Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Growth Of Medical Marijuana As A Salient Political Issue


The video above is from a hearing of the Michigan state legislature not the U.S. Congress. And the hearing is about abuse of forfeiture laws, not about medical marijuana itself. On April 30 the House voted on an amendment offered by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that was meant to "prohibit the use of funds to implement, administer, or enforce Veterans Health Administration directive 2011-004 with respect to the prohibition on 'VA providers for completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran's participation in a State marijuana program.'" Yes, medical professionals are not even allowed to discuss medical marijuana use with patients in states that have made it legal. Blumenauer's amendment failed 210-213. California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative, led 34 other Republicans across the aisle to vote for Blumenauer's amendment, which was supported by the Democratic leadership and all but 8 Democrats, the 8 being, generally speaking, the scum of the earth and, at least in their matter, no better than a garden variety blood-sucking Republican who cringes at the thought of providing comfort and solace to the old and infirm and to their own constituents suffering from terminal illnesses. These were the treacherous Democrats, daring you to vote them out of office in 2016:
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
John Garamendi (CA)
Bill Keating (MA)
Joe Kennedy (MA)
Sandy Levin (MI)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a New Dem and a virulent and determined opponent of medical marijuana, ducked the roll call but voted with the Republicans against legalization last time it came to a vote-- a year and 2 days ago, when Republican Dana Rohrabacher proposed it. That time it passed 219-189 with 16 other backward Democrats joining Wasserman Schultz's march across the aisle. These were the Democrats who voted with most of the GOP against it:
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Karen Bass (D-CA)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX)
Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX)
Bill Keating (D-MA)
Joe Kennedy (D-MA)
Sandy Levin (D-MI)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)
Frederica Wilson (D-DL)
5 of the above were subsequently defeated for reelection or forced to retire by Democrats who were sick of their Republican-lite game-playing. Although I stopped using marijuana in 1969, a struggle with cancer brought it back into my life, this time for pain management. Medical marijuana is somewhat legal in California and generally speaking, patients are not abused by the police, even if the confusing and inconsistent laws are troublesome and confusing for sick and suffering patients and their doctors. Michiganders are in a similar, although somewhat worse, situation, as you probably concluded from the video up top or from the reporting on Ginnifer Hency's case.
Hency explained that her neurologist had recommended medical marijuana to treat pain associated with multiple sclerosis. She is also registered in the state of Michigan as a caregiver for five other patients, giving her the ability to distribute medical marijuana.

Hency said that the six ounces in her locked backpack were in compliance with Michigan medical marijuana laws when a drug task force raided her home with four children present.

“They took everything, even though I was fully compliant with the Michigan medical marijuana laws,” she said. “They charged me with possession with intent to deliver, even though I’m allowed to posses and deliver.”

A St. Clair County judge dropped the charges against Hency, but for 10 months law enforcement officials have refused to give back her belongings.

“They have had my stuff for 10 months, my ladder, my iPad, my children’s iPads, my children’s phones, my medicine for my patients,” Hency noted. “Why a ladder? Why my vibrator, I don’t know either. Why TVs?”

“The prosecutor came out to me and said, ‘Well, I can still beat you in civil court. I can still take your stuff.’” Hency recalled, adding, “I was at a loss. I literally just sat there dumbfounded.”

“And I was just sitting there, like, thinking I was going to be able to get my stuff back, but not in this country. And that is why civil asset forfeiture in this state needs to change.”

According to Sullum, the Michigan House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would require local law enforcement agencies to report forfeitures to the state police, and it would raise the standard of proof required for civil forfeiture in drug cases.

But under the proposed law, local agencies would continue to keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures, “which gives them a strong incentive to target people based on the assets they own instead of the threat they pose to public safety,” Sullum wrote.
The ugly mess around legislators' unwillingness to deal humanely with medical marijuana in not yet a major campaign there-- but it is headed in that direction. People don't like being screwed around with the way puritanical politicians are using their own insecurities about marijuana to make the lives of sick people unbearable. Last May 17 Democrats voted with the GOP against medical marijuana. One year later, only 8 Democrats crossed the aisle. Today when I talk with candidates about medical marijuana they all start with a story about a relative close friend, usually with cancer or some other catastrophic disease, finding solace with medical marijuana-- or, not being permitted to have their agony eased with the harmless substance. As we mentioned last month, Blue America endorsed candidates and the incumbents we support favor legalizing medical marijuana for patients under doctors' supervision.

Mark Pocan, the wildly popular progressive leader from Madison, Wisconsin, warned us: "Make no mistake, our nation’s current drug policy is a broken relic of the last century. The 'War on Drugs' has cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars-- over $5 billion dollars is spent on enforcement of federal marijuana laws, including incarceration. In the past five years more than 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. It’s time to bring federal marijuana policy in to the 21st century. Marijuana should be legalized and regulated at the federal level. We need to stop misusing federal tax dollars to prosecute non-violent crimes."

And Pocan is far from the only younger Member who understands the ramifications of the debate. El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who wrote a book about marijuana legalization, told us that if medical marijuana "relieves pain and improves quality of life, and is already legal in one form or another in half the states, why would we stand in the way of allowing doctors to prescribe their preferred treatment when it happens to be marijuana?"

And in California, where, at least technically, medical marijuana is already legal, one of our favorite incumbents and one of our favorite challengers, respectively Ted Lieu and Lou Vince, are commonsense backers of the humane approach. "In an era of limited resources," Lieu told us 2 weeks ago, "it is insane to have federal investigators and prosecutors devote even one second of their time to investigating or prosecuting marijuana cases. This insanity rises to new levels when medical evidence shows marijuana can be useful in treating a variety of medical conditions. The current system is also corrosive to our democracy because states are now routinely ignoring the outdated federal law that criminalizes marijuana. It is time to stop the federal criminalization of marijuana." 

Lou Vince, an ex-marine and LAPD officer who is running in CA-25 (Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley) took a very pragmatic perspective: "According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, police arrest more Americans per year on marijuana charges than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Decriminalizing marijuana frees up law enforcement resources to deal with more serious crimes. Nationwide, more than 60,000 individuals are behind bars for marijuana offenses at a cost to taxpayers of $1.2 billion per year. Furthermore, Decriminalizing Marijuana will go a long way to reduce the mass incarceration problem we face in America. Marijuana prohibition laws have been used to put African Americans in handcuffs at a much higher rate than whites-- black people are three times as likely to be arrested for personal marijuana possession even though young blacks consume marijuana at lower levels than young whites."

Alex Law will have just turned 25, the minimum age for occupying a House seat, by the time he beats Donald Norcross in New Jersey's first congressional district across the river from Philly. Although he talks a lot in his campaign about protecting Medicare and Social Security benefits for seniors, his age predicts he would be more open-minded about the benefits of medical marijuana than most elderly, brain-washed politicians are. "In America," he told us this morning, "we have a creed that we are the 'Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave' but truth be told, America has the largest percentage of its population in prison of all the countries in the civilized world. Crimes related to marijuana contribute significantly to that terrible reality. The legalization of marijuana is important for our society. The war against marijuana, a substance science has proven to have real medical benefits and to be significantly less harmful than other legal substances, has contributed to bankrupting many of our states. The war on marijuana has turned many nonviolent members of society into criminals. This is also an issue of racial equality. White Americans use marijuana at the same rate as African Americans, yet an overwhelming majority of arrests are of African American males. The enforcement of the current drug laws is just as wrong as the laws themselves. It is time we make the American deed match the American creed.

