AMERICAblog NewsAMERICAblog News http://americablog.com A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:25:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.2 Vermont passes automatic voter registration nearly unanimously http://americablog.com/2016/04/vermont-passes-automatic-voter-registration-nearly-unanimously-2.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/vermont-passes-automatic-voter-registration-nearly-unanimously-2.html#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:25:13 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=137089 Yesterday, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill providing for automatic voter registration in Vermont for citizens who interact with the DMV and other state agencies unless they opt out.

Vermont is now the fourth state to adopt automatic voter registration, with Oregon, California and West Virginia having already adopted the policy.

As was the case in West Virginia, Vermont’s automatic voter registration bill included broad support from both parties in the state. Unlike West Virginia, Vermont’s automatic voter registration bill was not paired with any other electoral reforms. West Virginia’s measure was included as part of a compromise that included a soft voter ID requirement.

As I’ve written before, there really aren’t any good arguments against automatic voter registration. As I’ve also written before, Republicans who would normally be expected to come up with bad arguments against automatic voter registration seem to not bother themselves when they happen to live in states where the non-white population is low as a percentage of the total.

Vermont is the second-whitest state in the country, with less than one percent of its population identifying as African-American.

Register, via Shutterstock

Register, via Shutterstock

So good on Vermont Republicans for getting on board with automatic voter registration, and I’d expect to see the policy continue to pick up momentum in blue states where Democrats control the legislature and governor’s mansion. It’s currently on the docket in over half of the states, plus DC. But let’s not kid ourselves: In states where partisanship doesn’t intersect with race, making voting easier is clearly not as controversial as in states where it does.

As I wrote in January, this fits a pattern:

Racism remains one of the primary predictors of opposition to social welfare programs in the United States. And it’s no accident that the states with some of the most progressive policies — North Dakota has a public bank; Utah provides free housing to its homeless population; Alaska’s permanent fund dividend is, for all intents and purposes, a universal basic income — also happen to be some of the whitest.

Automatic voter registration still doesn’t appear to be all that big of a deal for Republicans if black people don’t stand to benefit from it. If the GOP wants to prove me wrong, they can go ahead and get on board with the policy in a state where African-Americans make up more than five percent of the population.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz plays both sides of payday lending http://americablog.com/2016/04/debbie-wasserman-schultz-plays-sides-payday-lending.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/debbie-wasserman-schultz-plays-sides-payday-lending.html#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:06:04 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=137085 Last week, Florida congresswoman and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced that she was signing on as an original cosponsor of the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act, which would prohibit payday lenders from having access to borrowers’ bank accounts, close loopholes in the payday lending system and “ban lead generators and anonymous payday lending.” A partner bill has also been introduced in the Senate, featuring progressive co-sponsors Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among others.

The bill is, by all accounts, a solid piece of legislation. Payday lending has recently found its way into the crosshairs of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, among other consumer protection organizations, as being an industry that takes advantage of borrowers by trapping them in a cycle of debt, turning initial loans of a few hundred dollars into four or five-figure debts. The SAFE Lending Act would curtail some of the industry’s worst abuses.

However, Wasserman Schultz’s co-sponsorship of the bill makes her a bit of an oddball. As Allied Progress and a collection of other advocacy organizations pointed out in a letter sent to her office yesterday, she remains a co-sponsor of H.R. 4018. Wasserman Schultz previously faced widespread criticism from the progressive community over that bill because it is specifically designed to both make it harder for the CFPB to regulate payday lending and to encourage states outside of Florida to adopt policies favorable to payday lenders. As the Huffington Post explained:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, via Wikimedia Commons

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, via Wikimedia Commons

The misleadingly titled Consumer Protection and Choice Act would delay the CFPB’s payday lending rules by two years, and nullify its rules in any state with a payday lending law like the one adopted in Florida. The memo being passed around by Wasserman Schultz staffers describes the Florida state law as a “model” for consumer laws on payday loans, and says the CFPB should “adjust their payday lending rules to take into account actions Florida has already taken.”

Among the CFPB’s planned rules include limits on the number of loans one can take out per year and the number of loans one can take out at a time, along with requirements that lenders check borrowers’ ability to pay before issuing loans.

Currently, payday borrowers often pay interest rates of more than 300%, with the average borrower taking out nine loans before exiting the cycle — often through default. Three quarters of the industry’s revenue comes through borrowers taking out loans to pay previous loans — not to pay off their original loan.

The industry was the perfect combination of shady and under the radar for John Oliver to make it the subject of a feature segment in 2014:

Technically, there isn’t anything contradictory between H.R. 4018 and the SAFE Lending Act. Nothing in the former would be negated by the latter; they affect different parts of the payday lending industry. However, the two bills definitely have opposite goals: One would make it easier for payday lenders to make gobs of cash off of low-income borrowers — both in Florida and elsewhere — while the other one would make it more difficult. Taken together, this makes it strange, to say the least, that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has her name on both of them — even stranger when one considers the fact that she is the only member of the House to be a co-sponsor of both bills.

Given the context, it certainly seems to be the case that Debbie Wasserman Schultz noticed the backlash she received for co-sponsoring H.R. 4018, and is using the SAFE Lending Act as progressive cover. She clearly gets that the politics surrounding this issue aren’t great — payday lenders don’t exactly have a high favorability rating — but she also apparently still wants to push legislation that will allow them to expand their predatory businesses.

She shouldn’t get off so easy. Until she drops her support from H.R. 4018, her co-sponsorship of the SAFE Lending Act simply can’t be taken seriously.

You can read Allied Progress’s letter for more background here.

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Donald Trump’s Jew-haters http://americablog.com/2016/04/donald-trumps-jew-haters.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/donald-trumps-jew-haters.html#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:54:40 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=137032 NYT contributing writer Julie Ioffe just published a profile of Donald Trump’s wife Melania in GQ.

The profile, by all accounts, was quite fair, and far from a hit-piece. But that didn’t stop Donald Trump’s supporters from savaging Ioffe in her Twitter feed.

