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'Tech progressivism' on net neutrality a wolf in crony capitalism clothing

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 13:35
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler (C) greets commissioners Mignon Clyburn (L) and Jessica Rosenworcel at the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. The FCC is expected Thursday to approve Chairman Tom Wheele These three FCC Commissioners are clearly rabble, too. There's a "think tank" called the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). They recently had an event in D.C. to denigrate what they're calling "tech populism." They mean us by that, all the millions of users of the internet who had the temerity to contact the FCC and tell them what we thought about net neutrality. They say that we're grubby populists in contrast to what they represent, "tech progressivism." By that they mean being a think tank funded in part by the telecom industry who should be deciding for us on issues as critical as net neutrality. Free Press's Tim Karr has the details.
Tech populism threatens innovation and the economy, argued ITIF President Robert Atkinson in his opening comments. Its practitioners, Atkinson said, are "emotional" and "self-interested." Reason and the "benefits of progress," on the other hand, motivate tech progressivism—which is really just another name for the cozy alliance between the corporations and government that had written tech policy for decades. […]

According to Atkinson and his colleagues, the public should trust that this insular process will lead to policies that serve all of our interests. Rather than engaging, people should just sit back and wait for the corporate-government pact to bestow its benevolent dictates upon us.

In this backwards equation, Atkinson casts newly engaged Internet users as straw men. We tech populists rely on mob rule and a distrust of authority, he claims. It's the enlightened few, tech progressives like Atkinson and his corporate cronies, who must intervene in tech policy before we do any more damage.

The net neutrality victory we had with the Federal Communications Commission this winter has these folks alarmed, particularly as it follows a second, massive victory by the people who use the internet—when we killed SOPA/PIPA, the online piracy bills that would have shut down enormous amounts of content on the internet.

You see, for these "tech progressives," democracy in tech policy is a bad thing. We shouldn't have so much influence with our elected representatives or with the agencies regulating things like the internet and which ask for public opinion when they devise those regulations. In fact, Atkinson says, our desire to have a say in how our government regulates the industry that we pay money to every month so we can use the internet is "extremely toxic to practical policy debates."

We're rabble, in other words. Toxic rabble. We should be grateful to our technology lords for providing us the crumbs of broadband speeds slower than in Latvia or Romania and eleven other countries. Because our ingratitude in asking for an open internet is stifling innovation. Clearly. Look out how much innovation we got before the FCC ruled on net neutrality. Fourteenth place in the world in broadband performance.

But what do we mere internet denizens know about important stuff like keeping the internet open and operating. We're just rabble.

Keep up the rabble rousing. You won net neutrality. Now, are you ready to defend it? Call the congressional committees working to defeat us.

Hard-right Heritage Foundation will be scoring GOP presidential candidates

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 13:28
U.S. Republican presidential candidates gather before the start of their debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011. They are (from L to R) Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. REUTER If you thought 2012 was silly, buckle in. Yessssss.
The political arm of The Heritage Foundation — the prominent conservative think tank — plans to release detailed evaluations of all the presidential candidates for the first time this September, POLITICO has learned, and it hasn’t ruled out endorsing a candidate during the Republican primary.

[Some dude in charge]'s pleased that the first three Republican senators to announce their bids — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — are all allies of the 501(c)(4) group. Rubio, for instance, will visit Heritage’s offices at noon Wednesday to speak about his tax plan.

The good news is that Heritage has become a den of premium crackpotism, as evidenced by their decision to put ex-Senator and notable crazy person Jim DeMint in charge of the place a while back, and they won't be held back by petty concerns like whether any of the candidates are secretly five possums tied together and stuffed into a suit. On the contrary, the only way to snag the coveted Heritage endorsement will be to out-rightward every other person in the race, and in an early primary season that already tends to reward extremist rhetoric having Heritage Action there to whip would-be centrists back into line will do none of them any favors.
Heritage Action wants to encourage GOP presidential candidates to stake out potentially controversial terrain when their strategists want them to play it safe.

“We need to prove that it’s actually our solutions, not hers, that can provide opportunity for all and favoritism to none,” he said. “Just because talking about the Laffer curve worked in the 1980s, we can’t be a party that just continually talks about the Laffer curve.”

No sir. You've also got to talk about brown people, and why we need more handguns these days. And why Jesus hates gay people, and why "freedom" means making sure the wommenfolk don't get certain pills.

