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Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 07:22
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Why the Haters Fight So Hard to Keep Their Donors Secret

Well, well. Now we know.

head silhouette outline Anti-gay donors to Maine's 2009
referendum were kept secret for six years. In 2009, the Maine legislature passed a law approving marriage rights for same-sex couples and Democratic Governor John Baldacci promptly signed it. Then the law was just as promptly put on ice so that Mainers could have the opportunity to take away what we now know---via the Supreme Court's June Obergefell decision---is a constitutional right. And take it away they did by a 53-47 margin.

(To their credit, voters reversed themselves three years later and Maine became the first state to approve same-sex marriage rights by popular vote---53-47. Civil rights should never be determined that way, but we took the victory and ran.)

One niggling detail about the 2009 campaign has eluded us---namely, just who the hell financed the opposition, which ran such a dirty, dishonest and divisive campaign that even the guy in charge of running the ground game admitted it crossed multiple lines. Back then, donors to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) were shielded from view, but a series of court defeats led to Monday's Big Moment when the names were finally released. Turns out that two-thirds of the funding for the entire campaign came from seven donors---yes, seven---and "all affiliated in some way with a network of national conservative Christian groups."  Only one of the…seven…donors lives in Maine.

Besides hiding the names of their donors, NOM also hid the fact that its tentacles extended deep into the campaign. From yesterday's lead editorial in The Portland Press Herald:

National Organization for Marriage head Maggie Gallagher holds rally in West Virginia. 28 people attended. NOM rallies no longer attract
the crowds they used to. The official campaign organization Stand for Marriage Maine was portrayed as a grass-roots movement headed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and a network of small churches around the state. In reality, most of the work was done by NOM, over the heads of the Maine campaign leaders. According to a report by the state ethics commission, NOM...acted as an illegal pass-through for national money to influence a Maine election without meeting the usual disclosure requirements. So, as the 2009 referendum saga comes to a belated close with same-sex marriage irrevocably in place and NOM---particularly Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown---irrevocably exposed as the deceptive, cellar-dwelling bound-for-hell cockroaches they are, the moral of the story is pretty simple: when it comes to elections and election funding, we need more damn floodlights.

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

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Trump tries to deport Univision's Jorge Ramos

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 06:30

Janell Ross:

The lasting image will be that of Ramos -- who serves as Univision's lead anchor and is effectively one of the (if not the) most powerful newsmen on Spanish-language TV -- being hustled out of the room after trying to ask Trump a question. Ramos, whose nightly newscast has been known to post ratings that top those of all three major English-language network news programs, has a history of holding presidential candidates very close to fire on issues he believes to be of deep concern to Latinos, such as immigration. Trump actually said "Go back to Univision" to Ramos.

Greg Sargent:

The consensus among many of our wisest political observers is that Trump-ism is a real phenomenon, that it’s here to stay for the near future, and that it may pose a real long-term risk to the GOP. In a piece entitled, “Can the Republican Party survive Donald Trump?” Molly Ball reports that GOP donors and strategists are fretting that Trump has exposed the GOP’s “fault lines” on immigration in ways that could do the party untold damage in 2016.

And Time magazine reports that GOP pollster Frank Luntz held a focus group designed to plumb the sources of Trump’s appeal, and left stunned. “You guys understand how significant this is?” Luntz said afterwards. “This is real. I’m having trouble processing it. Like, my legs are shaking.”

So here’s a friendly reminder: this whole Trump mess probably could have been avoided. If Republicans had simply held votes on immigration reform in 2013 or in early 2014, it probably would have passed. That likely would have made it harder for Trump-ism to take hold to the degree it has so far.

Open thread for night owls: Report says anti-ISIS bombing has killed 100s of civilians. U.S. says 2

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 22:00
A large percentage of airstrikes against ISIS are carried out by drones. At The Nation, Sara Rathod writes The Civilian Toll From the War Against ISIS Is Huge. Why Isn’t the Press Covering It?
Eight months ago, on December 28, a warplane from the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS, struck a building in the Syrian town of al-Bab that had been identified as a local headquarters for the militant group. It was just one of over a thousand airstrikes the coalition had launched up to that point. However, this building wasn’t simply a gathering place for militants or a storehouse for weapons. It was also being used as a makeshift prison for local civilians whom ISIS had accused of petty offenses like smoking cigarettes and wearing jeans.

The jail was a symptom of the harsh rule the Islamic State had imposed in early 2014. When ISIS took over the town, in the Aleppo region near the Turkish border, ordinary life gave way to a reign of terror. Executions were regularly carried out in the town square, with the bodies of victims being left out for days, often with signs hanging from their chests stating their alleged crimes. Islamic State members would stop children in the street and ask them if their fathers had gone to prayer. Hundreds of locals were held in prison at any given time.[...]