Their problem with Ioffe? She’s Jewish.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.21.47 AM

I’ve been on the receiving end of a Twitter-swarm, and it ain’t pretty. The Internet does things to people. It liberates them. But not always in a good way. People feel free to say things they would never say to your face. And they’re all the more emboldened by hundreds of like-minded others who are just as vicious, and usually just as off-base about the underlying accusation that set them off in the first place.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.39 AM

I’ve been called pretty much everything. Sexist (for supporting Obama in 08), misogynist, racist (for criticizing Obama in 09), Islamophobic, transphobic, biphobic, and my personal favorite, since I’m gay, “homophobic.” I was even accused of being dog and cat phobic because I like to post funny pet videos.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.54 AM

The Internet has no inner-sphincter. It doesn’t know when to hold its tongue. And sadly, large online communities like Twitter (and YouTube, whose comments are a cesspool of vileness) have yet to figure out how to help its own users handle cyber-bullying. One almost wonders if the challenge is technical, or principled — the Internet loves free speech, so long as the speech is in accordance with the will of the angry masses.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.23.09 AM

Which brings us back to Ioffe. While the Internet is an equal-opportunity bully, it has a special place in its heart for women. I’ve received some pretty vile comments over the years, but nothing like what Julia Ioffe is receiving right now in her Twitter feed from Trump supporters. It’s unbelievable, yet all too believable.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.21.36 AM

Ioffe, to her credit, seems to be taking it all quite well. But still.

by default 2016-04-28 at 11.17.45 AM

There’s a video going around the last week or so of men being asked to read back to female sports reporters the nasty comments that have been left for them online. It’s hard to watch, and illustrative. Have a look:

A part of me thinks that people have always been this way — a bit too angry and nasty for their own good. The only difference today is that it’s easier for them to mouth off. In the old days, the perpetually-angry had to write a letter (often in all caps), find a stamp, mail it, and then always wonder if the victim of their ire ever really saw it. Today, online hate is the new graffiti. You can bear public witness to your seething rage, while finding catharsis in the unhinged anger of thousands of anonymous brethren. It’s virtual therapy at its best and worst.

Here is a sampling of a bit more of what’s going on right now in Julia Ioffe’s Twitter feed from the swarm of anti-Semitic Trump supporters. Trump will likely do nothing about this, but Twitter really should. It’s unconscionable that the big Internet companies have yet to figure out how to help protect people from online bullies.

by default 2016-04-28 at 10.21.25 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.21.54 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.22.10 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.22.21 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.22.45 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.22.55 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.23.02 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.23.19 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.23.30 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.23.40 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.02 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.17 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.25 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.24.46 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.25.01 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.25.09 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.25.18 AM by default 2016-04-28 at 10.25.28 AM

 

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Why it’s the duty of every Sanders supporter to vote for Hillary http://americablog.com/2016/04/duty-every-sanders-supporter-vote-hillary.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/duty-every-sanders-supporter-vote-hillary.html#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 18:00:53 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=137017 There’s a common misconception that elections are job interviews; and that candidates need to “earn” our vote, as if we’re doing them a favor by putting them in office. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Elections are selfish. They’re not about the candidates, they’re about us. They’re about choosing someone who will have inordinate influence over our lives and our livelihoods for the next four years.

To the degree that the job metaphor is apt, picking a president is more like picking a nanny for your kids. Except in this case, it’s down to two candidates, and one is going to get hired. Your only options are to pick one, pick the other, or don’t pick either and let someone else make the choice for you.

To take the analogy a bit further, let’s call the first nanny Hillary. As hard as you try, Hillary just doesn’t move you. You see, there was another nanny named Bernie, and you adored Bernie. But Sadly, Bernie didn’t make the cut. So now you’re left choosing between Hillary, who doesn’t excite you, and another nanny named Donald, who is categorically crazy and hates your kids.

Your only choice is to hire Hillary, hire Donald, or let some stranger choose which of the two is going to have ultimate say over the most important thing in your life.

I’ve seen people talk about how Hillary Clinton is “bad” on fracking, and Wall Street, and money in politics, so they’re just not going to vote for her in November unless she does something “big” to win them over. But how is Donald Trump on all of those issues? Far worse than Hillary, in fact. And how is Donald Trump on the civil rights of gays, women, blacks, Latinos, and Muslims? How is Donald Trump on climate change, immigration, criminal justice, gun violence, privacy, health care, and caring about the middle and working classes? And how is Donald Trump on a woman’s right to choose? Awful, awful, awful.

If you choose not to support Hillary in the fall, because of some misguided notion of what she “owes” you, then you choose to cede the election to a man who will destroy every cause that Bernie Sanders, and you, once claimed to care about. And while you may be in a position in life that it won’t affect you directly if Trump bans Muslims, repeals Obamacare, and does everything he can to hurt gays, blacks, Latinos and women, is that really why you felt the Bern this election — because you put your own disappointment over the needs of the many?

Look, I get it. It feels totally unfair that your guy lost. We’ve all been there. (The election of 2000 comes to mind.) But cutting off your nose, and the collective noses of every American, out of a personal sense of pique is the last thing your revolution was about.

When Hillary and Bernie were in the Senate, they voted together 93% of the time. You could do a lot worse than electing a second President Clinton — you could help elect President Trump. And then you can really kiss your revolution goodbye.

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Former VA governor McDonnell to argue before SCOTUS that we have the right to buy influence http://americablog.com/2016/04/former-va-governor-mcdonnell-argue-scotus-right-buy-influence.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/former-va-governor-mcdonnell-argue-scotus-right-buy-influence.html#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:51:45 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=137014 Early last year, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison and two years on supervised release for, among other things, “obtaining property under color of official right.” His wife, Maureen, was convicted of the same charge, which stemmed from the two’s receipt of over $120,000 in gifts, loans and trips from Jonnie Williams, who ran a dietary supplement company. Williams also donated $100,000 to Governor McDonnell’s political action committee.

Governor McConnell appealed his case up to the Supreme Court, which is set to hear oral arguments today. And as the Los Angeles Times is reporting, his argument boils down to the idea that the exchange of goods for political considerations that he engaged in shouldn’t be illegal.

It says so, his lawyers claim, right there in Citizens United. From the Times:

In that case, the conservative majority not only freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums on politics, but — in a less noticed clause — described buying access with officials as a time-honored part of American democracy.

“The possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner influence over or access to elected officials” is not evidence of bribery or corruption, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said two years ago in striking down the limits on how much in total a single donor may give to a field of candidates. “Ingratiation and access… are not corruption,” he said, quoting from the Citizens United opinion.

Bob McDonnell, via Wikimedia Commons

Bob McDonnell, via Wikimedia Commons

McDonnell’s attorneys have latched on to that legal rationale to argue that doing small favors for big donors is protected under the 1st Amendment.

“Paying for ‘access’ — the ability to get a call answered or a meeting scheduled — is constitutionally protected and an intrinsic part of our political system,” they said in their appeal. “If Gov. McDonnell can be imprisoned for giving routine access to a gift-giver, an official could equally be imprisoned for agreeing to answer a donor’s phone call about a policy issue.”

Setting aside for the moment that McDonnell did far more than simply arrange meeting with Williams — he also used the governor’s mansion to host a launch party for one of Williams’s products, he personally pitched Williams’ supplements to state officials and his wife actively helped arrange meetings for Williams with people who could help his company — his case sets an absurdly high bar for political corruption.