So that'll be a thing. Probably not welcome news for anyone who still harbors hope that our political theater might get slightly less insane, one of these days, but a bright day for circus aficionados.

Workers hit the streets in 200 cities in fight for $15

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 12:58
A protester demonstrates for higher wages in the Brooklyn borough of New York City April 15, 2015. U.S. fast food workers fighting for better wages enlisted students, healthcare workers and racial justice activists to swell the ranks of rallies set for Wednesday in 230 cities. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTR4XFNN Low-wage workers in around 200 cities across the country are holding the biggest-yet day of action in their Fight for $15 campaign today. What started as fast food workers in one city in November 2012 has spread to home care and child care workers, retail, adjunct professors, and more, with ever-growing numbers of participants and scattered reports of stores closed by the strike, at least temporarily.

This organizing comes against a backdrop of stagnating wages and skyrocketing unemployment, along with lower wages for a more educated population of low-wage workers than prevailed in the United States in 1968. As many as half of workers in some low-wage industries are receiving some form of public assistance. Workers tell stories of struggling to pay rent and arrange child care, and even face sleep inequality. And the organizing is having an effect. Walmart and McDonald's and other major chains might not admit it, but their recently announced wage increases are due to pressure from workers—and an effort to shut down further organizing. In the McDonald's case, it's also a blatant PR move, giving just a small fraction of workers a raise. But workers aren't falling for it. Anthony Fambrough, an Atlanta-area McDonald's worker, writes that:

... the raise would not apply to me or any of the 90 percent of McDonald’s workers at franchised stores.

I work hard every day wearing a McDonald’s uniform. There’s no question that I work for McDonald’s, and seeing this protest touched a nerve: If the company will do anything to deny me a raise — even pretending that I don’t work for the company in the first place — then how much longer could I stay quiet if I wanted any hope of support myself and providing for my family one day?

Beyond those inadequate, PR-driven raises, the fight for $15 has had an effect on policy, pushing state and local minimum wage increases beyond the $10.10 congressional Democrats had been pushing—itself a number that was seen as politically implausible just a couple years ago. So while McDonald's workers are unlikely to be unionized any time soon, and Walmart isn't sitting down at the bargaining table with its workers, this fight is making a difference. If nothing else, it's raising the floor, changing our sense of what's possible, and, by reaching across the country and across industries, creating some of that old-fashioned notion of solidarity.

Hillary hits populist notes in Iowa

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 12:34
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with local residents as she campaigns at the Jones Street Java House in LeClaire, Iowa April 14, 2015. Clinton, who announced on Sunday that she is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, drove to Iowa to begin campaigning for president. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTR4XB8D Hillary Clinton at a coffee shop in LeClaire, Iowa Hillary Clinton began her campaign tour Tuesday with a considerably low profile in Iowa, talking to a roundtable of about 20 students at a community college while 60 reporters looked on. Clinton seems to be embracing the populist messaging that Elizabeth Warren has popularized. Jennifer Jacobs reports:
Clinton hit on points that catered to the liberal base in Iowa, saying the economy has improved, but "it's fair to say the deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top. There's something wrong with that. There's something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker.

"There's something wrong when American workers keep getting more productive, as they have, and as I just saw a few minutes ago is very possible because of education and skills training, but that productivity is not matched in their paychecks," said Clinton who took a tour of the college.

"And there's something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days," she said. "There's something wrong when students and their families have to go deeply into debt to be able to get the education and skills they need in order to make the best of their own lives."

This is the Clinton we like to see—touching on themes the progressive base is hungry to hear about. It's also a good venue for her, probably better than the big arenas that were the order of the day in 2008. In 2000, when Clinton was a transplant to New York, she managed to win her Senate seat by going on a listening tour. New York City may not have been a tough sell for her as a politician, but the more conservative regions of upstate New York certainly were and Clinton won them over.

Whether she can recreate that type of retail politics with a circus of reporters whizzing around her is still in question. But Tuesday seemed a good start.

Senate will vote on fake compromise on anti-abortion human trafficking bill

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 12:20
Super committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks to reporters as she arrives for a meeting in the Capitol in Washington November 18, 2011. The special congressional committee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over Sen. Patty Murray, calling bullshit when she sees it. Before the Senate left for its two-week vacation, Mitch McConnell was busy trying to embarrass Democrats by making them vote over and over on his anti-abortion human trafficking bill. What does preventing abortion have to do with ending human trafficking—especially sex trafficking of young women? Everything, if you're a Republican. Remember, too, that McConnell is holding Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote hostage to this completely unrelated legislation. McConnell has scheduled another vote on the issue for Thursday, with a completely bullshit amendment from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that they're going to try to sell as a compromise.

