Saturday, May 02, 2015

Gazpacho: "Golem" (live -- from Night of the Demon)

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

I'll start this post the same way I started my last two posts (here and here) about this incredible band:

One question I get a lot is, "What's your favorite band from Norway?" I always reply, "Gazpacho, of course. They're amazing. Not just my favourite Norwegian band but one of my favorite bands period. If you've never heard them, you're really missing out."

Okay, I've never gotten that question. But the rest is true.

I love Gazpacho more than ever.

They've released eight studio albums. The first three are good, if somewhat derivative (as they were still finding their voice), but the five since -- Night (2007), Tick Tock (2009), Missa Atropos (2010), March of Ghosts (2012), and Demon (2014) -- are simply astounding, each one a masterpiece, each one a brilliant conceptual work, all together marking this band, straddling themes and genres, as one of the leading voices in progressive, or more specifically post-progressive, music. This is the sort of run of excellence that puts them up there with Porcupine Tree and Anathema. Yes, they're that good.

Night of the Demon, a live CD/DVD recorded at the band's April 12, 2014 concert at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands, was released last Monday. My copy is on the way, but from what I've heard -- including this track, from March of Ghosts, my favourite of their albums -- it's exceptional, as expected. And a new studio album is due this fall.

Seriously, get to know this band. Enjoy!

Gazpacho - Night of the Demon - Golem from Kscope on Vimeo.

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What would be left enough for Clinton critics?

By Richard Barry

Since Hillary Clinton let us know she wanted to be the next president of the United States, she has, perhaps surprisingly, delivered a leftish message on policies like income inequality and criminal justice reform. Her team has even argued that Clinton was the Elizabeth Warren of politics long before Sen. Warren thought of giving up the academy for a job inside Washington.

Clinton has also come in line with fairly conventional progressive thinking on same-sex marriage and immigration reform.

Still, the left-wing of the Democratic Party wanted badly for Warren to run and is likely pleased that Bernie Sanders, if a poor second choice, will be there to wave the banner. Full disclosure, I'm among them.

But it does make me wonder what will be good enough for the left flank of the party. Probably nothing.
On Tuesday, Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., gave an address aimed ostensibly at any White House contender. Without naming Mrs. Clinton, he urged candidates for president to resist “cautious half measures."

What exactly Mr. Trumka means I do not know. And I would like to know.

Trumka also encouraged Democratic hopefuls (i.e., Mrs.Clinton)  to make “a commitment, from the candidate down through his or her economic team,” to deliver on a progressive agenda. 

The Times believes this means the left does not want "to see the likes of Robert E. Rubin and Lawrence H. Summers, both former treasury secretaries to Bill Clinton, become fixtures in Hillary's circle." So, who she surrounds herself with will be taken as a significant sign of how serious she will be in delivering a progressive economic agenda.

I can buy that.

There is also her position on free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which labour opposes. And campaign reform, and net neutrality, and whatever else.

My thoughts here don't really have a punchline other than my hope that we judge Mrs. Clinton on specifics, and that we demand she provide these specifics so we can judge. 

And for those who will decide she is not progressive enough, I hope you will make your case clear, perhaps with reference to how President Obama was progressive enough.

Oh, and in the end, we'll vote for her.

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America is not so much ready for Hillary as ready to vote against the GOP

By Richard K. Barry

A new poll by AP-Gfk indicates a number of findings that should give the Hillary Clinton campaign pause.

Here are three that stood out for me:

  • Nearly four in 10 Democrats, and more than six in 10 independents agreed that "honest" was not the best word for her.
  • Is she strong and decisive? Yes, say a majority of people. But inspiring and likable? Only a minority think so.
  • Among Democrats, only 34 percent said they were excited by her candidacy while 36 percent described themselves as merely satisfied. Another 19 percent said they were neutral, and 9 percent were disappointed or angry.
I wouldn't be the first to say that a reasonably moderate Republican Party should be able to win the presidency in a walk in 2016, particularly after eight years of a Democratic administration. But there is nothing moderate or reasonable about the GOP, is there?

Having said that, if Jeb Bush is able to successfully navigate the primary process, and that is a big if, he could be a problem for Clinton. The reality, which we have said over and over, is that if Bush can maintain a veneer of reasonableness throughout the nomination process and win, again, a big if, he could make himself attractive enough to win the general election.

