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Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Daily Drift

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If It Were Just About The Issues, Bernie Sanders Would Win In A Landslide

If It Were Just About The Issues, Bernie Sanders Would Win In A Landslide
Is it possible that he could be a true crossover candidate and even attract Republicans? If issues are on the table, polls say yes.

Democratic Led Minnesota Senate Approves Expanding Early Voting And Voting Rights

Say no to vote suppression
On a 39-28 party-line vote, the Democratic-controlled Minnesota State Senate approved a bill expanding voting rights for residents on Monday. The measure, sponsored by Democrat Katie Sieben (Newport), would extend early voting to 15 days before an election, expand mail-in balloting to small communities, and permit convicted felons to vote immediately after they are released from prison.
Democrats argued that changing the law would not only make it easier for Minnesotans to vote, but also that the provisions of the bill would save the state money as well. Republicans, however, were unpersuaded and they refused to support the measure. Nevertheless, the bill sailed through the Democratic-controlled Senate though its fate remains unclear.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has intimated that he would prefer to sign a bi-partisan election bill, but Republicans appear unwilling to support any changes that would make it easier for Minnesota residents to vote. Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in the nation in both the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections. In 2012, 76.1 percent of Minnesota’s voting eligible population cast ballots. In 2008, 79 percent voted. The state allows same-day registration, which makes voting easier than in states that have an earlier registration deadline.
Even with the highest turnout in the country, Minnesota Democrats are working to make the process even easier for residents, especially those in small towns. They are also working to extend the franchise to recently released felons who have served their time in prison. That provision is known as the “North Dakota model,” because Minnesota’s next door neighbor, North Dakota, allows felons to vote immediately upon being released from prison.  A dozen other U.S. states besides North Dakota also allow newly released felons to vote.
Republicans offer many reasons why they oppose making voting easier, but the most obvious reason is a political one. In 2012, Barack Obama carried 17 of the 20 states that had the highest voter turnout. When people vote in large numbers, Democrats typically do well. Minnesota Democrats are helping their cause by making voting easier. However, they are also doing it because, in a democratic society, voting participation is an essential element of representative government.
There is no reason to make voting difficult if you trust the will of the people. Minnesota Democrats apparently trust the will of the people, while Republicans would rather make it more difficult for people to vote. Given the policies they advocate, it isn’t hard to figure out why.

Vermont Passes Major New Progressive Voting Reform

Ohio Republicans’ Diabolical Plan For A Poll Tax

No Money, No Vote

Reckless Republicans Respond To Deadly Derailment With More Proposed Cuts To Amtrak

amtrak derailment
As President Obama expresses shock and grief over the tragic Amtrak derailment that left 6 dead and 200 hospitalized according to hospital officials, even Republicans don’t have faith that their own party will deal with the impending transportation funding bill responsibly.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, according to a tweet by Oliver Knox, that he will be stunned if Republicans deal with the highway trust fund responsibly:
As hundreds of people are being treated for injuries, the Republican led House Appropriations Committee is meeting to discuss cutting Amtrak’s budget by $251 million. President Obama asked for $2.5 billion in funding, but Republicans responded with a budget that calls for $1.1 billion.
Republicans have had it out for Amtrak for a long time, refusing to pass President Obama’s expansion of the rail service through the stimulus and defunding it at every turn.
In September of 2014, the House voted to cut Amtrak’s authorization for new construction spending by 40%, and they claimed it was bipartisan because they wanted to cut Amtrak funding all together and privatize it:
The measure, which was passed on a voice vote with little debate, would reduce Amtrak’s authorized spending level for new construction from approximately $1.3 billion per year under the last Amtrak funding measure to about $770 million annually beginning next year.
Republicans and Democrats on the panel said the measure was bipartisan, despite the construction budget cut, because it does not go as far as previous GOP efforts to completely eliminate Amtrak’s federal funding and privatize its profitable Northeast routes.
Republicans said the new measure would keep funding levels in line for the company while forcing them to streamline their operations when it came to construction.
So Republicans cut the funding from the usual estimated 1 billion and now they will decry any suggestion that maintenance and security require funding (see Benghazi). But not all Republicans are on board with their party.
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) called for a boost to funding for Amtrak on CNN Wednesday morning, citing safety concerns of his constituents, “If we’re not investing in our safety for the Northeast Corridor, we’re not doing what we should be doing down here. We need to continue to invest in our passenger rail system.”
President Obama expressed his grief and commended fire, police and medical first responders in a statement, “Along with Americans across our country, Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the derailment aboard Amtrak Train 188. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery.”
“Along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is a way of life for many. From Washington, DC and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all. As we work to determine exactly what happened, I commend the fire, police and medical personnel working tirelessly and professionally to save lives. Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love – a city of neighborhoods and neighbors – and that spirit of loving-kindness was reaffirmed last night, as hundreds of first responders and passengers lent a hand to their fellow human beings in need.”
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for a thorough investigation into what went wrong, “This is a tragedy that hits close to home for many here in D.C. – along a familiar route for many Members of Congress traveling to and from Washington, and one of the busiest rail corridors in the nation. We must have a thorough investigation and assessment of what went wrong, and I am pleased the NTSB and FRA have deployed teams.”
Until the investigations are completed, we won’t know what caused the tragic derailment. But we do know that reckless defunding in an effort to impose a partisan agenda has dangers. This is logical, and when we defund security it’s disingenuous to make the next many years about how that security failed, failing of course to examine the lack of funding.
Republicans can’t make the argument against public transportation so they try to kill it quietly, by defunding it and making it so unworkable that people stop using it (see their efforts to kill the post office). They claim they are getting rid of bloat, as they justify multi-million dollar bonuses in the private sector (or, rather, the private sector whose losses are paid for by the public). If a top executive must be allowed millions in bonuses in order to perform, why doesn’t an entire transportation system require a similar increase in funding in order to perform?
Not investing in infrastructure can have life and death consequences. Republicans are gambling with Americans lives just to score a few partisan political points. For once, would it be too much to ask for House Republicans to put down their dog-eared copies of Ayn Rand’s fiction and do what is right?
Americans lives are depending on it.
Update: The House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to increase funding for Amtrak.