If the Court accepts his restatement of the logic set forth in Citizens United, it would be all but impossible to define anything outside of the stereotypical situation involving suitcases full of cash being exchanged in a parking garage as a bribe. Everything short of that is just two friends exercising their rights to speech and association.

The argument is essentially that, yes, McDonnell accepted six-figure sums from Williams in the form of loans, watches, vacations and wedding expenses; and yes, he in turn helped the person who gave him those gifts by giving them a competitive advantage in the marketplace. And sure, that may look like a bribe, but trust him; it isn’t. Because he says so.

Were Antonin Scalia still alive, it’d be not only possible but likely that McDonnell would win this case. Until very recently, there were five votes on the Court in favor of defining corruption as narrowly as possible. However, given what is likely to be a deadlocked 4-4 Court, he is unlikely to be able to overturn the his loss in lower court, and could be headed to prison soon.

At least when he gets out he’ll still be able to vote.

Update: Oral arguments just wrapped up, and folks who were in the room are saying that it doesn’t look good for anti-corruption laws:

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BREAKING: Not everyone who supports the same candidate as you is cool, smart and good http://americablog.com/2016/04/breaking-not-everyone-supports-candidate-cool-smart-good.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/breaking-not-everyone-supports-candidate-cool-smart-good.html#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:57:27 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136982 Last night, Heavy.com reported that a series of Bernie Sanders-supporting Facebook pages had been taken down after being the target of a coordinated attack in which pages were flooded with pornography and then reported for violating the site’s terms of use.

At least some of the mass reportings have been tied to members of the pro-Clinton Facebook group, Bros4Hillary. A spokesperson for the group told Heavy.com that the group as a whole did not condone negative attacks on pro-Sanders pages, and the member(s) responsible have since been banned. The pro-Sanders groups have since been reinstated.

Members of the pro-Sanders groups affected by the porn spam campaign were worried that the attacks originated from the pro-Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record, which recently launched a $1 million campaign, Barrier Breakers, to push back against anti-Clinton posts on social media. Correct the Record emphatically denied involvement in the anti-Sanders spam campaign, saying that their effort is limited to promoting pro-Clinton messages and, well, correcting the record.

So a few random Clinton supporters were childish jerks on social media. No big deal. There’s no reason to believe this episode has anything to do with Correct the Record (which is, for the record, coordinating with Clinton’s campaign), and there’s no reason to draw any connections between a few yahoos online and Clinton’s overall campaign or message.

Which is why it’s been particularly odd to see prominent Clinton supporters who have been particularly sensitive to online harassment with respect to their preferred candidate responding to the episode by denying that it happened the way it did.

Believe it or not, whether you support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or even Jill Stein, not everyone who supports the same candidate you do is cool, smart and good. Some people who support the same candidate as you are jerks. Some of the people who support the same candidate as you do stupid and mean things online — even if you support Hillary Clinton!

It’s the Internet, and the Internet is an ugly place sometimes (ok, often).

In any case, it may be a positive development if this story spurred Clinton supporters such as Conason, who edits The National Memo, to apply a bit more scrutiny — or, better yet, indifference — to random idiots online. Perhaps then we’ll stop seeing racist and sexist idiots on Twitter being pinned on Bernie Sanders himself when most (though not all!) of them actually support Donald Trump.

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Two thirds of voter registrations in Kansas currently on hold over proof of citizenship requirement http://americablog.com/2016/04/majority-voter-registrations-kansas-currently-hold-proof-citizenship-requirement.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/majority-voter-registrations-kansas-currently-hold-proof-citizenship-requirement.html#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:40:34 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136979 According to court documents submitted by American Civil Liberties Union, over two thirds of voter registration applications submitted during a three-week period in February are currently on hold due to the state’s proof of citizenship requirement.

Only 7,444 of more than 22,000 voter registration applications submitted in Kansas between February 1st and February 21st were submitted with proof of citizenship. Kansas’s voter registration rules technically allow citizens to register for federal elections without proof of citizenship, but those voters are purged from the rolls if documentation is not submitted within 90 days of registering,

Citizens who have sued Kansas over this procedure have subsequently been added to the statewide voter rolls, suggesting that Kansas could, if it so chose, verify the citizenship status of applicants on its own. The ACLU, along with the League of Women Voters and other voting rights groups, have continued to challenge Kansas’s dual voter registration system — and the director of the Election Assistance Commission, which granted Kansas and three other states the authority to use its proof of citizenship requirement without the approval of the full commission — in court.

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Since many voter registration applications are submitted through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the offices of which use the federal voter registration form that does not require proof of citizenship (you only have to check a box affirming your citizenship), applications through the DMV account for many if not most of the voters on the suspense list. The majority of those applicants are under the age of 30.

According to the Associated Press, “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach contends that since the provisions went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, a total of 244,699 people completed their registrations, accounting for about 94 percent of all applicants.” It would appear that either he or the ACLU is wrong. Given what we know about the level of respect Kobach has for the right to vote, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I trust the ACLU over him on this one.

All of these legal challenges are pending, and all decisions will undoubtedly be appealed. For the time being, this means that a solid majority of citizens who attempt to register to vote in Kansas will see their applications rejected.

(h/t TalkingPointsMemo)

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Why not Joe? Clinton should consider Biden for VP. http://americablog.com/2016/04/why-not-joe.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/why-not-joe.html#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 15:30:24 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136937 It’s gotten to that point in the election cycle where candidates are starting to think about who their running mate is going to be. It feels a bit early, especially on the Republican side where the race hasn’t clearly been decided yet, but that’s where we are.

According to the New York Times, a “cautious but confident” Hillary Clinton has begun the process of narrowing down her picks, starting from a list of 15 to 20 names that includes at least one woman. As Clinton adviser Anita Dunn explained, “There is some precedent for having a running mate of the same gender,” so it shouldn’t be considered at all weird to see an Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand on Clinton’s short list. Seems legit.

However, there is one name that has curiously been kept out of the veepstakes discussion, and I’m not sure why. We’ve heard vice presidential speculation about figures ranging from Tim Kaine to Julian Castro to John Hickenlooper to Deval Patrick, but we have heard no indication that Clinton may be considering Joe Biden as her running mate.

This feels, to me, like a bit of a shame.

Seriously, why not Joe? There’s no rule that puts term limits on the vice presidency, and our current vice president seems to be doing a fine job. As far as the politics are concerned, he is well-liked by the progressive base and he’s already been thoroughly vetted — to say nothing of already carrying near-universal name recognition nationally. On the policy front, he has close ties to Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle and he’s played a crucial role in high-level foreign policy negotiations during the Obama presidency.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were considering Joe Biden as a potentially serious candidate for the presidency itself. Many of his political strengths line up with Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses, which means that adding him to the ticket could help blunt them. What’s more, while he did previously rule out running for president, saying that he couldn’t give it the 110% needed in order to win, he has also said that he regrets that decision “every day.” If offered, he would definitely be up for getting back on the campaign trail. He clearly feels that he has more to offer, especially considering that he has said he plans on staying involved in the political process even if he doesn’t hold office.