"States have long been considered he laboratories of democracy," Alex continued. This issue is no exception. Colorado has legalized marijuana and seen a huge net positive from that decision. Crime is down, tax revenues are up, there is a booming industry creating new middle class jobs, and the state has seen an increase in tourism. All of this has happened without any access to capital markets. The growth would explode even more if these new companies had access to financing, an ability to take credit card payment, and an ability to expand out of state. The federal government should follow Colorado’s lead and legalize marijuana in America. As progressives, this is a policy we must endorse."

Jason Ritchie is an entrepreneur from the Seattle area and he's running for the swing seat currently held by rabid anti-pot Republican Dave Reichert. "In 1998," said Jason, "the people of my State of Washington voted to become one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana. In 2012, they again set a precedent by voting overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana commercial sales. Our State legislature responded and set up a reasonable regulatory and tax structure. This has happened without incident, except for intransigent Republicans like Rep. Dave Reichert who continue to insist their values should supersede the will of the people. His arrogant and baseless opposition only serves to marginalize him from the people he purports to represent. I strongly support marijuana legalization in Washington State and look forward to ending mass incarcerations for non-violent drug possession."

Illinois state Senator Mike Noland is the lead sponsor of a bill in the Illinois General Assembly to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. He's running for the House seat Tammy Duckworth is giving up and when he's in Congress, he will be counted on to be another clear voice in favor of legalization of medical marijuana. This is what he told us just a few minutes ago:

The time has come to allow patients to gain access to medical marijuana. Too many people are unnecessarily suffering when there is a natural alternative that can provide much relief from pain and other debilitating symptoms.

The medical community provides more than enough justification to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

The American Medical Association has long supported research on medical marijuana.

What is known is that the ‘high’ experienced by those who use marijuana is from only one component: Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  What’s more, our bodies contain a natural cannabinoid that regulates health and wellness.  Indeed, our systems are pre-programmed to work with the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, which may be superior to narcotic painkillers for neuropathy, or nerve pain. Moreover, marijuana can decrease the amount of narcotics needed for pain relief. Yet the science is unequivocal, unlike narcotic painkillers, marijuana has only the same addictive potential as caffeine.

Marijuana’s main side effect is euphoria, and is often used as a sedative for cancer patients.  In fact, it is currently being studied as a treatment for various forms of cancer itself.

The medical use of marijuana has also been shown to relieve the affects of both symptoms and the pain associated with AIDS/HIV, Arthritis, Asthma, Chronic Pain, Crohn’s Disease, Epilepsy, Glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis. So, many people are suffering unnecessarily when there is a real possibility for hope and relief.

I am proud of my past support of this cause in the Illinois Senate and plan to continue to support the science-based policy of legalized medical marijuana.
If you'd like to help elect candidates like Jason, Alex, Mike and Lou, Blue America has a page for that. Medical marijuana won't legalize itself. We need to elect more progressives to Congress-- lots more. The last time Congress voted on legalizing marijuana, in late April, the proposal was defeated 210-213. 175 Democrats and 35 Republicans voted for legalization. 8 backward Democrats and 205 Republicans-- including Dave Reichert, of course-- voted to kill the legislation.

If you get a catastrophic illness, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Dan Lipinski, like most Republicans, prefer that you suffer in agony rather than see medical marijuana legalized

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At commencement time, we celebrate the new "capitalist" spirit in higher education


DOONESBURY     by G. B. Trudeau

[Click to enlarge.]

"We're capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand."
-- Steven B. Long, vice chair of the academic planning committee
of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors

by Ken

You may think that Oh!-That-Garry Trudeau is just being snippy again today, but it's hard not to look at this strip without thinking of a Daily Kos post earlier this week by LamontCranston, "46 Degree Programs Eliminated Across UNC College System," from which I gleaned the above-highlighted quote from UNC Board of Governors member Steven Long, announcing that programs offered by the UNC state higher-education system, which LC describes as "the example and envy of most of the state systems in this country," will now be put to the test of market forces. The post itself begins: "I guess the North Carolina Board of Governors educational planning committee for the University educational system didn't think these programs were important to our education of our young adults, or warranted due to 'market forces'," and explains that the committee has "voted to discontinue 46 degree programs across the UNC-System, including one at UNC-Chapel Hill: human biology," prompting this comment from LC:
"Human Biology"????

Well, you know, LC, they have to look at what the demand is, and respond to the demand. And the response so far is the elimination of these 46 programs from the various campuses of the UNC system:
Appalachian State University: Family and Consumer Sciences, Secondary Education; Technology Education; Mathematics, Education
Elizabeth City State University: Special Education, General Curriculum; Middle Grades Education; English, Secondary Education; Political Science

East Carolina University: French K-12; German K-12; Hispanic Studies Education; German; French; Public History; Special Education, Intellectual Disabilities; Vocational Education

Fayetteville State University: Art Education; Music Education; Biotechnology

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University: Comprehensive Science Education; Physical Education

North Carolina Central University: Theatre; Jazz

North Carolina State University: Africana Studies; Women’s and Gender Studies; Business and Marketing Education; Physiology

UNC-Charlotte: Child and Family Development; Special Education, Adapted Curriculum; English Education; Mathematics Education

UNC-Chapel Hill: Human Biology

UNC-Greensboro: Mathematics, Secondary Education (BA); Mathematics, Secondary Education (BS); Economics, Secondary Education; Biology, Secondary Education (BA); Biology, Secondary Education (BS); Composition; Latin Education; Biochemistry

UNC School of the Arts: Film Music Composition

UNC-Wilmington: Physical Education and Health; Music Performance

Western Carolina University: Health Information Administration

Winston-Salem State University: Biotechnology; Elementary Education; Teaching English as a Second Language and Linguistics
"Yes sir," says LC, "this is your state government on A.L.E.C./Koch brothers/Art Pope control."
This is what the "Free Market" world looks like, and it isn't just limited to how many different types of toothpaste, or canned beans you have available at your local grocery store.

Read it and weep as this could be the future of your state's educational system at a university branch near you.

Pathetic. Read all about it.....


[Click to enlarge.]

Great! Not only are the individual institutions within the UNC system to be subject to "what the demand is," but they get to fight amongst themselves for the scraps!

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Sunday Classics snapshots: Look, it's Violetta!


Joan Sutherland as Violetta in Act I of La Traviata

Act I of La Traviata ends with Violetta's great solo scene

[in English] Valerie Masterson (s), Violetta Valéry; John Brecknock (t), Alfredo Germont; English National Opera Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras, cond. EMI, recorded Aug.-Oct. 1980

by Ken

Last week I tried to explain that in order to continue with the second example I promised of Verdi depicting a conspicuously aging parent, we really needed to give some attention to the composer's triumphs and tribulations with the "double aria" form carried over from the bel canto period. It's what always used to be known as an "aria and cabaletta" -- the first aria typically situational and often reflecting on that situation; the second aria, in reaction to the first, ususally with some additional circumstances tossed in to alter the situation or the perception of the situation, typically more declarative, often energized for pyrotechnical display.