Koch Republicans Ignore Dead and Injured Americans And Vote To Cut Amtrak’s Budget

House Republicans on the Appropriations Committee put their blinders on, ignored the deaths of seven Americans and voted to cut funding to Amtrak.
Politico reported that House Republicans went on to vote to cut Amtrak’s budget, “Democrats called this the worst possible time to chop Amtrak’s funding to $1.13 billion from its typical $1.4 billion, as called for in a House spending bill that was moving through the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning. The House bill would also cut half the funding for D.C.’s Metro system, which had a rush-hour meltdown just two days ago because of smoke in the tunnel connecting Washington with Northern Virginia, as well as a smoke-inhalation death in January.”
Republicans are hiding behind the sequester to justify their cuts, but this excuse doesn’t hold up because had no problem with manipulating the system to restore sequester mandated defense cuts.
Hundreds of Americans were injured, and seven people are dead. The Republican response to this loss of life is that the country can not afford to spend more money on rail safety.
House Republicans have outdone themselves on tone deafness. The Koch controlled Republican House majority has never been sensitive to the wants and needs of ordinary Americans. Gerrymandering has turned screwing over the bulk of the population into a profitable strategy for House Republicans.
At a time when the nation’s transportation networks are in desperate need of repair, Republicans are ignoring the infrastructure as it crumbles around them. It is true that the cause of the Philadephia Amtrak derailment remains unknown, but each of these accidents are a warning.
The Republican refusal to heed the warning is setting the country up for a major disaster.

Republicans Spit On Women’s Constitutionally Protected Freedom By Passing Abortion Ban Bill