Maybe Marco Rubio or Scott Walker could manage the same trick.

What worries is that many of those preparing to vote for Hillary Clinton are doing so to block a Republican nominee who represents a party become too radical. That kind of support can melt away all too easily. Said differently,  not enough people are preparing to vote for Hillary, with an emphasis on "for."

Luckily, the Republcan Party is showing little sign of wanting or being able to take advantage of the opportunity.

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Chris Christie moves aggressively into the "no-hoper" category

By Richard Barry

Kudos to Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight for one of the funnier opening lines of a post this campaign season.

Regarding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he writes:
We may be about to find out whether a politician can have a negative chance of winning a presidential nomination. 
Enten provides a graphic of the standing of various GOP presidential contenders and notes:
As the chart indicates — at this point in the race — most eventual nominees are either well-known and well-liked, or not well-known. There’s no precedent for a nominee who’s this well-known and this disliked.  

On Friday two people were indicted for that nasty bit of political payback called Bridgegate. One of them was a former member of Christie's staff. Christie has long argued, rather unsuccessfully, that he had no idea how two of three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge came to be closed in September 2013 causing horrific traffic delays in Fort Lee, New Jersey and a massive headache for local politicians. 

So, there's that. And, as we have known for some time, Christie's politics, enlightened enough to allow him to be the governor of a very blue state, are hardly palatable to the Republican base.

There aren't many rules in presidential politics, but being a lout and a bully still typically disqualifies a candidate from serious consideration. Let's keep that rule.

Meanwhile I'll chuckle through the day at the thought that Christie could actually have a negative chance of winning the GOP nomination.

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Friday, May 01, 2015

Bernie Sanders, you little scamp. This could be fun

By Richard Barry

There won't be enough of them, but it looks like a lot of Americans are tired of the same old nonsense. By which I mean Sen. Bernie Sanders is already raising serious cash for his, yes, I'll say it, Quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
On Friday, the Sanders campaign announced that it has raised more than $1.5 million online in the 24 hours since he announced his candidacy. It is a surprisingly heavy haul for a candidate whom some in the Democratic chattering class have cast off as a gadfly and viewed as unable to wrest the nomination from the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The donations came from a broad base of supporters -- some 35,000 donors who gave an average of $43.54 a piece, according to the Sanders campaign. The campaign also said it signed up more than 100,000 supporters through its website, building what it calls a "mass movement."

To put that in perspective, as reported by The Washington Post, "[i]n the first 24 hours since launching their campaigns, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) raised $1.25 million and Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) raised about $1 million each, according to their campaigns."

In a bit of stellar analysis, the Post notes Sanders, a self-described socialist, "does not have a deep base of wealthy donors and corporate PACs who give to his campaigns."
He said Thursday he is taking on the "billionaire class" he says are controlling the U.S. political system, and would make the surge in political spending in recent years -- especially through super PACs fueled by unlimited donations -- a major theme of his campaign.

Okay, Sen. Sanders isn't going to win anything except the gratitude of principled progressives everywhere. But this is a damned impressive start, and I'm actually getting excited that some real ideas could be discussed over the next year and a half instead of the mealy-mouthed mush for which Democrats are so famous. 

It would be a change of pace.

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Bernie Sanders isn't going to win. Support him anyway

By Richard Barry

We get it, Nate Cohn. We really do. Bernie Sanders isn't going to win the Democratic presidential nomination. And Elizabeth Warren, should she have run, would also not have won.

Aside from the relative weakness of Sanders and Warren, and they are weak candidates, Mr. Cohn wants us to know "[t]he left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton."

He writes, primarily concerning Senator Warren but easily applicable to Senator Sanders:

That might seem somewhat surprising if you’re an affluent, secular, well-educated person living along the coasts, in places like Bethesda, Md., Berkeley, Calif., or Montclair, N.J., where the party really is dominated by the uniformly liberal voters who love Elizabeth Warren and harbor at least some reservations about Mrs. Clinton. From that vantage point — which happens to be the same as that of many political journalists — it often looks as if Mrs. Warren could even defeat Mrs. Clinton.