While Verdi was capable of using the format brilliantly, we have a pile-up of evidence that even as he was making his historicthe "breakthrough" into his middle period with the overlappingly created masterpieces Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata, all three operas contain evidence that cabaletta-for-the-sake-of-cabaletta was something that didn't much stimulate his creative juices. By way of demonstration, last week we took as our musical snapshots the celebrated arias for tenor and baritone with regrettable cabalettas tacked on at the start and finish of Act II, Scene 1 of Traviata, the scene in Violetta's country house (where she and Alfredo have been living idyllically), the cabalettas for Germont fils and père, respectively.

I did point out last week, though, that "if we think of the form as 'double aria' rather than 'aria and cabaletta,' then Violetta's "Ah! fors'è lui" plus "Sempre libera" at the end of Act I of Traviata may be the supreme example of the format." And having dropped that loaded statement in, even though we did listen to this great solo scene, which so starkly rounds out an act that began with perhaps opera's most rousing party scene in February 2011, we can hardly escape "snapshotting" it now.


Read more »

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Rich Maryland New Dem John Delaney Is On The Attack Again-- Against Progressives


John Delaney spent $2,370,556 in 2012 to buy himself a seat, the third most-- after Suzan DelBene and Scott Peters-- among the wealthy Democratic freshmen (all of whom immediately joined the extremely corrupt, pro-business/anti-family New Dems). Now a Maryland congressman in a safe blue seat, Delaney is often a fount of Republican ideas-- like forbidding the EPA from protecting clean drinking water in streams and lakes and raising the retirement age for the working poor and forcing chained CPI down the throats of Social Security recipients. He was at it again yesterday-- another op-ed in the Washington Post, this one to go on a deranged attack against the values and principles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt that made the Democratic Party great.

Delaney is the perfect Democrat for Fox, always eager to blame progressives for everything, always eager to equate progressives with the extremists, Confederates and fascists that dominate the Republican Party. He's an advocate of the "both sides are equally wrong" simplemindedness. "Washington," he wrote, "is paralyzed by extreme political rhetoric that creates powerful sound bites but poor policy... With Washington already broken, the last thing we need is a left-wing version of the tea party. But I am worried about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party." Delaney is worried. Why doesn't he hop the fence and join the GOP?
Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats. Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans.

...[W]e need a philosophical shift in the Democratic Party, a new willingness to support programs that create pathways for nongovernmental and philanthropic innovation and investment to help solve the problems of society. We should embrace approaches, such as social impact bonds, that combine private-sector capital and expertise with public-interest goals to produce better government services. Such changes will require Democrats to leave our ideological comfort zone and move away from the idea that government, and government alone, is the answer to our problems.

But instead of being used to voice an agenda that can bring the country together, the party microphone has been hijacked by people more interested in scoring points than in solving problems. They propose expanding Social Security rather than prioritizing serious efforts to preserve the program-- even though it will be unable to provide full benefits as soon as 2032, the Congressional Budget Office has made clear. The only way a large-scale expansion could work is by allocating new revenue away from needed investments in the next generation or by shifting the financial burden to workers or our children.
In a barely veiled critique of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Mark Pocan and other stalwart progressive fighters, Delaney wrote that "some in our party continue to engage in time-consuming rhetoric attacking banks that has little chance of producing more financial reform and distracts from far more consequential areas of economic risk, such as climate change, chronic underinvestment in the next generation and our broken immigration and housing finance systems."

He's painting an entirely false picture, especially when you consider that the same legislators attacking his Wall Street pals happen to be the most determined fighters for immigration reform, for low-income housing, for reforming the education system, for restoring American infrastructure and, of course, for battling against climate change. But painting false pictures is John Delaney's stock-in-trade. It's what he does; it's all he seems capable of doing. 

Two of Congress' most dedicated and enlightened progressives reacted badly to Delaney's nonsense. This morning Alan Grayson mused that "corporate tax breaks, corporate welfare, corporate trade giveaways and sucking up to Wall Street... 'New Democrats' sound a lot like old Republicans." And yesterday Mark Pocan told us, "The surest way to avoid the creation of a tea party on the left wing is to stop the Democratic Party from moving to the right. It's clear people are for progressive values and the Democratic Party should reflect that or face defeats at the polls." 

I guarantee you, Delaney will never find his name on this page, but maybe someone should show him this video Robert Reich released for MoveOn this week:

UPDATE: Anonymous Congressman

One Democratic congressman who asked that I not identify him, was fuming this morning after he read Delaney's OpEd. "He is my poster child for what's wrong with the Democratic Party. Recruiting clueless, rich people who have no real values is almost always a failure." Someone should introduce this guy to Steve Israel, Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Luján.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Somebody has to flack for the British Ministry of Defence at the embassy in Washington -- why shouldn't it be you?


The British Embassy on Observatory Circle in Washington, DC -- does it look as if the neighborhood would have a lot of delis or other places to buy a breakfast bagel on the way to work and, say, a decent sandwich for lunch?

by Ken

Wouldn't you know it would be our "In the Loop" pal Al Kamen coming up with word of this job opening posted by the British Embassy in Washington?

The pay is nothing special, but the benefits are OK, and it looks like a pleasant enough place to work, though it doesn't look as if the neighborhood would have a lot of delis or other places to pick up a breakfast bagel and coffee on the way to work and maybe a decent sandwich for lunch. There's probably some sort of cafeteria or commissary, though. But then too, remember how expensive it is living in Washington. (It doesn't sound as if telecommuting is in the cards.)

"These are, of course, very tough times in the newspaper business," Al notes, "as papers shrink or disappear and reporters are laid off in the crunch. But there are plenty of jobs out there for those willing to jump over the fence and join the spinmeister side."

His case in point is this job at the embassy as a "strategic communications advisor," working for the British Defence Staff-United States, which "is responsible for strengthening the defence and security relationship with the United States on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the British Embassy."

"Doesn’t seem like heavy lifting," Al ventures.
The relationship is pretty secure, one would think. You would “lead the delivery of an effective and sustained campaign plan of proactive and reactive engagement across defence to influence our key US stakeholders in support of the UK’s defence reputation,” etc. etc.

Okay, the pay is not quite the $10 million a year former NBC anchor Brian Williams pulled in. “The target salary,” we’re told, is $58,200. But there’s “a strong benefits package [which] includes medical, vision, life, long term and short term disability insurance” as well as a retirement plan and “generous vacation and leave time.”
But hurry, Al warns. The application deadline is June 11.


The FCO presumably handles staffing matters for the embassy, even though the actual work, as noted, seems to be primarily on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. Here's some more information you may need to start getting your application together.
Strategic Communications Advisor

The post is within the British Defence Staff-United States (BDS-US) team, within the British Embassy in WashingtonDC. BDS-US is responsible for strengthening the defence and security relationship with the United States on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the British Embassy.

The BDS-US team covers all areas of defence policy, delivery and the military with respect to the MOD’s relationship with the US. The team works closely with the Embassy Communications Team and wider embassy departments to protect and promote the reputation of UK defence in the US.

The role will lead the delivery of an effective and sustained campaign plan of proactive and reactive engagement across defence to influence our key US stakeholders in support of the UK’s defence reputation; monitor and analyze trends relevant to our sustained campaign on defence reputation; and work in partnership with the wider Embassy and Communications Teams to plan, refine, and assess messages and activities required to implement a successful reputational campaign.

