Browsing the blog archives for February, 2016.


Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Obama Administration, Sanders and Clinton

Do read the multi-part series in the NY Times on how Secretary of State Clinton screwed up Libya. That may be a simplistic way of looking at it, and the Times tries to soften it a bit, but it’s not exactly a puff piece, either.

Her conviction would be critical in persuading Mr. Obama to join allies in bombing Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. In fact, Mr. Obama’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, would later say that in a “51-49” decision, it was Mrs. Clinton’s support that put the ambivalent president over the line.

The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass.

This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country. As she once again seeks the White House, campaigning in part on her experience as the nation’s chief diplomat, an examination of the intervention she championed shows her at what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state.

While Darrell Issa endlessly obsessed over Benghazi!!!, there were all manner of real issues he could have grilled the former Secretary of State about. But of course real issues may go over Issa’s head.

See also Jeffrey Sachs, Hillary Is the Candidate of the War Machine. Lee Fang writes that “as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made weapons transfer to the Saudi government a ‘top priority,’ according to her closest military aide.”

Mark Weisbrot writes in Hard choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath that Clinton greenlighted the 2009 military coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras.

The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2011; political repression, the murder of opposition political candidates, peasant organizers and LGBT activists increased and continue to this day. Femicides skyrocketed. The violence and insecurity were exacerbated by a generalized institutional collapse. Drug-related violence has worsened amid allegations of rampant corruption in Honduras’ police and government. While the gangs are responsible for much of the violence, Honduran security forces have engaged in a wave of killings and other human rights crimes with impunity.

Despite this, however, both under Clinton and Kerry, the State Department’s response to the violence and military and police impunity has largely been silence, along with continued U.S. aid to Honduran security forces. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton describes her role in the aftermath of the coup that brought about this dire situation. Her firsthand account is significant both for the confession of an important truth and for a crucial false testimony.

For more details about this and other foreign misadventures, see The case against Hillary Clinton by P.J. Podesta and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy is pure fantasy by Marcy Wheeler.

A Hillary Clinton administration wouldn’t be anything like Bush/Cheney, though. More like Nixon/Kissinger. Be afraid.

I’m packing to move out of the temple — it’s been a year! Also bummed about the results of the South Carolina primary. Clinton probably will snag the nomination by the end of March, if not sooner. And I do not want that woman to be President.

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The Fruit Salad of Their Minds

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Bad Hair, Republican Party, Sanders and Clinton

They had a tenth Republican debate last night. Only the tenth? I would have sworn there’d been a couple of dozen by now. There seems to be a consensus in the media that Rubio “won,” but I cannot discern why the bobbleheads think that. He certainly impressed Juan Cole — with his robust display of derp. Professor Cole tells us that Rubio has become Sheldon Adelson’s sock puppet.

I did find a highlight film showing Rubio going after Trump fairly aggressively. Maybe that’s what impressed the pundits.

More videos here, if you want to watch them.

Best comment I’ve seen so far is from John Cole: “You know how sometimes in a city you see someone disheveled and crazy looking walking along talking to themselves? I think Ben Carson is having the other half of the conversation with them.”

Carson also inspired the title of this post. When asked about how he would choose Supreme Court nominees, he said, “The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.”

Someone has calculated that Donald Trump has a 90 percent chance of winning the GOP nomination.

March is still promising to be a rough month for Sanders supporters. I already wrote that if he’s still in the race by the end of March he’s got a shot at the nomination. But that’s a big if. He’s likely going to be slaughtered in South Carolina tomorrow.  Super Tuesday is not looking good. The most recent polls have Clinton winning everything except Vermont. Massachusetts remains close, though.

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Another Brick in the Wall

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Obama Administration

So Senate Republicans have declared they will not consider any Obama Supreme Court nominee, and they will be very careful to not recess for the rest of the year. They aren’t even going to go through the motions.

So if another Democrat moves into the White House in January, what will be their excuse then?

See also Charles Pierce and John Cole.

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Elaborating on the DNC-Clinton Money Laundering Scheme

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Obama Administration

UPDATED: Please read this more recent post on the Hillary Victory Fund, which I believe clarifies the issues quite a bit.

Executive Summary:  In brief, here’s how it works: The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic committees of 32 states and Puerto Rico. It was set up in such a way that the Clinton campaign and DNC could ask wealthy backers to give the $356,100 maximum annual contribution twice: once in 2015 and again this year.