Finally, and most importantly, it seems as though Biden is a one-to-one match with Clinton’s criteria for a vice presidential pick. From the Times again:

8013701480_d48b0b1717_z

Joe Biden, via Marc Nozell / Flickr

Mrs. Clinton has offered general guidance as her team begins the search: She cares less about ideological and personal compatibility than about picking a winner, someone who can dominate the vice-presidential debate and convince Americans that Mrs. Clinton is their best choice.

She also wants a partner who is unquestionably qualified for the presidency and would help create the strongest contrast with the Republican ticket, which could be dogged by questions about Donald J. Trump’s fitness for the presidency or Senator Ted Cruz’s unbending conservatism, according to those interviewed. And she wants someone who could be an effective attack dog against either candidate.

Joe Biden is 2-0 in vice-presidential debates, having taken both Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan to school in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Any questions about his qualifications to be president have long since been answered. What’s more, he is already serving as President Obama’s attack dog against Trump, Cruz and the GOP more generally. Hillary Clinton has cast her prospective presidency as protecting and building on President Obama’s legacy. What better way to represent that than by replacing Obama’s vice president with, well, Obama’s vice president?

None of this constitutes a full case for Biden’s third term as VP. He isn’t from a swing state; he may be too old; just because there isn’t a rule against three-term vice presidents, that doesn’t mean the voters will like the idea. Still, it’s at least a bit odd that he isn’t part of the conversation. He’s too qualified and too well-suited for the role to completely ignore.

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Accusations of 9/11 government cover-up trouble U.S.-Saudi relations http://americablog.com/2016/04/accusations-911-government-cover-trouble-u-s-saudi-relations.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/accusations-911-government-cover-trouble-u-s-saudi-relations.html#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:13:27 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136788 A recent 60 Minutes expose entitled “28 Pages” is making waves, reigniting accusations that the Bush administration covered up ties between the 9/11 hijackers and high-ranking Saudi officials to protect the U.S.’s delicate relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The title of the piece refers to the 838-page joint congressional investigative report that was commissioned in the days following the attacks – 28 pages of which were “sealed” by the Bush administration for “security purposes” and have yet to be made public. The pages are locked in an underground vault in the Capitol.

Several top ranking U.S. officials who have seen the pages have come forward and stated the missing pages imply Saudi officials may have had a role in funding and orchestrating the attacks.

To complicate matters further, family members of 9/11 victims are currently attempting to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks. The recently-introduced Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (or JASTA) is a bill that would allow “Saudi Arabia to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,” according to the New York Times.

The Obama's meet with Saudi leaders, via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama’s meet with Saudi leaders, via Wikimedia Commons

bipartisan effort has been made to stymie the lawsuit – with President Obama denouncing the bill and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he would not support it. The White House says that if the bill becomes law, it would invite similar legislation from other countries, and their legislation may not be so narrowly tailored to one country and one attack.

That hasn’t stopped the lawsuit and media accusations from causing a real conflict between the U.S. and its long-time ally in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia recently threatened to sell off billions of dollars of U.S. assets if Congress allowed the bill to go through.

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia and met with King Salman on Wednesday amidst rising tensions between the two countries.

The Kingdom has been an important ally to the U.S. for decades, but many Saudis reportedly view America quite ambivalently, as both a political entity and an oppressive presence in the Middle East. The fact that Osama bin Laden, the well-known architect of the attacks, was the son of a wealthy and well-connected Saudi family has been seen by many to point to the fact that high-ranking Saudis played an active role in orchestrating 9/11.

While the 9/11 attacks have been the subject of conspiracy theories for many years, these recent reports seem to indicate that if there’s no fire clearly visible yet, there’s certainly a lot of smoke.

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VA Governor McAuliffe to restore voting rights to 200,000 ex-felons via executive order http://americablog.com/2016/04/va-governor-mcauliffe-restore-voting-rights-200000-ex-felons-via-executive-order.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/va-governor-mcauliffe-restore-voting-rights-200000-ex-felons-via-executive-order.html#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 16:04:40 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136784 Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will restore voting rights to over 200,000 ex-felons today via executive order, bypassing the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. As McAuliffe explained, the action will overturn a Civil War-era provision in Virginia’s constitution that aimed to make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote.

Virginia’s policy restricting ex-felons from registering to vote was expanded in 1902 as part of a package of voting restrictions that also included poll taxes and literacy tests.

According to the Sentencing Project, one in five African-Americans in Virginia is disenfranchised due to a past felony conviction, compared to seven percent of the state’s overall population.

Felon disenfranchisement came into vogue in the South following Reconstruction, and Southern states remain less likely to automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentences. At the time these measures were passed, their justifications often took on explicitly racial connotations. Governor McAuliffe’s office has noted that in 1906, State Senator Carter Glass (who would later be the “Glass” in the Glass-Steagall Act) spoke favorably of Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement policy, saying that it would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less than five years, so that no single county of the Commonwealth will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government.”

According to the New York Times, “Virginia is one of four states — the others are Kentucky, Florida and Iowa — that impose the harshest restrictions” for ex-felons who wish to register to vote. Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear recently enacted an executive order under his powers to grant clemency that had the same effect as Governor McAuliffe’s actions do today, but his order was quickly reversed by newly-elected governor Matt Bevin.

Terry McAuliffe, via Wikimedia Commons

Terry McAuliffe, via Wikimedia Commons

The specific way in which McAuliffe crafted his order, however, means that his action will be difficult to reverse — even more so due to the fact that his term lasts through 2017. By using his power to grant pardons to all ex-felons who have completed parole, even a new governor who rescinded McAuliffe’s order would probably be unable to re-disenfranchise the 200,000 ex-felons who will begin registering to vote later today.

This isn’t the first move Governor McAuliffe has taken to make it easier for ex-felons to register to vote. Last year, through another executive action, Governor McAuliffe removed requirements for ex-felons to pay outstanding court fees as part of the process by which they could get their rights restored, calling it a modern-day poll tax.

However, it will not be his last move to restore voting rights, either. Since his executive order cannot apply to future ex-felons who complete their sentences, McAuliffe plans on issuing similar orders on a monthly basis.

It’s important to note that Virginia is a swing state, and that McAuliffe has close ties to Hillary Clinton, having served as her campaign chairman in 2008, among other things. So, obviously, today’s move is good politics.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t also solid, moral public policy.