• Serve as the primary advisor and main point of contact for approximately 800 British Defence Staff personnel to educate them on campaign and communication activities, providing strategic advice and guidance on issues such as content generation and effective engagement techniques.
• Measure the progress and effectiveness of campaigns, ensure regular assessment and provide insightful reporting on achievement of the campaign plans to senior leadership up to the Defence Attaché (DA) and other senior level stakeholders. Highlight opportunities for improvement and further engagement and provide guidance to teams as needed.
• Increase the quantity and quality of reputational communication and engagement with stakeholders by providing strategic advice and recommendations on communications campaigns which aim to raise the reputation and profile of UK defence in the US.
• Empower and enable senior staff and the wider embassy to plan and deliver their own defence communications campaigns in a way that is coherent across the team to maximise impact. Work with wider team on external delivery of campaigns.
• Develop productive and valuable relationships with a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders (including think tanks, the US Department of Defense, and UK government departments)to instill a deep understanding of the reputational needs, challenges and priorities of UK defence in the US.
• Identify and define our stakeholders and determine the most effective ways to influence and engage with them.
• Work in partnership with the Communications Team and wider Embassy to refresh and review existing key campaigns, themes, activities, and messages we need to communicate.
• Work with the BDS-US and Communications Teams to coordinate the tasks, activity and planning of the campaign to support the delivery of reputational influence and outcomes.
• Work with the BDS-US and Communications Teams to use a wide range of delivery means including events, media, Congressional engagement, senior visitors, think-tanks and academic institutions.
• Work with the Strategy and Planning arm of the MOD’s Defence Directorate of Communications of embedding UK reputation in the US into their thinking, and to ensure the US and the Embassy are recognised as important stakeholders.
• Line management of one Strategic Communications Support Officer.

• Bachelor’s degree in communications or a related field
• Minimum 6 years of experience in communications and campaign management.
• Excellent project management and analytical skills with a pragmatic approach and management experience.
• Experience of measuring the effect of reputational and communications work.
• Experience of developing and delivering a campaign using a range of tools to protect and promote the reputation of an organisation in the US. Knowledge and use of a full range of communication tools is desired.
• Experience in the defence sector or strong knowledge of UK and US defence is desired.
• Strong team work, communication and negotiation skills with the ability to build trusting relationships and to confront ideas and divergent opinions at all levels.

[There's also information about citizenship or residency requirements set by our State Department for nondiplomatic embassy staff. -- Ed.]

Salary and Benefits:
The British Embassy Network offers a strong benefits package. This package includes medical, dental, vision, life, long term and short term disability insurance, a 401(k) retirement savings plan, generous vacation and leave time, and an enriching training package.

The target salary for this position is $58,200 annualized. Salary will be confirmed upon offer of employment. Non US taxpaying citizens will be paid a net salary based on a simulated US tax status.

Staff recruited locally by the British Embassy are subject to Terms and Conditions of Service according to local US employment law.

To Apply:
Resume and a cover letter with salary history should be submitted by 11 June 2015. Please identify in your cover letter whether you are currently eligible to work at the Embassy. Internal candidates must address their resumes through the Head of Group before applying.

Only successful candidates will be contacted. Please no phone calls. Due to the high volume of resumes we receive, we cannot guarantee consideration of your application if the submission instructions are not properly followed.

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This problem's a snap to solve -- just change the name of the joint to 'Big Valley 'Cretin' Science 'Museum' "


Welcome to the Big Valley (Alberta) Creation Science Museum. Edgar Nernberg, the man who discovered five 60-million-year-old fish fossils, serves on the board of the "museum."

"This can go down as one of the best examples ever of why it's downright impossible to convince someone who's 'opposed' to evolution that it's a basic fact: If you think the very tenets of science are misguided, pretty much any evidence presented to you can be written off as fabricated or misinterpreted."

by Ken

I think frequently of a pungent quote passed on to me by my college roommate Brian, who had grown up in Manchester, NH, and apparently once boasted, "Once I make up my mind, I don't let facts get in the way of my opinion." To which there's not a whole lot to be said.

In this spirit, imagine the situation of a confirmed creationist, secure enough in his comical delusions to put his money where his mouth is, actively supporting a "creation science museum" -- Canada's first, in Big Valley, Alberta (it opened in 2007), devoted to the "science" of the proposition that the earth is 6000 years old -- who while digging in a basement in Calgary stumbles across the fossilized remains of five fish a mere 60 million years old.

Calgary Sun caption: "An assemblage of fossilized fish was recently found during the excavation of a basement in a new development in northwest Calgary, Alta. Five fish were found in a block of sandstone in the Paskapoo Formation -- a roughly 60 million-year-old rock formation that underlies Calgary and much of the surrounding area. The discovery was made by Edgar Nernberg. Photo provided by the University of Calgary"

Actually, for Edgar Nernberg there doesn't appear to be any problem. The discovery "hasn't changed my mind," he's told the Calgary Sun. "We all have the same evidence, and it's just a matter of how you interpret it. There's no dates stamped on these things."

Which prompted this from the Washington Post's Rachel Feltman:
No sir, no dates. Just, you know, isotopic dating, basic geology, really shoddy stuff like that. To be fair, I'm not any more capable of figuring out when a particular fossil is from than Nernberg is. I'd be one sorry paleontologist, given the opportunity. I've never even found a fossil, so he's got me there. But the science of dating fossils is not shaky -- at least not on the order of tens of millions of years of error -- so this fossil and the rocks around it really do give new earth creationism the boot.

But this can go down as one of the best examples ever of why it's downright impossible to convince someone who's "opposed" to evolution that it's a basic fact: If you think the very tenets of science are misguided, pretty much any evidence presented to you can be written off as fabricated or misinterpreted.

Even if you dig that evidence up with your own hands.
Notwithstanding the discoverer's inability to understand what he discovered, it's a significant discovery, Rachel notes.
The scientific community is thrilled and grateful for the find, and the University of Calgary will unveil the five fossils on Thursday. These fish lived in a time just after the dinosaurs were wiped out, when other species were able to thrive in the giants' absence. It's an important point in Earth's evolutionary history, because new species were popping up all over to make up for the ecological niches dinos left behind. Creatures from this era give us some breathtaking glimpses of evolution in progress. But it's rare to find fossils of that age in Calgary, since most of the rocks are too old and yield dinosaurs instead.
In Edgar Nernberg's fundyworld, of course, those dinosaurs cohabited with humans, all within earth's 6000-year history.
"Ironically," writes Rachel, "Nernberg's contributions at the Creation Science Museum are almost certainly what scientists have to thank for the find."
He's an amateur fossil collector, and he knew the fish were special as soon as he spotted them. "When the five fish fossils presented themselves to me in the excavator bucket, the first thing I said was you’re coming home with me, the second thing was I better call a paleontologist," Nernberg said in a statement.

“Most people would have overlooked these. When these were uncovered, Edgar right away recognized them,” Darla Zelenitsky, paleontologist and assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Calgary, told the Sun. "He’s apparently interested in fossils, and that’s probably how he saw them. An ordinary person might have just seen blobs in the rock.”

Nernberg is reportedly seeking a cast of one of the fish so he can put it on display at the creationist museum.
Well, sure Edgar'd like that for his "museum." After all, those fish could be thousands of years old!

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Does Martin O'Malley Possess An Ounce Of Political Authenticity?


O'Malley gave a nice speech this morning, a progressive one crafted for the ears of progressive Democratic primary voters, a cohort he and Hillary and perhaps others will have speech writers and pollsters and consultants try to please with various messaging techniques. It's different from Bernie Sanders.