Here's the issue: the legislation includes anti-abortion language, saying that victims—VICTIMS—of sex trafficking can't have abortions paid for out of the victim compensation fund set up in the law, extending the Hyde amendment anti-abortion funding language to this program. Here's the problem—the Hyde funding prohibition has only ever been on the use of taxpayer dollars, the revenue that comes into the federal government when we pay taxes, to pay for abortions. Cornyn's "compromise" is basically to launder the money and lie and say it's the same thing as taxpayers' money.

Under the Texas Republican’s amendment, money in the victims fund would have to be transferred directly from the General Treasury Fund. Money from criminal fines will be then deposited into the General Treasury to offset the withdrawal.

Cornyn added Tuesday, “All money in the domestic trafficking victims fund must be derived from the general treasury, the routine and ordinary source for all federal funding."

He said that means the abortion restrictions would only be placed on money from the general treasury, and not from criminal fines.

Democrats aren't buying this accounting gimmick.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Democrats refuse to include it on principle.

"We will not accept language that simply hides the Hyde," said Murray in a Tuesday press conference. "That is a non-starter for all of us."

That would be because it's bullshit. But what else would McConnell's Senate be doing?

Critics of Obama's Cuba moves have a lot of brass given past U.S. policies in Latin America

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 11:45
President George H.W. Bush shakes hands in 1990 with a product of U.S. Latin American policy, Augusto Pinochet, the one-time fascist dictator of Chile who continued to wield influence even as the nation moved toward democracy. President George H.W. Bush shakes hands in 1990 with a product of U.S. Latin American policy,
Augusto Pinochet, the one-time fascist dictator of Chile who continued to wield massive influence
even as the nation moved toward democracy. President Obama's decision to take Cuba off the "state sponsors of terrorism" list is a welcome if belated move, something that should have happened long before he became president. It's another step on the way to normalizing relations, a change that will soon mean an exchange of embassies between the two nations. Despite his attempt to make himself the voice of youth in his quest for the presidency, in his opposition to Obama's move, Cuban-American Marco Rubio speaks not for his own generation but rather the hoary policies of the past.

Cuba was placed on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1982. Quite ironic given U.S. policy in Latin America at the time. Washington, in fact, should have included the U.S at the top of its own list of state sponsors of terror.

Said Geoff Thale, the Director of Programs at the Washington Office on Latin America:

“Taking Cuba off the list of terrorist states is a sensible, and long overdue step. Whatever U.S. and Cuban differences, the Cuban government has not been a supporter of terrorism. Taking Cuba off the list will remove an unnecessary irritant in the relationship, and perhaps allow us to discuss the real differences we do have in a more serious way. [...]

“This decision aligns U.S. policies with the realities of today, and it communicates a new approach to the whole region. This announcement paves the way for additional changes in the process of normalizing relations with Cuba.”

The section on Cuba in the State Department's 2013 report on terrorism is quite short. Among its few paragraphs are the key words: "There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups."

Follow me below the fold for more analysis.

The police shooting video Chicago has paid $5 million for us not to see

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 11:36
Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago Police Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police On October 20, 2014, something so egregious, so awful, so unjust took place on the streets of Chicago that the city, already in a deep deficit, is paying a family $5 million for us to never see evidence of. On that night, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, surrounded by officers who were waiting for a Taser, was shot 16 times.

It was filmed on a dash cam, but for the past six months, Chicago has done everything in its power to keep that video private. Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, the family attorney, Michael Robbins, said:

“I certainly expect that the officer will be indicted, and not just the officer, but any officer, supervisor or lieutenant who took part in covering this up and justifying what cannot be justified. This was an execution of a young man that should have been— and could have been—avoided." After the shooting, a spokesman for the police stated that Laquan lunged at the officers and caused them to fear for their lives, but the family and everyone who has seen the video insists Laquan was doing quite the opposite, and was slowly walking away when one single officer hit him with 16 different shots all over his body. Otherwise, if the video showed a brave officer in imminent danger, it's highly unlikely a grieving family would be about to receive one of the largest settlements in the history of Chicago.