He adds this:
But the Democratic primary electorate is nothing like these liberal enclaves. Elsewhere, the party includes a large number of less educated, more religious — often older, Southern or nonwhite — voters who are far from uniformly liberal.

And then this:

The majority of Democrats and Democratic primary voters are self-described moderates or even conservatives, according to an Upshot (New York Times) analysis of Pew survey data from 2014 and exit polls from the 2008 Democratic primary.

Maybe, maybe, maybe you, Mr Cohn, will find significant numbers of people living on the coasts matching your demographic who honestly believe a consistently leftist Democratic candidate could win the party's nomination. But they would be delusional. 

Let's face it,  American politics has moved so far to the right over the past decades that nearly any progressive policy has to first apologize for its progressiveness to have any chance of gaining wide public support or of passing.

Yes, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee because she is what passes for progressive these days, which is equally true of President Obama.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, good lefties each one of them, speak a language lost on the vast majority of Americans. Most "affluent, secular, well-educated persons living on the coasts" know that.

Still, and assuming Sen. Warren does not jump in, I hope those progressively inclined support Sen. Sanders with their money, votes and enthusiasm because we should never give up on the right message just because it can't win in the short term.

Hillary in 2016! I'm so excited.

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The GOP presidential nomination process: Wasting our time raising their profile

By Richard Barry

Last week The Economist ran a piece catagorizing 21 announced and potential Republican presidential candidates under six headings: A-listers, Insurgents, Dark Horses, Publicity Seekers, Job Hunters, and No Hopers.

They consider only five candidates plausible, those they call A-listers (Walker, Rubio, and Bush) and Insurgents (Cruz and Paul).

They also identify three Dark Horse candidates (Kasich, Christie, and Perry), six Publicity Seekers (Santorum, Huckabee, Trump, Bolton, King, and Carson), four Job Hunters (Jindal, Fiorina, Ehrlich, and Pataki), and three No Hopers (Graham, Gilmore, and Lynch).

Much is and will be written about the first three categories, the people who might stand a chance, however slim. But many of the Publicity Seekers and Job Hunters will, unfortunately, occupy our attention despite the fact that we might profitably ignore them if only we consider their motivation.

The largest group is made up of those who have no chance of winning but will benefit from the publicity that a presidential run, however quixotic, brings. Mike Huckabee’s career on cable TV gets a boost from being taken semi-seriously as a politician, and his campaign would double as a book tour. Rick Santorum, a former senator, and Ben Carson, a brain surgeon, have books to sell. John Bolton, a neoconservative intellectual, and Pete King, a congressman, would just like more attention.

The Job Hunters are almost as numerous. These people have better CVs than most of the self-publicists, but also no chance of winning. A presidential bid could remind people that they exist and might be worthy of a post in a new administration, or in a lobbying firm if the Republican candidate loses. 

When did electoral politics at the presidential level become like American Idol in which the chance of winning is realistically beyond reach, but a record deal sure would be nice?

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Let's give Senator Sanders a fair hearing

By Richard Barry

Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, is running for president as a Democratic, and he says he's running to win. Well, that's not true, but he will, as the New York Times reports, surely inject a consistently progressive voice into the contest. And that, I would add, ain't nothin'.

Sanders, in a statement to supporters, laid out his goals, which include "reducing income inequality, addressing climate change and scaling back the influence of money in politics."

He will also no doubt talk about his oppostion to foreign military interventions and his concern about the power of big banks, which might, as the Times suggests "force Mrs. Clinton to address these issues more deeply."

I suppose that could happen, but here is what I hope also happens. I hope the voters take Sen. Sanders seriously, because he is a thoughtful and intelligent man. Americans are unused to giving serious consideration to a well-reasoned social democratic perspective and I fear Sander's candidacy will be treated like a sideshow, an insignificant aspect of the horse race, instead of an opportunity for the electorate to stretch its understanding of what politics can be and what government can do if it really acts in the interests of the many instead of the privileged few.

Yes, it will take an intellectual leap for most Americans to give Sen. Sanders a fair hearing. I hope they make the effort.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jeb's fundraising has Hillary's knickers twisted

By Richard Barry

We don't need no stinkin' rules

Every time we hear talk about big money on the Republican side in 2016, we are very quickly told not to worry because Hillary and Bill are monster fundraisers and will do fine. 