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Kasich gives painfully honest answer in opposition to DC statehood http://americablog.com/2016/04/kasich-gives-painfully-honest-answer-opposition-dc-statehood.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/kasich-gives-painfully-honest-answer-opposition-dc-statehood.html#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:57:28 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136782 There aren’t any good reasons to oppose DC statehood, but there are a ton of bad reasons. However, of all of the bad reasons to oppose DC statehood, only one of them is honest. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is the answer that DC statehood opponents give least often.

But in an interview with the Washington Post’s editorial board, published yesterday, John Kasich gave that answer: DC statehood is bad because DC is full of Democrats.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:

[JO-ANN] ARMARO:  You voted against statehood for D.C. when you were in Congress.

KASICH:  Yes.

ARMAO:  Is that still your position, and do you have–

KASICH:  Yes, I would it say probably is.

ARMAO:  What about voting rights in Congress, voting representatives?

KASICH:  Probably not. I don’t know. I’d have to, I mean, to me, that’s just, I just don’t see that we really need that, okay?  I don’t know. I don’t think so.

ARMAO:  But you realize though that people in D.C. pay taxes, go to war and they have no vote in Congress.

KASICH:  Yeah.

John Kasich, via Michael Vadon / Flickr

John Kasich, via Michael Vadon / Flickr

ARMAO:  How is that–

KASICH:  Well look, I am not – I don’t – I am not, because you know what, what it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party. That’s what–

ARMAO:  So if there were Republicans in the District, you would have a different position?

KASICH:  Yeah, okay, well look, they send me a bill, I’m president of the United States, I’ll read your editorials.

As long as likely additions to the Union are populated by citizens who are likely to vote Democratic — DC and Puerto Rico being the two readily-available examples — Republicans are going to oppose adding new states. That is, unless Democrats offer a compromise in which the additions come with the introduction of new red states (splitting Texas into two smaller states, perhaps?) so that the balance of power in the Senate and Electoral College doesn’t change.

In case you’re wondering, yes. This would resemble the Missouri Compromise, in which Missouri’s addition to the Union as a slave state was paired with Maine’s addition as a free state. In case you were wondering a bit further, yes. Political polarization is currently at its highest point since the mid-1800s. There have been times when either or both major political parties were comfortable admitting new states regardless as to their electoral consequences. This is not one of those times.

So while it’s fair to say that “Republicans might lose” is a bad reason to keep DC in a holding pattern where they are taxed without being represented — or allowed to govern themselves, for that matter — at least it’s honest. So kudos, I guess, to Kasich for not bothering to come up with a more elaborate and less honest case?

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Top Trump advisor: Candidate’s primary rhetoric was all an act http://americablog.com/2016/04/top-trump-advisor-candidate-rhetoric-act.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/top-trump-advisor-candidate-rhetoric-act.html#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:00:34 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136777 Team Trump has been doing some damage control with the GOP elite. According to the Associated Press, “Donald Trump’s chief lieutenants told skeptical Republican leaders Thursday the GOP front-runner has been ‘projecting an image’ so far in the 2016 primary season and ‘the part that he’s been playing is now evolving’ in a way that will improve his standing among general election voters.”

Donald Trump has always been the reality show candidate. His experience on The Apprentice has clearly informed his Presidential campaign. He made it known from day one that he wasn’t here to make friends, that he was here to win. And like any good reality show villain, Trump went about eliminating his fellow contestants (candidates) by any means necessary.

This was particularly clear during the debates. All of the candidates were prepared within an inch of their lives to present their best selves on TV, but Trump took his TV game to the next level. He nailed sound bites and engaged his opponents, the applause, the boos and even the reaction shots. Whereas his opponents were there to debate, Trump’s goal was to keep the cameras (and the post-debate media coverage) fixated on him during precious prime time hours.

What’s surprising is that the Trump campaign is acknowledging this. As the AP continued:.

“When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose,” [Trump senior strategist Paul] Manafort said in a private briefing.

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the closed-door exchange.

“He gets it,” Manafort said of Trump’s need to moderate his personality. “The part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase. The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”

I believe them. The best reality show villains have to pivot and reframe their narrative if they have any hope of winning the game. They have to get people who once loathed them on their side. Trump is already taking steps towards this. The hiring of Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, both veteran GOP political operatives, and the fact that Manafort is having this conversation with the GOP political class is a sign that the Trump rebrand is already underway.

What’s scary is that he might succeed.

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Maine Gov. LePage vetoes bill to expand access to overdose antidote http://americablog.com/2016/04/paul-lepage-vetoes-bill-expand-access-overdose-antidote.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/paul-lepage-vetoes-bill-expand-access-overdose-antidote.html#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 17:15:15 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136769 Maine governor and the Penguin from Batman Paul LePage vetoed a bill today that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense the anti-overdose drug, naloxone, without a prescription. Thirty states already have such a policy on the books.

According to the Portland Press-Herald, “The legislation would also allow police and fire departments to obtain a supply of naloxone and provides immunity to pharmacists or health care professionals who dispense the antidote when ‘acting in good faith and with reasonable care.'”

In explaining his veto, of the bill, which passed unanimously, LePage argued that granting addicts access to overdose medication “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” essentially saying that it would be better to let addicts die than it would be to get them help.

Paul LePage, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul LePage, via Wikimedia Commons

As he continued, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.” Which is to say, Paul LePage has given up on heroin addicts in his state, and would rather let them die off on their own accord than help them through their addiction.

Bear in mind, this is the same Paul LePage who thinks that his state’s heroin epidemic can be solved by keeping black people from New York out of his stateusing vigilante mobs if necessary. For being the governor of a state with a high rate of heroin abuse, one would think his ideas on how to fix the problem wouldn’t be this bad. Still, vetoing a bill that literally no one in his state’s legislature opposed for the stated purpose of accelerating people’s deaths is over the top — even for him.

At least the bill will probably still become law. Maine’s legislature plans to take up this and other vetoed bills in two weeks’ time, and they should have more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass it.

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Trump comes out against NC anti-trans law http://americablog.com/2016/04/trump-comes-nc-anti-trans-law.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/trump-comes-nc-anti-trans-law.html#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 15:42:42 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136744 North Carolina’s recently-passed law mandating that citizens across the state use bathrooms that correspond to the gender stated on their birth certificate, instead of their gender identity — a clear swipe at transgender people — is apparently too much for even Donald Trump.

Asked about the law on the Today show, Trump said that while the law was very “strong,” North Carolina is “paying a big price. There’s a lot of problems.”