Paul Ryan, John Boehner
The Republican series on how to incentivize rape while claiming they don’t have a war on women continues. The House of Representatives has voted 242-184 to pass a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The votes split along party lines with just four Republicans voting against it, one voting present, and four Democrats voting for it.
Like the “At least he doesn’t beat you” mantra, Republicans are selling their new way to incentivize rape with this heady qualification from Jackie Walorski (R-IN), “This has a much less punitive substance to it. It’s important that when we look at the care of women who are in crisis, that we make sure they’re totally taken care of.”
Less punitive! Thanks, Republicans. But wait, by “take care of”, Republicans mean making things harder for rape victims and putting women’s health at risk. After all, this is the redo from the January debacle wherein Republicans tried to deny abortion to rape victims unless they had filed charges with law enforcement.
The new bill, put forth by Trent Franks (R-AZ), makes it ever so slightly easier than the old bill on rape and incest victims. Republicans apparently feel that rape and incest victims need extra obstacles before being able to access their Constitutionally-protected right to privacy and liberty over their own bodies.
Furthermore, as Congresswomen Julia Brownely pointed out on the floor as she tried to protect women from Republican showboating, the GOP bill puts women at risk as written because it does not protect the long term health of the mother:
“My amendment would ensure that nothing in the bill would prevent a woman from terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks if her health were at risk. Only 1.1 percent of abortions performed in the United States occur after the 20 week mark. These rare procedures are often the most medically difficult and dangerous cases, where women – and many of whom want to be parents – are faced with impossible decisions. As it is written, H.R. 36 would force a doctor to wait until a condition becomes life-threatening before performing an abortion. It shows no concern for the long-term health of the mother, her future ability to bear children, or her right to make her own medical decisions. It ignores that there are very real – and serious – reasons why a woman may need an abortion later in pregnancy.”
It’s kind of hard to argue that you are pro-life when your bill would actually serve to render some women infertile, if not kill them. Unless Republicans are arguing that women are not people.
So, the new bill is less on the side of rapists than the previous bill, but this is not saying much coming from the party that is making a habit of trying to pass legislation that will incentivize rape.
Although, and here’s the odd thing, under Trent’s new bill, a minor seeking an abortion still needs to have law enforcement contacted. So if a girl is raped by her father and seeks an abortion, she will have no choice but to have law enforcement involved, which will severely diminish the number of girls who seek an abortion after being raped.
This seems like it would disincentivize rape, but according to statistics, it would do the opposite. Rape is a drastically under-reported crime with an average of 68% of assaults in the last five years not even being reported, with only 2% of rapists ever serving a day in prison for rape.
Given that 73% of rape victims know their assailant, fewer girls will come forward to request the medical help that they are entitled to under Trent’s bill, out of fear of reprisal. And of course, Republicans tried in 2013 to give rapists the power to stop their victim from having an abortion, in just another bizarre episode in a series of Republican attempts to incentivize rape.
Who can forget the Republican attempts to “redefine” rape, so as to make the women sound guilty or their attempt to turn rape and incest victims into criminal exhibits, thus denying them the right to an abortion by criminalizing the ending of a pregnancy?
The “new” bill, which is a lot like these old bills in that it restricts freedom and liberty for women and girls while further exploring the Republican love affair with a fetus that ends abruptly at birth, also seeks to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires women to receive medical care or counseling at least 48 hours before an abortion, but prohibits both services from being performed by her regular ob/gyn.
Handy, eh?
Of course, the Senate will most likely be the speed bump, but what this bill represents is important. It is not only yet another shot at the Supreme Court’s ruling that a woman is legally entitled to an abortion until the fetus is viable, but is is also part of an ongoing series in the Republican war on women. This series is the part where they incentivize rape and punish women and girls who are raped.
If that’s not war, what is?

Republicans Will Pay: Outrage Grows Over Congress’ 29th Assault Against Women in 4 Months

Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood is not impressed with Congress. Specifically they are unimpressed with this Republican Congress’ (and a handful of Democrats’) ability to outright deny science and medicine in order to feed their political agenda.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, issued a statement upon the news that Republicans had once again passed yet another ill-conceived bill:
“There is no science or medicine behind this bill — just politics. This is the 29th time in four months that Congress has tried to restrict abortion, which is outrageous. The American public does not want politicians to interfere in women’s personal medical decisions and does not want Congress to spend its time on this.
“While women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under very complex circumstances — the very kind of circumstances where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available to them.”
They aren’t alone. 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton’s senior policy adviser Maya Harris pointed out that Republicans are putting women’s health at risk in a statement, “The bill puts women’s health and rights at risk, undermines the role doctors play in health care decisions, burdens survivors of sexual assault, and is not based on sound science.”
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was also unimpressed, calling out Republicans for failing to do anything but restrict rights for women, “The failed leadership of the Republican Congress has the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American workers being threatened by upcoming deadlines, with expiration of the Highway Trust Fund and the expiration of the Export-Import Bank days away. We have an urgent need for legislation to create jobs, raise wages and grow our economy for hard-working American families.
“Yet instead of creating jobs or strengthening hard-working families, Republicans have advanced another radical and unconstitutional effort to dismantle women’s right to comprehensive health care. This vote is just the latest measure in an unprecedented series of Republican assaults on women’s health care this Congress, from restricting how women can spend private money in purchasing coverage to enabling D.C. employers to fire women for buying birth control.
“Republicans should stop wasting time with radical assaults on women’s health, and start spending that energy finding solutions to the manufactured crises they have forced on the American people.”
But Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the bill “the most pro-life legislation to ever come before this body”, which is odd because this bill actually endangers women’s health and their fertility, and interferes in a doctor’s right to make a judgment call for his or her patient. We can only assume that women are not included in “precious life” that Republicans are trying to protect, even as they work to make the one thing that actually reduces abortions less available (birth control).
Boehner also claimed that the bill reflects the will of the people, as if the will of the people has anything to do with what Republicans do in the House.
It’s also just horribly sad to force even more anguish upon a woman and her family who are facing horrible choices in a pregnancy. This is not an area for legislators. This is a personal liberty issue that impacts families across the country, and I highly doubt that even hardcore Republican families will be very pleased when they realize that their vote means they don’t get a say in whether Mommy gets medical treatment or dies. That’s a far cry from “small government”.
Of course Republicans have been spared facing the consequences of much of their crazy because the Senate has been a speed bump, and President Obama keeps his veto pen handy when Republicans start stealing Constitutionally-protected freedoms from citizens.
Here’s an idea. Why don’t legislators try to do the thing they were hired to do and that we pay them to do — which is not, last I checked, practicing medicine or denying privacy rights to half of the population. Congress should consider leaving medicine to the people who know things about it or at the very least respect science and are able to comprehend basic things like the results of a study or the meaning of “viable”.
Republicans in Congress– doing nothing for the unemployed and underemployed or infrastructure or public safety or homeland security. They’re just here to troll women’s liberties. Relentlessly. Twenty-nine times in four months.
The egregious assault on personal liberty continues unabated, and women are not impressed.

