The Democratic Party is willing to copout on reproductive rights


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Elaine Thompson

❝ Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said Monday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will not withhold funding from candidates who are anti-abortion rights, a move that is drawing the ire of reproductive justice and abortion activists.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” Luján, the DCCC chairman, said in an interview with The Hill. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Other high-profile Democrats have taken similar stances on abortion. In April, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) campaigned for an anti-choice mayoral candidate in Nebraska and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez met with anti-abortion Democrats in May.

The operative words defining the process are opportunism and sophistry. Neither of which nudges me towards loyalty to the Democratic Party or their candidates.

❝ Candice Russell, a WeTestify abortion storytelling fellow with the National Network of Abortion Funds, said she felt betrayed by Luján’s comments Monday — especially because she said she distinctly remembers the party sending fundraising emails after the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court decision striking down abortion restrictions in Texas.

You don’t get to ask me for money and turn around and spit in my face,” Russell said. “To think that abortion access isn’t inextricably tied to every single thing the Democratic Party says it stands for is foolish.”…

❝ As the the party tries to regain populist ground lost to President Donald Trump, leaders like Luján, Sanders, and Perez have framed abortion and other social issues as separate from economic issues.

“The only way you can say that economic issues are separate from social issues is if you’re presuming the only people affected by economic issues are straight, white, able-bodied men,” Erin Matson, a reproductive rights activist in Virginia, said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “Give me a break.”

I second that emotion. I have to chuckle. Wryly. When Ben Ray Lujan first primaried for the seat he holds I voted for another candidate. I presumed that since he was an heirloom candidate, running for a seat previously held by his family, he couldn’t be trusted further than any other machine candidate.

I later apologized in a letter to him – for, at first, he took positions supporting progressive policies challenging the status quo in that party. Then, he moved on up the ladder to a station of “responsible leadership” – which apparently means progressive policies are the first to be jettisoned when Democrats are confronted by rightwing populist activism.

Ben Ray is safe, of course. It’s likely anyone could get elected here in northern New Mexico – named Lujan. The family has a history of coming down on the side of workingclass families on just about all economic issues. But, the day is past when that is sufficient, when we are challenged at the national level all the way down to local ballots by populist lies and ideology.

Selling out to convenience and opportunism ain’t the way folks win.

cc: Ben Ray Lujan

Democrats considered the working class as core constituents — years ago!

❝ What has happened in America should not be seen as a victory for hatefulness over decency. It is more accurately understood as a repudiation of the American power structure.

At the core of that structure are the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers; the major media, centered in New York and Washington DC; the country’s biggest corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; and the wealthy individuals who invest directly in politics…

What happened?

❝ The power structure of America wrote off Sanders as an aberration, and, until recently, didn’t take Trump seriously. A respected political insider recently told me most Americans were largely content with the status quo. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years.”

Recent economic indicators may be up, but those indicators don’t reflect the insecurity most Americans continue to feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience. Nor do the major indicators show the linkages many Americans see between wealth and power, stagnant or declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and the undermining of democracy by big money.

❝ Median family income is lower now than it was 16 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Workers without college degrees – the old working class – have fallen furthest. Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to the top. These gains have translated into political power to elicit bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, favorable trade deals and increasing market power without interference by anti-monopoly enforcement – all of which have further reduced wages and pulled up profits.

Wealth, power and crony capitalism fit together. Americans know a takeover has occurred, and they blame the establishment for it.

❝ The Democratic party once represented the working class. But over the last three decades the party has been taken over by Washington-based fundraisers, bundlers, analysts, and pollsters who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in “swing” suburbs…

Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs means of getting new ones that paid at least as well…

❝ Now Americans have rebelled by supporting someone who wants to fortify America against foreigners as well as foreign-made goods. The power structure understandably fears that Trump’s isolationism will stymie economic growth. But most Americans couldn’t care less about growth because for years they have received few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages.

The power structure is shocked by the outcome of the 2016 election because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. Perhaps it also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in enabling the presidency of Donald Trump.

Yes, I’m older than Robert Reich. Definitely more cynical. I’ve been watching the process he describes since the Truman Administration. Hypocrites like Hubert Humphrey helped found the Americans for Democratic Action as an antidote to progressive and class-conscious activism. Ain’t nothing quite like class collaboration to get your heart pumping – if your political life is dedicated to 2-party folderol over class confrontation and warfare.