And that may be true, but the Clintons have certainly noticed the early work being done by Jeb Bush to fill the coffers through his Super PAC Right to Rise.  

The New York Times reports today that HRC had planned to wait until May for her first fund-raising events, but has now decided to hurry things along because of Jeb's super PAC fundraising, this according to "people close her campaign."
She added two fund-raising events in New York and Washington, which quickly morphed into five separate fund-raisers. She also added several events for a West Coast swing next week, to coincide with her first trip to Nevada, one of the early caucus states in the nominating process.

Go, Hillary, Go. 

While we're on the subject, let's review the rules (which I'm mostly doing for myself):
A Super PAC is an organization that can raise unlimited amounts of money for spending on federal elections. While candidates and regular PACs (political action committees) are only permitted to raise a few thousand dollars from any one individual, a Super PAC can accept unlimited contributions from any US citizen or corporation.

Also significant is the rule that "[d]eclared presidential candidates are precluded from coordinating with super PACs," which follows the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010.  Mr. Bush has not yet declared, and holds no office so, his team argues, faces no such restrictions.

Hillary Clinton has declared her candidacy, which according to the Federal Elections Commission means this:
In the case of a Presidential candidate running in various State primaries, [a donor] may contribute up to $2,700 for the entire primary campaign period--not $2,700 for each State primary in which the candidate runs.

The Times story says that Mrs. Clinton has "privately complained" that Jeb has delayed announcing his candidacy as long as possible "so he can keep raising money from the outside group that will back him." And why wouldn't he?

According to a recent piece in the National Journal:

"They have so radically changed the game that serious candidates for president cannot, will not be able to compete without a very substantial super PAC or set of super PACs," says Gregg Phillips, who was a 2012 strategist for the pro–Newt Gingrich group Winning Our Future. "If you're a candidate, you have to raise money in $2,700 increments. If you're a super PAC, you can raise money in million-dollar chunks."

So far, the Clinton campaign has not instructed donors to start giving money to her Super PAC Priorities USA because, as the Times reports, "it is currently in flux as to what its structure will have, according to people briefed on the discussions."

Um, they might want to clear that up, and soon. 

Right now Jeb has not declared his candidacy so he can work closely with his Super PAC to raised unlimited funds. But, as noted above, once a candidate has declared:
Super PACs can’t give any money directly to political candidates or coordinate with campaigns. Instead, they spend heavily on their own independently-produced ads promoting their preferred candidates, which is why the official term for a Super PAC is an "independent-expenditure only committee." Super PACs must disclose all of their funders to the Federal Election Commission. They spend most of their money on advertisements — usually television ones.
But, according to NewsMax, Jeb Bush appears to be gearing up to break the law by "designing his super PAC to work on autopilot after he declares his candidacy. . . It would handle television advertising, direct mail, and a range of other duties typically done by campaign organizations."

New York Times editorial argues that '[t]hose duties would transform the Super PAC into the true centre of his presidential campaign," which is totally uncool because, as one analyst puts it, campaign finance rules forbids a candidate from controlling super PACs through proxies while continuing to raise unlimited cash."

This has given the Campaign Legal Center fodder to recently file a petition with the Federal Election Commission against Jeb Bush and others.

Not only is Jeb putting off announcing his candidacy in order to coordinate his Super PAC fund raising with his nascent campaign, he also seems intent on flouting the law once he announces. 

Not very nice. 


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How big an issue will race be in 2016?

By Richard Barry

Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly asks a speculative though interesting question about whether the recent "urban unrest" or "racial tensions" or whatever we want to call it in places like Ferguson and Baltimore might be seized on by a GOP presidential hopeful "seeking to establish his True Conservative street cred." He asks if such a candidate "might see himself as the next Great White Hope and openly promote a revolt against all this bushwa about police brutality and racial profiling—and for that matter, the criminal justice reform some other GOP candidates have already been cautiously talking about."

For those old enough to remember, Kilgore reminds us of the "toxic politics" of the "Riot Era" of the 1960s suggesting that the “white backlash that fed the careers of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George Wallace, and Ronald Reagan—might return as well, particularly given the fertile soil already prepared by six-plus years of conservative demonization of the country’s first African-American president."

Kilgore states that he sees no evidence this option is being considered by any candidate or potential candidate, but sees it as a possibility.