The money passes through the state party organizations, which do benefit, but the Clinton campaign gets “kickbacks” that she can use as direct campaign contributions without the strings usually attacked to large contributions. And the DNC, which was in debt late last year, has received nearly $2 million of those dollars so far. This explains why Debbie Wasserman Schultz created a debate schedule that effectively denied national exposure to Clinton challengers.

Yes, this is perfectly legal. But, folks, this election is rigged. Legally rigged, perhaps, but rigged.

_________

Last year, reports say the DNC was starved for cash and falling way behind the RNC in fundraising. Here is an AP story from August 2015:

Federal Election Commission reports tell a disappointing story for the party: The DNC collected $36.5 million in the first six months of the year and had almost no money in special accounts, including one designated for its convention. It had about $7.6 million in available cash and $6.2 million in debts and loans.

“The Republican National Committee, coming out of years in the red, posted $63 million in receipts through June, leaving it with $16.7 million cash on hand and $1.8 million in debts and loans. Party fundraising dominance has flipped: At this point before the 2012 election, the DNC was outpacing the RNC.”

When President Obama was elected in 2008 he instructed the DNC that they were not to accept PAC money or money from lobbyists. It was recently revealed that some time last year, Debbie Wasserman Schultz reversed that policy.

Here’s the kicker: Recently a lot of Clinton supporters have been crowing that Hillary Clinton has been raising money for down-ticket candidates, and Bernie Sanders has not. This seemed odd to me; normally presidential contenders don’t funnel money down-ticket until after they’ve locked up the nomination. But it appears Hillary Clinton’s generosity isn’t coming from altruism; the Clinton Victory Fund is directly benefiting from DWS’s change of policy in ways that the Sanders campaign is not.

The Clinton Victory Fund has made fund-raising pacts with 33 state Democratic organizations that benefit both the states and the Clinton campaign. The CVF is raising money for the Democratic Party, not the Clinton campaign. Major donors can give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the CVF, and from there the money is passed on to the state Democratic parties. After passing through the states, some of this money is kicked back to the DNC and to the Clinton campaign. The advantage to Clinton is that the money has been “laundered” in a way that she can use it as if it were a direct contribution. The strings that normally go with Super PAC money do not apply.

From Bloomberg News, February 3:

Clinton’s move last year to lock in fundraising alliances with 33 state Democratic parties has already added $26.9 million to the mountain of hard money she has raised so far, a Bloomberg analysis of Federal Election Commission filings shows. Bernie Sanders, her competitor for the nomination, has inked one such deal, netting a total of $1,000.
The agreements, thanks to a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision, make it possible for major donors to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in hard money to a candidacy, amounts far greater than the $2,700 limit on contributions directly to a campaign.

“At least 24 donors have given $300,000 or more to the fundraising vehicle, known as the Hillary Victory Fund, including Haim and Cheryl Saban, George Soros and Daniel Abraham, longtime donors to both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns and the Clinton Foundation. The only other way to make such large contributions is through outside groups, such as super-PACs, which can take unlimited donations but can’t coordinate with the candidate.

“Under the agreements, the first $2,700 of a contribution goes straight to Clinton’s campaign, the next $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee, and the remainder is split evenly across the 33 often cash-strapped state committees. Unlike super-PAC donations, the money can be spent to directly support her campaign on anything from get-out-the-vote efforts to TV ads”

In other words, this enables Clinton to launder Super-PAC money in a way that allows her to use the money as if it were direct contributions to her campaign. And I’m sure Hillary Clinton wants you to know this is perfectly legal. And the national and state Democratic Party campaigns now have millions of dollars they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

See also the Washington Post, February 20:

Establishing a victory fund the year before the election allowed the Clinton campaign and DNC to ask wealthy backers to give the $356,100 maximum annual contribution twice: once in 2015 and again this year. …

“…So far, the state parties have served only as a pass-through for their share of the funds. Campaign finance records show that nearly $2 million in donations to the fund initially routed last year to individual state party accounts was immediately transferred to the DNC, which is laboring to pay off millions of dollars in debt.”

But it appears this was a deal between DWS and HRC, which explains Wasserman Schulz’s obvious sabotage of primary challengers to Clinton, in particular the reluctance to schedule debates that might allow America to get a good look at those challengers.

In recent weeks Hillary Clinton has been wrapping herself in President Obama’s record. She promises to build on his accomplishments, and accusations that Bernie Sanders has been hostile to the Obama Administration (not true) have been swamping social media. Rather ironic that it’s Clinton who is responsible for dismantling Obama’s Super PAC policy.