Other than that – I agree with his analysis. My criticism is more of timeline and details.

I’m still a working class guy from a New England factory town. I went to work in a shithole factory when I was 17 years old – when Democrats were falling over each other to prove to Joe McCarthy, the Republican Party and America’s media barons they could red-bait with the worst of them. It took the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, to shove Dems into class consciousness, sort of, again. What Reich describes is the second sellout in my lifetime.

The Big Oil lawsuit that Bobby Jindal wants to make disappear


What me worry?

In late July, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East, an independent board created by the state legislature in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to shore up the state’s levee system, filed a lawsuit against the oil companies. All of them. The committee targeted nearly 100 petroleum producers with operations on the Gulf Coast—including titans such as BP America, Exxon-Mobil, and Chevron—for what it termed a “mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction.”

…No one has been more forceful in their opposition to lawsuit—and in the defense of the oil companies—than Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. He dismissed it almost immediately as nothing more than a “windfall for trial lawyers” and alleged that the legal action would interfere with the administration’s own unfunded long-term plans. When the nominating committee that appoints flood board candidates met for the first time on Friday, it received a warning from Baton Rouge: The lawsuit would be a litmus test for the governor, and any nominee who supported it would be rejected…

There’s a certain irony to the governor’s power play. Jindal is preparing for a possible 2016 presidential bid built on the idea that Louisiana has turned the corner after the worst natural disaster in its history…

The 11 board members, the majority of whom are registered Republicans, voted unanimously to go ahead with the suit. Although the board only serves New Orleans and its suburbs, a victory would move other parts of the Gulf Coast to follow in their path. Or so the thinking went.

But Jindal’s response has been swift. He pledged to fight the lawsuit in court by asserting that the board didn’t have the power to take such an action…When that didn’t dissuade the board from bringing the suit…his administration went one step further…the legislature would craft a new statute, when it next reconvenes, that explicitly prohibits the flood board from pursuing the matter any further…

…Estopinal says. “I just think oil money has kind of blinded some people to the really dramatic changes that are happening that aren’t being addressed.”

“The reality is the governor who has vetoed the renewal of a cigarette tax because he’s so anti-tax—and even this legislature overrode that veto—but this anti-tax governor wants taxpayers to pay to fix what the most profitable industry in the world damaged?,” says Barry. “Am I missing something?

Our politicians aren’t required to be owned – just be sleazy and corrupt. Plenty of them do it on their own. Which is how and why they end up getting the biggest donations. They can be counted on to follow the money instead of the real needs of the people who elected them. Jindal fits the mold just fine.

Obama wants his Trans-Pacific Partnership so badly he’s caved in to the Tobacco Lobby


A habit I’m certain he doesn’t want his daughters to pick up

Among other job titles, Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York City

Last year I endorsed President Obama for re-election largely because of his commitment to putting science and public health before politics. But now the Obama administration appears to be on the verge of bowing to pressure from a powerful special-interest group, the tobacco industry, in a move that would be a colossal public health mistake and potentially contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people around the world.

Although the president’s signature domestic issue has been health-care reform, his legacy on public health will be severely tarnished — at a terrible cost to the poor in the developing world — unless his administration reverses course on this issue…

The early drafts of the agreement included a “safe harbor” provision protecting nations that have adopted regulations on tobacco — like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions — because of “the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective”…

Countries (and cities) that have adopted such regulations have had great success reducing smoking rates and saving lives. In New York City, where we have adopted some of the most comprehensive tobacco policies in the world, the smoking rate among adults has fallen by nearly one-third, and among high school students it has been cut in half. This progress helped to increase average life expectancy: in 2010, it was 80.9 years in the city, more than two years longer than in the country as a whole.

This week, however, the Obama administration bowed to pressure from the tobacco industry and dumped the safe harbor provision from the trade compact. The tobacco industry was joined by other business interest groups that were fearful that the safe harbor provision would lead to other products’ being singled out in future trade accords.

So instead of the safe harbor, the Obama administration is now calling for a clause requiring that before a government can challenge another’s tobacco regulation under the treaty, their health authorities must “discuss the measure…”

If the Obama administration’s policy reversal is allowed to stand, not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies.

I could not be more strongly in favor of trade agreements that expand economic opportunity here and around the globe. But a deal that sells out our national commitment to public health, and forfeits our sovereign authority over our tobacco laws, does not merit the support of Mr. Obama; of the Senate, which would have to ratify it; or of the American people.