When O'Malley asks the dramatic, poignant, burning question-- "Tell me how it is, that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not. A. Single One."-- a cynic might respond by holding up a mirror for O'Malley and the professional political class. O'Malley-- like Clinton and Webb and others who may try to don some newly tailored populist garb-- will never be Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders isn't crafting a progressive message for primary voters-- that can be abandoned in the general or in the White House. Bernie Sanders' entire life in the political arena created the agenda and the ideas that careerists like O'Malley are trying to tap into.

I'm not saying his message yesterday was bad. It was nice. It just doesn't tell us much about who Martin O'Malley really is or what he would do as president. His own record in public service doesn't lead in a natural way to that message-- not the way Bernie's did last week. O'Malley may be Catholic and Bernie may be a Jew, but if Pope Francis popped up at the rally for one, would it surprise you if it was Bernie's?

O'Malley's inauthentic, well-crafted message starts with putting a value on inclusion: "All of us are included. Women and men. Black and white people. Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Americans. Young and old. Rich and poor. Workers and Business owners. Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and straight Americans. Every person is important, each of us is needed. In our idea of country, there is no such thing as a spare American. There is, however, a growing injustice in our country today." Ed Henry reported that while he was speaking, a large group of protesters were shouting that he is a "liar" because of his reactionary police policies in Baltimore. It's an uncomfortable truth that he knew he had to address, although it isn't likely to do him any good, at least not if :any good" means advancing his run for the presidency.
Last month, television sets around the world were filled with the anger and the rage, and the flames of some of the humblest and hardest hit neighborhoods of Baltimore.

For all of us who have given so much of our energies to making our city a safer, fairer, more just and more prosperous place, it was a heartbreaking night in the life of our City.

But there is something to be learned from that night, and there is something to be offered to our country from those flames.

For what took place here was not only about race…not only about policing in America.

It’s about everything it is supposed to mean to be an American.

The scourge of hopelessness that happened to ignite here that evening, transcends race or geography.

Witness the record numbers of young white kids killing themselves with heroin in suburbs and small towns across America.

The hard truth of our shared reality is this: Unemployment in many American cities and in many small towns across the United States is higher now than it was eight years ago.

Conditions of extreme and growing poverty, create conditions for extreme violence.

We have work to do…

Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around.

What happened to our economy-- what happened to the American Dream-- did not happen by chance.

Nor was it merely the result of global forces somehow beyond our control.
Really? Beyond our control? Beyond the control of the professional politicians we have been electing to office-- like O'Malley? "Powerful, wealthy special interests here at home have used our government to create-- in our own country-- an economy that is leaving a majority of our people behind." That would sound more authentic if he had a record-- like Bernie-- of pushing back against that as an elected official. But he doesn't... even if some of his talking points are salient and well-put-together. CQ Roll Call put together a look at who O'Malley is, since almost no one outside of Maryland has ever heard of his. "As mayor of Baltimore," they wrote, "O’Malley championed a 'zero-tolerance' crime-fighting policy which led to a soaring number of arrests. To the criticism of the arrests, O’Malley responded in 2013 that 'the ideologues on the left... see all increases in arrests, police response or enforcement as bad.' The number of homicides in Baltimore slightly increased during O’Malley’s tenure, from 261 in 2000 to 276 in 2006. But the totals were lower than they had been in the 1990s. As governor, O’Malley helped put Maryland’s budget on firmer footing, reformed state employee pensions and retiree health benefits, and main- tained the state’s high bond rating." Not from the ElizabethWarren-Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Maybe he thinks he can replace Julián Castro as frontrunner as Hillary's running mate.
But we cannot rebuild the American Dream here at home by catering to the voices of the privileged and the powerful.

Let’s be honest. They were the ones who turned our economy upside-down in the first place. And they are the only ones who are benefiting from it.

We need to prosecute cheats, we need to reinstate Glass-Steagall, and if a bank is too big to fail without wrecking our nation’s economy…then it needs to be broken up before it breaks us…again.

Goldman Sachs is one of the biggest repeat-offending investment banks in America. Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton.

I bet he would...

Well, I've got news for the bullies of Wall Street...

The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.

It is a sacred trust to be earned from the people of the United States, and exercised on behalf of the people of the United States.

The only way we are going to rebuild the American Dream is if we re-take control of our own American government!
Perfect for the media! He just signaled a willingness to attack Hillary and go negative... exactly what they're looking for-- part of why they are trying to bury Sanders, who is just talking about the positive policy agenda he has created over the last few decades and not gossip or smears. The Beltway media isn't of a high enough calibre to understand what Bernie is doing. They only understand gossip and smears. So to them, O'Malley is a real candidate and Bernie is a freak. You can help Bernie ignore them and continue campaigning directly to real people here at the Blue America ActBlue page.

UPDATE: There Was A Time O'Malley Didn't Pretend To Be Progressive

In 2007, O'Malley and grotesquely corrupt Wall Street whore Harold Ford, Jr. penned a fuzzy-headed OpEd for the Washington Post. "The temptation to ignore the vital center," they wrote, "is nothing new... Some on the left would love to pretend that groups such as the Democratic Leadership Council, the party's leading centrist voice, aren't needed anymore."
But for Democrats, taking the center for granted next year would be a greater mistake than ever before. George W. Bush is handing us Democrats our Hoover moment. Independents, swing voters and even some Republicans who haven't voted our way in more than a decade are willing to hear us out. With an ambitious common-sense agenda, the progressive center has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win back the White House, expand its margins in Congress and build a political and governing majority that could last a generation.

...Most Americans don't care much about partisan politics; they just want practical answers to the problems they face every day. So far, our leading presidential candidates seem to understand that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That's why they have begun putting forward smart, New Democrat plans to cap and trade carbon emissions, give more Americans the chance to earn their way through college, achieve universal health care through shared responsibility, increase national security by rebuilding our embattled military and enable all Americans who work full time to lift themselves out of poverty.

As the caucuses and primaries approach, candidates will come under increasing pressure to ignore the broader electorate and appeal to the party faithful. But the opportunity to build a historic majority is too great-- and too rare-- to pass up.

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Are Grassroots Democrats About To Give Untrustworthy New Dem Ami Bera The Ole Heave-Ho?


Yes, Ami, you can only fool Democratic voters for so long before they turn on you

CA-07, composed primarily of the suburbs west of Sacramento, from Elk Grove, Rosemont, Arden-Arcade and Rancho Cordova up to Folsom and Citrus Heights, is a classic swing district with an even PVI. In 2008 Obama beat McCain 52-46% there and in 2008 he beat Romney 51-47%. Last year New Dem incumbent Ami Bera went to sleep on Election Night thinking he had lost to Republican Doug Ose 76,133 (50.2%) to 75,603 (49.8%) in the most expensive House race of the cycle ($19.6 million spent!). After a recanvass, Bera squeaked to a 1,400-vote lead (out of over 183,000 votes cast). Two years earlier, with Obama on the ticket and before Democratic voters were aware Bera is just a Democrat in Name Only (DINO) who votes with the GOP on core issues, Bera had ousted-- on his second attempt-- GOP incumbent Dan Lungren 141,241 (52%) to 132,050 (48%).