The FBI is now investigating the case as well.

Here's the thing: the family deserves a settlement. However, they don't own that dash cam video—it belongs to the public and should be released in the interest of public safety. These videos cannot and should not be used as some form of a bargaining chip with victims and their families. They are public property, filmed with equipment funded by taxpayers.

The video needs to be released immediately and the officer involved must face real disciplinary action.

Harry Reid not impressed with bunch of 'losers' running for GOP nomination

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:50
Screenshot of Harry Reid in NBC News interview with John Harwood, 4/14/2015 Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) continues to make the most out of his upcoming retirement. He just doesn't need to pull any punches anymore, and Harry Reid unleashed might be the best thing to happen to politics in a long time.

His summation of the Republican field of presidential contenders.

"I don't really care," he said, when asked about the GOP field. "I think they're all losers." On Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's writing to governors and telling them that they didn't have to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's climate regulations:
"I don't criticize McConnell for doing that," Reid said. "He comes from a coal state. I don't mean to be mean spirited, but he is a lump of coal. He believes that coal is the salvation of the world. I don't believe that." On Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) notoriously bad temper:
"It wasn’t long ago he came to me on the Senate floor, and he said, 'What you just did, I'm going to come to the floor and kick the s--- out of you,'" Reid said.

"And I said to him, 'John, if I were in your position I would do the same thing.'"

Yeah, I bet he did. Keep talking, Harry. We need this.

Here's the whole delightful interview with NBC's John Harwood.

Actually, Marco Rubio, 1999 was a pretty good year

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:30
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 5, 2012.  REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) Which is why our guy is still allowed out in public. While we were all raising our eyebrows at Marco Rubio's campaign-speech description of the 1990s as a sort of prehistoric before-times, a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we paid our taxes with sticks and pebbles, we missed out on mocking Rubio for far more concrete reasons.
“Too many leaders” are “busy looking backwards,” the Florida Republican said.

“So they do not see how jobs and prosperity today depend on our ability to … compete in a global economy. And so our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing and borrowing and regulating like it was 1999.”

The problem with the senator’s statement is that the government is neither taxing, nor borrowing, nor regulating like it did in 1999. In fact, in 1999 there was a surplus, shrinking the debt owned by the public.

Yes, I do remember that. Candidate George W. Bush was very miffed by the surplus, and campaigned on the notion of lowering taxes for rich people so such a monstrous thing would never happen again.
As for regulating, 1999 was notable in part for repealing key sections of the Glass-Steagall Act. He's got us there. We began the new millennium kissing Wall Street's collective posterior, and fifteen years later all government policy continues to revolve around doing the same thing. What could go wrong? Again, I mean?

Head below the fold to find out.

Boehner finally replaces GOP rebels who voted against his leadership

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:00
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to reporters at a news conference following a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4KFIN Speaker John Boehner is finally putting that terrible episode of the bungled leadership vote behind him by replacing the insurgents that he booted from the all powerful House Rules Committee. Cristina Marcos reports:
The Speaker is filling the two empty seats on the panel with Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), the committee announced Tuesday. 

The slots had been vacant since January, when Florida Republican Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent received notification that they had been kicked off the committee, apparently in retribution for voting against Boehner for Speaker.

Webster ran as a long-shot candidate for Speaker and won votes from 12 fellow Republicans, including from Nugent.

Sure hope those 12 votes felt good.

The 25 Republicans who voted against Boehner in January not only earned the speaker's enmity, they also significantly weakened his leadership capacity. Boehner suffered multiple vote failures early on and finally had to rely on Democrats for a crucial bid to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded.

Finally replacing Webster and Nugent may or may not mark a turning point for Boehner on whether he will continue to kowtow to the House crazies or rein them in. Since the Homeland Security fiasco, Boehner actually worked with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to end the perennial headache of having to vote to increase reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients (the so-called "doc fix").

Not that we're expecting a series of great legislative wins from ol' water works. But the opportunity is there if he wants to take it to pass some things that might actually reach the president's desk and become law. Or Boehner can continue to wile away the hours on the taxpayer's dime voting on things like repealing the estate tax, which Obama will never sign.