I'd say.

Sadly, and fifty years after the long, hot summer, I could easily imagine an enterprising GOP strategist seizing on the idea of courting primary voters by appealing to a racism that never seems to completely go away. If such a candidate were to make it to the general election (which I hope would be unlikely), such a strategy could also be very effective with certain constituencies that might otherwise be inclined to vote Democratic.

Perhaps the events that have occurred so far aren't enough to make this a top-of-mind issue across the country, but it bears watching.

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Does having a leftist challenge hurt or help Hillary?

By Richard Barry

Go get 'em, Bernie

It is being reported that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, will announce on Thursday his intention to run for president in 2016. Though an Independent, he plans to enter the primary and caucus contests as a Democrat, according to his advisors.

Sanders, who calls himself an independent socialist, will of course be running to the left of Hillary Clinton. The question is whether that helps her or hurts her.

I like Senator Sanders. I like Senator Warren. But if the left-wing of the Democratic Party thinks Hillary Clinton is incapable of successfully addressing a challenge from their quarter, they are mistaken.

Despite what we hear from the vocal left of the Democratic Party, the American electorate is quite conservative, as is the Democratic Party. Sanders will say important things about income inequality, the challenges facing the poor and the middle class, and the need to better regulate Wall Street, etc., etc., and Hillary will agree with him, but she will also position herself as a moderate when dealing with various scourges because that is where the votes are. Yes, she will care, and she will promise to do things, but not too much and not too fast, but thank you Senator Sanders for providing contrast.

If you haven't noticed, Hillary is already doing a decent of job of holding Elizabeth Warren close.

I am trying to imagine an issue on which Sanders will seriously challenge Clinton that will have a significantly adverse impact on her vote share in the general election. Sanders will not be there for the general election, and not being far enough to the left will matter not at all when it comes time for Clinton to face off against the GOP nominee.

The greatest danger, and I truly hate to say this, is that Hillary will allow herself to be so spooked by her left flank that she gives away too much and alienates moderate voters who could vote for a Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

What a world.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Like any good Republican, Rand Paul blames lack of fathers and morals for the violence in Baltimore

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You might think a supposed libertarian like Rand Paul would look at the situation in Baltimore and see something similar to what most of us living in reality are seeing, namely, yet another despicable incident of police brutality (in this case leading to murder), a long history (not just in that city but all across the U.S.) of racial and other injustice directed mostly at a hopelessly impoverished underclass that is largely black, a city deeply divided along lines of race and class, and an economic system that fuels injustice and inequality by turning large swaths of the inner-city into quagmires of despair and oppression -- and a response that, while unfortunately violent on the part of some, is nonetheless an understandable one.

Well, okay, maybe not. American libertarians are mostly just right-wing ideologues with views that fit nicely within the Republican Party, and Rand Paul, who of course is trying to lead that party on a presidential level, is no exception. Indeed his awful response to the situation in Baltimore on Laura Ingraham's radio show today was very much in line with the racist moralizing that is very much the mainstream conservative, and Republican, approach to minority issues generally, especially where blacks are concerned, and even with respect to police brutality this supposed libertarian sided with the police against those they are brutalizing:

Railing against what he repeatedly called "thuggery and thievery" in the streets of Baltimore, Paul told Ingraham that talking about "root causes" was not appropriate in the middle of a riot.

"The police have to do what they have to do, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of the police in this," he said.

As for root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own.

"There are so many things we can talk about," the senator said, "the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society."

He added that "this isn't just a racial thing."

Not that Paul really has any credibility as a libertarian, but this exposes him as a fraud -- and, of course, as nothing but yet another Republican who doesn't give a shit about the plight of black and other racial-minority Americans, the long suffering and hopeless prospects of the urban underclass, and brutality of law enforcement that is meant to keep everyone under the yoke of an authoritarian plutocracy.

Becuase it couldn't be the fact that a black man died brutally at the hands of the police, right? Or that that murder was just the latest act of grotesque violence in a long history of brutality and oppression? Or that the reaction of the protesters -- all the pent-up rage and frustration -- reflects the hopelessness and despair of their situation, and of their community, that there is actually oppression against which they are acting out?

Nah, it's because they don't have fathers, and morals, which is what Republicans always say, to their everlasting head-up-the-ass idiocy.