Bera has been a terrible disappointment to grassroots Democrats, progressives and activists. His Progressive Punch crucial vote score is 51.31%, showing he votes against progressive proposals around half the time. He's been robotic in his backing for the Wall Street-dictated New Dem agenda on almost everything-- and now it looks like his backing for TPP Fast Track authority could cost him his reelection bid. I hate to see a Republican win the seat, but Ami Bera doesn't deserve to be serving as a Democrat in Congress. The only surprise is that he's actually being held accountable for his disgraceful record-- unlike, say, Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), who is even worse, lifetime ProgressivePunch score of 45.86-- but Chuck Schumer and DSCC Chair Jon Tester are trying to shove him down Florida Democrats' throats in an open Senate race.
The California Democratic Party and its main benefactor, organized labor, are making clear what it means to be a Democrat, and who might not be welcome.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, became suspect by crossing labor on international trade. Bera, a physician, tries to work with Republicans, rarely misses a vote and is the only congressional member whose family came here from India. 
He’s the sort of Democrat who can hold the swing district, having defeated his Republican challenger by a scant 1,455 votes last year, thanks in part to labor’s support. Labor’s support, like that of any interest group, comes at a price. There are consequences for elected officials who stray.

Bera’s apostasy occurred this month when he announced his support for granting President Barack Obama greater authority to negotiate a free-trade deal with Asian nations. Labor helped elect Obama but is fighting the president over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation-AFL-CIO, was one of scores of union members who knocked on doors for Bera in his campaigns. No more.

“This is not a vote that we will forget,” Smith said. “We were clear with Congressman Bera that this was an issue of paramount importance to us. He made a deliberate, calculated decision to go the other way.”

Bera said his district could benefit from a deal. As for the political fallout, he said, “I’m always going to be in a tough district.”

...Labor has reason to be concerned. Blue-collar workers haven’t fared well in past free-trade deals. People have died for the right to strike, though public employees in critical jobs often forgo the right to walk.
A Craig's List ad eviscerating New Dem Ami Bera

With the exception of a few Wall Street-owned ConservaDems, California Democrats-- both grassroots and electeds-- oppose TPP Fast Track authority. Bera once again finds himself voting with the Republicans and a handful of shady New Dems and Blue Dogs. We spoke with several Democratic incumbents and candidates and no one wanted to go on the record calling Ami Bera a worthless piece of crap or even a DINO. 

Nanette Barragán is running in Los Angeles, far from Bera's district, and unlike him she opposes trade agreements that jeopardize American jobs or use Medicare money to offset TPP costs. Yesterday she told us:
We’ve seen what these so-called "free trade" agreements do. They’re great for the 1%, but they’re not good for working men and women. They’re great for the countries that refuse to follow the rules or pay a living wage, but they’re not good for countries like the United States that play by the rules and make sure workers have protections. They’re great for companies that pollute and countries that don’t care about the environment, but not good for those of us who care about the health impacts of dirty air and dirty water. I don’t see how trade policies like TPP benefit working families, human rights, or the environment, so I cannot support them. If I’m in Congress, I’m opposed to this agreement.
If you agree, please consider supporting Barragán here on our ActBlue page.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Now that Denny Hastert's secret is blown, does "Individual A" have to pay back the $1.7 million in payoff money?


Denny Hastert is reportedly telling friends, "I am a victim too." And so he is, after the original facts. The feds seem to have weighed his victimhood against his young victim's.

by Ken

In time we'll presumably find out more about the moment when former House Speaker Denny Hastert realized he'd made a giant booboo. No, not the sexual misbehavior with a high school wrestler he coached -- though there's that, of course. But there doesn't seem to have been any moment when Denny suddenly realized he'd done something that could sink him in deep doodoo.

No, I'm thinking of the moment when, after rifling his many bank accounts for the early payments toward the $3.5 million that his nemesis, known so far as "Individual A," was apparently demanding, it suddenly occurred to Denny -- or he was made by some third party to understand -- that while the withdrawals had been spread over those numerous accounts, the amounts withdrawn from each exceeded government reporting minimums, and the fact of those withdrawals was going to be available to anyone with access to those reports. Because it was apparently only at that point that he began finessing his withdrawals to stay under the $10K reporting trigger. Which, in the event that anyone was of a mind to look into these transactions, was kind of like trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube. Worse still, in the end it got him in even deeper trouble, because now what investigators had available for investigation was a pattern of deliberate flouting of the banking regulations.

As Howie pointed out in his report earlier today, the early reports on the money-laundering charges against Denny left the infotainment noozers almost comically helpless, wondering what the D-man could have paid out that $1.7 million or so for, and whether it was related to his service as speaker.

And yet Howie had a pretty good idea.
Now everyone is guessing what exactly the "prior misconduct" was that Hastert was trying to cover up with $3.5 million in hush money. The only clues were that it happened in Yorkville where he was the high school wrestling coach and the purpose was to "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A." The indictment goes on to state that Hastert has known Individual A for pretty much his entire life, indicating that it was probably a younger person. There have long been rumors that Hastert had been molesting his wrestling students, rumors that were fueled once people observed his conduct when he got to DC.
It's hard to understand why anyone who's actually in the news-gathering biz should have been as clueless as the infotainment noozers were at least pretending to be before the L.A. Times broke its story today. While it's true that we here at DWT have a luxury of speculation which isn't available to media who at least purport to play fair under the normal rules of sourced information, there were certainly clues in the feds' account, which as Howie noted went well beyond the criminal conduct involved in Denny's bungled money laundering.

What sense could it have made for the feds to be making such pointed mention of Denny's history as a wrestling coach at his old high school unless that was related to the case? Only slightly subtler, since it seemed pretty clear that Denny had been extorted -- no one imagined that he decided of his own free will that he had committed a wrong that he had to try to right with cash -- the very fact of his indictment suggested that prosecutors were making a judgment about the relative culpability of the individual demanding the money and the individual paying the money.

Beyond that, there are those rumors Howie mentioned, and the pattern of behavior he went on to describe of Denny's protection of sexual predators. Maybe I'm making too much of this outbreak of cluelessness among the infotainment noozers. I just find it interesting that once again a heap of information that seems to have available to anyone in DC who was paying attention was so absent from at least the official consciousness of our supposed media insiders. (Which is all the more convenient for them in that the things that were already known and suspected about Denny's past at the time of this "surprising" development were also known and suspected while he was speaker of the House.)

As to the question I posed in the post title, I'm guessing that no, extortion victims aren't entitled to refunds when the secret gets blown anyway. Certainly if the extorter played a role in the blowing of the secret, that would seem to violate standard extortion ethics. But I don't think there's any legal forum for pursuing such a grievance -- and in any case, Denny seems to have forked over less than half of the apparently agreed-upon $3.5 million, so I don't suppose he would have much of a case anyway.


Former GOP Speaker Denny Hastert Was No Petty Criminal-- He Was A One-Man Major Crime Wave


John Laesch was one of the sharpest, most fearless and most dedicated congressional candidates Blue America ever got behind. John ran against powerful, unassailable Speaker of the House Denny Hastert in 2006 and again in 2008 (although Hastert was forced to resign from Congress as the campaign season started heating up). Noam Chomsky and Studs Terkel joined Blue America in the endorsement. Although Laesch won the primary against an Establishment Democrat (and with 66% of the vote!), Hastert won the general election 114,385 (60%) to 77.065 (40%), the DCCC giving Hastert a free pass and doing all they could to sabotage Laesch.

Leasch's campaign helped shine a powerful spotlight on the massive corruption and abuse of power that were the hallmarks of Hastert's time as Speaker. Hastert's corruption wasn't unknown in the Beltway while he held power-- nor was his sexual preference for young men-- but "mum" was the word... on both counts. But not any longer.