Jeb Bush Breaks Campaign Finance Laws By Admitting That He’s Running For President

jeb bush running for president
Jeb Bush’s admission that he is running for president while heading up a superPAC means that Bush is breaking the law, and the federal government must immediately investigate his illegal fundraising operation.
Bush said, “I’m running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we, if I run, how do you create high sustained economic growth.”
Jeb Bush didn’t just let the cat out of the bag. He broke the law. Jeb Bush is listed as the founder of the superPAC Right to Rise. Candidate Bush can not legally be involved or coordinating with any superPACs. The second that Jeb Bush admitted that he was running for president, he was in violation of the law.
However, as Reuters reported, Bush’s entire fundraising structure appears to be an illegal operation that is violating the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, “Under a little-noted provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, if a candidate or officeholder or their proxies is directly or indirectly involved in “establishing, financing, maintaining or controlling” an outside entity, like an individual-candidate super PAC, it is illegal for the super PAC to receive or spend contributions that exceed the limit on contributions to a federal PAC of $5,000 per donor per year.”
On the surface, this appears to be silly. Jeb Bush is running for president. Everybody knows that Jeb Bush is running for president. Bush has done everything but declare his candidacy. The reality is that Jeb Bush is running an illegal fundraising operation the scope of which has never been seen in American politics before.
The mainstream media is too afraid to say it, but Bush’s statement that he is running for president was more than a slip of the tongue. It was an admission of illegal activity.
IF the American people want their representative democracy back, they must call on the FEC to immediately investigate the fundraising activities of Jeb Bush.

Scott Walker Humiliates Himself By Getting Basic American History Wrong

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his non-campaign campaign team continue to find new ways to embarrass themselves. Today’s lesson in failure got a fact of basic American history wrong.
Team Walker tweeted:
Scott Walker @ScottWalker
It's hard to believe that it has been 505 years since the first settlers arrived at Jamestown. - TW

Scott WalkerThe problem with Walker’s tweet was that they were off by 97 years. The first settlers did arrive in May of 1607, but 2015 minus 1607 is 408, not 505. With this kind of math is no wonder that Scott Walker has driven the Wisconsin economy straight into the ground. Team Walker later corrected their math error by calling it a Twitter typo.
Blaming their bad math skills on a typo without admitting that they did anything wrong is typical of the Republican mantra that mistakes are never to be admitted.
Walker has been dodging and hiding out from the national media for months after a series of high-profile gaffes put the brakes on his early presidential campaign momentum. Walker has seen his lead slip in Iowa and New Hampshire turn into a free for all. Scott Walker is the preferred candidate of the Koch brothers, but he has quickly developed a reputation for opening his mouth and inserting his foot.
Walker has shown himself to be equally inept at foreign and domestic policy, and the gaffe that drove him underground was his comparison of ISIS to a computer virus.
Scott Walker can’t handle doing interviews with the media, and tweeting is a real problem. The man who thought that he could ride to the White House by comparing labor unions to ISIS is looking more and more like Sarah Palin with each passing day.

Arkansas Communities Say Yes To LGBT Rights In Defiance Of State’s Bigotry

Photo via Out Naturally Facebook page Even Arkansas is capable of change — its people, not its government. On Tuesday, two localities gave the statehouse a lesson in what leadership...