Welcome to Rand Paul's -- i.e., the Republicans' -- America.

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SCOTUS, same-sex marriage, and the electoral viability of the GOP

By Richard Barry

It is axiomatic that the GOP will need to expand its base with younger and non-white voters if it hopes to capture the White House any time soon. The problem, of course, is that any movement towards positions that appeal to these constituencies risks alienating the party's older, whiter, and more culturally conservative base.

Nate Cohn at the New York Times argues that one development that could work in the GOP's favour is a Supreme Court ruling supporting same-sex marriage.

With the legality of same-sex marriage being argued on Tuesday, the court could allow Republicans to abandon an unpopular position without abandoning their principles or risking a primary challenge. History would effectively be bailing out the party.

He compares this to the end of the Cold War, which, some would argue, assisted Democrats, long considered weak on national security, by helping take the issue off the table.
This year, if the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, the court could free Republicans from defending a policy that makes it far harder to confront their generational and demographic challenges.

My sense is that Mr. Cohn is giving the Republicans far too much credit. I would also suggest that the comparison with the Cold War doesn't work. 

A Supreme Court ruling will surely signal that the battle by same-sex marriage advocates has been won, but this will simply make the issue more contentious for the many who will refuse to accept defeat. In other words, I think the issue will be even more difficult for Republicans to manage than if SCOTUS hadn't ruled to support it (assuming they do). 

And I do not imagine the Republican base will look kindly on any candidate who says that the Supreme Court has decided the matter, so let's move on. If the Supreme Court sanctions same-sex marriage, it will make opponents demand it be talked about incessantly, and in the most energetic ways, thus exacerbating the GOP's "generational and demographic challenges."

Unlike the end of the Cold War, which really was an end, this will be the beginning of something new and important, and a culture war marker of epic proportion, which the Republican base will not let go easily.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

The unintended consequences of Republican campaign funding

This, times three

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to understand that the more money a candidate has access to, the longer he or she can stay in the race. So, for example, to do poorly in the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries has in the past been disastrous because it made it that much harder for presidential hopefuls to present themselves as worthy of financial support. 'Bye, 'bye.

But, as recently reported in The Washington Post, that may no longer be true.

“There could be as many as a dozen candidates that have a threshold amount of money in their campaigns and super PACs to compete vigorously in the early states,” said Phil Cox, a Republican strategist who runs America Leads, a super PAC supporting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that has the backing of at least two billionaires.

[. . .]

Never have so many candidates entered a White House contest boosted by such huge sums. The financial arms race could fuel a protracted primary season similar to the one in 2012 — exactly what party leaders were hoping to avoid.

If raising money is not the problem it used to be, at least for a number of candidates,  more of them will stick around hoping, perhaps, that the improbable happens. 

Though I doubt lower tier candidates like Cruz or Paul stand a chance, the longer A-listers have to fend off their attacks, the more damaged they will be, and the more likely they will be to say things that will not help them in the general election.

These could be the kinds of things that alienate moderate voters if they go too far to the right or that demotivate far right voters if they push back against extremist views.

In politics, as they say, if you're explaining, you're losing. Whoever the GOP nominee is, he will have had a lot of explaining to do.

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Hillary's the one

By Infidel753 

Hillary Clinton is now officially in the 2016 Presidential race, and will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee. And we're lucky to have her. She can do the job, she can do the job right -- and, critically, she can get the job. She can beat the Republicans.

[I mean no disrespect by adopting the common habit of referring to Hillary Clinton by her first name. Given that Bill Clinton remains a prominent figure, just calling her "Clinton" would be ambiguous, and her own campaign is called "Hillary for America".]

Here's Charles Pierce (found via Progressive Eruptions) explaining what's at stake: 

If she is elected, she unequivocally will accept the science of anthropogenic climate change and treat it as a crisis. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, she unequivocally will support marriage equality, and oppose discrimination against our fellow citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, she will not destroy the Affordable Care Act, an article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential. 

If she is elected, and despite her closeness to certain Wall Street interests, she will not destroy the Dodd-Frank reforms, another article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.


To get elected, she does not have to wink at state's rights, up to and including incidents of armed resistance. 

To get elected, she does not have to equivocate on the science behind the theory of evolution as does any Republican candidate who seeks the votes of Republicans in Iowa. 