And it's not just using earmarks to get expensive federal highways built out to investment property in the middle of nowhere that became far more valuable after the roads were built. Hastert's office-- much like Boehner's is today-- became ground zero for GOP institutional crime. Now a wheelin'-dealin' lobbyist in DC, he was finally indicted, by a Federal grand jury, Thursday-- charged with violating banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of "past misconduct" against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago. He covered up-- or tried to-- withdrawals that totaled at least $950,000 from his bank accounts, violating several federal banking laws in the process.
The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the "prior misconduct" by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. This unnamed individual mentioned in the indictment has known Hastert for most of their life, the indictment states.

...Prosecutors said that in 2010, when the unnamed individual confronted Hastert about the allegations of misconduct, the former speaker agreed to pay out $3.5 million "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against" this person.

Over the next five years Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from his various bank accounts, at one point in 2014 delivering $100,000 a month, the indictment alleges.

Beginning in 2013, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating "possible structuring of currency transactions to avoid the reporting requirements."
You can tell which one is Coach Hastert but... which one is "Individual A?"

Hastert told FBI investigators that the reason he withdrew $1.7 million in cash was because "he did not feel safe with the banking system," although he never shared those dire concerns with his constituents. A more reasonable assumption is that Hastert withdrew the large sums of money to pay blackmail to one of the underage boys he had been coaching-- and raping. Remember, even if a youngster "consents" to carnal relationships with an authority figure like Hastert, it is still statutory rape. But Hastert is only being charged with banking monkey business, not, at least not so far, with raping children. Nor, you might want to contemplate, was Mark Foley ever charged with anything.

So now everyone is guessing what exactly the "prior misconduct" was that Hastert was trying to cover up with $3.5 million in hush money. The only clues were that it happened in Yorkville where he was the high school wrestling coach and the purpose was to "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A." The indictment goes on to state that Hastert has known Individual A for pretty much his entire life, indicating that it was probably a younger person. There have long been rumors that Hastert had been molesting his wrestling students, rumors that were fueled once people observed his conduct when he got to DC. Hastert also moved rapidly to protect Mark Foley after he was discovered having sex with under-age male pages. Hastert's efforts on behalf of Foley kept Foley in office for several years after it was fairly well-known that he was raping boys in the congressional page program. Ultimately, the Foley debacle wrecked Hastert's career as well as Foley's, and led to massive losses for the GOP in the 2006 midterms. Today both Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh were calling Hastert a homo on their hate talk radio shows. And Wayne Madsen and Alex Jones revealed some pretty shocking details. Meanwhile, the Illinois House put plans to erect a statue of Hastert in the Illinois State Capitol on indefinite hold. Funding had just been approved 2 weeks ago. And yesterday Hastert was forced to resign from his job as a lobbyist for Dickstein Shapiro and to leave the board of directors of CME Group.

Remember being in high school? What if this beast tried to get into your shorts?

UPDATE: Oh That Denny Hastert!

The media is starting to remember the Culture of Corruption theme that drove Denny Hastert's entire political career. Writing for the Daily Beast today, Ana Marie Cox, reminded her readers that "indicting Hastert on the financial charges and lying to investigators rather than on whatever misconduct occurred seems to indicate that those charges were the best investigators could come up with. Presumably, if the misconduct was illegal, they’d have mentioned that-- and indicted him for it. If the conduct was sexual abuse, as sources are saying, then the statute of limitations has run out. It follows that Hastert wasn’t paying hush money to stay out of jail, he was protecting his reputation."
How did Hastert happen to have enough money lying around that paying out $3.5 million was even within the realm of possibility?

Hastert’s ability to participate in the blackmail is, after all, itself a general indictment of D.C.’s “revolving door” money culture, in which former lawmakers move easily from government into lobbying. In Hastert’s case, the ability to profit off of one’s legislative position is especially galling: While in office, Hastert used the earmarking process to turn his investment in some Illinois farmland into a profit of 140 percent when a federal highway project just happened to make its way through those very fields. Indeed, it was this instance of a completely legal form of insider trading that helped prompt Congress to end earmarks.

And, of course, Hastert made even more money once he was out of office. One study found that, on average-- and when the information is publicly available-- former lawmakers get a 1,425 percent raise when they make the jump from Capitol Hill to K Street. Hastert, who was worth between $4 million and $17 million when he left Congress, was making $175,000 as a representative. His K Street bump would be to almost $2.5 million a year.

Okay, he made his money as a lobbyist, doing presumably sneaky lobbyist things. That raises the next question: How can Hastert’s reputation even be worth $3.5 million?

Hastert is a former member of Congress known to have profited off of a shady land deal and he’s a registered lobbyist-- these are already the two professions that Americans regard as the most disreputable careers available. They are literally last (lobbyist) and second-to-last (congressman) on Gallup’s list of what jobs Americans regard as “honest” and “ethical.” What would one have to do to be thought even less of?
Child rape?

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Why Is Malaysia So Important to TPP? The Strait of Malacca


The Strait of Malacca connects the Pacific Ocean to the east with the Indian Ocean to the west (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

Because of an excellent catch by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, I think we can put the finger on why keeping Malaysia in the TPP is important to its proponents. Which may explain why Obama — after all, the first black president — is willing to turn a blind eye to slavery and the murder of trafficked humans. The Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes on the planet.

Reuters (my emphasis throughout):
The 900-km long (550 miles) Malacca Strait, linking Europe and the Middle East with the Asia-Pacific, carries about 40 percent of the world’s trade. More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year.

About 3.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of Middle East crude passed through the strait and to Japan last year. Middle East crude accounts for 90 percent of Japan’s total imports. Up to 80 percent of China’s crude imports are delivered via the narrow and congested waterway.

So China and Japan have a stake in keeping the Malacca Strait secure, as does India which has a blue water navy patrolling in the Andaman Sea at the western end of the strait.

The strait is a vital sea lane for the U.S. Navy, which sent warships to Taiwan via the Malacca Strait at a time of heightened tensions between China and Taiwan in 1996.

Although the three littoral states — Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore — have asserted their sole right to maintain security in the Malacca Strait, Australia, India, Japan, the United States and China have all offered military assistance at various times.
That's quite a list of nations who care about the Malacca Strait. Keep those numbers in mind as you read on — according to Reuters, 40% of world trade, 90% of Japan's total imports, 80% of China's crude oil imports. (Other reports have different numbers, but the importance of the strait is not in doubt.)

The Strait of Malacca is also a choke point. Peninsular Malaysia shown in pink (source; click to enlarge).

The Strait of Malacca is also a choke point (references deleted; see original for links):
The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, China, Japan and South Korea. ... In addition, it is also one of the world's most congested shipping choke points because it narrows to only 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles) wide at the Phillips Channel (close to the south of Singapore).
The strait is important for global shipping, yet it's also vulnerable to piracy, to terrorist attack and, potentially, to international brinksmanship, as you'll read shortly. Control of the strait matters to many in the region and elsewhere.

Who Controls the Strait of Malacca?

Direct control of the strait is shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and the island city-state of Singapore. But control is not shared equally. The size of each nation's navy limits the degree to which that nation can project power into the strait.

The Jakarta [Indonesia] Post:
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are the littoral states of the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Indonesia controls the majority of the sea lane. Singapore controls the smallest area of the strait, but the city-state enjoys the biggest economic benefit from shipping activities.

