Posted by: JanF | April 17, 2015

Good news for Montanans

There are still places in America where sensible, commonsense regulations can be crafted in a bipartisan fashion. Montana is one of them.

Back in 2010, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy famously posited that unlimited corporate money donations could not possibly lead to corruption or any erosion of people’s faith in the fairness of elections. That fantasy theory became the law of the land as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of corporate “free speech” and Citizens United.

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Posted by: JanF | April 17, 2015

He can run but he can no longer hide …

It appears that the lies that Scott Walker has told for his entire career, and his uncanny ability to stay one election ahead of any inquiries into his activities, have finally caught up with him.

Scott Walker won the Wisconsin governor’s race in 2010, in a low turnout election year, after lulling people into thinking that both parties were essentially the same. He did not bother to mention to the voters what he was telling his donors: that he intended to crush unions in Wisconsin, starting with the public employee unions. And he never shared his plan to cut $900 million from state aid to K-12 education. Gov. Scott Walker beat a recall in 2012, an election that 900,000 Wisconsinites signed petitions to force, by blanketing the airwaves with ads bought using out-of-state money he got by gaming the campaign finance laws. Scott Walker then won reelection in 2014, in another low turnout election, by flat out lying in campaign ads and public statements about his position on abortion and on unions and by glossing over his job creation record and the impending budget deficit.

In all three of those elections, he was able to get away with the lies because the captive press in Wisconsin was too lazy to investigate and report with any rigor: on his malfeasance in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office, his sleazy 2010 gubernatorial campaign activities which led to some of his staff being convicted of felonies, and, in 2014, the facts that put a lie to his boasts about job creation, the truth about the pending budget deficit, his plans for private-sector unions, and his disregard for the election financing laws of the state.

So Scott Walker won and was able to launch his presidential campaign in 2015 from the Wisconsin governor’s mansion based on the myth of his electability: “Three elections in 4 years in a state Obama won! They love me!!”

Gov. Walker forgot one little thing: once he entered the national arena, he had to dupe the entire country and he could no longer count on the Wisconsin press to print his words without investigating his deeds.

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Later today, the first candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating contest will throw her hat into the ring.

No, not her. She is doing a great job right where she is. She is just a reminder of what is at stake.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will officially enter the Democratic Party nominating contest. There will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth … and then the Republicans will weigh in, too! I believe their slogan will be “First the black guy, now the girl!?!1!!”

It should come as no surprise that I expect to weigh in as well and my theme for 2016 will be simple: we need to nominate the strongest candidate possible for the general election. This is not a “take the party back to our grassroots!” election, this is not a time to show our purity and consider only candidates who have never met anyone on Wall Street, this is not a time to dredge up the parts of the past that are unlikely to be good predictors of the future: it is a time to come together and emerge as strong as possible from the primary season and well positioned for the general election.

There are core Democratic Party principles that should guide all of our candidates. There are also hot button issues that make a candidate less attractive or more attractive to certain groups. But the only litmus test should be: can our candidate win in 2016?

Reason number 1: The Supreme Court (and the appellate courts and the district courts).

The next president could have the opportunity to choose 3 or 4 new justices for the Supreme Court. The chance to tilt the court to the left is a real possibility.

President Barack Obama appointed two justices for the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen. Justice Sotomayor became the first Latina on the court and holds dear the values most Democrats embrace.

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Posted by: JanF | March 30, 2015

Democrats can’t afford to lose the presidency.

I sat down at my keyboard this morning ready to write about the 2016 presidential election, this time to weigh in on the Democratic Party’s nominating contest. I had read a troubling interview, from the Sunday morning talk shows, given by one of the not-quite-announced Democratic candidates and it reminded me of how important it is to keep our eye on the big picture.

After scanning my news feed, I found I didn’t have to start from scratch because Michael Tomasky, in an article in the 150th Anniversary Edition of The Nation, had already made many of my points for me. His piece, snarkily titled “Lesser-Evilism We Can Believe In” included a sub-heading that asks this important question: “Should we put government in the hands of a party determined to subvert it, or a party — however flawed — that believes it still has a role to play in securing the common good?”

(p.s. I chose the latter)

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Posted by: JanF | March 28, 2015

Kansas’ Kris Kobach, Konstitutional sKolar

From the State of Denial Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach will file appeal to Supreme Court over two-tier voting.

Last year, the beKnighted GOP Secretary of State of Kansas, Kris Kobach, lost his battle to keep Those People from voting in His State. He designed a new rule (and helpfully shared it with the State of Arizona) that required people to prove their citizenship before they could register to vote. This requirement ran afoul of federal laws which state that such documents are not required. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Kansas and Arizona were welcome to issue such rules for their own state elections but that they could not require people voting in federal elections to comply with that additional paperwork requirement. That led to a two-tier system of voter registration for the 2014 election.