(H/t Our Doug.)

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Lots of Derp Out There

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Obama Administration

I regret to say that not all of the derp is on the Republican side. For example, I’m seeing a lot of good ol’ irrational exuberance among Sanders supporters who believe he will win the nomination based on Sanders’s being ahead in some national polls. But the primary calendar and math are weighted against him. There is still a little room for hope, but very little.

I took some time to look at the primary calendar and the current polls. Very basically, most of the early primaries are in more conservatives states that are likely to vote for Clinton. IF Clinton were to sweep all the primaries and caucuses between now and March 15, she’ll have the nomination on March 15. In fact, there’s room for her to lose some smaller state primaries and still win the nomination by March 15. And if she’s almost there on March 15, she’ll likely have it by March 30.

On the other hand, if a Sanders nomination is still a mathematical possibility at the end of March, then the primary map moves into more states that will likely be more favorable to him.

This is probably why the Clinton campaign is throwing all the mud it can at Sanders. She needs to stop him before April.

Clinton and her supporters are twisting and mud-slinging with reckless abandon, pretty much lying about Sanders as fast as they can move their lips. I’ll get to the derp on the Clinton side in a moment, but you’ve probably noticed that Clinton is running the same kind of ugly, dirty scorched-earth campaign against Sanders that she ran against Obama in 2008. It sometimes sounds as if she’s just re-writing her old talking points against Obama to use on Sanders.

I’m seeing a lot of nastiness coming from supporters of both candidates, but the Sanders campaign itself has not been particularly harsh toward Clinton. He criticizes her on issues, but all along Sanders has refused to take cheap shots against Clinton on matters such as the email non-scandal. Clinton, however, appears to have no scruples whatsoever in what she’ll say about Sanders.

Looking at the March primaries: Right now, I understand, he is favored — sometimes narrowly — in Colorado, Minnesota and (of course) Vermont, March 1; Kansas and Nebraska, March 5; and Maine, March 6. He is losing narrowly in Massachusetts (March 1), but not by so much that it’s completely out of reach. He needs to win a big majority of delegates from those states to stay in the running, I believe.

But chances are he’s going to be slaughtered, so to speak, in South Carolina this week. Going into Super Tuesday (March 1), that’s not going to help. I’m running into Sanders supporters who don’t get that it may not matter if Sanders is beating the socks off Clinton in West Virginia, for example, because West Virginia doesn’t vote until May.  Probably it will be over by then.

But now let’s talk about derp among the Clintonistas. Hillary Clinton has some utterly and passionately devoted supporters, many of them older women, who appear to devoutly wish for a Clinton win because, in their heads, that would be paypack for all the sleights and obstacles and disrespect they’ve suffered through the years.

And that’s why they want her to win. Issues? Income inequality? Election reform? The corruption (or, as Jeffrey Feldman calls it, “clientelism“) in government? Nope, not on their radar. She’s going to do so much for women! they gush. (If you point out that Sanders is a feminist, also, they don’t want to hear about it. A Sanders win would deny them their symbolic victory.)

This is from my man Feldman:

While not guilty of corruption in the explicit sense of quid pro quo, Clinton not only participates in, but actively cultivates patron-client relationships with Wall Street. In the clientelism that Clinton embraces and defends, she claims the American public to be the sole beneficiary via her representation, but she refuses to acknowledge how Wall St. benefits.  And yet, in a patron-client system, both the patron and the client always benefit. Always. That is how it works. In this case: Clinton gets resources to run for office, while Wall Street gets the guarantee that the candidate they gave so much money in one place (e.g., a speech) will tacitly if not explicitly support their views of economic reality in another place (e.g., The White House). It is a long term strategy for both. …

…Secretary Clinton, for all the good work that she has done, has built a career on the belief that she can control these patron-client relationships to benefit the powerless. Yet, she has done so by entering into reciprocal relationships with the powerful–who gain no advantage by legislation that helps the powerless.

To have such powerful clients as Goldman Sachs, who secure their relationships with unfathomably large payments for symbolic services–is to accept both the benefits and the limits of that clientelism.

Basically, Clinton functions by mediating between the interests of her patrons and those of the voters. If she can tweak a few bennies for the common folks without taking so much away from the Goldman Sachs crowd that they turn off the cash flow, she considers herself a great success. And apparently her fans think that’s just dandy.

