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.


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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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Posted by: JanF | February 13, 2015

Why can’t we do this?

From the Brennan Center for Justice: Bipartisan Bill Introduced: Congress Must Restore Voting Rights Act

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, members of Congress [on Wednesday, February 11th] reintroduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen and restore the law’s core protection, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in 2013.

The measure is sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and others. The bill was also introduced last year, but the Senate held just one hearing on the legislation, and the House refused to hold a hearing.

“Fifty years ago, tragedy in the streets of Selma galvanized our nation to pass the Voting Rights Act and bring equality to the ballot box,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C., office. “Today, that core protection is in tatters and discrimination continues to tarnish our elections. America was founded on the principle that we are all ‘created equal.’ To fulfill that promise, we need an election system that works well for everyone, and doesn’t tolerate discrimination against anyone. We urge Congress to quickly pass this bill and ensure Americans have strong voting protections in time for the 2016 election.”

Here are the key provisions:

The Voting Rights Amendment Act would, among other changes:

– Require jurisdictions with a recent record of repeated Voting Rights Act violations to pre-clear election law changes.
– Expand the current “bail-in” procedures, which allow courts to subject jurisdictions to preclearance.
– Create a uniform requirement to inform voters of certain pending voting changes.
– Enhance the ability of lawyers to halt discriminatory election measures before they can harm citizens.
– Allow federal observers to monitor elections to ensure compliance with laws protecting the rights of Americans who speak limited English.

The VRA has been continually reauthorized since it was passed in 1965 and has always had bipartisan support. The most recent reauthorization, in 2006, was with a Republican Congress and a Republican president. Voting rights should not be a partisan issue: the right to choose our government is the most basic right in a democracy.

So why can’t we do this?

Because the Republican Congress is controlled by the teaparty with its scorched earth politics of exclusion. Their hold on power depends on disenfranchising those who disagree with them because their ideas are repulsive to the majority of Americans.

If there are any Republicans who still care about small “d” democracy, they should pressure their leadership to bring this bill to the House floor for a vote, get it passed and then send it to the Senate for a vote.

We can do it and we must.

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From the White House:

(Transcript below)

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his very first piece of legislation: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law, named after a woman who discovered her employer was paying her less than men doing the same job, makes it easier for Mrs. Ledbetter and others like her to effectively challenge unequal pay.

Lilly Ledbetter took her pay discrimination complaint all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 that claims like hers had to be filed within 180 days of an employer’s decision to pay a worker less—even if the worker didn’t learn about the unfair pay until much later, as was the case for Mrs. Ledbetter.

To make sure that people can effectively challenge unequal pay, the law President Obama signed shortly after taking office amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so that unfair pay complaints can be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck—and that 180 days resets after each paycheck is issued.

Since then, the Roberts Supreme Court has succeeded in undermining many other rights, including the right to vote and the right to fair elections – elections free of the corrupting influence of dark money. The difference was that in 2009, the president had partners in Congress who were willing to do the people’s work and fix the mistakes of the court. So much has changed, so much work that will not be done until we can elect a Congress that reflects the values of the majority of our people. That will not happen with the 114th Congress, dubbed “America’s New Congress ™” by the Republican majority – dubbed “America’s Nightmare Come True ™” by the majority of Americans.

We can fix this, we must fix this.

Between now and November 2016, tell everyone you know of the enormous power each and every citizen has: the power to choose our government. Talk it up, pump them up … so that when we all exercise that “most basic human right”, we can once again have a government creating laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

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