ebola, that "there are no real tools to stop it." It suffers from a drug-fighting double whammy: Its victims are both predominantly poor and few in number, in the grand scale of things.
When pharmaceutical companies are deciding where to direct their R. & D. money, they naturally assess the potential market for a drug candidate. That means that they have an incentive to target diseases that affect wealthier people (above all, people in the developed world), who can afford to pay a lot. They have an incentive to make drugs that many people will take. And they have an incentive to make drugs that people will take regularly for a long time—drugs like statins.

This system does a reasonable job of getting Westerners the drugs they want (albeit often at high prices). But it also leads to enormous underinvestment in certain kinds of diseases and certain categories of drugs. Diseases that mostly affect poor people in poor countries aren’t a research priority, because it’s unlikely that those markets will ever provide a decent return. So diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which together kill two million people a year, have received less attention from pharmaceutical companies than high cholesterol. Then, there’s what the World Health Organization calls “neglected tropical diseases,” such as Chagas disease and dengue; they affect more than a billion people and kill as many as half a million a year. One study found that of the more than fifteen hundred drugs that came to market between 1975 and 2004 just ten were targeted at these maladies. And when a disease’s victims are both poor and not very numerous that’s a double whammy. On both scores, a drug for Ebola looks like a bad investment: so far, the disease has appeared only in poor countries and has affected a relatively small number of people.


Surowiecki goes on to point out that this economic disincentive isn't limited to drugs for the poor and/or few. It poses a huge obstacle to the development of drugs that are likely to be needed desperately by the entire population.

This is, again, something I think we're all aware of in a general way: the growing problem of drug-resistant forms of diseases against which we will increasingly have no line of antibiotic defense. The economics of the pharmaceutical industry are again all wrong for this sort of thing. How can we expect drug makers to invest the necessary zillions to develoop drugs that they can't even market? The whole point of such drugs, after all, is to be ready when the existing drugs are no longer effective, and it doesn't take much thought to realize that, beyond the usual testing for efficacy and safety, these drugs mustn't be used till then. Overuse of the previous generations of antibiotics has played a large role in creating this looming crisis, after all.
In recent years, the rise of drug-resistant microbes has made the antibiotics we use less effective and has increased the risk that an infectious disease could get out of control. What people in the West need, health officials agree, is new drugs that we can keep in reserve against an outbreak that regular antibiotics can’t contain. Yet, over the past thirty years, the supply of new antibiotics has slowed to a trickle. “Antibiotic resistance really has the potential to make everything about the way we live different,” Kevin Outterson, a co-director of the Health Law program at Boston University and a founding member of the C.D.C.’s working group on antimicrobial resistance, told me. “So we need to stoke the pipeline.”

The trouble, again, is the business model. If a drug company did invent a powerful new antibiotic, we wouldn’t want it to be widely prescribed, because the goal would be to delay resistance. “Public-health officials would appropriately try to limit sales of the drug as much as possible,” Outterson says: a good public-health policy; a bad investment prospect.
Again, I think we're all vaguely aware of this looming crisis. But I think we mostly avoid thinking about it, since nobody seems to have any answer beyond crossing our fingers and hoping "that day" is as far in the future as possible. Never mind that for some diseases "that day" may already be here. This is stuff that I, for one, find too scary to think about, given that there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it.


"How," Surowiecki asks, "can we get the drugs we need without magically transforming the industry that develops them?" And he suggests an answer, which would be "to reward companies for creating substantial public-health benefits."
[T]he simplest way to do this would be to offer prizes for new drugs. Outterson describes one scenario: “The government would make a payment or a stream of payments to the company, and in exchange the company would give up the right to sell the product.” The drug company would get paid, and would avoid all the expenses of trying to push a new product (which you don’t want with a last-resort antibiotic, anyway). Society would get a new drug, and public-health officials would be able to control how it was promoted and used.
It's not a brand-new idea, Surowiecki says. "In the seventeen-hundreds, the British government successfully used a prize to find a method for measuring longitude at sea." But the prize idea has recently become more widely used.
In the past couple of decades, they've become more common, with prizes being offered for things like innovations in private space flight and an arsenic filter for safe drinking water. The Obama Administration has been especially active in this area, offering more than a hundred and fifty prizes for a range of technological breakthroughs. Economists on both the left and the right see them as a useful way to spark innovation. They’re cost-effective, since you have to pay only if the product works. They’re well suited to encouraging investment in public goods—like antibiotics and vaccines—where the benefits of an innovation aren’t reaped only by those who use it. (My family is safer if yours is vaccinated.) They rely on existing infrastructure. And, in economic jargon, they harness market forces by “pulling” research into neglected areas.