Senate fixes the 'doc fix,' Medicare doctors will get paid

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 08:45
(L-R) U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) lock arms and sing The Senate had until midnight on Tuesday to prevent a 21 percent cut to physician payments in the Medicare program, and they skated nearly up to that deadline, ensuring that no amendments would be made to the legislation because that would have required the House take it up again, and the deadline would have been missed. But they passed it, 92-8, rejecting six amendments.
The bill would repeal the current Medicare payment formula for doctors and replace it with one that would increase payments to doctors by one-half of 1% every year through 2019. After that, doctors would receive bonuses or penalties depending on performance scores from the government. Their scores would be based on the value of the care they provide rather than on the volume of patients they see.

Medicare recipients with incomes of more than $85,000 a year would be required to pay higher Medicare Part B premiums starting in 2018.

Among the presidential candidates voting, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was a yes, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were noes. Because freedom. Or deficits. Same thing in the Republican brain.

There's much good and some bad here. The best is that a hostage has been permanently released by the Republicans. The "doc fix" has been voted on something like 17 times since 2003, and in the past several years has been one of those must-pass bills (must-pass because Medicare doctors kept threatening to stop taking Medicare patients if they were hit with the big payment cuts the old formula kicked in) that Republicans used in their various brinksmanship games. That's gone, and the annual and sometimes bi-annual freak-out that physicians' groups and senior groups have had to go through is now over. Also good is two years of Children's Health Insurance Program funding granted rather painlessly, though the four-year extension Senate Democrats were pushing for (it was one of their amendments) would have been better.

Not so good, the anti-abortion Hyde amendment language has wormed its way into a new place, in community health center funding included in the bill. The federal funding prohibition on abortions already applied here, and community health centers don't provide abortions anyway, so it's redundant and unnecessary but is now ensconced in one more place. Also not so good—it continues the sneaking means-testing for Medicare, making it more okay for wealthier seniors to be hit harder in their premium payments. All part of the Republican plan to keep eroding the popularity of the program, one senior at a time.

President Obama will quickly sign it and the Congress will quickly devolve back into a body that doesn't do much of anything other than pointless, political-point-making grandstanding.

Republicans fight to give 5,400 multimillionaires a tax break

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 08:37
Donald Trump arrives for the premiere of the film A tax break for the Donald Trumps. It's tax time, which means Republicans are setting up a bunch of BS tax-related votes to show that they rilly rilly like totally hate taxes. Especially the ones on rich people. So naturally, repealing the estate tax is a top Republican priority. The good news is, Democrats seem happy to have this fight. And why wouldn't they be?
Under current law, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 5,400 estates will have to deal with the tax over the next several years, out of the well over 2 million deaths that occur annually.

That’s because individuals with estates valued at less than $5.43 million this year, and married couples with estates worth less than $10.86 million, are exempt. The 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal set the current parameters, which also include a 40 percent rate and linking the exemption parameters to inflation.

That's not a whole lot of people facing the estate tax, and the ones who do are pretty damn rich. Republicans like to wail about the poor family farmers and small business owners who will be hit by the tax, but I don't think most of us think $5.43 million is all that small. What's more:
Only roughly 20 small business and small farm estates nationwide owed any estate tax in 2013, according to [the Tax Policy Center]. TPC’s analysis defined a small-business or small farm estate as one with more than half its value in a farm or business and with the farm or business assets valued at less than $5 million.  Furthermore, TPC estimates those roughly 20 estates owed just 4.9 percent of their value in tax, on average. [...]

Furthermore, special estate tax provisions — such as the option to spread payments over a 15-year period and at low interest rates — allow the few taxable estates that would face any liquidity constraints to pay the tax without selling off any farm assets.

But Republicans want to give up $270 billion in revenue over the next decade to protect a few thousand rich people, including around 20 who could be defined as family farmers or small business owners, each year.

Sign and send the petition to your member of Congress: Do not repeal the estate tax.

Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 07:30
Daily Kos Radio logo Joan McCarter is due back with us, and it's actually a busy week in Congress, so there may be plenty to cover on the DC beat. Even though she's in Idaho, and I'm practically in DC.

We still haven't really talked about Hillary Clinton, either. And, well, if we don't get to it today, either, she's running for president. So now you know.

That about covers it!