And there lie the boundaries she will not cross; it’s why we can’t have nice things.

She’ll defend Obamacare as it is, probably, but she’s not going to try to make it better to cover those sill not covered. They both talk about Wall Street reform, but if you look at their proposals, Clinton seems fine with continuing to let the foxes run the henhouse. And so on. Sanders also has proposed more sweeping changes to the criminal justice system than Clinton has.  See also “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”

And there we are. I believe I’ve already argued why the “Hillary is more electable” argument is bogus, and indeed I think I’m seeing a bit less of people trying to shame Sanders supporters into voting for Clinton so Donald Trump won’t be President. But they haven’t entirely given up on it.

Now, however, she’s spreading a rumor that Sanders is an enemy of Barack Obama and has dissed the POTUS on many occasion. None of the things he allegedly (but did not) say about Obama come close to the vile things Clinton said in 2008, but never mind. If enough people believe the lie it will help keep black voters from defecting to Sanders in South Carolina.

Yeah, lots of derp.

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Busted

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Obama Administration

Better late than never.

A federal grand jury in Nevada indicted Cliven Bundy and four others on 16 charges related to an armed standoff near his ranch in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees.

Sounds like ol’ Cliven shoulda stayed home on the ranch.

Cliven Bundy is accused of leading “a massive armed assault” of 200 followers to stop federal law agents who were rounding up about 400 of Bundy’s cattle on federal lands in April 2014, according to documents filed by U.S. attorneys Wednesday.

Upon learning of the roundup, Bundy said he was “ready to do battle,” with the Bureau of Land Management and that he would “do whatever it takes” to protect his property, according to documents.

The others allegedly organized and recruited followers and acted as leaders in the incident.

Meanwhile, back at the bird sanctuary — it’s going to be a sad spring for Oregon birdwatchers, as forensic examination and cleanup of the Malheur Wildlife Preserve is expected to take several weeks.  Among the weirder discoveries, the occupiers left a “trench of human feces” on or adjacent to a Native American burial ground.

Also, excellent read: Can We Make Sense of the Malheur Mess?

Also: Why was Bundy arrested two years later?

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Let’s Talk About Hillary Clinton’s Electability

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Sanders and Clinton

In spite of my earlier call to arms, I keep seeing sniveling weenies all over social media warning that we must vote for Hillary Clinton or face a Trump or Cruz presidency. Because only Hillary Clinton could win that general election against a broken Republican machine and an extremist who is favored by, it says in an article, fewer than 15 percent of all registered voters.

That’s right, folks. Even Trump supporters are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction. Only 23 percent of all registered voters are Republican. If you add independents who probably lean Republican you’re up to maybe 39 percent. Of those, about 33 percent support Trump. And that tells us … well, you work it out. I can’t do math.

See also Nate Silver, Donald Trump Is Really Unpopular With General Election Voters.

But against this alleged behemoth, we are told, only Hillary Clinton can prevail. So we must nominate her whether we like her or not.

Seriously?

Hillary Clinton has won two general elections in her life, both for senator of New York. Let’s look.

In 2000, she won against a largely unknown congressman named Rick Lazio. But originally her opponent was Rudy Giuliani. It was a close race; the polls swung back and forth, favoring one and then the other. Let it be added that Giuliani was not exactly beloved in New York City at that time; people were pretty much over him. But then in May 2000 Giuliani dropped out, mostly because of marital scandals that had been an open secret for some time. Five months before election day the Republicans chose the 40-something Lazio to take his place. (Why Lazio I do not remember; perhaps no one else was available.)

Lazio ran a flat-footed campaign, and Clinton defeated him fairly easily, 55 to 43 percent. He left the House after 2001 and at some point went to work for JP Morgan Chase.

In 2006 Hillary Clinton ran for re-election nearly unopposed. Oh, she had an opponent, a former mayor of Yonkers named John Spencer.  Spencer was invisible. I lived in New York and couldn’t have told you a Republican was running against her. Clinton raised nearly $36 million for her re-election campaign. Spencer had less than $6 million.  The New York Times wrote of that race,

Hillary Clinton is running in a phantom race for the Senate, pitted against an unknown, unqualified opponent. In the unlikely event that New Yorkers ever learn what John Spencer’s views are, most would find them far too conservative. It’s a measure of the haplessness of Mr. Spencer’s campaign that the Republican nominee has been dogged by rumors that his real aim is to prepare the ground for an attempt to regain his old job as mayor of Yonkers.