The up-front costs of a prize system would be substantial—a recent report commissioned by the F.D.A. estimated that it would cost a billion dollars to get a great new antibiotic, factoring in tax credits. But we’d save lives by developing the drugs we need and taking measures against future disaster. The alternative is pretty grim: a system that, when it comes to some fierce mortal perils, is leaving a lot of blood on the floor.

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Jackbooted Thugs-- Not Just Ferguson But Facebook Too


The erosion of accountability for criminal activities by our elites will lead to the end of democracy… or worse

I'm not the first one to point out that in the last week we've seen what conservatives, tea-tards and libertarians have been warning us about for years: the thuggish jackbooted foot of the overly militarized government on the throat of the citizenry. Except, for the tea-tards and conservatives, it's just fine since the citizenry with the jackboots on their throats are African-Americans. And by "conservatives," I'm not just talking about Republicans. How many Democrats do you hear speaking up against the police brutality and authoritarian excess? Some… but not enough.

So what's overbearing police brutality Ferguson, Missouri got to do with unconstitutional domestic spying by the U.S. government? Do you want your entire online life opened to the world? Looking at pornography and interacting in sexual ways online is still the biggest function on the worldwide web. Imagine that. The NSA had a record of every single thing you've ever said or searched for online. Everything-- and forever. You comfie with that?

In his recent book, The Edward Snowden Affair, Michael Gurnow reminds us that when Cheney made the decision to throw caution to the winds and shred the constitution, he was able to coerce-- sometimes without much coercion at all-- Microsoft (which includes Hotmail and Skype), AOL, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, PalTalk, Yahoo, Google and Dropbox into complete cooperation with the Bush Regime's decision to spy on the entire country.
What is considered of interest to an analyst has mind-numb- ing implications. When a person is cited as a target of suspicion, the NSA starts “contact chaining” at a minimal distance of "two hops." For example, Bob is an American foreign exchange student spending a semester abroad at the University of Oxford in England. He wants feedback on his paper comparing suicide bombers in Iraq to acts of domestic terror in the United States. He sends it to his Harvard advisor for review. The essay includes the keywords "al Qaeda," "White House," "jihad," "bomb," "Iraq," "Koran" and "Obama administration." This throws up a red flag, and the NSA designates Bob as a person of interest. Intelligence will then investigate any- one found in his email account or whom he has “friended” on Facebook. This is the "first hop." The NSA then proceeds to the second hop. It looks into anyone electronically associated with the people now under the radar after the first hop. In other words, Mary has emailed Bob and Susan has "friended" Mary. Even though Bob has never met and does not know Susan, she is now being investigated by the NSA. (Six days after Gellman’s article debuted, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis informed Congress that analysts were permitted three hops.) Scientific studies of social networks show at three hops, roughly half the American population can be permissibly surveilled. For Facebook and Twitter account holders, the likelihood is greatly increased. The average degree of separation between random users is only 4.74 and 3.43 respectively. Statistically, someone utilizing Facebook has an 84 percent chance of being “targeted by association.” A person posting on Twitter runs an 87 percent risk. Before 9/11, the Justice Department had deemed American contact chaining illegal.

Perhaps the only thing more frightening than "friending" a person who "liked" something which a government target also listed as a Facebook hobby, thereby placing an innocent websurfer under federal suspicion, is the NSA can access real-time data, i.e., live surveillance. This means an analyst has the ability to watch people as they casually surf the Internet.

Gellman highlights one of the primary differences between the participating Internet businesses and the NSA-mined telecoms: The Internet firms didn’t have to be ordered to submit their data. They merely acknowledged a "directive" from the attorney general and director of national intelligence in exchange for legal impunity. In the event a developing Internet enterprise refuses to play along, 2008 legislation permits the FISC to make a company "comply."

Suggestive of a gag order being in place, a Google representative speaking on condition of anonymity stated, "From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'backdoor' into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘backdoor’ for the government to access private user data." Gellman specifies that the few congressional members privy to PRISM, such as Wyden and Udall, are also not allowed to express their opinions because they are "bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues."
When a guy like Mark Udall speaks up-- and very publicly-- and says CIA Director John Brennan should be fired, that's a really big deal… even if the corporate media completely ignores it and buries it. Udall: "After being briefed on the CIA Inspector General report today, I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan. The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate Intelligence Committee computers. This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences. "The CIA needs to acknowledge its wrongdoing and correct the public record in a timely, forthright manner-- and that simply hasn't occurred under John Brennan's leadership. Such an acknowledgment is necessary, whether we're talking about spying on Senate computers or about correcting misleading and inaccurate information about the CIA's detention and interrogation program. An internal CIA accountability board review isn't enough."

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Did Mitch McConnell's Bluster And Extremism Just Throw Democratic Candidates A Lifeline?


It's been nearly a year since Move On, in the wake of the Republican government shut down, polled dozens of competitive congressional districts in Republican-held districts across the country asking, among other inquiries, these two questions:
1- Would you be less likely or more likely to support [your congressman] if you knew he voted to support shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place, or does it not make a difference?