He went on to argue that North Carolina should just “leave it the way it is [was],” since “There have been very few complaints…People go; they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”

Asked if Caitlyn Jenner, or any of Trump’s trans employees, would be able to use the bathrooms they’d feel most comfortable in in Trump Tower, Trump said yes. It’s worth noting that New York City has a non-discrimination ordinance on the books that requires Trump to let people use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Trump also dismissed the would-be compromise of constructing gender neutral bathrooms everywhere, saying that the cost isn’t justified since, again, there’s no real problem to solve.

Here’s the video of the exchange, via ThinkProgress:

There are a few possibilities here. The first and most simple one is that North Carolina’s law is so blatantly discriminatory that even Republican presidential candidates feel safe opposing it. The second possibility is that Trump doesn’t yet know that opposing trans equality is a core GOP position, and we’re a day or two from seeing a full reversal here.

Donald Trump speaking at Liberty University, screenshot via YouTube

Donald Trump speaking at Liberty University, screenshot via YouTube

Either way, Ted Cruz is not impressed. Cruz defended North Carolina’s law earlier in the week, saying “As the father of daughters, I’m not terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters, and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make.” He has already gone after Trump over North Carolina’s law on Twitter, and we should expect to see it in attacks ads coming soon to an upcoming primary state near you.

Which means that the Republican primary race heading into the next week of voting could hinge on trans equality. Ten bucks to whoever saw that coming.

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Mrs. Sanders suggests Bernie’s supporters won’t vote for Hillary http://americablog.com/2016/04/mrs-sanders-suggests-bernies-supporters-wont-vote-hillary.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/mrs-sanders-suggests-bernies-supporters-wont-vote-hillary.html#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:38:55 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136745 Taking a break from completing her 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 taxes (none of which have been released in full, as is traditional of presidential candidates), Bernie Sanders’ wife Jane said yesterday that few if any of Bernie Sanders’ supporters would support Hillary Clinton in the fall, ensuring Bernie’s induction into the Ralph Nader hall of fame.

If Mrs. Sanders’ threat is correct, then Sanders and his supporters would be assuring a Trump victory in the fall, and would be stepping into the shoes of Ralph Nader, who is roundly reviled on the left for handing the White House to George W. Bush back in the year 2000, when an disgruntled Nader ran as a third-party candidate and stole enough votes from Al Gore to cost him the election.

Here is Mrs. Sanders’ latest, per the Washington Post:

Jane Sanders, the candidate’s wife, made it clear that Bernie supporters won’t simply fall in line with Clinton. “If they have any hope of getting any of Bernie’s supporters, it cannot be ‘Okay, we got through the primary, now I move to the center,’ ” she told The Post. “That is the history of the Democratic and Republican party.”

It’s particularly interesting to note Mrs. Sanders’ suggesting that basically none of Sanders’ supporters would vote for Hillary, and that even if Hillary tries to woo them, only a small number will in the end support the Democratic ticket.

This effort to damage the Democratic party, and set back progressive values — what do you think Donald Trump will do to civil rights, foreign policy, and Wall Street? — is sadly standard operating procedure for the Sanders’. Bernie Sanders and his supporters hurt a crucial state supreme court contest in Wisconsin recently. Even though Sanders won Wisconsin by a decisive margin, Democrats were surprised to have lost the supreme court race. Then they found out why. Many Sanders supporters refused to support Democrats on the rest of the ticket — they simply voted for Sanders, and then left the rest of the ballot blank, ensuring an arch-conservative is now helping push Wisconsin further to the far right.

Then there is Sanders’ incessant efforts to stop Hillary Clinton from raising money for Democratic races around the country. Hillary has been teaming with the DNC in doing a series of high-profile fundraisers with celebrities and others. Sanders chose not to, and now is attacking Hillary for doing what he could have done as well. If Sanders has his way, Democratic races in the states will lose millions of dollars, while Republicans keep raising money and ensuring their electoral victories to come.

Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat, he’s a socialist. (And for those who claim that a “democratic socialist” isn’t the same thing as a socialist, it actually is — if you’re talking about the old hardline European socialists, who are now passé on the European left.) Sanders has no interest in helping Democrats, and has in fact spent much of his campaign attacking the Democratic party, and helping ensure that a new generation of Americans equates Democrats with Republicans.

Ralph Nader, by Don LaVange .

Ralph Nader, by Don LaVange .

So, while sad, it’s not surprising that the Sanders’ are is in essence putting a gun to the head of the Democratic party, by threatening to throw the election to Donald Trump. While Bernie Sanders talks a good talk about “revolution,” he has done little of significance in his long career in Washington. As impotent outsiders do, he complains a lot, and stakes out extreme positions knowing they will never be implemented. There’s no cost to being as extreme, and pandering, as possible when you know you’re never going to win. You never have to face the voters and explain why imposing socialism on America didn’t quite work out the way you promised.

It’s not surprising that Sanders’ most liberal supporters have concerns about voting for Hillary — after all, Hillary has an actual record to scrutinize. Hillary has had to stake out positions, and then follow through on them. And things didn’t always work out as planned, as happens when your theoretical goals become policy. Sanders, on the other hand, has the odd advantage of rarely having put his ideas into action. So there’s little to hold him accountable for, besides his oddly unprogressive embrace of the gun lobby.

In the end, Bernie and Jane Sanders are playing a bit fast and loose with their talk. While Bernie promises to support the ultimate Democratic candidate, Jane goes off and suggests that Sanders’ supporters won’t be as magnanimous. It’s a cute passive-aggressive way for the Sanders to have their cake and eat it too. They can claim to be above the fray and support the party’s candidate, while at the same time knifing her in the back, and the entire progressive cause in the process.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis  — Win a pony! (not really)

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The Democratic primary is over. It’s time to take on the Republicans. http://americablog.com/2016/04/time-hit-reset-button.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/time-hit-reset-button.html#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 12:00:04 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136739 The New York primary is over, and for all intents and purposes, so is the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee.

Bernie Sanders may or may not have accepted that fact, but it’s time for Democrats to move on either way. What Bernie should or shouldn’t do is no longer relevant to winning the Presidency. Democrats, led by the Clinton campaign, need to pivot to winning in November.

It starts with the White House and ends with state legislative seats across the country. Regaining a majority in the Senate is on the table, as is gaining more seats in the House. We win by making every Republican running for office own Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as the leaders of their party. Hold them accountable for everything Cruz and Trump say from now until November.

We win by reminding voters constantly that the GOP, led by Trump and/or Cruz, stands only for obstruction. To the point where they won’t even meet with President Obama’s supreme court nominee, much less do their constitutional duty of vetting him.

Hillary Clinton, via Roger H. Goun / Flickr

Hillary Clinton, via Roger H. Goun / Flickr

Democrats have a strong case to make to America. We have a battle-tested nominee ready to go into the general election arena. And, should he choose to do so, we have Senator Sanders who can galvanize his supporters to help Clinton and progressives in down ticket races.