Fox News Responds To Being Called Out By Obama With Even More Racism

Fox News responded to being called out by President Obama by suggesting that poverty would be solved if African-Americans would stop being lazy and go get jobs.
Yesterday, while participating in a roundtable about poverty, President Obama called out Fox News for spreading lies about the poor.
President Obama said, “I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative — right? — that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.”
Fox News responded by doubling down on racism and falsehoods about poverty.
Fox News’s Stuart Varney blamed President Obama’s policies for poverty. Varney said, “I think the president is spinning the failure of his own policies, and I think he is blaming us, and I think we are an honest messenger.Look at food stamps for a second. We’ve been asking why is that after six years of so-called recovery there’s still twelve million more people on food stamps today than when the president took office. Surely, that’s the failure of the president’s policies. What about Obama phones? Why is it that we’re giving away thirteen million phones after six years of recovery. Why are we doing that?”
Varney then trotted out the favored Republican attack of accusing President Obama of creating a culture of dependency.
The “Obama phones” program was not created by President Obama. “Obama phones” came from the shrub junta, via a private company created with grants during the Clinton presidency. The statutory authority for the program dates back to FDR and Woodrow Wilson. In other words, there is no such thing as an Obama phone.
Steve Doocy added, “The speech yesterday was all about poverty. If you don’t want to be poor, usually, you wind up with a job. , that is the answer, but if you look at the black unemployment rate, it’s staggering.”
In 2014, the United States government estimated that 10.6 million workers were poor. These people have jobs, most of the time more than one, yet they are still poor. The simplistic conservative answer to poverty is based on the assumptions that poor people are lazy, and that jobs pay enough to lift workers out of poverty. Doocy took it a step beyond by trying to link the African-American unemployment rate to a willingness to get a job.
Fox News was doing all of the spinning. They were trying to cover up the fact that their audience is more likely to receive government benefits than African-Americans. The propaganda spewed by Doocy and Varney was not only racist and classist. It was also 100% factually incorrect.
People aren’t poor because they are lazy, but blaming others while slumming in the worst stereotypes is the Fox News way.

A new wingnut strategy - sue the government and its employees

From an op-ed piece in Salon:
"...within that narrow anti-government focus of low taxes is their extreme hostility to government regulations.

So now we see the wingnuts... considering the idea of flooding the courts with frivolous suits.
Scientology besieged the IRS with 200 lawsuits from the cult and more than 2,300 lawsuits on behalf of individual parishioners in every jurisdiction in the country, “overwhelming government lawyers, running up fantastic expenses, and causing an immense amount of havoc inside the IRS.” ... That is what Murray wants to do to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If wingnuts follow the Scientology strategy to the letter, they will file lawsuits against individual federal employees as well, making their lives miserable and putting them into personal financial jeopardy...
There are a lot of anti-government billions out there just waiting to be put to such good purpose.
Murray’s book is being met with rapturous anticipation among the right wingers.  This may be the big “new idea” they’ve been waiting for. Fighting regulations is the new organizing concept that’s really animating the conservative intelligentsia in this age of GOP congressional dominance. The idea of a tyrannical president issuing orders to executive agencies, as if that constitutes a coup, is a powerful motivating narrative for the red-meat crowd...
Of course, if a Republican becomes president, the whole idea becomes moot. The billionaires would withdraw to their counting rooms to add up their profits while the GOP executive makes their job unnecessary. The fact that they are contemplating this assault through the legal system is an admission that they don’t really believe they’ll have the political power to do this any time soon.

After Female-Dominated Council Takes Over, City Holds Training On How To Deal With Women

  How To Deal With Women

Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education

Here’s What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education

Liberals Have Raised $10k For Obamacare-Hating Wingnut Who Is Going Blind

Liberals Have Raised $10k For Obamacare-Hating Conservative Who Is Going Blind (SCREENSHOTS)Liberals are quickly raising money for a hateful conservative who blames Obama for his impending blindness — because healthcare is a human right, no matter who you are.

Missouri House Speaker Fingered In Sexting Scandal With Intern

Missouri House Speaker Fingered In Sexting Scandal With Intern
The conversations unveil a flirty rapport and suggest an intimacy between arguably the state’s most influential lawmaker and a young woman.

Here are 10 obnoxious wingnut moralists who were caught with their pants down

"DrLauraSchlessingerByPhilKonstantin" by Philkon Phil Konstantin - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The most strident and sanctimonious moralists in the U.S. turn out to be total hypocrites.

Limbaugh is Wrong: Gay Activists Didn’t Kill christianity – christianity Did

Rush Limbaugh blames gay activists for christianity's demise even while he is one of the people driving Americans away from organized religion…