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

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Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

Man shoots at armadillo, hits mother in-law! Not the armadillo's mother in-law. His! Greg Dworkin rounds up the news on 2016's latest official entrant, Marco Rubio, and how he stacks up against all the others. A nice peek at GunFAIL in mic.com. One IL county wants to bill Aaron Schock for the cost of the special election to replace him. The more money you make, the more sleep you get. In light of all the Civil War anniversaries being marked, "Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta," a piece in many ways as relevant to today's politics as to that of yesteryear.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 07:17
C&J Banner

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE

Brilliant Assessment, Guys

I love pulling this column out of mothballs every year.  Six years ago today a gaggle of retired military brass---three generals and an admiral---wrote a column they probably now regret and got it published in The Washington Post. Its title: Gays and the Military: A Bad Fit. Their bold prediction, based on decades of honing their analytical skills to a fine point:

With the nation engaged in two wars and facing a number of potential adversaries, this is no time to weaken our military. Yet if gay rights activists and their allies have their way, grave harm will soon be inflicted on our all-volunteer force. President Obama signs the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy 2010: Obama's vaporizes DADT. Facts are facts, they said. So they fired up their rhetorical flame throwers and cleared a 778-word path to make America's military safe for heteros. Lift "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," they said, and it would destroy unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and "impact leadership at all echelons." And for good measure, they also warned that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would "break the All-Volunteer Force."

I'm sure retired General James J. Lindsay, Admiral Jerome Johnson, Lt. General E.G. "Buck" Shuler Jr. and General Joseph J. Went---and all their right-wing allies who supported them with religious argle bargle and junk science---are just as sorry as sorry can be for getting it so spectacularly wrong. I consider that column to be their Pickett's charge.

Not that there isn’t still work to do to achieve full equality in our Armed Forces. Transgender servicemembers---an estimated 15,000+ now serving---are still getting kicked out, although there seems to be movement in the right direction towards updating arcane policies. And same-sex couples still have to deal with "pockets of second-class citizen status."

The lifting of DADT is just one milestone of the Obama years that has led to a sea change in public acceptance of LGBT Americans. And it's just one more example of how the right always...always...gets it wrong.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: The Club for Growth has found their man in Florida

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 07:00
Senator David Vitter (R-LA) (L) and Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington to Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis (right) with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter Leading Off:

FL-Sen: No Republicans have entered the race to succeed presidential candidate Marco Rubio yet, but several are positioning themselves for the long contest. Rep. Ron DeSantis sounds like he's the most eager to jump in, and he said on Tuesday that he'll make a decision over the next few weeks. But several major conservative groups are making it known early that the tea party friendly DeSantis is their man. The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and the Tea Party Express have all issued glowing statements about DeSantis' prospective campaign, and their support could make a real difference in what will be an expensive primary.

Several other Republicans are taking steps towards running as well. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has said little publicly other than offering May 1 as the earliest date he'll decide, but behind-the-scenes it sounds like he's ready to go. His allies tell the National Journal that he's "95 percent there," and Gov. Rick Scott is likely to support him. Rubio, an old friend of Lopez-Cantera, is also expected to give him at least some quiet support, though it's possible he'll outright endorse him.

Rep. David Jolly's name recently emerged as a prospective candidate, and he confirmed his interest on Tuesday. Jolly says he won't decide until after his wedding around June or July. Jolly won a tough 2014 special election, and he'll start with good name recognition in the swingy Tampa Bay area. However, as one of the few congressional Republicans to support same-sex marriage, Jolly might have a problem winning over conservative primary voters. The NRCC would also prefer not to defend an open Obama 50-49 seat, and he'll likely be pressured to stay in the House.

Plenty of other Republicans covert Rubio's Senate seat. Wealthy Rep. Tom Rooney is set to meet with the NRSC about a possible bid on Thursday, while Rep. Vern Buchanan, former Sen. George LeMieux, and state Senate President Don Gaetz have all expressed interest. Former state House Speaker Will Weatherford hasn't ruled anything out either, though he doesn't sound excited about it. But Weatherford's leadership in the legislature won him plaudits among Republican establishment types, and he'll definitely be encouraged to try. Rep. Dennis Ross is also reportedly interested, though Ross has yet to say anything. Whoever eventually emerges from the GOP primary is expected to take on Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has a reputation as a tough campaigner, though Rep. Alan Grayson is also talking about jumping in.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Hillary is not inevitable, but she is the favorite

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:30

Eugene Robinson:

That was quick. Strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and cue the balloon drop. Better yet, Democrats could skip the whole primaries-and-convention thing and let Hillary Clinton get to work on picking a running mate.