Not satisfied that he was allowed to keep his own rules for His State, Kobach has announced that he will appeal to the Supreme Court to reinstate the proof of citizenship requirement because it is confusing to have two sets of rules in place for the voters of Kansas. Setting aside for a moment the breathtaking audacity required to complain when the rule he put in place is what is leading to the confusion, his interpretation of the constitution is rather creative:

“It’s a really profoundly important case,” Kobach said. “The founding fathers were emphatic that the states get to decide who is a qualified voter and who is not. It was a critical point in the Constitution that the federal government would have to follow the states on this matter.

“In other words, the qualifications for voting for a member of Congress in Kansas would have to be the same as those for voting for a member of the Kansas Legislature and it was the states who would set the rules and Congress would follow, not vice versa. What this federal agency has done is turn the founding fathers’ notion on its head.”

Yes, the founding fathers did say that the states could decide who a qualified voter is. But the U.S. Constitution was amended several times since then as it relates to voting and federal laws were put in place to make it illegal to set up unreasonable barriers to voting BY THE STATES.

And in case you didn’t get the message, a war was fought over states rights and your side lost. Rather Konvenient for Kris Kobach to Kompletely miss the last 150 years of history.

If the rules are confusing, change them to match the federal law, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which includes this instruction:

The federal form doesn’t require any documents, but instead requires prospective voters to attest to their citizenship by signing a sworn statement under penalty of perjury.

That the only requirement. Let your people vote.

The March from Selma to Montgomery:

On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, where local African Americans, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had been campaigning for voting rights.

Dr. King:

I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” (Speak, sir) Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?” (Yes, sir)

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” (Yes, sir)

How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because “no lie can live forever.” (Yes, sir)

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

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Fifty years ago today: President Lyndon Baines Johnson

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed. […]

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal”—”government by consent of the governed”—”give me liberty or give me death.” Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.[…]

Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books—and I have helped to put three of them there—can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. […]

The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.

He has called upon us to make good the promise of America. And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery, and his faith in American democracy.

For at the real heart of battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends not on the force of arms or tear gas but upon the force of moral right; not on recourse to violence but on respect for law and order. […]

This is the richest and most powerful country which ever occupied the globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion.

I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax-eaters.

I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.

I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties.

The Voting Rights Act was passed and signed into law on August 6, 1965.

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Posted by: JanF | March 14, 2015

A Once in (most people’s) Lifetime Pi

The long awaited once in a century Pi Moment, March 14, 2015 at 9:26am RPT (3.141592653) has finally arrived. Well, I don’t know if it was long awaited but it was mentioned at least once around these parts.

So that means it is time to freshen up our Paean to Pi.

This!

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Posted by: JanF | March 10, 2015

Vice President Biden’s Reply to Sen. Tom Cotton


Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)?

Statement by the Vice President on the March 9th Letter From Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran

“I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy. The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.

This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.

Around the world, America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Some of these are made in international agreements approved by Congress. However, as the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without Congressional approval. And that will be the case should the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reach an understanding with Iran. There are numerous similar cases. The recent U.S.-Russia framework to remove chemical weapons from Syria is only one recent example. Arrangements such as these are often what provide the protections that U.S. troops around the world rely on every day. They allow for the basing of our forces in places like Afghanistan. They help us disrupt the proliferation by sea of weapons of mass destruction. They are essential tools to the conduct of our foreign policy, and they ensure the continuity that enables the United States to maintain our credibility and global leadership even as Presidents and Congresses come and go.

Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.

In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.

The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.

There is no perfect solution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. However, a diplomatic solution that puts significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program represents the best, most sustainable chance to ensure that America, Israel, and the world will never be menaced by a nuclear-armed Iran. This letter is designed to convince Iran’s leaders not to reach such an understanding with the United States.

The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.

The President has committed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He has made clear that no deal is preferable to a bad deal that fails to achieve this objective, and he has made clear that all options remain on the table. The current negotiations offer the best prospect in many years to address the serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would be a dangerous mistake to scuttle a peaceful resolution, especially while diplomacy is still underway.

Bolding added
(h/t TPM )
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Posted by: JanF | February 24, 2015

There is no one left to sing

As a Wisconsinite, I am incredibly sad about what has happened to our state under the “stewardship” of Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative accomplices.

But I am a little surprised at the dismay that people are expressing over the fast-tracking of right-to-work laws in Wisconsin.

Scott Walker won reelection in 2014 by 137,607 votes and he couldn’t have done it without the help of the nearly 170,000 people from union households who voted for him and the votes from those who believed that state workers deserve to be protected by unions but who voted to re-elect the person who killed those unions.


Divided and Conquered

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