2- Now that you know [your congressman] supported the government shutdown, I’ll ask you one more time: If the election for Congress were held today, would you vote for re-elect Republican [your congressman], or would you vote for his Democratic opponent?
The responses were nearly universal. Most respondents said they would be less likely to vote to reelect their Members of Congress if they voted to shut down the government and, when they were informed that their Member had indeed voted to shut down the government the Members re-elect numbers went down. I'll give you a few examples from random districts. Let's take a look at a dozen-- first 6 that the DCCC is involved in and then 6 where the DCCC is either refusing to help or where they have sabotaged attempts to beat the Republican:
CA-10- Jeff Denham vs Michael Eggman- 60% opposed a shut down

C0-06- Mike Coffman vs Andrew Romanoff- 62% opposed a shut down

IL-13- Rodney Davis vs Ann Callis- 59% opposed a shut down

KY-06- Andy Barr vs Elisabeth Jensen- 59% opposed a shut down

NY-19- Chris Gibson vs Sean Eldridge- 66% opposed a shut down

VA-02- Scott Rigell vs Suzanne Patrick- 65% opposed a shut down

IA-04- Steve King vs Jim Mowrer- 57% opposed a shut down

OH-14- David Joyce vs Michael Wager- 59% opposed a shut down

WI-07- Sean Duffy vs Kelly Westlund- 59% opposed a shut down

FL-27- Ileana Rose Lehtinen (unopposed- 62% opposed a shut down

MI-06- Fred Upton vs Paul Clements- 69% opposed a shut down

WA-08- Dave Reichert vs Jason Ritchie- 68% opposed a shut down

In every case, voters opposed shutting down the government "as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place." The most adamantly against that proposition were the voters in MI-06, where the DCCC absolutely refuses to help Paul Clements beat Fred Upton, who did vote to shut down the government. Even in the reddest and most backward/primitive district of the lot, IA-04, 57% opposed shutting down the government and said that Steve King's vote to do so would make them more likely to help elect a Democrat to replace him. Again, the DCCC is refusing to help Jim Mowrer, King's Democratic opponent.

In most of the cases, the Democrats have failed to close the circle and adequately make the case. In most districts they have allowed the issue to fade. Sean Eldridge, for example, one of the most inept of Israel's gaggle of third-rate mystery meat recruits, is now polling at 29% after writing himself a $1,340,000 heck and spending $962,959. Is there any way the Democrats or Steve Israel's incredibly incompetent DCCC could revive the issue? Nope-- but Mitch McConnell just did it for them. This morning, Politico published an interview with the embattled 72 year old Minority Leader and he started babbling about shutting down the government again if the Republicans can win both Houses of Congress.
Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or risk a government shutdown.

In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to “move to the center” if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress.

In short, it’s a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency.

“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”
McConnell's plainly stated intent to provoke confrontation and the kind of shutdown and dysfunction that is only popular on the far right fringe Ted Cruz inhabits. After Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel made sure there would be no Democratic opponent to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in FL-27-- a district Obama won 53-47% against Romney-- no amount of crackpot right-wing extremism is going to win this one back, but McConnell's threats and bluster against the American people today should be able too help every Democrat running for the Senate and every Democrat running for the House. Elisabeth Jensen, who represents the Democrats best chance at winning a House seat in Kentucky, was quick to recognize how angry moderate voters in her central Kentucky district would be. This isn't what voters in Lexington and Frankfort are looking for from their political leaders. Earlier today she told us that “Mitch McConnell, Andy Barr and the Republicans shut the government down one year ago, and in reality with their games in Washington it is still shut down. Now McConnell is making it clear he and Andy Barr will continue to grind Washington to a halt if we send them back to Washington again in this election. Everywhere I go in Central Kentucky people tell me this broken dysfunctional government is making them very angry and costing us good jobs and opportunity to move forward. This is a problem we can only solve with new leadership."

Paul Clements was speaking for all the Blue America candidates this morning when he drew a shape contrast between himself and Fred Upton, the knee-jerk Republican congressman from southwest Michigan who knew he shouldn't but backed the government shutdown anyway. Upton may be sorry now because his is the district with the highest percentage of voters that say they are more likely to vote against a congressman who voted for the shutdown. This morning, Clements told us that "Everyone knows the federal government isn't working. We need officials from both parties to focus on solving the problems America faces. Voting to shut down the government, as Congressman Upton did last year and as Senator McConnell is threatening to do again, is the height of political irresponsibility. Let's get representatives who will not act like children."

Is Steve Israel paying any attention-- to anything beyond lining his own pockets and promoting his own miserable career? That was a rhetorical question. Everyone but Nancy Pelosi knows the answer to that.

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