Barring the political equivalent of an asteroid strike, it’s over. The slick video Clinton released Sunday was both campaign announcement and acceptance speech. I’m tempted to say the Democratic presidential nomination is hers to lose, but I have trouble imagining any plausible way she could lose it.

Jonathan Chait: Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate.

Of course, not everybody who follows politics professionally believes this. Many pundits feel the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections has disappeared, or never existed. “The 2016 campaign is starting on level ground,” argues David Brooks, echoing a similar analysis by John Judis. But the evidence for this is quite slim, and a closer look suggests instead that something serious would have to change in order to prevent a Clinton victory. Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite:

...

The argument for Clinton is that she's the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics.

Here's the current Oddschecker, with Hillary in the lead (use this converter for implied probability. Hillary's 11/10 odds is at 47.6%, Jeb's at 22%, Rubio's 8%) and Marco Rubio leading Scott Walker.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Open thread for night owls. Steve Gilliard on our culture of fear

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 22:00
Steve Gilliard was one of the original "front pagers" at Daily Kos, chosen by Markos to write regularly in the days when the "front page" was all there was at the site.

Steve was an iconoclast who didn't put up with bullshit whether it came from his workmates or the White House. He was a terse, direct, superfast writer. And he wrote—forensically—about everything: finance, politics, sports and fabulous pieces about food. After a stint at Daily Kos, he started his own blog where he published until he died of heart and kidney problems on June 2, 2007. He was 42. Markos wrote a eulogy for him here.

He wrote this piece, Culture of Fear, a dozen years ago on April 14, 2003. We haven't forgotten you, Steve.

Steve Gilliard The fear created by 9/11 has already cost the lives of several Iraqi women and children. The car bomber has managed to turn the US troops deeply suspicious of the Iraqis, who were actually grateful Saddam has been set running.

Having lived through 9/11, and believe me, there is nothing like seeing an F-15 fly over Central Park at 3,000 feet armed, I'm mystified at the sense of fear which has gripped this country. The whole freedom fries debacle and the boycott of French food is not a rational reaction.

Americans have simply refused to come to grips with two things: one, the intense hatred for our policies around the world, only made more intense by the Iraq war, two, the paranoia which has swept across suburban America. The whole idea of plastic sheeting and duct tape was as logical as duck and cover and a future generation will laugh heartily at images of Tom Ridge telling us to buy things most people would have under their kitchen sink.

Dr. Phil was talking to some suburban woman frightened to death of terrorism and I had to laugh. I have friends who survived 9/11, there isn't a firehouse which didn't lose a member that day, I smelled the burning remains of human beings for days, living five miles away from WTC, my friend swept "ash"—really human remains and paper—from her apartment for days, since, at the time she lived in downtown Brooklyn. We are all getting on with our lives. No Al Qaeda team is coming to wreak havoc on her subdivision.

It was a horrible day, and unless you actually went in the buildings, you have no idea how horrible to see a place you know, you've eaten and shopped in, turned into a hunk of twisted metal. But no one I know lives in dire fear of terrorism. And they still order french fries. Excuse me, am I supposed to drink Bulgarian rot gut to prove my patriotism? I'm a beer drinker by inclination, but I'm certainly not going to pass on drinking chardonnay because of foreign policy issues? You don't get a free picture of Saddam with every bottle of wine.

We are exapanding a culture of fear in the US and it plays on the increasing inability of Americans to accept risk of any sort. We hide our children from strangers when child stranger abduction is a rarity. Most kids are stolen by relatives from other relatives. Every bottle is sealed, every playground covered by rubber matting.

This fetish of "supporting the troops" is a cynical exercise at best. Supporting them with higher salaries, better housing and maintaining veteran's benefits is impossible, but you can send them handiwipes. You can hold rallies for them where you encourage warmongering, but jobs? Nah, they don't need jobs. Let them deliver Dominos pizza for extra money. Let them buy cars they can't afford and take their monthly pay for a hooptie. That's how Americans really support the troops. Two months from now, the only people who will care about or troops in Iraq are their spouses, relatives and siblings.

The "concern" for the troops is really just another thing to worry about. Which is why Bush is able to use them for a photo op while they lay in hospital beds at Walter Reed and Bethesda. Our poor troops are in danger, we have to support them. Why they were placed in this danger and the resentment that their presence in Iraq causes is never to be be questioned, unless you want to be deemed unpatriotic. A support our troops rally turned into a turgid GOP booster rally, complete with construction workers playing the role of all-American yahoo. Bush and Rove cynically use their sacrifice to stifle a long needed debate on not just Iraq, but on the overall failure of US foreign policy.