We have a strong base of small dollar donors who give more funds, more often to Democratic candidates each cycle. And we’re running against a Republican party that’s completely in disarray. Oh yeah, and have I mentioned that our opponents will be led by Ted Cruz or Donald Trump?

It’s time to hit the reset button. In-fighting is fine during a primary, but that’s over now. From today on we need to focus on doing everything we can to make sure that the nightmare scenario of President Donald Trump never becomes a reality. We need to elect a Democratic President and give them as many progressive elected officials as we can. We need to win because the stakes really are as high as they seem. Who’s with me?

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Utah declares porn a “public health crisis” http://americablog.com/2016/04/utah-declares-porn-public-health-crisis.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/utah-declares-porn-public-health-crisis.html#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 19:48:25 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136733 Utah governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution yesterday declaring pornography a “public health crisis.”

The resolution, introduced in order to, in Republican State Senator Todd Weller’s words, battle the “pornography epidemic” spreading through the state and country, calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level” in order to push back against porn production and consumption.

According to USA Today, “Weller maintains that the resolution is not a ban on porn or an attack on masturbation, but the first steps toward creating a plan to protect children and families from it,” which sounds a whole lot like an attack on masturbation to me.

As USA Today continues:

Utah governor Gary Herbert, via Wikimedia Commons

Utah governor Gary Herbert, via Wikimedia Commons

Ian Kerner, a psychotherapist and sex expert, says the anti-pornography movement is rooted in a long history of stigmatizing sex and masturbation.

“So much of the anti-porn movement is based on a sense of alarmism,” Kerner said, adding that the anti-pornography movement has blurred the line between child and adult access to pornography. “In this country, we really bundle together children and teens with consenting adults, and the issues are not the same for children and teens as they are for consenting adults.”

Utah’s anti-porn resolution comes at a time when there are a whole lot of actual public health crises in the state. Gun violence and  heroin overdose come immediately to mind. Amidst these actual crises, however, Utah’s leaders have chosen to focus on porn.

For what it’s worth, Utah ranked second-to-last in the United States in time spent per visit to Pornhub.com in 2015. The site didn’t publish data for visits per capita by state, although a 2009 study did indicate that Utah has the highest rate of paid online porn subscriptions in the country. Taken together, this suggests that Utahans are watching a lot of porn…and finishing quickly.

It’s also worth noting that Utah’s arguments against porn bear a passing resemblance to the arguments Ted Cruz used in his 2007 defense of a Texas law banning the sale of “obscene devices,” including dildos. Utah argues that their interest in restricting access to porn is to protect minors; so did Cruz. Utah argues porn is linked to “lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity;” Cruz argued that Texas’s ban on the sale of dildos was based on a government interest in promoting marriage.

All this is to say that when social conservatives pass laws and resolutions designed to discourage orgasms, all while insisting that they aren’t anti-orgasm, they’re only serious about the former.

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Bernie Sanders is far to the left of European socialists http://americablog.com/2016/04/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-boaty-mcboatface-democracy.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/bernie-sanders-donald-trump-boaty-mcboatface-democracy.html#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:04:38 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136724 There’s a fascinating article in the latest New Yorker about Bernie Sanders’ personal brand of socialism, and how Sanders is basically to the left of “socialist” parties in the very Scandinavian countries he claims to emulate.

The main point, which is something I’ve been saying for a while, is that Sanders is an “old socialist.” And that’s not referring to his age, it’s referring to an era.

In the old days, socialists of the European and the American variety were much more politically extreme (further to the left than they are now), and they also tended not to be terribly pro-American (or at the very least, they had a certain sympathy for the Soviet Union, and other rather nasty communist states).

That’s not today’s European socialism, whose members don’t even really call themselves socialists anymore — they call themselves “social democrats.” Sound familiar? It almost sounds like what Bernie Sanders calls himself, a “democratic socialist.” And while the two phrases sound alike, there’s a yuge difference between the two. The latter, the one Sanders uses, is much more extreme, and it harkens to a bygone era of far left European socialism that has basically been debunked and rebuked both politically and economically.

Old socialists called for revolutions. New social democrats most certainly do not. They believe in pragmatism and compromise — that’s the Nordic way, according to my Social Democrat friends in Sweden. Bernie Sanders, who was recently rated the most partisan member of the US Senate (he even beat Ted Cruz), is another animal entirely. According to my Swedish friends, if you call yourself a socialist (or democratic socialist) and call for “revolution,” that puts you to the left of even the former Swedish communist party.

Set to set sail in 2019, and backed by £200m of government funding, the polar research ship will be built at the world-famous Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside.

The UK’s new polar research ship, which might just be named “Boaty McBoatface,” if the masses have their way.

Which brings us to Boaty McBoatface. You might have heard that the British government recently held an online contest to name a new research boat. The winning entry? “Boaty McBoatface.” That’s what can happen when you let the raw will of the masses influence policy, you can crowdsource crazy.

I remember years back when someone finally explained to me that America isn’t a true “democracy.” We are in fact a “republic.” American voters don’t get to decide every policy, they don’t get to vote on every law. Instead, the voters choose elected officials who then implement the will of the people tempered by, or at least influenced by, the elected’s own knowledge and experience.

Part of the reason for choosing a republic over a pure democracy is that people can be kind of nutty sometimes when you get them all together in one room. The heated will of the masses isn’t necessarily the best way to make policy. It’s the reason, in fact, the US House and Senate were set up the way they were. The late Senator Robert Byrd used to give a famous speech about how the House was the coffee cup and the Senate was the saucer in which the hot coffee was poured and permitted to cool before drinking. The idea being that the popular and populist will of the majority can be an important part of governance, but it’s also a dangerous part that needs to be kept in check, and tempered by cooler minds.

Here’s a bit of classic Byrd:

The Framers recognized that a minority can be right and that a majority can be wrong. They recognized that the Senate should be a true deliberative body—a forum in which to slow the passions of the House, hold them up to the light, examine them, and, thru informed debate, educate the public. The Senate is the proverbial saucer intended to cool the cup of coffee from the House.

Which brings us to New York’s Democratic electoral rules. Many have complained that under the rules, if you wanted to vote in yesterday’s Democratic primary, you were required to change their party registration to “Democrat” last October. That’s unfair, the masses cried! But is it, really? My populist gut wants to let everyone vote in the Democratic primary, and may be the best man or woman win. But then I think about it. I’m not sure I want someone elected president who was so relatively unknown six months ago that even his most ardent supporters today didn’t bother changing their party registration in order to vote for him. I want a little bit longer to cool my coffee, lest we elect Boaty McBoatface, or Donald Trump, to the highest office in the land.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis  — Win a pony! (not really)

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NY exit polls show huge race gap, Sanders only won white men http://americablog.com/2016/04/sanders-exit-polls-new-york-hillary.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/sanders-exit-polls-new-york-hillary.html#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 01:40:50 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136706 Now that Hillary has won the New York primary, CNN has published its exit polling for the New York primary today, and it’s devastating to Bernie Sanders’ attempt to shake off the perception that he’s the candidate of young white people.