The prison was leveled, and it was days before the rubble was cleared and all the bodies were extracted and returned to the victims’ families. At least 58 civilians were killed, including a number of teenagers. So far, it is one of the worst mass-casualty incidents attributed to the US-led coalition.

The Pentagon didn’t disclose the airstrike publicly, but a week later, reporters at McClatchy got a tip from one of their partners in Syria. After persistent questioning, the Pentagon admitted it had carried out the attack. McClatchy published a story, backed up by photographic evidence, NGO corroboration, and witness accounts. If it hadn’t been for the doggedness of the McClatchy reporters, the story might not have been reported at all. [...]

As of this month, the US-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria for one year. So far, it has carried out over 5,900 strikes. In that time, the Pentagon has admitted to only two civilian deaths, continually insisting that its precision weapons have minimized civilian fatalities to a remarkable level—too remarkable to be believed. In June, Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, former combined forces air component commander, called the current air war against ISIS “the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare.”

However, in a report published this month, a monitoring group called Airwars has documented at least 459 civilian deaths that it says were likely the result of the coalition bombing campaign—a far cry from the two deaths that have so far been admitted. Each of these incidents has been reported by two or more credible sources and occurred in an area where Airwars confirmed there was a coalition airstrike. Many are backed up by photographs, videos, and biographical information about the victims. The revelation is hardly surprising, given the history of civilian deaths resulting from US-led air campaigns. In the first year of the Iraq War, aerial bombing resulted in over 2,000 deaths. In Afghanistan, over 3,000 civilians were killed in the first year of the aerial campaign. What is most surprising about the bombing of ISIS over the past year is that even after widely reported mass-casualty incidents in those previous wars, major media outlets have been slow to challenge the Pentagon’s unrealistic claims.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008Stupid Republican VP tricks:

Few things are more laughable than Republicans pontificating about vice presidential picks, maybe because their own bench is so weak. On Saturday John McCain strongly praised Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden, describing it as "wise". Meanwhile McCain was releasing an attack ad demanding to know why Obama hadn't chosen Hillary Clinton instead. Which leads me quickly to my thesis: These Republicans are goofballs.

Case in point is Tim Pawlenty. After reciting the threadbare GOP talking points about how disappointed they all are by Obama's selection of Biden, Pawlenty topped the list off with this ornament to stupidity (h/t Matt at Think Progress):

Pawlenty said he believed Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, would have been a better choice for Obama. "He's an outstanding leader and somebody who would better represent the mainstream of the country," Pawlenty said. In other words, to hell with military regulations that prohibit active duty officers from campaigning for or holding partisan political office. To hell as well with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who wrote an open letter this spring reiterating the policy that "the U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways". Tweet of the Day
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Armando and David Waldman’s birthday is today, Aug. 25! Scott Anderson's is Aug. 26! What are the odds?!? Greg Dworkin looks for trouble, finds it everywhere, reveals who is diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. Scott Walker, skating on thin ice, falls on his face, stretching metaphor in process. Obama’s 2nd term shapes 2016 race. Trump shapes it even huger and more classy, but not as a populist. Armando questions the Biden bid. David reviews #BLM’s Campaign Zero. Rosalyn MacGregor reports from MI: Residents get to curse in front of women, Courser situation remains NSFW. Road funding and marijuana still frowned upon. Find us on iTunes | Find us on Stitcher | RSS | Donate to support the show!
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Pennsylvania prosecutors accused of rampant financial and professional misconduct

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 21:00
On Monday, Andrew Novak wrote in the Daily Beast that electing prosecutors has "disastrous consequences for justice." For evidence of such prosecutorial injustice and corruption, you need look no further than the state of Pennsylvania. In the past week alone, two of the state’s most powerful prosecutors, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, have been in serious hot water for what is alleged to be rampant professional misconduct.

Kane, the state’s highest-ranked law enforcement officer, is accused of surreptitiously leaking grand jury testimony to the media to embarrass another prosecutor whom she considered a rival, lying under oath about the leak to the media, and forcing aides to illegally access computer files about the investigation against her.

Such egregious behavior is actually unsurprising. Kane has a history of using her office to intimidate critics and adversaries, and has allegedly both opened investigations out of revenge and dropped serious charges when politically beneficial.

This latest Machiavellian misconduct resulted in nine criminal charges, including perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office, among others. At yesterday’s preliminary hearing, Kane’s lawyer argued against the validity of these charges, but the judge rejected his arguments and ordered Kane to stand trial on all nine counts. She has proclaimed her innocence and refuses to resign, as you can read below.