To get elected, she does not have to peddle the snake oil of supply-side economics, nor does she have to peddle scare stories about the oncoming caliphate, nor does she have to create bogeymen about jackboots coming to steal your guns.

That is to say, Hillary thinks and functions in the real world as opposed to being committed to dangerously-delusional policies. I'd add that she won't put any more theocratic nutcases like Scalia on the Supreme Court. And she will build on the progress Obama and Rouhani have made on bringing Iran out of isolation to the point where it has a stake in the international system, and will continue working with amenable Middle Eastern groups and governments to fight violent extremism, as opposed to the Republican strategy of "when in doubt, bomb and invade and hope for the best."

Read more »

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The 2016 Republican nomination race is going to be crazy. Is there any doubt?

By  Richard Barry

To hear some people tell it, we're going to go through a lot of trouble just to find out that Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee for president. And maybe I agree with them, but it's not going to be easy.

Yes, Jeb's got that name, which is both a positive and a negative. He seems to be working his butt off. He's able to raise money like few others. And he seems to be a very intelligent and smooth presenter. But as Dan Balz at The Washington Post rightly points out, few rivals "seem to be quaking right now." So, whatever else may be true, it's going to be a long and hard slog.

Bush acknowledged all this when he was in New Hampshire a week ago. Noting his strong establishment support, one voter, concerned about whether he was a true conservative, said she and others don’t want to see a coronation for the GOP nomination in the way Democrats seem to be moving to anoint Hillary Rodham Clinton as their nominee.

An incredulous Bush responded with laughter. “I don’t see any coronation coming my way, trust me,” he said. “Come on. What do you see that I’m not seeing? We’ve got 95 people possibly running for president. I’m really intimidating a whole bunch of folks, aren’t I?”

Line 'em up, announced and potential: Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Carly Fiorina, Mike Pence, George Pataki, John Bolton, Peter King, Bob Ehrlich (who?), Jim Gilmore (again, who?), that retired surgeon, the guy with all that money and the bad hair piece who does TV reality shows, and is there a point at which Romney says, what the hell?

Surely with this many in the race, few are thinking about the inevitability of Jeb. More likely some still on the sidelines are thinking they can't believe the cast of characters who are already getting press because they have announced or are musing. As Balz write, some of these must be thinking "why not me," especially as they consider that "even those at the front of the pack right now are struggling to get even a paltry 20 percent share of support. They’re stuck in the mid-teens or lower."

We should all remember the 2012 Republican primary race when there was a different front-runner almost every week. We could easily see a different candidate winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. We could see polls fragmenting in all sorts of directions. 

And let's not forget the expectations game in which lesser known candidates do better than expected and stronger candidates tank.

There are a lot of very experienced and talented people likely to run, a number of whom could catch fire if they are able to up their game when it counts. 

There are many considerations, including how much money will be available to allow weaker candidates to continue, polling numbers that thin the field and, as noted above, the expectations game for early front runners who just never manage to distinguish themselves beyond a certain point. 

We haven't even mentioned the Tea Party vs. establishment Republican dynamic, and how that will play itself out. 

Lot's to think about.

Yes, I believe it will be Jeb Bush, but this is going to be crazy. 

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Robert Reich explains it all to you (three economic myths)


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Is Rick Snyder going to run for the GOP presidential nomination? Doubt it.

By Richard K. Barry

Just kiddin' ya!

Although Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is not as clear on the matter as former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, Snyder may be giving consideration to running for the GOP presidential nomination. 

Coleman is going around saying that Rick Snyder has, in fact, made up his mind. “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

So far, nothing so clear from Snyder himself, but who needs confirmation when you have rumour?

So, maybe not, Norm.

Who then is Rick Snyder?

Snyder, who was recently re-elected for a second term, is a business-oriented and comparatively socially moderate Republican. A former president and chairman of the board of the computer company Gateway, he won a Republican state primary in 2010 as a first-time candidate and underdog who ran as “One Tough Nerd”.

In office, Snyder has pushed legislation to put Detroit under emergency bankruptcy management and signed a controversial “right to work” bill that greatly restricted the ability of unions in Michigan to collect dues from members.

Coleman's enthusiasm notwithstanding, Snyder spokesman Jarrod Agen tells a different tale.