Further, in 2006 the Republican Party in New York was in meltdown. In the 2006 elections, the Democrats came very close to sweeping every state race. Any Democrat could have defeated Spencer without breaking a sweat.  Why spend $36 million? About $10 million of her $36 million war chest was saved for her 2008 presidential bid, I believe, but why spend even $26 million? To run up the numbers?

Here is an intriguing bit about that election, from Larry Sabato:

It was not so long ago that the GOP ruled the roost in New York, led by politicians such as Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. But over the last decade or two, it has become about as reliably Democratic as any state in the country. Republicans have not carried New York in presidential voting since 1984, have not captured a Senate seat since 1992, and since 2000 have seen their number of House seats dwindle across the state from 12 to six. To boot, the Democratic registration advantage, which was barely 1 million voters two decades ago, had swelled to more than 2.3 million by early this year. In short, New York is now a state where any credible Democrat runs with a stiff wind at his or her back.

As such, the more intriguing comparison is not Clinton against her Republican rivals, but Hillary as measured against the vote-getting performances of her Democratic ticketmates. And in 2000 and 2006, she trailed the top of the party’s ticket in New York each time. In 2000, Democratic presidential standard-bearer Al Gore took 60 percent of the statewide vote, while Clinton drew 55 percent. In 2006, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer polled 70 percent, while Clinton garnered 67 percent. And Spitzer, the state’s hard-charging attorney general at the time, was running an open-seat race to succeed retiring Republican Gov. George Pataki, while Clinton had the advantage of incumbency in seeking reelection.

In order to get those results, she had to massively out-spend the invisible John Spencer. And, of course, after Hillary Clinton blew a huge advantage in the 2008 primaries and lost to Barack Obama, she was appointed Secretary of State. So 2006 was her last winning election.

As we have seen in her presidential bids, she can be to campaigning what Pat Boone was to rock. She’s not the natural politician her husband is. She can be very good sometimes; she can be appallingly tone deaf sometimes (Henry Kissinger? Seriously?).

But if her entire sales pitch is based on her alleged invincibility as a political candidate, we may want to re-think this.

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He’s Got This

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Supreme Court

Do read Andrew O’Hehir today:

According to numerous scholars who have weighed in since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend, historical and constitutional precedent indicates that the president of the United States is elected for a four-year term, and does not stop being president until he or she, um, actually leaves office. That’s a hot take on a controversial topic, I know! It’s nearly as confusing as the question of who was president at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which Marco Rubio seems to think took place during some extended Bill Clinton prequel to “The Hangover,” while George W. Bush wore funny costumes and did non-alcoholic Jell-O shots and kept forgetting he had taken the oath of office.

Spotted on Twitter: “Am I now allowed to argue that Senators up for reelection this year are lame ducks who don’t deserve a vote on SCOTUS nom?”

After news of the death of Antonin Scalia, even the professional pundits expressed no surprise that Republicans let not a nanosecond pass before they promised to obstruct whomever the President nominated.  As O’Hehir says, paralysis is the new norm. But I think they’re still clueless about what President Obama might do about it.

I keep reading opinion pieces — and not just by conservatives — that the President ought to nominate someone very safe and moderate. Are they not paying attention? At this point the President could nominate the corpse of Robert Bork and the Right would still call him unacceptable. Any nomination made by President Obama will be unacceptable to them, by virtue of being President Obama’s nomination.

So why self-compromise? And, I suspect, the President will not self-compromise. I think he’s gone past that now. He will nominate whomever he damn well pleases, and then he will sit back and let the Right tear itself apart over it.  Because some of them will notice eventually that obstructionism doesn’t always work in their favor.

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We May Have a Winner!

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Obama Administration

Tom Friedman just vaulted into first place for the Marie Antoinette Privileged-class Obliviousness Award for 2016. And he’s set a high mark, folks. Can the perennial favorite, David Brooks, best him? Stay tuned!

Update: Catch the comments at the New York Times. Friedman is being skewered.

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Stuff to Read

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blogging

I’m still under the weather, but here are some really good articles that I recommend:

Does Bernie Sanders Know What He’s Doing? by Pachacutec

The Establishment Looks Like This by Paul Rosenberg

The Clintons Really Don’t Get It by Bill Curry

Crazy Nut Donald Trump Thinks George W. Bush Was President on 9/11 by Jonathan Chait

 

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