As long as you're focused on 19 year old privates you would normally sneer at if they screwed up your food order, you won't ask about the wreckage of Bush foreign policy decisions.
Their disgustingly inappropriate use of 9/11 will, in the end, cause a backlash. People will eventually realize that the President and his advisors played us. They used a true tragedy and what should have been a turning point not only in policy, but our culture, that we live in a truly interconnected world, has instead turned into the rationalization for even more fear and isolation.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005Lott wants back in the leadership:

Our favorite segregationist bigot is marshalling his forces for another run at the GOP Senate leadership.

Trent Lott is reminiscing with supporters at the Rocky Creek Catfish Cottage, recalling the goat barbecues and Jaycee meetings that marked his first House campaign 33 years ago. But the senator draws the biggest whoops when he mentions the "little bump in the road" he hit in December 2002, when his return to the position of Senate majority leader was scuttled by what some saw as nostalgic words about segregation.

All Washington thought he was finished. "But they don't know us as Mississippians," Lott chortles as heads nod around the dining room. "You get back up on it and you ride again." [...]

Lott does little to discourage speculation that he might make another run at a leadership job. "If the right circumstances came along, I might do it again," he said. Lott said he finds Senate whip the most appealing post, because the whip is in the thick of everything but "doesn't have to make every damn decision," as Lott puts it. [...]

Tweet of the Day So the DEA spying on your phone calls gets a big yawn, but a few agents make sexy time & there's a bipartisan investigation? #priorities
@SandiBehrns
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Man shoots at armadillo, hits mother in-law! Not the armadillo's mother in-law. His! Greg Dworkin rounds up the news on 2016's latest official entrant, Marco Rubio, and how he stacks up against all the others. A nice peek at GunFAIL in mic.com. One IL county wants to bill Aaron Schock for the cost of the special election to replace him. The more money you make, the more sleep you get. In light of all the Civil War anniversaries being marked, "Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta," a piece in many ways as relevant to today's politics as to that of yesteryear.

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West coast 'blob' may be to blame for drought and cold

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 19:15
A "blob" of warm water has been contributing to the weird weather, producing effects similar to what climate change brings. Click image for full story at Tech Times Beware the blob! Yes, scientists say a "blob" of warm water off the west coast may be to blame for California's persistent drought and could be a symptom of the same weather pattern that dumped record snow on the east coast this past winter: By April this year, the blob has been located off Washington's shores, squished against the coast while extending 1,000 miles offshore between Mexico and Alaska. According to Bond, weather models are indicating that the blob will continue until at least the end of 2015.

A paper authored by Meghan Cronin, Nate Mantua and Howard Freeland explored the origins of the blob, finding that the water mass is related to the persistent ridge of high pressure that led to calmer oceans during the past two winters where not as much heat was lost to the cold air above. This means that the warmer winter being experienced has nothing to do with more heating but less cooling.

For now there is no clear consensus that the blob is a consequence of climate change. But the most recent analysis of the high desert southwest suggest the western drought and warmer winters may be connected with the volatility of the shifting jet stream that periodically dipped low and south over the US East Coast earlier this year, causing that memorable cold, wet weather a lot of east coasters would like to forget. See Steven D's diary for more on that climate change connection.

Senate Foreign Relations panel okays watered-down Iran nuclear review bill in 19-0 vote

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 17:23
Bob Corker Sen. Bob Corker answers reporters' questions Tuesday. The unanimous vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday in support of an amended bill authorizing a congressional review of any agreement with Iran over its nuclear program doesn't mean conflict between the White House and foes of such an agreement has ended. Assuming the bill passes the full Senate and the House of Representatives, it's only a truce likely to end once the parameters of the agreement are announced. That is supposed to happen by June 30.

But while the domestic fight over any deal with Iran is not over, this was a clear White House victory.  Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker report:

While Mr. Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, the president decided the new proposal put together by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was acceptable.

“What we have made clear to Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is that the president would be willing to sign the proposed compromise that is working its way through the committee today,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.

Administration officials have argued all along that Congress has no authority to approve or reject an agreement. All it can do, they say, is vote for or against lifting sanctions.

More analysis can be found below the fold.