Governor Snyder is traveling the country to tell the remarkable Michigan comeback story. The country can learn from the historic reinvention of Michigan and the governor is helping change the perception of the state nationally.


The governor indicated that he’s watching the presidential race closely and hoping a common sense problem solver emerges, but he has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time.

What does it say when someone like Snyder starts to look at running? It may say that there is so much uncertainty in the process that the ultimate winner could in fact come from outside the current crop. You get a relatively popular governor and he's bound to look in the mirror, read the daily press clippings, and at some point and say, "Why not me?"

But the other possibility, mentioned in a Politico story, is that Snyder is "just trying to raise his national profile [and realizes] he would face long odds."

Of course, these reasons could be related. Because there is so much uncertainty in the GOP nomination process, someone with a legitimate bio like Snyder is bound to try for and get a some media attention, which no politician is going to turn down.

But I'll bet he doesn't run.

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Constitutional conservatives are neo-Confederates

By Frank Moraes

Last week, Steve Benen wrote a post entitled "Steve King Unveils Radical Court Scheme." It seems that King is proposing a new law, Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015. It would stop federal courts from having jurisdiction over cases related to marriage. It is actually somewhat funny. This is the ultimate sign that conservatives have lost the same-sex marriage debate. But Benen is confused because King claims to be a "constitutional conservative," and such a law would be outrageously unconstitutional. What gives?

Well, Ed Kilgore responded, "Yes, Constitutional Conservatives Are Radicals." He pointed out that what these conservatives mean when the append "constitutional" to their descriptor is just that they want to go back in time — to when the Constitution was new — "before it was ruined by courts and legislators and presidents alike." And so, in this particular case, King doesn't see a problem, because this is a states' rights issue: the federal government should have nothing to say about how states want to deal with issues related to marriage. I have a few things to add.

Note that by this logic the federal government would have no right to end slavery — much less Jim Crow. The thinking of people like Steve King is so shallow that their philosophy basically gives no guidance regarding policy matters. It is very much like the Stephen Colbert idea of "truthiness," where the the truth is whatever you feel in your gut. They really think this is a good thing. But Rob in High Fidelity is right: "I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains." Or more to the point: the gut is just a repository for all our baser instincts, like hating and fearing people who aren't members of our tribe.

The more fundamental issue is that constitutional conservatives actually are neo-confederates. Because the document that they constantly return to is not the Constitution but the Articles of Confederation. I wrote about this last year with regards to Garrett Epps' excellent book, Wrong and Dangerous: Ten Right-Wing Myths About Our Constitution, in a post entitled "Conservatives on Constitution Are Wrong and Dangerous." The Tenth Amendment has a very distinct change. The Articles said "the powers not expressly delegated to the United States" are given to the states. The Constitution says "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States..." The difference is in implied powers, and this is huge, as Epps explains:

If "implied powers" still sounds like tricky lawyer talk, ask yourself the following question: is the American flag unconstitutional? The Constitution doesn't make any reference to a national flag. By the "express" argument, states and only states would retain what we might call "the flag power." The U.S. Army would have to march under the fifty state flags, depending on the origin of each unit. That would be cumbersome, confusing, and dangerous — and, more to the point, stupid. Congress can "raise and support armies." Armies have to have flags — they are required under international law and necessary for military discipline and cohesion. A country that has an explicit power to raise an army has the implied power to designate a flag. Nobody seriously reads a constitution any other way.

If you hang out with hardcore conservatives (including libertarians), you will hear the Tenth Amendment brought up all the time: the federal government is interfering, taking all this power from the states, and it is unconstitutional. This is because their understanding of the Constitution is that it is just following the Articles of Confederation — when this one difference is the primary reason that we needed a Constitution and could not continue on as a confederacy.

This is also why these kinds of conservatives so often turn out to be racists. This misunderstanding of the Tenth Amendment was using in the nullification campaign of John Calhoun to support slavery. And after the Civil War, it went away — only to come up again in the 1950s in support of Jim Crow. These same people gloss over the far greater powers that the Fourteenth Amendment gave to the federal government. So Ed Kilgore is right that these people are indeed radicals and want to go way back in time. But they are also neo-Confederates, and the main reason that they are is that they want the right to discriminate.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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