Well said – and appropriately. Isn’t it about time President Obama returned to thanking the people of America who elected him twice to the White House? There’s already sufficient crappola in the treaty to choke a Florida sinkhole. This is too hard to swallow for anyone except the usual suspects who live off the charity of Big Tobacco.

Why do conservatives hate trees?

Environment Blog, UK — We now know, thanks to the junior environment minister Jim Paice’s frank evidence to a recent House of Lords select committee, that the government is considering the sale of not just “some”, or even “substantial”, amounts of woodland as the public was originally led to believe, but of all state-owned English trees across the commission’s 635,000-acre Forestry Commission estate. This includes many royal forests, state-owned ancient woodlands, sites of special scientific interest, heathland, campsites, farms and sporting estates…

Paice also accepts that foreign companies might want to buy up the trees, and that foreign-owned energy companies might want to cut the whole lot down for renewable energy. This is clearly not going to be received well in the Tory shires, where the trees mostly are…

So if not the energy companies, who does that leave to buy the trees? Major charities like the Woodland Trust and the National Trust, who may be tapped up to buy chunks of the estate on the cheap as “preferred bidder”, are not exactly beating on the commission’s door; very few communities have the means to buy even 30 acres of woodland, let alone maintain it, and the idea that the “big society” can raise £2bn – the rough cost of buying the commission’s 635,000 acres – is bizarre.

The answer clearly is that the government expects developers to step in to exploit the land for whatever profit they can…

Jonathon Porritt…makes the good point that it is not only the trees that the government wants to sell. The Forest of Dean has coal, and other resources. Other Forestry Commission land could be used for windfarms, holiday villages, the routes for new roads and so on.

And if the private sector can run the forests profitably, could it not also oversee the rivers and even the national parks?

The sale is clearly ideologically-driven, a statement that the private sector – traditionally the large landowner, but now the corporation – should maintain the environment.

As such, we should see the sale as further evidence of the dismemberment of conservation in England, the approach that has marked environmental stewardship in Britain and most European countries for the last 60 years.

An ideological position shared by American neocons, the creeps who have stolen the mantle of conservatism from those who fought for conservation and preservation for so many decades.

A sad enough situation that I don’t even poke fun at my family members – formerly Republican – who no longer have a political voice outside of environmental organizations. The Republican/conservative voice that spoke on behalf of environment and nature has been silenced by corporate pimps.

Grassroots grumbles about a primary challenge to Obama


Secretary Robert Gates heading home from Afghanistan, once again
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

President Obama’s compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts for the wealthy, which his self-described progressive critics see as a profound betrayal, is bound to intensify a debate that has been bubbling up on liberal blogs and e-mail lists in recent weeks — whether or not the president who embodied “hope and change” in 2008 should face a primary challenge in 2012…

Just last weekend, three liberal writers made the case for taking on Mr. Obama in 2012. Michael Lerner, longtime editor of Tikkun magazine, argued in The Washington Post that a primary represented a “real way to save the Obama presidency,” by forcing Mr. Obama to move leftward. Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect and one of the party’s most scathing populist voices, issued a similar call on The Huffington Post, suggesting Iowa as the ideal incubator.

On the same site, Clarence B. Jones, a one-time confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., suggested that liberals should break with Mr. Obama now, just as Dr. King and others did with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. “It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected president of the United States,” Mr. Jones wrote. “But, regrettably, I believe the time has come to do this.”

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a group known as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, originally founded to aid Democratic Congressional candidates in 2010, has started broadcasting an advertisement that shows Mr. Obama, in 2008, promising to reverse the tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The group isn’t advocating a primary challenge just yet — but then, the choice of Iowa as a market seems intended to send a pretty clear warning to the White House.

On issue after issue, when the public is on his side, this president just refuses to fight,” says Adam Green, the group’s co-founder. “At this point, the strategy is to shame him into fighting.”

All of this would have seemed unthinkable in 2008, when Mr. Obama’s red-white-and-blue visage seemed omnipresent on campuses and along city streets, a symbol to many of liberalism reborn. That, of course, was before the abandonment of “card-check” legislation for unions and of the so-called public option in health care, the escalation in Afghanistan and the formation of the deficit-reduction commission…

Draft Hillary!

And how did someone at the TIMES manage to write a piece like this without mentioning Hillary?