In fact, CNN’s data shows that it is in fact unfair to call Sanders the candidate of white people. He’s the candidate of white men. 

Hillary Clinton won every other demographic, including white women, black men, black women and latino women. (CNN didn’t have data for latino men.)

sanders-race-gap

Overall, CNN showed whites voting for Sanders over Hillary (54% to 45%), while non-whites voted for Hillary over Sanders (63% to 37%) — that’s a 26 point lead.

Specifically, Sanders won whites over Hillary (54% to 45%), but got socked by the black vote, which Hillary won by a whopping 71% to 28% — that’s a 43 point lead. Latinos also went heavily for Hillary, by 59% to 41%.

sanders-race-by-race

The CNN exits also show that Sanders won 61% of those under 45, and Hillary won 61% of those 45 and over. But, and here’s the rub, the under 45 vote is only 41% of the electorate, whereas Hillary’s 45 and older vote is 59% of the electorate. So Hillary’s victory is much larger.

Also, the exits show a gender gap for Sanders. While 54% of men supported Sanders, 57% of women supported Hillary, giving Hillary a 14 point lead in that category. But it gets worse — women are 58% of the electorate, so again it helps Hillary even more.

CNN is currently projecting a 99% certainty that Hillary will win NYC, but I think the details of the electorate, and how each candidate fared, are far more interesting. Read the rest of the NY exits polls at CNN.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis  — Win a pony! (not really)

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Closed primaries are fine. New York’s closed primary is nuts. http://americablog.com/2016/04/closed-primaries-fine-new-yorks-closed-primary-nuts.html http://americablog.com/2016/04/closed-primaries-fine-new-yorks-closed-primary-nuts.html#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 17:40:14 +0000 http://americablog.com/?p=136701 Hundreds of New Yorkers who are registered to vote, but are not affiliated with a major political party, filed a lawsuit against their state yesterday challenging its system of closed party primaries. Most of these voters presumably wish to cast a ballot for Bernie Sanders, but did not change their partisan affiliation to Democratic before the deadline…which was October 9th of last year.

New York is one of eleven states with a closed primary, in which only registered members of the party in question are allowed to participate. Its deadline for changing partisan affiliation is the earliest in the country.

The New Yorkers in question will almost certainly lose their case, and the provisional ballots they cast today will almost certainly be thrown out. New York has rules about who can vote in its primary. Those rules don’t seem to discriminate against anyone based on a protected class such as race, gender or religion. It’s hard to see a legal reason for the system to be changed today, simply because left-leaning independents and members of minor parties who want to vote for Bernie Sanders didn’t register as Democrats early enough.

But that doesn’t mean that Sanders supporters don’t have a point when they note that New York’s partisan affiliation deadline is positively bonkers. While it may be fine in principle for a party to limit participation in its primaries to people who are actually members of that party, it’s ridiculous to expect New Yorkers to have just ~known better~ and followed rules they didn’t know existed six months before they mattered.

There’s a reason why there wasn’t a major fuss over previous closed primaries, which have already taken place in states like Arizona, Florida and Louisiana. It was common knowledge that restricting participation to registered Democrats would, on balance, help Hillary Clinton, but not too many people considered that a problem in principle. Problems only arose when tons of New Yorkers got energized to vote for Bernie Sanders only to realize that they had to have made arrangements to do so six months in advance, when the Democratic race looked like this:

In early October of last year, it was uncertain as to whether Bernie Sanders’s campaign was going to last past Nevada — let alone all the way to New York. He was at less than 25 percent in national polls, and was still playing the role of a protest candidate who just wanted to talk about economic inequality and political reform.

This message also happens to be most appealing to the people most likely to be affected by New York’s partisan affiliation deadline. As I wrote last month:

 [I]t’s worth remembering that when Sanders was considering entering this race, no one — I’d bet not even Sanders himself — thought he had a chance of winning anywhere outside of Vermont and maybe New Hampshire. He was best understood as a protest candidate — a vehicle for voters frustrated with the Democratic Party’s economic centrism to vent a little before casting their ballots for Hillary Clinton in November. If Sanders was lucky, he’d do well enough to force Clinton to move a bit in his direction on an issue here or there.

Bernie Sanders, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Bernie Sanders, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

However, it just so happens that there are a whole lot of those voters currently under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, and Sanders stumbled upon them. These are voters who, in a proportional representation system, would be casting their ballots for the Greens or the Social Democrats, but since they’re stuck in a majoritarian system they are forced to vote for the left-er of the two parties if they hope to gain representation. They would never be able to support Sanders as an independent, because it would amount to de-facto support for the Republican nominee. But they sure as hell can support him in a primary.

These voters usually aren’t comfortable identifying or registering as Democrats, in large part because they don’t feel that the median Democratic politician matches their ideological orientation, but they vote for Democratic candidates in nine out of ten presidential elections. This being the case, some of them are keen on shaping the party they vote for every November to more closely match their politics when given the chance — say, when Bernie Sanders runs a surprisingly competitive campaign to Hillary Clinton’s left.

And again, it doesn’t seem reasonable to lock these voters out of the nominating process before they even knew that their votes could matter.

As Ari Berman wrote in The Nation last week, New York’s partisan affiliation deadline is far from the only problem with its primary campaign rules. The state has no early voting, excuse-only absentee voting and its voter registration deadline (different from its partisan affiliation deadline) is over three weeks before Election Day. What’s more, the state is actually holding primaries on three different days this year — one for president, one for Congress and one for state and local offices. Each of those factors mean that fewer people will vote today than in a counterfactual where one of the bluest states in the country had early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and automatic or same-day voter registration for one day of primary elections.

As Ryan Cooper explains in The Week, you can actually draw a straight line from New York’s lack of competitiveness in statewide elections to its onerous voting procedures. New York has no reason to make voting easy because Democrats don’t need to run up the statewide popular vote. And party elites have an incentive to keep voting difficult because, as Cooper writes, “Mass participation from poor people with a list of expensive demands is not at all what they want. Local unions and other interest groups by nature have the same interest, so as to maximize their own electoral heft.”

So sure, closed primaries may be fine in theory. But New York’s closed primary is, in practice, incredibly difficult to defend as reasonable. If you find yourself arguing that them’s the rules, and Sanders supporters should just get over it, it might be wise to pause and reflect.

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