Indonesia is often cited as the main source of pirates operating in the Malacca Strait. But it is very firm in its position that all three of the countries are fully responsible for security in the strait.

However, Indonesia lacks the capacity to exercise its duties because its Navy is smaller and not as well equipped as the navies of Malaysia and Singapore.

Other countries -- no matter how vital the security of the strait is for their economies -- can only provide technical assistance to help Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore ensure safe and secure passage through the 805-kilometer shipping lane.
While we [Jakarta Post editorial writers] fully support the sovereignty of the three countries, we also want to remind them that all stakeholders in the strait have the right to play a role in ensuring the safety of this vital waterway. Major Asian economic powers like Japan and China want more of a role in patrolling the waters, because they depend on the strait for the transportation of commodities like oil and gas....

Indonesia can not simply claim sovereignty and reject any foreign presence in the strait, especially when it remains the main base for pirates there and has so far failed to ensure safe passage through its waters.

It is also difficult simply to dismiss whispers overseas -- although there is no evidence --- that rogue elements of the Indonesian Navy turn a blind eye to activities of pirates for a cut of the profit.

As long as Indonesia remains unable to play a credible and sustainable role in maintaining security and safety in the Malacca Strait, it will remain difficult for other countries with strong economic and political interests in the waterway simply to entrust Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to handle security responsibilities.

The three states have every right to maintain their sovereignty over the strait, for their commercial and security interests. They also have the rights to ask for more economic benefits from the foreign parties.

But as long as piracy and other security problems remain a concern, it will be nearly impossible for them to continue rejecting the presence of foreign powers in the strait.
And though it's not mentioned, those foreign powers include the U.S. as well.

"America's First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus"

With that for context, now read Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism:
America's First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus

Huffington Post has reconfirmed its reporting from over the past weekend, namely, that the Administration has a hairball to untangle to get Malaysia to sign the TransPacific Partnership. Basically, Malaysia needs to have an anti-slavery provision that was inserted in the bill in committee watered down. And the reason that that has to happen, as our reader Antifa pointed out in comments, is that Malaysia controls the Straits of Malacca, a critical shipping choke point. One of the major objectives of the pact is to strengthen America’s position in the region relative to China. Thus Malaysia’s location makes it a critically important signatory to the pact.

From the Huffington Post account (emphasis ours):

So the trade promotion authority bill that passed Friday includes the strong anti-slavery language, which the House will now work to take out to ensure that Malaysia (and, potentially, other countries in the future) can be part of the deal.

Observers are left with a deeper question: Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?

Cue Antifa:

Malaysia’s membership in the circle of TPP nations is not vital because Malaysia — it’s vital because of the Malacca Straits, through which virtually all the shipping in that part of the world passes. It’s a bottleneck, a chokepoint, and if Malaysia is “driven into the arms of China” then China can close those Straits to shipping how, when, and as they please.

Which would neuter the US Navy in that part of the world, reducing them to observer status. When people at the Pentagon talk about America’s role as the world’s policeman, they are talking about the Navy’s ability to project overwhelming force wherever and whenever needed. The three little chokepoints world trade and shipping depend on are the Strait of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca, and the Panama Canal. Taking one of those and giving control of it to China and Friends — or to anyone but the US Navy — puts the world’s policeman in a clown suit.
Smith quotes this, from Andrew Watts, another of her commenters:
Look at a list of member states of TPP and tell me this isn’t an anti-Chinese military alliance or there are alternative shipping lanes. The transportation routes via the Eurasian Silk Road is one way to circumvent this potential naval blockade but shipping via the sea has always been cheaper than shipping by land.

The only reason why business and intellectual property rights is [a part] of the deal is because Obama needs to bribe as many domestic power centers as possible to pass it. This is straight outta his Obamacare playbook. The reason for the secrecy is probably due to the military nature of the pact. in any case nobody wants the perception that this is preparation for some future Sino-American war.

But if I were a Chinese political leader in Beijing I would not trust any assurances to the contrary that come from Washington.
By the way, here's that modern "Eurasian Silk Road" mentioned above, a rail route:

The new Eurasian Silk Road in yellow; dotted line shows shipping via Strait of Malacca (source; click to enlarge)

There is plenty more in the Naked Capitalism piece — a must-read if this stuff, geopolitical brinksmanship, is your topic.

Why Does Obama Want to Be the "Slavery in Asia" President?

I want to touch this just lightly, since motives are less important than done deeds. Motives do count toward legacy points, however, both by adding and subtracting them, so I do want to touch this some. Why does Obama want to do this, to support slavery in Asia as one of his defining late-term achievements?

First I want to stipulate this: I'm over the "he's too stupid or naïve to do things right" defense. That's both demeaning and disrespectful to Obama. After all, the man's an adult, not some child whom progressives need somehow to teach. So I'll offer three explanations, any or all of which could be right.

▪ One explanation is pretty simple. He thinks no one will notice, or if they do, they'll quickly forget. Pretty simple explanation, especially given that his best corporate friends control almost all of the messaging via corporate media.

▪ Another explanation is best expressed by Andrew Watt above. To repeat:
The only reason why business and intellectual property rights is [a part] of the deal is because Obama needs to bribe as many domestic power centers as possible to pass it. This is straight outta his Obamacare playbook.
That's actually very kind to Obama. It says that he's being a responsible president from a military standpoint, and bribing all major U.S. corporations — Nike, for example, corrupt as it is (do click) — to get the deal he needs because of solid national security concerns. As explanations go, this results in higher legacy points than the other ones do.

▪ The final explanation? He's simply cashing out, feathering his future nest, foaming his own landing, getting his meal ticket punched, setting the table for the feast of his next 20 years of life — his post-electoral, Obama Global Initiative legacy-tour life. You can't ride the corporate stratospheric rails to Davos if corporate jet owners don't like you. You can't give speeches for $400,000 each (give or take) if you don't give the check-writers a reason to say thanks.

Maybe Obama's just giving a reason to say thanks, much like this guy did back in 2000:
Bill Clinton's $80 Million Payday

On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a bill called the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This law ensured that derivatives could not be regulated, setting the stage for the financial crisis. Just two months later, on February 5, 2001, Clinton received $125,000 from Morgan Stanley, in the form of a payment for a speech Clinton gave for the company in New York City. A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, also in New York. It turns out, Bill Clinton could make a lot of money, for not very much work.

Today, Clinton is worth something on the order of $80 million [written in 2012] (probably much more, but we don’t really know), and these speeches have become a lucrative and consistent revenue stream for his family. Clinton spends his time offering policy advice, writing books, stumping for political candidates, and running a global foundation. He’s now a vegan. He makes money from books. But the speaking fee money stream keeps coming in, year after year, in larger and larger amounts.

Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows. Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office. It’s all about their job.

This is 100% wrong. The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important. What matters is post-election employment. It’s all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations. If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that’s a threat to your post-election employment prospects. This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity – he’s looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices. ...
Not to say he doesn't also believe the "free trade" dominus vobiscum the Bigs are mouthing these days. It's just that he can't afford not to.

In terms of legacy points, that explanation actually subtracts them. Good thing few people are impertinent enough to suggest it. Me, I just keep seeing this:

Obama Legacy Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK; lakefront view. If TPP passes, will Nike find a way to say thanks? (click to enlarge)

And then I wonder how something this grand gets paid for. Does that make me impertinent? Or just practical?

Pragmatically yours,


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